Microsoft’s CFO is keeping an eye on gaming now that it does $10 billion in annual revenue

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., listens during the Viva Technology conference in Paris, France, on Thursday, May 24, 2018. 

Marlene Awaad | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., listens during the Viva Technology conference in Paris, France, on Thursday, May 24, 2018.

Stifel on Wednesday published a note saying it has lowered its rating for Facebook shares from “Buy” to “Hold,” saying political and regulatory blowback could restrict how the company operates in the long term.

“Facebook’s management team has created too many adversaries — politicians/ regulators, tech leaders, consumers, and employees — to not experience long-term negative ramifications on its business,” the firm said in a note.

The lower rating comes after a rough year in which Facebook has experienced numerous scandals, a 30-million user data breach, declining and stalling growth in key markets, an executive exodus and its worst stock performance since going public in 2012.

Stifel also published the latest results from an on-going survey of Facebook users.

The results showed 79 percent of those surveyed now believe Facebook’s impact on society is neutral or negative, compared to 73 percent in survey results published by the firm in January. The survey also found that 60 percent of respondents said they rarely or never used Facebook Stories, Marketplace or video, which are some of the company’s key new products.

Stifel said there is no downside to holding Facebook shares, but the firm no longer believes the company’s upside is what it once was.

“We believe Facebook will struggle to return to the company that it once was or that investors expected it to be in the long run,” the note reads. “We prefer Amazon, Alphabet, and Netflix, as U.S.-based mega caps with similar thematic trends and more stable operating environments.”

Facebook board: Sandberg's request to probe Soros 'entirely appropriate'
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Microsoft’s CFO is keeping an eye on gaming now that it does $10 billion in annual revenue

Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood speaks at the annual Microsoft shareholder meeting in Bellevue, Wash., on Nov. 29, 2017.

Jason Redmond | AFP | Getty Images
Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood speaks at the annual Microsoft shareholder meeting in Bellevue, Wash., on Nov. 29, 2017.

Microsoft has been in the gaming business since the turn of the century. Finally it matters to the company from a financial standpoint.

“Amy Hood, our CFO, she likes to tell me I’ve made the spreadsheet now, and she says that can be a good thing, and I’m on the spreadsheet. So she’s going to pay attention,” Microsoft’s executive vice president for gaming, Phil Spencer, said on stage at the Barclays Global Technology, Media and Telecommunications Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Today Microsoft is one of the top public companies by market capitalization, alongside Amazon and Apple. Sales of Xbox consoles and online services means Microsoft is less dependent on revenue from other products, like Windows, Office and enterprise software. In its 2018 fiscal year, which ended on June 30, Microsoft surpassed $10 billion in gaming revenue for the first time.

Spencer, who joined Microsoft’s senior leadership team alongside Hood and CEO Satya Nadella last year, pointed to several investments the company has made in gaming recently, building on earlier moves like the $2.5 billion Mojang acquisition. and its purchase of game-streaming company Beam, which has since been rebranded to Mixer.

“We’ve acquired and started seven new first-party studios in the last year. We obviously don’t do that without tremendous support from Satya and Amy,” Spencer said. “We understand content is a critical component of what we’re trying to go build and the support from the company has been tremendous.”

One of Microsoft’s stated growth opportunities in the future is cloud-based gaming, which could make the technical limitations of consumers’ devices less important and expose Microsoft’s gaming content for wider consumption. Spencer talked loosely about its cloud gaming initiative, called, Project xCloud, on Wednesday.

“We focus first on an Android phone because there’s over a billion Android phones on the planet and it’s a place that the content that we’ve natively built up over the past decades on our platform hasn’t been able to reach,” Spencer said.

This strategy builds on Microsoft’s past efforts to bring richer capabilities to Android. But Google, the company behind Android, has started working on cloud gaming with its Project Stream initiative, Spencer said. And meanwhile Amazon, which is the leader of the cloud infrastructure market, has its own gaming division, he said.

