I remember the last time I was inordinately excited to attend one of Apple’s signature product events. It was the first week of October 2011, and Apple invited the press, partners, and assorted VIPs to a “Let’s Talk iPhone” gathering at its corporate headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. Only a few people knew it, but Steve Jobs would succumb to cancer the next day, and he lay ill at home during the event.
The company’s new CEO, Tim Cook, hosted the event, memorable in retrospect for two announcements. One was Siri, Apple’s then-revolutionary digital assistant. The second was a let-down. Apple fans expected an iPhone 5 but instead got an iPhone 4s. It seemed important at the time.
I had a lot riding on this event because I was about to finish my book about Apple and I badly needed the scene for the last chapter of my book. It didn’t disappoint. All the glory of a Steve Jobs event—the precise starting time, the gorgeous slides, the anticipatory vibe—were present but for the master himself. The product launch happened in Apple’s Town Hall auditorium, which Cook noted had been the site of debuts for the iPod in 2001 and a redesigned MacBook Air in 2010.
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I bring all this up because Apple sent out invitations Wednesday for an event widely expected to unveil an iPhone 8, a new high-end design. So much as changed in nearly six years. Cook, a tentative speaker who had toiled in the shadow of Jobs for years, has grown into a confident world leader and global ambassador for Apple. The company rarely surprises its fans anymore. Apple sites—they used to be called “Mac” sites—are replete with details of expected features for phones, the Apple Watch, Apple TV and new software.
But something is new. This will be the first Apple launch in the Steve Jobs Theater on the new Apple campus. (Apple’s traditionally cheeky come-on line in its invitation: “Let’s meet at our place.”) It’s a campus Jobs was intimately involved with designing before his death. The company may have become more predictable since Jobs passed from the scene. It certainly has become more valuable.
A product launch in a brand-new venue more than anything marks the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. I’ll be there.
Workplace dispute. The National Labor Relations Board is investigating Tesla for unfair labor practices after workers and the United Auto Workers union sought a probe into the electric automaker’s efforts to hamper unionizing activity. Tesla said the allegations were “entirely without merit.”
Shiny new toys. Amid the growing anticipation of Apple’s iPhone event, other gadget makers have been announcing their own latest and greatest at the IFA show in Berlin. Sony unveiled its new Xperia XZ1 phone with a 19 megapixel camera, LG’s V30 has the widest camera aperture ever on a phone, and Motorola brought out its midrange Moto X4 phone. Logitech had a cool keyboard called Craft with a programable dial. And for you old school analog folk, Panasonic debuted a ridiculously good looking record player.
Protect me. Cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks blew past Wall Street’s expectations as malware like the Wannacry attack brought in more customers. Revenue jumped 27% to $509 million, more than the $487 million analysts forecast, and adjusted earnings per share of 92 cents were up 39% and 13 cents better than expected. Palo Alto shares, up only 6% this years, jumped 8% in premarket trading on Friday.
Drive me. Samsung became the latest company to get permission from California regulators to test autonomous cars. The company said the tests were “in pursuit of a smarter, safer transportation future” but that it had no plans to enter there car manufacturing business.
Less is more. As Apple’s ambitions to create original video shows have grown, Spotify appears to have decided to move on. After less than two years, Spotify’s head of original programming Tom Calderone, who used to run cable network VH1, is out, Bloomberg reports. Going forward, video efforts will be narrowly focused around popular music playlist Rap Caviar, Spotify said.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
What DNA, Diversity, and Netflix Have in Common by Jonathan Vanian
Amazon Wants More Kid-Friendly Alexa Apps by Barb Darrow
Why the Dismissed Uber ‘Hell’ Program Lawsuit Could Come Back by Kirsten Korosec
This Is What Apple Has to Say About the Net Neutrality Debate by Aaron Pressman
This Is Why You’ve Been Getting So Much Spam by Robert Hackett
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Uber’s highest-profile recent hire might not be new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. Back in June, the troubled ride sharing service nabbed marketing guru Bozoma Saint John away from Apple. Now she faces the daunting task of rebuilding customers’ love of Uber (amid signs of falling market share) even as Khosrowshahi begins changing the culture to address the deeper problems.
Saint John, the first black woman ever to appear on stage at an Apple developer conference, is already hard at work trying to spread the message that Uber is worth saving, as she tells New York Times interviewer Ana Marie Cox:
It is so innovative and has such a bright future in terms of disrupting what has been a very old and antiquated system of transportation. It’s also about the thousands of people who work so tirelessly every day for the company. They’ve been working hard for a number of years to bring a product to life. Why shouldn’t we save it?
FOR YOUR WEEKEND READING PLEASURE
I may have been rather hungry all week, as you’ll see when you peruse these interesting longer reads I came across that are suitable for your weekend reading pleasure.
Who is Winning the Food Delivery War?
Depending on where you live in the country, you can get groceries delivered through platforms like Instacart or Amazon Fresh. You can order all the ingredients you need to cook a meal with meal kit services like Blue Apron. Or, you can feast on ready-made meals from the likes of Thistle and Munchery. You might even get your favorite General’s Chicken delivered on Seamless or GrubHub a few times a week.
The Premium Mediocre Life of Maya Millennial
A few months ago, while dining at Veggie Grill (one of the new breed of Chipotle-class fast-casual restaurants), a phrase popped unbidden into my head: premium mediocre. The food, I opined to my wife, was premium mediocre. She instantly got what I meant, though she didn’t quite agree that Veggie Grill qualified.
To Survive in Tough Times, Restaurants Turn to Data-Mining
A regular diner who always orders the niçoise salad will get a message on the app about the halibut special. A diner who always orders vegetarian options will not get the message about the summer hog roast. “We want to accommodate everyone’s needs,” Mr. Oberholtzer said, “sometimes before they even mention them.”
72 Women, 1,250 Miles. No GPS.
It was 4 p.m. and 90 degrees when we finally decided to give up. For hours, Jaclyn and I had been inching our Jeep Rubicon along a dusty unmarked road in the Mojave National Preserve, eventually finding ourselves trapped in a high-walled canyon. We had no idea how far off course we were: Two miles? Twenty? We hadn’t seen another human all afternoon. Soon it would be dusk, then nightfall.
BEFORE YOU GO
Pour another mug of java this morning. The latest study of the health impacts of coffee drinking is out and it’s heavily pro-coffee. “Our findings suggest that drinking four cups of coffee each day can be part of a healthy diet in healthy people,” says Dr Adela Navarro, a cardiologist at Hospital de Navarra, Pamplona, Spain who worked on the research. Four cups? Nice.