Last week, technology companies took steps to check white supremacy groups on their platforms, in an attempt to check related violence. Ride-hailing app Uber for instance told drivers that they don’t have to pick up racists (it isn’t clear how such people would be identified); Airbnb has taken a proactive stand in this respect, checking up on prospective guests through their social media profiles.
Payment platforms also took a stand: PayPal (PYPL - Free Report) said it could cancel relationships with sites that promote racial intolerance; Discover Financial Services is in the process of ending its agreements with hate groups; and Apple Pay has also moved to block hate sites from using Apple Pay. Apple (AAPL - Free Report) CEO Tim Cook also committed to a donation of a million dollars each to hate tracking organizations Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.
Facebook found that eight group pages violated hate-speech policies, including "Right Wing Death Squad" and "White Nationalists United." Facebook (FB - Free Report) relies on user feedback that it then checks out itself before removing any page. Alphabet’s (GOOGL - Free Report) Google is also removing sites GoDaddy stepped off Daily Stormer because of its connections with the neo Nazi movement.
Here are the top stories from last week:
Cisco (CSCO - Free Report) met earnings estimates for the quarter on revenue that beat. It was a mixed quarter from Cisco in which services revenue was consistent with the year-ago quarter while product revenue declined mid single-digits. The weakness in products was driven by Switching, NGN Routing, Collaboration, Data Center and Service Provider Video, offset by progress in Wireless, Security and Other. The 3% increase in security revenues was not indicative of the underlying strength, which was evident from a double-digit increase in orders and a 49% increase in related deferred revenue.
YouTube TV Expands
YouTube TV has been adding locations at a rapid pace and reached 14 new locations, or half the U.S. population last week. 17 additional locations are in the works taking the total 46, or around 64% of U.S. households.
Google didn’t roll out the service across America at the initial stage because of its strategic focus on live and local. This is the demand among millennials, according to an in-house survey. And the service does seem to have attracted a younger crowd of between 13 and 35 compared to traditional TV, which is currently patronized by 49 year olds and above.
So how successful has it been thus far? Google has been executing to plan, with local content from at least three of the four local broadcasters ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC (19 of its served markets now offer all four). YouTube now offers more local channels than almost anybody except Hulu. Its customer base is also reportedly hooked on to live content.
As usual, we don’t know the impact on the top or bottom line because Google doesn’t reveal the impact on its revenues or earnings.
Netflix, Disney Were Destined to Separate
With Netflix (NFLX - Free Report) going all out to create original shows and spending millions on programming, it was only a matter of time before content providers took measures to reach consumers directly.
In this case, Disney upped its stake in BAMTech, a direct-to-consumer streaming technology and marketing services, data analytics and commerce management company, from 33% to 75%. Some say BAMTech doesn’t have exceptional technology, but does give the company something to build up from (it’s the technology behind HBO Now and MLB.TV).
Disney will now use the technology to launch an ESPN service in 2018 that won’t have the content available on ESPN proper, but will be a robust service according to the company. It says another Disney-branded service, which will have animation and action movies, will launch in 2019 with content that would otherwise have gone to Netflix. Management just isn’t sure what it plans to do with the Marvel and Star Wars movies yet, but they could remain on Netflix.
Disney also has a 30% stake in live streaming service Hulu, to which it recently transferred exclusive streaming rights to 50 of its classic movies.
Price Change Last Week
Price Change Last 6 Months
Amazon Announces Senior Public Offering: As indicated earlier in June, Amazon (AMZN - Free Report) is raising $16 billion through senior unsecured notes to fund its Whole Foods Market acquisition and for general corporate purposes. Moody's assigned a Baa1 rating to the notes and changed its rating outlook from stable to positive.
In the words of Moody's Vice President Charlie O'Shea, “The change in outlook to positive reflects our view that despite the increase in debt, the Whole Foods acquisition is an immediate credit positive for the company on a variety of fronts," These include "greater scale" and "crucial brick-and-mortar presence in a segment where it has been trying to grow." Meanwhile, S&P Global Ratings assigned an AA- rating to the proposed debt offering.
Alibaba on Wrong Side of Chinese Regulators: Alibaba’s Taobao was one among five ecommerce platforms that were warned about illicit content and illegal virtual private networks (VPNs) selling on their platforms. VPNs allow users to circumvent government censorship to access foreign sites. Some of the errant sites were even ordered to halt new user registrations, suspend services and punish accountable staff. Earlier, Amazon and Apple were also similarly directed with the tech companies doing the needful to comply with Chinese government orders.
Google Home Calling Phones: If you’re in the U.S. or Canada, Google Home now allows you to call any number saved in your Google Contacts account, or businesses for free. But you need to activate the feature from a phone that has the Google Home app installed. Amazon currently allows Echo users to call other Echo devices, but phone numbers can’t be called yet. The recipient however sees an “unknown number” unless he/she is a Google Fi subscriber, in which case their name appears.
Amazon Macie from AWS: Last week, Amazon rolled out a security service called Amazon Macie for Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3).Companies that handle medical records, intellectual property, legal documents, and personally identifiable information (PII) are at risk of data theft, leakage or unauthorized access. So as data volumes increase over time, it becomes increasingly difficult to track the handling of this data.
Amazon Macie relies on a machine-learning process, i.e., it studies normal data flows within the organization, classifies it and monitors future activity with past events to determine anomalies indicating risks and/or suspicious behavior. Abnormal activity such as large quantities of source code being downloaded, credentials being stored in an unsecure manner, or accidental exposure of sensitive data could get Macie to trigger alerts and suggest remedial actions.
The product may have been inspired by the recent acquisition of cybersecurity startup harvest.ai for around $20 million, which had a somewhat similar product called MACIE Analytics. Macie is reportedly supported only in AWS US East and US West regions for now. Macie classification services cost $5 per GB after the first GB has been processed plus additional cost of processed events at $4 per million events after the first 100,000 events.
Alibaba Invests in China Unicom: China Unicom is one of the six companies picked by the Chinese government as part of an initiative to introduce private investment in big state owned enterprises. The company will therefore be selling 10.9 billion shares, or 35% of the business at 6.83 yuan each to companies with 850 million at 3.79 yuan having been set aside for employees.
The government’s initiative is in the nature of a trial, but companies have flocked to the table to cooperate. Those likely to make investments include Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, JD.com Inc., Didi Chuxing, Suning Commerce Group Co. and CRRC Corp.
Apple Sets Aside $1 Billion for Hollywood: Apple’s investment is probably a drop in the ocean and doesn’t compare with what other technology companies like Netflix are spending. But Apple’s original program efforts haven’t done so great in the past, so the company is still getting its act together. Apple is also in partnership with the Netflix type, so it’s probably a good idea to tread softly. The investment is not the only indication that Apple is pulling up its socks however: the company hired away Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht from Sony TV back in June, so things are likely to get more interesting henceforth.
4 Surprising Tech Stocks to Keep an Eye on
Tech stocks have been a major force behind the market’s record highs, but picking the best ones to buy can be tough. There’s a simple way to invest in the success of the entire sector. Zacks has just released a Special Report revealing one thing tech companies literally cannot function without. More importantly, it reveals 4 top stocks set to skyrocket on increasing demand for these devices. I encourage you to get the report now – before the next wave of innovations really take off.
See Stocks Now>>