Data Sheet—Why Twitch Pivoted to Video Games, and Why It Worked

Upgraded. Remember that meeting between Google CEO Sundar Pichai and the Pentagon? It seems it turned into more of an Oval Office affair, as President Trump tweeted about talking with the tech exec, too. Pichai “stated strongly that he is totally committed to the U.S. Military, not the Chinese Military,” Trump wrote. At the other end of the political spectrum, the Human Rights Campaign, the largest U.S. LGBTQ group, withdrew its positive corporate rating of Google over an app in Google’s Play store promoting conversion therapy.

Third class. After three generations of failure, Apple is finally apologizing for its terrible butterfly keyboard design–sort of. Wall Street Journal columnist Joanna Stern mocked the design in a piece titled “Appl Still Hasn’t Fixd Its MacBook Kyboad Problm,” prompting the company to issue a statement saying the problem was limited to a small number of users “and for that we are sorry.” Hopefully, the laptop maker comes up with a new design soon instead of an apology. (I am also not a fan, as you may have read.)

Caught in the act. The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced on Thursday it is charging Facebook with violating housing discrimination laws over the company’s advertising targeting features. “Using a computer to limit a person’s housing choices can be just as discriminatory as slamming a door in someone’s face,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement. No immediate response from the company, which has already moved to end the practice.

Challenging times. Four former IBM employees filed an age discrimination lawsuit against the company on Wednesday. All four were age 55 or older when IBM let them go in 2016. The suit also attacked IBM’s requirement that departing employees waive their right to collective legal action in order to obtain severance. “We are confident that our arbitration clauses are legal and appropriate,” the company told the San Jose Mercury News.

Nailed. Federal regulators uncovered one of those bogus tech support scams that relied on phony alerts generated by supposed PC cybersecurity apps. The bad guy? Retail chain Office Depot, which agreed to pay $25 million to settle the charges.

Facebook charged with racial discrimination in targeted housing ads

The Facebook logo is reflected on a woman’s glasses in this photo illustration taken June 3, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/Illustration

(Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) charged Facebook Inc on Thursday with violating the Fair Housing Act, alleging that the company’s targeted advertising discriminated on the basis of race and color.

HUD said Facebook also restricted who could see housing- related ads based on national origin, religion, familial status, sex and disability.

Facebook said it was surprised by the decision and has been working with HUD to address its concerns and has taken significant steps to prevent ads discrimination across its platforms.

The social media giant said last week it would create a new advertising portal for ads linked to housing and employment that would limit targeting options for advertisers.

“Facebook is discriminating against people based upon who they are and where they live,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said. “Using a computer to limit a person’s housing choices can be just as discriminatory as slamming a door in someone’s face.”

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing and related services, which includes online advertisements, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or familial status.

Reporting by Akanksha Rana in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

Auto1 may consider IPO in future but no need for cash now: CEO

BERLIN (Reuters) – German used-car dealing platform Auto1 said it could seek a public offering in future but a 2018 cash infusion from Japan’s Softbank means it has no immediate need for extra funding of its European growth plans.

FILE PHOTO: A worker loads a second hand car on a car transporter truck at the Auto1.com company grounds in Zoerbig, Germany January 28, 2017.REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch /File Photo

Last year’s Softbank’s deal valued Berlin-based Auto1 at 2.9 billion euros ($3.27 billion), making it one of Germany’s top so-called tech unicorns.

It is virtually unknown to consumers except through its used car buying arm Wir Kaufen dein Auto (We Buy Your Car) in Germany and similar names elsewhere. It operates from Finland to Romania to Portugal, 30 countries in all.

Revenues rose by 32 percent to 2.9 billion euros last year, and although it is profitable in Germany, investments in other markets have led to a loss on group level.

“Currently, an initial public offering is not a topic for us,” Auto1 co-founder Christian Bertermann told Reuters, adding this could change in future.

Auto1 buys cars using its vehicle pricing database to calculate an offer within minutes and then sells the vehicles on to one of its roughly 35,000 dealerships for a commission.

