I’m a sucker for a fallen-idol turnaround story. The surprise record profits forecasted Tuesday by Sony counts as a comeback for the ages.
As Reuters explains, Sony predicts its profits will mark a peak for the first time since 1998, when its PlayStation first appeared and when its film unit struck gold with Men in Black. Like much of corporate Japan generally, Sony, its home country’s global champion, went into a multi-year tailspin. Sony’s problems were many: brutal competition for its once-dominant television group; being bested by Apple’s iPod, a humiliation for the Walkman pioneer; high-cost manufacturing in Japan; a failure to seize the music-streaming initiative despite years of trying.
Yet like Microsoft, Samsung, and IBM before it, Sony had enough stalwart businesses to keep fighting. Now a hit mobile game, an in-demand mobile sensor for smartphones, and its still-popular PlayStation console have driven Sony’s return.
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For all the (appropriate) emphasis on China’s growth and Silicon Valley’s innovation, it’s somehow reassuring to be reminded that Japan remains an economic powerhouse and that at least one of its marquee companies still has some tricks up its sleeve.
Bad blood. Representatives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter (though not their super famous CEOs) showed up for a U.S. Senate hearing on Wednesday and found themselves the targets of ire over the Russian election interference they helped facilitate. Sen. Al Franken was among the most forceful, going after Facebook at one point for not noticing political ads being paid for in rubles. “Those are two data points: American political ads and Russian money, rubles. How could you not connect those two dots?”
Wildest dreams. Cryptocurrency trading is about to get very real. The CME Group—which operates the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the New York Mercantile Exchange, and other venues that trade a combined $1 quadrillion in face value of derivatives contracts a year—is getting into the game. The CME said on Tuesday that it would start trading bitcoin futures contracts before the end of the year. The cash-settled contracts will likely attract hoards of traditional investors, including large mutual and pension funds. The news helped push bitcoin to a new all-time high of more than $6,450.
Look what you made me do. Reviews of Apple’s iPhone X poured out through out the day on Tuesday, as the company shook up its usual playbook for handing out pre-release devices. Many reviewers went to great lengths in an effort to trick the new Face ID unlocking feature. My favorite? Young triplet boys enlisted by Wall Street Journal tech columnist Joanna Stern (Spoiler alert: “We hacked it, we hacked it.”)
Shake it off. Online education service Coursera’s new CEO Jeff Maggioncalda is cleaning house. Just over four months into his tenure, the CEO let go about 40 people, or 13% of the company’s staff. And Coursera’s COO, CMO, CFO, and general counsel have been recently replaced, Recode reported.
I knew you were trouble. The man captured at the scene of the terror attack in New York City, Sayfullo Saipov, was a driver for Uber in New Jersey for the past six months, the company confirmed. Uber said it was horrified by the violence, which killed eight people, and would cooperate with authorities.
Blank space. Was it just a Halloween trick? Some Google Docs users found themselves locked out of their own documents for purportedly creating inappropriate content. Google said the snafu resulted from a coding error that was quickly corrected.
We are never ever getting back together. I dropped a word in yesterday’s newsletter from the name of the firm that funded startup Recorded Future. It was Insight Venture Partners.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Artificial intelligence research is moving ahead on two levels. Private companies are spending untold sums to push the field forward, but an equally important effort is taking place more publicly in universities around the world. The clash of commerce and academia is tilting the field in one direction, however, as Ian Sample, science editor at The Guardian, investigates. Maja Pantic, a professor of affective and behavioral computing at Imperial College in London, tells Sample she is worried about a one-way brain drain from schools to tech companies:
Many of the best researchers move to Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple. “The creme de la creme of academia has been bought and that is worrying,” Pantic said. “If the companies don’t pay tax it’s a problem for the government. The government doesn’t get enough money to educate people, or to invest in academia. It’s a vicious circle.”
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Paul Manafort May Have Used ‘bond007’ as His Online Password By Jonathan Vanian
Apple Added a Crazy Amount of Market Value in October By Verne Kopytoff
AT&T Makes ‘Final’ Contract Offer to 20,000 Wireless Workers By Aaron Pressman
Facebook, Google, and Twitter Could’ve Prevented the Russian Ads. Why Didn’t They? By Vivek Wadhwa and Alex Salkever
What Qualcomm Chips Do and Why Apple Ditching Them Would Be Important By Aaron Pressman
Google Hangouts Makes Another Push Into Corporate Video Conferencing By Jonathan Vanian
On Free Speech and How It Protects Sex Traffickers By Ellen McGirt
BEFORE YOU GO
Will we all be killed by the eruption of a “super volcano” in Yellowstone National Park? Maybe not. NASA has a plan to save the world. Sounds like a great screenplay opportunity, too.