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In four years’ time, a quarter of us will be spending at least an hour a day in the metaverse, according to a report from the Gartner research firm today.
I’ve got no idea if this is a reasonable guess or they are dead wrong about what seems to me a profoundly unsatisfying medium at this early stage. Mind you, I remember the web through the Mosaic browser being just as klutzy back in 1993.
“From attending virtual classrooms to buying digital land and constructing virtual homes, these activities are currently being conducted in separate environments. Eventually, they will take place in a single environment — the metaverse,” says Gartner, defining it as “a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical and digital reality”. It will be powered by “a virtual economy enabled by digital currencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs)”.
This means businesses, who have adapted their offline activities for the web, will have to change again and move “from a digital business to a metaverse business. By 2026, 30 per cent of the organisations in the world will have products and services ready for metaverse”.
While the term “metaverse” suggests it will be all-encompassing, like the web, the danger is we could be faced with a series of parallel virtual universes if the likes of Facebook and Microsoft come up with their own versions of it. Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella emphasised the need for open standards to be developed in an FT interview last week. They were there for the founding of the web, but they are not in sight yet for the metaverse.
Lawmakers and regulators are already considering how to keep under control the next Worldwide Wild West. Tim Bradshaw reports the metaverse will be subject to stringent UK regulation, making tech giants behind the virtual worlds open to billions of pounds of potential fines, according to the experts whose work underpins the forthcoming Online Safety Bill.
In the US, cryptocurrency platforms fear they are about to face tighter regulatory scrutiny. The Securities and Exchange Commission has proposed new rules that could bring more digital asset exchanges under its purview.
The Internet of (Five) Things
1. Amazon and Nike weigh up Peloton bids
Amazon and Nike are separately evaluating bids for Peloton after a collapse in the market valuation of the maker of connected fitness bikes and treadmills in the past year. Peloton shares are up nearly 20 per cent on the news today. The FT Weekend podcast explores behavioural science and asks whether Peloton tricks us into working out.
2. Spotify apologises for Joe Rogan but refuses to ‘silence’ him
The music streaming service removed about 70 episodes of Joe Rogan’s podcast from its app over the weekend after musician India.Arie posted a video of him using the N-word multiple times on his show. Daniel Ek, Spotify’s chief executive, apologised to staff for the “incredibly hurtful” comments made by the popular podcaster but said he would not “silence” him, adding “cancelling voices is a slippery slope”.
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3. PriceRunner sues Google for €2.1bn
Swedish price comparison group PriceRunner has become the latest price comparison site to file a claim against Alphabet’s search business, with Google having been found by EU judges to be favouring its own comparison service.
4. UK tech sector seeks IPO reforms
Tech executives and investors have urged the government to speed up and deepen reforms to Britain’s listings regime to attract fast-growing start-ups to London, given concerns that momentum for initial public offerings could slow this year.
5. Toshiba wants to divide by two, not three
Toshiba has scrapped a contentious plan to split into three companies and offered an alternative proposal to break into two groups, sending its shares higher as it pledged to increase shareholder returns threefold. Under the new plan, the industrial conglomerate’s devices business, including semiconductors, is expected to be spun off and listed, with the infrastructure business set to remain under Toshiba.
Tech week ahead
Monday: Video game publisher Take-Two reports earnings after the bell, with investors eager to learn its take on Microsoft and Sony buying up studios and publishers, as well as its plans for Zynga, the casual games maker it acquired for $12.7bn in January.
Tuesday: Ride hailing outfit Lyft reports earnings, as does networked fitness group Peloton. In Japan, investors are bracing for another challenging quarter for SoftBank, after a turbulent stock market hit the investment group’s tech portfolio in the October to December period. Masayoshi Son, its billionaire chair and chief executive, is also likely to face questions over the departure of his close lieutenant Marcelo Claure and reports that Nvidia is preparing to abandon plans to buy SoftBank-owned chip designer Arm. Back in the US, Nellie Liang, a senior Treasury official, testifies in front of the House Financial Services Committee about plans to regulate stablecoins, amid concerns about the dangers posed by tether and others.
Wednesday: Lyft’s rival Uber reports earnings ahead of its investor day on Thursday. Walt Disney is expected to post a rise in first-quarter revenue, banking on a recovery in its theme parks and higher paying subscriber additions on its streaming platforms. Samsung’s latest Galaxy Unpacked event is expected to reveal the next versions of its flagship Galaxy S smartphones.
Thursday: Twitter is the last of the major US social media companies to report earnings and they come before the market opens in New York.
Friday: In Asia, earnings are due from Chinese chipmaker SMIC and Taiwanese LCD panel maker AU Optronics.
Tech tools — Airstream eStream
The trailer maker Airstream has come up with the eStream, featuring batteries and two motors integrated in its chassis. They mean it can assist the car that is towing it, so it is not a drag on fuel or on the range of an electric vehicle. It can also be parked remotely using just an iPad. In addition, it has a solar panel rooftop and integrated WiFi hotspot. The battery capacity is enough to take it off the grid completely for a week or two, reports Fast Company. The eStream is still only a concept unfortunately, but is expected to be available in a couple of years’ time.
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