Tech Roundup For The Week of August 1, 2016: Facebook, Instagram, Bitcoin, Salesforce and Uber

This week our Tech Roundup focus is on Facebook’s Area 404 (new hardware lab), Instagram’s Stories launch, Bitcoin hack, Salesforce’s latest M&A and Uber selling its China ops to Didi Chuxing.

Facebook unveils details of its “Area 404” Hardware Lab

After weeks of speculation, Facebook finally unveiled its “Area 404”, the company’s mad science lab where it develops next generation hardware. The company plans to use this are to develop technologies important to its growth. As such, it unveiled a 10-year roadmap, which includes drones, satellites, lasers, telecom infrastructure, VR headsets, and augmented reality hardware. All these devices and gadgets will be prototyped at Area 404. Theoretically, by the time a given product is prototyped here and sent out for manufacturing, all kinks will have been worked out. Some of the projects underway that will be built here were on display.

These include: Data infrastructure like Facebook’s open rack network switch Wedge, its Open Vault storage solution, and the sensors for its Telecom Infra Project’s OpenCellular platform. Connectivity Lab inventions like the Terragraph wifi nodes and Project ARIES antenna, as well as parts for the Aquila solar-powered drone that just had its first successful test flight. Plus Oculus will prototype future version of the Rift headset and the Surround 360 camera.

Instagram launches Stories to compete directly with Snapchat

On a blog post on its site, this week Instagram introduced a feature called Stories that positions the popular social networking site directly in competition with Snapchat. The feature works exactly like Snapchat Stories. It allows you to post 24-hour photos and video slideshows that then disappear. But because Instagram Stories appear at the top of the old feed, your followers will inevitably see them without you needing to build a new audience in a different app. Instagram Stories will be available globally for iOS and Android over the next few weeks. Several stories in the press are labeling this as a carbon copy of Snapchat’s feature. Instagram has over 500M active monthly users, 300 million daily actives and now 250 million users on its Direct messaging feature. Given these huge numbers, the company could see incredible expansion for its Stories feature. Stories would essentially allow users to keep their polished photos but add everyday content to their profiles.

Bitcoin hacked to the tune of $72M

Bitcoin was down 23% Tuesday after news broke that almost 120,000 units of digital currency bitcoin worth about $72M million was stolen from the exchange platform Bitfinex in Hong Kong. This was the second biggest security breach ever of this type of exchange. Bitfinex is largest dollar-based exchange for bitcoin. It’s mainly known for its deep liquidity in the U.S. dollar/bitcoin currency pair. The loss was equivalent to 119,756 bitcoin stolen from user accounts. (from their segregated wallets). Both law enforcement and blockchain analytics companies are investigating the case. Bitfinex also announced via Twitter their security partner BitGo of Palo Alto was not impacted. Obviously this breach is of a big concern to the bitcoin community, which prides itself on the strength of its technology. Bitfinex added they did not believe the hack exposed any weaknesses in the security of a blockchain itself. However, bitcoin experts were quick to highlight the risks of using this type of technology for their ledgers. It seems the technology has some work to do in this area. We can expect further developments and potentially added competition from other cryptography technologies to heat up.

Salesforce acquired Quip for $582M

The acquisition will add programs for creating documents and spreadsheets, adding these much needed offerings to Salesforce’s portfolio. Quip’s products, are designed for collaboration on mobile devices. They compete directly with Microsoft Office and Alphabet Google Docs. The motivation for this deal was to expand their service more quickly and reach millions of people all over the world, according to Bret Taylor’s blog post. We view this as a significant, but not surprising, step in Salesforce’s strategy. We would expect continued deals in the future, as the company expands its portfolio of enterprise solutions.

Uber sells China operations to Didi Chuxing

This week Uber gave up its expensive battle for China’s ride sharing market. The company swapped its local operations in China in exchange for a minority stake in China’s Didi Chuxing, the popular local “Uber of China”. Uber will take a 20% stake in Didi and will become its largest shareholder. Uber’s China operations were valued at $8B. Didi, which was valued at $28B pre-Uber deal, will now be valued at roughly $36B. As part of the deal, the Chinese ride-hailing company will also invest $1B in Uber. One of the big beneficiaries of this deal is Apple, which had recently taken a large stake in Didi ($1B invested). We view this as a positive but remain amazed at the valuations which seem to continue to defy gravity.

BitNavi is a blog conceived by Karl Motey in the heart of Silicon Valley, dedicated to emerging technologies and strategic business issues challenging the industry.

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