“We’ll have multiple business models that will work with streaming, but the connection of streaming with the subscription model makes a ton of sense,” Spencer said. “You see it in music. You see it in video. So you can look at Project xCloud and you can look at something like Game Pass, and you can see there’s natural synergies.”

On stage, Barclays asked Spencer how Microsoft differentiates from gaming subscription offerings from EA and Sony.

“For us, it’s all about how we reach 2 billion gamers,” Spencer said.

“If you build the market around a couple hundred million people that are going to own a game console or a high-end gaming PC, then your business model diversity can actually narrow because your customers are narrow. But when you think about reaching a customer with this content where their only compute device could be an Android phone, you think about, well, what are all the ways that that person pays for content if they do at all today?”

Microsoft will bring its Game Pass subscription service to PCs, and eventually it will be available on every device, Spencer said.

[“source=cnbc”]

Google is shutting down chat app Allo

Google plans to kill chat app Allo by the middle of next year, the company said in a blog post, confirming a report earlier on Wednesday about the product’s imminent demise.

Despite owning the world’s dominant smartphone operating system in Android, Google has never been able to create a chat experience to rival Apple’s iMessage or Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp.

Allo, which launched two years ago to much fanfare, will only work until March 2019, at which point users will have to download any conversations they want to save. Meanwhile, Google will focus fully on the development of Messages, its other chat app for Android phones. Earlier this year, Google announced that it was working with mobile carriers on a new Rich Communication Services (RCS) standard, an upgrade to classic SMS texting, to make messaging work better across Android devices, and bring users features like read receipts and seamless group chats.

That initiative was the beginning of the end for Allo, which saw its product lead defect to Facebook earlier this year.

Google also said in its blog post that it plans to support another one of its chat apps, Hangouts, until it makes two of its enterprise apps, Hangouts Chat and Meet, available for non-paying users.

A Google employee tweeted earlier on Thursday that Meet and Chat would launch for regular consumers next year:

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Why the US government is so suspicious of Huawei

A man walking past a Huawei P20 smartphone advertisement is reflected in a glass door in front of a Huawei logo, at a shopping mall in Shanghai, China December 6, 2018. 

Aly Song | Reuters
A man walking past a Huawei P20 smartphone advertisement is reflected in a glass door in front of a Huawei logo, at a shopping mall in Shanghai, China December 6, 2018.

The arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada for possible Iran sanctions violations yesterday has deeper roots in a difficult legal history between the hardware giant and U.S. regulators and intelligence agencies.

The U.S. government has spent the better part of the last decade taking issue with the company over topics including the firm’s alleged espionage ties to the Chinese government and allegations of a long history of intellectual property theft. Huawei is one of China’s largest companies, with a reported $100 billion in revenue in 2018 and 180,000 employees across 170 global offices.

Starting around 2010, U.S. intelligence officials began warning agencies, and then private companies, of what it said were clear-cut cases of the company serving as a proxy for espionage conducted by the Chinese government, a claim frequently made publicly by former National Security Agency director Michael Hayden.

In 2012, the U.S. House Intelligence Committee released a report which followed an investigation into the company and its competitor ZTE.

“The Committee received almost no information on the role of Chinese Communist Party Committee within Huawei or specifics about how Huawei interacts in formal channels with the Chinese government,” the report said. “Huawei refused to provide details about its business operations in the United States, failed to disclose details of its dealings with the Chinese military or intelligence services and would not provide clear answers on the firm’s decision-making processes.”

At that time, the Intelligence Committee also called into question the company’s dealings in Iran, which Huawei had pledged to scale back in accordance with international sanctions.

“Huawei refused to provide any internal documents relating to its decision to scale-back operations in Iran or otherwise ensure compliance with U.S. laws,” the report said.

Huawei has also had trouble breaking into the U.S. market because of the U.S. intelligence reports. In 2011, the company tried to acquire 3Leaf, a deal that was nixed after government pressure.

The company’s equipment has been banned by several different agencies because of the espionage and security fears, and those bans ramped up in 2018, when President Trump disallowed U.S. government use of Huawei products and those made by ZTE, following a CIA and NSA warning in February. In January, AT&T abandoned its plans to launch a new flagship phone from Hauwei.

