Microsoft's cloud crew is ready to rumble but Amazon is squaring off with Trump
Welcome back to Trending, the newsletter where we highlight BI Prime's biggest tech stories of the week. I'm Alexei Oreskovic, Business Insider's West Coast bureau chief and global tech editor.
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This week: Microsoft's cloud crew is getting ready to rumble, but Amazon is squaring off with Trump
By now there's nothing novel about Donald Trump's twitter attacks, which have targeted political rivals, critics, and companies that, for one reason or another, have earned his ire.
But Amazon's recent challenge to the Pentagon's JEDI contract decision shows how the President's personal version of call-out culture has become part of the industry's competitive landscape. In this case, Amazon is citing Trump's comments as evidence that the Pentagon's process for awarding the $10 billion contract was inherently biased, given the commander-in-chief's very public antipathy toward Amazon and its founder.
As Julie Bort writes, Amazon argues that its experience providing cloud services to the CIA and its proprietary Nitro smart cards made its technology "objectively superior." The only explanation passing Amazon over must be Trump, the company says. But as Bort points out, Amazon's claims to technological supremacy aren't as convincing as they once might have been. Microsoft also has its own smart-card technology and has worked on a smaller cloud project with the CIA.
While Microsoft's Azure cloud still lags considerably behind Amazon Web Services in market share, the company is prioritizing its cloud business. Check out Rosalie Chan and Ashley Stewart's report on the team of high-powered execs and technical hotshots that Microsoft assembled to lead its assault on Amazon's cloud. From AI to security and sales, the Azure A-team is broad and deep.
Read the full story here:
Here are 19 of the most important executives leading Microsoft's cloud business as it takes on Amazon Web Services
What does Adam Neumann have to do with your 401(k)?
If you thought that only WeWork insiders and venture capital investors felt the impact of the office-sharing company's fizzled IPO attempt, Troy Wolverton's lastest report makes for sobering reading.
Mutual funds, in their quest for better returns, have been adding investments in private tech startups to their portfolios in recent years. And that includes WeWork, which until recently was one of the most-hyped startups.
The funds' stakes in these startups are relatively small, in part because regulations cap so-called "illiquid investments" at 15% of a portfolio. One of the funds with the most exposure to WeWork was the John Hancock Mid Cap Stock fund, for which WeWork comprised 0.77% of its investments.
As Wolverton points out though, even such small investments come with a special risk. The lack of liquidity in private company shares means that funds have an easier time swapping out holdings in public companies, and that can amplify a fund's exposure to sputtering startups.
Mutual funds don't make it easy to find out which private startups they invested in. But if you're wondering about your 401(k)s recent performance, you might want to roll up your sleeves and see if you have any WeWork exposure.
Read the full story here:
WeWork's meltdown was supposed to leave everyday investors unharmed. It didn't, and you probably don't even realize if your 401(k) took a WeWork hit.
Google's curious disappearing act from Area 120
While we're on the subject of transparency and fine print, Rob Price has a look at some popular smartphone apps with a secret.
These apps, with names like Pigeon and Rivet, are focused on job-hopping, transportation, and education, and they are made by Area 120. If you're reading this, you're more likely than most to know that Area 120 is a Google incubator for new apps.
But people who don't follow the tech industry closely - who are among the target audience for these apps - likely have no idea that Area 120 has anything to do with Google. And they wouldn't be enlightened when downloading the apps. As Rob notes, there's no mention of corporate ownership when users download or boot up the apps on iPhones. The Google relationship is disclosed on the apps' standalone websites, but how often do people check out websites for apps they download?
As Rob writes, Google's lack of transparency raises important questions just as Big Tech is under scrutiny:
"Should established firms have a responsibility to make clear when they're behind buzzy new products? How much onus is on ordinary users to thoroughly research apps before installing them? And if tech companies know their users won't read the fine print, do they have an obligation to do more to keep them informed?"
As Sundar Pichai takes over as CEO of Google parent company, Alphabet, these might be some good questions for him to think about.
Read the full story here:
Google has built a handful of buzzy new apps to help kids read and make commuting easier, but it doesn't clearly disclose it owns them
Here are some other tech highlights:
- A 33-year-old Utah startup founder went to Silicon Valley on business and was found dead in her car a week later. Erin Valenti's family searches for answers following her mysterious death.
- Palantir grabbed Project Maven defense contract after Google left the program: sources
- The Derek Jeter-backed startup BlueJeans Network, last valued at over $700 million, just cut 40% of its workforce as Silicon Valley's focus on profitability grows
- Honey, a coupon company that got acquired by PayPal for $4 billion, used 8 essential slides to raise money from venture capitalists when it was a startup
- A former employee is suing Oracle, alleging the company sold customers phantom products and forced him out when he complained
And more good stuff from across the BI newsroom:
- 2019 was one of the most tumultuous years in media history, when thousands of jobs were lost and subscription models grew like wildfire
- Richard Thaler won a Nobel prize for calling out irrational financial behavior. He explains what most people get wrong about saving for retirement.
- The DNA-testing 'fad' is over, and one company just halted operations. The CEOs of Ancestry and 23andMe reveal how they're fighting back.
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