Data Sheet—Tuesday, August 1, 2017
(Adam Lashinsky is on vacation this week. Senior editor Verne Kopytoff is filling in today.)
Apple CEO Tim Cook will speak at length during his company’s quarterly earnings call with analysts today about the nuts of bolts of his company’s business. IPhone sales, rising App Store revenue, and the impact of foreign currency fluctuations will undoubtedly be on the agenda.
But just once, I’d like Cook to go off the script. I realize that he won’t—billions of dollars in Apple’s lofty market value depend on him staying positive and avoiding hot button topics. Still, many Apple followers would appreciate the candor (and the reassurance that some of their concerns are being addressed). If you’re reading Tim, here are a couple of ideas:
Apple innovation has ebbed and flowed over the years. And currently, it’s in an ebb. Although still huge sellers, new iPhones don’t elicit the same buzz they once did because of their incremental improvements. Moreover, instead of leading the emerging category of home automation speakers like Amazon’s Echo, Apple is late, with its me-too HomePod still at least four months away. Acknowledge the lack of innovation, as tough as it may be. Then promise to do better.
You’ve been relatively outspoken against the White House’s immigration policies and the recent edict to bar transgender troops. But you can do more to advance social change (and not just related to President Trump, but also any future administrations). I know that you’re walking a fine line in that Apple wants to curry favor with policy makers from both parties to maintain existing tax breaks plus create some new ones. Just don’t be too cautious. Speak up.
Apple has mostly shied away from major acquisitions. (One exception is paying $3 billion for music headphone company Beats in 2014.) It may be time to reconsider. Buying would push Apple into new areas more quickly than it can on its own. Acknowledge that the company’s cash on hand—nearly $257 billion, as of April—isn’t doing much beyond funding investor dividends. Embrace some risk.
I’m sure you have some ideas about what Apple’s CEO should say (but won’t). Please, let me know.
Upvoted. Turns out, running the front page of the Internet is worth something. Crowd sourced headline and discussion site Reddit raised $200 million in venture capital at a rate that values the company at $1.8 billion. Reddit will use some of the money to redesign its main website to look better and draw in more readers. "Reddit feels old," CEO Steve Huffman told Recode. "We don’t want to be associated with old."
Almost public. Popular music streaming service Spotify said it hit 60 million paying subscribers, a 20% gain since March and more than double the 27 million customers of Apple Music. The company, which has been negotiating lower royalty payments with the big record companies, is looking to go public in the fourth quarter, the Financial Times reported.
Fantasy leaks. The lengths some people will go to find out whether Cersei Lannister or Daenerys Targaryen will win the battle for the Iron Throne. Hackers broke into HBO and stole, among other digital goodies, a script or treatment for an upcoming episode of Game of Thrones.
Nightmare leaks. Speaking of hackers, the cybersecurity firm FireEye suffered a breach of one of its own. The hackers grabbed some personal and professional files from a security researcher working for the company's Mandiant unit, which investigates attacks after the fact. They'll be busy today.
Stopping the leaks. Not all hackers are up to no good, of course. General Motors has hired Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller to work on its self-driving car effort. The pair became famous two years ago when they remotely took control of a moving Jeep Cherokee.
Removed before leaking. Apple is taking criticism for removing "unregistered" virtual private networking apps from its Chinese app store. New York Times tech columnist Farhad Manjoo says that Apple's total silence on the matter may be a tactical effort to avoid drawing the Chinese government's ire, but will only encourage further crackdowns. "Apple’s quiet capitulation to tightening censorship in one of its largest markets is still a dangerous precedent," Manjoo writes.
Skynet cometh. Did scientists at Facebook create an artificially-intelligent program that grew so mysterious and powerful that they had to shut it down in a panic? Not quite, says Facebook. It seems a pair chatbots powered by AI started making up their own language, thwarting efforts to follow their negotiations. "Agents will drift off understandable language and invent codewords for themselves," visiting researcher Dhruv Batra said. Sure they will...
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Was the 2016 election hacked or just disrupted? Probably not hacked to change vote totals, or so we've been told. At the annual DefCon hacker conference in Las Vegas this week, folks gathered to see how quickly they could break into an array of voting equipment used in U.S. elections. The answer? Pretty quickly. Every single system was cracked within two hours or less, Fortune's Barb Darrow reports. Jake Braun, CEO of security consulting firm Cambridge Global Advisors, says more serious hack attacks could be in our future:
Without question, our voting systems are weak and susceptible. Thanks to the contributions of the hacker community today, we've uncovered even more about exactly how.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Coinbase Faces Backlash, Legal Risk Over Bitcoin Cash by Jeff John Roberts
Red Hat Snaps Up Assets of This Company That Cleans Data by Barb Darrow
Microsoft Just Killed This App for Apple’s iPhone and iPad by Jonathan Vanian
Sarahah’s the Most Downloaded App: But Is it a Flash in the Pan? by Jeff John Roberts
Judge Allowing iPhone 4 Owners to Pursue Class Action Suit Against Apple by John Patrick Pullen
Here’s What Apple’s iPhone 8 Could Offer According to a New Leak by Don Reisinger
AMD Makes Next Move in Comeback With New Graphics Cards by Aaron Pressman
BEFORE YOU GO
I am an Apollo moon landing junkie and it's true that my nickname for our dog Luna is Lunar Module. But I have a solid alibi for where I was Friday night when someone broke into the Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Neil Armstrong's hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio, and stole a 5-inch tall solid gold model of the LEM. I swear it wasn't me.