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One thing that really annoys Terry Gou, the founder and boss at iPhone contract manufacturer Foxconn, is for his company to be known as the iPhone contract manufacturer. Such work for Apple certainly is what catapulted Foxconn to fame and fortune. But Gou built the company from scratch and sees it as much more–potentially even as a maker of its own brilliant devices.
Gou hinted Monday that he’ll step down some time soon. If he does, it’ll be the end of an era for an improbably successful company. Worth $100 billion, Foxconn survived where oodles of others shriveled. It owed much of its success to the wiliness of Gou, who is based in Taiwan but runs his company from its mainland Chinese offices in Shenzhen.
Founders like Gou rarely go quietly or easily. As Breakingviews notes, he intimated he’ll remain involved in strategy–which suggests Gou isn’t contemplating giving up just yet.
A small item in the paper—yes, I still read the paper, three of them to be precise—caught my eye last week. It referred to a report from consultancy Gartner that global shipments of personal computers declined 4.6% in the first quarter of 2019 from the year before.
There was a time when the tech industry paid careful attention to this number because it reflected the health of a vital industry. These days, not so much. I was curious to know what the number was, though. The PC industry shipped nearly 60 million units in the first quarter, meaning nearly a quarter billion PCs get made each year. No longer vital, but still plenty significant.
One more trip down memory lane: Milton Moskowitz, the man who created Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in America list, died last month, aged 91. That list began in 1998 and has run every year since, including last month. In years past I worked on the list with the company he founded, but I never met Moskowitz. I also never knew what an interesting and varied career he had as a journalist.
Game of (TV) Thrones. On Monday, Hulu paid $1.4 billion to repurchase a 9.5% ownership stake from AT&T, which AT&T had acquired when it bought Time Warner. That leaves only Disney, with a 60% share, and Comcast, with a 30% share, among the original owners of the streaming service. They will likely each get a proportionate share of AT&T’s former stake.
You know nothing. Turns out sending a rocket booster into space and landing it on a ship at sea was the easy part. One of SpaceX’s three valuable, reusable Falcon Heavy booster rockets managed that feat last week, only to be lost overboard in rough seas over the weekend. Still, SpaceX raised another $500 million of private backing, which could be used for the company’s Starlink Internet satellite effort, the Wall Street Journal reports,
Now my watch begins. After a brief request for career advice in an online forum turned into an outpouring of stories about sexual harassment and discrimination, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is pledging to improve. In a memo to employees on Monday, the CEO said he was “disappointed” to hear about the bad behavior though “encouraged that people feel empowered to speak up and demand change.”
Chaos is a ladder. In the land of gadgetry, reviews of Samsung’s $2,000 Galaxy Fold hit the street. Reviewers were impressed with the complex folding mechanism, though somewhat put off by the weight and bulk of the device. CNET called it a “premium, cohesive device,” while The Verge described it as “an itty-bitty tablet” that “feels more useful the longer I hold it.” Meanwhile, Microsoft may be eyeing Apple’s popular wireless earbuds, Airpods, with a planned similar product code-named “Morrison,” tech news website Thurrott.com reports.
Winter is coming. In a long and wide-ranging interview with The New York Times Magazine, Melinda Gates offers some criticism of the tech industry’s priorities: “I would also love to see more tech innovation on behalf of the world. ‘Let’s create the next thing that tracks my dog’ — that’s fun and nice, but come on, there are people dying.”
(Today’s headline quotes in honor of the big debut of the final season of some HBO show.)
ON THE MOVE
Apple hired Arthur van Hoff, one of the founders of Disney-backed virtual reality startup Jaunt…Danielle Brown, Google’s chief diversity officer, has left to join benefits startup Gusto as chief people officer. Google promoted Melonie Parker to the CDO role…Facebook is making changes to its board of directors. Long-timers Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, and Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, are out. Peggy Alford, senior vice president of core markets at PayPal, is in.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Cars and trucks already collect a huge amount of data, as vehicles contain more computing power than ever. In Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation imposes privacy limits on how automakers and others can use the data but in the United States, at least so far, there is no federal law governing the information. Gopal Ratnam reviews the situation in a deep dive for Roll Call. The auto industry says it’s following a set of voluntary guidelines but that may not be enough:
Consumers are right to be concerned that, unknown to them, data collected by car companies could be shared with law enforcement agencies, just as online ancestry registries have shared DNA information with investigators, said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League. Drivers who connect their smartphones and other devices via Bluetooth to their cars could be sharing their entertainment and eating habits as well as their entire contacts list with the car’s manufacturer, or with a rental car company, Greenberg said. One of the measures Greenberg advocates includes asking rental car companies to wipe the cars clean of all data on board before renting the vehicle to a new driver.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Behind KKR’s Big Bet On Cybersecurity By Rey Mashayekhi
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Quitting Facebook By Chris Morris
Crypto Cowboy Binance Wants to Play By the Rules By Jeff John Roberts
BEFORE YOU GO
Most Native American cultures relied on oral, not written, languages. But as war came to the continent, some tribes evolved how they recorded their own history. In a massive cave in Alabama, researchers are studying messages carved in the walls by members of the Cherokee tribe. In one case, members of a stickball team recorded their exploits. Smithsonian Magazine has the fascinating story.