Huawei was also heavily rumored to be behind Trump’s decision to stop the Broadcom/Qualcomm merger. Also this year, a start-up backed by Microsoft and Dell, sued Huawei for alleged widespread IP theft. Most recently, the FCC also banned Huawei equipment from small and regional carriers earlier this year.

Huawei has strongly denied the claims made against it. Donald Purdy, both a Huawei executive and the former top cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security, said in an op-ed in Fortune in June that the moves would hurt development expansion of 5G service in the U.S.

“Policymakers should bear in mind that overreaching or poorly targeted regulations usually have unintended consequences, such as those that will surely result from the FCC’s proposal to force rural carriers to remove China-sourced equipment from their networks,” he said. “In many cases, Huawei’s is the only equipment that America’s small, independent carriers can afford.”

[“source=cnbc”]

Untuckit, the company known for its untucked shirts, is looking to raise money at a valuation greater than $600 million

Shoppers browse clothing inside an Untuckit LLC store at the King of Prussia mall in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania,  Oct. 20, 2018. 

Jeenah Moon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Shoppers browse clothing inside an Untuckit LLC store at the King of Prussia mall in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania,  Oct. 20, 2018.

Men have worn untucked shirts for years. When a company came along to sell only shirts that are designed to be untucked – not surprisingly that market turned out to be pretty lucrative.

That company, known as Untuckit, has hired a prominent investment bank to raise money and help fuel its growth, according to people familiar with the situation. Untuckit is seeking a deal that will value it at more than $600 million and has Morgan Stanley out looking for the funds.

In doing so, it follows a similar path forged by other brands like sustainable sneaker brand AllBirds, which in October raised $50 million from T. Rowe Price, Fidelity and Tiger Global.

Untuckit has roughly $150 million in sales and is profitable, the people said. It raised $30 million from venture firm Kleiner Perkins last June, reportedly valuing it at more than $200 million.

The people asked not to be named because the information is confidential. Untuckit and Morgan Stanley declined to comment.

Untuckit is the brainchild of Executive Chairman Chris Riccobono and CEO Aaron Sanandres. Riccobono had been struggling to find a dress shirt that wasn’t too big or too baggy. He worked to develop a professional solution with his fellow Columbia Business School classmate.

The two launched the brand online in 2011. Four years later, they opened its first brick-and-mortar store in New York’s SoHo district. The co-founders were early believers in the idea that e-commerce companies can benefit from storefronts, which can help to alleviate marketing and delivery costs.

Untuckit now has 50 stores nationwide and has said it aims to open 100 stores over the next five years.

The brand has also expanded beyond men who want to go untucked. It now sells shirts, dresses, tees and jackets for women, as well as shirts and bottoms for boys.

[“source=cnbc”]

Why the US government is so suspicious of Huawei

A man walking past a Huawei P20 smartphone advertisement is reflected in a glass door in front of a Huawei logo, at a shopping mall in Shanghai, China December 6, 2018. 

Aly Song | Reuters
A man walking past a Huawei P20 smartphone advertisement is reflected in a glass door in front of a Huawei logo, at a shopping mall in Shanghai, China December 6, 2018.

The arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada for possible Iran sanctions violations yesterday has deeper roots in a difficult legal history between the hardware giant and U.S. regulators and intelligence agencies.

The U.S. government has spent the better part of the last decade taking issue with the company over topics including the firm’s alleged espionage ties to the Chinese government and allegations of a long history of intellectual property theft. Huawei is one of China’s largest companies, with a reported $100 billion in revenue in 2018 and 180,000 employees across 170 global offices.

Starting around 2010, U.S. intelligence officials began warning agencies, and then private companies, of what it said were clear-cut cases of the company serving as a proxy for espionage conducted by the Chinese government, a claim frequently made publicly by former National Security Agency director Michael Hayden.

In 2012, the U.S. House Intelligence Committee released a report which followed an investigation into the company and its competitor ZTE.

