Data Sheet—Tuesday, July 25, 2017

July 25, 2017, 12:56 PM UTC

Oh, to have Alphabet’s problems.

The Google parent reported solid earnings Monday that nevertheless weren’t perfect, leaving nitpicking investors to drive down its stock in aftermarket trading.

With Alphabet, not much sticks. Yes, the stock was down about 3%, or $29 and change. But that was after coming darn near its all-time high, which itself is darn near $1,000 per share. During the quarter Google’s YouTube unit suffered boycotts from dissatisfied advertisers who don’t want to be associated with icky-and-worse content on the video site. The boycott didn’t cause a blip in Google’s results. The company also was stung by a massive fine by the European commission, punishing Google for anti-competitive behavior. Quarterly net income fell 28% as a result but would have risen 28% if not for the fine, which Google may appeal.

Even Google’s weak operating news is a sign of its strength—and a bad sign for the rest of us selling online advertising. As The Wall Street Journal explains, Google’s revenue per click is down dramatically even as revenue from clicks is up. That’s because mobile and videos are worse ad units than desktop ads. (People still buy desktop ads?) Declining click values is like a sniffle at Google that becomes a severe cold for any online publisher that doesn’t have Google’s scale. Oh, unlike IBM, Google’s “cloud” web services business is growing healthily in competition with Amazon and Microsoft. (As a reminder, my wife works at Google.)

Plenty could derail Google, including antitrust concerns and the still-profligate ways of the “other” units in Alphabet. But not soon. The juggernaut marches on.


Oodles of regions around the world brag of their ability to become the “next Silicon Valley.” Fortune’s Clay Dillow has a fine piece in the new issue of the magazine about why Canada’s province of British Columbia has a better-than-usual shot at becoming a contender for California’s throne. As for the reason I’ll leave you with a hint: It has to do with the immigration-unfriendly policies of the administration on the other side of the continent.


Looking good, Billy Ray. Digital currencies may have just graduated into the big leagues of modern finance. Trading site LedgerX got permission from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission on Monday to offer financial derivatives like swaps and options on cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. These highly regulated, mainstream tools of Wall Street will make it much easier for investors to use digital currencies in all kinds of strategies, whether betting on a rise or fall, a correlation with some other asset or as a hedge or insurance against other risks. (Pre-Gen X video reference)

Looking good, Larry Page. As Adam noted, Google's parent Alphabet reported quarterly results and investors were somewhat disappointed. While revenue increased 21% to $26 billion, slightly better than expected, the cost Google paid to acquire search traffic jumped 28% to $5.1 billion. Google's share price, already up 26% this year, fell 3% in premarket trading on concerns about the rising costs. "If that’s the bear case, we’ll happily take the other side," longtime analyst Michael Nathanson quipped. The company also elevated Google CEO Sundar Pichai to Alphabet's board.

Looking good, Tim Cook. Competition is heating up to craft the brighter, more energy efficient display panels known as organic light-emitting diode, or OLED. Samsung has a 97% share of OLED smartphone displays, but LG Display said it would invest $7 billion to boost its production capacity. Several models of Samsung phones already include OLED panels and Apple is expected to adopt the technology in the next iPhone, as well.

Allowed to be shared. iRobot makes Roomba automated vacuums to get rid of dirt and dust, but the self-driving cleaners have also been sucking up data about the layout of customers' homes. Now Roomba says that valuable info could be for sale to the highest bidder. "There's an entire ecosystem of things and services that the smart home can deliver once you have a rich map of the home that the user has allowed to be shared," CEO Colin Angle tells Reuters.

Rumors of my demise. Finally, despite chatter (and a tweet by yours truly), Microsoft's venerable Paint app isn't being discontinued. But it won't be installed by default on Windows 10 computers anymore. Users will have to download from it from the app store if they want to make simple line drawings and illustrations that still have that 1985 feel.


Engineering, computer science, and other high-tech fields have gotten a lot of attention in eduction circles as we consider the skills needed for the workforce of the future. But tech consultant Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, says we shouldn't ignore the traditional liberal arts college path, either. As he explains:

In a recent Harvard Business Review piece titled "Liberal Arts in the Data Age," author JM Olejarz writes about the importance of reconnecting a lateral, liberal arts mindset with the sort of rote engineering approach that can lead to myopic creativity. Today's engineers have been so focused on creating new technologies that their short term goals risk obscuring unintended longterm outcomes. While a few companies, say Intel, are forward-thinking enough to include ethics professionals on staff, they remain exceptions. At this point all tech companies serious about ethical grounding need to be hiring folks with backgrounds in areas like anthropology, psychology, and philosophy.


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Air travel isn't any faster than it was decades ago. In fact, with the demise of the Concorde in 2003, it's arguably slower now. But NASA is trying to revive supersonic speeds for regular folks with a plan to use cutting edge materials and new designs to cut the noise of the hated sonic boom. But don't hold breath. Even in the best case, actual testing of a new plane won't begin until 2022.
This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.

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