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But what exactly is the story?
Apple enthusiasts and departed insiders I talk to are adamant that the company has lost its way. It isn’t innovative in the way it was. Its management is sclerotic, entrenched, and arrogant. Its products aren’t crisp. It isn’t the Apple of old.
Even if true, the argument feels churlish. Could there be a better example of a company—and it is a company, after all, not a religious organization—making the most of what it has? And, oh by the way, executing nearly flawlessly.
The most intriguing aspect of Tuesday’s earnings call to me was Tim Cook’s statement that Apple feels very good about its as-yet unannounced strategy to take advantage of the cord-cutting trend. Bernstein’s Toni Sacconaghi says Cook was similarly bullish several years ago. But that was before Apple started dishing out billions to the likes of Oprah Winfrey in competition for original content with Netflix, Amazon, HBO, and others.
Apple’s grand plan could be as simple as re-skinning Apple Music to be Apple Entertainment (audio and video) and offering an attractively priced subscription. But perhaps it has grander plans. Look for Apple to do one of its signature “reveal” events next month, traditionally Apple’s preferred time for glitzy product introductions.
Momentum is building for Brainstorm Reinvent, Fortune’s newest conference. It is a two-day, invitation-only event in Chicago, on Sept. 24 and 25, devoted to the topic of business reinvention.
Here’s a selection of the participants I’m excited to hear from: Sam’s Club CEO John Furner, Harvard professor and (briefly) Uber executive Frances Frei, Microsoft deal chief Peggy Johnson, AI researcher and entrepreneur Rana el Kaliouby, New York Times CEO Mark Thompson, Ariel Investments President Mellody Hobson (who is also on the boards of Starbucks, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Estee Lauder), and United Technologies CEO Gregory Hayes.
That’s truthfully just a selection, and I’ll highlight other participants soon. More information about the event is here. There are still spots available for this inaugural event; email me directly for an invitation.
‘Cause I’m missing more than just your body. Shares of Tesla surged as much as 13% Wednesday evening after a quarterly earnings call in which CEO Elon Musk apologized on three separate occasions, including personally saying sorry to two Wall Street analysts he berated on last quarter’s conference call. “Honestly, I think there’s really no excuse for bad manners, and I was kind of violating my own rule in that regard,” Musk said to one analyst.
I just need one more shot at forgiveness. Continuing the theme of moody billionaires, the daughter of late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Lisa Brennan-Jobs, has written a memoir, called Small Fry, due out in September, and Vanity Fair has an excerpt. It’s an emotional short story of a child seeking love and approval from a difficult and often distant dad. Have a tissue box handy.
Yeah, it is too late now to say sorry. On Wall Street, Fitbit pleased, Square disappointed, and Sonos debuted. The fact that Fitbit’s stock price was up 4% so far this year while Square’s was up 93% may figure into the split verdict. Fitbit’s operating results were bad on the face of it, with revenue down 15% to $299 million and an adjusted loss per share of 22 cents triple the loss of a year ago. But both figures were better than analysts forecast and CEO James Park promised growth and profits for the second half of the year. Fitbit’s stock was up 3% premarket on Thursday. Square’s adjusted revenue jumped 60% to $385 million and adjusted earnings per share doubled to 13 cents. Both beat Wall Street, but third quarter guidance did not and the shares lost 3% in premarket trading. Speaker maker Sonos priced its IPO at $15 a share, valuing the company at about $1.5 billion, a bit less than expected. Trading begins later on Thursday.
I don’t do too well with apologies. The New York City Council, considering regulations on ride-hailing apps, rejected an offer from Uber, Lyft, and Via to create a $100 million fund over five years to help struggling yellow taxi drivers. Taxi medallions issued by the city have dropped in value from more than $1 million four years ago to as little as $200,000 lately.
One more shot at second chances. Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief security officer, is leaving the company on August 17, as previously reported, and will join the faculty at Stanford in September. He will be an adjunct professor, initially teaching a course called “Hack Lab,” which offers lectures and hands-on exposure to cybercrime and cyberwarfare techniques.
I hope I don’t run out of time. More than 18 months into his first term, President Trump nominated someone to fill the post of White House science and technology advisor. Well-respected meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier, a former vice-chair of the governing board of the National Science Foundation, got the nod. Former Obama science advisor John Holden called Droegemeier “a very good pick.”
You go out and spill the truth. In M&A land, Cisco Systems is buying Duo, a security authentication provider, for $2.4 billion. The startup’s software-based login authentication method works with employees’ phones instead of requiring a separate fob.
Is it too late to say I’m sorry now? A few quickies from Asia: Starbucks is partnering with Alibaba to integrate its online ordering and rewards program into Alibaba’s apps. Grab raised yet another $1 billion from firms including Vulcan Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Macquarie Capital.
(Headline quote explainer, with almost 3 billion YouTube views, for those of the non-Beliebers amongst you.)
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
We’ve often brought you news that one startup or another was receiving massive backing from billionaire Masayoshi Son’s Vision Fund. CNBC’s Alex Sherman didn’t get to interview the SoftBank CEO, but has turned up quite a bit of interesting info for a lengthy profile about how Son does business. Son strongly encourages the companies he invests in to cooperate, Sherman writes:
Son’s focus on how companies in his portfolio can share technology makes him different from nearly every other venture capitalist, said Dave Grannan, co-founder and CEO of software-defined camera company Light, who took $100 million from the Vision Fund as part of a Series D round announced in July. Venture firms typically place a lot of bets and hope a few strike gold. Son’s strategy with the Vision Fund appears to be a hybrid approach between venture capital and a diversified corporation—similar to SoftBank itself…
For Grannan, that means eventually getting his high-resolution cameras in autonomous cars that could operate through Uber, Ola, Grab and Didi Chuxing, all of which are partially owned by the Vision Fund. It also means getting in smartphones that connect with Sprint and SoftBank’s mobile network in Japan.
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BEFORE YOU GO
Wine drinkers who love emojis have been boxed in. There’s a glass of red wine emoji, but nothing for imbibers of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, or pinot grigio. Now winery Kendall-Jackson is trying to correct this error, petitioning Unicode, the group in charge of the emojis, for a glass of white wine emblem. “This is our chance to do something about it, not just for our fans, but for the global wine community at large,” director of marketing Maggie Curry says. Now what about rosé?