Apple goes deal-shopping during the coronavirus outbreak

April 7, 2020, 1:13 PM UTC

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The economist Paul Romer is credited with the expression “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” Apple seems to be taking the maxim to heart, using its massive balance sheet to go shopping at a time equity values are plummeting.

Last week, Apple said it would buy the popular weather app Dark Sky, an opportunity to beef up its map and meteorological offerings as well as deprive customers with Android phones from using the app. It also is buying Voysis, an artificial intelligence software company that makes voice-assistance tech, presumably to beef up the sometimes-maligned Siri. The Apple-focused (if anachronistically named) site 9to5Mac reports that Apple plans to buy an augmented reality company called NextVR too.

There’ve been recent reports that famously secretive and office-centric Apple hasn’t taken well to the working-from-home era. It also has begun throwing itself into pandemic aid by donating masks. But it’s clear that Apple is chugging along, especially in the dealmaking department.


I watched an inspiring coronavirus news conference Monday hosted by the mayor of San Francisco and top city officials. The mayor, London Breed, didn’t once criticize anyone. She didn’t offer medical advice of any kind. Her heads of health, public transportation, homeless services, and other departments calmly explained, with ample dollops of data, what the city is doing to confront the crisis.

Breed repeatedly made reference to an inevitable surge on local hospitals and explained how the city is preparing for it. She came under criticism for declaring an emergency in San Francisco on February 26, an act meant to trigger preparedness. Along with other Bay Area officials, she ordered residents to stay home on March 16, days before other cities and even before the rest of California. So far, however, there have been 583 Covid-19 cases in San Francisco and nine deaths. The city is widely believed to have flattened the curve of the disease.

I can’t pretend this news conference, available here, is good television. The time each official takes to disinfect the microphone and their hands alone is a ratings killer. How refreshing.


Mauro Guillen, the Wharton professor whose thoughts on technology and the coronavirus I mentioned Monday, has posted his presentation here.

Adam Lashinsky


This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.


Is mint the same as pistachio? Samsung is being hit by the pandemic-induced economic slowdown, but maybe not as hard as some other tech companies. The South Korean company said its Q1 operating profit will grow, albeit just 3% from last year, thanks to demand for chips even as phone sales slow. At top Apple contractor Foxconn, sales in the first quarter dropped 12%.

One has chips and the other has nuts. Speaking of Apple's supply chain, the latest leaks from said chain bring news of a much-desired new device: Apple reportedly will revamp its popular 13-inch MacBook Pro laptop next month with a 14-inch screen and the improved keyboard from last year's 16-inch MacBook Pro. Hallelujah.

One of your employees told me that you had pistachio ice cream. Just trying to do its part to stop the spread of misinformation (5G does not cause coronavirus!), Facebook's WhatsApp said it would limit users' ability to forward viral messages easily. Frequently forwarded messages can only be forwarded to a single chat at a time, the company says. Hopefully, this will help curb cellphone site burnings.

All I see is mint. President Trump has added a new hurdle for foreign companies that want to invest in U.S. communications companies. Under a new executive order, FCC license sales involving foreign entities will be reviewed by a new body with an unwieldy name: the Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector. CAFPUSTSS? CFTAOFPITUSTSS? I can't even pronounce that. The committee is modeled on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which goes by the less tongue-twisty acronym CFIUS.

Undo/I drove all the way to this store. There's no 'n' at the end of new Google exec Javier Soltero's name. Apologies for the misspelling in yesterday's newsletter.

(Headline reference explainer in honor of Ozark's Wendy Bird.)


I was never a big believer in billionaire investor Masayoshi Son's $100 billion Vision Fund, and now that things are coming unravelled, I can go the "I told you so" route. Three Financial Times reporters, Kana Inagaki, Leo Lewis, and Arash Massoudi, have put together quite the behind-the-scenes profile of the turmoil now roiling the fund and parent company SoftBank Group as they scramble to raise money. It's mostly about asset sales and deleveraging now.

SoftBank executives, working remotely and communicating via BlueJeans video conferencing app, are still debating the exact make-up, which will depend on market conditions.

Close advisers believe Japan’s most leveraged businessman has one more trick up his sleeve to try to restore some of the swagger that SoftBank has lost since WeWork’s valuation crashed.cThe issue with the current strategy, according to one adviser, is that: “It is not a strategic move forward. It’s too defensive for Son. I would not be surprised if we see him announcing some acquisitions — probably in the 5G and telecoms space and potentially big.” 


AT&T's WarnerMedia has a new boss now that John Stankey has moved up. Former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar takes over the role...Similarly, with Arvind Krishna taking the CEO job at IBM, the company hired former Bank of America CTO Howard Boville to head its cloud business...Apple's former 5G guy, Ruben Caballero, has joined Microsoft, where he will work on AR/VR gear like the HoloLens, Bloomberg reports. Caballero has advised, but is not joining, mystery startup Humane...At troubled SoftBank Investment Advisers, partner Carolina Brochado has left...Waymo exec Sacha Arnoud joins Lyft to work on self-driving car software.


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(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.)


Marie Kondo has helped millions of us tidy up our lives and get rid of unneeded possessions. She's out with a new book today focusing on the workplace and, in a bit of good timing, includes tips for working at home. "No matter where you work, it’s important to create an environment that helps you focus," Kondo tells Fortune.

Aaron Pressman


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