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July 28, 2021
👋 Good morning! Certified case of Olympic fever here!
China's tech

Alphabet, Apple, and Microsoft reported monster earnings last night, somehow growing by enormous amounts despite already being enormous businesses. It’s not normal, it’s unusual, it’s unlike anything in history, and there are links in the Roundup below to coverage.

On the other hand, China’s tech giants are being squeezed. It’s not that there isn’t an antitrust lawsuit or two floating around against US tech, it’s that China’s grip on its companies is absolute, but we don’t exactly understand what’s happening yet.

The latest:

Why it matters:

  • China’s tech industry has seen plummeting stock prices. Per the FT ($): The Nasdaq Golden Dragon China index, a benchmark of Chinese tech stocks listed in New York, has dropped 15 per cent in two days.
  • Why is China hurting its own tech sector across the board? Why, when tech and innovation have driven an economic boom for China? Wouldn’t China support its own?
  • The reasons aren’t easily established. Veteran tech reporter Kara Swisher writes, “The Crackdown in China Is a Hot Mess, and It’s Coming for Us” for The New York Times, noting, “As with all things in the authoritarian country, the reason for this is shrouded in doublespeak about privacy, cybersecurity, and sensitive location information — particularly rich, coming from a place that has essentially turned itself into a surveillance economy.” Swisher focuses on a conversation with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about China. 
  • (Zuck has nothing to lose in China, unlike some of his peers.)
  • Another opinion from Noah Smith is that China is focusing on stepping on its consumer-facing products, to push engineers and entrepreneurs to work not on innovative fun tech, but innovative tech like chips, firmware, manufacturing, engines: “…China’s top leaders are now trying to direct the country’s industrial mix toward what they think will serve the nation as a whole.” 
  • That is all more critical to China if supplies from TSMC, and so on, dry up.
  • Still, will China actually keep stepping on its successful consumer tech winners?

📆 Samsung has released a teaser trailer for its August 11 Unpacked event, with a glimpse of the Galaxy Z Fold 3, and highlights the evolution of Motorola and BlackBerry phones, asking, “Are ‘good’ phones good enough?” (Android Authority).

👉 Last-minute Huawei P50 Pro leak teases a beefy quad-camera system. It launches tomorrow in China (Android Authority).

📈 OnePlus the big, immediate winner in the US following LG’s exit (Android Authority).

The Nothing Ear 1 are fully transparent earbuds that let form follow function. After all the long-dragged-out drips and drops and teases, and yesterday’s launch, the good news is that the specs look ok for $99. Reviews to come! (Android Authority).

📸 Instagram’s new settings take aim at creepy adults, meet a sort of bare minimum for Facebook doing something to dodge regulation (Gizmodo).

📉 It’s about to get harder to buy a pre-built gaming PC in some US states, intriguingly because of newly implemented energy regulations in those states. Which, I mean, sure, that could be good in theory, but odd display limits, and a total max power draw of 75 kWh/yr might just mean people might go back to building their own PCs again to beat the regs. Which is a classic regulation issue: Easy to make the rules, harder to think through the effects (Gizmodo).

💻 There’s a new modular laptop, and it seems good: “Framework’s lightweight modular laptop is a winner(Ars Technica).

📈 Big big earnings are enough for me to throw away the name Big Tech and go with Giant Tech. Look: Apple iPhone sales jump 50% despite chip shortage to notch a record profit of $21.7 billion, up double from last year — and that’s without a new iPhone being released (CNET). Meanwhile, Microsoft’s profits skyrocketed by 47 percent in Q4 with cloud up 30%, though its Surface business fell by 20% (TechCrunch), while Alphabet obliterated expectations as Google Cloud cuts losses, grows 54%. YouTube’s reported revenue of $7 billion is up 84% year over year, which seems like a lot for a well-established platform (TechCrunch).

🥽 “Virtual Reality is the rich white kid of technology(Wired).

🔫 Halo Infinite’s first multiplayer beta begins on July 29 (The Verge).

🧠 Lucasfilm hires YouTuber who used deepfakes to improve The Mandalorian (Engadget).

🐟 “ELI5: Why does seafood go bad faster than meat?” (r/explainlikeimfive).

Wednesday Weirdness

Flat Earth, flat earthers, hahaha. Right? We all get it, but still, there are those that want to go back on things that were established even by the ancients: Carl Sagan explains here how Eratosthenes, a legendary Greek thinker figured out the Earth was round some 2,200 years or so ago.

But anyway, back to the ol’ flat earth. Here’s a nicely done piece by space and science communicator Daisy Dobrijevic on eight ways life would get weird on a flat Earth (LiveScience).

  • Weird might be generous. The almost absolute guarantee of death is more likely!

For example:

  • No gravity, or maybe just gravity at the center of the flatness.
  • No atmosphere.
  • And no more auroras and we’d all be roasted.
  • Just on that: “…the absence of auroras would be the least of our worries, as Earth would no longer be protected from solar winds. Earth and everything on its surface would be bombarded with harmful solar radiation, leaving a barren world akin to our neighbor Mars, according to NASA.
  • Good times for Martians, less so for us.


Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor

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