The daily download on the business of technology.
Digital transformation is such serious stuff that it affects not only old-fashioned retailers and the like, but technology companies too.
To back up, this is no longer an argument that needs making but rather a cautionary tale that needs heeding. No sooner did Mickey Drexler, the onetime impresario of Gap’s resurgence and then private-equity-sponsored leader of J. Crew, admit that he’d missed the whole digital thing than he was out. Howard Schultz, the failed hander-offer of the CEO job at Starbucks once before, is so serious about digital that he’s made a former IBM and Microsoft executive the coffee maker’s new boss. (Read Beth Kowitt’s insightful look at Schultz’s second effort at mastering the art of handing off the baton.)
But what I’d really like to draw your attention to this morning is a short interview in the current issue of Fortune with Shantanu Narayen, CEO of Adobe Systems. Adobe is a tech company, after all, with its Photoshop and Acrobat products staples of creative corporate work. But Adobe has worked hard to convert its software line to a subscription business, a tedious, painful and scary transition that nonetheless has worked. I also was startled to see that Narayen has been CEO of Adobe for a decade. That’s quite an accomplishment for any CEO, particularly one in an industry that changes as rapidly as Adobe’s.
Narayen’s example is a reminder that while digital disruption is hugely relevant, so is leadership. (Drexler and Schultz offer examples too.) The world is watching one of the tech industry’s brashest disruptors, Uber, grapple with its own leadership challenges. Just as surely as Uber threw the taxi industry for a loop, now its ability to get its leadership issues settled will be matter of corporate life or death.
Leadership vacuum. The story of the troubles of the world’s most valuable startup, Uber, continues to race ahead. The company’s board voted to adopt all of the recommendations from former Attorney General Eric Holder’s report addressing sexual harassment and other employee concerns and add a woman, Nestle executive Wan Ling Martello, to its ranks. Also, CEO Travis Kalanick may be stepping down, at least temporarily. Stay tuned.
Look out below. After tech stocks took a dive on Friday, most appeared to be sinking again in premarket trading on Monday. On Friday, Apple lost 4%, lopping more than $30 billion off its market cap. Google, Facebook, and Amazon lost 3%, and Microsoft slipped 2%. Goldman Sachs may have sparked the selloff, with a report warning of the growing risks on those five leading tech stocks.
Look out above. The cryptocurrency bitcoin continued its stunning run-up, briefly surpassing the $3,000 threshold early Sunday afternoon.
Project Scorpio stings. At the E3 video game conference in Los Angeles, Microsoft unveiled its next generation game console, the Xbox One X, which will be available starting on Nov. 7. The new box can run games in ultra HD 4K resolution.
Starting in fourth place. The much hyped new Essential smartphone from Android creator Andy Rubin will start exclusively on the Sprint wireless network. “We like to bet with where we think the market is going as opposed to where the market was,” president Niccolo de Masi told USA Today. “I feel like we are a new brand and a new consumer electronics company and we are partnering with the network of the future.”
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Who was the Facebook shareholder confronting CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the company’s recent annual meeting over fake news? It was activist investor Natasha Lamb, managing partner at Arjuna Capital and a growing voice on Wall Street for social and environmental issues.
Cale Guthire Weissman at Fast Company profiles the former equity analyst who has so far convinced seven public companies including eBay, Apple, and Amazon, to disclose gender pay data.
“We look to press the envelope,” Lamb says. “We tend to identify critical issues early.”
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Silicon Valley Isn’t the Only Out-of-Touch Tech Bubble by Barb Darrow
Twitter Account of Journalist, Activist Hacked to Spread Fake News by Mathew Ingram
Airbnb Gets the Legal Green Light in Japan by David Z. Morris
Restaurants Face Digital Dilemma by John Kell
Apple CEO Tim Cook Warns About Tech’s Downsides by David Z. Morris
BEFORE YOU GO
Many actors have played Batman on screen but Adam West was the first and his wryly comic take on the caped crusader remains unforgettable. West died on Friday night, leaving Gen X missing another of its iconic pop culture figures. The series is still available, though, on iTunes and Amazon. So at least we will always have the reruns. Same Bat-time! Same Bat-channel!