Posts tagged with "Forbes"

See ya later: Apple envisions the future of eyeglasses

July 6, 2020

Is Apple on a mission to reinvent eyeglasses? Perhaps, and the resulting technology could produce glasses with virtually infinite adjustments to your changing vision over time—never mind bifocal or trifocals for nearsightedness and farsightedness.

“I hear they have 19 different prototypes that they’re working on, which shows the effort that Apple’s doing,” tech analyst Robert Scoble said in a recent TechFirst podcast focused on an Apple patent win. “This is a multibillion-dollar effort going into eyeglasses and thinking through literally everything.”

One part of Apple’s project is better glasses for better vision: exactly what glasses were initially invented for. Another part is significantly more transformational: a complete reimagining of human-computer interfaces.

Essentially, it’s the next major leap in technology platforms—and, along the way, Apple might just disrupt the $120 billion eyewear market in the same way it devastated the Swiss watch industry with Apple Watch.

Indeed, almost every major tech company is now working on smart glasses. Google launched Glass years ago, retains an enterprise version of the product—and just acquired North, a Canadian manufacturer of light, natural-looking smartglasses.

And Forbes reports, Facebook just revealed an early version of its “holographic optics for thin and lightweight virtual reality” in a research report. Amazon has a limited-availability product with Alexa, Amazon Echo Frames.

Part one for Apple seems to be about the basics, according to a patent the company just received: correcting vision.“What they’re wanting to do is you put on a pair of glasses, and it sees inside your eye and bends the optic … in a way that corrects your vision perfectly, so you don’t need to go to an optometrist,” Scoble told Forbes.

The next level is notifications, and it’s what much of the low-end smartglasses space has focused on. With smartglasses notifications, the alert is right in front of your face.

Part three is where the game really changes, Scoble said, and we enter an era of “spatial computing,” virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality.

Now you can compute while riding a mountain bike, or driving a car, or walking to a shopping center,” Scoble says. “You can replace the floor and make it something new, different, like a video game. You can then fly things in the air and they could bounce off the walls like balls, because this thing understands the 3D space it’s in. That’s why we call it ‘spatial computing,’ because you’re now computing as you’re moving through space … no longer are you tied to the little rectangular pieces of glass to compute: you can compute on literally everything.”

“This next paradigm shift is computing that you use while walking around, while moving around in space,” Scoble says.

One unexpected thing it’ll change?

Fashion, because what you’re physically wearing—or even what you actually look like — won’t necessarily limit how you portray yourself to others.

“Facebook is planning on doing all sorts of magic stuff when you meet a friend in the street it’ll go beep and all of a sudden I’ll see your 3D costume that you just bought, something made for you, right?” Scoble says. “I’ll be like ‘Yeah, nice costume’ … in ten years, we’re going to have Burning Man 24 hours a day in the streets?

Which of course will bring an entirely new set of privacy concerns along with it, as every adopter will be wearing cameras and sensors, and major platforms will want a piece of that.

That’s probably one reason why Apple is working so hard right now to be the face of big tech privacy.

Research contact: @Forbes

Airstream leans into possibilities for WFH trend

June 9, 2020

A few months ago, Airstream CEO Bob Wheeler was talking about the possibility of tinkering with some of the most important strands in the DNA of the upscale recreational-vehicle brand, in order to better attract young buyers to its products

But, within the past three months, his mindset has changed: As he seeks the best way for his company to slingshot out of the pandemic, Wheeler is considering how Airstream can facilitate a more permanent form of the work from home (WFH) dynamic that was created during the Covid-19 lockdown.

“From our position, ‘work from home’ means ‘work from anywhere,’” Wheeler recently told Forbes magazine. “A contingent of our [customers] have always worked from anywhere. But how this is happening now opens some exciting possibilities for us on both the retail and commercial side.”

Similarly, he said, more parents may be interested in turning Airstreams into mobile home schools, amid uncertainty about the future of traditional physical schools – at least for this year. “If you have good Wi-Fi at home, that means you can learn from anywhere,” Wheeler said. “I’m excited about potential live-play-work-learn developments that we’re uniquely suited to support, with some product tweaks that we’re working on.”

