Things are heating up in the tech industry. You’d think the cool mountain air of Aspen, Colo., would cool things down. But as I look at our recently updated agenda for Brainstorm Tech, Fortune’s annual gathering in the Rockies, I’m guessing things will still be quite steamy when we convene in a month’s time.
I wrote last month with news of a handful of luminaries who’ll take our stage, including retail chief Jeff Wilke of Amazon, Target’s Brian Cornell, technologist Yoky Matsuoka of Nest, and Michael Dell, whose name is on the door of his computer company. Now I’m pleased to call attention to another batch of tech-industry heavyweights who’ll make this nearly sold-out event a can’t-miss experience.
No two topics are hotter in Silicon Valley right now than Uber (I can’t resist this) and inclusion, which have become wrapped up in each other of late. The guy who thought up the idea for Uber, company chairman Garrett Camp, will appear in Aspen. He also founded Web 1.0 success StumbleUpon and now runs an investment company called Expa.
Following an investigation into claims of sexual discrimination at Uber by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Uber’s board accepted a recommendation that it appoint an independent chairman and take steps to improve the diversity of its workforce. For the first time, Brainstorm Tech will host a town hall meeting on diversity and inclusion, hosted by Bloomberg’s Emily Chang. The goal of the town hall is to go well beyond identifying or acknowledging the problems in Silicon Valley and instead have a candid conversation about how to fix them.
An air of mystery pervades a third hot topic in Silicon Valley, autonomous vehicles. Tim Kentley-Klay, CEO of super-stealthy startup Zoox will share his thoughts. Instagram, the Facebook unit that is anything but stealthy-it is blasting images by the boatload-will be represented at Brainstorm Tech by its chief operating officer, Marne Levine.
Attendees of Brainstorm Tech come to learn. Most will not have gotten close to the hot Chinese bike-sharing upstart Mobike, whose CEO Davis Wang will pedal into town. We all want to learn about the future of employment, what with gigging and sharing and hacking being what they are. Two participants on a jobs-policy panel I’m particularly excited about are former U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Anne Marie Slaughter, CEO of the think tank New America.
All these names just scratch the surface of the experience we are curating for Aspen. Jamie Miller, boss of GE’s transportation business will be with us. So will the retired warrior and extremely active philosopher and consultant Stanley McChrystal. (Spoiler alert: I am interviewing him, and I will make no effort to hide my immense admiration.) We’ll also present two opposite ends of the finance spectrum: Tim Sloan, CEO of Wells Fargo and Mike Cagney, CEO of Social Finance.
Tired yet? Imagine how participants will feel given that a steep bike ride, hikes, yoga and even a tour of a newly opened gallery at the Aspen Art Museum all precede the conference’s 2:00 p.m. start on Monday, July 17th.
I’ll have more to say about a few more additions to the program as we get closer to the start date. In the meantime, I’m sharpening my conferencing skill by attending next week’s Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity on the French Riviera. Yes, it’s tough duty, but rest assured I’m going all that way for you. I promise I’ll be working, and I’ll report back on the people I meet.
Have a good weekend.
A billion here, a billion there. Angry Birds may fly to Wall Street, it seems. Tech newsletter The Information reported that Finnish game studio Rovio might be acquired for $3 billion by Tencent, which already owns Finland’s other gaming factory, Supercell. That prompted a statement from Rovio that it might go public “at some point in the future.” After the disastrous IPOs of Zynga and King Digital, however, Wall Street may not be so welcoming.
Pretty soon you’re talking about real money. European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has Google in her sights again. The Financial Times reports that Vestager is about to hit the search giant with a 1 billion euro fine over alleged abuses favoring the Google Shopping service.
Billions and billions. The United States wants to create a supercomputer capable of performing a billion billion operations per second, a.k.a. exascale, by 2021. That’s about 100 times faster than the fastest computer in the world now, China’s Sunway TaihuLight. So the Department of Energy is handing out $258 million to Advanced Micro Devices, Cray, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, Intel, and Nvidia. (Plus today’s video link reference explainer for pre-Gen Xers.)
And more billions than that. Market research firm Gartner is out with its annual scorecard of the top public cloud providers. Spoiler alert: Amazon Web Services, which is expected to bring in $14 billion in revenue this year, remains the biggest player by far. Microsoft Azure will bring in almost $3 billion. Google rounds out the big three, but still lacks some key cloud features compared to AWS, Gartner said.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
These Are Facebook’s ‘Hard Questions’ by Jonathan Vanian
Jeff Bezos Wants Your Help Giving His Money Away by Aric Jenkins
FAANG Tech Stocks Are No Bargain. Here’s Why by Shawn Tully
Apple Could Turn the iPhone Into a Personal Medical Chart by Don Reisinger
Why Netflix Decided to Back Net Neutrality After All by Aaron Pressman
Why It Makes Sense for Amazon to Buy Slack by Barb Darrow
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
New French President Emmanuel Macron is going hard after tech startups. On Thursday, he launched a special four-year visa for entrepreneurs and their families. But Macron acknowledged it wouldn’t be easy to attract such folk to his country:
We love entrepreneurs as long as they don’t succeed too much. Then we are jealous, … we stigmatize them and we tax them. That’s over.
(For a deeper dive on Macron and the future of Europe, the Economist has an in-depth analysis as this week’s cover story.)
FOR YOUR WEEKEND READING PLEASURE
A few interesting longer reads I came across this week, suitable for perusing over the weekend:
Activision Blizzard Aims for the Big Leagues
Somewhere on the Internet, a young woman named Riley Youngs is eating a chicken sandwich, and scores of people-myself included-are watching the mundane act in real time. Youngs is a budding “streamer,” someone who plays video games online for a living. Her forum of choice is Twitch, a wildly popular, Amazon-owned website that showcases gamers who broadcast themselves.
A Sociology of the Smartphone
It isn’t particularly helpful to ask whether this new everyday life is “better” or “worse”; I very much doubt we’d have permitted the smartphone to supplant so many other objects and rituals in our lives if we didn’t, on balance, perceive some concrete advantage in doing so. But there are a few circumstances that arise as a result of this choice that we might want to take careful note of.
The Obsessions of Hitchcock, Welles, and Kubrick
Ultimately, these were very different artists, as suggested by their popular personas: Hitchcock the droll Englishman, invariably in character and costume; Welles the gregarious raconteur; Kubrick the reclusive genius.
The True Legacy of the Cornell Professor Who Invented the Chicken Nugget
“We’d charge them a buck and half, for a roll, and ear of corn and half a chicken,” Curtiss says. All summer, they set up for church groups and farm bureaus, toting collapsible grates in the back of a pickup truck, all around the Ithaca area. “It was very popular,” he says. “People would hear about this, and think it was a great alternative to hamburgers and hot dogs.”
BEFORE YOU GO
Have you watched The Great British Baking Show? I couldn’t resist. A new season comes to America this weekend and I’ve got my Tivo ready to record. The Washington Post talked to the teenager who almost won it all a few years ago, Martha Collison. What did she once the show ended?
Well, that was a massive whirlwind! I finished my studies – a second year of A levels, in math, chemistry and food technology. I got approached to do a book deal about a year after the show aired. I got a lot of marriage proposals … it was the weirdest thing. And I baked – still do – everyday.