Data Sheet—Wednesday, July 26, 2017
I tripped across an intriguing headline in the new issue of Fortune, “The Father of the Information Age (Finally) Gets His Own Book.” This intrigued me because the name Claude Shannon, the subject of a new book that Robert Hackett delightfully if briefly reviews in the magazine, was a complete unknown to me.
I’d never heard of Shannon, despite his having conceived of the bit (a unit of information) and having been a titan of mathematics and cryptography for Bell Labs during World War II. In a nice turn of phrase, Hackett refers to Shannon as a “thinker-tinkerer,” and according to his review, and a far longer one in The Wall Street Journal, Shannon thought great thoughts, built great things, and, amazingly was a normal, humble guy.
Shannon was a Midwesterner whose interests ranged from juggling to robots to investing. His research laid the groundwork for the computer revolution that followed his pioneering work during the war. He lived a long life, dying in 2001 of Alzheimer’s. As George Dyson elegantly wrote in The Journal: “The mind that gave us the collective memory we now so depend on had its own memory taken away.”
For all of our daily focus on moguls who may or may not be relevant decades from now, it’s somehow comforting to read about the towering achievements of a not-quite-forgotten giant who made it all possible.
When I saw the headline “Sony Restructures Television Unit” my first reaction was: Sony still makes televisions? (It does.) As it happens, the article isn’t about a manufacturing arm of the Japanese giant we used to talk about all the time, but rather its still-powerful creator of TV shows. This has become a tech story because Apple recently raided Sony for its nascent entertainment unit. For years, tech wags speculated that Apple—which the President of the United States said Tuesday would open three big, “beautiful” manufacturing plants in the U.S.— would buy Sony. Apple appears to have hit on a better strategy.
Firing on all cylinders. It was a busy day for tech earnings. Advanced Micro Devices surprised on the upside, as CEO Lisa Su's turnaround strategy appears to be taking hold. With new Ryzen and Epyc chips finally on the market, AMD's revenue jumped 19% to $1.22 billion, more than analysts expected. AMD shares, already up 24% this year, gained another 8% in premarket trading on Wednesday.
Firing on no cylinders. The news wasn't good, however, at hard drive maker Seagate Technology. Revenue fell 9% to $2.4 billion and the company announced plans to layoff another 600 employees. CEO Steve Luczo said he would step down and be replaced by chief operating officer Dave Mosley. Seagate shares lost almost 17% after the announcements on Tuesday.
Not bad after all. AT&T didn't have quite as significant a move either way, but its quarter looked a little better than expected after it added 2.8 million wireless subscribers and posted revenue of $39.8 billion, a 2% drop from last year. Adjusted earnings per share of 79 cents beat analysts estimates of 73 cents and sent the stock up 3% in premarket trading on Wednesday.
Overcrowding avoided. Speaking of wireless, the boom in unlimited data plans is not slowing the speed of mobile traffic, according to the latest study by Rootmetrics. "We are not seeing evidence of that in our first half 2017 results," Annette Hamilton, director at Rootmetrics, said. The company's testing showed that all four major carriers–AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint—improved average speeds in at least 20 markets in the first half versus the end of 2016.
Goodbye and good riddance? It's almost lights out for Adobe Flash, the software that helped bring online video to the masses but also frustrated people for nearly two decades over its frequent updates and buggy nature. Adobe Systems said Tuesday that it plans to kill its Flash player by the end of 2020. Companies that make browsers—including Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla—all appeared to revel in the decision and announced their own plans to cut off the product.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Thinking about how to make the world better? Documentary film maker Nawneet Ranjan is running an incredible project in Mumbai's Naya Nagar neighborhood. Ananya Bhattacharya has the story for Quartz of Ranjan's non-profit that teaches some of the poorest children on earth how to code and write mobile applications.
The after school program, called Dharavi Diary, teaches subjects including English, math, and basic computer coding and relies on open source courseware and tool like MIT's App Inventor.
The program is co-ed but the focus is on attracting girls, Ranjan says:
There’s a happiness quotient and a sense of ownership in the girls. Over a period of three years, they have understood the value of the personal voice and acquired the skills to say no when they mean no, like in the case of domestic violence or eve-teasing (roadside harassment).
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Why Roku Is Doing Better Than Google and Apple by Aaron Pressman
Meet Facebook’s Secret Weapon to Reaching the Next Billion Members by Valentina Zarya
Tesla Model S Is Once Again the Top Car in Its Class by Kirsten Korosec
SEC Says Digital Tokens Are Securities, Warns of Fraud by Jeff John Roberts
BEFORE YOU GO
Comedian and actor T.J. Miller explains why he left HBO's Silicon Valley, sort of, and why he blasted show runner Alec Berg on the way out, in a lengthy and guffaw-worthy interview with New York Magazine this week:
Nobody right now is publicly the Lindsay Lohan–train wreck–but–not–quite person. If I'd just said it was an honor to work on Silicon Valley and was thankful to Alec Berg, I would have disappeared. Instead, by being just a little authentic, I infected the news cycle. It's more important to be polarizing than neutralizing. That’s my position.