Its platforms helped 540,000 vehicles change hands in 2018.

The company will now also start a retail platform to compete with Scout24’s Autoscout unit or Ebay’s Mobile.de offering, Bertermann said.

He confirmed a Reuters report about Auto1’s talks with Scout24 about an acquisition of Autoscout, adding that these would not lead to a takeover.

Scout24 in February agreed to be acquired by buyout groups Hellman & Friedman and Blackstone.

Auto1 was set up in Berlin by entrepreneur Christian Bertermann after having trouble selling two old cars owned by his grandmother, along with Koc, who previously worked at Rocket Internet-backed firms Zalando and Home24.

Reporting by Nadine Schimroszik,; Writing by Arno Schuetze; Editing by Alexandra Hudson

Bahrain to use Huawei in 5G rollout despite U.S. warnings

DUBAI (Reuters) – Bahrain, headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, plans to roll out a commercial 5G mobile network by June, partly using Huawei technology despite the United States’ concerns the Chinese telecom giant’s equipment could be used for spying.

FILE PHOTO: Logos of Huawei are pictured outside its shop in Beijing, China, February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

Washington has warned countries against using Chinese technology, saying Huawei could be used by Beijing to spy on the West. China has rejected the accusations.

VIVA Bahrain, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabian state-controlled telecom STC, last month signed an agreement to use Huawei products in its 5G network, one of several Gulf telecoms firms working with the Chinese company.

“We have no concern at this stage as long as this technology is meeting our standards,” Bahrain’s Telecommunications Minister Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed told Reuters on Tuesday when asked about U.S. concerns over Huawei technology.

The U.S. embassy in Bahrain did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. Fifth Fleet uses its base in Bahrain, a Western-allied island state off the Saudi coast, to patrol several important shipping lanes, including near Iran.

Bahrain expects to be one of the first countries to make 5G available nationwide, Mohammed said, although he cautioned it would depend on handset and equipment availability.

Early movers like the United States, China, Japan and South Korea are just starting to roll out their 5G networks, but other regions, such as Europe, still years away and the first 5G phones are only likely to be released in the second half of this year.

Bahrain’s state controlled operator Batelco is working with Sweden’s Ericsson on its 5G network, while the country’s third telecom Zain Bahrain is yet to announce a technology provider.

No foreign company is restricted by the government from providing equipment for Bahrain’s 5G network, Mohammed said, adding that the mobile operators chose who they worked with.

Australia and New Zealand have stopped operators using Huawei equipment in their networks but the European Union is expected to ignore U.S. calls to ban the Chinese company, instead urging countries to share more data to tackle cybersecurity risks related to 5G networks.

Mohammed said the rollout of the 5G network was an “important milestone” for Bahrain, which is hoping investments in technology will help spur the economy which was hit hard by the drop in oil prices.

“It is something we are proud to have,” he said.

Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

A Cab’s-Eye View of How Peloton’s Trucks ‘Talk’ to Each Other

Techno-optimist prognosticators will tell you that driverless trucks are just around the corner. They will also gently tell you—always gently—that yes, truck driving, a job that nearly 3.7 million Americans perform today, is perhaps on the brink of extinction. At the very least, on the brink of uncomfortable change.

A startup called Peloton Technology sees the future a bit differently. Based in Mountain View, California, the eight-year-old company has a plan to broadly commercialize a partially automated truck technology called platooning. It would still depend on drivers sitting in front of a steering wheel, but it would be more fuel efficient and, hopefully, safer than truck-based transportation today.

The company employs 10 professional truck drivers to help refine its tech, and I’m about to meet two of them out on Peloton’s test track in California’s Central Valley. Michael Perkins is tall, thin, and has been driving very big trucks for about 20 years. Jake Gregory is shorter and picked up truck driving in college, before taking a detour to the FBI.

