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The number one podcast about tech business and culture, from James "JR" Hennessy and Raph Dixon.
179 Episodes
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Tencent is one of the largest and most valuable companies on earth, with operations that touch just about every part of the digital economy in China and beyond. From WeChat to gaming to film production to payments, Tencent continues to expand far beyond its original station as a Chinese app developer. In this ep, we take a tour through Tencent, including its weird connections to a South African company. Classic Down Round material.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
This is a free preview of a premium episode. To subscribe to Down Round Premium and get access, head here. You thought that because COVID was long over you could stop hearing about GameStop. Wrong! Keith "RoaringKitty" Gill has returned, and the notorious meme stock has been pumping as a result. We took this as an excuse to revisit the GameStop story from the beginning, exploring the factors which led to the original phenomenon. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
This week, Apple held the keynote at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), where it traditionally announces its upcoming software updates. As predicted, the company announced its moves into generative AI – which it is bundling under the name Apple Intelligence – alongside a partnership with OpenAI. In this ep, we dive into the announcements, and what they mean for Apple going forward.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
This is a free preview of a premium episode. To subscribe to Down Round Premium and get access, head here. A few weeks ago, Microsoft announced its new Surface Laptop with Copilot + PC, which it intends to be a direct competitor with the MacBook Air. On the one hand, it's an interesting attempt to get Windows PCs back into competition. ON the other hand, it's also an attempt by Microsoft to wind LLMs an AI into its operating system. In this ep, we talk about the Apple/Microsoft rivalry, and whether these attempts to cram AI in at the operating system level will appease investors who are looking for revenue. Links Down Round on X Down Round on Instagram Down Round on TikTok See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
For a long time, it wasn't a great look for startups and big tech – outside of companies like Microsoft – to openly work with the military-industrial complex. That was for contractors like Raytheon and General Dynamics. Tech generally maintained the sunny disposition that it was better to enable world peace through well targeted digital ads. That has changed, and startups like Anduril are now positioning themselves as a new generation of military supplier, marrying Silicon Valley innovation with surveillance tools and military weaponry. In this ep, we look at the history of Silicon Valley and the military, and this new crop of weapons makers. Links Defence and Anduril unveil first Ghost Shark prototype ‘The machine did it coldly’: Israel used AI to identify 37,000 Hamas targets – The Guardian Down Round on X Down Round on Instagram Down Round on TikTok Sign up for Down Round Premium See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
In the first part of a two-part episode on Google and OpenAI's tough PR challenges of the past couple of weeks, we dive into Google's launch of AI summaries on the web, which led the venerable search engine to recommend pregnant women blast cigs and amateur chefs to mix glue into their pizza sauce. We chat about the rocky launch, what it means for Google, and how it might affect the web going forward. Later this week, premium subscribers can hear us talk about OpenAI's fight with Scarlett Johanssen and its own employees over NDAs. (Sign up here and you won't miss out!) Links Google CEO Sundar Pichai on AI-powered search and the future of the web – The Verge Down Round on X Down Round on Instagram Down Round on TikTok Sign up for Down Round Premium See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
It's time for another edition of DOWN ROUND Q&A. We solicited questions from both or premium members in Discord and our followers on X, and today we're answering them for you. We cover everything from macOS to LLMs to Boeing and smart homes. Links Down Round on X Down Round on Instagram Down Round on TikTok Sign up for Down Round Premium See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
This is a free preview of a premium episode. To subscribe to Down Round Premium and get access, head here. The pain for the gaming industry doesn't seem over, with Xbox closing studios, more layoffs, Sony fighting with its fanbase and growth looking sluggish. It raises one big question: has blockbuster game development outrun its ability to actually make money? In this episode, we return to the world of gaming to discuss Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, the increasingly fraught big budget gaming financial model, and a few fun digressions along the way. Links Inside Microsoft’s Xbox turmoil – The Verge Down Round on X Down Round on Instagram Down Round on TikTok See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Apple and Google are both on the precipice of announcing deeper integration of generative AI into their respective operating systems. Google's IO conference is this week, and reporting abounds that Apple has inked a deal with OpenAI to integrate GPT with iOS. There's a big question as to whether they're doing this because users actually want it, or because investors and the market thinks they should. In this episode, we talk about Google and Apple, what their AI implementations might look like, and just where this is all going. Also, a sad mea culpa for the Rabbit R1. Links Apple Nears Deal With OpenAI to Put ChatGPT on iPhone – Bloomberg Google I/O 2024 will be all about AI again – The Verge Sign up for Down Round Premium Down Round on X Down Round on Instagram Down Round on TikTo See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
