Yesterday my metaphor was chess, with a wink to the grandmaster of tech, Masayoshi Son. Today, the focus is on theater, specifically the dramatic performance besieged Uber presented Tuesday.
Unlike Shakespearean casts of old, the dramatis personae of Uber’s display of public theater was all female. Board member Arianna Huffington, in-the-job-for-a-few-minutes head of human resources Liane Hornsey, and Rachel Holt, head of U.S. and Canada operations and a longtime senior-management culture carrier at Uber, held a hastily arranged news conference to explain how Uber intends to right its corporate ship. Absent from the call were any men, notable in a company with the bro-est of cultures. Its top dude, CEO Travis Kalanick, was frequently mentioned but not there at all.
I call this theater because Uber is out to tell a story of change. In prepared remarks, Huffington said the company wasn’t after more headlines. (Good luck with that.) Instead, she said, Uber wants to explain the “changes” under way at the company. Hornsey discussed how Uber will listen better to its employees. Holt promised Uber would heal wounds with drivers—all while insisting Uber’s business is better than ever.
Rarely has such a young company traveled from darling to goat to give-us-another-chance supplicant, all very much in the public eye. Just as Masayoshi Son’s very public gamesmanship will be fascinating to watch, Uber’s under-the-spotlight attempt to convince itself, its employees, its drivers (who can push a button and drive for another service any time they like), and the public of its rejuvenation will be a case study in process.
Can Uber do it? Monday night in San Francisco my Uber driver—hopped up on Starbucks after driving in from Sacramento in the rain—told me when the #deleteUber campaign began in late January he hurriedly signed up for Lyft, just in case his Uber business evaporated. Then a curious thing happened. His business with Uber picked up, and now it’s better than ever. His conclusion: the preponderance of his customers value lower wait times over moral purity.
This one is not over.
BITS AND BYTES
Chinese search giant Baidu’s chief scientist is resigning. Andrew Ng, an artificial intelligence guru who founded Google’s Deep Learning team, is leaving after three years. He hasn’t revealed his plans but says “there are rich opportunities for entrepreneurship.” (Reuters, New York Times)
Cisco’s buyout of AppDynamics is official. The networking giant closed its $3.7 billion acquisition of software performance monitoring firm AppDynamics. The deal significantly expands Cisco’s footprint in software and services. (Fortune)
Huawei could work its way into the U.S. market through AT&T. Negotiations are extremely nascent, but the carrier is testing one of the Chinese smartphone giant’s handsets for use on its wireless network. Neither company would confirm the talks, which were first reported by The Information. (Fortune)
Apple quietly overhauls its iPad tablet portfolio. The tech giant introduced a new 9.7-inch low-end model, priced starting at $329, and killed the iPad Air line. Three years ago, Apple’s iPad business was about one-third the size of its iPhone unit, but nearly twice the size of its Mac division and nearly three times the size of its Services business. Now, its impact is far less meaningful—revenue from Apple desktops and services has overtaken its tablet business. (Fortune, Wall Street Journal)
What you should know about Trump’s airplane electronics ban. New rules covering airports in eight North African and Middle Eastern countries prohibit passengers on certain airlines flying to several U.S. and Canadian cities from carrying electronics items larger than a cell phone in the main cabin. Notebooks and tablets will need to be checked in with stowed luggage, raising new security concerns for corporate-issued equipment. (Fortune, New York Times)
Airbnb is changing its name in China. Its domestic brand is now “Aibiying,” which means “welcome each other with love.” The home-sharing company is doubling its investment there this year. (Fortune)
If you make online ads less annoying maybe people will use fewer ad blockers. The Coalition for Better Ads, a group of businesses with a stake in the future of digital media, is urging the industry to stop using certain formats that have spurred the popularity of ad-blocking software. Among them: pop-up advertisements, auto-play video ads with sound, flashing animated ads, and full-screen ads that cover content. (Reuters)
Internet giants fight back against extremist content. Google is adopting stricter policing measures in Britain, where it has been criticized for allowing ads to play alongside hate speech and homophobic content on YouTube. Meanwhile, Twitter figures it has suspended at least a half-million accounts since 2015 for violating its rules against “violent extremism.” (Reuters, Reuters, Wall Street Journal)
How Snap’s IPO become one of Wall Street’s biggest flops. Two weeks ago, stock market pundits, tech analysts, and the bulls in general were hailing the IPO of Snapchat owner, Snap Inc., as a triumph. Since then, the bash has given way to a wicked hangover.
And as the haze has lifted what’s become clear is this: The Snap IPO was an epic fleecing, made even more glaring by the past two weeks. The lone big winner is the maestro that orchestrated the entire travesty and should be no surprise to anyone: Wall Street. Who are the biggest losers? Fortune‘s Shawn Tully does the math.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Two U.S. Tech Companies Wired $100 Million to a Scammer, by Jeff John Roberts
Amazon Has a New Tactic to Fight Counterfeits, by Phil Wahba
Why Analysts Think Apple Stock Will Go Higher From an All-Time High, by Aaron Pressman
Robots Are About to Start Delivering Food in California, by Kate Samuelson
Former IBM Exec Steve Mills Joins Private Equity Firm, by Barb Darrow
ONE MORE THING
These are the top 10 U.S. cities where self-driving cars make the most sense. Only one is on either of the two coasts, and neither New York nor San Francisco is represented. (Fortune)