We hit the highway first, because the rain has suddenly cleared. (Here’s an unfortunate reality about Peloton’s driver assistance tech: It doesn’t work great in the rain. Or snow. It’s a safety issue. More on that later.) Out on Interstate 5, Perkins’ long, white semitrailer cruises along in front of me. I’m on board the second, identical truck behind it, with Gregory behind the wheel. A small screen mounted on Gregory’s dashboard shows a camera view of what’s happening in front of Perkins’ rig. It’s like their trucks are connected. Which, in fact, they are about to be.

Peloton

Perkins radios in that he’s ready to go; Gregory says he is too. Inside the two truck cabs, each driver hits a button. Three ascending tones—la, la, la—means Peloton’s automated system has authorized the trucks to platoon on this stretch of highway. A dedicated short range communications (DSRC) connection is now established between the two vehicles. It’s like Wi-Fi but faster and easier to secure. Now, whatever the front truck does, the back truck will near-simultaneously “know”—and react accordingly.

Then Gregory speeds up, pulling his truck up so it’s tailgating about 70 feet from the leader. Sounds risky! But right now, the two trucks are platooning. Ours is on a kind of hopped-up cruise control, which means Gregory’s feet aren’t actually controlling the brakes or accelerator. At the same time, Gregory maintains control of his steering wheel. If Perkins were to brake hard, Gregory’s truck would too, faster than a human could. The robots have taken over. Kind of? Not really? More like, they’re collaborating, with some human oversight.

Peloton’s name, a reference to bicycle racing, helps explain how this platooning works. Just as the riders in the peloton, or main group of racing cyclists, preserve energy by drafting off of those around them, the following trucks in the truck platoon reduce their aerodynamic drag by drafting off the ones in front. The lead truck, meanwhile, get a little push. This saves fuel, according to Peloton—up to 10 percent for the following car and 4.5 percent for the first one, depending on the road and weather conditions and the following distance. It might also prevent crashes, since this tech has much faster reaction times (about 30 milliseconds) than puny humans (about 1 to 1.5 seconds).

Other companies in Europe, China, Japan, and Singapore are seriously experimenting with truck platooning. The American military has hosted platooning demonstrations. Just this week, the US Department of Transportation gave out $1.5 million in grants to universities studying the tech. And Peloton has tested in a bunch of US states: Arizona, California, Michigan, Florida, and Texas, where Peloton has immediate plans to run the majority of its routes.

Right now, the company says it does have paying customers, though it won’t reveal their names until later this year. According to Josh Switkes, the company’s CEO, some pair of US truck drivers are running a route while platooning on a Peloton-enabled truck every day.

And testing continues, on the software in its office, on its test track, and on actual highways, where it confirms the technology’s reliability. “The highway or field is not for testing,” Switkes says. “The goal of testing is to find failures, and you don’t want those failures to be on public roads.” In a report released today, the company lays out this approach to safety for regulators and interested industry parties alike. It borrows more from automotive processes than Silicon Valley–style software ones, amounting to something like easy does it.

It turns out, the linking-up move Perkins and Gregory just performed on the 5 is one of the most safety-critical parts of truck platooning, Switkes says. The moment when the following truck has to move faster than the one in front of it is the most dangerous part.

To make sure drivers like Perkins and Gregory don’t crash into each other, or anyone else, Peloton needs to make sure that the platooning drivers know how the tech works. (Right now, the company’s driver training process takes about half a day.) It also needs to understand exactly how heavy the trucks are when they start platooning, how their brakes are working, and how their tires function. For this reason, the company says, it has carved out partnerships with its suppliers, which means its trucks are built from the ground up with platooning in mind.

This is also why Peloton doesn’t platoon in the rain right now, or in the snow: The company can’t yet gauge exactly how tires deteriorate over time, which means it can’t quite predict how they’ll react in a hard-braking situation. Worn tires might slide in the moisture, leading to a domino chain of truck crashes. So no platooning in the Midwest in the winter, or anywhere during a rainy spring. “On certain routes, it’s a significant limitation,” says Switkes. “But we’re erring on the side of safety.”