As the U.S. pandemic started in March, Wheeler and his team projected a 70% April drop-off in Airstream sales. “But our guess turned out to be grossly wrong, in the right direction,” Wheeler said. In fact, Airstream sales fell by only 30% that month and then rapidly rebounded in May.

 “Things have been on fire,” he said. “In the last two weeks, we have seen record retail sales across the country, well beyond anything we could have anticipated … We started to think that the post-Covid travel landscape might stack up really well for RVs. People don’t want to get on cruise ships or airplanes or go into crowded places now. They want to travel in their own home with their own kitchen and bed. But all of that was just theory until we started to see it manifested in the marketplace.”

Indeed, Wheeler told Forbes, he wants to make Airstreams even more appealing as “permanent” homes for work-from-home Americans by, for example, improving wireless internet connectivity in the vehicles. “We’ve had in place for a year a top-shelf connectivity solution with an antenna and 4G Wi-Fi with AT&T, so [owners] can get coverage in many places that they can’t with just a cell phone,” he said. “We’re also looking at satellite uplinks and other things that literally can give people a connection anywhere they go. For a certain set of our customers, that might be a very appealing option.”

And for potential customers who want to home-school kids in an Airstream, Wheeler said, the company has begun looking at “how you partition space differently to create dedicated work spaces for adults and potentially for kids. You can sit at the dinette, but people may need to have a space carved out just for work, for their computers and papers.”

Research contact: @Forbes

Nugg Club: Cannabis subscription boxes hit the market for 2020

June 4, 2020

From makeup and clothing to dirt of the month and scavenger hunt tools, monthly subscription boxes are all the rage. Now, cannabis is about to join the ranks of BarkBox, Ipsy, and StitchFix, Forbes magazine reports.

Nugg Club, which is now available in Los Angeles and Orange County  (pot has been legal for recreational use since 2016 in California), is owned by parent company NuggMD; which claims to be the nation’s leading cannabis-focused telemedicine platform, with 600,000 patients served.

The subscription boxes, Nugg says, “will deliver full-sized, highly-curated and personalized cannabis products directly to the consumer’s doorstep.”

Each box will cost $99 and contain five to seven products valued at just about $250, according to the company. That price is a lot more expensive than the shop-by-mail containers from Iipsy or BirchBox—but is in line with what most millennials spend at a dispensary, Forbes reports.

According to Headset, an analytics service for the cannabis industry, the average basket in California is $68.70 for a little over two items per basket. Through Nugg Club, the customer is effectively receiving five to seven products for the price of three.

Like other subscription services, the boxes are highly personalized. Customers can select the type of product(s) and strain(s) they want to receive in their box with each month’s selection improving based on their feedback. Not the biggest fan of a particular vape flavor? Leave a comment and never see it again. Still have full products a month after the initial box? Deliveries are available every one, two or three months, Forbes notes.

The new Nugg Club cannabis subscription is participating in a market that grew 890% from April 2014 to 2018, and continues to grow. Around 54% of online shoppers say they are members of a subscription box service. Subscription service customers are more likely to be younger Millennials living in college towns or “hipster” areas, two common characteristics of cannabis consumers. According to Headset, millennials alone contribute to roughly 52% of all cannabis sales in the United States.

This type of service adheres directly to aspects of human psychology – a desire for services that are convenient and bring unique products and experiences into our lives. The simple act of opening a delivery ignites the euphoria and excitement of discovering something new. The consumer doesn’t always know what they are going to find, but it’s always a novel product, and that alone is a huge factor in the success of subscription services. That’s probably part of the reason over half of the subscription market is “subscribe for curation” where consumers are surprised by a variety of different items.

As the box goes to launch, Nugg Club is being mindful that we are in the midst of a pandemic. In response to recent studies that report an uptick in depression, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms among healthcare professionals treating COVID-19 patients, Nugg Club is offering a limited quantity of $1 boxes to qualifying workers.

