CES gets underway in Las Vegas this morning. It’s the world’s leading celebration of tech gadgetry, with 50 football fields of convention space, showcasing a blinding array of mammoth televisions, a cacophony of sound systems, an endless assortment of smart lights/refrigerators/cars/toothbrushes, in-air and underwater drones, robots that will “nurture your capacity to love,” and much more. Some 30,000 different products on display this year will respond if you say “Alexa” or “Hey, Google.” Meanwhile, Apple, which doesn’t subject Siri to the CES riffraff, is nevertheless lurking outside the convention center with a building–sized billboard that declares: “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.” (That’s a data joke. Get it?)
If all this sounds a bit stupefying, well, it is…which is one reason I’m taking a break from the brouhaha this year. But what I find interesting is how this ultimate showcase for consumer technology has increasingly become a destination for business technology. This morning’s opening keynote will be given by IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, who will be talking about “what’s next” for data and computing. She also will unveil the new IBM Q System One, billed as “the first fully integrated quantum computing system for commercial use.” Because it has to operate at a temperature “1,000 times colder than outer space,” in Rometty’s words, it’s not really ready for the average smart home. But it does open the door to experimentation at cutting-edge research facilities. On stage with Rometty this morning will be Vijay Swarup, who heads R&D at ExxonMobil and is using the IBM Quantum computer for global oil discovery projects. I got a briefing on the system at the IBM Research Center in Yorktown, NY, last month, and was impressed with the possibilities that it promises to bring to the world of computing.
Fortune helped get gadget week off to a strong start last night with its annual Brainstorm Tech dinner at the Bellagio’s Picasso restaurant. The event featured a fireside chat with AMD CEO Lisa Su, who is feeling buoyant about hardware maybe being “sexy again.” You can read more about the chat here.
Other news below. And by the way, also this morning, IBM and the Consumer Technology Association, which hosts CES, will announce their “21st Century Apprenticeship Coalition,” designed to help close the technology skills gap by expanding apprenticeship programs. It’s a worthy effort; details here.
The head of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, is resigning three years early in order to go into the private sector. The institution’s shareholders—189 countries—were reportedly surprised by the personal decision, which gives President Trump the chance to appoint a successor who shares his views on international aid. Guardian
Nellie Liang is no longer applying for a Fed board seat. The former Fed economist dropped out Monday, apparently without any pressure from the White House—though her withdrawal gives President Trump the chance to appoint someone who shares his views on interest rate increases. Bloomberg
Samsung and LG
Samsung has predicted Q4 operating profit that comes in more than 18% below analyst expectations, and represents a year-on-year drop of almost 29%. Why? Growing smartphone competition and weak demand for Samsung’s memory chips. But compatriot LG has it worse, with operating profit for the quarter probably down a whopping 80% year-on-year. Fortune
It’s been the case for a couple years that job openings are outnumbering jobless people in the Midwest, but the phenomenon is spreading to other parts of the U.S., the South in particular. Economists say the looming (or present, depending on where you are) prospect of labor shortages could require action from the Fed, perhaps in terms of raising interest rates further. Reuters
Around the Water Cooler
Per S&P, PG&E no longer has an investment-grade credit rating. The California power utility faces huge claims in relation to deadly wildfires in the last couple years, and there are bankruptcy fears. Reuters
Mastercard’s logo no longer features the company’s name. The announcement of Mastercard’s “post-text” future took place at CES—appropriately, perhaps, given the intention of having the new logo “work seamlessly across the digital landscape.” In other words, the new logo looks more like an app icon. Fortune
Coinbase has halted Ethereum Classic transactions after the popular-ish cryptocurrency (don’t confuse it with regular Ethereum, a.k.a. the second-most-popular after Bitcoin) appeared to fall victim to a hack. Coindesk
More Brainstorm Tech
Further to the above-linked story from last night’s Brainstorm Tech dinner in Las Vegas, also check out Allstate CEO Tom Wilson’s pronouncement that “Americans’ love affair with the car is going to go away.” Why? The system is so inefficient, with most cars constantly being underutilized. That’s pretty much the argument for ride-sharing schemes and (whisper it) public transport. Fortune