When tech giants become property developers

Alphabet, Google’s parent, plans a smart city in Toronto

On Monday, Alphabet’s subsidiary, Sidewalk Labs, released plans for its $1.3 billion smart city on the Toronto waterfront. The plans boast private investment of $38 billion by 2040, and the creation of 44,000 jobs and $4.3 billion in annual tax revenue. Locals are mixed on support of the venture, which is yet to win full support of urban planners and city leaders. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: Tech giants’ disruption of real estate markets in places like Seattle, San Francisco, and Austin have previously been with the help of the usual brokers, financiers and builders. Alphabet is making its own rules in Toronto and showing that it is more powerful than the local establishment. On the one hand, established city leaders are suspicious of grand ambitions backed by big money and the arrogance associated with big tech. On the other hand, the smart cities vision will take decades to evolve organically unless accelerated by a visionary company that just builds it.


Facebook’s future inside a ringed fence

Facebook has been the PR whipping post for all that is wrong with the Internet, social networks, and disclosure of personal data. Despite all the bad press and example making by regulators, its subscriber count is up 9% and its revenues, 30%. Forrester researchers say that the company’s undoing will not be public opinion or legislation, but will be its own shift to focus on private messaging as this move will stall growth of social networks, and will prevent the company from selling more personal information to advertisers. Meanwhile, the watchful eye of regulators will make it very difficult for the company to acquire new companies. Forbes

dis-rup-shun: The notion that Facebook has painted itself into a corner is hard to fathom, as statements of direction can change in the blink of a CEO’s eye. The fact that Facebook continues to grow, and continues to be an important source of news and information for its 2.3 billion monthly users portends that, despite bad press, it will be the virtual water cooler for years to come. It’s $540 billion market cap means the company can spend a great deal on public relations and congressional lobbying. 


How to slice up big tech

Kara Swisher shares thoughts on competition and how big tech is too big to challenge. The Recode editor shares thoughts on how regulators might break Google, Apple or Amazon into some logical pieces and encourage new entrants into markets that have been ceded to the giants. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: January 1, 1984 was the day that AT&T’s monopoly ended and baby bells were created. While the decision was rough on AT&T, many of the bells thrived by merging, acquiring, and entering into new businesses. The action accelerated communications technology, including wireless telephony, and spurred the strongest tech economy in the world. History has shown competition to be economic lifeblood and dominance to lead to stagnation.


Industry leaders reply

In response to Should Facebook’s currency be blocked? Former Lowe’s Iris Smart Home VP and GM Kevin Meagher replies: In the UK in the 18th and 19th century single large employers (mill owners/mines/steel mills) in towns and regions created and issued their own currencies to pay staff.  This currency was only recognized in businesses owned by the companies and their partners so what was paid to employees eventually came back to the company.  It was a great way to squeeze competition out of the town and hold everyone hostage to what was in effect a feudal system.  I’m pretty sure this happened in some early settlement in the US.  How the wheel goes round!


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