Reading Zoom Tea Leaves


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No one really can predict what will happen to our collective behavior and the economy. latest wave of coronavirus infection. But I find it helpful to look for clues as to how virus-altered companies are spending their money.

For example: Zoom Video, the company whose video conferencing service has become a verb in the past 18 months, said on Sunday: will spend roughly $15 billion Acquiring a company called Five9 that makes software for businesses’ customer service call centers. As my DealBook newsletter colleagues say, Zoom bets $15 billion in phone calls.

There are two ways to interpret Zoom’s extravagance. The first is that the company operates from a strong position. More than a year of people addicted to Zooming (or Microsoft Team’ing or Google Meet’ing) has given the company the financial firepower to bet on new growth space. This reading is basically because Zoom doesn’t need to hold back and plan for a situation where people will stop relying entirely on online video for work, school, doctor visits, and family get-togethers.

Another interpretation is that Zoom believes our Covid-era behavioral changes are temporary and the company needs to defend itself. If Zoom is worried that people will walk away from screens, it needs to hedge its bets by reaching out to other areas like customer service.

(Stupid aside: Writing this newsletter encouraged me to listen to Aretha Franklin’s 1980s song. “Who Zooms Who?” Not the best Aretha song. Excuse me.)

The truth is, both of the things you read about this purchase are probably true. Zoom believes that some of our online video habits are permanent and at the same time, we won’t be hung up on our devices like in 2020. If we go back to endlessly hugging our friends and leaning over computers at our desks – and As Zoom’s competition heats up — the company needs to be split into different services to continue growing.

I also don’t want to read too much about a single corporate purchase. But I don’t want to ignore its deeper meaning. Zoom is just an app, yes, but its corporate decisions reflect a mood and beliefs about what can happen to all of us.

People who have cared about corporate finance for months have highlighted how the habits and attitudes we have adopted during the pandemic can continue. They try to predict profit margins and stock prices for companies like Zoom, Uber, and Amazon, but it’s also more than that.

Assessing what might happen to these companies is actually about trying to gauge how much we have changed due to the effects of the pandemic and the pandemic. even minor behavioral changes in our homes, in our schools, where we choose to live, transportation planning, the role of women in families and relationships.

Companies like Zoom are acting as canaries in the coal mine for what life after Covid can look like. may be general manager of salad company Sweetgreen doesn’t really know how long downtown offices will return to pre-Covid staffing levels, but how the company spends its money is a bet that office life will be more or less what it was in 2019.

We have been profoundly changed by the coronavirus in millions of ways, big and small. But we don’t yet know exactly what that means. All companies like Zoom and the rest of us can do is make informed predictions about the future and be prepared to be at least slightly proven wrong.

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  • White House vs. Facebook: President Biden and other US officials have spent the last few days blame facebook my colleague Cecilia Kang reported that it reinforces misleading information about Covid-19 vaccines. Facebook said it had been declared a scapegoat. Investigating misinformation, Renée DiResta wrote: nuanced Twitter thread About the role of social media companies, people with large followings, and all of us in spreading fake vaccine information.

  • What does it want from Chinese companies? Obedience, writes Times columnist Li Yuan. China is moving faster than officials in the United States or Europe in curbing abuses by tech giants, but “efficiency comes at the expense of laws and legal processes,” he writes.

  • Governments watching every move of critics: Governments have used smartphone surveillance software to fight criminals and terrorists. spying on journalists, human rights activists, political figures and others, according to an international alliance of news organizations. I have colleagues previously reported In this software from Israel’s NSO Group monitors every detail of a person’s cellular life and used by governments targeting your critics.

Here Cats watching the musical “Cats”. This is great. (I saw this video in the latest edition of the magazine. Brass Ring newsletter.)

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