As November came to a close with much consumer interest undoubtedly geared toward technology products at relatively more-affordable-than-usual Black Friday prices, the month saw major tech news related primarily to industry giants – both past and present. From the hacking of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s account to Motorola’s announcement regarding the planned reboot of one of its iconic mid-2000’s flip phones, here are some of the biggest tech stories of November:
Google purchases Fitbit, under investigation for handling of patient records
Wearable technology company Fitbit, Inc. announced on November 1 that it would be acquired by Google LLC with a transaction closing date in 2020 (subject to customary closing conditions), according to a company press release. Under the terms of the deal, Google arranged for the purchase of the company at $7.35 per share, valuing the entity at approximately $2.1 billion, or just over half of the $4.1 million the company was estimated to be worth following its 2015 initial public offering.
The deal was announced just days before the news broke that Google was under federal investigation for its access to tens of millions of patient health records collected in collaboration with hospital network Ascension to train the tech giant’s AI platform, intended to “customize patient care,” according to Wired. In particular, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights announced it was looking into Google’s handling of the information with regard to patient privacy according to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, The Wall Street Journal reported. Google was already the subject of controversy earlier in the year due to its reported collection of patient records between 2009 and 2016 through access granted by the University of Chicago Medical Center, the Verge reported.
Following news of the investigation, some Fitbit users expressed their desire to stop using the company’s devices in interviews with CNBC and in social media posts, citing mistrust of Google. Fitbit was first started in 2007 (then called Healthy Metrics Research, Inc.) and since then, the company has sold more than 100 million devices and served more than 28 million users, according to CEO and co-founder James Park.
EBay selling StubHub ticket marketplace to viagogo
Just before Thanksgiving, it was announced in a press release that eBay would sell its online ticket marketplace service StubHub to another major online ticket market, viagogo, for $4.05 billion. As a result of its new acquisition – which is used almost exclusively by American customers – viagogo is now capable of offering hundreds of thousands of tickets to potential customers in over 70 countries.
As the second-largest e-commerce company in the U.S. behind Amazon, eBay is now rumored to be a potential acquisition target following this month’s deal and the previous spinoff of its former online payment service PayPal and sale of its Enterprise branch in recent years, according to CNET.
The two companies will continue to operate separately pending further announcement, and it was reported that they did not make any changes to their leadership staffing on the day of the announcement.
“It has long been my wish to unite the two companies,” Viagogo founder and CEO Eric Baker said the day of the announcement.
“This provides a great opportunity to expand our business, pursue new partnerships and execute our strategy. We expect a seamless transition for all our employees, partners and customers, and we are excited for what the future holds,” said StubHub President Sukhinder Singh Cassidy.
Motorola announces plans, releases designs for smartphone version reboot of iconic 2000’s flip phone
“Two screens. One phone.” This is how Motorola has advertised its most recent phone product release, a foldable smartphone reboot with the same name and similar design as its classic late 2000’s “flip-phone,” the Razr. As CNN puts it: “The new Motorola Razr is essentially a normal smartphone that you can fold in half.“
Motorola announced on November 13 that it would release the new smartphone version of the Razr in the beginning of 2020, starting at a price of $1,499. Following Samsung’s Galaxy Fold announcement earlier in the year, the Razr is the second foldable smartphone product that has been announced in 2019, according to Tech Radar. One feature present in the new Razr that hearkens back to the flip-phone era is the fact that calls can be ended when the device is closed shut.
The phone can be operated when both shut or opened and runs on the Android 9 Pie operating system designed with a custom gesture-heavy Motorola user interface that makes it simpler than the version run on typical Galaxy or Google Pixel smartphones, according to CNN. A recent patent submitted by Motorola for intricate sensor technology on the edges of a Razr-like smartphone design has fueled speculation that the device could have even more advanced features aside from its invisible hinge technology, per Digital Trends.
Iranian government reportedly ordered multi-day internet shutdown
Millions of internet users in Iran were unable to access the internet in mid-November after National Security Council officials ordered service providers to cut off service in what they claim was in the interest of national security, Newsweek reported. The blackout lasted for a week amid nationwide protests against the government-imposed gas price increases that have turned violent amid reports of vandalism and deadly clashes with Revolutionary Guard security forces.
The BBC reported that Iranian internet traffic was as low as 5% during the blackout and The Associated Press reported on November 24 that landline service had been restored, although mobile phone service “remained scarce.” While Iranian internet users were reportedly able to have some ability to visit exclusive domestic websites during the week long ordeal, there was no ability to access those available internationally.
“This is a very blunt attempt to control the information space in Iran by simply just denying individuals access to all information,” Adrian Shahbaz of Freedom House told Wired. “And it’s not going to work. Information is going to continue to spread by other means. And, actually, sometimes shutting off the internet just drives people to the streets.”
That concludes this month’s tech round-up, so be sure to check out Faronics’ blog to learn about important trends in the industry.