Sharp Tech with Ben Thompson

By Andrew Sharp and Ben Thompson

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Episodes: 65


A podcast about understanding how tech works and the way it is changing the world. Hosted by Andrew Sharp with Ben Thompson.

Episode Date
(Preview) An Impromptu Nvidia Symposium, A Brief History of Solaris and Sun Microsystems, The Future of AI Energy Consumption
Talking all things Nvidia as Wall Street catches GPU fever, parallels to Sun Microsystems and the dot com bubble, and questions about AI energy efficiency and reliance on TSMC. At the end: a streaming lover pushes back on nostalgia for cable and involuntary sports subsidies.
Jun 01, 2023
(Preview) Windows and the AI Platform Shift, OpenAI Enters the App Store, Follow-Up on Sports Streaming and Cable Hindsight
Microsoft’s evolution and what AI can and can’t accomplish, the ChatGPT app on iOS, and more on the logic of cable companies during the 2010s. Plus: Why leagues won’t go direct to consumer and one listener for whom the streaming is working just fine.
May 25, 2023
ESPN as Cable’s Grim Reaper, How the Cable Bundle Crumbled, What Taylor Swift Can Teach Content Companies
ESPN's ominous direct-to-consumer ambitions, the incentives that drove the collapse of a cable business model that was beneficial to nearly everyone, why YouTube TV might fill the power vacuum, and what companies like Netflix and Disney can learn from Taylor Swift.
May 22, 2023
(Preview) What Google Wants to Do with AI, The Tensions Inherent to AI Regulation, Can an Apple Headset Revive VR?
Google’s AI ambitions, whether large language models will be a winner-take-all space, the coming wave of AI regulation and the implications for small businesses, and more thoughts on VR as Apple prepares to enter the space.
May 17, 2023
(Preview) Google’s Lesson for Hardware Dreamers, How Facebook and Apple Can Help Each Other, A Case for Touching Parchment
The Reality Labs spending has echoes of a past Google mistake, past animosity vs. future opportunities for Apple and Facebook, and a few responses to last week’s leaked Google memo. Plus: One more note about Xbox and a question about handwritten notes.
May 11, 2023
The Chip Ban Seven Months Later, China's Response, More on Intel and Tower Semiconductor
China's ongoing response to last fall's sweeping export controls on advanced semiconductors, the importance of Japan and the Netherlands imposing their own set of export controls, and more on Intel's antitrust struggles and how the company (or the U.S. government) might respond. Plus: A correction about water risks and a clarification about the Suns app.
May 08, 2023
(Preview) Venture-Backed Businesses of the Past Decade, Why Streamers Want Sports Rights, The Suns Choose Reach over RSN Fees
A question about profitable and public venture-backed businesses over the past 15 years, why Amazon, Google and Apple might be interested in sports rights, and a proposed broadcasting strategy in Phoenix that might be the best idea the NBA's had since in the internet. Plus: A clarification about Microsoft, and a note to Liberty Media and Formula 1.
May 04, 2023
What’s the Deal with Micropayments?, Costs and Benefits and Twitter Blue, More Thoughts on Microsoft-Activision
Twitter's latest idea spurs a discussion of the micropayment model, an email about Twitter Blue and Twitter subscription's for independent creators, and follow-up Microsoft thoughts on the spirit underlying antitrust laws, the EU regulatory environment, and why Microsoft can't simply partner with Activision in the cloud gaming space.
May 01, 2023
(Preview) The UK Blocks Microsoft-Activision, Globalized Companies and Local Regulations, Antitrust and Innovation
UK regulators may have scuttled the biggest merger in gaming history, the implications for globalized businesses going forward, and debates about antitrust enforcement. Plus: Two follow-ups to the Netflix conversation and a baffling tax development for software companies.
