It was a bad week.
Net Neutrality was repealed, GE is cutting 12,000 jobs, Microsoft is reportedly underpaying women and hurting their careers, IBM is looking to eliminate more jobs, and the Amazon boon in Seattle is finally slowing down.
At least Google is slashing their machine learning prices…
- Apple is acquiring music recognition app Shazam
One source describes the deal as in the nine figures; another puts it at around £300 million ($401 million). We are still asking around. Notably, though, the numbers we’ve heard are lower than the $1.02 billion (according to PitchBook) post-money valuation the company had in its last funding round, in 2015.
In all, Shazam has raised $143.5 million from investors that include Kleiner Perkins, London’s DN Capital, IVP and strategic investors Sony Music, Universal Music and Access Industries (which owns Warner Music). Kleiner Perkins also invested in competitor SoundHound.
- Coupa Acquires Simeno to Augment Catalog Search and Management Capabilities
Coupa has acquired procure-to-pay (P2P) provider Simeno, extending the platform’s marketplace strategy to provide deeper and pre-integrated supplier connections and opening key markets to support continued expansion.
Financial terms of the transaction were not immediately disclosed, though Spend Matters estimates that buying Simeno will be accretive to Coupa, based on the various metrics by which investors measure the firm today.
- Google, Microsoft concerned that a Broadcom acquisition of Qualcomm will benefit Apple
Google and Microsoft are concerned about the long shadow that Apple is casting across the deal. Apple and Qualcomm are enmeshed in a number of lawsuits and the relationship between the two is so bad that Apple is said to be looking elsewhere for a new supplier of modem chips for 2018 CDMA iPhone models. Currently, Intel modem chips are used inside GSM variants of the iPhone, and that will probably remain the case next year.
Microsoft has started to compete with the Apple iPad by producing a series of hybrid tablet/laptops that are the first Windows 10 PCs to be powered by Qualcomm chips. Google has plenty of skin in this game with the majority of Android phone manufacturers using Qualcomm chips as well. The pair are afraid that if Broadcom buys Qualcomm, the newly merged company would favor Apple over their interests. For example, Broadcom Chief Executive Hock Tan has reportedly said that he is optimistic about settling the multiple lawsuits with Apple if his company buys Qualcomm. And with Broadcom’s reputation as a cost cutter, Microsoft and Google fear that a merger will sharply curtail innovation in the industry.
- Microsoft starts own ‘AI University’ to address skills shortage
“We try to work with them [universities] to fuel that talent pipeline,” said Bishop. “So for example we’re a major sponsor of a masters programme at Cambridge University.”
Microsoft currently funds around 200 PhD scholarships at Cambridge University, significantly more than other companies like Google.
“One of the things we’re trying to avoid doing is simply going into a university, hoovering up all the top professors and then just leaving tumbleweed blowing down the corridors,” he said.
“That might be a short term fix for some companies but I don’t think it serves even the industry itself very well, let alone academia or the nation, to take that rather short term view.”
- Accenture’s Advice on Using AI to Succeed in the “New Business Process Era”
There are three things to consider here. First: transformation takes time. Companies need to collect the relevant data, develop the necessary systems, and build the underpinning analytics and AI. Second: digital procurement requires investment. Fortunately, digital procurement capabilities are increasingly available as a service, which could reduce upfront investments and accelerate transformation. Finally: transformation takes vision. This is big departure from how procurement has traditionally operated. Companies need to have an internal champion who can define what the future procurement organization will look like and how the company can make it a reality.
- Google slashes prices for its machine learning service as AWS steps up competition
The company has introduced massive price reductions for its Cloud Machine Learning Engine managed services. For example, customers using basic-tier compute for training a machine learning system will pay 43 percent less than they did earlier this year. Google also offered customers more clarity on what they’ll be paying for those jobs.
Information of the price reductions was first included in a blog post that appeared briefly yesterday on Google’s website, then vanished. A representative for the company declined to comment further on the news when reached for comment.
- AWS just opened another cloud computing region in China
AWS said its China (Ningxia) Region, operated by Ningxia Western Cloud Data Technology (NWCD), is now up and running and provides customers another option to run applications and store data on AWS in China.
Whereas in most of the world AWS owns and operates its own cloud infrastructure, in China the situation is more complicated. Chinese law forbids non-Chinese companies from owning or operating cloud computing infrastructure.
To comply with China’s legal and regulatory requirements, AWS has formed a strategic technology collaboration with NWCD to operate and provide services from the AWS China (Ningxia) Region.
- Google, Looking to Tiptoe Back Into China, Announces A.I. Center
On Wednesday, it unveiled a small but symbolically significant move toward that end: a China-based center devoted to artificial intelligence. The move nods to the country’s growing strength in A.I., thanks to substantial government funding prompted by Beijing’s ambition of having a say in the technologies of the future.
Google said the center would have a team of experts in Beijing, where the company has hundreds of employees in research and development, as well as other roles. The center will be led by Fei-Fei Li, who runs Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Lab and leads the artificial intelligence arm of Google’s Cloud business, and Jia Li, the head of research and development for the A.I. division of Google Cloud.
The Silicon Valley company, which announced the center’s opening at a software developer conference in Shanghai, cited China’s growing academic and technical contributions to the A.I. field, and said the new center would be “working closely with the vibrant Chinese A.I. research community.”
- Kaspersky Lab is closing its Washington, DC office
Kaspersky Lab Inc. has had a rough time with the US government this year and now Bloomberg reports that the company will be closing its Washington, DC office. However, while its government business seems to be dead in the water, Kaspersky still plans to sell to non-federal US customers and will be opening offices in Chicago and Los Angeles next year.
