TikTok means business
Good morning! This Tuesday, the VR business might be here to stay, TikTok snags a Disney bigwig, and Apple's encryption policies are under fire. Again.
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Uber laid off another 3,000 people and shut down 45 offices, and Dara Khosrowshahi told staff that he's finally facing hard truths:
The House of Representatives has some concerns about Google's rollback of diversity programs:
Is Sheryl Sandberg being pushed aside at Facebook? Is she a flight risk for the company?
Six years ago, VR was the future and "Ready Player One" and "Snow Crash" were required reading for everyone in tech. Three years ago, VR was dead: Nobody would invest in it, nobody would make content for it, nobody cared.
At least, that's how it felt outside of Facebook. But within the company, and specifically within Oculus, VR never went away. And it finally seems to be working:
In an interview with Protocol's Janko Roettgers, Facebook hardware chief Andrew Bosworth came just short of saying that, with the Quest, VR is having its iPhone moment:
What's next for VR? Well, according to everyone we talked to, games. More games, better games, games you've already heard of. Facebook's also leaning into the enterprise market, working on more productivity and training tools, plus apps for more virtual business collaboration.
There's plenty left to do on all sides — I can't think of any other technology that's been hugely successful while making some percentage of users puke — but there seems to be a business here. Finally.
On a list of people responsible for Disney's current success, few people would rank above Kevin Mayer. He helped put together the deals for Pixar, Lucasfilm, Marvel, and the other franchises that made Disney the world's preeminent entertainment company. Then he spearheaded Disney+, the smashingly successful streaming service that put all those movies and shows in one place.
And now he's gone. Mayer is the new CEO of TikTok, and COO of its parent company ByteDance.
Hiring Mayer seems to indicate that TikTok is more likely to invest in content – more shows, more creators, acquiring media companies, that sort of thing — than in the tech platform alone.
Disney, meanwhile, increasingly seems to be in turmoil. Bob Iger stepped down as CEO, but then resumed his old job in all but title. Parks are closed, theaters are shut, everybody already forgot about Baby Yoda!
Walmart Continues to Launch COVID-19 Testing Sites
To increase access to COVID-19 testing, Walmart is partnering with Quest and eTrueNorth to bring mobile sites to underserved areas of America and make tests available at no cost to the individual.
The FBI said yesterday that, after months of trying, it managed to get into the two phones used by a shooter in Pensacola last year. (How? It didn't say, but it noted that what it did won't work for everything.)
Attorney General Bill Barr said the phones contained important evidence, and eviscerated Apple for not helping get it:
Apple, meanwhile, has not changed its story. "The false claims made about our company are an excuse to weaken encryption and other security measures that protect millions of users and our national security," the company said in a statement.
The thing about this fight is neither side is going to budge, and nothing is going to change until one does.
Google Cloud has two new execs: Lori Mitchell-Keller, formerly of SAP, and George Nazi, from Accenture. Both will be vice presidents of industry solutions, trying to tempt customers in specific industries, including telecoms and entertainment, to use Google Cloud.
Zach Dunn is leaving SpaceX for Relativity Space. He'd been SpaceX's SVP of production and launch, and now will be Relativity's vice president of factory development. His job: to build the factory that can 3D-print a rocket capable of getting to space.
Benedict Evans is joining Entrepreneur First, which invests in individuals to help them found startups. The former Andreessen Horowitz partner will be a venture partner at EF, advising its portfolio companies and cohorts.
Last time I had jury duty I spent the whole day in a freezing-cold room reading a book. Next time, I might get to do it in my PJs. Yesterday marked the first U.S. trial by jury via Zoom, as a Texas district court heard an insurance case. You can actually watch the process of virtual jury selection — filled with tech advice, people doing weird things on camera, and a judge with a delightfully appropriate courtroom Zoom background. Can't wait for the Grisham novel about this one.
Walmart COVID-19 testing: 100+ sites by the end of May
By the end of May, Walmart is working toward more than 100 sites, which will allow the company to deliver 20,000 tests a week to people who need them, especially in underserved areas and hot spots.
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