Benner on Tech: Cable Frenemies and Moore's Law

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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Bloomberg reported that the Justice Department is leaning toward blocking Comcast’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable due to anti-trust concerns. The $45.2 billion transaction, which was supposed to close at the end of last year, would create far and away the largest cable company in the U.S. The two companies will meet with the Justice Department on Wednesday to find a way to keep the deal alive. Bloomberg reminds us that lots of other agreements would collapse too if the DoJ rejects Comcast’s bid.

Recall, if you will, that Charter Communications was once widely expected to buy Time Warner Cable and that it was blindsided by Comcast. (The Financial Times has a pretty good account of all the intrigue, complete with competing ski trips.) And John Malone, whose Liberty Media owns a big chunk of Charter, said last fall that he’d bid for Time Warner Cable again if regulators blocked the Comcast deal.

Malone and Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts have previously fought over other things such as Time Warner’s bid for Turner Broadcasting and control of Tele-Communications Inc. Essentially, the evolution of the cable industry has been shaped by a long-running frenemy-ship between two men.

Moore’s Law Turns 50

Over the weekend, Moore’s Law -- the idea that computer processing power would exponentially grow and allow for ever smaller devices -- had its 50th anniversary. CNET wrote about its history and broad impact, explaining how the push to fit more transistors onto a single chip heralded iPhones and self-driving cars. Softbank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son said that computers will someday have more intellectual capacity than humans, in part because of Moore’s Law.

Wired wrote that thanks to researcher Gordon Moore, consumers and the tech industry now believe that gadgets will always get smaller, faster and cheaper. But the Wall Street Journal argued that we’ve pushed Moore’s law to its limits. The Economist was in agreement with the Journal, bolstering its argument with a chart and a Faith No More pun. My favorite Moore’s Law story was probably the Washington Post’s “10 images that explain the incredible power of Moore’s Law.” Moore’s Law also got a nod from USA Today, Fortune, the LA Times, Re/code, Forbes and several other publications. No principle has yet been named to describe the impact of the exponential growth in tech journalists who are interested in Moore’s Law.

Bubble Bubble Blah Blah Blah.

Prognostications about when a bubble will pop are frustrating because they rarely come with a date. Joe Kukura, a brave soul at Kernel, decided to be really specific and say that the beginning of the end will come in nine months.

Your Data Is Not Safe. Your Company Has Been Breached.

The RSA Security conference kicks off this week in San Francisco.

Ventureland

Vessel, the subscription video company that hopes to compete with YouTube, just raised a $57.5 million B round, led by Institutional Venture Partners. The company has now raised more than $134 million. (Bloomberg)

Most bitcoins stolen from Mt. Gox disappeared long before the exchange collapsed. (Coindesk)

Some HBS students told venture investor Brad Feld that they’d been advised to do as many VC deals as they could, and this terrified him.

The sharing economy will be examined by the FTC as part of a summer workshop.

People and Personnel Moves

Margrethe Vestager, the European Union commissioner who filed anti-trust charges against Google, is fearless, tough, shrewd and a very accomplished knitter. (the New York Times)

Sergey Brin, who is worth about $30 billion, manages his wealth with his firm Bayshore Global Management. (Bloomberg)

Sam Altman, who went from marginal Silicon Valley figure to tech celebrity when he became Y Combinator president, is a fixer, connector, adviser and quite possibly the man who will expand YC’s sphere of influence. (Fast Company)

Companies

Box’s losses are mounting, revenue growth is subpar, the stock has fallen dramatically since the company went public. As rivals including Amazon and Microsoft fight for its storage business, this is a make-or-break moment for the company. (the New York Times)

Facebook’s messaging platform WhatsApp has 800 million monthly active users. (the Wall Street Journal)

Google might have a big advantage in the payment wars now that funds in Google Wallet are FDIC-insured. (Yahoo Finance) France wants to push search engines to show how they rank results. (Bloomberg) Microsoft fought hard for EU actions against Google. (the New York Times)

IBM is in the middle of a fight between the U.S. and China over how much information about their technology American companies must share to win deals. (the New York Times)

Security Watch

Many government websites used to report fraud and potential terrorist activity aren’t properly encrypted. (ACLU)

Hackers linked to Russia tried to get information on U.S. sanctions policy by using flaws in Windows and Flash. (Bloomberg)

Raytheon, the U.S. military contractor, is investing $1.7 billion to create a huge cybersecurity business that it will build on top of Websense, a security company that it bought from the private-equity firm Vista Partners. (the Wall Street Journal)

Media Files

Sony’s lawyers are asking reporters not to report on the company’s leaked emails now that WikiLeaks has made it easy to search them. (Bloomberg)

Norway will switch its national FM radio service over to digital radio in 2017. (Gizmodo)

News and Notes

MakerBot, the 3-D printer company, laid off about a fifth of its employees and closed its retail stores. (BuzzFeed)

The Mini Augmented Vision prototype glasses, made by BMW and Qualcomm, already seem like a big improvement on Google Glass. (Ars Technica)

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:
Maria Lamagna at mlamagna@bloomberg.net