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Super Bowls have summed up the tech zeitgeist over the years, their commercial breaks measuring either the level of hype surrounding a sector or its growing importance in our lives.
Half of the ads shown during Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000 were promoting websites at the height of the dotcom mania. Unsurprisingly, most are not around now, with the defunct Epidemic.com not surviving the year and definitely missing its era. Sanity slowly returned and Google made its Super Bowl ad debut 10 years later and was joined by Intel promoting its new Core processors.
Super Bowl LVI on Sunday night was the first to feature crypto ads. Coinbase managed to crash its app with an on-screen QR code taking viewers to a free offer of $15 in bitcoin on its crypto exchange. Crypto.com featured the famous basketball player LeBron James in its ad. The half-time show had a galaxy of rapping stars on the pitch, including Eminem and Snoop Dogg, who have both paid six-figure sums for NFTs from the Bored Ape Yacht Club.
So how many of these crypto companies are going to be around for Super Bowl LXVI? The comedian Larry David doesn’t give any of them a chance. But the context is that he appears in a Super Bowl ad for the FTX crypto exchange, where he also pooh-poohs inventions such as the wheel, the lightbulb and the toilet.
Perhaps crypto needs some adults in the room, or a baby in the case of the returning E*trade infant. The online broker had a Super Bowl ad back in 2000, scoffed at the dead dotcoms with a ghost town ad in 2001 and persuades its famous talking baby to come back to work in an ad this year when he learns about the current craziness: “They’re taking financial advice from memes,” he’s told. As Larry David might say: curb your enthusiasm.
The Internet of (Five) Things
1. How to make money in crypto and how not to
Hannah Murphy has the story of the digital art collectors who saw the opportunity of NFTs early, while Moscow correspondent Polina Ivanova heads to the epicentre of small-scale crypto mining in Siberia, where farmers and factory workers have quit their jobs to mine from their own homes. Madison Darbyshire reports on the New York crypto couple implicated in the “heist of the century” .
2. Telcos want Big Tech to chip in on infrastructure
Europe’s largest telecoms providers are arguing they are spending massive sums to build networks that enable others to profit without the same costs. In an open letter published in the FT, they have called on lawmakers to compel Big Tech groups to contribute more to the cost of expanding internet infrastructure, accusing video streaming, gaming and social media groups of piggybacking on billions of euros of investment.
#techFT brings you news, comment and analysis on the big companies, technologies and issues shaping this fastest moving of sectors from specialists based around the world. Click here to get #techFT in your inbox.
3. Peloton’s new chief dismisses sale idea
Barry McCarthy, the former finance chief of Netflix and Spotify who was appointed the networked fitness group’s chief executive last week, told the Financial Times that he was moving from California to New York to seize a long-term growth opportunity, not to oversee a sale. He said he would pursue growth by doubling down on content, expanding to new countries and increasing its product portfolio.
4. UK Arm wrestling
Sir Alex Younger, the former head of British secret service MI6, has weighed into the political and corporate battle over Arm Holdings, saying the British government needed to “strain every sinew” to ensure that the world-beating chip designer was listed in the UK. Meanwhile, Anna Gross and Tim Bradshaw report on how SoftBank’s costly bet on the Internet of Things backfired.
5. Peter Thiel’s pivot to politics
The founder of PayPal and Palantir has “long argued that tech start-ups have given up on innovation and prefer to copy each other,” write Richard Waters and Lauren Fedor. An ally tells them that “he looks at the Republican party and says, ‘This institution is frozen in time’.”
Tech week ahead
Tuesday: Accommodation specialist Airbnb and games platform Roblox report quarterly earnings after the market close.
Wednesday: Earnings are due from network equipment provider Cisco Systems, semiconductor equipment maker Applied Materials, delivery service DoorDash and ecommerce provider Shopify. Chipmaker Nvidia is expected to report revenues of $7.41bn, up 4 per cent quarter-on-quarter and earnings per share of $1.22.
Thursday: Data analytics firm Palantir and streaming media hardware provider Roku report earnings, while chipmaker Intel discusses its business strategy at its Investor Day.
Tech tools — Nokia G21
Nokia’s latest smartphone, the G21, is available to buy in the UK from today. It comes in Nordic Blue (navy) and Dusk (dark taupe) with 64GB of storage, priced at just £150. The three-day battery life is impressive and so are the triple-lens cameras at the price. It’s ready for Android 12 and introduces Mask mode to affordable smartphones — the convenience of face unlock is there with or without a protective face mask.