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Some people like buying houses in lots of different places. Larry Ellison comes to mind. Some companies like to buy businesses that have nothing to do with their own. Coca-Cola once owned Columbia Pictures, presumably on the assumption that marketing sugar water ought not be that different from marketing movies. General Electric owned an investment house, Kidder Peabody. Jack Welch famously hated the compensation plans for star bankers, a different bunch than salute-and-follow-orders GE managers.
Broadcom, the semiconductor company formerly known as Avago, likes to buy things too. Given its Chinese ties, though, buying chipmakers has become more difficult (though in April it officially re-domiciled to the United States from Singapore). So the acquisitive company, acting more like a buyout firm than a manufacturer, has turned to software. It announced a $19-billion deal to purchase CA Technologies, the once-scandal-plagued mainframe-computer software maker formerly known as Computer Associates—and a serial acquirer itself back in the day.
Chip investors are puzzled by the move. “We guess we are going to be giving ourselves a crash course in mainframe and enterprise computing,” Ambrish Srivastava, an analyst with BMO Capital Markets, wrote to clients. Software analysts, meantime, smell opportunity. “We think the acquisition is supportive of unloved, value-oriented software stocks and highlights the durability of such businesses,” opined Brad Zelnick, who follows software stocks for Credit Suisse. “The deal also suggests a much larger universe of strategic buyers than most investors appreciate.”
The other day I wrote that Vista Equity Partners founder Robert Smith believes enterprise software companies share so many characteristics that best practices can be applied to operating many of them. Broadcom CEO Hock Tan is matching Smith’s thesis and raising him an industry: All enterprise technologies look alike to Broadcom.
It’s worth noting that Coke isn’t in the film business anymore. As for GE, which dumped Kidder a long time ago, well, it’s not in many businesses at all anymore.
Merlin’s beard. Cord cutters who were relying on Google’s YouTube TV to watch the World Cup semi-final match between Croatia and England on Wednesday got an unhappy surprise. The service crashed in the middle of the game and was offline for about an hour. The Googleplex had happier news for two of its X projects. Balloon-delivered Internet service Loon and drone delivery effort Wing graduated to become standalone companies.
Chamber of secrets. A major revamp could be on the way for fans of Apple’s Mac line of desktop and laptop computers. Well-connected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, now at TF International Securities, on Wednesday said to expect significant boosts to the MacBook, MacBook Pro, iMac, and even the lowly Mac mini, which hasn’t been upgraded in years. On Thursday morning, Apple partially delivered, unveiling new MacBook Pro laptops with 8th-generation Intel CPUs.
Evanesco. If you noticed a sudden drop in the number of your Twitter followers over the next few days, don’t fret. The company is taking steps to cleanse itself of bad actors, including no longer counting locked accounts as followers. “Most people will see a change of four followers or fewer; others with larger follower counts will experience a more significant drop,” Twitter’s legal, policy and trust and safety lead Vijaya Gadde wrote.
Mischief managed. There was a bit of a kerfuffle (and a lot of headlines) on Wednesday over a proposal by the Federal Communications Commission to change the way it handles informal complaints from consumers about issues like robocalls or improper billing. Some read a proposed change as meaning the commission would no longer investigate free, informal complaints, forcing consumers with real problems to file formal complaints and pay the associated $225 fee. But the Washington Post noted that the proposal barely altered the existing rule. And then, due to the controversy, the agency dropped a plan to vote on it today.
The Mirror of Erised. We’ve been waiting for literally years to see the amazing virtual and/or augmented reality gear from secretive startup Magic Leap. Now the hour draws near. The company on Wednesday announced an “exclusive” wireless distribution agreement with AT&T and said its first goggles product, the Creator Edition, would go to developers this summer. But many were less-than-impressed with a video demo Magic Leap showed.
Blast-Ended Skrewt. The Trump administration’s top antitrust enforcer doesn’t sound like he wants to mess with the tech giants much. Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Makan Delrahim tells the Financial Times that there are many benefits when big tech companies acquire smaller ones (like, say, Facebook buying Instagram). “I think there’s great efficiencies that could occur from a lot of these,” Delrahim said. “You can’t, you know, in retrospect try to second guess that.”
Wingardium Leviosa. It got an awful lot of hype when first announced in May, but now HTC appears to be scaling back expectations for its so-called blockchain phone, the HTC Exodus. The phone, coming by year end, won’t be able to mine for digital currencies but will have an offline “cold storage” wallet to hold cryptocurrency, the company told the Verge this week. There will also be some kind of partnership with CryptoKitties. Oh boy.
(Headline reference explainer for the non-Gen Y among you.)
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
The growing menace of distracted driving due to smartphones seems inexorably linked with the rise in accidents and vehicular fatalities. Some states are trying to legislate their way out of the problem. A Georgia law that took effect on July 1 may be the nation’s strictest, prohibiting a driver from even touching their phone unless their car is legally parked. No checking Waze. No reading email at a red light. Nada. In a piece for The Atlantic, Ian Bogost explores how the law is working.
None of the ordinary citizens I talked to had any idea that the Georgia law went to such extremes. Most understood that they couldn’t hold their phones anymore and resolved to deploy some kind of dashboard mount. But they still assumed they’d be able to touch their phones upon those mounts. That’s how California handled the situation when it adopted a similar law in 2016: California Assembly Bill 1785 allows drivers to execute a “single swipe or tap of the driver’s finger” in order to “activate or deactivate a feature or function” of the device. The Georgia law is somewhat unclear on the matter, as is guidance for drivers provided by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety in Georgia. The law might say a lot less than the clarifications, commentary, and coverage about it. Daniel J. Grossman, an Atlanta lawyer, says “It is the commentary that has created confusion, not the statute itself.”
One reason the law might perplex drivers is that operating a car has become a lot more like operating a smartphone. A 2009-model-year car I own features knobs to control the climate and buttons to operate the radio. My 2017 minivan, by contrast, just has a giant touch screen, on which different submenus must be selected to alter the cabin temperature, view navigation, or change radio channels. I asked the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety about the difference, from a safety perspective, between operating a manufacturer-provided dashboard touch screen and a dash-mounted smartphone. Robert Hydrick, the organization’s communications manager, wouldn’t speculate on the rationale behind the legislation but did affirm that “there is no law to my knowledge that prohibits drivers from touching or using any of their accessories provided by the manufacturer of their vehicle.”
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Apple’s Airplay 2 May Be the Boost Sonos Needs for Its IPO By Kevin Kelleher
Sprint Follows Rivals By Complicating Its Unlimited Mobile Data Plans By Aaron Pressman
Ripple Hires Facebook Payments Exec and Names New CTO By Jeff John Roberts
BEFORE YOU GO
Speaking of Harry Potter spells—I mean literally speaking them—Virginia product developer Ben Markowitz had a wacky idea. He’s using Apple’s new Siri shortcuts feature to train his iPhone to react to spell trigger phrases from J.K. Rowling’s series. Utter “lumos maxima” at Markowitz’s iPhone and you’ll get the flashlight turned on, full blast. Cute.