Studio Bytes - Issue #2

Studio Bytes - Issue #2

Hello Studio Fam, The great tech reset is upon us, a unique moment in our industry’s history where stakeholders are resetting expectations, investors are cautious to deploy capital and consumers are eager to embrace novel digital experiences Meanwhile, entrepreneurs are seizing the opportunity to push new ideas into the bottom of the market like Gas and BeReal.
Resets can also be found at the top of the market where Meta is pivoting to hardware and Google is defending itself from increasing antitrust scrutiny. Meta is worth today the same as it was in 2015 yet Apple is worth more than Google and Meta combined. Oh, and Twitter has a brand new owner. We can’t remember a time of more change and opportunity in tech. Feedback? -

Twitter Goes Private

Image by Getty Images

In case you somehow missed it, it’s official: Twitter is owned by Elon Musk. It’s only been a week and much of the rumor mill seems to be false. The most reliable information about what’s going on inside Twitter HQ seems to be in the form of Tweets from Elon and his new management team.

We reported last week on the rumors that Elon was to fire as many as ⅔ of Twitter’s staff. However the only significant departures confirmed so far have been among senior management: CEO Parag Agarwal, Head of Legal Policy Vijaya Gaade, Chief Commercial Officer Sarah Personette, and Chief Marketing Officer Leslie Berland.

Widespread layoffs now seem to be occurring in the midst of significant demands on Twitter’s product and engineering teams to ship new features soon. Perhaps fearing these cuts, some Twitter staff have demonstrated their commitment to their new boss by posting pictures of themselves sleeping at the office while on deadline to ship the new premium version of Twitter. Of course, this doesn’t count the fake laid off employees who tricked some mainstream news outlets.

That new premium experience is coming soon. Some of the most prolific users of Twitter are skeptical of the new subscription model. Of course Elon has been happy to engage with them.

Rumors that Elon was going to immediately reinstate some controversial accounts were also overblown. While Elon remains a free speech absolutist, he has made consistent public statements to Twitter’s advertisers that he is also committed to making Twitter’s ad experience better. And he confirmed that no banned accounts will be reinstated until a new moderation policy council is convened. You gotta stay on Truth Social for now, Donald.

Meta Stock Goes Back In Time

Meta's stock price has taken a beating. The company is now valued at the same level it was in 2015, and its core advertising business is still under assault by Apple. In light of these challenges, Meta has refocused its efforts on hardware for the AR and VR "metaverse."

However, this new strategy has not yet convinced investors, as evidenced by the continued decline of the stock in the face of new hardware launches.

Meta's core advertising business has been under attack by Apple since 2019 when Apple introduced a new feature in its Safari web browser that blocks third-party cookies by default. Similar features were extended to iOS which knee capped much of Meta’s surveillance advertising business on mobile. While Safari isn't the only web browser out there and many mobile users still prefer Android, Apple is unquestionably the dominant provider of digital technology for the highest earners and biggest spenders.

Just this year, Meta has spent over $10 billion on its foray into the metaverse without any profits to show for it. Meta did launch its next generation headset, the Meta Quest Pro, but reviews are mixed for the $1500 headset (see below for a roundup of the best reviews). But some are skeptical of these investments. In this week’s All In Pod, Chamath Palihapitiya broke down the various expenditures towards great technological advancements of the last century.

Image by All in Pod

According to Chamath, Meta’s investments in AR tech could represent “the single largest capital allocation program in capitalism history” if Meta continues its pace of investment. This means Meta’s AR program could potentially be larger than the Apollo Program’s missions to the moon, but with no discernible benefits to consumers or investors.

Studio Byte Of The Week

Some old tech has gotten a new life: say hello to the first civilian F-16 fighter jet!

Self Driving Reckoning: RIP ArgoAI

The race to commercialize autonomous driving technology has been going on for over a decade. ArgoAI was one of the many startups that was trying to create a viable self-driving business model. However, after several years of development, ArgoAI has been dissolved. Most employees were laid off but some were offered roles in the technology divisions of ArgoAI’s investors, Ford and GM. So, what went wrong?

One of the biggest problems ArgoAI faced was its reliance on expensive hardware upgrades to make a vehicle autonomous. This is in contrast to Tesla's approach which relies on cameras only to make its cars drive by themselves. Elon Musk has always been a huge critic of the hardware-based approach to autonomy taken by ArgoAI and other self-driving startups like Cruise, Zoox, and Waymo. “Anyone relying on lidar is doomed. Doomed!he once said.

Small Bytes: Meta Quest Pro Review RoundUp

The problem I have is that one company controlling the foundation of this second generation internet, this metaverse, is a terrible idea.- Marques Brownlee
The real magic happens when hardware meets software, and at least out of the gate, the Quest Pro offers some pretty impressive performance.- Sam Rutherford, Endgadget
A product that costs nearly four times as much as its predecessor needs to offer some truly unique and luxury features that early adopters feel they can’t live without…That is decidedly not the case here.- Kyle Orland, Ars Technica
It's far more an indicator of the direction things are headed than a signal that the future has arrived.- Ina Fried, Axios