It's smackdown season in techland

Hello, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider Tech newsletter, where we break down the biggest news in tech, including:

  • Facebook’s latest user privacy fiasco
  • Snowflake and Databricks are on a collision course
  • The $300 face mask for your cyborg makeover

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Soundtrack: This week’s newsletter has been specially designed to be consumed while listening to Blue Öyster Cult’s “Godzilla”

This week: It’s smackdown season in techland

Warner Bros.

Maybe it’s because of all the hoopla over the new “Godzilla vs. Kong” movie, but I’m noticing a lot of news about clashes between the titans of the tech industry lately. 

The decade-long courtroom battle between Google and Oracle came to a close this week when the US Supreme Court declared Google the victor, absolving it of any allegations that it stole Oracle’s code by using Java APIs in the Android operating system. 

  • “Sanity has prevailed,” said one James Gosling, who happens to be the guy who created Java.  Had Oracle prevailed, many predicted chaos in the software industry amid a barrage of dubious copyright lawsuits.

Another brewing showdown between Box and activist investor Starboard Value seems to have been averted.

  • Starboard was said to be preparing to launch a board challenge with the ultimate aim of putting Box on the auction block. But with KKR’s $500 million investment in Box this week, a sale is likely no longer in the cards — at least for now.

And of course, tensions between Apple and Facebook continue to rise as we near the release of Apple’s new privacy feature, which will make it easy for iPhone users to avoid the ad targeting Facebook’s business depends on.

  • Apple CEO Tim Cook threw a little fuel on the fire this week by calling Facebook’s concerns about the impact on its ad business a “flimsy argument,” during an interview with the New York Times’ Kara Swisher.
  • Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg may too preoccupied to remonstrate, given the fallout from the leak of 500 million users’ personal information.

But, lest you grow tired of the same old tech match-ups, don’t fear: a new rivalry is forming. 

Ali Ghodsi, the CEO of Databricks and Frank Slootman, the CEO of Snowflake.Databricks, Snowflake.

As Ashley Stewart and Jeff Elder report, Snowflake and Databricks, two of the hottest, young enterprise tech companies are inexorably moving into each other’s turf in a battle for data supremacy.

  • Each company has carved out a lucrative role helping business customers analyze data in the cloud. But, as one industry analyst notes in the story, the two companies’ interests are starting to converge, putting them “on a collision course.”
  • Throw in a pugnacious CEO (Snowflake’s Frank Slootman) who likens himself to WWII’s General George S. Patton, and a rival CEO (Databrick’s Ali Ghodsi) skilled at forming alliances with deep-pocketed partners and at raising cash, and you have the makings for a great rivalry.

Read the full story here:

The next big tech rivalry will be between $67 billion Snowflake and $28 billion Databricks, which are on a ‘collision course’ as the AI and data analysis market heats up

From the curious file…

Don’t bring a robot to war without charging its battery: That’s the lesson from Saint-Cyr, the elite French military academy whose alumni include Charles de Gaulle, after a series of combat exercises with “Spot,” the robotic quadruped made by Boston Robotics. Apparently Spot performed valiantly under fire, doing tasks like reconnaissance — right up until its battery died midway through the action.

Spot® robot image provided courtesy of Boston Dynamics, Inc.

Camp ByteDance: The “world’s top university students” have been invited to TikTok-parent company ByteDance’s Beijing headquarters for a weeklong training camp. Campers will focus on skills like speech recognition, computer vision and graphics, in addition to being eligible for “big cash prizes” and internships. The camp, now in its fourth year, reflects the growing competition for AI experts amid the US and China’s tech cold war.

Blockchain wedding: The hot new wedding item in Silicon Valley is an NFT, or non-fungible token.  In March, a bride and groom in Palo Atlo whipped out their cellphones at the altar and swapped an animation of unique, blockchain-based digital rings as part of their vows. The blockchain is “forever,” just as “love should be,” said the bride said, who like her new husband, work at … Coinbase. 

Snapshot: The face mask to kick off your cyborg makeover

Covid-wear reached a new pinnacle this week with the release of the Xubermask, a wild-looking internet-connected face mask that’s the result of a collaboration between musician-cum-entrepreneur Will.i.am, electronics company Honeywell, and Jose Fernandez, a designer whose credits include the SpaceX flight suit.

The Xupermask.Honeywell

The mask is made of mesh and silicone, and comes with built-in noise-cancelling headphones, dual three-speed fans and LED lights. It’ll cost you $300, but you’ll be protected from germs and smog, and you’ll look like a cyber-warrior. 

Recommended Readings:

Leaked Amazon documents detail a controversial system that insiders say forces managers to give bad reviews to good employees

OPINION: Mark Zuckerberg’s first crack at a cryptocurrency was an embarrassing flop. Don’t bet on him giving up so easily.

DeepMind’s cofounder partied with Elon Musk for his raucous 40th birthday party on the Orient Express, a new book revealed

Clubhouse only has about 35 employees. Meet the 13 executives and earliest employees behind the year-old startup in talks for a $4 billion valuation.

Google continues its Search leadership shuffle, appointing new executives to focus its most important business

Not necessarily in tech:

Burnout, blown deadlines, and a tech-talent exodus: How Goldman Sachs’ Marcus is struggling to live up to its lofty consumer-banking ambitions

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— Alexei

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