Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for April 2018

The Sprint to T-Mobile

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Can you hear that pin drop?

That’s the sound of two telecommunications giants attempting to become one.

Over the weekend, T-Mobile US Inc. agreed to acquire Sprint Corp. for $26.5 billion in stock, according to a report from Bloomberg.

This mashup would reduce the U.S. wireless industry to three major competitors from four, writes Bloomberg, which it said ensures “heavy scrutiny from regulators.”

T-Mobile CEO John Legere explained “We’re going to have an impact on America…We are going to drag the rest of the players kicking and screaming to the prize, which is American leadership in fifth-generation (5G) networks.”

Some details:

Operating as T-Mobile, the company would have about $74 billion in annual revenue and 70 million wireless subscribers. Verizon is the largest U.S. carrier with $88 billion in 2017 wireless revenue and 111 million subscribers, and AT&T would be No. 2 with $71 billion in wireless revenue and have 78 million regular subscribers.

Fascinating to see the “America First” spin geared towards both regulators and the Trump Administration (obviously to help them navigate and get the blessing of regulators).

Axios picks it up there:

  • Executives stressed the deal would help America outpace China and others in 5G wireless development. “The combination of the 600 megahertz [in wireless spectrum] and other assets that we have are critical building blocks of what America needs to deploy to take its rightful place,” said T-Mobile CEO John Legere.
  • Many in D.C. worry about China outpacing America in 5G development. Earlier this year, a now-departed senior official in the National Security Council circulated a planto nationalize a 5G network.
  • The company’s project job growth in retail and customer service operations, with an emphasis on rural areas.

So, to recap: This deal helps us beat China to the 5G punch (National security!), is GREAT for consumers (even though there will now be one less player on the U.S. telecom chessboard), and it will create new jobs in rural ‘Merica.

Written by turbotodd

April 30, 2018 at 9:35 am

Didi Chuxing Cha-Ching

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Greetings from the Big Apple.

I arrived here over the weekend to visit some friends and prepare for some meetings in NYC. 

The weather has been beyond spectacular — if I’d have planned ahead, I would have brought my golf clubs and teed up in the middle of 5th Avenue to attempt my first mile long drive.

But instead, I’m following the attempts of China’s Didi Chuxing Technology Co. to drive for a humongous IPO that The Wall Street Journal is claiming could happen as soon as this year.

Didi operates China’s largest ride-sharing platform and is expanding in Latin America and other parts of Asia, and according to the Journal report, is hoping to garner a valuation of at least $70 to $80 billion if it goes public.

The report also suggests that Didi is looking to “amass a large war chest to fend off rivals in China and other countries.”

But the company is also apparently looking to develop a smart car customized for ride-sharing and looking for auto makers that could manufacture such a car. 

The car is anticipated to be an electric vehicle and would be connected to the internet, allowing Didi to monitor data from the car for safety by applying artificial intelligence technology.

The Journal article suggests this worries some automakers, as it would put companies like Didi (and potentially others who move in this direction) in direct competition, one which could put the Didis of the world in the driver’s seat when it comes to the “operating system” for cars (i.e., the software).

Written by turbotodd

April 24, 2018 at 8:12 am

AI Funding and Talent

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I was too busy to blog yesterday, but a couple of stories about AI funding did hit my radar that I wanted to mention.

TechCrunch reported first that a startup out of London, BenevolventAI, announced that it had raised $115 million “to continue developer its core ‘AI brain’ as well as different arms of the company that are using it specifically to break new ground in drug development and more.”

That round values the company at $2.1 billion. 

Some background:

The core of BenevolentAI’s business is focused around what Mulvaney describes as a “brain” built by a team of scientists — some of whom are disclosed, and some of whom are not, for competitive reasons; Mulvaney said: There are 155 people working at the startup in all, with 300 projected by the end of this year. The brain has been created to ingest and compute billions of data points in specific areas such as health and material science, to help scientists better determine combinations that might finally solve persistently difficult problems in fields like medicine.

The crux of the issue in a field like drug development, for example, is that even as scientists identify the many permutations and strains of, say, a particular kind of cancer, each of these strains can mutate, and that is before you consider that each mutation might behave completely differently depending on which person develops the mutation.

