Apple car and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

I was driving from Miami to North Lauderdale on Wednesday (a 45-minute ride), my one-year old sleeping in the back when I suddenly wished really hard for a self-driving car. As my daughter gets older, she resists naps more and more – the only times that I can really have uninterrupted work. But the movement of the car almost, always puts her to sleep but then I’m occupied with driving. What is interesting is that of all the activities I can think of, most of them would require me to be connected to the Internet either via smartphone, tablet or laptop.

It should then perhaps comfort me to know that the big tech companies, starting with Google’s publicized ambitions for self-driving cars, are no longer content to get our eyeballs for most of our waking moments, they want in on our commutes as well. According to the Census Bureau, 10.8 million Americans travel more than an hour each way to work. Out of this, 600,000 have “megacommutes” – at least 90 minutes each way. The average travel time to work is 25.4 minutes (you can find average travel time in your zip code with the same link). In aggregate, these numbers would be staggering and these are the times that millions of people could also spend online. Of course, some people do that already to the peril of themselves and other commuters around them.

Apple is the latest tech company rumored to have ambitions for self driving cars, with possible production by 2020. The company was also rumored to be in acquisition talks with Tesla last year. Recently, angel investor, Jason Calacanis made a bold prediction in a Medium post that Apple will buy Tesla for $75B in 18 months. Whatever happens, the automotive industry should be on guard for more disruptions. Even though most car companies already offer some autonomous driving features (lane keeping, automatic braking, self-parking) and connectivity, tech companies are in a much better position (talent-wise and money-wise) to innovate. So, the race is on. If we are to predict the winner based on who has the deepest pockets, Apple will most likely win. But, let’s also keep in mind that software is a lot more complicated than hardware.*

Here are this week’s most relevant news in tech and retail:

In tech:

  1. Lenovo finally admits to preloading laptops with Superfish adware, turns it off after customer complaints
  2. Valuations: Ephemeral messaging app Snapchat is seeking new round of financing that could value the company at $19B; ride-hailing service Uber expands Series E round by $1B, company valuation at $40B; online scrapbooking site, Pinterest is seeking to raise $500M at a valuation of $11B
  3. Whistleblower Edward Snowden released documents alleging that American and British spies hacked Gemalto’s systems, world’s largest maker of SIM cards
  4. Tim Cook confirms Apple Watch release date in April, shipment to start at 5 million units
  5. Online real estate site Zillow closes $2.5B Trulia acquisition, will cut 350 jobs

In retail:

  1. Amazon Prime 1-hour delivery is now live in all Manhattan zip codes
  2. Fossil Group and Kate Spade announce global licensing deal for Kate Spade watches
  3. Pandora, maker of jewelry charms, reports Q4 2014 profit surge 36%, beating estimates
  4. Kering Group revenues rose 8.7% in last quarter of 2014 on strong sales at Bottega Veneta and Yves Saint Laurent, Puma and Gucci are still struggling
  5. Financing: Online luxury retailer Moda Operandi secures $60M in Series E round; online retailer Gilt Group raises $50M investment 

*I still think of Apple as a hardware company with an amazing marketing team. Although, with that much money, Apple can easily acqui-hire software developers any time they want. So, they might very well become a great software company as well.

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