Newsletter #21: As Microsoft enter the $2 trillion club, the new Windows 11 is aimed at the Creator Economy. Plus Binance, Neeva, McAfee and Starlink, all for good measure!
Plus: Facebook, Binance, John McAfee, Neeva, Brave, El Salvador and Bitcoin
In this issue:
- Microsoft, Windows 11 and the $2 trillion valuation
- Microsoft as the platform for developers and creators
- Android on Windows
- "Binance is banned"...or is it?
- El Salvador becomes first country in the world to accept Bitcoin as legal tender
- Privacy online: Neeva is live, Brave taking off, Google delay FLoCs
- Germany opens up to institutional crypto funds
- The unorthodox life and times of John McAfee
- Facebook is the number 1 platform for time spent online
- Elon Musk’s Starlink will be available worldwide in August
- What happens to your Bitcoin when you die?
- Half the world owns a smartphone
- An Experimental Brain Implant Detects and Ends Pain in Real-Time
Microsoft, Windows 11 and the $2 trillion valuation
Last week, Microsoft hit a new milestone when they became only the 2nd American company ever to be valued at $2 trillion (after Apple).
Formed in the mid 1970s, it took Microsoft 45 years to reach a $1 trillion market capitalisation. And just two years to double it.
Even more remarkable is that Microsoft was valued at (only) $300 billion just 7 years ago when Satya Nadella took over as CEO in 2014.
Like Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, Satya Nadella has successfully taken up the reins from an iconic founder (Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer of Microsoft and Steve Jobs at Apple).
Both Cook and Nadella have steered their tech giants to become the two most valuable companies in the world.
And for Nadella, he has remodeled Microsoft to reflect a changing tech agenda centred on the cloud, mobile, and gaming. This is because app developers don't build apps for the desktop anymore, they build them for cloud, gaming and mobile platforms.
And Microsoft has built a leadership and exciting position in the mixed reality (AR/VR) and gaming spaces (the largest growth segment in entertainment and an upcoming feature for WiserIn5!).
Operating below the radar....until now?
Microsoft has largely avoided much of the antitrust scrutiny facing Big Tech, which has been primarily aimed at Facebook, Google (Alphabet), Amazon, and Apple.
However, things could change with the release of Windows 11.
Because Microsoft has bundled Teams right into the Windows 11 taskbar, making access to the app easier than ever.
The issue is that the new Windows integration clearly puts more pressure on Salesforce-owned Slack, the most visible competitor to Teams. (Although Teams has a larger user base already with 145m daily active users, compared to Slack’s last quoted number of 12.5m users, pre-pandemic.)
This is reminiscent of when Microsoft bundled Internet Explorer into Windows in a direct attempt to kill off the Netscape browser.
It was this anti-competitive move by Microsoft that led to their infamous antitrust case in the late 1990s.
Microsoft as the platform for developers and creators
Despite the monopolistic move of bundling in Teams to the world's most widely installed desktop operating system, Microsoft is positioning itself to be the good guy when it comes to app development and platform creation.
In a clear move to create an acre of space between themselves and tech rivals, Apple and Google, Microsoft made 2 competition-friendly policy changes for Windows 11.
First, there is no app store fee: Non-game makers in the Windows 11 app store keep 100% of revenue (this is in contrast to Apple and Google, which have up to 30% take rates)
Second, other app stores are welcome: Other companies — like Amazon or Google — can build entire app stores within the Windows app store (again, in contrast, Apple doesn’t allow this).
Which leads us to the other big story from the Windows 11 launch.
Android on Windows
The other big surprise in Windows 11 is to allow Android apps to run natively on it.
Android apps on Windows 11 are an obvious answer to Apple’s progress with its M1 chips and running iOS apps on Mac. Microsoft says it’s using Amazon’s Appstore to bring Android apps to Windows 11 and have demonstrated this with apps like TikTok running on Windows 11.
This is a path Microsoft has walked down before and Microsoft has been toying with the idea of running Android apps on Windows natively for years.
