Weekly reading – 7/10/2021

What I wrote last week

I wrote about Clear Secure, which just recently went public

Business

Japan launches bid to regain its semiconductor crown. “Japan’s plans are less about boosting output than about avoiding being caught in the crosshairs of global tensions, notably the fierce competition between the US and China for dominance of future technologies.” It will be hard to play catch-up in the semiconductor industry, but I wouldn’t rule out Japan.

Starting April 22, 2022, Visa will lower interchange rates for Card-Not-Present tokenized transactions and increase rates for some Card-Not-Present untokenized ones. In layman’s terms, it means that merchants will get to keep more money (maximum 10 basis points) if they encourage customers to pay online with mobile wallets such as Apple Pay or PayPal. Nothing spurs actions like incentives.

Universal films will head exclusively to Amazon Prime Video after their run on Peacock. Amazon has been aggressively investing in content on Prime Video. First it secured rights to stream NFL Thursday games starting next year. Then, it bought MGM Studios. Now, it will bring over Universal films after the initial premiere on Peacock. Amazon has been on the record pleased with Prime Video as an acquisition and retention tool for their lucrative Prime customer base. The Prime customer base in the US, since streaming rights are geographically dependent anyway, should be big enough to justify Amazon’s outlay.

FACT SHEET: Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy. I like what I saw from this Executive Order. I hope that the responsible Departments will soon introduce and implement policies. I, for one, would love to have another Internet provider in my building, in addition to Cox

Didi Tried Balancing Pressure From China and Investors. It Satisfied Neither. “The regulators in Beijing were under the impression Didi would pause its initial public offering while it addressed data-security concerns, according to people familiar with the company’s conversations with regulators. In New York, Didi offered assurances that Beijing had given it the green light, said people close to the listing process.”. It sounds like Didi wasn’t honest and straightforward with investors; which you know is a crime. On a side note, unless somebody lives in China or really understand what goes on in the country, for the life of me, I don’t understand why they will invest in Chinese companies. Just look at Didi and Alibaba as examples.

What I found interesting

The Senator Who Decided to Tell the Truth. I’d have a beer with this Senator. As a GOP politician, he was brave to tell the uncomfortable truth when his constituents didn’t want that truth. Whether you agree with his report, we definitely need more truth-telling and honest people like McBroom

A new road to an inaccessible land. An awesome write-up on the highly remote Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan. The area looks pristine and beautiful. I love this kind of exploratory pieces that can educate people on places that they would not hear about

Steve Jobs in Kyoto. Just a beautiful story on Steve Jobs. He made the world a better place and was gone too soon. But he is still an inspiration to many now and in the future.

Casualties of Perfection. “If your job is to be creative and think through a tough problem, then time spent wandering around a park or aimlessly lounging on a couch might be your most valuable hours. A little inefficiency is wonderful.”

Hands-on: How to edit PDFs with iPhone and iPad in the iOS 15 Files app

It’s Official. We Can Now Harvest Usable Lithium From Seawater. The science is there. The experiments were tried. I now look forward to the implementation in the real world. If we can get lithium from seawater and inexpensively, that’ll be a major plus for the world

A short movie on Japan

Stats that may interest you

Cleaner air has contributed one-fifth of U.S. maize and soybean yield gains since 1999

Apple stores 8 million TBs on Google Cloud

The number of mobile wallets in use worldwide is expected to reach 4.8 billion in 2025, up from 2.8 billion in 2020

Fincog Overview of BNPL Providers, Ranked by Size
Source: Fintechnews

Steve Jobs’ excellent and iconic speech

I came across this speech from Steve Jobs and it’s absolutely amazing. It’s 20 minutes long and I urge you to have a listen. It’ll be worth your time and below are the reasons why I love it

  • When he returned to Apple, the company was weeks away from bankruptcy. Imagine one of the top 3 valuable companies right now, the Apple today, came so close to being bankrupt. That’s how dire the situation was. Steve talked about how he overhauled the entire product line, cutting it down from many to just four. It’s an example of Essentialism that I talked about. By focusing on the most important products, Apple not only avoided making consumers confused, but also directed resources to make sure those products were great, supply chain was great and marketing was great
  • Steve Jobs said that marketing is about values and who we are. I absolutely agree. People need to know who you are before they agree on any business transactions with you. At the end of the day, if they don’t know who you are, they unlikely will trust you. Without trust, can there be sustained relationships?

To me, marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world. This is a very noisy world. And we’re not gonna get a chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. So we have to be really clear about what we want them to know about us. Now, Apple, fortunately, is one of the half a dozen best brands in the world, right up there with Nike, Disney, Coke, Sony. It is one of the greats of the greats. Not just in this country, but all around the globe. Even a great brand needs investments and caring if it’s gonna retain its relevance and vitality. Apple brand has clearly suffer from neglect in this area in the last few years and we need to bring it back.

