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Two tech giants, once bitter enemies, are cooperating in the wake of coronavirus

March 17, 2020, 1:12 PM UTC

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In times of crisis and mental anguish, it is the smallest of things that hit home. 

In a fine New York Times article about how Microsoft had responded early to the outbreak in Seattle, a single, declarative sentence stuck with me all Monday. After firefighters in Kirkland, Wash., had been quarantined, Microsoft executives began talking with their peers at other companies. “Amy Hood, Microsoft’s finance chief, spoke with Luca Maestri, her counterpart at Apple.” 

That’s it. It didn’t say what they discussed. Presumably they compared notes on preparedness at their respective behemoths. It’s safe to assume Hood asked Maestri about friends and family in Italy. 

The details aren’t important. What matters is that the two companies, once bitter enemies, were communicating, collaborating, and cooperating at a time when such efforts matter far more than competing. 

We all must follow their lead. When I make a critical comment about President Trump in this space, I typically get a few disapproving emails. I always respond, first by thanking folks for their feedback, and often by sharing my point of view. I made e-friends with two such readers Monday. They appreciated my willingness to engage. I appreciated their perspective.  

Technology has made it easy for us to pretend social norms don’t exist. It’s simple to show rage online when you can’t look your opponent in the eye. Sometimes all it takes is empathy to remind each other we’re just people living in a difficult time.  

In line at the supermarket Saturday morning, the woman in front of me couldn’t pay for her groceries because her credit or debit cards weren’t working. I know nothing about her circumstances, only that she broke down in tears and stepped aside to phone her bank. I am ashamed I didn’t offer to pay for her groceries and simply asked her to pay me back when she could. 

We can all do better, and we’ll have to. Those of us old enough to remember a time when we expected dignity from our leaders and civility from each other will need to teach a younger generation what that’s like. 

Please hunker down and stay safe. 

Adam Lashinsky


This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.


Non-stop. The coronavirus outbreak is remaking business as it spreads. With online orders exploding, Amazon said it needs to hire 100,000 more warehouse and delivery workers and will raise the pay of such workers by $2 an hour. A group including Facebook, Reddit, and Google formed a joint campaign to block misinformation about COVID-19. Uber suspended pooled rides in North America. And unknown hackers tried to bring down the web site of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, but failed.

Mind if I cut in. I can't quite tell if it's pivoting exactly, but much-hyped blockchain startup Bakkt raised another $300 million of backing from investors including Microsoft, Boston Consulting Group, and its original parent, the Intercontinental Exchange. It now seems to focus on offering a mobile wallet that holds points from various loyalty rewards programs.

Scratch and sniff. Researchers at Intel designed and trained a neuromorphic chip to "recognize" 10 smells. The chip relies on inputs from 72 chemical sensors to distinguish smells in a similar process to that of the human brain.

Filling your brain. While you are looking for diversions at home, Fortune has a new podcast. CEO Alan Murray interviews other executives about leadership. Episode one features Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and episode two has Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson.


Not everyone remembers the era before everything was online, but there was plenty of pop culture before Insta and TikTok. Hannah Davies at The Guardian has the engaging story of one man's search for a popular song he heard on the radio in the 1990s that seems to have disappeared from all music services.

How exactly does a piece of music seemingly disappear from public consciousness, bypassing the hive mind that is the internet? How does a song with an obnoxiously 90s feel (one critic pinpoints it as a creation of “1997 to 1999”) fade within two decades to an inaudible footnote? Is the mystery song, in fact, an amalgam of different tunes lodged in [Tyler] Gillett’s brain, which over time have come together to make one strangely specific creation? And, if he is correct about these disparate melodies and snatches of lyrics about ice-cream sundaes and Bettie Page being from one song, then how has it remained intact in his brain for so many years while others have forgotten about its existence? (“Is there a sparser bassline? It feels busy,” Gillett asks at one point, as they recreate the song in the studio.)


Coinbase's chief legal officer, Brian Brooks, is joining the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a top banking regulator, as First Deputy Comptroller after less than two years at the cryptocurrency startup...Former Evernote CEO Chris O'Neill, who also once ran Google's Canadian operations, is jumping to the VC world as a partner at Portag3 Ventures...Longtime Apple veteran Ruben Caballero, who had overseen 5G modem efforts, jumped to mystery startup Humane...Longtime Amazon veteran Maria Renz, who was vice president of delivery experience, is going to online lender Social Finance as EVP over credit card, brokerage, and bank-account businesses...D.C. nonprofit the Center for Democracy and Technology named Alexandra Reeve Givens of Georgetown Law’s Institute for Technology Law & Policy as its new CEO starting in May. She replaces Nuala O’Connor, who left for Walmart last year.


Apple’s store closures are dramatic—but experts say they’ll barely nibble at its bottom line By Don Reisinger

Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson, Fortune’s most powerful woman in business, will step down By Jen Wieczner

Computer monitors and other work-at-home essentials are in big demand in the coronavirus era By Danielle Abril

How a biotech startup working on a coronavirus cure got caught in a tug-of-war between the White House and Berlin By Christiaan Hetzner

Masks and hand sanitizer replace iPhones and perfume: Firms redeploy factories to make coronavirus supplies By Grady McGregor

A neobank founded by a former Intuit CEO has raised $26 million By Lucinda Shen

(Some of these stories require a subscription to access. There is a 50% discount for our loyal readers if you use this link to sign up. Thank you for supporting our journalism.)


I couldn't decide whether to go high or low for today's final thought, so I offer both. As a worthy sequel to pizza rat, check out Egg McMuffin rat (and be sure to listen with the sound on for extra chuckles). For a bit more high-brow content, PBS's Newshour assembled a list of 13 museums that you can explore online. Alice Pike Barney’s painting Marshlands at Sundown (from the Smithsonian) seems particularly moving to me at this murky point in our history.

Aaron Pressman