Benedict's Newsletter: No. 333

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COVID is bigger than anything I write about here, but there are still interesting things happening. Stay at home and catch up on your reading.

 

🗞 News

Facebook in India: FB has spent $5.7bn to buy a ~10% stake in Jio, the mobile network that's transformed Indian mobile and internet with radically low prices. India is clearly a crucial market fo FB, given it has hundreds of millions of new users and unlike China it doesn't lock out foreign companies entirely, even if actual spending is still tiny, so I can see the appeal of an alliance sealed with an equity stake. $5.7bn is FB's biggest deal since paying ~$19bn for WhatsApp: at the time that was 10% of the company, but today $5.7bn is only 1%. However... the track record of huge companies doing alliances like this is terrible. It all looks good on Powerpoint, and there will be some elegant diagrams showing how their strategic needs are converging, but the real day-to-day imperatives and product needs of the companies are very different from each other and the joint projects always tend to end up orphaned....  Link

Control+V: Following Google, Facebook launched a bunch of Zoom-like updates to add video calling features and groups across most of its messaging apps. The most interesting thing here is actually the Portal video-call appliance, which suffered from being launched into the worst of the 'FB is Evil' news cycle, but which everyone who owns seems to love. Link

Apple dumping Intel? Apparently, Apple will switch the Mac from Intel CPUs to its own ARM-based design next year. This has been rumoured for a while now. Apple switched the Mac from PowerPC chips to Intel in 2006 - having picked what turned out to be the wrong CPU architecture horse in the 1980s, Apple had suffered from being on a sub-scale platform outside the mainstream of the PC hardware ecosystem, and switching to Intel was part of the 'Second Coming' of Steve Jobs embracing the scale of the broader tech industry, focusing on where it could add value on top instead of trying to make everything itself. Now that scale has reversed. In 2006 Apple sold 5.5m Macs in a PC market of 226m units, but in 2019 it sold ~275m iOS devices (and ~20m Macs) in a PC market of 250m units. ARM, not Intel, is the standard for mobile, and the iOS devices already run Apple's own custom ARM-based CPU designs - which get comparable performance to mainstream Intel PC chips. Apple, and ARM, has the scale now. Link

Privacy and location tracing: France and Germany are asking Apple to turn off piracy protections (there's something I never thought I'd write). Link

The Amazon private-label panic. Amazon has been building a private-label business, competing both with its suppliers and with the third-party vendors who use its Marketplace platform (and make up 60% of the value of sales on Amazon). Some people are scandalised by this - 'Amazon is using its data and scale to compete with its partners'. However, every big retailer does exactly the same thing, using the same data, and this has been a normal part of retail since WW2 - private label is 20-30% of sales at most big chains. They all use data, and for all its 'scale' Amazon is still smaller than Walmart in the USA and many other retailers elsewhere. This week, the WSJ has a story that Amazon is using sales data from Marketplace to inform the private label business, having claimed that it wasn't - I'd suggest the problem here is the messaging, not the behaviour. Link ($)

WhatsApp ads pulled? The Information claims WhatsApp was just about to launch ads late last year and then lost its nerve. Link ($)

 

🔮 Reading

Update on the UK's smartphone contact tracing. Link

Google is now using machine learning to find the best way to lay out a chip. Link

David Sachs on startup survival: the Burn Multiple. Link

'I spent five years selling campaigning software. Here is what I learned.' Link

Instagram filters are changing makeup. Link

Problems with the esports business model. Link

 

😮 Interesting things

Declassified: a 1970s Boeing study into using a 747 as a flying aircraft carrier for a dozen microfighters. Link (PDF)

A 5 hour one-take journey through the Hermitage museum, shot on an iPhone. (Now watch Russian Ark). Link

Status signalling in isolation. Link

 

📊 Stats

Zoom now has 300m DAUs, up 100m in a month. Link

Netflix added 16m subscribers, double its target. Link

Following Google and Apple, Facebook used its user data to make a lockdown dashboard. Link

Lockdown data compilation. Link

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Benedict's Newsletter: No. 332

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Benedict's Newsletter This is a weekly newsletter of what I've seen in tech and thought was interesting. Not a subscriber yet? Sign up here. This newsletter now goes to 135000 people. Feel free

Benedict's Newsletter: No. 331

Monday, April 13, 2020

Benedict's Newsletter This is a weekly newsletter of what I've seen in tech and thought was interesting. Not a subscriber yet? Sign up here. This newsletter now goes to 135000 people. Feel free

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