“The Committee received almost no information on the role of Chinese Communist Party Committee within Huawei or specifics about how Huawei interacts in formal channels with the Chinese government,” the report said. “Huawei refused to provide details about its business operations in the United States, failed to disclose details of its dealings with the Chinese military or intelligence services and would not provide clear answers on the firm’s decision-making processes.”

At that time, the Intelligence Committee also called into question the company’s dealings in Iran, which Huawei had pledged to scale back in accordance with international sanctions.

“Huawei refused to provide any internal documents relating to its decision to scale-back operations in Iran or otherwise ensure compliance with U.S. laws,” the report said.

Huawei has also had trouble breaking into the U.S. market because of the U.S. intelligence reports. In 2011, the company tried to acquire 3Leaf, a deal that was nixed after government pressure.

The company’s equipment has been banned by several different agencies because of the espionage and security fears, and those bans ramped up in 2018, when President Trump disallowed U.S. government use of Huawei products and those made by ZTE, following a CIA and NSA warning in February. In January, AT&T abandoned its plans to launch a new flagship phone from Hauwei.

Huawei was also heavily rumored to be behind Trump’s decision to stop the Broadcom/Qualcomm merger. Also this year, a start-up backed by Microsoft and Dell, sued Huawei for alleged widespread IP theft. Most recently, the FCC also banned Huawei equipment from small and regional carriers earlier this year.

Huawei has strongly denied the claims made against it. Donald Purdy, both a Huawei executive and the former top cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security, said in an op-ed in Fortune in June that the moves would hurt development expansion of 5G service in the U.S.

“Policymakers should bear in mind that overreaching or poorly targeted regulations usually have unintended consequences, such as those that will surely result from the FCC’s proposal to force rural carriers to remove China-sourced equipment from their networks,” he said. “In many cases, Huawei’s is the only equipment that America’s small, independent carriers can afford.”

[“source=cnbc”]

Obamacare enrollment sinks 11% — historically low unemployment is at least partly to blame

Sign-up rates for Obamacare health coverage have fallen 11 percent from the same time last year, but at least part of the decline is being attributed to something good.

More Americans are getting their health insurance from employers thanks to the tightest U.S. labor market in nearly 50 years, health policy experts say. Low unemployment rates, at 3.7 percent in October, mean fewer people need to buy insurance on the federal Affordable Care Act exchanges, they say.

President Donald Trump’s changes to the ACA are still being blamed for a lot of the drop. It’s the first enrollment season since Congress repealed the so-called individual mandate, a key part of former President Barack Obama’s health-care law. The mandate imposed a tax on the uninsured to persuade people to buy insurance instead of paying a penalty.

The repeal of the federal mandate last December, along with Trump’s push for cheaper, less comprehensive short-term health plans and a substantial slash in outreach funding, was expected to damper ACA enrollment rates this year.

Consumers still have another week to sign up, so researchers can’t draw any hard conclusions until the final numbers are in.

Policy experts are also taking a close look at states such as New Jersey, which enacted its own individual mandate in May. As of Dec. 1, the Garden State saw enrollment numbers down 13 percent compared with the same time last year, according to figures released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Historically low unemployment

Regardless, the tight labor market is helping reduce dependence on the federal program, said Joel Cantor, the founding director of the Center for State Health Policy at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

“The economy has increased employment rates and encouraged more firms to offer decent benefits in order to be competitive in labor markets,” he said.

While the ACA law doesn’t require small businesses to offer health coverage, more may now be doing so to attract and retain workers, he said.

The unemployment rate in New Jersey is at its lowest level since June 2001, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. It fell to 4.1 percent in October after remaining at 4.2 percent for three months. The national unemployment rate is 3.7 percent, its lowest level since 1969.

Chris Sloan, director at Avalere Health, said it’s too soon to quantify whether higher employment, the end of the mandate penalty or short-term plans are impacting overall exchange open enrollment. He notes that the exchange market is primarily a low-income market of people who receive subsidies.

“It’s way too early; we don’t have any way to quantify these effects yet,” he said.

Additionally, Sloan said he doesn’t think the end of the mandate is a big deal, because it was so easy to get out of it even during the Obama administration.