Apr 27, 2023
Netflix as a Sleeping Ad-Supported Giant, 'Max' and the Other Streamers, Whether Nvidia Shall Inherit the Earth
Potential implications of Netflix advertising success, checking in with the rest of the streaming landscape, and the long-term questions surrounding Nvidia and the GPU ecosystem. At the end: Two follow-ups on AI and copyright, a Silicon Valley clarification, and Bucks therapy.
Apr 24, 2023
(Preview) Fair Use Follow-Up, LLMs in Litigation, Positives and Negatives for Zoom, The Ultimate Apple Mystery
More on the copyright questions facing innovators and regulators as generative AI matures, Microsoft Copilot and the future of LLMs in litigation, plus emails on the state of Zoom in 2023, the Apple productivity suite, and how to bring tech talent back to the Midwest.
Apr 20, 2023
Generative AI and Copyright, When AI Hits the Music Business, The Social Media that Comes After Twitter
Copyright debates underlying text-to-image generation, the stakes for incumbents and upstarts, and what AI could mean for the music business (but not yet the movie business). Plus: A listener’s Twitter reality check yields a discussion of what might come next in a new era of social media.
Apr 17, 2023
Clown Car History Lessons, Both Sides of the Twitter-Substack Fight, Parenthood Tech Strategies
Parsing the latest Twitter controversy with a look back at pre-Musk decisions, the motivations driving Substack and Twitter last week, and big picture thoughts on the future of Substack. At the end: children in the age of AI proliferating, screen time dilemmas, and more.
Apr 10, 2023
(Preview) A Twitter Temperature Check, Reactions to that AI Open Letter, The Technical Logistics of a TikTok Ban
Elon Musk's two-part announcement about Twitter Blue and the "For You" tab, why subscription and advertising business models are generally incompatible, a variety of reactions to this week's open letter regarding AI safety, and the technical logistics of a TikTok ban.
Mar 30, 2023
Evaluating AI Risk and Entering an Era of Incredible Unknowns
A programming note regarding the next few weeks of the podcast, a long email from a Stratechery reader about the risks of AI, and extended thoughts on the various risks and unknowns that define the AI conversation in the present moment.
Mar 27, 2023
Appropriate Fear of Microsoft, A Workplace Efficiency Counterpoint, Artifact and Substack in the Modern Era
What Microsoft Copilot could mean for SaaS businesses and CIOs and Google, the midrange jumper and questions about long-term office culture optimization, and a few more thoughts on regulation in the wake of the SVB collapse. At the end: Artifact and Substack and the challenge for text-based businesses as the world moves to video.
Mar 20, 2023
(Preview) A Big Week for AI, Closed Source vs. Open Source Development, Meta in the "Year of Efficiency"
Several notable AI announcements this week, lessons from the LLaMa leak and the response it inspired around the world, trade-offs inherent to both sides of closed source vs. open source development question. At the end: Meta's "Year of Efficiency" and the Oscars on life support.
Mar 16, 2023
The SVB Collapse, How the Government Responded, and the Era in Tech that Ended This Weekend
Revisiting the decisions that led to the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and talking through the implications of the government's solution, the behavior of various tech personalities on Twitter, and why the past several days signal the end of an environment that defined Silicon Valley throughout its rise.
Mar 13, 2023
(Preview) Xbox History and VR’s Future, The TikTok Ban, Much to Consider Before a Pivot from Big Tech
Microsoft history and the VR future for Nintendo and Meta, the various considerations underlying the "Ban TikTok" debate, and advice for a listener who's considering a pivot from a career in big tech. At the end: A few notes on Apple and one immutable law of the Internet.
Mar 09, 2023
What the NBA Can Learn from Formula 1, Why ESPN May Need to Pivot Too, The EPL Outlier and Apple's MLS Experiment
Additional thoughts on what the NBA can (and can't) learn from Formula 1, areas for ESPN to improve in an era of abundance, the success of the English Premier League, and the calculus of Apple and MLS. Plus: Ben's fraught history with the letter A and Andrew's "production function."
