Everybody wants Apple to be Volkswagen, but Apple just wants to be BMW.
Or, more to the point, Apple just wants to be Apple. Instead of making cheap phones to grow market share, it’s making expensive phones to maintain high profit margins—and market share is fading.
About 80 million smartphones were sold between the third quarters of 2012 and 2013. This graph, from Gartner data of smartphone growth in the last year, shows who got what. Apple might be the second biggest phone seller in the world, but Lenovo sold more phones in the last year. And Samsung sold almost five times more units.
In 1945, the Ford Motor Company named Henry Ford II, a.k.a. “Hank the Deuce,” as its president. His grandfather, the first Henry Ford, had built the iconic brand into a giant, but by the end of World War II the company was in trouble. Financial collapse was a realistic enough possibility that some thought the young heir might cash out while he could. Instead, he took the helm and presided over a tremendous comeback, ultimately giving Ford customers iconic models like the Thunderbird, Falcon and Mustang–as well as duds like the Pinto and Edsel.
Two years into his tenure, he sat down with The Atlantic for a lengthy interview at what we now know was the beginning of Ford Motor Company’s second act. Insights into the post-World War II automobile industry abound. The firm employed 130,000 people at the time, and it is perhaps unsurprising that the scion of the company’s founder declared his foremost goal was simply “to outsell Chevrolet.”
What’s been forgotten is Ford’s biggest obstacle. “We can’t get enough steel to manufacture anywhere near capacity,” he said. “We are in a seller’s market. Our facilities for making low-priced cars are not as large as Chevrolet’s. Right now we can sell all we can make, and so can they. But some day supply is going to be greater than demand. It won’t be a question then of how many you can make, but how many you can sell. Our goal is to outsell Chevrolet when that day comes.”
What follows are excerpts from the interview.
The first blockbuster hit came from an unlikely source: Irish talk radio.
In 2010, Michael D. Higgins, then a foreign-policy spokesperson for Ireland (and now its president), went on the radio in Galway and excoriated a conservative American talk show host for opposing President Obama’s plan to enact universal health care. For a long time, the audio file of the berating lingered in Internet purgatory. Then, in August 2012, Mansur Gidfar uploaded the audio to the new, rapidly growing site Upworthy.com in August 2012. He tried the headline, ”A Tea Partier Decided To Pick A Fight With A Foreign President. It Didn’t Go So Well.” The article went certifiably berserk, eventually becoming the site’s first million-hit story.
Today, Upworthy is a million-hit machine for heartfelt, progressive content, and it is trying to use this alchemy—spinning hearty fiber into viral gold—on behalf of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. On Tuesday, the company announced it is launching a global health and poverty section backed with Gates money, suggesting a future for not only the site’s editorial strategy but also for its business.
Upworthy has mastered the dark viral arts with a unique blend of A/B technology and lily-white earnestness.
Read more. [Image: Upworthy]
Elon Musk has already taken on the auto industry and space travel. But is he ready to take on Texas?
It seems we’re going to find out, judging from the news that Tesla Motors, Musk’s media-darling electric car company, is planning to build a pickup truck within the next five years. To date, Tesla has carved out a profitable niche selling eco-friendly luxury sedans to wealthy techies. It’s still working on a crossover SUV for 2014 and a cheaper sedan for 2016 (not to mention dealing with a spate of battery fires). But, never short of ambition, Musk told Business Insider yesterday that Tesla intends to eventually produce a pickup modeled on the Ford F-150, America’s top-selling vehicle.
Pulling that off would be a rather remarkable design feat. Ford, for its part, is aiming to have a mere hybrid version of the F-150 ready for 2020.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
This morning, the online education company Chegg had its initial public offering. It’s the first major Silicon Valley IPO since Twitter’s last week, and expectations were high. Would its shares soar, as Twitter’s have? The headlines are easy to write. Is the bubble back!?
Chegg aimed to raise $187.5 million in its IPO today. Yesterday, it set its price at $12.50 per share. Traders expected its shares to be priced more than a dollar lower—somewhere between $9.50 and $11.50—and, when Chegg stock started trading this morning, the market corrected. After losing almost a quarter of its value, prices went back up. At publication, Chegg was trading at around $10.25, some 18 percent below its initial share price.
Read more. [Image: Richard Drew/AP]
The Saudi Arabian scrap-metal tycoon I met 30 minutes ago is explaining why his brother’s camel cost a million dollars. “The face,” says Mr. M with a happy smile. “It has the perfect face.” He pulls out an iPhone and scrolls through photos of humpy ungulates yawning against blue skies and white sands. I pretend I can tell them apart.
It’s been like this our entire stay at the Pudong Shangri-La in Shanghai, home of the 2013 Bureau of International Recycling convention. Dinner with an American scrap-metal processor whose brother bought a castle in France. Drinks with a Taiwanese scrap broker who’s gotten fabulously wealthy importing American scrap into China. Sightings of so-and-so recycling magnate who splurged on a hill and snowmakers in Southern California so his kid could have a ski party for his birthday.
One night, a group in the hotel lobby catches my eye: dapper men in crisp suits; lithe, lovely women draped in silk and jewels. “Who are they?” I ask my husband Adam Minter, a scrap journalist. There is an aura of elegance, of celebrity around them that tells me these aren’t corrupt Chinese officials with their two-bit mistresses. Adam whispers a name in my ear. “Very rich, very influential Chinese scrap family,” he says. “They’re very nice people, too.”
Read more. [Image: Adam Minter]
A Chinese property company has pledged to build South Africa a new financial hub. On Nov. 4, Shanghai Zendai unveiled plans to transform Modderfontein, a manufacturing district in eastern Johannesburg, into a multi-use financial center “on par with cities like New York … or Hong Kong,” said Zendai chairman Dai Zhikang. The firm said it will spend about $7.8 billion on the development over the next 15 years.
The development—which has yet to be named and will include some 35,000 houses, an education center, and a sports arena—marks a departure from past forms of Chinese investment in Africa, many of which have drawn criticism. Over the past decade, state-owned and private Chinese firms have been been building African roads, railways, ports and other infrastructure in exchange for access to minerals and oil—a relationship that’s led some to call China a “neo-colonialist.” Chinese state oil firms now face resistance from their former partners in Niger, Chad, and Gabon.
Read more. [Image: AECI]
Twitter’s shares keep climbing this morning, far above the price set by the company’s bankers, as it prepares to debut on the New York Stock Exchange. This is an IPO with all the trumpets and glitter those three letters conjure.
But as the price climbs past $20 and $30 and $40, the revenue and profit expectations for the company do, too. To justify the excitement, analysts like RBC Capital Markets Mark Mahaney and Sun Trust analyst Robert Peck say Twitter will have to become a utility. But what kind?
On CNBC this morning, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo trotted out a new line for the company’s IPO: he called Twitter “the indispensable companion to life in the moment.”
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
The answer is no. But feel free to read the rest of this post anyway!
The mom-and-pop stores that preceded the now-dead rental chain had character–but made you bring the videos back the very next day.
Read more. [Image: Steve Snodgrass/Flickr]