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Mobility, as I related yesterday, is the new word for transportation. It’s a bigger, more expansive, more meaningful expression that conveys far more than vehicles and passengers. It means seamlessly interconnected systems of goods and people moving from point to point by whatever the most appropriate mode is at the moment.
That’s the vision anyway, and a panel of experts at a Fortune dinner in Las Vegas Monday night clearly articulated what this future might look like. Between now and that future, however, things are going to be a little messy. Scott Corwin, managing director of Deloitte Consulting, for example, envisions a mobility operating system that allows cities to offer one electronic fare to passengers traveling by car, taxi, scooter, bicycle, and other vehicles. Karen Francis, a former auto executive who sits on the board of several Silicon Valley transportation startups, figures the young talent flooding into the automotive sector via the technology industry promises great things. Tom Wilson, CEO of insurer Allstate, is busily planning for the day when insurance will be charged by how people drive–not how insurers think they’ll drive.
On the one hand, the future is further off than enthusiasts would have you believe. None of the panelists disputed that autonomous vehicle adoption will take longer than headlines suggest. And yet, it’s not in doubt that vehicle transportation as we know it will change radically. We just don’t know when.
Ynon Kreiz, the newish CEO of toy maker Mattel, attended the dinner at the CES show in Las Vegas. This morning his company will announce its first-ever feature film starring its iconic Barbie brand with Margot Robbie in the title role. “I was shocked to realize we never made a movie,” says Kreiz, who is repositioning Mattel away from toy manufacturing and toward intellectual property.
Big trouble in little China. The surprise shortfall in iPhone sales is beginning to look more like an industry problem than an Apple-specific one. Samsung said its fourth-quarter revenue shrank 11% and operating profit declined 29% from the year before, surprising analysts. Slow demand for memory chips and “intensifying competition” for phones were to blame. Then, LG said its profits plummeted 80% with revenue down 7%. Ouch.
Turn it on. Set-top box and Internet video services platform (they hate it when we call them just a set-top box maker) Roku pre-announced a bit of fourth quarter news as well, but on the upside. The company said it ended the quarter with 27 million active accounts, a 40% jump from the prior year. Roku’s share price jumped 25%.
You must pay the rent. Plans for SoftBank Group‘s Vision Fund to buy a controlling stake in WeWork for $16 billion are off the table, the Financial Times reports. Instead, the deal will now have SoftBank directly inject a mere $2 billion into the shared office space startup, without involving the Vision Fund.
Filing first. The scramble to claim the crown for best R&D went to IBM for 2018, at least by one key measure. The company scored a record 9,100 U.S. patents, followed by Samsung with 5,850, and Canon with 3,056, according to research firm IFI Claims.
Pond skating. After struggling for years to move to 10-nanometer chip production, Intel is finally getting some products out of the more efficient manufacturing process. At CES, the company showed off 10-nm chips, codenamed Ice Lake, running in PCs and a laptop.
ON THE MOVE
Square CFO Sarah Friar left the company last year to become CEO at neighborhood social networking site Nextdoor. Now Square is bringing in Amrita Ahuja from Blizzard Entertainment as the new finance overseer…Patrick Gates, who oversaw Apple’s iCloud infrastructure, is joining stealth startup Humane as chief technology officer…A retired Amazon executive will run Jeff Bezos’s $2 billion education initiative. Mike George will head the Day 1 Academies Fund…Prepared meal provider Freshly is hiring Mayur Gupta as chief marketing officer. Gupta had been vice president of growth and marketing at Spotify Technology.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
News that employees of a small, Wisconsin tech company were being implanted with identification chips (voluntarily) created quite a stir, but the movement seems to originate in Sweden. Fortune’s Vivienne Walt decided to go check out the scene first hand and reports back in a colorful profile, which examines the movement to replace your keys and subway pass with a subcutaneous RFID microchip.
“I used to lose my keys all the time. Now I unlock the door to my house with my hand,” says Aric Dromi, an Israeli-Swedish futurologist who has a Biohax chip implanted in his hand, and who sits on the advisory board of Hack for Sweden, the Swedish government’s organization aiming to embed big data into all the country’s public services. I saw that effort in action when I hopped aboard a Gothenburg-bound train with Österlund from the seaside city of Helsingborg, where Biohax is based. As the conductor came down the aisle, Österlund held out his hand, in which his ticket was embedded on his biochip. She swiped it without a thought: Sweden’s entire national rail network is now biochip-capable. So too are many of the 172 gyms run by Nordic Wellness in Sweden, where gym members and staff can open the secure turnstiles and lockers with their hands and view their exercise profiles on monitors.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
AMD CEO: Security Flaws ‘A Wakeup Call’ for Chip Makers By Andrew Nusca
CES 2019: IBM Wants to Make Weather Forecasts 200% More Accurate By Hallie Detrick
Samsung Goes Big—219 Inches of TV, Big—at CES 2019 By Chris Morris
Why Jargon Is Killing Your Job Ads By Alex Paterson
BEFORE YOU GO
As the chair of my town school committee, I’m more than a little familiar with harsh criticism from private citizens that sometimes seems out of bounds. Phyllis Randall, the chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors in Virginia, got fed up with accusations posted on her official Facebook page by a critic named Brian Davison. She deleted them.
A federal appeals court on Monday ruled that Randall’s move violated Davison’s First Amendment rights, because the Facebook page qualified as a “public forum.” But the Supreme Court has yet to weigh in on the topic, and the judges said they’d appreciate further guidance.