Mar 06, 2023
The Google Culture Question, A Law of Large Companies, Twitter's Algorithm Plans, Apple's Attempt at Glucose Monitoring
Parsing the criticisms of ex-Google employees who've put the company's culture in the spotlight, mid-2000s Microsoft as a Google analog and a window into the good and bad of dominant companies, and reactions to Elon Musk's latest comments about open sourcing Twitter's algorithm. At the end: follow-up on Spotify as a podcast aggregator and marveling at Apple's latest project.
Feb 27, 2023
(Preview) What Spotify Learned About Podcasting, The RSN Train Wheezing Along, Does ESPN Need the NBA?
The challenges inherent to the Spotify business model, why an emphasis on podcast growth was a great solution that was executed poorly, and various paths to profitability that continue to be promising for the long term. At the end: Brief follow-up to the Gonzalez v. Google conversation, why RSNs are dying (but not dead yet), and market forces that may save the NBA despite itself.
Feb 23, 2023
A Viking Funeral for Sydney the Chatbot, Meta’s Verified Experiment, Algorithms and Liability as Section 230 Takes Center Stage
Parting thoughts and a few emails as Sydney passes into the afterlife, quick reactions to Mark Zuckerberg’s subscription announcement on Sunday, and extended thoughts on Section 230 before the Google v. Gonzalez arguments at the Supreme Court this week. At the end: Chatbot analogs for the Stratecheryverse and Badger Rushmore.
Feb 20, 2023
(Preview) The Bing to Sydney Epiphany, Search as an AI Red Herring, Moving to a Cabin in an Undisclosed Location
Ben offers his takeaways from a full day of chatting with Sydney, Bing's new chatbot, why the focus on search utility might be missing the point, the refreshing weirdness of a chatbot that makes mistakes and has an attitude, and questions about empathy and the next frontier after nuclear technology.
Feb 16, 2023
(Preview) Google vs. Bing Begins, Bear Cases for AI, Apple's Lost Hardware Opportunity, The Implications of the Bally Sports Bankruptcy
Reactions to the demos from Google and Bing this week, answers to an emailer looking for an AI bear case, and why Apple never went into the TV business. Plus: A trade proposal for Disney, an explainer on regional sports network bankruptcies, and fun facts about dental health and SodaStreams.
Feb 09, 2023
Meta Comes Roaring Back, What the Market Missed Last Fall, The Compromises that Define the Modern Internet
Meta’s earnings and the market’s resounding endorsement, revisiting the misconceptions that colored the Meta story toward the end of 2022, an essay about the degrading internet and what the causes might be, plus emails on lost AirPods and a healthier alternative to cigar night.
Feb 06, 2023
(Preview) Cloudflare in 2023, Macro Conditions and Microsoft, Questions and Answers on the Tech Layoffs, Diving Deeper (literally) on MVNOs
A look at Cloudflare's strengths and weaknesses in the 2023 marketplace, why Microsoft and Amazon are well-positioned to further solidify their B2B empires over the next 12 months, and various questions and theories about the layoffs in big tech over the past three months. Plus: More info on MVNOs, a shout out to HEB in Texas, and a listener demands bundle answers.
Feb 02, 2023
Solving Online Groceries, Explaining Those Cheap New Cell Phone Plans, Autonomous Deliveries, Tech vs. Humans in Content Development
Grocery delivery apps and why Wal-Mart might have the better idea, why Visible uses the Verizon network while charging half the price, and a question about the future of autonomous vehicles outside of passenger rides. At the end: whether tech could change content development in Hollywood and Ben's memories from the Ron Dayne era at Wisconsin.
Jan 30, 2023
(Preview) How Google Conquered Ads, What the DOJ Wants to Do About It, Follow-Ups on Free Netflix, Checking in with Peloton
A history of Google’s path to dominance in digital advertising, 149 pages of DOJ efforts to alter that same landscape, and a few more thoughts on advertising models vs. subscription models. Plus: Peloton, scooters, a Google diary, and two prongs of the Sharp Tech path to health and prosperity.