And if that seems a little dull, Switkes would tell you that’s the point. His favorite word is “pragmatic,” and he doesn’t believe driverless trucks will prowl the highways any time soon. The technology is too complicated, he argues, and developers will have to go through years of safety testing before they’re ready for the roads—and before the public feels safe riding in their own bitty cars around 50,000-pound robot trucks. So Peloton is going all in on making human-based driving both safer and more efficient. With a bit of tech boost.

Not all manufacturers agree: In January, Daimler announced it would stop its platooning development to focus on autonomous trucking. Tests showed that “fuel savings, even in perfect platooning conditions, are less than expected,” the German company wrote in a press release. “At least for U.S. long-distance applications, analysis currently shows no business case for customers driving platoons with new, highly aerodynamic trucks.”

Platooning advocates disagree, but even the most supportive believe finding a market for this trucker assistance isn’t simple. Steven Shladover is researcher with the California Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology program at UC Berkeley. He has studied platooning for two decades, and points out that the truck industry would need to execute a fair bit of choreography to pull off platooning. Fleet operators would have to coordinate deliveries, matching up trucks heading in the same direction at the same time. “Does the truck industry see enough of a benefit in platooning to fit it into their operational strategies?” he says.

While everyone in trucking waits to find out, Perkins and Gregory head back to Peloton’s test track and proceed to show off a few, freakier moves: some hard braking, some driving side-by-side to prove that the trucks can still “talk” to each other in that position. At one point, another company employee in a white Toyota Tundra cuts into the 55-foot space between the two trucks, and they smoothly part to make room for him. Maybe platooning will improve life for truckers—too bad it can’t fix the problem of everyday reckless drivers, too.


More Great WIRED Stories

Google to prompt Android users to choose preferred browsers to allay EU concerns

FILE PHOTO: A 3D printed Android mascot Bugdroid is seen in front of a Google logo in this illustration taken July 9, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Alphabet’s Google will prompt Android users to choose their preferred browsers and search apps, a senior Google executive said on Tuesday, as the company seeks to allay EU antitrust concerns and ward off fresh sanctions.

The European Commission last year handed Google a record 4.34 billion euro ($4.9 billion) fine for using the market power of its mobile software to block rivals in areas such as internet browsing.

By pre-installing its Chrome browser and Google search app on Android devices, Google had an unfair advantage over its rivals, EU enforcers said.

Google will now try to ensure that Android users are aware of browsers and search engines other than its own services, Kent Walker, senior vice-president of global affairs, said in a blog.

“In the coming months, via the Play Store, we’ll start asking users of existing and new Android devices in Europe which browser and search apps they would like to use,” he wrote without providing details.

The company, which introduced a licensing fee for device makers to access its app marketplace after the EU sanction, does not plan to scrap the charge.

Google could be fined up to 5 percent of Alphabet’s average daily worldwide turnover if it fails to comply with the EU order to stop anti-competitive practices.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by David Goodman

AT&T Can't Get Out Of Its Own Way

Just about every day, AT&T (T) reminds investors of how bad the company wasted shareholder money with mega acquisitions. The latest news regarding the DirecTV Now service is again a reminder that the company needs to focus on repaying debt far beyond the stated objectives as any other management moves will hurt the stock. AT&T is stuck at $30 for the time being, at least offering shareholders at 6.7% dividend yield to offset the suffering.

DirecTV Now website

Image Source: DirecTV Now website

More DirecTV Now Weakness

A prime reason for purchasing DirecTV was the ability to offer a competitive streaming service. After the purchase, AT&T launched DirecTV Now to some initial success, but the company is now crushing a major reason for paying $48.5 billion in the mega merger.

AT&T announced plans to raise the lowest price for DirecTV Now to $50 while stripping out cable channels from Viacom (VIAB) and AMC Networks (AMCX) in order to make the service profitable. The whole problem with the OTT concept from AT&T was the service too resembled traditional media services with a large bundle of channels.

The company now offers two bundles at $50 and $70 with HBO included in basic packages that cost $10 more despite dozens of channels stripped out of the mix. According to the Verge, AT&T now has the highest base plan cost of the five major streaming services that’s now led by Sling TV (DISH) and Hulu with Live TV owned via a future majority by Disney (DIS).

