Tech Rewind: Uber Stirs Up the Pot ... Again

By ColumnsFOXBusiness

Tech Rewind: Uber raises eyebrows, Obama calls for immigration fix

Uber is stirring up the pot again, and the president is calling for a fix to immigration — this is your tech rewind of the week.

Uber is stirring up the pot… again. And the president is calling for a (temporary) fix to the nation’s cumbersome immigration system -- this is your tech rewind of the week.

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President Obama laid out a plan to fix the immigration system on Thursday in an address to the nation, and included tech workers in his remarks. Among the changes he called for, the president pledged to simplify and speed up the process for high-skilled immigrants to get their greens cards “and contribute to our economy.”

But for big tech, the tweaks may not be enough. Companies like Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) have long pushed for expanded visa access, and insiders say the changes, though positive, are still limited.

On the topic of big tech, sometimes breaking up is actually not at all hard to do. In fact, old-name tech companies are taking a cue from scrappy newcomers and slimming down their operations to boost their bottom lines. While not a new trend, analysts say the better the economy, the more deal-making that can ensue. That, and activists prodding at them to morph.

Meanwhile, a New Jersey-based real estate company confirmed Friday morning it is leasing out a space in Penn Plaza to Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN). The news come weeks after reports surfaced the e-commerce behemoth had plans to expand its physical footprint with a brick-and-mortar space in the Big Apple.

And call it Uber-gate (Twitter is): Never one to shy away from controversy, Uber this week found itself in the middle of an alleged smear campaign and privacy scandal. BuzzFeed reported that a company executive, during a private dinner, raised the idea of digging up dirt on journalists all-too critical of the ride share service. The Senior Vice President of Business Emil Michael allegedly discussed scare tactics for silencing shady reporters, such as Pando editor Sara Lacy. Lacy spoke to FBN’s Deirdre Bolton, saying “what we’ve seen here is a real whipsawing back and forth,” and that she’s most surprised with investors’ responses. Uber has defended its privacy policy, but has nevertheless decided to investigate whether Michael broke the rules by snooping on the reporter’s whereabouts.

Not before, however, actor and Uber-investor Ashton Kutcher came to the car-booking company’s rescue in the form a tweet-storm defending Uber for finding “shady” journalists’ skeletons. Only later to clarify he was speaking on his behalf only, not Uber’s, to be sure.

In less-fiery Uber news, the ride-sharing company inked a deal with music streaming service Spotify allowing premium Spotify users to sync up their playlists to their Uber accounts, thereby making them DJ’s during their rides. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said the partnership aims to create “highly evolved experiences” for customers, and for Spotify, CEO Daniel Ek said it would help the music business connect with non-car-owning Millennials. Beginning Friday, the feature will be available in 10 cities including London, Mexico City, Nashville, New York and Stockholm.

Continuing on the topic of music, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is reportedly going to add Beats into its iOS operating system so that would make the music platform available to iPad and iPhone owners as early as next spring.

IBM (NYSE:IBM) unveiled a new email application for businesses that combines social media, file sharing and analytics to understand behavior through coworker interactions. The new service marks a recent shift at IBM toward cloud computing and data analytics from its longtime hardware core.

Facebook is also attempting to pivot. The social networking giant is reportedly launching a professional network, dubbed Facebook at Work, geared toward businesses, pitting it directly against LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD), as well as Microsoft and (NYSE:CRM). The company is also capping political campaigns on the site, according to Yahoo News, which first reported the unexpected move. Through a change in code, an app that helped supporters target friends on Facebook during the 2012 election will be shut off.

And Snapchat is jumping on the mobile payments bandwagon, introducing the Snapcash service through which, with the help of Square, users can snap cash to each other… not just disappearing images. By linking their debit cards to their Snapchat accounts, users can send money to their contacts. The move indicates the newest sign of the fast-messaging service’s expansion attempt. Snapchat said in a post the aim is to make mobile payments “faster and more fun.”

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