Jan 26, 2023
Encouraging Netflix Earnings, Continuing Questions, and How the Model Might Evolve
Parsing the good and bad from Q4 earnings announced by Netflix late last week, dreaming of a free, ad-supported Netflix in the future, what Reed Hastings got right as founder and CEO, plus emails on streaming cost structure, electric vehicles and Acorn computers in British classrooms.
Jan 23, 2023
A Beginner's Guide to ARM, Amazon and Buy with Prime, Apple in the 90s, Who Wants to Own WWE?
A question about the "Svengali of tech" spawns an overview of ARM and the roots of its business model, follow-up to this week's Amazon conversation, and the future of the WWE leads to discussion of the streaming landscape and the NFL's invincibility.
Jan 19, 2023
What's Going on at Amazon? and AI Language Barriers
Amazon after a rocky 12 months and on the verge of 18,000 layoffs, whether it's time for the business to mature beyond the Bezos' "Day 1" creed, plus Web3's AI outlook, the utopian view on AI's implications for linguistics, and a question about communities.
Jan 16, 2023
GPT in 2023: A Marriage with Microsoft, The Bull and Bear Case for Google, Compute Questions and More
Reactions to the structure of the rumored Microsoft-OpenAI investment, challenges and opportunities for Google as AI matures, what happens to the internet (and AI) after auto-generated text floods the zone. At the end: text vs. images for the future and follow-ups on failed Microsoft investments, YouTube's NFL gamble, and Amazon's NFL ratings.
Jan 12, 2023
Sharp Tech Holiday Hoopla: Gift Recs and YouTube TV, Microchips and Remote Work, Could ChatGPT Run a Basketball Team?
Last-minute tech gifts as a prelude to a gift-guide zag, YouTube TV and the implications of this week's Sunday Ticket news, the differences between remote work for a startup and a mature business, and closing with microchips and AI saving the day in D.C.
Dec 22, 2022
Another Weekend with Musk: More Chaos, Fewer Options, and an Object Lesson in the Importance of Principles
Unpacking another weekend of drama and incoherence at Twitter, various lessons to be drawn from these public controversies, whether a Twitter collapse would be good for the media, and an apology to the L’Oreal corporate family (but not Renault/Alpine).
Dec 19, 2022
The Past/Present/Future of Tech Antitrust Arguments and More on TSMC in Arizona
The FTC's approach to Microsoft-Activision as a microcosm of broader questions and challenges, what Bell Labs history can tell us about future solutions, and follow-up questions related to TSMC in Arizona and America's approach to onshoring.
Dec 15, 2022
Making Advanced Microchips in Arizona and Imagining a Remote Work Future
Various questions after a new round of TSMC investments in the U.S., reactions to TSMC founder Morris Chang saying that “globalization is almost dead,” beginning the remote work conversation with Ben's memories of life at Automattic, and thoughts on the competing factors that make the work-from-home question so difficult.
Dec 13, 2022
When AI Moves Faster than Products, Microsoft's Evil Genius, Australian Rules for America's Ad Market, Questions on YouTube/Twitter/Spotify
More questions on ChatGPT and what the future of start-ups may look like, Microsoft's success and the added scrutiny that comes with acquisitions in the consumer space, a case against the Australian approach to regulation, plus questions about Alphabet and Ben's Spotify Wrapped list.
Dec 08, 2022
A Beginner’s Guide to ChatGPT: How It Works, Why Tech Twitter is Euphoric, and What the Next Challenges Look Like
The Internet-wide reaction to ChatGPT 3.5, how OpenAI has evolved and how its chat technology works, the UX challenge of contextualizing answers that are usually right but sometimes demonstrably wrong, plus some quick reactions to “The Twitter Files” on Friday night.
Dec 05, 2022
Apple's Exposure in a Musk War, Alexa: Find 10 Billion Dollars, YouTube’s Rev Share Model, The Next Great Tech Movie
Surveying the landscape after a week of Musk tweets and rumors of a Musk-Cook summit, Amazon has a $10 billion Alexa problem, and Ben and Andrew are asked to build a successor to The Social Network.