The problem is that AT&T’s management again claimed to understand the business back in December to only clearly show that they had no clue when purchasing DirecTV in the first place. CEO Randall Stephenson had this to say at the UBS Global Media conference:

We’re talking $50 to $60. We’ve learned this product, we think we know this market really, really well. We built a 2 million subscriber base. But we were asking this DirecTV Now product to do too much work. So we’re thinning out the content and getting the price point right; getting it to where it’s profitable.

The end result is a service already cutting customers after just reaching the 2 million subscriber base. DirecTV Now lost 267,000 customers during Q4 when Hulu replaced the service at the 2 million customer base. In addition, AT&T lost 403,000 satellite customers, suggesting the company is quickly unraveling a lead in pay-TV services. The only good news is that the move shifts the focus to making the business profitable and profits lead to keeping the large dividend.

The wireless and entertainment company finds itself in the middle of a video streaming war where the purchase of Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) actually pits itself against DirecTV. Offering the DirecTV Now bundles at a loss just left AT&T supporting content providers to compete against Time Warner properties. The company is now quickly headed toward mostly WarnerMedia products with the following video streaming services.

Source: Verge

The planned entrance of Apple (AAPL) into the streaming wars on March 25 further adds to the upheaval in the sector. The tech giant has reportedly had a $1 billion budget for content and could give the service away for free in order to attract subscribers for other video subscription services such as HBO where Apple takes a cut.

Hulu runs a money-losing operation that can afford to wait out the competition. One should expect DirecTV Now to lose a substantial portion of their subscribers while traditional pay-TV services remain in a substantial downtrend.

Luckily, the entertainment business is the smallest profit generator of the new AT&T. The division only had $2.2 billion in Q4 EBITDA and operating income of $826 million. Cutting back on DirecTV Now should help stabilize the profit levels of the entertainment group.

Source: AT&T Q4’18 investor briefing

The biggest risk to the bullish investment thesis is the media business from the new WarnerMedia. Most of the content providers have a strong profit incentive, but a lot of the new content services from tech players like Apple are as interested in subscribers than initial profits. The media division had Q4 operating income of $2.6 billion that is now at risk from a competitive environment.

Source: AT&T Q4’18 investor briefing

Hanging Onto The Dividend

CFO John Stephens didn’t exactly provide welcoming comments at the recent Deutsche Bank Media conference. The financial executive sees headwinds during Q1 from wireless equipment revenues to the tune of $100 million and at least another $200 million from the amortization of wireless commissions.

The biggest problem is that the CFO doesn’t even address the DirecTV hit from the pricing increase. The company will lose customers, though again this may not hit EPS with the DirecTV Now service running at an apparent loss.

Not addressing this issue further strengthens my resolve that the AT&T executive management team isn’t leading the market, but rather following directions made by other industry players, whether in wireless, entertainment or media. The mega-mergers of DirecTV and Time Warner are both proving to be examples of management skating to where the entertainment and media sector was at and not heading toward where the market is going. The company isn’t leading the market which is a traditional weakness of a conglomerate that’s far too slow to act.

For this reason and until AT&T gets new executive leadership, the company needs to be on a strict debt repayment diet. No more transformational acquisitions where past industry leaders are bought at a premium.

My previous thoughts on the stock rallying to $40 are starting to fade. The wireless giant isn’t generating the EPS growth envisioned with the acquisition of Time Warner or even approaching the hopes of reaching a $4 EPS target. Analysts see the company earning a max of $3.65 per share in 2020.

Chart

Data by YCharts

For this reason, AT&T is likely headed to minimal capital gains due to a lack of confidence in the management team surrounding the risks to these estimates due to the competitive entertainment and media sectors. The best hope is collecting the 6.7% annual dividend with a forecasted mid-50% payout ratio. The company hit a payout ratio of 60% last year.

Source: AT&T Q4’18 investor briefing

Takeaway

The key investor takeaway is that the market already has lost complete faith in the wireless giant. Despite buying both DirecTV and Time Warner, AT&T already is a major laggard in the video streaming space. The only hope while this executive team is in charge is cutting costs, reducing debt and paying the large dividend yield.

