Apple Watch, gold and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

With the release of Apple invitations to a March 9 event – most likely for the Apple Watch – smart watches have been in the forefront of news lately. I have said in the past that I would jump on buying the Moto360 watch from Google/Motorola. But I really do have tiny wrists such that they simply looked ridiculous on me when I tried them on. It brings to mind, who would really buy these newfangled devices anyway? Apple is betting that with its focus on fashion (taking out a 12-page ad in Vogue magazine for example) will change people’s negative perceptions on smartwatches. Never mind that the Apple Watch will be very expensive and with fewer features than first announced, it will lead the pack in the current wearables market. I’ve talked at length about it here and why I would still stick to Android wear (just waiting for the slimmer models). So, you might hem and haw for now and skeptics will abound but if you own an iPhone, chances are, you will end up buying it at some point. Which, apparently, is not good for the global supply of gold. According to some reports, Apple plans to sell 1 million units of the gold edition per month. If demand reaches that month, it will use up a third of the world’s supply of gold. Maybe, it’s time to invest in gold futures or gold-mining companies.

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

In tech:

  1. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approves net neutrality policy by 3-2 vote; ensuring: no blocking, no throttling and no paid prioritization of online content
  2. Ericson to sue Apple Inc. for patent infringement on tech used in iPhones and iPads after Apple refuses to renew licensing agreement with Ericson
  3. Google acquisitions/deals: acquires Facebook marketing startup Toro for undisclosed amount; acquires technology and patents from mobile-wallet service Softcard; strikes a deal with wireless carriers (AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA, Verizon Wireless) for the Google Wallet app to come pre-installed on Android phones sold by the carriers; invests $300M into Elon Musk’s SolarCity to finance ~25,000 residential solar projects
  4. Other Google news: launches Android for Work to keep work-related accounts/apps separate from personal info; newly-acquired Deep Mind has trained an AI to play 49 different video games
  5. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, inspired by Elon Musk’s hyperloop idea, will build a 5-mile test track in central California

In retail:

  1. Gap Inc. warns that US West Coast port dispute will cut current year earnings by ~4 percentage points (Financial Times paywall/sign-in required)
  2. New Pebble smartwatch, Pebble Time, raises $1M on Kickstarter in record time
  3. Earnings: Victoria’s Secret owner L Brands poster full-year forecast that miss analysts’ estimatesPrada SpA reported full-year sales that missed estimates as Chinese spending slows
  4. Online retailer Nasty Gal closes $12.7M in funding
  5. Amazon greenlights 21 titles from Kindle Scout, a crowd-sourced publishing platform that allows readers to vote for unpublished authors to get published
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Moto 360 launch and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

I recently dropped my Nexus 5 on concrete while looking at a grocery list and holding my 6-month old at the same time. I was as upset with myself as anyone. At the same time, that spelled the most compelling reason for getting an Android Wear watch, which is why I’m quite happy to find out that the Moto 360 will be launching on September 4. Say what you will about the lack of functionality of wearables but I am willing to bet on its future ubiquity. As for Google Glass, it might be getting a lot of bad rep but its commercial and practical applications are wide ranging. I’m currently working on a post about wearables and I will talk about the what, why and why not of wearables. In the meantime, here are the most relevant news in tech and retail this week.

In Tech

  1. Samsung enters the area of Internet of Things and buys SmartThings, a smart home platform startup; will join Samsung’s Open Innovation Center in Palo Alto, CA
  2. Motorola will finally launch Moto 360, Google’s Android Wear watch, on September 4, 2014
  3. Y Combinator and Mithril Capital invest in a nuclear-fusion company, Helion Energy Inc.
  4. Citing passenger safety concerns, Berlin bans Uber app; Uber continues to offer service its service
  5. Spring by Jello Labs, the shopping app for mobile shopping, launches in the Apple store; backed by high-profile investors: Google Ventures, Lerer Ventures, Michael Kors, Coach, Uniqlo

In Retail:

  1. Amazon launches a competitor to Square, Local Register to offer a mobile payment service and smartphone-compatible credit card reader for brick-and-mortar retailers
  2. US Department of Commerce reports flat US retail and food services sales for July 2014 (original report here)
  3. JC Penney shares gain after beating forecasts in fiscal second quarter earnings on sales of $2.8 billion
  4. Macy‘s stock falls as it misses estimates for second quarter earnings of 80 cents a share (vs. analysts’ estimates of 86-cent average); cuts annual sales forecast with unlikely second-half rebound
  5. Yahoo unveils new version of Yahoo Stores for small businesses to compete against Shopify and Etsy; will charge merchants $9/month