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Saturday, April 3, 2021
Notations From the Grid (Weekly Edition): #RandomThoughts On the Week That Was....
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Snap Plans Hardware Push With AR Spectacles, Drone
By Alex Heath
Snap is readying a new push into hardware with a more advanced version of its Spectacles smart glasses that feature displays capable of augmented reality effects, according to two people with direct knowledge of the device. It has also revived a years-long effort to build a drone.
Unlike past models of Snap’s smart glasses though, this version of the product is not meant for the consumer market but is instead aimed at developers and creators, said another person familiar with the plan. Those groups are already the creative force behind many of the wildly popular AR effects on the Snapchat app for mobile phones, known as lenses. Snap likely hopes the developers will come up with software experiences that can work on the new device, which could be offered to a wider group of customers at some point in the future.
You know you’re playing an extreme version of hardball when you’ve scared off Amazon. As we reported today, Broadcom has so alienated Amazon with its unfriendly tactics that the cloud computing giant is working on its own networking switch chip. Amazon’s plan is to no longer do business with Broadcom. If this isn’t a sign Broadcom has gone too far, what is?
Broadcom has long been in regulators’ crosshairs over similar issues. Last fall it reached a settlement with the European Union where it promised to stop requiring customers to buy exclusively from Broadcom if they wanted to buy from it at all. In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission is investigating Broadcom over a broader range of issues, including whether its recent spate of acquisitions was designed to give it more ability to raise prices, according to an article in Capitol Forum in December.
But as worrisome as regulatory investigations may be, driving a company as big and powerful as Amazon to develop its own chips is arguably a bigger problem for Broadcom. It raises the prospect that Amazon could sell those chips to its own customers. Alternatively, as our story mentioned, Amazon may switch to a smaller supplier of network chips—and its business could strengthen that smaller firm. Whichever course Amazon chooses, the outcome for Broadcom doesn’t look good.
ON THE HILL
'A TERRIBLE SIGNAL': Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, made a final call on Thursday for Biden to boost defense spending as the White House prepares to release the outlines of its fiscal 2022 budget request.
The Oklahoma Republican called Biden's forthcoming budget an indication of how seriously the administration is about countering China. A spending plan that keeps the budget flat, as is widely expected, or a cut "would send a terrible signal to Beijing,” Inhofe said.
"President Biden's preliminary budget proposes a real cut to military spending — the result of a budget that doesn't even keep up with inflation," he wrote in Newsweek. “That's why we find ourselves in the current situation, with the Chinese military on a modernization sprint and the U.S. military crawling forward. We can't spend our way out of the problem, but we can spend too little to give ourselves a chance."
‘THE LOOMING NAVAL CRISIS’: Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), meanwhile, is appealing to Biden to make a bigger Navy central to the U.S. strategy to confront Russia and China.
In a recent letter first reported by USNI News, she argues that “in the thirty years following the Cold War our participation in counter-terrorism campaigns distracted the nation strategically, and we have allowed our naval force to shrink, its readiness to decline, and our supporting industrial infrastructure to rust…”
“As we decreased our battleforce from 592 ships in 1989 to 375 in 1997 and [dropped] below the 300-ship barrier in 2003, we also reduced our daily global maritime presence from 150 ships to just over 100 across the same period,” writes the retired Navy commander, who represents a major shipbuilding hub in Virginia. “Meanwhile, China and Russia rushed to fill the vacuum we created.”
Luria called on Biden to act swiftly. “I suggest urgency, Mr. President, because the threat to our nation and its interests — on the seas— is proximate and real,” she wrote. “The looming naval crisis in the Pacific will be an all-hands-on deck effort and every available ship will be needed. We must quickly determine what manned and unmanned ships we can build and identify where within our shipbuilding industrial base they can be built — starting tomorrow.”