Dec 01, 2022
The Cult of Iger and the Future at Disney and ESPN
The legend of Bob Iger and the recent history of Bob Chapek, why Disney stock went up last week (but not by much), ESPN and Disney+ in the shadow of the $71 billion 21st Century Fox acquisition, and emails about third party play-by-play and a scientific defense of cigar clubs.
Nov 28, 2022
Mailbag: A Premature Twitter Eulogy, Netflix in Theaters, Buy or Sell: Strategy Consultants, The Six People You Meet in a Group Chat
The night Twitter was laid to rest, TV in movie theaters and the debate over David Zaslav, whether strategy consultants are useful, and celebrating Thanksgiving with a plan to fix the NBA and a taxonomy of group chats.
Nov 21, 2022
A Closer Look at Opendoor and Cloudflare and Responses to Your FTX Emails
A closer look at Opendoor in the midst of its biggest challenge yet, the state of Twilio and Cloudflare, excellent pushback on claims that crypto doesn’t have a product, and reactions to SBF’s DMs and Max Verstappen’s antics.
Nov 17, 2022
Making Sense of the FTX Catastrophe and a Reality Check on Twitter Under Musk
The implications of a straight-forward case of fraud, what Sam Bankman-Fried and FTX teach us about the dangers of conflation, why and how Twitter is failing under Elon Musk, and responses to emailers who have asked about Meta's ability to develop a Twitter competitor.
Nov 14, 2022
A Beginner's Guide to Spotify and Emails on Antitrust and Algorithms
An email about Netflix spawns an extended overview of Spotify's present and future, a closer look at Apple Music's royalties messaging, reactions to the permanent injunction block Penguin Random House's attempted acquisition of Simon and Schuster, and the two most important features we need from Twitter Blue.
Nov 10, 2022
Mailbag: Down the 230 Rabbit Hole, A Third Door Moderation Approach, Twitter Follow-Up, Andrew Responds to the Nicest Angry Emails Ever
A question about Section 230 spawns expansive thoughts from Ben, a proposal for an alternate solution to moderation, new questions on Twitter as the Mastodon takeover approaches, and responses to listeners who balked at Andrew's broad social media dismissal last week.
Nov 07, 2022
The First Week of New Twitter and Apple/Netflix/Taiwan Follow-Up
Reactions to $8/month for Twitter Blue, the fevered conversation around Musk’s ownership, whether Twitter should take even more risks as a private company, and answers to mailbag questions about Apple, Netflix and Ben’s personal calculus in Taiwan.
Nov 03, 2022
Mailbag: How to Read an Earnings Report, TikTok's ATT Challenges, The Net Impact of Social Media, Lessons of a Young Tech Employee
How Ben reads an earnings report, the various challenges that might unsettle TikTok investors, an extended debate on whether Twitter and Facebook have been good for society, and Andrew is profiled by a major news outlet while Ben shares lessons from his early years.
Oct 31, 2022
Google/Facebook/Snap Earnings and Another Dimension of Automation
Google's core business is sound but YouTube's numbers are murkier, the bull case for Meta as the market runs the other way, and a fair and balanced look at Snap. Then, a few mailbag questions about automation, Netflix abroad, and the psychology of a Red Bull fan.
Oct 27, 2022
Good News for Netflix Believers and the Latest TikTok Reporting
Netflix's Q3 response to all its Q1 critics, sorting through the threats elsewhere in the streaming landscape, what to look for as Netflix makes its foray into ads. Then, responses to a new report on TikTok that was published hours after last Friday's podcast.
Oct 24, 2022
Mailbag: Chip Ban Follow Up, What About Tik Tok?, Validating AI Work Product, Coaches and GMs as CEOs
Taiwan's military readiness and the modal outcome for Tik Tok in the U.S., a question about immersive audio spawns Clubhouse lament, two questions about the future of AI in the knowledge economy, choosing the NBA coaches and GMs who will lead the next era in tech.
