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Data Sheet—Why Sprint Could Be a Rare Blunder for SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son

October 31, 2017, 1:39 PM UTC

Happy Halloween!

When talks broke off in 2014 the two sides assumed antitrust regulators wouldn’t allow a tie-up. This time around, per a report by Japan’s Nikkei, Son’s SoftBank became concerned it would lose control should T-Mobile take over Sprint.

Shares in T-Mobile and Sprint tumbled Monday as investors betting on industry consolidation—and higher cell-phone prices—bid down the two U.S. laggards. Aaron has speculated that Son could be putting on a “to be, or not to be, that is the way to get a better price” act. Others think he wants to invest ever more in Sprint, the better to realize his dream of connecting devices, humans, and other machines in a single artificial intelligence.

The opposite is feeling more likely—that Son has made a rare blunder by buying a slow-growth mobile carrier in a highly saturated market and is finding it tough to operate or financially engineer his way out of the problem.

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Have a good day and don’t eat too much candy.

Adam Lashinsky


Trick. With top social networks expected to testify in Congress tomorrow on Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election, more info is coming out about just how successful those efforts were. Facebook posts from Russia's “Internet Research Agency" reached 126 million Americans, more than 10 times the company's earlier estimate. Twitter said bogus tweets were viewed 288 million times.

Treat. Amid record profits, Samsung named three long-time company insiders as co-CEOs and heads of three of its most important business units. CFO Lee Sang-hoon will be the new board chairman and co-CEOs J.K. Shin and Yoon Boo-keun will resign.

Trick. The feud over royalty payments between Qualcomm and Apple escalated again, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that next year's iPhones may eliminate chips from Qualcomm. That could cut revenue by more than $2 billion. Qualcomm shares, already down 16% this year, were down 6% in early trading on Tuesday.

Treat. As Apple looks ahead to possible record profits, thanks to new higher priced iPhones, its stock hit an all-time high on Monday of $168.07, before closing at $166.72. Analysts say the share price needs to reach about $194 for Apple to become the first company with a public market value of $1 trillion. And Apple's all-time record profit? $18.36 billion in the holiday quarter of 2015 (Apple's fiscal first quarter of 2016).

Trick. Netflix said it would cancel its original series House of Cards after its upcoming sixth season. The news came after actor Anthony Rapp said series star Kevin Spacey had sexually assaulted him in 1986.

Treat. Cybersecurity startup Recorded Future, which monitors activity on the "dark web," raised $25 million from Insight Venture Partners. The company is almost cash flow positive with revenue “in the mid-eight figures” CEO Christopher Ahlberg tells Fortune.

Trick or treat. Reviews of the iPhone X arrived on Tuesday—well, sort of. Apple gave many reviewers only 24 hours with the phone before allowing articles to be posted. At The Verge, Nilay Patel said the new screen was amazing but Face ID didn't work everywhere, such as in bright sunlight. (Apparently Apple engineers need to get out more.) Nicole Nguyen at BuzzFeed got the phone much earlier than most, however. After a week, she had mastered all the new gestures required by the elimination of the home button. But it's the new size—smaller than an iPhone Plus but with a higher resolution screen—that was most attractive.


Like a fractal pattern, the world of bitcoin and other digital currencies seems to get more detailed and remain quite complicated the closer you look. So I'm constantly on the lookout for good explainers. Y-Combinator's Ramon Recuero has written about the splitting of single cryptocurrencies into multiple, incompatible forks. And his evolutionary biology metaphor makes the explanation better than most:

Forks, in short, are an evolutionary mechanism for digital networks, which allows them to try out many different futures at the same time. What if Facebook could create and explore hugely different versions that shared past data and operated entirely independently from each other? This type of experimentation is A/B testing on steroids. This evolution can happen at different times during the cryptocurrency’s life span. Many now-famous cryptocurrencies like Litecoin, Dash, or Zcash, started as a Bitcoin implementation.


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What will the kids get up to on Halloween these days? Creating their own artificially intelligent, horror-story-telling Twitter chatbot, at least if the "kids" are some young scientists at MIT's Media Lab. Check out "Shelly," named after Frankenstein author Mary Shelley.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.