In 2015, Microsoft said they planned to let Windows developers rework their existing Android apps for Windows. Dubbed Project Astoria, the plan eventually fell apart less than a year later for technical reasons.
The idea of listing Android apps in the Windows Store was announced ahead of the Windows 10 launch. Instead, Microsoft pushed ahead trying to convince developers to adopt its failed Universal Windows Platform.
Android app integrates directly into Windows is a significant shift, especially as the company has been favoring Your Phone as the method to bridge the gap between Android and Windows. Microsoft has been embracing Android as the mobile version of Windows for years, and now those same mobile apps will run directly in Windows 11.
Meanwhile…over at Facebook
The evil empire that is Facebook has become the fastest company in history to hit the $1 trillion market cap milestone (17 years)!
This came after a U.S. federal court dismissed the latest anti-trust complaints against Facebook last week.
The case against Facebook is that they use their monopoly position to target small startups that they see as a future threat, such as Instagram and WhatsApp.
The social media platform, which is used by over a third of the world’s population, used its mighty resources in a "buy-or-bury" strategy.
As news of the latest court case broke, the markets responded positively with a 4% gain on the day for the Facebook stock. Facebook shares have risen around 30% throughout the pandemic and have almost doubled in price in the last 3 years.
How Facebook’s algorithm devalues local reporting, Popular Information
CryptoCorner (abridged version)
The "Binance is banned" story made headlines about a week ago, hot on the heels of a spate of "China bans crypto" stories.
Like a lot of headlines, they're misleading! (China's position on crypto hasn't really changed since 2017).
If you are not familiar with Binance, they are the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange and were formed in 2017 in China by an ex-Bloomberg trader called Changpeng Zao, known in the market as "CZ".
It started when the UK's Financial Conduct Authority issued a notice that said Binance Markets Limited, a part of Binance Group, “is not permitted to undertake any regulated activity in the U.K.”
This followed similar notices by financial regulators in Japan, Malaysia, and Canada about Binance companies. It appears that Binance has failed to go through even the most basic registration processes as it expands its operations around the world.
This has not stopped crypto traders in these countries continuing to use Binance!
It's because the regulator's notices are (only) applicable to the subsidiary trading companies in each jurisdiction, but not to the mothership organisation (a subtle but important distinction left off the headlines).
In fact, when questioned by Decrypt, a spokesperson for the FCA clarified that, far from being banned, "UK consumers can continue to interact" with Binance Group.
Whether this story is a sign of things to come regarding tighter crypto regulations or simply a reflection on one company's fairly slipshod and amateurish approach to operational risk and compliance, is too early to say.
But when it comes to a nation's attitude towards crypto, not every country is looking at ways to slow or curtail its uptake.
El Salvador becomes the first country in the world to accept Bitcoin as legal tender
Since the last issue of Wiser!, El Salvador has unveiled details of it will make history as the first nation in the world to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender.
Not to be confused with a CBDC (watch my YouTube explainer on Central Bank Digital Currency), Bitcoin will be accepted as a legitimate currency throughout the country.
Using a digital wallet called Chivo, El Salvador will airdrop $30 of Bitcoin to every citizen that opens a new account.
Germany opens up to institutional crypto funds
New laws came into force this week that enable fund managers in Germany to include Bitcoin and other crypto assets in “spezialfonds”. These investment vehicles will permit up to 20% of a fund to be held in crypto-assets.
Privacy online: Neeva is live, Brave taking off, Google delay FLoCs
In the very first issue of Wiser!, I wrote about my discussions with the founders of Neeva, the ad-free subscription search engine. You can read my story with co-founder Vivek Raghunathan here.
At the time, they were in beta mode. Now they’ve gone live.
For the price of a cup of coffee, you can get search results that are NOT influenced by the ad auction model where the top search results are not always the best for you.
However, it’s no small undertaking to enter a market so heavily dominated by 1 player. Google has over 90% of the global search market and generated $147 billion in revenue from online ads last year, more than any other company in the world.
According to market researcher eMarketer, Google could control c27% of global online ad spending this year, including 57% for search ads and 10% of the display.
