In this week’s tech newsletter, we look at Amazon’s and Apple’s plans to invest in the United States, plus the collapse in cryptocurrencies.
Each Friday, Farhad Manjoo, technology columnist at The New York Times, reviews the week’s news, offering analysis and maybe a joke or two about the most important developments in the tech industry. Want this newsletter in your inbox? Sign up here.
Good morning, readers! It was an interesting week in the tech world. Let’s get to the news.
U.S. Apple! U.S. Amazon!
One thread in the yearlong backlash against the tech industry concerns inequality. Many tech giants are built on scale — the idea that they can serve billions of customers while employing far fewer people than corporate giants of yore. Those dynamics are good for business, but they don’t make for great optics. There’s a danger that tech C.E.O.s come to be seen as out-of-touch coastal elites.
Well, they want you to know they aren’t.
Amazon is so all-in on America that it wants to open another headquarters here; on Thursday, the company announced the 20 cities that made its cut as possible locations. There’s one city in Canada — Toronto — and several coastal enclaves (New York, Washington, Los Angeles), but there’s oh-so-much Middle America here, too. Wherever it ends up is, at this point, almost beside the point; Amazon has won so much positive coverage from the selection process that it can already count the story as a big win.
Meanwhile, in its own very well-designed press release, Apple announced this week that it would bring a historic pile of cash back to America. The company has about $270 billion in cash, but it had parked most of it overseas for tax reasons. Under the new tax code signed into law last year by President Trump, Apple said, it will pay $38 billion in taxes on that money — the largest tax bill ever paid — and invest billions in new facilities and people in the United States. The company is also giving many of its employees a $2,500 bonus.
Apple’s announcement made Trump very happy. And the president’s victory lap is, I think, somewhat deserved. Trump and the tech industry have not had the warmest relationship, but it’s clear that his campaign — in which he constantly harangued Apple and Amazon for perceived slights — has shaken the industry from its presumption that everyone in the country loves it.
Just a few weeks ago, people brave enough to enter the market for Bitcoin and its many rival electronic currencies looked like lucky geniuses. They were suddenly making millions, even billions — and you were kicking yourself for overlooking the crypto boom.
Well, now you’re the genius (if still poor). Much of the cryptocurrency market took a bath this week, with Bitcoin falling below $10,000 at one point, more than 50 percent off its December peak.
Reddit was flooded with panicked crypto lovers, but, as it usually does, the market leveled off by the end of the week, and crypto-heads were professing to be back on board for the long haul. Godspeed, I guess.
Travis Kalanick, Blockchain and The Awl
There wasn’t so much else in tech news this week, so take some time to read some great magazine stories.
In Bloomberg Businessweek, Eric Newcomer and Brad Stone have a dishy inside look at how Travis Kalanick, Uber’s co-founder and former hard-charging C.E.O., fell from grace. Among the details: During one harrowing Kalanick-caused scandal, he fell to “his hands and knees and began squirming on the floor.”
Also, Steven Johnson has a fascinating piece in The New York Times Magazine about the uses for the blockchain, the technology undergirding cryptocurrencies. And in The New Yorker, there’s a lovely ode to blogging and The Awl, a much-beloved Brooklyn web magazine that sadly called it quits this week.