To start your week, three really good tech-oriented things I’ve consumed recently:
* Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s cover story on Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is a snappily written and illuminating take on the man who has presided over his company’s reinvention. This story has been told over and over. And yet, the yarn about how and why Nadella focused on the cloud is worth reading. I found it interesting that Microsoft won’t confirm its Azure cloud business, which competes against Amazon’s AWS, is profitable and also that Nadella was ahead of the curve in slapping the expression “artificial intelligence” on products regardless of the accuracy of the description. The article concludes that Microsoft’s success has been embracing its inherent boringness while shedding its futile pursuit of coolness. It ends with a killer quote from Nadella: “We learned from our habits in the past, where we feel like, OK, you can’t be one company and then suddenly, because you’re very successful, do something else. It just doesn’t work.” This is good advice for “transformation” wannabes and the management consultants who get paid a lot of money to advise them.
* The New York Times reports, in fascinating detail, that a sticking point in the Federal Trade Commission’s proposed settlement with Facebook is whether to hold CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally culpable for his company’s violation of an earlier agreement with the agency. I don’t even play a lawyer on TV, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario where this particular CEO, who founded Facebook in his dorm room, who controls its shares, and who is universally understood to be it decider-in-chief on matters great and small, couldn’t be personally culpable for its transgressions. It’s funny how, when the subject of CEO pay comes up, defenders go on about how singularly important the boss is and thus is deserving of compensation orders of magnitude greater than the average worker at said boss’s company. But when there’s a screw-up? Oh, that’s the company’s fault.
* I recently tripped across a marvelous podcast called China Tech Talk. It is as high in content value is it is low in production value: just two smart Western journalists having a chat with a reassuringly well-informed guest. In this episode, “U.S. vs. China—A.I. Asymmetries with Jeffrey Ding,” the hosts tease out of their American researcher subject a knowing discussion of A.I. in China, how Chinese companies are deploying it, and, importantly, misconceptions poorly informed Western observers have about all this.
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