In July, the Trump administration removed Kaspersky from its list of approved IT vendors and in August reports surfaced that the FBI was trying to convince companies to ditch Kaspersky’s products. These moves were a result of US government suspicions that Kaspersky funnels information from its customers to the Russian government. Best Buy pulled Kaspersky products from its shelves shortly thereafter and the US government ultimately banned federal agencies from using the company’s security software in September.
- The Bitcoin Whales: 1,000 People Who Own 40 Percent of the Market
About 40 percent of bitcoin is held by perhaps 1,000 users; at current prices, each may want to sell about half of his or her holdings, says Aaron Brown, former managing director and head of financial markets research at AQR Capital Management. (Brown is a contributor to the Bloomberg Prophets online column.) What’s more, the whales can coordinate their moves or preview them to a select few. Many of the large owners have known one another for years and stuck by bitcoin through the early days when it was derided, and they can potentially band together to tank or prop up the market.
- The FCC officially votes to kill net neutrality
Chairman Pai trotted out the same talking points he’s been pushing since 2015. That the law that dictates the internet remain “unfettered by federal and state regulation” (that part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act is advisory, and also about porn); that the 2015 rules were “designed in the ’30s to regulate Ma Bell” (they were rebuilt from the ground up in 1996, as he explained moments earlier); that the regulations had destroyed jobs (the jobs never existed); that small ISPs were harmed (I’ve asked the ones he’s cited repeatedly and they have never explained how) — and how edge providers are a bigger threat than ISP discrimination.
Ironically, he asked that the internet be “driven by engineers” and not “lawyers and accountants” — ironic because hundreds of prominent engineers have pointed out the technical shortcomings of the order, which is largely based on economic analysis and legal hair-splitting.
There are two tacks they might take. First is the possibility of using the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to undo recently instituted regulations, to nix the FCC’s plan; Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA) just announced he will do this. This is the most straightforward solution, and one the Republican Congress recently deployed in order to kill several Obama-era regulations, including the Broadband Privacy Rule. That action was particularly unpopular, and Republicans aiming to look progressive may hop on board a Democratic bill. Bipartisan talks will have to take place — this can’t be done without work on both sides of the aisle.
A CRA repeal of Restoring Internet Freedom would be devastating to the FCC’s plans, but likely would leave intact the legislative ambiguities that gave rise to today’s issues.
A true solution would involve amending the 1996 Telecommunications Act. The critical part of all this is the classification of broadband under Title II of the act, and if that could be accomplished by legislation — it would only take a few words — it would put an end to these questions once and for all. However, to amend a major bill is not something a minority party is likely to attempt. And with the threat of a veto hanging over them, it’s very unlikely that this will come to pass until a Democratic president is elected.
- GE is cutting 12,000 jobs
The jobs are in the electrical power division, which makes the giant turbines and generators that the company estimates provide about one-third of the electricity produced around the world.
GE (GE) is by far the worst-performing stock in the Dow this year, down 44%, and CEO John Flannery, who took over in August, has been trying to slash costs.
The company says the job cuts will mostly be outside the United States. The power division’s headcount will be reduced about 18%. About 295,000 people worked for GE overall at the end of last year, but the company has cut jobs and costs throughout this year. It hopes to reduce costs by $1 billion next year.
- Cost-hurling IBM seeks more volunteers for employment bonfire
As revealed by us in recent weeks, IBM told staff in TSS and ISD to form Employee Consultation Committees ahead of entering a 45-day consultation to discuss ways to improve margins – i.e. by cutting jobs.
The length of the consultation, which started on December 6, indicates at least 100 people from each of the two departments will be kicked to the curb once the period ends. Before that happens, IBM is giving employees a chance to apply to leave. Applicants that are accepted will be out on December 31.
The ISD memo, like TSS, stated: “We are now launching an Open Voluntary Separation Programme. The programme is open to all in-scope UK IBM regular employees working in the IS Delivery business area in the UK.
- Amazon’s Seattle hiring frenzy slows sharply; what’s going on?
Still, the pullback is a reminder that Amazon’s frantic expansion during the last few years — contributing to a boom that nudged the city’s unemployment rate near record lows, pushed housing costs to a record high, and sparked a debate about the company’s civic role in Seattle — won’t last forever.
The slowdown also comes as the company seeks space to expand outside Seattle. Amazon is evaluating 238 bids it received from municipalities interested in welcoming Amazon’s second, “equal,” headquarters dubbed HQ2, which the company has indicated it could begin staffing as early as 2019.
- Two New Reports Say Microsoft Overwhelmingly Underpays Women and Stifles Their Career Advancement
The plaintiffs filed to make the lawsuit a class action at the end of October and recently released two reports that detail pervasive gender-based discrimination at the $649 billion tech company. One, by Henry Farber, an economics professor at Princeton, analyzed data on more than 16,000 employees’ compensation, age, tenure, geographic location, performance ratings, and other factors between 2010 and 2016. Faber found that women in technical roles in low- to mid-level positions at Microsoft “receive lower compensation on average, than otherwise-similar men, and this difference in pay is statically significant.” Moreover, the report finds that women in mid-level jobs at Microsoft have a statistically significant lower probability of getting promoted.
The other study filed in the case, conducted by Ann Marie Ryan, a psychology professor at Michigan State University, found that Microsoft “does not provide clear, job-related guidance as to how to distinguish levels within a career stage for compensation decisions,” which opens doors for managers to make subjective, and potentially sexist, decisions about career advancement.
Photo: Cooper Smith