Tag: Big

07
Oct
2020
Posted in technology

20 years after Microsoft’s antitrust fight, Steve Ballmer betting that Big Tech won’t be broken up

Steve Ballmer at the GeekWire Summit 2019 (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)

Twenty years after Microsoft waged its own antitrust battle with the U.S. government, former CEO Steve Ballmer is betting that Congress won’t break up Big Tech this time around.

In an interview with CNBC on Wednesday (below), Ballmer was reacting to a U.S. House antitrust subcommittee report released this week that found challenges presented by the dominance and business practices of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.

RELATED: House antitrust probe says Amazon has ‘monopoly power’ over sellers, company slams ‘fringe’ findings

“I’ll bet money that they will not be broken up,” Ballmer told CNBC.

The 450-page report from the subcommittee’s Democratic leaders concludes a 16-month investigation into the four companies as the operators of major online markets. It finds that the market power of the tech giants “has diminished consumer choice, eroded innovation and entrepreneurship in the U.S. economy, weakened the vibrancy of the free and diverse press, and undermined Americans’ privacy.”

Ballmer said he doesn’t think the notion of breaking up the companies answers most of the questions or complaints that are being raised against the companies. And he thinks Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple would do well to engage with regulators now rather than take unilateral action that they hope satisfies those calling the shots.

“If I’m in these guys’ shoes, I say, ‘Come on, let’s get down there and let’s regulate me and let’s get it over with so I know what I can do,’” Ballmer told CNBC.

Ballmer is currently the billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Clippers NBA franchise and founder of the Bellevue, Wash.-based nonpartisan, not-for-profit civic data initiative USAFacts.

Ballmer also discussed USAFacts’ launch of a $10 million ad campaign, to air during the nationally televised presidential debates, aimed at illustrating

07
Oct
2020
Posted in technology

Big tech responds to antitrust report

The major tech platforms push back against the House antitrust report, Google Assistant gets a “guest” mode and we interview a freshly minted Nobel laureate. This is your Daily Crunch for October 7, 2020.

The big story: Big tech responds to antitrust report

The House Judiciary Committee released its tech antitrust report late yesterday, concluding that the big tech platforms should face additional regulation. Recommendations include creating new separations to prevent dominant platforms from operating in adjacent lines of business, new requirements for interoperability and data portability and increased restrictions on mergers and acquisitions.

For now, these are just recommendations — and they weren’t endorsed by the committee’s Republican minority. But they have prompted forceful responses from four of the companies targeted by the report: Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.

Amazon, for example, dismissed the committee’s views as “fringe notions” and “regulatory spitballing,” while Apple said it “vehemently” disagrees with the report’s conclusions.

The tech giants

Google Assistant gets an incognito-like guest mode — With Guest mode on, Google Assistant won’t offer personalized responses and your interactions won’t be saved to your account.

Slack introduces new features to ease messaging between business partners — One new feature: Slack Connect DMs, allowing users inside an organization to collaborate with anyone outside their company simply by sending an invite.

Instagram’s Threads app now lets you message everyone, like its Direct app once did — These changes are rolling out shortly after a major update to Instagram’s messaging platform.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Envisics nabs $50M for its in-car holographic display tech at a $250M+ valuation — The startup brings together computer vision, machine learning, big data analytics and navigation to build hardware that integrates into vehicles to project holographic, head-up displays.

Shogun raises $35M to help brands take on

07
Oct
2020
Posted in technology

Congress Agrees: Big Tech Is Broken.

This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it weekdays.

It is stunning that members of Congress mostly agree that four of America’s most successful companies are bullies that abuse their power to stay on top.

That was my thought reading the conclusions of a 16-month congressional investigation into whether Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple broke the law to squash competition. The assessment was, essentially, yup.

The Democrats and Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee have major points of disagreement, and only Democrats signed this report. But while the two parties are divided — possibly irreconcilably so — over how to fix the problem, they appear to mostly agree that those four companies should not be allowed to continue as is.

