There’s a ton of tech news to get to! Maybe you didn’t get to it all, because who’s got time for that? Well, that’d be us — here are a handful of stories from the week in tech that might affect you!
In 1963, Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with ALS and given two years to live. Instead, through his eventual near-full paralysis, he lived 55 more and became one of the greatest physicists to have ever drawn breath. Hawking’s contributions to understanding the universe are too many to name, but among his highlights were positing that black holes emit radiation, overturning established notions that nothing could escape from a black hole. His book A Brief History of Time became a worldwide phenomenon, remaining atop the bestseller list in the UK for over four years. Hawking was also known for his dry humor, most recently wielded to devastating effect on John Oliver. Hawking passed away from complications due to ALS on Wednesday, but his contributions to astrophysics guarantee his name will live on long into the future.
For a while there, we had a good old fashioned hostile takeover on our hands. Singapore-based chip giant Broadcom was very keen on snapping up San Diego-based Qualcomm (the folks behind the chipsets in a huge number of Android phones available in the U.S.). Initially, they tried to lowball Qualcomm, with a buyout offer of about $100 billion (yeah, that was called a lowball offer). When that didn’t work, Broadcom got hostile, nominating an entire new board of directors friendly to an acquisition that Qualcomm shareholders would’ve been able to vote on. That vote will never happen — the Trump administration blocked the initial acquisition bid, rendering any change to the board of directors moot. The Trump administration cited national security concerns related to United States competitiveness in the semiconductor industry. Hock Tan, CEO of Broadcom, disagreed with the assessment, but ultimately threw in the towel — Qualcomm, for now, will remain independent.
A lot of people have things to say about the internet, and usually it’s fine if you don’t listen. When it’s the guy who invented the World Wide Web saying them, then maybe you take notice. The Web turned 29 this past week, and that prompted the Web’s inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, to write an op-ed for The Guardian reflecting on his brainchild’s mid-life crisis. The op-ed talks about the need to get the entire world connected to the Web, but only if it’s a Web worth connecting to. It’s worth a read in full, but Berners-Lee goes in on the tech giants, warning that companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google have become so powerful that their wealth and profit motives are preventing innovation. He also mentions how the sheer size of those platforms is part of what allowed misinformation campaigns like the one that took place during the 2016 elections. His recommendations? More regulation and a plea to internet businesses to stop looking at advertising as the sole means of creating a business on the Web.
So, I always thought part of the fun of buying furniture from IKEA was getting to put it together when you got home. Maybe that’s the Lego fan in me! Anyway, not everyone agrees with me, and that’s why IKEA bought on-demand chore-doer app TaskRabbit last year. This week, we learned why a furniture company took the unusual step of purchasing an app developer — in some markets in the United States, you can now use the app to get people to come to your house and assemble your IKEA furniture for you. The service starts at $36, and is available in most markets that TaskRabbit has already worked its way into.