Data Sheet—Disney and Apple Head for Conflict, While Google and Facebook Burn
Good morning, and welcome to the sprint of a week that marks the end of a marathon year. Like companies everywhere, tech concerns are wrapping up 2017’s projects and thinking about what comes next.
CES, formerly the Consumer Electronics Show, will be the subject of many a meeting this week. I’m particularly excited for CES this year, a show that will dominated by themes connected to artificial intelligence, voice-directed computing, and sensor-connected devices. The keynote speaker at Fortune’s annual CES dinner in Las Vegas will be Jensen Huang of Nvidia, arguably the most important executive on these topics as his chips power the impactful devices springing up around us.
The marriage of entertainment and technology may have its biggest year yet. Disney is throwing down in the streaming game, both with its own sports- and children’s-programming services and its move to control back-bencher Hulu. (The new services are slated to launch in 2019; Hulu awaits regulatory approval of Disney’s purchase of assets from 21st Century Fox.) I continue to be intrigued by Apple’s role in this arena. The new Hollywood team of the consumer-electronics giant picked up another high-profile TV show last week even though it hasn’t shown its hand as to how it will distribute the expensive content it is commissioning.
I’m guessing net neutrality will be far less interesting than everyone besides me seems to think. SoftBank, Google, Facebook, and even Elon Musk all are funding massive efforts at building Internet service offerings. Comcast, Verizon and the like would be fools to turn off Internet startups—driving them into the hands of competitors.
Meantime, Facebook and Google are on the defensive. The former has acknowledged that mindless social media surfing is as emotionally harmful as the channel surfing of couch potatoes. The latter is mired in the oddly named “brand safety” scandal on its YouTube platform. Both have businesses that are on fire even as their existential challenges are heating up.
The new year hasn’t even begun, and already it’s an exciting one.
Could not be less shocked. A startup that raised $30 million selling digital tokens in a so-called initial coin offering promoted by boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. is being sued by investors in a class action lawsuit in Florida. The suit alleges Centra, which said it was creating a cryptocurrency debit card, made deceptive statements and sold unregistered securities. Mayweather was not named in the lawsuit.
Android unemployment rate. A robot lost its job patrolling around a San Francisco animal adoption agency after concerns arose about how the automated security device was treating homeless people. “We think a more fully informed, consensus-oriented, local approach on the appropriate use of these new devices will benefit everyone,” Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, president of San Francisco's SPCA, said in a statement.
Uglier and uglier. A San Francisco court released a 37-page letter from a former Uber executive chock full of fresh allegations of creepy surveillance and business tactics at the startup. Uber had executives of competitors followed, hired taxi driver impersonators to subvert competing apps and created a unit to gather online information from competitors, according to the letter from lawyers for former manager Richard Jacobs. Uber has paid Jacobs, who has already recanted some of the allegations, $4.5 million to settle his claims against the company.
M&A down under. Seeking to bolster its cloud services offerings, Oracle is acquiring Aconex, an Australian company that offers construction project management via the cloud, for about $1.2 billion. Oracle's stock price dropped 4% on Friday after the company reported that revenue from cloud services would grow slower than Wall Street had expected.
Overhyped. A highly-touted two-year-old effort to use the blockchain technology underlying bitcoin for business applications may be losing support. More than 15 members of Hyperledger have decided to quit or cut back their support, including CME Group and Deutsche Boerse, Reuters reported. But exec director Brian Behlendorf said the consortium has seen "tremendous growth in membership," with some turnover that is "normal and expected."
Ups and downs. As Adam mentioned above, two in-house scientists at Facebook wrote on Friday that surfing posts on the social network can harm users’ mood and mental health. But being more active and exchanging posts among close friends does the opposite, they said.
The plug not pulled. The Republican tax bill headed for passage this week will not repeal a $7,500 electric vehicle tax credit that has helped sales of cars from Tesla and other manufacturers. The repeal was included in the bill that passed the House of Representative but was dropped from the final measure.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Kids shouldn't spend too much watching things on screens, that's for sure. Well, maybe not. Researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute and Cardiff University have been examining prior studies and conducting new analysis. And they've concluded that the positive effects of limiting screen time and the negative impacts of watching more are overstated. Lead author Dr Andrew Pryzbylski explains:
Taken together, our findings suggest that there is little or no support for the theory that digital screen use, on its own, is bad for young children’s psychological wellbeing. If anything, our findings suggest the broader family context, how parents set rules about digital screen time, and if they’re actively engaged in exploring the digital world together, are more important than the raw screen time. Future research should focus on how using digital devices with parents or care-givers and turning it into a social time can effect children’s psychological wellbeing, curiosity, and the bonds with the caregiver involved.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Firefox Users Cry Foul Over Mr. Robot Ad Installed As Research By David Z. Morris
Elon Musk Calls Transit Expert 'an Idiot' and Says Public Transport 'Sucks' By David Z. Morris
Here's What Late-Night Hosts Said About the FCC Ending Net Neutrality By Tom Huddleston Jr.
Here's Why Fitbit Shares Took a Dive Again By Aaron Pressman
BEFORE YOU GO
Not like he's channeling Howard Hughes or anything, but Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is trying to build a huge wooden airplane called the Spruce Goose. Just kidding–sort of. Allen is trying to build a huge carbon composite airplane called the Stratolaunch, which will have the widest wingspan in the world at 385 feet. Over the weekend, he released a video showing the craft driving down a runway. Not much progress yet, but he only needs to get it off the ground two times to beat Hughes' legacy.