And the flywheel effect is helping Google maintain this monopoly. For example, it is estimated that Google has indexed over 600 billion web pages. The number 2 search engine, Bing, has indexed (only) 100 billion. This makes Google more attractive to more advertisers and searchers…and so it goes on.
Also in the privacy game is Brave, the internet browser that promises privacy and ad-free browsing. I have finally made the switch to Brave, which is still in beta mode. I’ll keep you posted…so far so good!
Meanwhile, Google has announced that they are delaying the end of cookies on their Chrome browser. You may recall in the March issue of Wiser! that I reported on Google’s decision to move away from cookies as the means for tracking you and me across the Internet.
The issue for Google is that their ad revenue model depends on their ability to target suspects with a laser focus. And their alternative, called a Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), was not going down so well with advertisers.
The unorthodox life and times of John McAfee
John McAfee was, by any measure, a colorful character.
He was best known as the founder of the world’s first commercial anti-virus software for the Windows PC.
It launched in 1987 and the software still carries his name. Today, McAfee has around 500 million users worldwide.
Last week, McAfee, 75, was found dead of suspected suicide in his prison cell in Barcelona. His lawyers said he hanged himself shortly after Spain approved his extradition to the United States to face criminal tax evasion charges.
McAfee said in 2019 that he had not paid U.S. income taxes for eight years for ideological reasons.
McAfee was also wanted in the U.S. after being charged with an alleged $13 million “pump-and-dump” cryptocurrency scheme.
Some highlights of his personal life…
- He offered to help Cuba avoid a U.S. trade embargo using cryptocurrency and sought to run for U.S. president for the Libertarian Party.
- McAfee said in 2018 that he had fathered at least 47 children. When he lived in Belize, he kept a “harem of seven young women aged between 18 and 25.”
- He fled Belize after he was wanted for questioning in the 2012 murder of a neighbour. To prevent being sent back to Belize, McAfee faked a heart attack and was deported to the U.S.
- It was in Florida that he met his last wife, a sex worker called Janice McAfee, when she solicited him as a prostitute. Unbeknown to McAfee, this was not a casual encounter and Janice had been sent to spy on McAfee for a local gang, which she did even after they married. They even plotted to kill him.
- The colourful tech founder was a prolific user of Twitter, where he had 1 million followers. He also believed in deep state conspiracy theories. In 2019, John McAfee tweeted that if he were “to die by suicide” it would not be true. He had $WHACKD tattooed on his arm to support his belief that the deep state was out to get him!
- Conspiracy theorists are now having a field day. The latest I saw is that McAfee apparently owned a condo in the collapsed Florida apartment block. In the condo were his hard drive and all the incriminating evidence.
Snippets of Insight and Information
Facebook is the number 1 platform for time spent online
TikTok may be the number 1 most downloaded app in 2021, but it still has a long way to go in the social media attention game to compete with the big guns. Source: Hubspot
Elon Musk’s Starlink will be available worldwide in August
The high-speed broadband service is run from over 1,800 low-orbit satellites that have been launched into space by Musk's SpaceX. Starlink already has more than 69,000 active customers and Musk estimates it could cost SpaceX $5 billion to $10 billion to deploy the high-speed internet service to serve the 5% of the world that live in ultra remote locations. Source: CNET
What happens to your Bitcoin when you die?
Crypto investors maintain their own assets using digital wallets that are only accessible via a password or a private key — a 256-bit long string of alphanumeric characters that is only known to the account holder. Without these private keys, there is little hope of heirs ever accessing a dead loved one’s crypto holdings. Source: The Hustle
Half the world owns a smartphone.
The latest research suggests that almost 4 billion people on the planet own a smartphone. Source: Strategy Analytics
An Experimental Brain Implant Detects and Ends Pain in Real Time.
Wiser! YouTube Channel
The latest video on the Wiser! YouTube channel is about Robots and the Rise of the Machines. Based on last week’s WiserIn5! Premium article, the YouTube includes plenty of footage to bring the subject to life!
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