Source: Steve Jobs’ speech
  • The way he talked to the audience was so easy to understand. There was no jargon. There were no big words. Even if you don’t have much business background, you’ll still be able to follow him and what he was saying. It shows that he both understands really well his message and knows how to convey it. Plus, his casual outfit made the atmosphere friendly, relaxing and light; which I think helps his delivery. On a personal note, I have tried really hard on this blog to keep it simple. First of all, I don’t think I have the vocabulary to be a sophisticated writer, as a non-native speaker. Second of all, I want to be a good communicator like Steve. I still have a long way to go, but I don’t plan to change the current approach
  • The latter part of this clip features three best points from his commencement speech in Stanford in 2005. The first point is about how we need to have faith in something and how we can only connect the dots in our life looking backwards. The second point is to continuously look for what we love to do. The last point is about the importance of death in making life decisions. It again goes back to Essentialism that I mentioned early. We need to figure out what’s essential in life and have the courage to take actions.

My third story is about death. When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. 

yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Transcript from The Guardian

Book: Tim Cook The Genius Who Took Apple To The Next Level

First of all, I own Apple stocks in my personal portfolio and I blogged many times about the company before. I picked up this book because I wanted to read something light and know more about the guy who runs the company which I admire and have a vested interest in. To be frank, the book was written by an author who seems to have a favorable view on Apple. Some suggested that his writing was biased towards the Cupertino-based company. I leave that to the readers to judge.

The book followed Tim Cook from his childhood in a small town in Alabama to his first job at IBM which was followed by one or two stints at others, before he ended up at Compaq. A fateful meeting with Steve Jobs shortly after he returned to the helm at Apple led to arguably one of Steve’s best hires at Apple who is now the CEO of the company. It’s interesting to read about Tim’s background in Alabama and the environment he grew up in. When he came to know his sexuality remains unclear from the book. What is clear is that his sexuality shapes his world view and what he declares as the best gift God gave him.

The majority of the book is about Apple under Tim’s leadership, even back to when he was only in charge of Apple’s supply chain. Some may be disappointed that the book doesn’t include more personal details or anecdotes on the man or any interview from the man himself. Nonetheless, he is known for being a private man and anyone’s privacy should be respected. If someone spends most of his awake time running a company, I think it’s fair to view him in the light of what others think of him and how he performs at work. Tim’s performance, when put in contrast to Steve Jobs’, should be more telling. While Steve is undoubtedly one of the best CEOs of all time, there are things that Tim did wouldn’t likely have been done by Steve such as the focus on environmental sustainability.

Tim’s actions on controversial issues such as the balance between profitability and protection of workers in the supply chain or privacy and the legal battle against FBI or his public confirmation on his sexuality should let readers know more about the man himself. Regarding his status as a CEO, Apple’s value has grown many times since he took over. The company once reached a market valuation of around $1.6 trillion. To manage a company with such operational complexity, a diverse set of products and services, a cut-throat competition and an unbridled level of scrutiny is no easy feat. No matter what you think about the book or the author’s allegedly favorable view on Apple, it’s hard to deny what Tim has brought to Apple.

“ Fast forward eight years, and under Cook’s leadership, Apple has been absolutely killing it. Since Jobs died, Apple reached the ultimate milestone, becoming the world’s first trillion-dollar company, making it the most valuable corporation in the world. Its stock has nearly tripled. Its cash reserves have more than quadrupled since 2010, to a record $267.2 billion—despite its spending nearly $220 billion in stock buybacks and dividends. For perspective, the U.S. government only has $271 billion cash on hand.”

Excerpt From: Leander Kahney;. “Tim Cook.” Apple Books.

“When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind, I don’t consider the bloody ROI [return on investment],” he said. And the same thinking applies to Apple’s environmental initiatives, worker safety, and other policies. “If you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock,” he snarled at the conservative investor. Afterward, the NCPPR issued a statement decrying Cook’s stance: “After today’s meeting, investors can be certain that Apple is wasting untold amounts of shareholder money to combat so-called climate change.” But Cook, as always, stayed true to his principles.”

Excerpt From: Leander Kahney;. “Tim Cook.” Apple Books.

“When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind, I don’t consider the bloody ROI [return on investment],” he said. And the same thinking applies to Apple’s environmental initiatives, worker safety, and other policies. “If you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock,” he snarled at the conservative investor. Afterward, the NCPPR issued a statement decrying Cook’s stance: “After today’s meeting, investors can be certain that Apple is wasting untold amounts of shareholder money to combat so-called climate change.” But Cook, as always, stayed true to his principles.”

Excerpt From: Leander Kahney;. “Tim Cook.” Apple Books.

