Mark Zuckerberg’s Pact with the Devil

This is a column about Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, but it starts with an old story about Intel and Monsanto from my book Accidental Empires. Stick with me here and you’ll soon understand why…

There was a time in the early 1980s when Intel suffered terrible quality problems. It was building microprocessors and other parts by the millions and by the millions these parts tested bad. The problem was caused by dust, the major enemy of computer chip makers.

Semiconductor companies fight dust by building their components in expensive clean rooms. Intel had plenty of clean rooms, but it still had a big dust problem, so the engineers cleverly decided […]

Looking back at 2018 predictions, Bob was somehow 70 percent correct

I can’t put this off any longer, so here are the tech predictions I made a year ago for 2018. We have to see how well or poorly I did before we can move on to my predictions for 2019 and beyond. These old predictions have been edited for length, but not to avoid embarrassment.

I try to never avoid embarrassment.

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that my predictions get longer and longer (this column, alone, is 4329 words — my second longest, ever) as they have drifted from new products to explaining new strategies. This sometimes works against the prediction since it is often easier to […]

Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and our personal data

Facebook shares are taking it on the chin today as the Cambridge Analytica story unfolds and we learn just how insecure our Facebook data has been. The mainstream press has — as usual — understood only parts of what’s happening here. It’s actually worse than the press is saying. So I am going to take a hack at it here. Understand this isn’t an area where I am an expert, either, but having spent 40+ years writing about Silicon Valley, I’ve picked up some tidbits along the way that will probably give better perspective than what you’ve been reading elsewhere.

Much of this is old news. There are hundreds — possibly thousands […]

What if Marissa Mayer went to jail?

Dai SuganoWednesday at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer presented her company’s side of fighting the National Security Agency over requests to have a look-see at the data of Yahoo users. It’s a tough fight, said Mayer, and one that takes place necessarily in private. Mayer was asked why tech companies had not simply decided to tell the public more about what the U.S. surveillance industry was up to. “Releasing classified information is treason and you are incarcerated,” she said.

Go directly to jail?

No.

How would that work, exactly? Would black helicopters — silent black helicopters — land at Yahoo Intergalactic HQ and take Marissa Mayer away in chains? Wouldn’t that defeat the […]

Why Facebook isn’t embarrassed by its IPO

So Facebook is now a public company but with the shares only one day old the news is already bad: Facebook shares didn’t pull a Google or a Yahoo or a Microsoft or even a TheGlobe.com and soar out of sight on IPO day. They ended right where they started pretty much after the day traders took their easy profits. And while Wall Street sees this performance as a dud, Facebook itself sees it as a masterful piece of financial engineering.

If you are an investment banker — and let me re-emphasize that, if you are an investment banker — you want IPO shares to go up on their first day, […]