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Data Sheet—Trump Deserves ‘Fair Share’ of Credit for Apple Moves

January 18, 2018, 2:46 PM UTC

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There was a time when Silicon Valley proudly wore its libertarian streak as a badge of honor. Technology was more powerful than ideology or politics. If only the government would leave us alone, we’ll be just fine, thank you. A perfect example was Microsoft’s tardy realization of the need to have lobbyists. Faced with a massive antitrust case, which it ultimately won, Microsoft lawyered and lobbyist-ed up bigly.

Nowadays even those who continue to publicly rail against the government acknowledge its influence. Elon Musk is a poster child for disruptive independence—even as each of his businesses benefits from generous government subsidies, contracts, or other incentives. Google flinches every time a bureaucrat in Brussels hiccups. Facebook rightly has become pre-occupied with the views of governments worldwide.

Even mighty Apple, famous for going its own way, is bowing down now, not so much to the realities of government regulation as the jawboning of a president who talks a lot about—but so far hasn’t done much to further—protectionist policies. Apple said Wednesday it’ll pay a giant tax bill, hire oodles of Americans, and massively increase its planned investment in “advanced” manufacturing in the U.S. (The Wall Street Journal has a good summary here.)

These are other worthy and in some cases inevitable actions. (The tax move is in response to the new tax law.) In some cases it’s impossible to separate Apple’s new claims from existing plans. Its new campus for customer-service operations is at once a modest echo of Amazon’s HQ 2.0 plan and a welcome repatriation of a service that annoys domestic customers. Moreover, if the White House is the ultimate bully pulpit and Trump the loudest bully to occupy it, he deserves more than his fair share of credit for the results he’s getting.

The rhetoric of Apple’s move is certain to please the “America First” crowd. Never mind that the term is an odious nod to an isolationist and anti-immigrant movement from the last century. Americans who find comfort in such talk buy iPhones too. Apple has a fiduciary duty to solicit their business.


Just last week I noted that Jim Hackett’s grandiose and impressive vision for Ford might not survive an economic downturn. That might have been too generous. Tuesday Ford issued a worrisome earnings outlook; its shares declined 7% Wednesday. This is either troubling news for Hackett or his last opportunity to blame bad news on his predecessor. These things usually happen more quickly than anyone predicts.

Adam Lashinsky


Coming soon. Amazon released a list of 20 finalists for the location of its second headquarters. There were no major surprises on the list of possible spots for the planned $5 billion "HQ2," which included Boston, Austin, Atlanta, and Pittsburgh.

Sudden shutdown. Along with Apple's massive investment announcement that Adam mentioned, the company will also soon allow iPhone owners to turn off the controversial, battery-preserving performance slowdown feature, CEO Tim Cook said on Wednesday. But Cook said turning off the feature could lead to unexpected restarts. "We don’t recommend it because we think that people’s iPhones are very important to them and you never can tell when something is so urgent," he said in an interview with ABC.

Sudden shutdown, part II. South Korea will decide on Thursday whether to close all digital currency exchanges. The government "is considering both shutting down all local virtual currency exchanges or just the ones who have been violating the law,” Choi Jong-ku, chief of Korea's Financial Services Commission, said. The price of bitcoin briefly dropped below $10,000 on Wednesday.

Way off. A computer formula used by courts to help predict whether criminals finishing their sentences would commit more crimes, called the Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions, or COMPAS, is not so great, according to a new study. The algorithm is no more accurate at predicting recidivism than guesses made by people with little or no criminal justice background.

Locked away. A French startup called Ledger that makes digital wallet software for cryptocurrencies raised $75 million in private capital from investors led by Draper Esprit. The company says it is developing a storage system called Ledger Vault for institutional investors like banks and hedge funds.

Unlocked value. California startup SurveyMonkey may raise more money from the public markets. The company, valued at $2 billion in its last private fundraising, is looking at going public later this year, Recode reports.

Shop til you drop. While smartphone users spent a little more time, 6%, using apps last year, some categories of programs were actually used less, research firm Flurry reports. Sports apps, photography apps, and games saw declines of time by users of 8% to 16%. Time spent in shopping apps surged 54%, however.

Enforced shopping. The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether Broadcom violated anti-competition rules by requiring customers to purchase a percentage of its chip production, instead of fixed amounts of chips, the Wall Street Journal reports. The company said the probe was "immaterial to our business, does not relate to wireless and has no impact on our proposal to acquire Qualcomm.”


The first computers were made with vacuum tubes, not silicon chip microprocessors. Federico Faggin worked at Intel to help design one of the first computer chips, the Intel 4004, and he's recounted the journey for an article in Nature this month. The breakthrough kicked off the massive innovation cycle fed by Moore's law. But it started slow, Faggin recounts:

The emergence of these microprocessors was undoubtedly a turning point for the electronics industry. They fitted an entire computer system into a small and low-cost printed circuit board by adding variable amounts of read only memory (ROM) and RAM, plus application-specific input–output electronics. With their development, the same hardware could now be programmed to perform a variety of applications that previously required specialized custom hardware for each application. This was, of course, the key advantage of computers, but meant that custom hardware had to be replaced with software, and this turned out to be a difficult transition — many industries that could not adapt were swept away, including electromechanical calculator manufacturers such as Marchant, Facit and Comptometer.


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Lifeguards have a dangerous job, particularly when trying to rescue a drowning victim in rough seas. Enter the drones. Lifeguards in New South Wales, Australia, used a large drone to rescue two teenage swimmers this week.

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