Tech This Week: Of Shadows, Lost Princes and GoodByes

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Layoffs, Obits, Below-than-expected Revenue Report Cards, Data Frauds: Take your pick from a sombre week

INDIA: When Pink Slips and Black Obituaries dot headlines, the mood is always blue.

This week, Intel has announced cutting 11 per cent of its workforce. The axe would be as much top-down as it is speculated to be a one-stroke affair. The blame is being apportioned to rise of IoT, Cloud, mobility and demise of personal computing.

Is it simply joining the layoff-wagon like other tech giants or sprucing up a leaner, fitter future for intensified-investments in key areas; hard to say how the chips roll until the huge restructuring plot comes about.

11 and demise happened to recurring feelings this week. Yahoo reported a quarterly loss, about 11 per cent of a drop in revenues, in a phase of bids for core businesses happening from potential parties while the firm struggles with activist investors on one side and Ali-baba stake sale plans botched on the other side.

Speaking of report cards, Microsoft also waved one this week. Surface-linked numbers were good, those for phones were dismal and Cloud-Office ones helped to breathe in some relief. Downward guidance for key units remains a spot of concern nevertheless. What surfaces interestingly here is the bet on services-with-hardware as well as experimenting with OEM side of PC and third-party Windows 10 game-plan that Microsoft seems to have up Nadella’s sleeves. Would they inject any old oxygen back?

Demise. Apple delayed earnings for someone’s memorial.

Someone unfamiliar with Tech-star coach and mentor to marquee names like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, would wonder why? But Bill Campbell, Silicon-Valley’s beloved coach does get all that respect and salute this week.

The 75-year old veteran said goodbye to cancer but his life remains a mantle of memories with so many roles that he honored: from a Columbia football coach, to Apple executive, co-founder of Go Corp., Intuit C.E.O., chairman of Apple, the long-walk companion of Steve Jobs, the Monday-meeting ‘guest of honor’ for Brin and Page at Google, tech advisor to many Silicon Valley leaders (yes Marc Andreessen and Sheryl Sandberg too) etc. What did he leave: the advice of restoring human dimensions in a world of engineering, of listening to employees and customers well, of exerting patience and a lot more.

Another legend took to celestial wings this week: Rock-star Prince and what’s interesting about him for a closet fan in the plain cubicles of IT boroughs is that he fought for ownership in a digital age with a passion akin to guitars. To date, it’s hard to find his songs on Spotify, some reports suggest. Breakfast can wait on You Tube, could be the lucky exception.

He even came up with an album as a CD insert in 2010 when Internet was fast changing the music industry formats. The question over artists’ fair compensation in a world of on-demand, streaming music is humming again.

Droning on, a British Airways plane was suspected to have crashed into a drone-like object while it descended on Heathrow airport in London. Thankfully no damages happened in the collision that panned out some 1700 feet in the air, but the speculation still swings between a false alarm and a plastic bag. So does the chatter about stricter regulations on drones and for bringing in geo-fencing to control their wanderlust.

NASA, however is going the other way, testing a drone traffic control system, the largest of these tests to date, as reported this week. Numerous unmanned and remote-controlled objects flew high and well to test the rigor of UAM Traffic Management System or UTM. The system has now seemingly checked 24 live and simultaneous flights so that bears good news for those worried about how drones will or will not mess up skylines.

Tests, Ah! They are seldom as successful on the ground. Or shall we say, testing systems? Specially when they are rigged and vary widely on testing tracks vs. on actual roads. That kind of lie, or prevarication, costs a lot when the vehicle promises to be carbon-efficient and greener-than-thou. Yes, VW is paying huge penalties for the 11 million car scandal (11 is in the air, we said) that brew last year.

With the signing of COP21 this week, and a parallel investigative can of worms opened fiercely on Daimler, and other big auto-makers facing emissions-scrutiny; the question stays tarred. Can we make the planet greener when we can’t trust green-labelled vehicles or worse, the data that is around us and supposedly tech-driven?

Let the smoke fill your mind. Ponder well till new questions emerge next week. But yeah, don’t weep.

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