We are starting a new weekly tech roundup, focusing on some of the more interesting news items in technology that caught our eye. While the tech world seems to move at warp speed, we think Fridays are a good time to stop and reflect on some of the key events of the week, and look ahead at what could end up impacting various companies and sectors in our favorite market segments.
Google to focus Deep Mind on eye disease
Google’s DeepMind is partnering with the UK’s National Health Service to diagnose eye disease from just a single scan of the eye. They will target 2 specific diseases: diabetic retinopathy and a macular degeneration, which affect more than 100 million people worldwide. We believe this is a critical area of development since the diagnoses are very time-consuming and complex. DeepMind’s analysis could mean earlier diagnoses for patients and therefore earlier treatment, leading to less deterioration in eyesight down the line. Sight loss is a serious global problem, and it is estimated to double by 2050.
Twitter names new board member
Twitter added the former Facebook technology chief Bret Taylor to its board, bringing much needed social-media experience to its BOD. Since Jack Dorsey re-joined the company, he has made a series of new appointments given Twitter’s struggles with growth. The addition of Mr. Taylor we believe is significant, given his experience at Facebook, where he worked in the hyper-growth period leading up to its 2012 IPO. The upside for Twitter is there. Opportunities include efforts to draw more value from the 500 million people who visit but don’t log into Twitter. About 310 million users log into Twitter at least once a month compared with the 1.6 billion who do so on Facebook.
Another week of bad news for Tesla
Tesla’s had a pretty rough ride in the last couple of weeks. Let’s review:
First, Tesla proposed to buy solar-panel manufacturer SolarCity. This announcement raised eye brows in the investment community in a big way. Both Tesla and Solar City are losing money (total $1.6B last year), and Mr. Musk is not only Solar City’s chairman, his cousin is the CEO of Solar City. Additionally, there are financial ties between the 2 companies. So the term “conflict of interest” is now given a new meaning. Mr. Musk on the other hand is selling this a vertical integration play. While we realize Mr. Musk is a visionary, we believe selling this merger as an industry consolidation is a very tough sell, to say the least.
Then, on Thursday it was revealed that a Tesla Model S had crashed in self-driving mode on May 7, resulting in a fatality. Beyond the tragedy of this death, Mr. Musk did not disclose this fact to investors as he was trying to sell $2B in common stock on May 18th. When asked, Tesla’s reaction was the equivalent of a shoulder shrug.
And finally, on Sunday, July 3rd, the company announced quietly that it is missing its delivery targets, effectively pre-announcing negative results. Usually this type of release is done when investors are paying attention. We are frankly surprised that a company of Tesla’s stature would conduct its investor relations in such a sneaky fashion. We can’t wait to see what happens next week…
Facebook unveils Open Cellular
Essentially this is a wireless hardware device that is attached to a tree, street lamp or telephone pole, providing a wireless network (including 2G, LTE, and Wi-Fi). Facebook plans to provide these designs as an open source reference platform, with the hope that it provides a simpler, less expensive way of bringing wireless networks to the developing world, especially rural areas in Africa and India.
According to Facebook’s calculations, more than 4 billion people still don’t have access to the Internet and about 10% of the world’s population lives outside the range of existing cellular networks. The company has no intention of getting into the hardware or Internet infrastructure business. Rather, it is trying to expand into untapped markets, now that it has essentially saturated mature markets like the Europe and N. America.
Some of FB’s new hardware devices include flying drones, communication lasers, and new wireless antennas. This is a key strategy for FB, in our view, and one that will take FB into more direct competition with Google, who themselves are rolling out this type of strategy, as it develops flying drones—as well as high-altitude balloons—designed to deliver the Internet in places that don’t already have it. FB’s new division is called the Telecom Ifra Projet, or TIP http://www.wired.com/2016/02/facebook-open-source-wireless-gear-forge-5g-world/ and it is already working with major carriers in Germany and Korea, and telecom giant Nokia.
In a possibly related development, Facebook hired Rich Heley, a top executive from Tesla, to work at its new Building 8 research lab, another major hire for the group tasked with fast-paced development of hardware products. He will report to Regina Dugan, a former Google executive whom Facebook hired in April to lead Building 8. More on these developments later but we expect FB to roll out hardware products soon.
Fortune Brainstorm Tech Conference
This annual conference is being held from July 11-13 in Aspen, CO.
For years, this invitation only conference has been among the go to conferences for techies. I would argue there has never been more disruption and innovation as there is now. Areas such as finance, manufacturing, media, entertainment, sports, education, energy, health care, and automobiles are simultaneously undergoing transformative makeovers, with new winners and losers emerging with amazing speed. Some of the areas that will be highlighted in this conference include connected smartphones and devices, big data analytics, the cloud, advances in life sciences and physics, and the emergence of a new generation of consumers who have very different expectations, habits, and sensibilities.
As the conference unfolds, we will bring you highlights from this interesting event.
BitNavi is a blog conceived by Karl Motey in the heart of Silicon Valley, dedicated to emerging technologies and strategic business issues challenging the industry.
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