This is precisely the kind of issue that AI, which is massive computational power and “learning” from previous computations, can help address. (And BenevolventAI is not the only one taking this approach. Specifically in cancer, others include Grail and Paige.AI.)

Another one that caught my attention was Eightfold.ai, “a new technology service aimed at solving nothing less than the problem of how to provide professional meaning in the modern world.”

Founded by former Googler and IBM researcher Ashutosh Garg (who is a search and personalization expert), the company “…boasts an executive team that has a combined 80 patents and more than 6,000 citations for their research.

What’s more interesting to me is their mission: “To bring the analytical rigor for which their former employers are famous to the question of how best to help employees find fulfillment in the workforce.”

Lightspeed Ventures and Foundation Capital are among those backing the venture to the tune of $24 million.

How it works:

“We have crawled the web for millions of profiles… including data from Wikipedia,” says Garg. “From there we have gotten data round how people have moved in organizations. We use all of this data to see who has performed well in an organization or not. Now what we do… we build models over this data to see who is capable of doing what.”

There are two important functions at play, according to Garg. The first is developing a talent network of a business — “the talent graph of a company,” he calls it. “On top of that we map how people have gone from one function to another in their career.”

Using those tools, Garg says Eightfold.ai’s services can predict the best path for each employee to reach their full potential.

Did you get that? “Building models for the talent graph of a company and how people have gone from one function to another in their career. I’m calling it a Maslowe AI play!

As for how hot the war for AI talent is, check out this New York Time’s article.  It reveals that AI specialists with little or no industry experience can make between $300K and $500K a year in salary and stock. 

Might be time to go back to school!

Written by turbotodd

April 20, 2018 at 12:47 pm

iPhone X Making Moolah

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I’ve not upgraded to an iPhone 8 or X yet, but someone out there in the ether has.  Maybe even quite a few.

MacRumor reported yesterday that, according to Counterpoint Research, the iPhone X accounted for 35 percent of total worldwide handset profits in the fourth quarter of 2017.

They also reported that the X generated 5X more profit than the combined profit of more than 600 Android OEMs during the quarter, and this despite the fact that the X was available for purchase only during the final two months of the year.

iPhone X Sales

The story indicated other Apple iPhones, including the 8, 8 Plus, 7, and 7 Plus accounted for a second large chunk of global handset profits.

And that Apple was the most profitable brand with 86 percent of total handset market profits.

Yeah, just a little bit.

So excuse me for a moment if I kid about this story that appeared in The Wall Street Journal about folks wanting to go all retro with “candy bar” and “banana” and so-called feature phones because their smartphone had too much to compel them to use it.  

Uh, isn’t that the frickin’ point?  A computer in our hands?!

I waited 20+ years to get a smartphone!

I use it for all kinds of things — writing, reading, watching stuff, playing games, navigating, travel, communicating via video and text, etc.…and you want to go back to a feature phone?  

Are you ——ing kidding me?  

I’m sorry if you’re so addicted to your smartphone that you can’t control yourself.  

But that’s your problem.  

Me, I’ll be perfectly find if I never have to send another T9 text for the rest of my adult life!

Written by turbotodd

April 18, 2018 at 1:56 pm

Posted in 2018, apple, iPhone, iphone x

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IBM 1Q18 Earnings: EPS Beats @ $2.45

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IBM’s 1Q18 earnings were just announced, and beat estimates on EPS of $2.42 per share at $2.45, and revenue at $19.1 billion (vs. estimates of $18.84 billion).

CNBC’s report highlights:

Last quarter, IBM announced revenue growth from the year-ago quarter for the first time in more than five years. That streak is now continuing for a second quarter.

But the company reaffirmed its previous guidance of $13.80 in earnings per share, excluding certain items, for the full year of 2018, while analysts polled by FactSet had expected $13.83 per share, according to Thomson Reuters.

Cantor Fitzgerald analysts led by Joseph Foresi said in a Friday note that they expect IBM to report gains from companies upgrading to IBM’s latest mainframe computer, the z14.

