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Live events, when they succeed, deliver epiphanies. Here are some I enjoyed on the last day of Brainstorm Tech in Aspen, Colo., on Wednesday:
- Steven Mollenkopf, CEO of mobile-phone chip designer Qualcomm, gave an impressive, confident, and authoritative interview to Aaron. Consider, he urged the audience, that innovations like Uber came from relatively simple technological advancements in the current generation of mobile phones (adding a location sensor, for Uber, for example). The tech upgrades in super-fast 5G phones, said Mollenkopf, will be far larger. “There will be tremendous winners and losers globally as a result of 5G,” he added, with leading supplier Qualcomm being one of the winners, naturally. (This morning, the company was hit by another antitrust authority, as the EU imposed a $272 million fine.)
- Amy Hess, a top Federal Bureau of Investigations official overseeing cybercrime, urged corporations not to take matters into their own hands. “I have real concerns about private industry taking offensive actions,” she said. “It could lead to dangerous places.”
- Bastian Lehmann, CEO of food-delivery company Postmates, showed a long-awaited delivery robot. He jokingly dismissed my question about what Postmates will do with all the data that the robot’s cameras collect. “We’ll do what everyone does: sell the data to the highest bidder.”
- Joseph Van Valen, a White House official working on transportation policy—mostly around drones—thinks supersonic planes will fly again commercially in the United States before fully autonomous vehicles will drive on its roads.
Before I go, a plug: If you want to hear more from a star of the conference, University of Chicago professor Luigi Zingales, listen to his podcast, Capitalisnt.
I’ll take tomorrow to refresh and reflect. See you Monday.
On Twitter: @adamlashinsky
Gone but not forgotten. Some of the leading employee activists at Google may have recently left the company, but their efforts had some impact. Google said this week that it had “terminated” Project Dragonfly, its effort to create a censored search engine for the Chinese market.
A very expensive ride. A glitch in Uber’s app messed up the placement of the decimal point in charges for rides and food delivery across the United States on Wednesday. One user was charged $1,905 for a ride that was supposed to cost $19.05, for example. Uber said it fixed the bug and would correct the amounts charged to customers.
White noise. Maybe people will only pay so much for Internet video, even from market leader Netflix? After its latest price hikes, the company reported a sharp drop in subscriber growth in the second quarter, gaining only 2.7 million new viewers, about half what the company added a year ago and what it had forecast. It was one-quarter the 10 million gained in the first quarter. More shocking? For the first time in eight years, Netflix lost U.S. subscribers, though just 130,000. Netflix shares, which had been up 35% this year, lost 11% in premarket trading on Thursday. Meanwhile, giant radio station owner and smaller-time streamer iHeartMedia is switching its plans to go public from a traditional underwritten offering to a direct listing a la Spotify and Slack.
When down is up. Elsewhere on Wall Street, eBay pleased and IBM was almost steady. Auctioneer eBay said its revenue rose 2% to $2.7 billion in the second-quarter, better than analysts expected, and adjusted earnings per share of 68 cents beat the Street by 6 cents. Shares of eBay, already up 40% so far this year, gained another 5% in premarket trading on Thursday. IBM’s sales fell 4% to $19.2 billion, though the drop was less than analysts expected. Adjusted EPS of $3.17 beat by 9 cents. Shares of IBM, previously up 28% in 2019, lost 1%.
Meddling kids. In Trump’s Washington, no process from immune to the President’s gaze. Trump is reportedly looking into the Pentagon’s imminent selection of Amazon and/or Microsoft to provide cloud services. Speaking of Amazon, the company declared its two-day “Prime Day” shopping holiday a huge success, but with only the usual vague, Amazon-y stats to back up the boast. Some 175 million items were sold, more than on last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined, the company said. In the United States alone, Amazon sold 100,000 lunch boxes, 200,000 televisions, and more than a million toys.
Leave the keys in the ignition. Car sharing service Turo, yes the “Airbnb of cars,” is the latest unicorn, as it reached a valuation of more than $1 billion in a $250 financing deal from Internet giant IAC. Makes one wonder if Turo is in line to be the next online brand picked up completely by IAC, which already owns Tinder, Angie’s List, and many others.
Gnip gnop. A day after striking a big cloud services partnership with IBM, AT&T said it was also hooking up with Microsoft’s Azure to help power its “edge” mini-datacenters that will be sprinkled across the country as part of the carrier’s 5G infrastructure.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
We worry–quite rightly, in my opinion–about the devastating loss of local news outlets, as their advertising revenue disappears onto the broader Internet. The two biggest winners in that shift–Google and Facebook–have decided to fund some forays to improve local journalism. On Wednesday, Facebook gave out tiny grants (up to $25,000) to 23 local media efforts. Columbia Journalism Review columnist, and former Fortune writer, Mathew Ingram has some concerns:
Obviously, media outlets both large and small are struggling to make ends meet, as are many other journalism-related entities, which is why making friends with Facebook and Google is so appealing. They have money, and they are willing to spend it! And, best of all, it appears to have no strings attached. The reason why it doesn’t have any obvious strings attached, however, is likely because these giant platforms don’t actually care what happens to the money, so long as they get to issue their press releases and make themselves look good in the eyes of regulators. It may feel like a win-win, but it isn’t. It’s a giant, thorny conflict of interest with a check attached.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Africa Is Tech’s Next Great Frontier, Github A.I. Lead Says By Jeremy Kahn
Amazon’s Worker Retraining Plan Is ‘a Drop in the Bucket,’ Says VC By Clay Chandler
Robinhood Plans Relaunch of High Yield Cash Account By Jeff John Roberts
BEFORE YOU GO
As far as I’m concerned, Sir Paul McCartney can do no wrong (well, maybe except for some of those mid-1980s albums. Press Play? No, thank you). So I’m delighted to report that the former Beatle is writing a musical version of the 1946 Frank Capra film It’s A Wonderful Life. McCartney had not previously written for the theater, but after chatting with producers, “I found myself thinking this could be interesting and fun,” he said. We’ll all be crying over the closing number when “an angel gets his wings,” I predict.