The future of shopping

The future of shopping

Amazon and Alibaba are racing toward commercial ubiquity, but China's Alibaba is miles ahead

Posted by The Economist on Sunday, November 5, 2017

WeChat is ubiquitous

People that have never lived in China might never understand the importance of WeChat in the Chinese market. It is truly ubiquitous, as messenger, service provider, payment system, and general app for the everyday life. If you build a business in China, building on the WeChat platform is already the next evolution step of mobile first: it is “WeChat first”.

 

WeChat had already morphed beyond its roots as a chat service to become a one-stop app for everything, from banking to shopping to dating to dining. With each new feature and service it adds, users have fewer and fewer reasons to leave it, or to download other apps. Mini programs may eliminate the need altogether.

WeChat’s App Revolution

Growing Pains

Tesla stock dropped more than 5% after hours as Musk explained what had gone wrong in the making of the new Model 3, the company’s first affordably priced electric car. Investors had sensed something was awry a month earlier, when Tesla said it had only made 260 of the Model 3 last quarter, well below the nearly 2,000 it had forecasted; some reports said the bottleneck was due to the carmaker assembling the vehicle by hand.

Elon Musk Says This Is Tesla’s ‘Biggest Problem’

 

“Nine levels of production hell” are not unusual when you launch a new product. Especially if it is a product of such a scale never produced by the company before.

Disrupt yourself

Interesting interview with Ford CEO Mark Fields on looking into new business models and making the company ready for the future. Ford has recently spun-off their next generation mobility services into a new company. More and more leading car OEs and suppliers are trying to leverage the environment in the  Silicon Valley in order to embrace change and explore new business fields. Disruption of an existing industry happens in most cases due to new entrants from the outside, and the classic players in the Automotive industry have to get ready.

 

Our approach is to first, disrupt ourselves. That’s why you see us creating things like Ford Smart Mobility, the LLC, creating FordPass, really thinking differently about this from a consumer-end standpoint. Thinking about experiences, and then how does technology, hardware, and software deliver that, as opposed to the other way around. I think we’re really disrupting ourselves.
Meet the new Ford, a Silicon Valley software company

Order your Volvo the Tesla way

A while ago I wrote about Tesla’s different approach to sales and distribution of their cars, employing online direct sales for a customer experience from build to customer service. For their new S90 flagship model, Volvo has gotten some inspiration from this direct-to-customer approach.

 

Volvo has a new system in place for the launch of its flagship S90 sedan that kind of mimics that experience: you can spec out the exact car you want online, then submit it to a “Volvo Concierge” who will finalize the order for you within a day or two.
The Verge – Ordering Volvo’s new flagship sedan is a little like ordering a Tesla

 

The order process looks indeed similar, however you still are not buying your Volvo directly from Volvo. A Volvo dealer is handling the fulfillment and delivering the car to you. The full Tesla sales and distribution process (and thus cutting out the dealer) is very difficult to imitate for a “classic” OE such as Volvo, as they have legacy structure of existing dealerships and service locations to maintain.

 

Volvo S90 - volvo.com

Volvo S90 – volvo.com

The first iPhone hacker is building a self-driving car

Fascinating Bloomberg article about former-iPhone-hacker George Hotz who has outfitted his Acura with cameras, lidar, and computing power to go for autonomous driving. His plan is to prove that he is able to build better technology and algorithms than companies like Tesla or other car manufacturers.

 

The technology he’s building represents an end run on much more expensive systems being designed by Google, Uber, the major automakers, and, if persistent rumors and numerous news reports are true, Apple. More short term, he thinks he can challenge Mobileye, the Israeli company that supplies Tesla Motors, BMW, Ford Motor, General Motors, and others with their current driver-assist technology. “It’s absurd,” Hotz says of Mobileye. “They’re a company that’s behind the times, and they have not caught up.”
Bloomberg

 

In fact, Hotz has turned down an offer from Elon Musk to work for Tesla.

 

Hotz, though, broke off the talks when he felt that Musk kept changing the terms. “Frankly, I think you should just work at Tesla,” Musk wrote to Hotz in an e-mail. “I’m happy to work out a multimillion-dollar bonus with a longer time horizon that pays out as soon as we discontinue Mobileye.” “I appreciate the offer,” Hotz replied, “but like I’ve said, I’m not looking for a job. I’ll ping you when I crush Mobileye.” Musk simply answered, “OK.”
Bloomberg

 

Hotz plans to get more data and experience with his prototype and then demonstrate it by “filming a video of the Acura outperforming a Tesla across the bridge, and then follow that up by passing the final test on I-405 in Los Angeles where Musk lives.”

