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For all the effort companies put into crafting their strategies, hiring fancy-pants management consultants, and imagining their place in magic quadrants, sometimes a combination of luck and listening to customers is more important.
Perhaps the best example ever of these twin virtues—luck and listening—celebrates its tenth anniversary this week. Exactly a decade ago Apple opened the App Store, a relative afterthought in Steve Jobs’s vision of how customers should use his iPhone, released the previous year. Jobs initially abhorred the idea of allowing software developers to write programs for the phone. Apple would provide what was needed, thank you very much.
Apple-mad coders begged to differ. They exerted so much successful effort cracking the iPhone to add their programs that Apple had the presence of mind to change gears and host their apps—a lucrative switcheroo for Apple, its developer community, and customers.
Apple now celebrates the App Store’s history, as Fortune’s Emily Price recounts here. That history is a good reminder that it’s okay to admit mistakes—and downright petulant not to.
Brainstorm Tech kicks off Monday in Aspen, Colo.
A few previously unannounced speakers include Elaine Chao, U.S. Secretary of Transportation; Mandy Ginsberg, CEO of Match Group; and Thomas Friedman, a guy who writes newspaper columns and books. His latest has something to say about our tech-obsessed pace of life.
The conference informally begins at the crack of dawn Monday, when a few of us cycle 25 miles up and down a mountain, and ends before lunch on Wednesday. Plenary sessions will be livestreamed here; watch Fortune.com for updates on everything that happens on every stage.
Not good news. Back in the news in an unhappy way, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will have to find a new head of HR after Liane Hornsey resigned. The surprise departure follows an investigation into charges that Hornsey dismissed internal allegations of racial discrimination, Bloomberg reports. Uber declined to comment.
Not good news, part two. The U.K.’s privacy watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office, said it is going to slam Facebook with the largest possible fine it can under the law for failing to protect users’ information in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Just how big is that maximum fine? Half a million pounds, or approximately $660,000. Ouch.
More bad news. A former Apple engineer was arrested at a San Jose airport on Saturday and charged with stealing confidential information about the company’s self-driving car effort, Project Titan. Xiaolang Zhang was about to fly to China to go work for a new employer, Xiaopeng Motors or XMotors, which is making connected, electric cars. For those still with the iPhone maker, the company is combining assorted AI efforts, including Siri, under one unit to be headed by former Google search and AI head John Giannandrea. He gets the newly created title “chief of machine learning and AI strategy” and reports directly to CEO Tim Cook.
Is it really news? Joining a crowded market (see PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay, Zelle, Square Cash, etc), Google said its mobile wallet app Google Pay would allow users to send each other money. The app is also getting the ability to save tickets and boarding passes, a la Apple Wallet.
Trying to be news. In the cord-cutting world, European broadcasters are slowly, haltingly getting together to form what might be dubbed someday “HuluEU” to compete against Netflix. So far, however, there are several separate efforts including Britain’s BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 partnering on Freeview and Germany’s ProSiebenSat.1 joining with Discovery Communication’s Eurosport. Back in the USA, cheap online cable packager Philo raised $40 million in private backing to expand its marketing efforts, and announced it’s finally available on Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV.
No news here. Legendary Boston hedge fund manager Seth Klarman’s out-of-print investing book, Margin of Safety, popped up in Amazon’s Kindle ebook store last week for $10. That seemed like a deal worthy of Klarman’s preference for buying undervalued stocks, since used copies of the book sell for more than $500. Alas, the bargain was too good to be true. Klarman’s firm, the Baupost Group, says the e-book version was posted without authorization.
Finally, some good news. Boston-based startup Toast is the latest unicorn after raising $115 million in venture capital in a deal valuing the company at $1.4 billion. Toast makes a cloud-based restaurant management platform used by chains like Jamba Juice and Hattie B’s Hot Chicken.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
If you dig tech history, you’ll probably be interested in Adam Fisher’s new book, Valley of Genius: The Uncensored History of Silicon Valley (as Told by the Hackers, Founders, and Freaks Who Made It Boom). In an excerpt published by Vanity Fair he calls Google “an accidental by-product of graduate-student whimsy.” One oral history segment captures recollections about how the arrival of Eric Schmidt changed Google’s focus:
Heather Cairns: One of his first days at work he did this sort of public address with the company and he said, “I want you to know who your real competition is.” He said, “It’s Microsoft.” And everyone went, What?
Terry Winograd: I can remember some higher-level meetings I was in, which were about what Google could do that would stay under Microsoft’s radar. In fact, “Canada” was the code word for Microsoft, because it was big and up north, right? There was basically a sense that if Microsoft decided Google was a threat they could squash it, and they wanted to make sure they didn’t trigger that reaction.
Ev Williams, a founder of Blogger, Twitter, and Medium: There was quite a bit of angst and existential concern that the next version of Windows was going to have search built into the OS. And how were we going to compete with that?
Heather Cairns: So, I remember thinking, Huh, wow. He thinks we’re a threat to Microsoft. Are you kidding me? So I think then, that speech made me realize that maybe we had more gravity than I understood.
Marissa Mayer: It was a bigger vision than we had really tangibly talked about before. That was a big moment for us.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Everybody Has a Cell Phone, So What’s Next for the Wireless Industry? By Aaron Pressman
Netflix Believes ‘Smart Downloads’ Will Save You Time By Jonathan Vanian
AT&T to Acquire Cybersecurity Company AlienVault By Renae Reints
Postmates Just Expanded to 100 More Cities By Lisa Marie Segarra
Facebook Is Testing Augmented Reality Ads in News Feed By Jonathan Vanian
BEFORE YOU GO
Cybersecurity is a tough challenge but it’s even tougher when people do dumb things. A couple of Pentagon employees failed to patch their Netgear routers for security flaws disclosed two years ago. The result? A hacker stole classified military secrets about the MQ-9 Reaper drone and the M1 Abrams tank and tried to sell them on the dark web. Yikes.