Why virtual events are here to stay
Photo: Travis Scott
Good morning! This Monday, why virtual events are here to stay, the mighty task in front of AT&T's new CEO, and Facebook's take on the video chat landscape.
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Stimulus checks are great, Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott said, and tech could make them even more effective in the future:
It's OK for a CEO to be afraid in scary times like these, Flexport's Ryan Petersen said:
From Protocol: While technology is currently redefining how students learn, Reach Capital's Shauntel Garvey said teachers deserve attention, too:
Google.org's Brigitte Hoyer Gosselink said she's looking for charitable ways to use Google's money — and its employees:
Right before Travis Scott's much-anticipated concert kicked off in Fortnite on Friday, I overheard a kid who was also in the game to watch the show. He called his mom over: "This is a really special thing!" he yelled, then explained why, as she attempted to understand what he meant.
What he meant was that the A-list rapper was about to do something unprecedented: debut a virtual "concert" that was really more like a trippy 10-minute, interactive music video.
One of the most fascinating trends over the last several weeks has been the rise in all sorts of virtual events. They're becoming a normal part of life: I know people who are doing virtual yoga, attending barista classes and even doing wine tastings over Zoom. And as they get more popular, they're getting far better.
Scott's concert wasn't the only super-popular virtual event this weekend:
Of course, it's easier to throw a successful digital event when there are no IRL ones to compete with. But numbers like these are going to make every artist and brand look twice.
Most people think of AT&T as a phone company — but that's not entirely right. AT&T certainly doesn't see itself that way. Want proof? John Stankey, whose resume at AT&T includes WarnerMedia, Time Warner, and AT&T's Entertainment Group, is now the company's CEO.
Stankey's predecessor, Randall Stephenson, spent the last several years turning AT&T into an all-things-video company, in the belief that streaming was the future of everything. (He told Fortune of the video push that "controlling your destiny to some degree would be really important.")
AT&T's investors have, let's say, not been fans of the strategy. Elliott Management, everybody's favorite activist investor, put out a press release last fall saying that "AT&T has transformed itself into a sprawling collection of businesses battling well-funded competitors, in new markets, with different regulations, and saddled with the financial repercussions of its choices."
It's like Stephenson took out a loan from the mob, spent it all on lottery tickets, and handed them all to Stankey.
Stankey's also taking over a company trying to figure out how to press on with its 5G plans amid a pandemic, and one that has drawn new fury from the White House because it owns CNN.
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Mark Zuckerberg said something on Friday that I've been thinking about all weekend. During a Facebook Live product announcement, sitting maybe slightly too close to the camera, Zuckerberg laid out the whole map of the video-chat universe.
There are three kinds of video chat, Zuckerberg said:
"What we're seeing is that these are all related," Zuckerberg said. "But they're also distinct product categories that call for their own products to deliver on the value people are seeking to get."
Zuckerberg set this all up to explain Facebook's new features: Messenger Rooms, bigger groups for WhatsApp, and other ways for people to chat on Facebook.
Video chat is currently dominated by a bunch of big companies: Facebook, Google, Cisco, Zoom, Microsoft. But I wrote today about a new breed of startups with a different idea. "I can see your face!" won't be enough to keep users happy forever.
Someday, we'll all look back at 2020 as the moment video became totally, utterly normal. (Among other things we'll remember about 2020.) That means this race to define what video chat looks like isn't over – it's only just starting.
It's a big earnings week! Alphabet, Samsung, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Twitter, AMD, Qualcomm, Spotify, and others all report over the coming days — and we'll get the clearest picture yet of what coronavirus is doing to the tech world. We'll be following it all.
The virtual Red Hat Summit kicks off tomorrow, and the two-day event is now free.
The also-virtual GamesBeat Summit starts tomorrow as well, and there will be a running livestream for the two-day event.
Today in "there's a secondary market for everything" news, there's a secondary market for Magic: The Gathering cards. But that's not the wild part. The wild part is how the entirely legal world of insider card trading works. Wired has the terrific story of a few Magic stockbrokers, and how Magic's ever-changing nature birthed a deeply unusual, vaguely sketchy, totally riveting side-hustle. I've never played much Magic: The Gathering, but Magic: The Gathering: The Underworld is something I could get into.
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