Autonomous vehicle enthusiasm waning

Money flow is moving from autonomous to electric vehicles

Investment funds for autonomous and ride sharing ventures are drying up as money turns toward electric car development. Autonomous vehicles are years away, have uncertain regulatory hurdles, and may not be profitable. Car makers want to make and sell cars, not invest in ride sharing alternatives to ownership. Tesla’s skyrocketing share price, combined with the lower cost of making EVs, has automakers anxious to hasten the transition to electric cars and is shifting the focus of investment to electric from autonomous. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Car makers have to be disrupted in order to shift their focus from the beaten path. Just as Henry Ford II demonstrated in Ford vs. Ferrari, it takes getting insulted to alter the status quo, and it is safe to say that Tesla’s valuation over $100 billion is an insult to makers of many times as many cars. Time to double down on electric cars and see how fast the world’s drivers will adopt the faster, lighter, cheaper, but shorter range vehicles. Expect to see better batteries double the range of EVs in the next 3 to 5 years, as new models will be increasingly electric. Despite innovations, that cross country marathon trip will still be a challenge if one has to charge every 5 to 7 hours.

What to do when your smart home is controlled by mobile apps

As the smart home slowly emerges, control of new internet connected devices is through mobile apps and smart speakers, but that becomes a challenge if a guest or house cleaner wants to control lights, locks and other connected appliances. Brilliant, a company that makes programmable controls for the walls, is addressing that problem. For $399 to $349 per room, you can retrofit light switches to programmable touch panels that control all of your connected home systems — without an app and without having to know what to tell Alexa, Google or other smart speaker what to do. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Brilliant’s solution is a bit ahead of the market in that most homes have not so fully converted to smart systems that they don’t have tactile controls, but most of us are experiencing app overload. Having a touch panel on the wall in key places in the home will enable us to actually leave our smartphones in another room and not have to scroll through multiple apps as we add more home systems.

Coronavirus could delay tech products for rest of year

Manufacturing plants in China are set to open today, a delay of one week after being closed down for the Chinese Lunar New Year festivities. Due to the caronavirus, manufacturers extended the holiday. Despite the shut down being only one extra week, the delay could cascade throughout the supply chain, especially for hard to come by parts, impacting many devices, including iPhones, and potentially putting a squeeze on holiday 2020 supplies. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The outbreak has served to remind people around the world that despite tariffs, trade wars and quotas, the world economy is tightly integrated. Even if the coronavirus stops spreading, the interdependence on workers, designers, and business specialists won’t, making it difficult to maintain the impressive pace of bringing tech products to market.

Apple fined $27M in France for throttling

Apple failed to let users of older iPhones know that iOS updates 10.2.1. and 11.2, in order to protect phones from weaker batteries, throttled performance at certain times. France’s watchdog organization DGCCRF took issue that Apple failed to alert users of this situation, and had failed to provide a downgrade path for users that wanted to return to older OSes to remove the limitation. The company has agreed to pay a $27M fine. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: While $27M to Apple is lunch money, the reprimand comes at a time when Apple is working hard to boost its image as the consumer friendly company, that safeguards consumer data better than the other Big Tech companies. The action is another proof point that Europe’s technology regulators are far ahead of those of the U.S. — implementing not only GDPR data privacy policies, but enforcing policies already determined. The U.S. is only now considering national legislation in the wake of California’s just initiated data privacy policy, known as CCPA.


Apple and tariffs on China: how to respond

Apple’s dilemma: to eat or pass on tariffs

Apple’s stock took a 5% hit on Monday as the U.S. trade war with China experienced its most damaging day to world markets. Apple faces a choice: absorb higher manufacturing costs from goods impacted by a 10% tariff, or pass on higher costs to consumers. Wedbush analyst Mike Ives says eating the tariff will reduce the company’s profits by 4%. On the other hand, Apple can pass increased costs to consumers, increasing prices of already pricey phones amidst a slowing smartphone market. Ives believes this choice will reduce stock price by $25 to $30 per share. On Monday, investors devalued the stock without waiting to see what course management will take. Fortune

dis-rup-shun: Apple is swiftly moving production from Chinese plants to locations in India, Vietnam and the U.S. In addition, the company is increasing its emphasis on services: streaming music and cloud, which will, over the next few years, make the company less vulnerable to supply chain fluctuations. As Apple is seen as a star of the American tech economy, the company can expect consumers in Asia to stop buying its products, but we can assume that investors have already priced that shift into the stock price.

Facebook placing its name on Whatsapp and Instagram

Two properties that Facebook purchased in the last half dozen years were maintained as separate brands. In a reversal this year, Zuckerberg has not only replaced the founders with Facebook execs, but has decided to brand the Facebook alternatives with the parent’s name. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Zuckerberg must like press, as he will keep getting it if he continues to do dumb things. Facebook, for the past three years could win the prize of the most tarnished megabrand, as one misstep after another has brought the ire of users and regulators alike. Now the Justice Department is examining Facebook for being anti-competitive, so Zuckerberg decides to flaunt domination of social media properties — huh? Does the boss think that this branding move will improve the perception of Facebook, or is he oblivious to the fact that he will now dent the clean reputations of Whatsapp and Instagram?

Apple credit card available today

Apple’s reinvention of the credit card, a titanium numberless card that is a physical reminder of the card app on your iPhone is released to a limited audience today. The card, backed by Goldman Sachs, can be applied for easily in the wallet app and pays 1% cash back on transactions, and doubles to 2% when you use the iPhone rather than card, for transactions. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Why would you need a credit card from Apple? If you have never used Apple pay from your iPhone, you are missing real convenience. Because you likely already have your phone in your hand, by placing it on a scanner, you save a few digs, opens, searches, swipes and replacements. But even better, the iPhone app immediately confirms the transaction on your screen, and provides a history later when you wonder how much you did pay for that item. Apple is out to replace your wallet with your iPhone, and this is a nice step. The Apple card, with no account numbers printed on it, is certainly more secure and the fact that one doesn’t need a physical card makes going for a run or a quick errand that much simpler.

Electric cars gain another foothold

The number of electric cars available on used car markets has grown to almost 4% of all cars offered — signaling that EVs are becoming sufficiently commonplace and available for lower price points in pre-owned outlets. Saving the environment is important to many, but not as important as saving money. Affordable and used EVs enable both. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Pre-2000 attempts to make hybrid vehicles mainstream were quashed by falling oil prices, but this time around, it appears that EVs are gaining critical mass, or at least past the point of no return. EVs, with near zero maintenance costs and shorter ranges align well with a consumers that are very comfortable with ride sharing apps, life-as-a-service business models (low home ownership) where ownership of assets is less important, and more environmentally conscious. All companies selling expensive assets must consider the content-to-rent attitudes of young consumers.