Oct 20, 2022
Questions, Concerns and Unknowns after the China Chip Ban
The narrow purpose of the latest US export controls, the broad attack the Chinese government will likely perceive, why heightened American attention to Taiwan could be dangerous, and a variety of unknowns as the world awaits the next steps.
Oct 18, 2022
Mailbag: Metaverse Week Concludes, A Hater's Take on Virtual Reality, The Apple Question, Touring the Stratechery Travel Kit
Ben remembers why he believes in the future of VR, Andrew remembers why he's not a fan the metaverse movement, listeners wonder about possibilities at Apple and beyond, and Ben offers guidance on tech travel kit best practices.
Oct 14, 2022
New Metaverse Dreams and Old Metaverse Questions
Reactions to Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote at Meta Connect 2022, why it makes sense for Meta to partner with Microsoft in the virtual reality space, the aspects of the VR pitch that still feel underwhelming, and whether Zuckerberg is the right person to lead this era of Facebook.
Oct 11, 2022
Mailbag: Two Musk Questions, Streaming Follow Up, Ad-Supported Businesses, Interrogating Andrew on Tech
Elon Musk is a land of contradictions, reframing re-bundling and TNT's NBA incentives, a variety of questions about ad-supported business models, and a podcast confirmation hearing as Andrew faces questions about his tech opinions.
Oct 07, 2022
Cable Temperature Check and a Bundle Experiment
Why it may make sense to sell Netflix, Apple TV, Paramount Plus and other streamers as one product, why cable may (or may not) be the intermediary brokering the sale, questions for the future of live sports rights. Then, an answer to listeners who have questions about the new era of Stratechery.
Oct 04, 2022
Mailbag: Apple Privacy Counterpoint, Covid and Content Moderation, Phoenix Suns Sale, Justice for Gamers
User agency within Apple's ATT landscape, what Covid can teach us about the risks of regulating content moderation, whether AI fears spawned by The Terminator are reasonable, interrogating Andrew's gamer logic.
Sep 29, 2022
Nvidia Backlash and the China Conundrum
Why the internet is upset after Nvidia's Ada Lovelace announcement, the perfect storm of the past 12 months, a bet on AI inside and outside of gaming. Then, the calculus for Apple and Nvidia as tensions rise between China and the U.S.
Sep 27, 2022
Mailbag: Adobe and Antitrust, Engagement Quality vs. Quantity, The Cult of Musk, Porcupine Lore
Adobe-Figma antitrust questions, the pluses and minuses of ignoring user complaints, how Twitter hype led to real infrastructure at Tesla, a word about porcupines.
Sep 22, 2022
Introducing Sharp Tech
Ben and Andrew discuss the origins of the podcast, their own backgrounds, and why they’re excited about making this show.
Sep 20, 2022
What AI Is Today and What It Might Be Tomorrow
New AI image generators hint at a decentralized future, newspapers vs. the internet as an analogy for what’s next, potential implications for white collar workers, and how Steve Ballmer can help Apple.
Sep 13, 2022
Google-as-Government and Netflix vs. HBO Max
A Google enforcement strategy gone awry, the pluses and minuses of horizontal integration, and the common thread among most big tech complaints. Then, the downsides of Netflix’s binge model.
Aug 24, 2022
Apple's Privacy Power Play and TikTok Concerns
Apple’s emphasis on privacy and the competitive advantages that come with it. Then, the varied concerns surrounding TikTok’s emerging dominance in culture.
Aug 17, 2022
Meta’s Murky Future and the Transformed New York Times
The future of Facebook and Instagram in the TikTok era, Instagram's shifting priorities, and stated preference vs. revealed preference. Then, the new era of the New York Times.
Aug 11, 2022
CHIPS History and Pelosi’s Taiwan Visit
A brief history of semiconductors in the US and Taiwan, what the CHIPS act can and can’t fix, and why the legislation is probably a good idea regardless. Then, reactions to Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan.
Aug 04, 2022