“The Obama administration, and subsequently the Trump administration, did not enforce it; and it’s hard to have a powerful mandate if the administration is giving millions of exemptions and creating really broad exemption categories, which the Obama administration did for political reasons,” Sloan said.

Cynthia Cox, director of the Program for the Study of Health Reform and Private Insurance at the Kaiser Family Foundation, agreed with Cantor’s assessment, adding the economy is improving and “when the economy improves, people have jobs and don’t have to get health-care coverage elsewhere.”

However, she added that the economic impacts on health coverage would vary by state.

Massachusetts, Vermont and the District of Columbia, which operate on locally run exchanges, have also passed laws restoring the individual mandate. As of Nov. 26, enrollment in Massachusetts is up 4 percent compared with last year. Massachusetts’ unemployment rate was 3.5 percent in October. Data isn’t yet available in Vermont and D.C.

Nearly 90,000 people have signed up for health coverage through New Jersey’s Obamacare marketplace so far this season, CMS data show, down from 104,142 this same time last year.

Meanwhile, Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration has been pushing for public awareness on open enrollment. On Monday the governor warned residents they had 12 days left to sign up for coverage.

Looking ahead to enrollment deadline

Open enrollment began Nov. 1 and runs until Dec. 15 in most states. People who do not sign up for an Obamacare plan by the end of open enrollment will not be able to obtain coverage until the fall of 2019, unless they have a so-called qualifying life event such as getting married or having a child.

Cox of Kaiser said it’s worth considering whether New Jersey residents know the state enacted its own individual mandate and assessing how big the New Jersey governor’s outreach was. Cox also said it’s worth seeing whether the newly created jobs in New Jersey provided health coverage.

Judy Solomon, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington think tank, said the tighter labor market could possibly be playing a factor in lower enrollment but qualified that it would likely vary by state.

Solomon said it’s worth waiting until the Dec. 15 deadline before reaching any conclusions.

“I’m not sure the mandate [in New Jersey] itself would drive enrollment, because there isn’t a lot of knowledge about repeal and likely about N.J. adopting its own,” Solomon added. “We’ve been worried about the impact of cuts in outreach and enrollment assistance but seems like N.J. is doing at least some outreach on its own and the state has seen decreases in premiums.”

Most policy experts expect to see a surge in enrollment as states near the mid-December deadline.

[“source=cnbc”]

Microsoft is making its first web browser for the Mac in 15 years

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at a company event in New York in May 2017.

Source: Jason DeCrow, AP Images | Microsoft
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at a company event in New York in May 2017.

Microsoft’s web browsing technology is coming back to the Mac.

On Thursday Microsoft said that its Edge browser, which was introduced in 2015 as part of Windows 10, will be coming to the Mac as part of a broader rethinking of the company’s browser strategy.

Edge was one of the biggest new features of Windows 10 when it became available in mid-2015. But it hasn’t taken off, despite Microsoft’s attempts to promote it in its own properties, like the Bing search engine. Google’s Chrome had around 62 percent share in November, while Edge had about 2 percent, according to StatCounter. Apple’s Safari had 15 percent, and Microsoft’s old browser, Internet Explorer, had 3 percent share.

In the past few years, under the leadership of Satya Nadella, Microsoft has come to embrace open-source technologies more openly. It has added broader support for Linux in Windows and in the cloud, for example. Now, after depending heavily on its own browsing engine technology, Microsoft will make Chromium, the open-source heart of Google’s Chrome browser, a key part of Edge, essentially acknowledging that Google’s technology has become dominant.

Microsoft will also become a major contributor to the Chromium project as it looks to make Edge even more widely available.

“Microsoft Edge will now be delivered and updated for all supported versions of Windows and on a more frequent cadence,” Microsoft Windows corporate vice president Joe Belfiore wrote in a blog post on Thursday. That language implies Edge will become available for Windows 7, for one thing.

One report previously suggested that the company would release a browser to replace Edge. Instead, the company is refining Edge to benefit multiple constituencies.

