Turbotodd

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

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It’s a Facebook kinda Friday.

You may not have any big plans this weekend, but Mark Zuckerberg sure does.

Before we get to those, let’s get to the first of the two FB relevant stories this Friday.

The first, reported by Reveal, suggests that Facebook “orchestrated a multi-year effort that duped children and their parents out of money, in some cases hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and then often refused to give the money back.”

Reveal’s story suggests Facebook encouraged game developers to let children spend money without their parents’ permission, something the social media giant called “friendly fraud.”

Friendly fraud. There’s your meme for this Friday.

And for the record, I never spent any money on Facebook without my parents’ permission. 

The bigger FB news is this: When he’s not encouraging small children to pilfer their parents’ bank accounts, he’s planning to integrate the company’s various messaging services: WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger.

According to a report from The New York Times, the move would require “thousands of Facebook employees to reconfigure how WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger function at their most basic levels. 

The story suggests that even though the three services will continue to operate as stand-alone apps, their underlying messaging infrastructure will be unified and Mr. Zuckerberg “has also ordered all of the apps to incorporate end-to-end encryption,” which allegedly would protect messages from being viewed by anyone except the participants in the conversation.

This is the instant messenger wars of the late 1990s and early aughts all over again, only now the stakes are much higher, with Zuckerberg fighting to keep messaging stickiness locked up inside its own FB walled garden.

One where children have been running amok with their parents’ credit cards and just waiting to take advantage of their financial freedom to buy upgrade their messaging emojis and avatars?

Hey, it’s Friday, and I’m in a mood. ; )

Written by turbotodd

January 25, 2019 at 9:52 am

Posted in 2019

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IBM Earnings: Rising Demand for AI, Cloud

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Different chatter coming in from different sources on IBM’s 4Q18 earnings.

One of my favorite email newsletters that I actually try to read most days, the “Morning Download,” from The Wall Street Journal, had this to say:

Good day, CIOs. International Business Machine Corp.’s  fourth-quarter financial results reflect the continuing rise of artificial intelligence and cloud computing as central to corporate technology investment.

The big financial picture. Overall, revenue fell 3.5%, a second consecutive quarterly drop that underscores significant challenges the technology giant faces in recapturing growth, the Journal’s Jay Greene reports. Even so, IBM said it expects adjusted per-share earnings to hit $13.90 in the current fiscal year, compared with $13.81 for 2018. Shares rose more than 6 percent in after hours trading.

Where’s the growth? It’s in the company’s four so-called strategic imperatives. Those businesses—cloud computing and data analytics, among others—grew 5% in the quarter to $11.5 billion, the Journal reports. The cloud business grew 12 percent to $19.2 billion in 2018, according to Reuters. Last fall, IBM announced it would buy Red Hat Inc. to boost its efforts in the cloud. It recently struck new cloud deals with Vodafone Group PLC’s business services division and French bank BNP Paribas.

Cognitive leap. “The company’s cognitive software business, which houses artificial intelligence platform Watson, analytics and cybersecurity services, reported sales of $5.46 billion, compared with analysts’ expectation of $5.25 billion,” Reuters reports.

There was this from CNBC

Earnings: $4.87 per share, excluding certain items, vs. $4.82 per share as expected by analysts, according to Refinitiv.
Revenue: $21.76 billion, vs. $21.71 billion as expected by analysts, according to Refinitiv.

IBM’s largest business segment, Technology Services and Cloud Platforms, posted $8.9 billion in revenue. Analysts polled by FactSet were expecting $9.04 billion in revenue from the segment.

The next-largest business segment, Cognitive Solutions, did $5.5 billion in revenue. That exceeded the FactSet consensus estimate, which was $5.27 billion.

IBM’s Global Business Services segment collected $4.3 billion in revenue, exceeding the $4.15 billion estimate, and the Systems segment came in at $2.6 billion, below the $2.77 billion estimate. The Global Financing segment contributed $402 million in revenue, under the $426 million estimate.

In the quarter IBM announced its intent to pay $34 billion to acquire Red Hat, announced a chip manufacturing deal from Samsung and sold software assets to HCL Technologies for $1.8 billion. The Red Hat deal is expected to close in the second half of 2019.

And this from The Street: 

IBM Corp. (IBM – Get Report) shares were indicated sharply higher in pre-market trading Wednesday after the iconic tech firm posted stronger-than-expected fourth quarter earnings and said its recent acquisition of Red Hat Inc. (RHT – Get Report) would help boost cloud computing sales in 2019.

 IBM said adjusted earnings for the three months ending in December came in at $4.87 per share, down 5% from the same period last year but ahead of the Street consensus of $4.82 per share. Group sales were also softer than the prior period, falling 1% to $21.76 billion, but the figure topped estimates and IBM said it sees free cash flow for 2019 of around $12 billion, largely in-line with its tally over the past year.