IBM continues to seek growth from its strategic imperatives, which include social, mobile, analytics and cloud. In the fourth quarter that group contributed 49 percent of all revenue, and the Cantor analysts expect that balance to be unchanged in the first quarter.

With respect to guidance, for the second quarter analysts expect IBM to forecast $3.05 in earnings per share, excluding certain items, on $19.9 billion in revenue, according to Thomson Reuters.

Written by turbotodd

April 17, 2018 at 3:19 pm

Posted in 2018, earnings, ibm

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Uncle Sam’s IT Challenges

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Today is officially the last day to file your 2017 taxes, and oh yeah, good luck with that.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, “Some IRS computer systems are ‘experiencing technical difficulties.’”

The problem is believed to be a hardware failure, and the IRS is rebooting its systems, said a congressional aide familiar with the matter.

The IRS sent an email at 8:46 a.m. ET Tuesday notifying accountants and other tax professionals that parts of the Modernized eFile system, which receives tax returns electronically, were “unavailable.”

Does this mean I don’t have to pay my taxes? 

Okay, okay…actually, I filed a few weeks ago, but a person can dream.

Most Americans have already filed their 2017 income taxes, but millions do so in the final days of the filing season. Last year, between April 14 and April 21, the IRS received more than 17 million returns.

The IRS has been trying to update its outdated computer systems for several years, and agency leaders have warned about potential malfunctions and said they are guarding closely against external threats.

Maybe they need more tax robots.  Call Elon.

Written by turbotodd

April 17, 2018 at 2:04 pm

Posted in 2018, government, uncle sam

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Robotic Confusion

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Have you watched the new “Lost in Space” series on Netflix?

Danger, Will Robinson!

Sorry, couldn’t help myself.  It’s good stuff.

But, I must say, I’m now all confused about this whole robotic thing.

Now because of the new Netflix series.  

No, rather, because I keep hearing loads of contradictions about what’s going on with the whole machine versus man convo.

On the one hand, I hear that robots are going to take over the world and leave us mere mortals sitting around in a depressed malaise, complaining about how the robots took all our jobs.

And then on the other, I learn that robots are “riding to the rescue” in Eastern Europe, where severe labor shortages have forced companies to call in the machines.

Perhaps both these things are true, and that’s the real warning about our future?  We just don’t know.

Two stories in particular struck me as resonant with this apparent contradiction.

First, in The New York Times, this headline: Robots Ride to the Rescue Where Workers Can’t Be Found. 

The lede: Fast-growing economies in Eastern Europe have led to severe labor shortages, so companies are calling in the machines.

As reported, despite a roaring economy and a jobless rate of just 2.4 percent, in the Czech Republic the dearth of manpower has limited the ability of Czech companies to expand and nearly a third of them have started to turn away orders.

Jaroslav Hanak, the president of the Czech Confederation of Industry, explained that “It’s becoming a brake on growth…If businesses don’t increase robotization and artificial intelligence, they’ll disappear.”

And apparently this in an Eastern Europe that is already well automated, with around 101 robots for every 10,000 workers.

But then there’s this other story: That Elon Musk is replacing robots at his Tesla factory with humans, saying that “humans are underrated.”

This is the same guy who warned us about the coming AI apocalypse.

But because his Tesla Model 3 production facility is way behind on delivering vehicles to customers who have been waiting for many months, apparently the AI apocalypse is not so close that it will prevent humans from coming in to fix the problem that the machines caused in the first place.

As Musk explained on the “CBS This Morning” show to Gayle King in a recent interview: “We had this crazy, complex network of conveyor belts…And it was not working, so we got rid of that whole thing.”

And so Musk has now hit “pause” on the Tesla 3 production line to try and resolve those problems with the automation and figure out a way that humans can come in and restart production and, presumably, be more efficient and reach its target of 5,000 cars produced per week by the end of 2018.

As for the robots, they’ll have to get back in their own assembly line and wait to be reassigned.

No danger, Will Robinson.  That is, unless you’re Class B-9-M-3 General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot (the Robot’s real name in the original “Lost in Space”).

Written by turbotodd

April 17, 2018 at 10:40 am

Posted in 2018, AI, robots

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