Shortly after Cook was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor in 2014, he personally told Representative Todd that Apple had no intention of investing in Alabama until the state passes anti-discrimination laws. “Citizens of Alabama can still be fired based on their sexual orientation,” Cook said. “We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it, and we can create a different future.”

Excerpt From: Leander Kahney;. “Tim Cook.” Apple Books.

“Under Cook’s leadership, the amount of time that Apple’s inventory sat on the company’s balance sheet was reduced from months to mere days. In the seven months after he started work at Apple, thanks to Cook’s achievements slashing inventory turnover from thirty days to six, the company’s inventory stock was reduced from $400 million worth of unsold Macs down to just $78 million.”

Excerpt From: Leander Kahney;. “Tim Cook.” Apple Books.

To make sure that the computers shipped out to customers in an expedient manner over the all-important holiday season, Cook booked $100 million worth of air freight months in advance. This was unheard of, but it paid off in a big way. Not only did Apple get its products out to customers in a rapid fashion, but its rival PC makers, such as Compaq, suddenly found themselves struggling to secure shipping over the holidays.

Excerpt From: Leander Kahney;. “Tim Cook.” Apple Books.

“This is really bad,” Cook said. “Someone should be in China driving this.” The meeting continued for another half hour before Cook looked directly at Sabih Khan, a key operations executive, and asked, with deadly seriousness, “Why are you still here?” Khan immediately got up, left the meeting, drove to the airport, and booked a flight to China with no return date. He didn’t even stop at his home to pack a change of clothes.”

Excerpt From: Leander Kahney;. “Tim Cook.” Apple Books.

“He took conference calls on Sunday nights, was replying to emails by 3:45 a.m., and was at his desk by 6 a.m. every morning. He worked twelve- or thirteen-hour days in the office, and then returned home to answer more emails.

“I would get a couple of emails from Tim between about 3:45 and 4:15 in the morning,” and “then from 4:30 to 6:00 it would go quiet,” said his colleague Bruce Sewell, Apple’s former general counsel. “That’s when he’s at home and eating breakfast, getting up, getting ready to go to the gym.” Then from about 6:15 onward he would be at work.

It wasn’t unheard of for Cook to fly to China, work three days without acknowledging the sixteen-hour time difference, fly back, land at 7 a.m., and be in the office for a meeting at 8:30. When he wasn’t flying to China to meet with Apple suppliers, he rarely left the state of California so that he could be available at a moment’s notice.”

Excerpt From: Leander Kahney;. “Tim Cook.” Apple Books.

“Under Cook, Apple has taken a more hands-on role in launching initiatives targeting workers. In 2017 the company launched a new health awareness program intended for women working at its suppliers in India and China, offering access to services and education on self-examination for early cancer detection, nutrition, personal care, and maternal health. Jeff Williams said that by 2020, Apple hopes that this program will have reached one million women.

Apple’s financial muscle also means that it is able to dictate many of the terms of business to its suppliers. In 2018, Apple forced one of its suppliers in the Philippines to repay a total of $1 million it had charged for recruitment fees for factory jobs. ”

Excerpt From: Leander Kahney;. “Tim Cook.” Apple Books.

“iOS 7 also brought Activation Lock, a feature that prevents lost or stolen devices from being wiped and reactivated without the owner’s iCloud password. Activation Lock makes the iPhone and iPad significantly less appealing to would-be thieves, who quickly realized that they would not be able to sell what essentially became the world’s most attractive brick as soon as it was no longer in the possession of its rightful owner. Police data published in 2014 revealed that iPhone thefts in San Francisco had fallen 38 percent since Activation Lock was made available in September 2013, while thefts in London and New York City had dropped 24 percent and 19 percent, respectively.”

Excerpt From: Leander Kahney;. “Tim Cook.” Apple Books.

“Stefan Behling, a Foster partner who became one of the project leads, recalled Jobs’s specific demands: “He knew exactly what timber he wanted, but not just ‘I like oak’ or ‘I like maple.’ He knew it had to be quarter-cut. It had to be cut in the winter, ideally in January, to have the least amount of sap and sugar content. We were all sitting there, architects with gray hair, going, ‘Holy shit!’”

Excerpt From: Leander Kahney;. “Tim Cook.” Apple Books.

“Even something as simple as using an Apple Watch to unlock your Mac, which is surprisingly complex behind the scenes, is a small but telling example of innovation in the Cook era. Like Cook himself, these improvements aren’t trumpeted as big breakthroughs, but they add up to a better experience and are leading the rest of the tech industry. Indeed, many may not realize that this is the way Apple has always operated; the big breakthroughs are rare, but smaller incremental improvements are common, and sometimes they add up to big new breakthrough products.”

Excerpt From: Leander Kahney;. “Tim Cook.” Apple Books.