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Benedict's
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This is a weekly newsletter of what I've seen in tech and thought was interesting. I work at Andreessen Horowitz.

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🗞 News

Elon Musk suggested on Twitter that he would take Tesla private, and followed this up with an email to employees suggesting the same. Lots of regulatory issues here (he claimed he has funding, which is a problem if it's not all signed and sealed, and if it is, no-one knows how or who), and so far there has been zero regulatory disclosure or even response from the company. There is a legitimate argument to be made that companies like Tesla should not be public until they have achieved a degree of stability and predictability, and do not have huge gyrations in their stock price (last year would have come close to killing Uber if it had been public). But Tesla needs a lot of capital. Musks' email, comment

Magic Leap (an a16z investment) has finally started shipping the first iteration of its mixed reality headset. I first saw the tech four years ago when it was the size of a fridge, and it's good that everyone else can now experience it and get a sense of the potential. Like all frontier tech, it's big and expensive and will get much smaller and cheaper in the next few years. This reminds me a lot of seeing multitouch in 2005/6: the tech is clearly part of the future, and now it has to be turned into a mass-market consumer product with a developer ecosystem.  Magic Leap, Review, my post on AR from last year. 

Google is looking at launching its cloud services (i.e. not search) in China, probably in partnership with a local company. Enterprise cloud services are not as directly exposed to the censorship/privacy questions that a consumer launch would pose, so this could be seen just as expansion of the B2B business into an important and difficult market, but that's not to say it doesn't make people uncomfortable. Link

Twitter, being Twitter, is in another mess about how to decide who it should ban from Twitter. Link

Reddit was hacked, because it used SMS 2-factor authentication and someone talked the phone company into compromising people's accounts. SMS is better than nothing but it's not great - it just moves the weakest link in the security chain to your telco's call centre or shop. Link

Meanwhile, the US police caught a SIM hijacking gang. Link

Fortnite is launching on Android, some time after iOS. Three interesting things. First, Epic has decided to bypass the Google Play store and get people to side-load the installation direct from its website: this lets it avoid paying Google commission on in-app purchases, but raises a hurdle to installation - it's betting demand is strong enough, which is probably correct (Apple doesn't allow this on iOS). Second, this also encourages pretty unsafe behavior - there will be a lot of people trying to trick users (and a lot of Fortnite players are children) into downloading malware from look-alike sites (which is a major reason why Apple doesn't allow this, quite apart from the 30% tax). Third, Epic estimates that of the >2.5bn Android phones out there, only 250m are capable of running the game. Link

There may have been an attempted drone attack on the President of Venezuela. Whether true or not, attempts to use consumer drones like this are only a matter of time. Link

Leaked data from Amazon: 50m Echos sold (roughly the same as the Apple Watch, coincidentally), but only 2% have used one to make a purchase and 90% of these didn't repeat. I've always argued voice was not a great commerce model, even when the recognition is perfect, and I don't think iteration will improve this much. Of course, commerce itself is only the direct and obvious financial benefit to Amazon from the Echo - there are broader benefits (keeping you tied to Prime, for example) from their having a footprint in the living room. However, the Kindle Fire tablet is the cautionary tale: Amazon sold a lot, at low margin, but they were mostly used as kids' tablets, with not much strategic benefit (note that the voice brand is Echo/Alexa, not a continuation of Fire). I suspect Jeff Bezos's vision for Alexa goes beyond selling a lot of $10 voice-controlled clock radios - Alexa needs to become important in some way. Link

Also, Amazon has a patent on blimp aircraft carriers for delivery drones. Link

Apparently, the head of production for the Tesla Model 3 has gone back to Apple to work on cars. Link

The UK's print Yellow Pages is on its final edition. Link

A virus shut down some of TSMC's chip fabrication plants. Link

The integration of electronics in the new Tesla Model 3. Link

Subscriptions to paywalls continue to climb (here, Newscorp). Link

🔮 Commentary 

Quantum computing might be starting to work (profile of Rigetti, which is an a16z portfolio company). Link

The Indian smartphone industry is trying to do more than assemble Chinese components. Link

Growing up in China without Google, Facebook or Amazon (a touch parochial, but interesting). Link

More than 1000 US newspaper websites are unavailable in Europe, 2 months after GDPR. (GDPR is such an obvious regulatory own-goal, and such a gift to Google and Facebook.) Link

Interesting Daniel Ek/Spotify profile. Link

The power curve law of users. Link

😮 Cool things of the week

Bechtel and Airware drones. Link

Declassified archive footage of US nuclear tests from the 1950s and 1960s. Often very beautiful, in the abstract, if you don't think about what you're actually seeing. Link

Modern Baghdad. Link

📊 Statistics

Flipboard has 145m MAUs. Link
 
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