Benner on Tech: GoPro Dives and Facebook Is Just a Huge Envy Factory

Katie Benner is a Bloomberg View columnist who writes about technology, innovation, and the cult and culture of Silicon Valley. She lives in San Francisco.
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People are Talking About…

GoPro stock lost 12 percent on the news that Apple now has a patent for a remote-control camera system that could, possibly, just might allow it to make a product to rival GoPros tiny video cameras.

The move says volumes about Apple’s total hardware dominance. The company may not make the most gadgets, but the market believes that it makes the best gadgets, meaning the ones that can command the highest margins. Once Apple steps in and sweeps up the high end of a market, everyone else is left to fight for the commoditized scraps. Look at what’s happening to Samsung

GoPro - which isn’t yet a household name and creator of a product that still hasn't been adopted by the masses - already sells its wares for pretty cheap. (An entry-level camera sells for $129.99.) The possibility of a competitor like Apple spooked the market, even though Apple may not be anywhere near developing a competitive product and may never develop one anyway. That, my friends, is the sort of power that Tim Cook et al wield down in Cupertino.

GoPro’s falling stock is also more evidence that the company was overvalued anyway. The shares trade like there’s tons of sales upside for small, indestructible video cameras, even though only several million units have been sold. Pacific Crest Securities analyst Brad Erickson has told the press that he likes the stock but that it’s just too expensive to buy. Dougherty & Co. analyst Charlie Anderson is bullish on the stock. But even he concedes that the company could be afflicted with what we'll call “the Garmin problem.”

Garmin, the pioneering GPS equipment maker, was all the rage in 2007 and its shares soared until the smartphone – and Google Maps – made the technology redundant for a big slice of the market. (This could also be dubbed the "Flip video camera" problem. Remember those?) It may not be a smart phone that unseats GoPro, but it will someday have a competitor.

GoPro has had a monster stock run. The founder Nick Woodman is now super rich. Maybe the company could use its IPO and public market valuation as a starting point for a possible acquisition discussion. That wouldn’t be the craziest thing in the world. After PayPal went public it used its market cap as a negotiating tool when it was in acquisition talks with eBay.

I know, I know. There’s lots of upside left in GoPro and this Apple thing is still a fantasy. But just how big can the market for these video cameras get when, for most people who don’t need to drag a camera through dirt and snow and water, the video function on their phones is just fine?

Ventureland

Ann Curry, the former "Today" anchor, is launching an independent media startup with seed funding from NBCUniversal, reports Capital New York.

Clinkle lives on as an overly complicated debit card rewards program, reports TechCrunch. (I’m guessing that the company keeps “pivoting” because no one yet wants to acquire the company, the tech or the team.)

Genius, the annotation website that’s received more than $50 million in venture funding,  may be a great way for readers to mark up and comment on news articles, lyrics sites, online recipes and even books, but Vox argues that success is a long way off.

** Annotators used Genius to mark up this New York Times article announcing that the New Yorker’s Sasha Frere-Jones was joining the startup. Like so many things on the web, it’s mildly amusing, mean-spirited and doesn’t present any obvious way to generate revenue.

Jonathan Heiliger, a former partner at North Bridge Venture Partners and ex-Facebook executive, has launched a U.S. affiliate of Vertex Ventures with Sik Rhee, formerly of Rembrandt Venture Partners, Fortune reports.

People and Personnel Moves

Nick D’Aloisio, the British teen who sold his news app Summly to Yahoo for $30 million, gave a wide-ranging interview with the Guardian that included discussion of how he’s adapting Yahoo News Digest for the Apple Watch.

We’re thinking very closely about what’s the optimum length of information for a watch. Our hypothesis is that we expect there’s going to be an extremely high frequent number of sessions, hundreds and hundreds of sessions. But micro length, so like five seconds, two seconds, 10 seconds. We’re trying to think of what’s the most novel news experience you can have, that’s very much focused on the time and tempo element of the watch and the small screen.

Companies

Amazon…

The company has signed Woody Allen to write and direct a half hour television series for the tech company, TechCrunch reports.

Apple...

Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac has a sneak peek at the Apple Watch “Companion” app for iPhone that manages settings for Apple Watch applications.

** Apple is also embroiled in a lawsuit with Ericsson over the royalty rates for some wireless-technology patents, Bloomberg reports.

Google…

The company didn’t sign the Student Privacy Pledge endorsed by President Obama, even though Apple and Microsoft were among the 75 companies that did, the Wall Street Journal reports. A spokeswoman said this is because Google’s policies already demonstrate a commitment to student privacy.

LinkedIn…

The company is about to launch a pilot version of a new app that lets users send InMail to co-workers, even if they’re not connected, Re/code reports.

Sony…

The company’s turnaround never got off the ground and CEO Kazuo Hirai is open to selling the money-losing TV and mobile phone operations, Reuters reports.

Tesla...

CEO Elon Musk says the company probably won't be profitable until  2020 and that business has slowed in China, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. The stock dropped on the news.

Cybercrime Blotter

Silk Road lives on as the template for online organized crime. Copycats have recreated the infamous Internet black market for drugs, guns and hacking tools, Bloomberg reports. My Bloomberg View colleague Kirsten Salyer also weighs in on Silk road.

Media Files

Broadcast M&A is going to kill broadcasters, argues technology corporate strategy consultant Prashob Menon in Media Redef.

News and Notes

"Facebook is a big factory of envy." Reuters digs into how social networks encourage us to keep up with our peers, discourage self-control and make us feel bad about our lives.

No Silicon Valley companies were diverse enough to make Black Enterprise magazine’s list of the 40 best companies for diversity.

The teenager who told us that no one his age understands the point of Twitter is back, this time with his take on LinkedIn, Reddit, Ello and more.

Selfie sticks, a review. If you’re going to look ridiculous, the Wall Street Journal wants you to do it with the very best selfie stick on the market.

Larry Summers responds to Marc Andreessen’s tweetstorm about the role that technology plays in secular stagnation.

Marc writes “While I am a bull on technological progress, it also seems that much that progress is deflationary in nature, so even rapid tech may not show up in GDP or productivity stats even as it =higher real standards of living” From an economist’s point of view, this paragraph is very hard to understand…

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the editor on this story:
Timothy L. O'Brien at tobrien46@bloomberg.net