Cloud computing sales, too, were impressing, rising 12% to $19.2 billion over the whole of 2018, helping build an overall backlog of orders across its businesses to around $116 billion as of the end of last year. Looking ahead, IBM sees 2019 operating earnings of $13.90 per share, but said that figure won’t include the impact of its $34 billion takeover of software group Red Hat last October.

“We see the strong bookings Red Hat recently reported as further evidence of clients’ confidence in the value,” IBM CFO Jim Kavanaugh told investors on a conference call late Tuesday. “Remember, the quarter ended a month after the transaction was announced. From a value perspective, in addition to the growing Red Hat business itself, we see an opportunity to lift all of IBM by selling more of our own IBM Cloud and by selling more of our analytics and AI capabilities on OpenShift across multiple platforms.”

Written by turbotodd

January 23, 2019 at 10:06 am

Posted in 2019, earnings, ibm

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30 Feet Off the Right Wing

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The drone-initiated flight halt called yesterday afternoon at Newark Liberty International Airport was all but inevitable.  

Meaning, I just assumed after the Gatwick drone incident late last year in the U.K. it was only a matter of time before The Beatles came to America.

This was the sit rep according to a report from The New York Times: The drone was spotted about 3,500 feet over Teterboro Airport in New Jersey (a smaller airport 17 miles north that handles private planes).

Hobby drones are, by law in the U.S., not supposed to fly over 400 feet and “operating restrictions include no flights near airports, no flights near or over people, no flights in controlled airspace” without a permit, according to FAA 14 CFR 107.

In this particular case, one airline pilot reported the drone was about “30 feet off the right wing.”  Too close for drone comfort.

Flight operations were impacted at Newark for about 90 minutes before flights resumed.  

Better than Gatwick’s three days, but alarming nonetheless. 

Written by turbotodd

January 23, 2019 at 9:49 am

Posted in 2019, drones, ibm

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IBM Reports 4Q18 Earnings, Margin Expansion, Return to Full-Year Revenue Growth

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IBM announced 4Q18 earnings this afternoon.

The top line:

  • GAAP EPS from continuing operations of $2.15
    • Includes charge of $1.9 billion related to the U.S. Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017
  • Operating (non-GAAP) EPS of $4.87
  • Revenue of $21.8 billion, down 3 percent (down 1 percent adjusting for currency)
    • Global Business Services and Cognitive Solutions revenue grew year to year
  • Gross profit margin up 10 basis points year to year; pre-tax income margin up more than 50 basis points year to year
    • Continued strong services gross profit margin expansion year to year
  • Full Year:
  • GAAP EPS from continuing operations of $9.51
    • Includes charge of $2.0 billion related to the U.S. Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017
  • Operating (non-GAAP) EPS of $13.81
  • Revenue of $79.6 billion, up 1 percent (flat year to year adjusting for currency)
  • Strategic imperatives revenue of $39.8 billion, up 9 percent
  • Cloud revenue of $19.2 billion, up 12 percent
    • As-a-service annual exit run rate for cloud revenue of $12.2 billion in the quarter, up 18 percent year to year (up 21 percent adjusting for currency) IBM)

“In 2018 we returned to full-year revenue growth, reflecting growing demand for our services and leadership solutions in hybrid cloud, AI, analytics and security,” said Ginni Rometty, IBM chairman, president and chief executive officer. “Major clients worldwide, such as BNP Paribas, are turning to the IBM Cloud and our unmatched industry expertise to transform their businesses and drive innovation.”

Written by turbotodd

January 22, 2019 at 4:14 pm

Posted in 2019, earnings

Tagged with , , ,

Apple Pays, GDP Strays

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The World Economic Forum has kicked off in Davos, and today the Dow is down some 300 points.

IMF Chair Christine Lagarde cut the global growth forecast for 2019 from 3.7 to 3.5 percent, saying the move was “due to the high level of economic risks that are accelerating around the globe.”

She cited the U.S.-China trade war, Brexit, and China’s slowing economy as factors in the down estimate.

But there are companies out there doing their part to ensure that everybody gets paid. 

For instance, Apple announced that 74 of the top 100 U.S. merchants now accept Apple Pay, including Target and Taco Bell. 

Finally, a reason to really use my Apple Watch for something besides a timer for Trader Joe heat ups!

And speaking of fast food, sorry, but Traders Joe may be the order of the day, as Munchery has announced it is going to end operations effective immediately and will refund any outstanding orders.

Munchery had raised some $125.4 million in venture capital and, according to a story in the San Francisco Chronicle, its kitchens had reportedly produced many more orders than they sold.