“People using Microsoft Edge (and potentially other browsers) will experience improved compatibility with all web sites, while getting the best-possible battery life and hardware integration on all kinds of Windows devices,” Belfiore wrote in the blog post.

“Web developers will have a less-fragmented web platform to test their sites against, ensuring that there are fewer problems and increased satisfaction for users of their sites; and because we’ll continue to provide the Microsoft Edge service-driven understanding of legacy IE-only sites, Corporate IT will have improved compatibility for both old and new web apps in the browser that comes with Windows.”

This isn’t the first time Microsoft is building for the Mac, and it certainly isn’t the first time Microsoft is packaging up a browser for Apple’s Mac operating system. Apple offered Internet Explorer for the Mac but said it would stop coming out with new versions of the software in 2003.

Microsoft expects to have a preview build for developers to try in early 2019, Belfiore wrote.

[“source=cnbc”]

Apple is in talks to buy a violent Israeli TV show and sign Richard Gere as lead, dispelling the myth that it wants only family-friendly video

Actor Richard Gere filming on location for 'Arbitrage' on the streets of Manhattan on April 11, 2011 in New York City.

Bobby Bank | WireImage | Getty Images
Actor Richard Gere filming on location for ‘Arbitrage’ on the streets of Manhattan on April 11, 2011 in New York City.

Apple is in advanced talks to buy rights to a gritty Israeli TV show called “Nevelot” (English translation: “Bastards”) and adapt it for the U.S., beating out bids from competitors including Showtime, FX and Amazon, according to several people with knowledge of the deal. The show’s plot involves two military veterans who go on a youth-focused killing spree because they believe today’s kids don’t understand the sacrifices of their generation.

While the details are still being worked out, show-runners Howard Gordon and Warren Leight are in negotiations to reformat it for the American market, perhaps under a different name, according to people familiar. Both have had critical success as TV show-runners, with Gordon co-helming “24” and “Homeland” and Leight behind “In Treatment,” “Law and Order: SVU” and “Law and Order: Criminal Intent.”

Richard Gere is also in talks to star in the series. Apple and 21st Century Fox will be co-producing. The project was previously in development at HBO.

All sides are still talking, and the deal is not yet finalized. It could fall though, the people said, if certain agreements were not reached, including budget.

Apple, Gordon and Gere declined to comment. Leight did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Fox said no deal is done and declined to discuss details.

The purchase of a violent show seems in contrast to Apple’s traditionally prudish standards for apps it sells in the App Store. In that vein, the Wall Street Journal reported in September that Apple did not want shows that included violence, politics or rude language.

But multiple people who have spoken to Apple and have knowledge of their thinking in recent months say that’s simply not true, and TV-MA content is fair game.

Apple’s heads of programming, Zach Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, who started in June, have been working overtime to dispel the myth that Apple is interested only in family-friendly material.

In general, Apple wants high-impact content based on things people have heard of, like books, franchises or ideas that have resonance, according to people who have spoken to the company. It’s not wedded to existing formats that need commercial breaks, emphasizing unusual formats like anthologies and content that doesn’t fit within the traditional 30-minute and 60-minute time slots. The company is emphasizing it’s looking for “different” content, as long as it has substance and isn’t gratuitous.

The push is pitting them directly against deep-pocketed distributors like Netflix and Amazon, who also are hungry for content that is likely to get acclaim. Apple has indicated it is willing to pay premium prices for shows that have awards potential.

Looking for Apple’s ‘Breaking Bad’

Van Amburg and Erlicht, who were previously presidents of Sony Pictures Television, are highly respected in the entertainment industry. One of their biggest successes was bringing “Breaking Bad” and its showrunner Vince Gilligan to Sony.

The duo has made it very clear they are now looking for Apple’s version of the series, which revolved around an high school teacher turned meth dealer.

But so far, the projects Apple has announced aren’t rocking the boat. “Amazing Stories” has been described as a softer version of Netflix’s “Black Mirror,” while “Top of the Morning” is a broadcast news drama — basically a safer version of HBO’s “Newsroom,” as one person characterized it.