Disclosure: I am/we are long T, AAPL. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure: Disclaimer: The information contained herein is for informational purposes only. Nothing in this article should be taken as a solicitation to purchase or sell securities. Before buying or selling any stock you should do your own research and reach your own conclusion or consult a financial advisor. Investing includes risks, including loss of principal.

Amazon's second headquarters clears blocks in Virginia funding vote

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc’s planned second headquarters in northern Virginia cleared a key test on Saturday when local officials approved a proposed financial package worth an estimated $51 million amid a small but vocal opposition.

People move about in front of the rostrum before a news conference about the announcement that Crystal City has been selected as home to Amazon’s new headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., November 13, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Amazon in November picked National Landing, a site jointly owned by Arlington County and the city of Alexandria, just outside Washington, along with New York City for its so-called HQ2 or second headquarters. That followed a year-long search in which hundreds of municipalities, ranging from Newark, New Jersey, to Indianapolis, competed for the coveted tax-dollars and high-wage jobs the project promises.

Amazon in February abruptly scrapped plans to build part of its second headquarters in the New York borough of Queens after opposition from local leaders angered by incentives promised by state and city politicians.

The five-member Arlington County Board voted 5-0 in favor of Amazon receiving the financial package after a seven-hour meeting held in a room filled with up to about 150 citizens and representatives from local unions and minority advocacy groups.

There was strong opposition from some residents and labor groups, many of whom chanted “shame” and waved signs with slogans including “Don’t be the opposite of Robinhood,” “Amazon overworks and underpays,” and “Advocate for us and not Amazon.” One protester was escorted out of the meeting by police.

A few dozen protesters outside the county office chanted, “The people united will never be defeated.”

Danny Candejas, an organizer for the coalition “For Us, Not Amazon,” which opposes the company’s move into the area, said: “We are fighting to make sure people who live here are not priced out by wealthy people.”

Some supporters in the meeting held up signs saying ‘vote yes’ and ‘Amazon is prime for Arlington’.

One hundred and twelve people were registered to speak, an unusually high number for a local county meeting, forcing board chair Christian Dorsey to cut the talking minutes to two minutes, from three, for every regular speaker, and to four minutes, from five, for representatives of organizations.

Many speakers who were opposed to the Amazon headquarters especially opposed direct incentives, citing rising housing costs, the likely displacement of low-income families, accelerated wage theft for construction workers, and lack of investment guarantees in affordable housing funds.

“Speculators are already driving up home prices, landlords are raising rents and general contractors are raising their quotes for home improvement projects,” said one resident, Hunter Tamarro.

Unions including the AFL-CIO objected to Amazon not signing a project labor agreement with wage and benefit safeguards for workers hired to construct the new buildings.

But supporters such as resident June O’Connell said Amazon’s presence would ensure Arlington is allocated state funds for investments in transportation and higher education. “I want that money from the state,” O’Connell said. “Without Amazon, we wouldn’t get a penny of it.”

Holly Sullivan, Amazon’s worldwide head of economic development, spoke briefly and said the company will invest approximately $2.5 billion, create more than 25,000 jobs with an average wage of over $150,000, which will generate more than $3.2 billion in tax revenue.

“Regarding incentives, Amazon is only eligible for the financial incentive after we make our investments and occupy office space in the community,” she said.

Dorsey, the board chair, had said before the vote that he expected the measure to pass. He said that rejecting Amazon would not solve the community’s problems and concerns, and that this was the first deal the county has struck where new revenue growth will be used to fund it.

To be sure, the vote approved an estimated $51 million, a fraction of the $481 million promised by the county. Only 5 percent of the incentives are direct. Also, Amazon has been offered a $750 million package by the state that the Virginia General Assembly approved with little opposition.

The $51 million includes a controversial direct financial incentive or cash grant of $23 million to Amazon over 15 years, which will be collected from taxes on Arlington hotel rooms. The grant is contingent upon Amazon occupying six million square feet of office space over the first 16 years.

