Why Microsoft’s Ban of Rival Slack May Be a Mistake—Data Sheet
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Happy Monday. Aaron here, back from vacation, essay writing and curating this week, as Adam goes off on a break.
Catching up on all the tech news while I was away, I was sent spiraling down memory lane by Friday’s GeekWire scoop that Microsoft maintains a list of “prohibited and discouraged technology.” Said list is said to ban popular work messaging app Slack (which we use at Fortune) and online grammar checker Grammarly, while discouraging use of Google Docs, Amazon Web Services, and cloud security company PagerDuty. The various rationales offered in the document cite security concerns, but also the obvious rivalry aspects. For example: “Slack Enterprise Grid version complies with Microsoft security requirements; however, we encourage use of Microsoft Teams rather than a competitive software.” Microsoft declined to comment to GeekWire.
There’s a long history of tech companies eschewing the products of their competitors. Google stopped its employees from using Microsoft Windows a decade ago, also citing security issues, and Microsoft discouraged use of the Apple iPhone early in the smartphone era.
Personally, I was sent back to my tenure at Yahoo, when CEO Marissa Mayer only allowed use of the company’s ad-laden, performance-challenged web client for all work email. The proffered explanation was that the limitation would prompt employees to offer feedback–and likely push for rapid improvements–to help the engineers on the web email team better the product. That happened some, but it also sapped the productivity of people in jobs that depended on robust email communications capabilities, like, say, salespeople–or reporters.
The new banned list at Microsoft is a bit surprising given that part of CEO Satya Nadella’s successful strategy for reviving the software giant has been to embrace other platforms and abandon the only-made-here mindset. At the very least, deeply knowing the competition would help ensure Microsoft’s own products keep pace. Historically, that may have been part of the problem behind what Bill Gates just called “one of the greatest mistakes of all time.” Appearing at an event at VC firm Village Global last week, Gates admitted he made that all-time whopper by failing to create the mobile operating system alternative to Apple’s iOS. Instead, Google, where co-founder Sergey Brin was an early fan and avid user of the iPhone, grabbed the other spot. Gates called it a $400 billion mistake.
Hopefully, history won’t repeat, despite the bans.
This time is different. It's been a banner beginning of summer for bitcoin investors, as the cryptocurrency on Monday traded above $11,000 for the first time in more than a year. Still a ways to go before bitcoin surmounts its previous high around $20,000 reached at the end of 2017, however.
Virtually tit for tat. President Trump may have pulled back from standard military attacks on Iran last week, but he allowed a cyberattack on the country's rocket and missile launch computer systems to go forward, The Washington Post reports. Then on Saturday, the Department of Homeland Security warned U.S. businesses to beware of Iranian computer strikes. "These are the guys that come in and they burn the house down,” Christopher Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at DHS, said. The administration is also considering a further crackdown on the Chinese tech sector by requiring that all equipment used in U.S. 5G mobile networks be designed and manufactured outside of China. Even European telecom gear makers Nokia and Ericsson manufacture their products in China.
Follow the money. Elsewhere in the nation's capitol, two senators plan to introduce legislation on Monday that would force tech companies like Google and Facebook to disclose the value of the user data they collect. Democratic Sen. Mark Warner and Republican Sen. Josh Hawley announced their bill on Sunday night, dubbed the Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight And Regulations on Data, or DASHBOARD, Act on Sunday night.
Keeping me up at night. A few new entries in the files of things to be concerned about. A New York Times story questions why Amazon allows counterfeit book listings. And The Los Angeles Times debates the collection of video by Amazon and Walmart's in-home home delivery services.
Size doesn't matter. Also a couple of news bits on the Raspberry Pi beat. NASA says the hackers who last year stole data about upcoming Mars missions cracked network security by breaching an unauthorized Pi computer connected to its network at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. On Monday, the nonprofit Raspberry Pi Foundation unveiled its fourth generation model of the credit card-sized computer. Starting at $35, the Raspberry Pi 4 gets faster insides, more memory, and more ports.
Start saving your pennies. We've got a new leak about Apple's rumored 16-inch laptop. The larger version of the MacBook Pro will have the highest screen resolution ever on an Apple laptop at 3072 pixels by 1920 pixels and will cost over $3,000.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Sometimes it feels like Silicon Valley is leading a charge against the value of experienced employees, but that's not the case with venture capitalist Jeff Jordan of Andreessen Horowitz. In a profile of the seasoned, 60-year-old investor, Fortune's own Polina Marinova examines Jordan's approach that led to winning early investments in Airbnb, Pinterest, and Instacart, among others. His prior work experience at stops including Disney and eBay were key to recognizing the winners, she writes. For example:
Jordan’s first reaction to Airbnb was that it was “the stupidest idea I had ever heard.” It was 2011, and he was at an Allen & Co. tech-investing meeting in Arizona. Brian Chesky, then a relatively unknown entrepreneur, was explaining his business, and Jordan couldn’t help mentally listing the number of risks associated with opening up one’s home to strangers. Then it hit him. Airbnb’s fast growth and online marketplace that matched homeowners with renters reminded him of eBay. It was, he says, “a déjà vu experience.” Having worked in top positions at eBay for seven years, he literally had seen this picture before.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
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BEFORE YOU GO
I will not end my first newsletter back from vacation with tales of the delicious meals, amazing sites, and beautiful art I saw in Italy. Instead, distract yourself with Travel + Leisure's list of the 12 most romantic vacation destinations in the world. And until tomorrow, arrivederci.