Elon Musk takes over Twitter
The news: Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk finally closed the $44 billion deal to take Twitter private but not before trying to back out of the deal and being sued by Twitter.
How it started: Musk’s desire to make Twitter profitable starts with its superusers.
The key takeaway: The world’s richest person now owns one of the largest platforms for real-time news and information.
Without the guardrails of a board or several key executives, Musk’s whims and ad-hoc changes to Twitter will have lasting effects as its users wrestle with possible replacements while value spirals.
2. Google backs out of gaming, axes Stadia
The news: Google pulled the plug on its Stadia gaming initiative in October, ostensibly as part of its “simplicity sprint.”
The miss: Stadia, which relied on Google Cloud to serve and stream games to devices like smartphones, Chromecasts, and PCs, could have been a revolutionary service, especially since it only required a controller because the heavy processing was being done in the cloud.
Video games were long thought to be recession-proof. The year started with a flurry of gaming acquisitions and consolidation that reinforced the notion that gaming could see unprecedented growth, particularly in cloud gaming and streaming and subscription services.
The key takeaway: With competitors like Microsoft, Amazon, and Meta expanding their own gaming services and platforms, it is only a matter of time before Google seeks to become a player in gaming.
Its ignominious Stadia retreat could hinder future collaborations and partnerships as well as alienate gamers who feel burned by the sting of Stadia’s demise.
3. Amazon Alexa brings back the (voices of the) dead.
The news: Amazon announced an experimental feature for its Alexa virtual assistant that can use the voice of deceased relatives. Requiring just a one-minute clip of the voice, potentially left on voicemail, the AI can, for example, read an entire story to a child.
Point: The technology could be used to help people with catastrophic injuries regain their voice or help those dealing with grief.
Counterpoint: Reanimating dead personalities and relatives crosses various ethical lines.
Key takeaway: This could be a situation where ethics is slow to catch up with the progress of artificial intelligence. Generative AI, voice synthesis, and deepfakes are becoming more ubiquitous and transcending novelty into an easily marketable and monetizable product.
4. TikTok’s unprecedented expansion despite the down economy
The news: Leveraging its popularity with Gen Z as well as its high level of engagement, ByteDance’s TikTok began its expansion into a super app in 2022.
We outlined the five possible growth areas for TikTok in August, which predicted its entry into ecommerce, streaming music, gaming, online learning, and search. Little did we know that TikTok’s expansion plans in all these areas were already well underway.
TikTok is considered the go-to platform for discovering new music, which has propelled obscure songs into the Billboard 100 and Spotify Viral 50. The company already runs a music app called Resso in India, Brazil, and Indonesia.
Mobile games: ByteDance already has mobile gaming aspirations. The Chinese tech giant produced $1 billion in player expenditures across its mobile games, a 16% increase from the year prior, per Sensor Tower. It could easily create a library of games exclusive to TikTok users.
Search: TikTok is already nipping at the heels of YouTube in user time spent, and the service beat Google as the most visited website in 2021. This positions it perfectly for a search play as well as a vital cog in any super app aspirations.
The big flex: TikTok’s biggest flex in 2022 is that it was one of the only companies hiring tech talent while the industry shed thousands of jobs.
Augmenting its braintrust with talent from its biggest competitors will only make TikTok more formidable as it spreads its tentacles across the technology landscape.