Technology Activity, April 2020

04/06/2020 – Apple Chases Facebook Into the VR Market With a $100 Million Acquisition

• Apple revives its VR efforts by scooping up a startup at a steep discount Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) recently agreed to buy NextVR, a California-based company that streams live events to augmented and virtual reality devices, for $100 million. NextVR holds over 40 patents for those technologies, but laid off roughly 40% of its staff after failing to secure fresh funding last year. The startup was valued at $800 million less than four years ago. $100 million is pocket change for Apple, which ended last quarter with $207 billion in cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities.

A look back at Apple’s AR/VR plans • Unlike Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), which dove headfirst into the VR market with its $2 billion acquisition of Oculus in 2014, Apple has only taken baby steps into the next-gen market. • Apple acquired smaller AR/VR firms, assembled a team of industry experts, filed patents for a headset, and added depth-sensing cameras and computer vision chips to its newer iPhones. It also introduced ARKit, a set of tools that lets iOS developers build more advanced AR apps. • Apple is reportedly planning to launch its AR headset in 2022, followed by AR glasses in 2023, according to The Information. • Facebook’s best-selling headset, the stand-alone Oculus Quest, only hit 705,000 shipments last year, according to SuperData. That lack of enthusiasm explains why NextVR and other VR startups struggled to secure additional funding. What does NextVR bring to the table? • NextVR is partnered with the NBA, Wimbledon, Fox Sports, and other major sports broadcasters, but the idea of streaming an entire sporting event through a cumbersome VR headset is catching on. • In early 2016, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told AListDaily there was “zero chance” that VR would impact the business of live and broadcast sports. Cuban declared he “would rather be in the top row at a game than watching a live VR stream,” and that he didn’t “see that changing in many, many years.” • However, Apple might see potential in NextVR’s technology as an augmented extension of Apple TV, Apple Arcade, and Apple Music — three core growth engines of the sticky Services segment that generated 14% of its revenue last quarter.It could offer VR content for its TV shows, video games, and exclusive concerts with NextVR’s technologies. • In other words, viewers might not want to watch an entire game in VR, but they might be willing to watch the highlights in VR or use the technology to play other tie-in content. That technology would also widen Apple’s moat against streaming media rivals. Is Apple gearing up to challenge Facebook? • Apple probably won’t chase Facebook’s Oculus into the high-end VR headset market anytime soon. Instead, it’s likely laying down the foundations for a broader AR/VR ecosystem, which could clash with Facebook’s over the next five years. • Apple is reportedly developing a pair of AR glasses, but industry rumors suggest it won’t arrive until 2022. Facebook is also reportedly developing two pairs of AR glasses, Stella and Orion, which could launch between 2023 and 2025. • These glasses could be much lighter, affordable, and more powerful than current-gen devices like Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) HoloLens, Magic Leap One, and Facebook’s Oculus headsets.
Technology Activity, April 2020

They could also shift between AR and VR modes with ease, and tether users to their broader tech ecosystems via home and mobile networks. • It’s all speculation for now, but Apple’s takeover of NextVR indicates that it isn’t abandoning the market to early movers like Facebook and Microsoft yet. If Apple finally makes its move, I suspect it will be through its Services business — which would lock in users and reduce its dependence on the iPhone.

04/07/2020 – Accenture Acquires Revolutionary Security, Provider of Cybersecurity Services for Critical Infrastructure

• Acquisition enhances Accenture Security’s critical infrastructure protection capabilities to deliver advanced cyber defense management • The acquisition will provide Accenture’s clients with greater end to end solutions, particularly regarding more complex IT and OT cybersecurity challenges. Accenture (NYSE:ACN) has acquired Revolutionary Security, a privately held company specializing in enterprise cybersecurity for information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) environments. Financial terms were not disclosed. Revolutionary Security’s portfolio of cybersecurity services includes assessment and testing, design and build of security programs and functions as well as security operations across its clients’ IT and OT systems. Revolutionary Security leverages proprietary technology and methods to help mature the security capabilities of its clients and manage risk. The company’s breach and attack simulation testing service, LiveFire®, utilizes real-world cyber threats to identify gaps in security processes and monitoring, as well as staff operations and technologies. The results help organizations prioritize actions to mitigate cyber risks within their enterprise. Headquartered in the greater Philadelphia area, Revolutionary Security employs 90 highly skilled cybersecurity professionals throughout the United States. The company, founded in 2016, serves a variety of clients in the energy, manufacturing, healthcare, financial services and communications industries. “The acquisition of Revolutionary Security is another demonstration of our continued commitment to invest in areas to keep our clients safe from cyber threats,” said Kelly Bissell, who leads Accenture Security globally. “Revolutionary Security’s service offerings are a perfect complement to Accenture’s portfolio, and the acquisition furthers our mission of helping clients better protect and defend their organizations across their entire ecosystem.”
“High-profile and targeted cyberattacks around the world are putting increased attention on critical IT and OT security risks, with potentially catastrophic consequences if systems are hijacked,” said Jim Guinn II, who leads Accenture’s cybersecurity business for the energy, utilities, chemical and mining industries. “Companies often lack the necessary visibility to manage and measure OT cyber risk in the same way as IT risk. Revolutionary Security’s extensive experience working with industrial companies and their specialized technical skill set will be incredibly valuable to our clients.”

04/08/2020 – Blackhawk Network Acquires SVM Cards

• Acquisition enhances B2B customer offerings with entry into fuel card issuance and expands robust incentives customer portfolio Today, global branded payments provider Blackhawk Network announced that it has completed its acquisition of SVM Cards, a provider of physical and digital open- and closed-loop prepaid cards. The acquisition broadens Blackhawk’s prepaid and gift card offerings by adding issuance of closed-loop cards including several leading fuel and other brands to its U.S. catalogs, as well as continuing to expand Blackhawk’s significant incentives and B2B gift card services. In addition, SVM’s customer base can now benefit from Blackhawk’s omni-channel commerce, leading digital products and incentive solutions.

“We are continually seeking opportunities to expand our branded payment solutions for our partners and offer additional content and services,” said Talbott Roche, CEO and president of Blackhawk Network. “Blackhawk is a leader in providing businesses with a vast range of gift card and reward solutions. Combining SVM’s extensive brand relationships, and incentive and B2B clients with our broad network delivers an exciting addition to our offerings. We are thrilled to welcome SVM’s partners to our network.”

“Blackhawk has an impressive global footprint which enables us to access expanded distribution channels, digital gifting, original content and promotion solutions and bolster the offerings our partners can get from a single source. With Blackhawk, we look forward to continuing to grow our existing customer relationships and seeking new ones,” said Marshall Reavis, founder and CEO of SVM. “Branded payments like gift cards are powerful tools to drive engagement, and ensuring we have the means to deliver them as efficiently as possible helps our company—and our clients’ businesses—to stand apart. The SVM team looks forward to joining the Blackhawk team and continuing to serve our clients.”

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