Data Sheet—Wednesday, September 27, 2017
On my way through security in San Francisco Sunday afternoon I ran into a Silicon Valley-based executive traveling on the same flight to Fortune’s CEO Initiative event in New York. I asked how important China was to his business, and he listed the number of Chinese cities in which his company has relatively new offices and told me he visits the country regularly. As for me, with our Fortune Global Forum and Brainstorm Tech International conferences in Guangzhou approaching and fresh off our “China innovation” dinner last week, I guesstimated that China accounts for 25% of my “mindshare” these days.
I’m not alone.
Apple, for instance, has named one executive to oversee operations for the entire country, plus Hong Kong and Taiwan, the only country to which Apple dedicates a single executive. Her name is Isabel Ge Mahe, and as Fortune’s Claire Zillman makes clear in her informative profile , the 43-year-old native mainlander is an interesting choice. A huge part of the China country head position is dealing with the Chinese government. Yet there is nothing in Mahe’s background that suggests any experience dealing with the formidable task of conducting government relations in Beijing.
Instead, Mahe is an accomplished wireless engineer and manager, having risen the ranks at Apple and worked on key products. When filling a role like this companies can go with someone who knows the ins and outs of the local government and hope they can learn the company. Or as Apple has, it can choose someone who knows the company and ask them to learn the ropes in the halls of power.
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Mahe has her work cut out for her.
On the subject of China innovation, it was as if The Economist was eavesdropping on our dinner last Thursday night, which, given its deadlines, I know wasn’t the case. We devoted a panel to explaining how the Chinese have leapfrogged the West in certain areas, including wireless payments. This article gives great details on the same subject. And Berkeley economist Laura Tyson eloquently cautioned about allowing China to pursue innovation with an unfair advantage. This “leader” intelligently makes the same case.
Sorry for the late notice, but at 9:15 a.m. Eastern today I will be interviewing Google’s Sridhar Ramaswamy, the company’s senior vice-president of ads and commerce, and Marc Lore, president and CEO of Walmart eCommerce U.S. I plan to ask them about their recent formation of the anti-Amazon alliance. The event, part of Advertising Week in New York, will be livestreamed here.
Filling a void. Been lacking for Uber news of late? Lack no more. The controversial ride arranging company enhanced its app to allow drivers to give more detailed feedback about riders. Drivers also get a new additional payment for picking up passengers in UberPool. But that won’t matter much in Montreal–Uber is pulling out of the entire province of Quebec after new rules require police background checks and 35 hours of mandatory driver training. Meanwhile, the company moved forward trying to both negotiate with and file a lawsuit against London authorities who effectively outlawed the service there.
Still messy. Rumors abound that Amazon will start selling the Apple TV set-top box again after the two tech giants seem to have reached a detente in their media wars (an Amazon video app is finally coming to Apple TV, as well). But now Google is pulling its YouTube app from Amazon’s new Echo Show device.
Big bet. A former darling of the hedge fund world who blew up in 2015 is back and he’s chasing the bitcoin bubble. Mike Novogratz tells Bloomberg he is raising $500 million to hit the cryptocurrency craze on the way up. “This is going to be the largest bubble of our lifetimes,” Novogratz said. “You can make a whole lot of money on the way up, and we plan on it.”
Orwellian. The Trump administration is moving to collect more online information about recent immigrants, green card holders, and even naturalized Americans. Under proposed rules, which could take effect October 18, the government would track items like social media posts and Google search results.
Less constrained. Feeling like you want to be chattier on social media after that news? Twitter is testing an expanded tweet length limit of 280 characters, double the current maximum.
Beyond step tracking. The Food and Drug Administration picked nine companies, including Apple, Fitbit and Samsung, to participate in a pilot program making it easier to bring health-related wearable devices and apps to market. “We need to modernize our regulatory framework so that it matches the kind of innovation we’re being asked to evaluate,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said.
Urge to merge. On a party-line 3-2 vote, the Federal Communications Commission declared that the wireless market has reached a state of “effective competition.” The controversial finding, part of a required annual assessment, could make it somewhat easier for T-Mobile and Sprint to merge. But Trump-appointed chairman Ajit Pai said the conclusion “does not include rumors of mergers that may or may not happen.”
Gee whiz. Does every single tech company have a car strategy? James Dyson, founder of the high-end vacuum maker that bears his name, said Tuesday he will spend 1 billion British pounds, almost $1.4 billion, developing an electric car and another 1 billion pounds on battery development.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
How many African-American women run a Fortune 500 company in 2017? With last year’s departure of Ursula Burns from Xerox, the stunning answer is zero. Fortune’s Ellen McGirt dug into the issue, interviewing Burns and many others for an article headlined “The Black Ceiling.” Research shows continuing hostility in the workplace as a major cause of the deficit, as McGirt writes:
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