Despite the push for its “Breaking Bad,” Apple is not only interested in adult content. It’s also in the market for kids’ programming, focusing on buying shows for preschoolers this year. Starting next year, the company will start looking at shows for school-aged children. It is expected Apple will have parental controls to help parents shield children from watching inappropriate content.

The immediate goal is to build a content library for an upcoming media service, several people said. At some point next year, Apple will announce the product and offer the content for free on its devices. The first slate of shows have a tentative deadline of spring 2019, and the company is expected to spend $4.2 billion on content through 2022 per Variety.

But in conversations with TV show creators and agents Van Amburg and Erlicht have also painted a long-term vision of more advanced interactive and immersive content. These plans are not imminent and are not driving which shows they’re aiming to buy, but are rather an example of the kind of advantages Apple could bring to the table.

Some industry executives have questioned if Apple has a chance to steal eyeballs away from Netflix, Amazon and other industry leaders considering the already competitive landscape. WarnerMedia has indicated it too is willing to invest heavily into new shows and movies.

Still if the money is there, there’s no reason for show makers to turn it down. More services mean more players to bid up prices. As one executive noted, everyone is more than happy to take Apple’s money until it ends.

[“source=cnbc”]

The Fed is fighting 4 inflationary trends it can’t control, Cramer says

Fed fighting trends it can't control, says Cramer

Fed fighting trends it can’t control, says Cramer   4 Hours Ago | 01:17

The Federal Reserve is navigating four trends that it can’t control, but that directly affect its policies, CNBC’s Jim Cramer said Thursday after the stock market recovered from a massive intraday decline.

Stocks mounted a recovery late Thursday after the Wall Street Journal reported that Fed officials are seriously considering taking a wait-and-see approach to the central bank’s 2019 interest rate plans after a widely expected rate hike in December.

But four disruptive trends — decreasing immigration, state-level minimum wage boosts, a nationwide lack of truckers and the ongoing trade dispute between the United States and China — are turning into an “awfully awkward situation” for the Fed, which is tasked with keeping inflation under control while keeping the economy humming, Cramer said.

“The Fed is fighting four trends that it doesn’t have any control over that are creating inflation,” the “Mad Money” host said.

First is President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigration, which translates into fewer workers, especially those willing to take lower-wage jobs, and therefore higher wages. Second are state-level minimum wage boosts that amount to government-mandated wage inflation.

Third is the countrywide truck driver shortage, which has become “a major reason for all sorts of companies to raise prices … in order to make their customers eat higher shipping costs,” Cramer explained.

Fourth, but certainly not least, is the United States’ trade dispute with China, further escalated this week by the arrest of the CFO of Huawei, one of China’s most important companies. While Trump and China’s president seemed to agree to a ceasefire over the weekend, the arrest “makes the odds of a good trade deal most unlikely,” Cramer argued.

All four of these ongoing issues directly affect the Fed’s policy, and that’s what’s putting this independent entity in a bind when it comes to planning for the year ahead and maneuvering other major, economy-altering changes like the rise of workplace automation.

“Think about it: the Fed can’t change immigration laws. The Fed can’t lower the minimum wage. The Fed can’t train more truck drivers. The Fed can’t stop Trump from raising the tariffs,” Cramer said. “So what can it do? Well, they can make it too expensive, or too scary, for businesses to hire more people.”

Cramer, who has argued that the Fed should take a data-dependent, wait-and-see approach to its rate hike agenda, again called for more “common sense” and “prudent data dependence” at the central bank.

But, for now, investors might want to consider keeping their powder dry instead of trying to buy the market’s swings, the “Mad Money” host advised.

“If you took a long-term approach, buying stocks into weakness today based on their intrinsic worth rather than their minute-to-minute value, you actually came out on top as the averages roared back from their lows,” he said. “However, there are two caveats. We don’t know what the White House is planning on trade and we don’t know how the Fed will react to tomorrow’s employment number. For today’s lows to hold, at least one of these institutions needs to be rational and prudent. Who knows? Crazier things have happened.”

[“source=cnbc”]