I participated Monday morning on a panel at an investment-banking conference in San Francisco to discuss the future of Apple. Naturally, the conversation turned to Donald Trump.
Specifically, the panelists—the astute researcher Horace Dediu, the journalist Mark Gurman, and Steve Milunovich, the veteran UBS analyst and host of the session—briefly batted about the question of how a U.S. trade war with China might further blunt Apple’s already challenged business in that important country.
First, a step back. With notable exceptions, Silicon Valley was uniformly against Trump, both for his anti-immigrant bellicosity and his anti-elitist posture. The (highly skilled) immigrant-heavy tech industry is nothing if not a bastion of elitism, and it has enjoyed a warm relationship with President Obama. (Farhad Manjoo of The New York Times nicely captures the vibe here. Also, for the record, I am no fan of #Calexit. I love my country.)
A Trump presidency’s economic impact won’t be all bad for tech companies, including Apple. Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi published a report Monday that suggests Apple would be one of the biggest beneficiaries of a Trump proposal to lower corporate taxes and allow a one-time repatriation of cash held outside the U.S. Apple pays among the highest tax rates and has the highest foreign reserves of any tech company.
That’s where the good news ends. The president-elect mouthed electorate-soothing words about forcing Apple and others to move production “back” to the U.S. That won’t happen to any substantial degree in any reasonable timeframe. Once it discovers that fact of life, the new administration may then try to slap tariffs on goods produced in China. That, in turn, could unleash a domino effect of higher smartphone prices and Chinese retaliation. Economic chaos would ensue. As I noted on the panel, the Chinese government wouldn’t think twice about Apple becoming collateral damage in a U.S.-China trade war. And Apple won't be the only target.
It is early days in terms of translating the results of an election into policy that will determine the world’s economic future. We are unlikely to be talking about much else for months and years to come.
BITS AND BYTES
Tech giants extend olive branch to Donald Trump. An industry group representing Amazon, Facebook, Google, Uber and several dozen other big Internet, software, and hardware companies has sent a list of their priorities to the president-elect for consideration. Among their suggestions: immigration reform that ensures a stream of highly skilled workers and swift action on trade reform. (Reuters)
Google and Facebook shun fake news sites. The two digital advertising giants on Monday vowed to prevent websites that publish deceptive or misleading information from using their services to sell and display ads. (Reuters, New York Times)
Apple ponders smart glasses. The tech giant is talking about a wearable headset project—one that would overlays images onto a "real world" view—with potential suppliers, reports Bloomberg. Such an expansion would be risky, considering lackluster growth for wearables gadgets in general and Alphabet's failure to inspire excitement in this category with Google Glass. (Reuters, Bloomberg)
GE shores up its software expertise. The company is paying $915 million to buy ServiceMax, a cloud apps firm that sells systems for managing field service visits and technicians. ServiceMax's technology will be subsumed by the conglomerate's Industrial Internet services group. (Fortune)
Activist investor takes small stake in Twitter. The share that Jana Partners is taking is relatively small, "just" 2.9 million shares, but it could signal that impatient investors will start pushing for more demonstrable action on the social media company's turnaround plan. (Fortune)
Mega attacks are on the rise this year. There haven't been an unusually large number of denial of service attacks in 2016—incidents in which websites are knocked offline—but the force of them is much stronger than in the past, reports Internet service provider Akamai. (Fortune)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Startup Bets on ARM Chips to Take on Cloud Giants, by Barb Darrow
Amazon Sues Merchants Over Selling Counterfeit Items, by Leena Rao
Why Facebook Won't Admit It's a Media Company, by Jeff John Roberts
Why Trump Will Be Good for Snapchat, Uber, and Airbnb, by Lucinda Shen
New Regulations May Hurt China's Ride-Hailing Business Didi, by Tekendra Parmar
Lyft Trades the Pink Mustache for Something Just as Funky, by Kia Kokalitcheva