Tesla remains skeptic on the success of Hotz, releasing a statement on their website accordingly:

 

We think it is extremely unlikely that a single person or even a small company that lacks extensive engineering validation capability will be able to produce an autonomous driving system that can be deployed to production vehicles. It may work as a limited demo on a known stretch of road — Tesla had such a system two years ago — but then requires enormous resources to debug over millions of miles of widely differing roads.
Tesla

 

Inside of Georg Hotz' Acura - Photographer: Peter Bohler for Bloomberg Businessweek

Inside of George Hotz’ Acura – Photographer: Peter Bohler for Bloomberg Businessweek. http://www.bloomberg.com/features/2015-george-hotz-self-driving-car/

Faraday Future – a new Tesla competitor?

faradayfuture.com

faradayfuture.com

There was some media buzz during last weeks regarding a mysterious new billion-dollar EV company, operating out of a former Nissan site in California. The company called “Faraday Future” (FF) has assembled a strong leadership team consisting of former Tesla and BMW guys plus a couple of hundred other employees, and seems to be planning to launch a new EV vehicle around 2017.

First reports have indicated the possibility of Faraday Future being a dummy company for Apple’s EV project, given the lack of an known CEO and the seemingly extremely fast and high funding of the new company. A closer look at the incorporating documents has revealed, though, that FF’s chief executive is a partner of Jia Yuenting, founder of LeTV. Thus, Faraday Future is more likely to be the potential future home of LeTV’s SSE (Super Electric Eco-System) car project. This project is not just about the “old-economy” style “moving a car out to the dealer” type of business, but will try to treat the car more like a smart phone. Subscriptions, apps, car-sharing and other service revenue streams seem to be an integral part of the envisioned LeTV EV car project.

“Comply or Die” for Uber in China

Uber is usually not afraid to go on the offensive with regulators all over the world in order to facilitate its rapid growth and expansion. Be it by filing complaints against several governments in Europe at the beginning of 2015, or using it’s large venture cash pool to hand out aggressive cash incentives to drivers in India in order to go against opposing “old-economy” taxi monopolies.

In Uber’s most important growth market China, however, Uber’s management is much more cautious and obedient, knowing that their usual strategy of disrupting the market could possible come to a dead stop at anytime at will of the strong central government. Additionally, Uber is still only the minor player in China, competing with the extremely strong local competitor Didi Kuiadi that has around 80% of the market and gets significant invest from sources close to the Chinese government.

Uber therefore seems to go now for a strict compliance strategy in China. After China’s Ministry of Transport has published a draft of a new rule set for private e-hailing services, bringing in far-reaching regulatory demands on licenses, drivers and IT infrastructure, Uber is happy to comply with any new rule. Unlike Uber’s usual way of ‘acting first and (maybe) asking for permission later’, Uber has already announced that “the company is in close communication with Chinese regulators and would follow all new rules”.

Additionally, Uber will fully separate its China business from its other business by setting up an own Uber China company, and is trying to work more closely with local partners in order to get a better standing in the Chinese market. It is a “comply or die” situation, and Uber is likely to go for the survival option.

 

Uber said that to localize its Chinese business, Uber China has officially registered in Shanghai as a separate entity called Shanghai Wubo Information Technology, run by Chinese managers. It has obtained the requisite licenses and qualifications as an Internet company and placed its servers in China, the company added.
China Tightens Oversight of Private Car-Hailing Services

 

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick speaks during the Baidu and Uber strategic cooperation and investment signing ceremony at Baidu's headquarters in Beijing December 17, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick speaks during the Baidu and Uber strategic cooperation and investment signing ceremony at Baidu’s headquarters in Beijing December 17, 2014.
REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Privacy and data protection as a competitive advantage?

Porsche’s 911 sport cars are incredible driving machines. And the automaker’s upcoming 2017 model is no exception. High-end sports car like this one usually not only offer great driving performance, but also spoil its owners with latest connectivity and entertainment technology.
Interestingly, according to a Motor Trend Article, Porsche decided to not integrate Google’s Android Auto into its latest car, and only offers Apple’s Car Play in their head unit instead. There is not really a technological reason behind this decision, but Porsche decided based on privacy and data protection concerns.

 

As part of the agreement an automaker would have to enter with Google, Porsche said certain pieces of data must be collected and transmitted back to Mountain View, California. Stuff like vehicle speed, throttle position, coolant and oil temp, engine revs—basically Google wants a complete OBD2 dump whenever someone activates Android Auto. Not kosher, says Porsche.
13 Cool Facts About the 2017 Porsche 911

 

Although Google disputes this statement, it did not provide a full list of collected data to further clarify the situation. It might be that Porsche made its decision to a time “when Google initially approached automakers concerning Android Auto, it requested a deeper data set than what is currently required”.

Nonetheless, Apple might be on the right track here in regards to privacy and data protection. Ultimately, Apple earns the majority of its revenues and profits with products and not with your data, providing a fundamental difference to the Google strategy.

 

Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t “monetize” the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple.
Tim Cook – CEO Apple

 

Apple Car Play

Apple Car Play – theverge.com/2015/9/4/9258013/apple-car-play-review