Edge Roundup: May 24 — May 30, 2021

Leigha Schjelderup

Leigha Schjelderup

Bans, raids, & sustainability of crypto mining—Skeptics don’t have high hopes for Netflix’s gaming aspirations—Amazon Sidewalk experiments with wireless mesh Bans, raids, & sustainability of crypto mining—Skeptics don’t have high hopes for Netflix’s gaming aspirations—Amazon Sidewalk experiments with wireless mesh

Mondays are for media consolidation, apparently! Not long after it was reported AT&T and Discovery would be joining forces, Amazon announced that it has bought MGM for a whopping $8.45 billion. Hit franchises like James Bond and—well, mostly just James Bond—will now be under the auspices of the e-commerce, cloud, grocery, and seemingly soon-to-be-everything giant. The name’s Prime. Amazon Prime.

“The real financial value behind this deal is the treasure trove of IP in the deep catalog that we plan to reimagine and develop together with MGM’s talented team. It’s very exciting and provides so many opportunities for high-quality storytelling.” —Mike Hopkins, Senior VP, Prime Video and Amazon Studios

Personally, I’m still waiting for The Lord of the Rings series we were promised.

5G, Edge, & IoT

It’s easy to go on about telcos and their myriad efforts to monetize massive 5G network spends, but T-Mobile’s CEO Mike Sievert makes a fair point: 

"One of the questions I've gotten for years as we planned this midband-centric 5G mobile Internet pure-play is, 'How are you going to monetize 5G?' And I've always thought it was kind of a crazy question because 5G is just the next G. We have to do it. Our capital profile is reasonably consistent over time. So monetization of it is the same game plan we've always had, which is: grow our company, grow our share, and move people up the experience curve with us." —Mike Sievert, CEO, T-Mobile

Sort of refreshing, no? Innovation for the sake of natural growth and collective progress, rather than a get rich(er) (but not so quick) scheme.

That said, there are going to be some big winners when the infrastructure is all done and dusted...and it may not be the telcos themselves. A recent Bloomberg article points out that:

"History suggests there is greater value in creating the next use cases for these powerful 5G signals rather than controlling the pipes that transmit them...for companies in the trillion-dollar-market-cap club, such as Apple and Amazon, as well as the next batch of tech unicorns, 5G will be a launchpad for new applications promising another decade-plus of digital device addictions, profit growth and market domination." —Tara Lachapelle for Bloomberg

The title says it all, does it not? Is the 5G Race Worth Winning? Amazon Laughs.

So yes, 5G may just be “the next G,” but someone’s going to see some payoff at the end of the day. It’s safe to say that this won’t be due to subscription revenue, however enticing upgrading to spendier unlimited plans like the new “Magenta Max” may be. 

https://www.lightreading.com/5g/t-mobile-ceo-5g-is-just-next-g/d/d-id/769800

When it comes to driving innovation and new business use cases, hand in hand with 5G—as we all know—is edge computing. Intel’s new report “The Edge Outlook” reiterates this trend,  highlighting how the edge can mitigate data processing challenges and enable novel applications in retail, healthcare, manufacturing, and (listen up, telcos) network operational efficiency. 

The paper concludes with a call to action many in the industry (including us at Mutable) have been busy proselytizing:

“With the edge set to transform every area of life and business, CIOs must embrace collaboration and leverage ecosystems that allow them to capitalize on all its opportunities. Siloed approaches will fail. Fragmented strategies will hinder their ability to extract value from the edge and leave them lagging behind as their industry–and society–evolves around them.” —The Edge Outlook, Intel

https://www.zdnet.com/google-amp/article/edge-computing-is-coming-and-businesses-arent-ready/

Intel’s report contributor, respected technologist and AI expert Inma Martinez, notes that “the edge makes possible a world where all of a sudden, every single object has the potentiality for information–information that can be extracted and used in real-time.” For a lot of us, we can see this already in our own homes with IoT devices. 

Unless they explicitly opt out, owners of Amazon IoT devices such as Alexa, Echo, or Ring will be enrolled into “Sidewalk” as of June 8th. The wireless mesh service essentially pools bandwidth between neighbors, functioning as a quasi co-op to mitigate sporadic connectivity issues. When abstracted, the concept is rather idyllic, an act of “loving thy neighbor” should, say, Spot run outside the range trackable by an Amazon tile tracker or whatever. But skeptics call on people to be—well—skeptical: 

“In addition to capturing everyone’s shopping habits (from amazon.com) and their internet activity (as AWS is one of the most dominant web hosting services)... now they are also effectively becoming a global ISP with a flick of a switch, all without even having to lay a single foot of fiber.” —Ashkan Soltani, independent privacy researcher.

Amazon’s “omnipotence” aside, documented vulnerabilities of its products should have consumers wary of the security of the devices charged with safeguarding their homes and information.

Gaming(?)

Netflix's intended foray into gaming has garnered mixed responses since the news dropped last week. Sure, they’ve pursued “interactive entertainment” before—but a transition into full-on video games is a whole ‘nother ball game. One that some analysts don’t see them excelling at.

"I don't see how Netflix could possibly think it can develop and sell games...Disney has failed at least three times trying to do so, and its IP is much stronger than Netflix." —Michael Pachter, Managing Director, Wedbush

But who is to say that Netflix intends to follow the traditional gaming route? There’s a breadth of interactive entertainment models and approaches that are unexplored, and who better to “gamify” the streaming experience than the company that made it popular to begin with?

"Our members value the variety and quality of our content. Members also enjoy engaging more directly with stories they love - through interactive shows like 'Bandersnatch' and 'You v. Wild,' or games based on 'Stranger Things,' 'La Casa de Papel' and 'To All the Boys.' So we're excited to do more with interactive entertainment." —Netflix statement

Sure, big tech may “suck at games.” But what they’re good at is hooking people to their platforms—and it doesn’t take a game studio to do that.

Crypto

New segment alert! Crypto’s graced our headlines for too long not to make a more concerted effort to track updates, so let’s dive in:

Nvidia may be flirting with Crypto on the side—releasing new mining-specific processors back in February—but CEO Jensen Huang reiterated that gamers remain their main priority. In fact, he asserts that the cryptocurrency card (CMP) venture (and the $155 million in revenue generated from its first quarter) will help “save” the supply of GPUs for gamers:

“What we hope is that the CMPs will satisfy the miners and will stay in the professional mines.” —Jensen Huang, CEO, Nvidia

Gamers, however, aren’t the only purported victims of crypto mining. The practice’s massive energy use has driven Iran to temporarily ban mining operations until late September, a preemptive mitigation of summer blackouts. China has undertaken similar measures in the Inner Mongolia region, which accounts for around 8% of the world’s bitcoin mining due to cheap energy.

The Crypto King and “Dogefather” himself, Elon Musk, is the latest to take a more critical stance against the currency whose market he—in many ways—conducts like a choir

The meeting led to the establishment of the “Bitcoin Mining Council,” a consortium of leading miners to promote sustainability. The trajectory—buying $1.5 billion in bitcoin last February through Tesla only to ditch using it earlier this month— is a bit erratic, even for Musk.

Imagine thinking you’re about to bust a massive grow-op, but instead of discovering rows of marijuana you find...computers? Well, that’s what happened to one police unit in the UK after conducting a raid on a suspected cannabis farm near Birmingham.

While mining cryptocurrency isn’t illegal, stealing thousands worth in electricity definitely is—which is what initially tipped off the authorities to some sort of wrong-doing. In any case, if this isn’t an era-encapsulating headline I don’t know what is.

There you have it, short and sweet this week. Wishing a happy and restful Memorial Day to our friends in the US!