Arlington has also offered to invest about $28 million over 10 years of future property tax revenue in onsite infrastructure and open space at the headquarters site.

A filing on the county board’s website says the $23 million grant and the $28 million in strategic public infrastructure investments were “instrumental in Amazon choosing Arlington for its headquarters.”

Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Richard Chang and Daniel Wallis

New Apple TV Ad on Privacy Hits Facebook and Google Where It Hurts—Without Mentioning Them

Apple is taking another swipe at its fellow tech giants for their privacy policies, this time in a new commercial that touts Apple’s stated focus on protecting user privacy. Without naming the likes of Google, Amazon, and Facebook, the TV ad invokes what many consider to be their lax privacy stances.

“If privacy matters in your life, it should matter to the phone your life is on,” the ad says, jumping among a few dozen images of people wanting privacy, including slamming doors, hushed diner conversations, windows locking, padlocks clicking shut, and one visitor to the men’s restroom nervously seeking out the most private urinal.

[embedded content]

Under CEO Tim Cook, Apple has promoted its efforts to protect user privacy on its devices. Unlike Facebook, Google and, increasingly, Amazon, Apple doesn’t rely much on advertising revenue, making money instead from sales of devices and service subscriptions.

At times, Apple has gone to great lengths to protect user privacy. The company, for example, has built most of its A.I. technology on Apple devices themselves, rather than storing personal data in the cloud, as most tech giants do. That decision has led some to argue that Apple is lagging Google and Facebook in the race to develop A.I. products.

But Apple has had its own privacy lapses, including a security flaw in its FaceTime app (which the company fixed last month) that potentially allowed people to listen in on users’ conversations. So far, though, the company has escaped the brunt of criticism that Facebook in particular has received for how it has managed and secured the personal data of its users. Facebook has been attempting to retool its products to focus more on privacy.

Cook has publicly slammed his tech rivals’ privacy policies several times. Last June, he chided them for not using humans to filter out fake news. A few months later, Cook called out the “data-industrial complex” that has “weaponized” personal data. And in January, he wrote a piece in Time calling for a federal privacy law. “It’s time to stand up for the right to privacy—yours, mine, all of ours,” Cook wrote.

The 45-second commercial began airing on U.S. television on Thursday, including during broadcasts of the highly rated National Collegiate Athletic Association’s March basketball tournament.

PagerDuty Joins A Flurry Of Silicon Valley Companies Planning To Go Public This Year

POWERFUL WOMEN

Jennifer Tejada, chief executive officer of PagerDuty Inc., speaks during the Fortune’s Most Powerful Women conference in Dana Point, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. The conference brings together leading women in business, government,© 2017 Bloomberg Finance LP

PagerDuty took the next step forward to a planned IPO, joining a windfall of startups expected to go public this year. But the cloud-based software company’s debut will be an exception among the tech IPO wave—it’s one of the few enterprise companies run by a woman, CEO Jennifer Tejada.

Founded in 2009, San Francisco-based PagerDuty acts as a watchdog for technical issues. The operations management software identifies problems in real time and directs engineers to the root of the problem, an alert system that’s attracted 10,800 customers in 90 countries.

In 2018, PagerDuty scored unicorn status after a $90 million round led by T. Rowe Price Associates and Wellington Management. Its first nine months of revenue last year rose 48% from the period to $84 million. However, the company took a $34.5 million loss during that time,up $4.7 million from 2017. It didn’t reveal data on the full year.

The company’s institutional investors own more than half of its shares, including early investor, Andreessen Horowitz, which owns the largest share of the company at 18.4%, followed by Accel and Bessemer Venture Partners. PagerDuty’s cofounders, Baskar Puvanathasan, Andrew Miklas and Alex Solomon, each hold 7.1%.

PagerDuty landed a spot in the top 50 on the Forbes Cloud 100 list in 2017, just a year after Tejada took over as CEO. “It was a neat brand, even though it’s a small company,” Tejada told Forbes back in July 2016. Tejada owns over four million shares of the company.