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By Michelai Graham
Boardroom's Tech Reporter
January 28, 2024
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Tech Talk is a weekly digest by Boardroom’s Michelai Graham that breaks down the latest news from the world’s biggest tech companies and the future of industry-shaping trends like AI.

If you read anything crypto-related this week, it better be this story about a Denver pastor charged with crypto fraud after creating a token and pocketing more than $1 million.

A peek into today’s edition: 

  • Microsoft hits new high with $3T valuation
  • Bitcoin dips under $39K following ETF implementations
  • Amazon Web Services announces $10B investment in Mississippi

Microsoft Hits $3T Valuation and Lays off Nearly 2K Workers

Microsoft made history this week when it became only the second company after Apple to reach a $3 trillion market cap. This is the first time the enterprise software giant has reached the milestone, with new AI services driving revenue and momentum. The Information reports that Microsoft is building a new team focused on developing smaller generative AI platforms, though it’s unclear what this means for the company’s long-term investment in OpenAI.

Sadly, Microsoft’s big win comes with another big loss for its gaming workforce. The company announced this week that it’s laying off 1,900 employees across its Activision Blizzard and Xbox divisions, which amounts to 8% of its gaming sector. The cuts come three months after Activision officially came under Microsoft’s umbrella after much legal resistance. The layoffs impacted the Activision team the most deeply, and Blizzard president Mike Ybarra also announced his departure. Ybarra worked for Microsoft for two decades before taking on the role of Blizzard president to see the acquisition through. Blizzard co-founder and chief design officer Allen Adham is also departing Microsoft.

Bitcoin Briefly Tumbles Below $39K as ETFs Find Their Footing

Bitcoin briefly dipped below $39,000 earlier this week for the first time since early December 2023, prompting investors to liquidate over $100 million in an hour. The token has since rebounded and is trading above $40,000 again, though Bitcoin’s tumbling price is defying expectations that spot Bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) were going to boost the digital asset. The Financial Times reports that Bitcoin has lost 15% of its value since spot Bitcoin ETFs launched on Jan. 11. Investors liquidating their funds during the ETF launch period to profit off of the price of the cryptocurrency going up are primarily responsible. Now, mass liquidation is causing Bitcoin’s value to tank.

The first group of Bitcoin ETFs has been coined the “Newborn Nine” and despite the volatile market, these ETFs have purchased 95,000 Bitcoins. That’s almost $4 billion worth of collective assets under management.

Apple Vision Pro Sales Reportedly Top 180K During Pre-Order Weekend

The Apple Vision Pro will hit the mass market in less than a week, and MacRumors reported that somewhere between 160,000 and 180,000 headsets were sold over the pre-order weekend. Now, early users won’t find Netflix, Spotify, or YouTube apps on the device at launch, and there are only a couple hundred exclusive Vision Pro apps currently listed in the new headset’s app store. For comparison, Apple touts that it has 1.8 million apps available worldwide across its other devices.

Still, thousands have already flocked to purchase Apple Vision Pro devices (or should I say spatial computers?), despite delays in shipping dates that span as far as April. And let’s hope everyone buying a headset is ready to dish out $24.99 a month, or $499 for two years, for AppleCare Plus coverage since a cracked cover glass repair will cost $799 without it. Even with coverage, all accidental damages will cost $299.

More news updates from Apple:

  • Apple announced major changes to its App Store in Europe. Starting in March, European iOS users will be able to download apps and make purchases outside of the App Store, but developers will get a new fee.
  • The Vision Pro isn’t the only new tech Apple is working on. The Information’s Wayne Ma reported that the Big Tech giant is testing a new camera button for horizontal photos and videos on the iPhone 16, which is slated to drop this fall.
  • Apple is dishing out extra royalties to artists who upload a spatial audio version of their content on Apple Music.
  • Once again, Apple delayed the launch of its self-driving vehicle to 2028 and dropped some planned tech features.

  • Amazon Web Services announced a $10 billion investment in Mississippi to build two new data center complexes. This partnership marks the largest capital investment Mississipi has ever received, Amazon reports.
  • Web Summit CEO Katherine Maher announced that she’s stepping down from her role to take over the CEO spot at NPR. Maher joined the annual tech conference only three months ago after founder Web Summit removed Paddy Cosgrave after sharing criticisms about the conflict in the Middle East.
  • IBM synced up with the Recording Academy to launch “AI Stories with IBM watsonx,” a generative AI solution that can create GRAMMYs-focused editorial content. The platform will be available before and during the 66th Annual GRAMMY Awards.
  • Hogwarts Legacy topped the sales charts in 2023 with an estimated 22 million copies sold, beating out the Call of Duty franchise, which has held the top spot in sales since 2009, media research firm Circana reported.
  • Voice cloning startup ElevenLabs achieved unicorn status this week after closing an $80 million Series B funding round at a $1 billion valuation. The company is building AI tools that allow users to create and edit synthetic voices.
  • A batch of Google researchers responsible for building DeepMind’s initial AI models has departed the tech company to launch their own AI startup called Uncharted Labs. The new venture has already raised $8.5 million in funding and will focus on AI research and innovations.

I’m going to pull the bet I made here about Apple selling out of the first batch of Apple Vision Pro headsets and double down on it. Despite the price point, the people love Apple.