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Hi from Toronto, which suddenly is on the cusp of winter. Time to head back to California.
We had a long, exciting day Tuesday, even as the tech world was overflowing with news, much of which Aaron will cover below: Lyft and Uber are progressing toward blockbuster IPOs, threatening to boost San Francisco residential real estate prices all over again; Netflix delighted; IBM declined; and Silicon Valley squirmed over its connections with Saudi Arabia—over a situation Donald Trump minimized as false accusations about a standup guy.
Meanwhile, as global CEOs gathered in Canada for the Fortune Global Forum, here are a few highlights:
- Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign minister and a former business journalist, ably and honorably explained how she withstood insults from an American president to craft a trade deal that was just fine for Canada.
- Jean-Francois Gagne, CEO of Element AI, explained quite clearly how AI is different from merely speedy software. In short, AI learns whereas software follows directions. Non-giant companies probably don’t need their own AI strategies for years, Gagne said, though tech vendors will continue to bake AI into their offerings to the great benefit of consumers and businesses alike.
- In a panel on energy and technology, the CEO of Canadian oil and gas company Encana, Doug Suttles, made the case for providing electricity to the billion people on earth who don’t have it being as important as fighting global warming. It’s a good example of an exceedingly tricky subject for which there are no easy answers.
I’ll have some concluding thoughts on our time in Toronto on Thursday.
Minting some coin. After getting hit with massive antitrust fines, Google is also changing the way it distributes mobile software in Europe. Phonemakers installing Google’s Android software will be allowed to make modifications if they wish, include their own app stores, and still add Google apps like Gmail for a licensing fee. Manufacturers can separately choose whether to pay to include Google search and Chrome. In the online world, Google’s YouTube and related services went offline for unknown reasons on Tuesday night, but service was restored after a couple of hours.
Minting some coin, the sequel. On Wall Street, as Adam telegraphed for you, Netflix impressed analysts with better-than-expected subscriber growth, adding 7 million new customers, above the 5 million-ish analysts expected. Its shares shot up 9% in premarket trading on Wednesday. IBM was at the opposite end of the spectrum, after its quarterly revenue declined 2% to $18.8 billion, less than the $19.1 billion analysts had forecast. Its shares dropped 4%. As we mentioned yesterday, Uber is heading towards an initial public offering next year at a jaw-dropping $120 billion valuation, while rival Lyft picked banks to run its stock market debut, also planned for 2019.
Faceplant. In the “another day, another Facebook scandal” category, Facebook was hit with fresh allegations about its overestimation of video viewing time to advertisers. A group of small advertisers who were already suing say they uncovered evidence that the viewership inflation, which excluded all views under 3 second from average watched times, started as far back as January 2015. Oh, and the world’s largest social network admitted that, yes, it did intend to collect data to target ads from its new Portal smart video device, after initially indicating that it would not.
New York deli culture clash. Some people don’t like the keyboard on Apple’s new MacBook Pros, others hate the redesigned messaging app in iOS 12. But Apple on Tuesday may have addressed the biggest complaint it received this year, when it redesigned its proposed bagel emoji. The new bagel looks far more realistic-and includes a schmear of cream cheese.
Alive in memory. The death of Paul Allen on Monday has prompted more tributes and stories about the late Microsoft co-founder. Bill Gates posted a poignant series of short recollections about Allen while Geekwire’s Todd Bishop had a longer essay (and podcast) assessing some of Allen’s contributions to the tech industry and beyond.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
The hype around virtual and augmented reality technology rides a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Hang on, here comes another plunge down. Brian Merchant has an absolute takedown of well-funded startup Magic Leap in Gizmodo that’s headlined “The Magic Leap Con.” Merchant got to try the developer version of the company’s augmented reality glasses and he was not impressed:
You know that weird sensation when it feels like everyone around you is participating in some mild mass hallucination, and you missed the dosing? The old ‘what am I possibly missing here’ phenomenon? That’s how I felt at LEAP a lot of the time, amidst crowds of people dropping buzzwords and acronym soup at light speed, and then again while I was reading reviews of the device afterwards—somehow, despite years of failing to deliver anything of substance, lots of the press is still in Leap’s thrall. (Augmented and virtual reality stories are catnip for tech journalists; they set an easy scene with a gripping lede: I’m staring up at a massive blue whale, and I swear it could swallow me whole—but it’s all in my goggles, etc.) Demo after demo, I felt like, sure, that was kind of neat. The games were charming, if often glitchy and simplistic, and yes, it might be helpful for architects to be able to blow up and walk around their designs. I liked the developers, who were smart and funny. Some of the graphics and interactions were very nicely rendered. But there wasn’t anything—besides a single demo, which I’ll get to in a second—that I’d feel compelled to ever do again. It felt genuinely crazy to me that people could get too excited about this, especially after years of decent VR and the Hololens, without having a distinct monetary incentive to do so.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
This Is What Mobile Chip Designer Arm Wants to Add to 5G Networks By Aaron Pressman
Amazon Has a New Kindle Paperwhite E-Reader That’s Waterproof By Jonathan Vanian
Why Verizon Is Giving Free Service to Many Florida Customers By Aaron Pressman
BEFORE YOU GO
It’s almost Halloween and sci-fi and fantasy web site io9 is getting into the spirit with a ranking of the 13 “most iconic” TV witches. It’s also an appropriate time to rank small screen witches with the arrival of Netflix’s new (and promising) reboot of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, called Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and starring former Mad Men actress Kiernan Shipka. I won’t spoil the rankings, but let’s just say we 1960s kids won’t be spooked by the winner.