Research contact: @Forbes

Michigan AG: Trump has ‘legal’ and ‘moral’ responsibility to wear mask at Ford plant

May 22, 2020

He is not an outlier; he is a role model and leader for Americans and the world. Yet he refuses to wear a face mask during a global pandemic.

On May 21, as he prepared for a visit to the Ford plant in Michigan that has reconfigured its operations in order to manufacture ventilators—using an all-volunteer workforce that follows strict COVID-19 protocols—the president stirred controversey over his stance on PPE (personal protective equipment, Forbes reported.

President Trump has a “moral” and “legal responsibility” to wear a mask while he tours the Ford plant, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel wrote in an open letter.

Nessel, whose letter was made available Wednesday, wrote that the mask wearing policy “is not just the policy of Ford, by virtue of the Governor’s Executive Orders. It is currently the law of this State.”

Nessel also cited the size of Michigan’s coronavirus outbreak (53,000 cases, nearly 5,000 deaths) and Trump’s recent exposure to White House staffers who tested positive for the virus as reasons for the president to wear a mask.

A Ford spokesperson said on Tuesday, May 19, that the company requires masks on its premises, but added “the White House has its own safety and testing policies in place and will make its own determination,” leaving the door open as to whether Trump would wear a face covering.

When asked about this by reporters Tuesday, Trump said, “Where it’s appropriate, I would do it, certainly.”

He also said it depended on the situation. “Am I standing right next to everybody or am I spread out? And also…you know, is something a hospital? Is it a ward?…What is it exactly? I’m going to a plant. So we’ll see.”

Research contact: @Forbes

Hobby Lobby remains open: ‘God is in control’

March 25, 2020

Christian-owned Hobby Lobby–a private for-profit arts-and-crafts retail chain based in Oklahoma City—has announced in a memo to its 32,000 employees nationwide that its stores will not close during the COVID-19 pandemic, except in states where they has been ordered to do so.

Instead, the chain will take measures to help minimize risks to shoppers during the coronavirus pandemic and trust in God.

According to a report by The Christian Post, Hobby Lobby founder and CEO of David Green wrote to all the employees last week,  “While we do not know for certain what the future holds, or how long this disruption will last, we can all rest in knowing that God is in control … To help ensure our Company remains strong and prepared to prosper once again when this passes, we may all have to ‘tighten our belts’ over the near future.”

Green said in the memo that his wife, Barbara, whom he called a “prayer warrior,” had heard the word of God. The CEO wrote, “The Lord put on Barbara’s heart three profound words to remind us that He’s in control. ‘Guide, Guard, and Groom.’ We serve a God who will Guide us through this storm, who will Guard us as we travel to places never seen before, and who, as a result of this experience, will Groom us to be better than we could have ever thought possible before now.”

Unlike Hobby Lobby, many retailers have closed their stores or reduced hours in the wake of the coronavirus scare, including Chick-fil-a and Walmart. Indeed, more than 110 retailers have shut all their stores, according to Forbes.

Blogger Hemant Mehta criticized Hobby Lobby for remaining open in states that have not announced a lockdown. He wrote on his website, Friendly Atheist, “The chain, owned by the evangelical Green family, is refusing to shut down—no matter how much harm they could be creating for their employees and customers.”

Hobby Lobby said it has “increased the frequency of store cleaning, including more cleaning of areas regularly touched by customers and employees, with anti-viral cleaning products throughout the day.”

If an employee is suspected of having COVID-19 based on symptoms and/or known direct or indirect exposure, we will send that employee for medical care and to self-isolate at home, and will promptly coordinate with public health officials.”

However, the company did not promise to cover employees’ healthcare costs, if they caught the virus.

Research contact: @ChristianPost

Age discrimination alleged at Google: ‘Tell grandpa to pick up the pace’

September 23, 2019

As the Baby Boom generation grows grayer, age discrimination in hiring and “elder abuse” on the job are increasing—even (and maybe, especially) at the top tech companies.

