The language Apple used Friday to delay the release of its highly anticipated HomePod speaker was both amusing and telling. “We can’t wait for people to experience HomePod, Apple’s breakthrough wireless speaker for the home, but we need a little more time before it’s ready for our customers,” the company wrote in statement. “We can’t wait” is an Apple verbal tick, an earnest misdirection meaning, “We’re rather excited.” In fact, Apple can wait and so must its fans and investors. The pricey speaker-come-lately has missed a self-imposed deadline, leaving us to guess why.
Even as Apple surges toward $1 trillion in value, its doubters relish these moments as proof that Apple can’t innovate anymore. It’s not nearly the first company to plan a “smart” speaker. Amazon pioneered the category. Google is making a game effort. Chinese search engine Baidu recently said it plans an entry too.
As Apple fans never tire of pointing out, though, Apple has rarely been first to anything. Sony’s Walkman far predated the iPod. Nokia ruled smartphones before Apple. No matter your interpretation of Apple’s success with its Watch, it has become a leader—and it wasn’t first to market.
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So is the HomePod delayed because Apple is having trouble making it? Or because it is nervous about the proposed price point? Or because Siri is underperforming Alexa? And will it matter to Apple’s bottom line if the HomePod misses Christmas 2017 but surges in 2018?
Perhaps these will be questions to ask the device—once we get our hands on it.
Joe Matthews, a columnist for a non-profit called Zocalo Public Square, performs the difficult task of writing about all of California, a state as big, powerful, wealthy, and diverse as many countries. That means he must tie together interests from entertainment to agriculture to technology and beyond. A good example is his recent tale of two towers, a look at L.A.’s Wilshire Grand Center versus San Francisco’s Salesforce Tower. One, he says, looks out over a wasteland that isn’t the capital of anything. The other speaks to the entitled power of a rising elite. It’s a good read.
Done deal. Chipmaker Marvell Technology agreed to acquire Cavium for $6 billion, confirming earlier rumors that a deal was in the works. New CEO Matt Murphy has been seeking to diversify Marvell beyond its focus on chips for storage devices and Cavium’s network, security, server, and switching processors will help.
Exit. Controversial venture capitalist Peter Thiel, one of Silicon Valley’s earliest supporters of President Trump, is no longer a part-time partner at startup incubator Y Combinator. A 2015 blog post announcing Thiel’s arrival has been updated with the announcement that “Peter Thiel is no longer affiliated with Y Combinator,” BuzzFeed reported.
Exit, part two. Another prominent venture capitalist, Steve Jurvetson, left his firm under a cloud last week, as we noted in the newsletter. Now Recode has more of the back story. Jurvetson was asked to leave because Draper Fisher Jurvetson, the firm he helped co-found, caught him lying about serious personal allegations, the web site reported.
Speedy. First, there was “Ludicrous mode,” which let a Tesla Model S sedan accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds, and Elon Musk declared it was good. Then came the new Roadster 2 last week with a zero-to-60 time of 1.9 seconds. Now, Musk says the upcoming speedster will have a “special option packed” to cut the time to 60 mph even more. In more mundane but probably important Tesla new, Walmart will test the company’s new electric semi-trailer truck rigs. Analysts are a teensy bit worried Tesla will run out of cash before the new Roadster arrives in 2020, however.
Classroom observation. Germany banned the sale of cellular-enabled smartwatches aimed at children, saying the devices violate surveillance laws, for example, by letting a parent listen in on a teacher. Germany’s Federal Network Agency said watches that were already sold should be destroyed.
Tour de video. Online video news service Cheddar isn’t even two years old but it is expanding beyond the United States into Europe. The service struck a partnership with French startup Molotov to make its programming available in France.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Science still doesn’t fully understand how the human brain works, but that hasn’t stopped one especially ambitious tech entrepreneur from trying to hack it. Bryan Johnson, who founded the payments company Braintree, was inspired by the instant learning downloads seen in the movie The Matrix to create a startup called Kernel focused on brain technologies. John Richardson has an in-depth exploration of Johnson’s effort for Wired. So far, it’s very early days for the business, Richardson writes:
Right now all he has is an algorithm on a hard drive. When he describes the neuroprosthesis to reporters and conference audiences, he often uses the media-friendly expression “a chip in the brain,” but he knows he’ll never sell a mass-market product that depends on drilling holes in people’s skulls. Instead, the algorithm will eventually connect to the brain through some variation of noninvasive interfaces being developed by scientists around the world, from tiny sensors that could be injected into the brain to genetically engineered neurons that can exchange data wirelessly with a hatlike receiver. All of these proposed interfaces are either pipe dreams or years in the future, so in the meantime he’s using the wires attached to Dickerson’s hippocampus to focus on an even bigger challenge: what you say to the brain once you’re connected to it.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
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Uber’s CEO Comes From What May Be the World’s Most Techie Family By Robert Hackett
Boston Dynamics’ Atlas Robot Can Do Backflips Now By Tara John
Apple iPhone X Users Get Fix for Frozen Screen in Cold Weather By Aaron Pressman
BEFORE YOU GO
Perhaps the world’s most notorious cult leader, Charles Manson, died on Sunday night at age 83. In prison since 1969 for the murder spree that killed seven people, Manson has been a subject of fascination, profiled in dozens of books, movies, and TV shows.