It’s not unusual to hate on large companies; it was true of big banks and oil companies at the peak of their power. But still. This feels like a moment that reflects real discomfort and derision for big technology companies, and I’m not sure there is a way to go back to the shinier, happier days.

On to some of my assessments of the report. (You can read all 449 pages for yourself here.)

It is so relentlessly negative. Where is the nuance? The House report was unequivocal that Google and Facebook are monopolies, and that elements of Amazon and Apple are as well. (My colleagues have more specifics.)

One thing that struck me is that the House Democrats saw almost everything that the big tech companies do as evidence of illegal anti-competitive activity. It felt overdone. And there was little recognition of what the U.S. economy and people have gained from the success of these tech giants.

A small example: House members called out Google for preventing other companies that

06
Oct
2020
Posted in technology

US Lawmakers Call For Shake-up Of Big Tech ‘Monopolies’

A House of Representatives panel in a report Tuesday accused four Big Tech firms of acting as “monopolies,” calling for sweeping changes to antitrust laws and enforcement that could potentially lead to breakups of the giant firms.

But the report by the House Judiciary Committee failed to win the endorsement of Republican members, highlighting a partisan divide despite widespread criticism of the tech giants.

The 449-page document concluded that Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google “engage in a form of their own private quasi regulation that is unaccountable to anyone but themselves.”

“Companies that once were scrappy, underdog startups that challenged the status quo have become the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons,” the report said.

The report follows an investigation of more than 15 months and hearings this year with the top executives of the four firms, in parallel to antitrust probes being led by federal and state enforcers.

Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler and antitrust subcommittee chairman David Cicilline said in a joint statement that the tech firms “each possess significant market power over large swaths of our economy” and have “exploited their power of the marketplace in anticompetitive ways.”

The report suggests moves which could lead to breakups of the big firms, calling for “structural separations” to prohibit companies from competing on platforms they operate.

Also recommended was a requirement that platforms allow “interoperability” with competitors and regulations aimed at preventing acquisitions that hurt competition.

Amazon pushed back in a blog post, arguing that “the presumption that success can only be the result of anti-competitive behavior is simply wrong.”

“Amazon accounts for less than 1% of the $25 trillion global retail market and less than 4% of retail in the US. Unlike industries that are winner-take-all, retail has ample

06
Oct
2020
Posted in technology

How farmers are harnessing big data to tend fields of the future

Drone survey
Drones can help apple growers survey their orchards to gauge their health. (Innov8 Ag Photo)

In the old days, farmers kept track of their crops’ vital stats in logbooks and on whiteboards — but in the new days, that’s just not going to cut it.

“Shun analog,” said Steve Mantle, the founder and CEO of Innov8 Ag Solutions, a farm management venture that’s headquartered in Walla Walla, Wash. “Digital first. If a grower is still putting things in logbooks, they have to shift to it.”

Mantle and other experts and entrepreneurs surveyed the state of agricultural tech today during Washington State University’s Digital Agriculture Summit — and it’s clear that the field is in a state of flux.

The panelists gave a shout-out to technologies ranging from sensor-equipped drones and 5G connectivity to robotic harvesters and artificial intelligence. But at the same time, some in the virtual audience complained about not being able to get even a 4G signal down on the farm.

Much more needs to be done to bring the agricultural data revolution to full fruition, said Kurt Steck, managing general partner of the 5G Open Innovation Lab, based in Bellevue, Wash.

“Most of the networks are consumer-oriented and very urban-dense,” Steck said. “We’re building a testbed so that we can start to build the right applications and show operators that there is a business case potentially here, because of the amounts of data that can add value to farmers and growing operations. But we have to prove that business model out to the operators. They don’t see it inherently.”

Innov8 Ag is one of the pioneers for that business model: This summer, it worked with the 5G Open Innovation Lab’s other partners on a pilot project in the Tri-Cities area to employ drones, sensors, imaging tools, high-bandwidth