This is a free preview of a premium episode. To subscribe to Down Round Premium and get access, head here. Quantum computing has been a research and academic pursuit for decades, but it has been picking up buzz over the last few years as both big tech companies and smaller startups get into the space. The Australian government recently announced a $1 billion investment into quantum startup PsiQuantum, which gives us an excuse to talk about it. What is quantum computing? Is it actually useful? Can I buy one? All will be answered, and more. WARNING: The words 'qubit' and 'entanglement' will be used.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Anyone who lives in Australia would be aware of Foxtel's new streaming box Hubbl, thanks to an absolutely overwhelming ad campaign pitching it. We talk about the Hubbl, and use it as an excuse to dive into streaming more generally, and what's been going on since the last time we talked about it. Links Foxtel faces its streaming apocalypse – AFR Down Round on X Down Round on Instagram Down Round on TikTok Sign up for Down Round Premium See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Well, it happened: the US passed legislation to force ByteDance to divest TikTok in the country. Now, the company technically has 12 months to make it happen. But is that the end of the story? In this episode, we discuss how we arrived at this point, what avenues TikTok has left, and who or what might acquire TikTok if it comes down to that. Links TikTok could soon be sold. Here's how much it's worth and who could buy it. – CBS Byte-Dance was told to sell TikTok or face a ban. There are legal complications – NPR Down Round on X Down Round on Instagram Down Round on TikTok See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Everything is chatbots now. Every company must become a purveyor of bespoke chatbots.The latest cab off the rank is Meta, which just unveiled Llama 3, the latest version of its open source LLM. But this time they have integrated it deeply into Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, whacking a big nasty chatbox over the searchbar in all these apps. In this episode, we talk about Meta's strategy in AI, and what Zuck might be cooking. Links The Dwarkesh pod with Zuckerberg Down Round on X Down Round on Instagram Down Round on TikTok See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
This is a free preview of a premium episode. To subscribe to Down Round Premium and get access, head here. As Downies will know well, one of the themes we're keeping an eye on is the number of products and product categories that are trying to replace the smartphone, which has been lagging in sales and hype of late. Two devices which pitched a bold new path forward are the Humane AI Pin and the Apple Vision Pro. Based on reviews, neither of them are looking very good at all. We discuss. Links Humane AI Pin review: not even close – The Verge See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Over the past few weeks, there has been a surprising amount of movement in the AI music space. Suno and Udio are two lavishly funded AI music generation startups which just launched new models, which allow you to make songs in a wide range of genres from prompts. While not perfect, they both sound pretty good. At the same time, Spotify is trialling AI-generated playlists, seemingly laying the groundwork for their own generative music. In this ep, we talk about the new models and what they might be used for. Links AI-Music Arms Race: Meet Udio, the Other ChatGPT for Music - Rolling Stone Former Google DeepMind researchers launch AI-powered music creation app Udio See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
This week, we're joined by Kyle Harrison, who is General Partner at Contrary, a US venture capital fund. As well as investing, Kyle writes the newsletter Investing 101 2.0, where he shares his various insights into the VC ecosystem – including where, in his view, it's all gone wrong. Kyle joins us to chat about the state of VC after the end of the tech boom, why he doesn't think anyone has learned their lesson, and what he thinks will happen with AI on both the tech and the investment side. Links The Puritans of Venture Capital – Kyle Harrison See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
This is a free preview of a premium episode. To subscribe to Down Round Premium and get access, head here. Sometimes a company merges with or acquires another, and it turns out to be a bad idea. That's OK. We all make stupid decisions. There's nothing to be ashamed of, even when we're talking about multibillion-dollar deals. Some of these bad acquisitions aren't just about a culture mismatch or poor due diligence, though. Some of them speak to executives making a bet on the future of the economy – and betting wrong. In this ep, we go through some of the worst tech acquisitions of all time, and why they're interesting.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
One of the great turnarounds in 21st century was the tobacco industry's shift toward a so-called 'smokeless' future – agreeing that cigs are pretty bad for you, and that a range of hi-tech vapes could be a less bad replacement. Of course, it hasn't actually worked out that well, with public health bodies and governments around the world cracking down on vapes for targeting kids with flashy influencer marketing campaigns and cool flavours. In this ep we talk about the rise of vapes, the changing tobacco industry, and new trends (Zyn, etc)See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
This is a free preview of a premium episode. To subscribe to Down Round Premium and get access, head here. This week, we're back on Apple. There are two big reasons: one, they're being sued by the United States on antitrust grounds. And secondly, multiple news reports suggest they are looking for a partner in the generative AI space – which might be Google, or Anthropic, or any number of others. We dig into these two stories, and what they say about the current state of tech – and why AI might be at a low point of the hype cycle.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Last week, it was reported that Elon Musk's Neuralink had successfully allowed a patient to play chess with his mind. It represents a small – and maybe a tad overhyped – step towards the company's goal for a full brain computer interface. In this ep, we discuss Neuralink, brain-computer interfaces, and exactly what Musk and others in the space are trying to achieve. Also, the big question: who is the market? Links Elon Musk wants to merge humans with AI. How many brains will be damaged along the way? – Vox Elon's tweet about 'Blindsight' See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
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