Good morning one last time from Aspen, Colo., where yesterday afternoon for the first time this week a tremendous thunderstorm rolled through town. That was after Fortune Brainstorm Tech wrapped, with a thrilling final morning whose topics ranged from fake news to sexual harassment to national security.
I hosted a fast-paced panel with a trio of impressive journalists: Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, David Sanger of The New York Times, and Isaac Lee of Univision and Televisa. Fake news means at least two things: the criminal placement of fabricated stories on sites like Facebook and Twitter for profit or to damage some target, and also a put down the president of the United States labels stories he doesn’t like. (Time after time, Sanger noted, the “fake” stories the president identifies are proven to be true.)
Tim Sloan, the post-scandal CEO of Wells Fargo, appeared in Aspen to talk about tech, specifically a new comprehensive payment product Wells launched yesterday called Control Tower. Sloan said Wells is focused on changing its gung-ho sales culture. He said it no longer tracks the average number of products its customers use. Tellingly, he referred to the physical locations where customers go as branches, just like other banks. Wells used to call them stores, a place where merchants sell things.
Niniane Wang, the entrepreneur who publicly accused a prospective investor of sexually harassing her, took the stage to discuss her recent experiences. Wang thinks venture capitalists should have a board of conduct for victims to report objectionable behavior. She talked at length about what it took to speak out. To her surprise, she’s receiving support from women and men alike in Silicon Valley.
John Brennan, the former CIA director, urged businesspeople to contact their members of Congress to urge them to find a way to tone down the nasty political dialogue. He also repeated past assertions that Donald Trump’s public criticism of U.S. intelligences agencies was “dishonorable.”
At the end of our conference we thanked our partner Walter Isaacson, who is retiring a CEO of the Aspen Institute, host of Brainstorm for many years. We also announced that for the first time we are taking Brainstorm Tech abroad. On December 5th and 6th we will convene Brainstorm Tech International in Guangzhou, China. Find out more about that new conference here.
I’ll close the week tomorrow with final thoughts from Brainstorm Tech.
The road ahead. The self-driving car revolution continues to draw nearer. Car tech startup Nauto raised $159 million this week to fuel its AI-driven camera and motion sensor system. Currently used to monitor fleet drivers, the system's vast data pool can also be used to train autonomous car software programs. Meanwhile, in Congress, lawmakers are moving ahead quickly (some think too quickly) to preempt state laws and make it much easier for companies to test self-driving cars on the road. The House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to vote on the proposal next week.
Bump in the road. Just when the Nokia smartphone comeback seemed to be gaining momentum, the company behind the revival has run into trouble. HMD Global, the Finnish startup formed by former Nokia phone execs, said on Wednesday that chief executive Arto Nummela is out, immediately. President Florian Seiche will takeover as CEO. The company said the switch was due to a "personal matter."
Bump in the road, part II. Intel's push into wearables never got very far and the company suffered an embarrassing total recall of its Basis Peak smartwatch line last year due to overheating issues. Now CNBC reports Intel has cut its entire health wearables effort and will focus on augmented reality devices.
Driving faster. Number three wireless carrier T-Mobile added another 1.3 million subscribers and reported revenue jumped 10% to $10.2 billion last quarter, better than Wall Street expected. CEO John Legere continued to tamp down merger speculation, after reports that talks with Sprint have been put on hold. "We're interested in focusing on our business and doing things in a methodical way, at our pace and our schedule," the often Tweet happy CEO told analysts. T-Mobile shares gained 4% in pre-market trading on Thursday.
Driving slower. Mobile chip giant Qualcomm's revenue and profit plunged as the company dealt with the fallout of its legal battles. Apple has stopped paying royalties and Qualcomm had to pay out a total of nearly $2 billion in settlements with Blackberry and the Korea Free Trade Commission. Revenue fell 11% to $5.4 billion and profit of $866 million was down 40%. The company's outlook for the next quarter disappointed investors and its shares dropped 2% in pre-market trading.
Driving with the top down. South Miami's city commission passed a law that all new homes must install solar panels. The first such law in Florida also applies to some renovations and goes into effect in September.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Google can easily afford to pay the $2.7 billion fine just levied by the European Union, but many other probes and cases against American tech companies are still ongoing. Fortune's Jeff John Roberts takes a long look at the situation and concludes that the end result may be more intrusive regulation of the apps and web sites consumers favor. Roberts writes:
Ted Ullyot, a partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz who worked on antitrust issues for the George W. Bush administration, points out that tech firms in particular resent governments ordering them to change their product designs. Such orders, they believe, amount to governments behaving as de facto software developers, even though they lack knowledge of the challenges this may entail—or of the business models that depend on the status quo.
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