A recipe for ______.

Written by turbotodd

January 22, 2019 at 11:19 am

Birdbrained Bird Boxers

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Back in the early-to-mid aughts, before we called everything “social media” (back when I had to walk five miles through the snow to get to the office), we often referred to something that came to be known as the “wisdom of the crowd.”

The New Yorker writer James Surowiecki wrote a book on the phenomenon, “The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations.”

The central thesis of the book was the idea that the aggregation of information in groups resulted in decisions are often better than could have been made by any single member of the group. 

As an example, in his opening anecdote for the book, he relayed the surprise that a crowd had when their individual guesses of an ox’s weight were accurate when they were all averaged together.

It was a really cool idea, and it seemed to stick around for awhile.

And then, as if out of nowhere, the wisdom of the crowd seems to have gone the way of the do do bird.

Or, should I say, the way of the “Bird Box.”

Some background: Bird Box is a movie (spoiler alert!) recently released by Netflix starring Sandra Bullock in which the basic premise is that everybody must run around blindfolded lest they see the post-apocalyptic zombies running around which, if seen by the human eye, will turn them into zombies as well.

As Netflix movies go, it was pretty bad, but like an inverse of Surowiecki’s theorem, everybody had to see it because it got so much exposure via social media.  

Call it the “constipation” of the crowd.

Unfortunately, the viral meme of seeing the movie didn’t stop there.

No, lacking the wisdom of crowds from even 13 or 14 years ago, instead the “Bird Box Challenge” was born.

The challenge is simple: People inspired by the film are recreating the basic premise of the movie by going about their daily lives blindfolded.

It’s as silly as that, or even as silly as the Tide Pod challenge (another key piece of evidence of the constipation of the crowd) from last year, where people filmed themselves on YouTube eating Tide Pod laundry detergent pellets. Hey, whatever spins your cycle!

Only the Bird box Challenge has taken the constipation of the crowd to new heights, because, well, you’re blindfolded, which, you know, isn’t exactly conducive to things like driving a car or floating through rapids on a river.

It got so bad that Netflix had to issue a Tweet telling us how dangerous the Bird Box Challenge could be: “Can’t believe I have to say this, but: PLEASE DO NOT HURT YOURSELVES WITH THIS BIRD BOX CHALLENGE.”

I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, we encouraged this kind of outlier behavior…It helps thin out the herd.

But we didn’t have a bunch of bird brains doing the Bird Box Challenge. 

We just called such phenomena “Darwin Awards.”

Go ahead, Google it.  

Just make sure you step away from the ledge.

Or not.

Written by turbotodd

January 17, 2019 at 1:00 pm

Posted in 2018, social media

Tagged with , ,

The Razr’s Edge

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2004 just called, and it wants its Motorola Razr phone back.

Yes, everything old is new again, and The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Motorola Razr will be attempting a comeback.

Only this time around, the Razr will apparently be a smartphone with a foldable screen and a…gasp…$1,500 price tag.

This time around, Lenovo Group will be leading the way, and partnering with Verizon on an exclusive deal to start selling the new Razrs “as soon as February.” 

The backstory: Lenovo bought the Motorola Mobility handset business from Google in 2014.

The Journal story reminds us the Razr V3 flip phone was first released in 2004, but its market success was rapidly snuffed out by the introduction of the Apple iPhone.

Samsung is also reported to be working on a foldable smartphone.

I had a Razr back in the day, and it was a cool device for its time…then again, so was the late 1990s Motorola StarTAC. Eventually, I dropped mine in a river down in Gruene, Texas, and I don’t think any amount of white race ever brought it back to life.

And on the subject of iPhones and apps, App Annie’s 2019 State of Mobile report is out, and coverage via ZDNet has a few headlines.

First, App Annie expects consumers to spend $120 billion on app stores in 2019, a spending clip that is “5X the growth rate of the global economy.”

Next, global app downloads topped 194 billion in 2018. up 35 percent from 2016 — and it was emerging markets that led the growth. And lest you think everyone is playing Fortnite all day and all night, about 65 percent of total global downloads are non-game apps.

Social and communications apps account for 50 percent of time spent in apps, a number that grew 45 percent from 2016 to 2018.

And for those concerned about mobile commerce, global time spent in shopping apps was up 60 percent last year, reaching some 18 billion hours.

18 billion hours…shopping in mobile apps…last year…

Put that in your virtual shopping cart and let that just sit there until…well, until you get your new Motorola Razr (or, you could find an original for as little as $17.99 U.S. on eBay!)

Written by turbotodd

January 16, 2019 at 3:43 pm

Posted in 2019, smartphone

Tagged with ,

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