A case in point: On September 5, Rodney Broome, a 72-year-old former hardware test engineer for platform engineering at Google filed a complaint (Case No. 19CV354620) in a Santa Clara Superior Court against the Internet search company, asking for damages and a jury trial—and alleging that the company had engaged in:

  1. Age discrimination;
  2. Harassment based on age;
  3. Retaliation;
  4. Failure to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent and correct discrimination, harassment, and retaliation;
  5. Constructive wrongful discharge in violation of public policy;
  6. Violation of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing;
  7. Nonpayment of overtime compensation; and
  8. Intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Indeed, according to a report by Forbes, Broome had worked at Google for ten years (starting in 2007) and “everything seemed fine” until he reported in to a new supervisor, Ignacio Mendez, in 2017.

Shortly thereafter, the complaint details, Mendez called Broome both “old and slow” and “grandpa.” He chastised him for being “in retirement mode” and told him he was “a worthless piece of sh*t.”

What’s more, according to the suit, Mendez allegedly mentioned to Broome that he might encounter car trouble. Coincidentally, Broome’s car and house were broken into. It was alleged that Mendez bragged about criminal connections, according to court filings.

Forbes notes in its story that Broome brought this matter to the attention of human resources—but to no avail. The complaint reflects that the harassment only intensified.

In fact, Law.com reports, after Broome complained to his manager’s supervisor, Mendez retaliated with poor performance reviews, cut his bonuses and offered his job to two younger employees. After receiving a written warning, Mendez accused Broome of “ratting him out.”

Subsequent to what he described as physical confrontations and continued abuse, Broome resigned in February 2019. Broom’s lawyer, John Winer of Winer, Burritt, & Tillis in Oakland, California, claims that the case is a blatant instance of age discrimination;and part of a pattern of discrimination and harassment due to the company’s youthful culture.

Winer told Forbes, “I think that Google and other companies are far more focused on earnings than they are on human resource issues.” He added, “Instead of attempting to assure that there is no harassment and discrimination in the workforce, in fact it’s rampant.”

Age discrimination remains a pervasive problem in the workplace, and Google itself recently settled an age bias class action for $11 million after 227 plaintiffs claimed the company engaged in systemic age discrimination, HR Dive reports.m, noting that some experts have called age bias the workplace’s “open secret.”

Employers sometimes engage in unintentionally problematic conduct, including prioritizing recruiting efforts in programs that favor younger workers (such as college job fairs) or creating job descriptions that include age-indicative terms such as “digital native.”

While age discrimination often occurs during the hiring process, it is often not as obvious (or easy to prove) as it is when the complainant already has been satisfactorily employed by a company for a considerable length of time.

As the allegations in this suit show, however, age bias often can be more blatant on the job, HR Dive says. In another recent case, a dental practice in Pennsylvania allegedly fired eight of nine hygienists over the age of 40 at a single location and hired 14 new employees—13 of whom were younger than 40.

Research contact: @Forbes

Popeyes’ chicken sandwich is at the top of the food chain, with a $65 million marketing win

August 30, 2019

Watch out, Chick fil-A! America’s largest purveyor of fried chicken sandwiches now has some significant competition. Popeyes, a quick-service chicken restaurant chain that has been serving its own set of fried chicken fans since 1972, soon may be looking at you in its rear vision mirror.

You couldn’t watch a television news program or scour Twitter or Facebook during the past week without spotting some mention of Popeyes fried chicken sandwich. But how did that translate to marketing value? Awfully well, as it turns out, according to an August 28 report by Forbes.

Apex Marketing Group estimated Wednesday that Popeyes reaped $65 million in “equivalent media value” as a result of the Chicken Sandwich Wars. The firm, based outside Detroit, defines that as the price a company would have to pay to purchase the attention it received for free. Apex takes into account television, radio, online and print news reports, as well as social media mentions.

The evaluation was conducted from Aug. 12, when the sandwich went on sale nationally, through Tuesday evening, August 27—yielding 15 days’ worth of data.

The $65 million figure is nearly triple the $23 million in media value that the sandwich generated in its first few days on sale, according to an earlier Apex estimate.

On Tuesday, Popeyes announced that the chicken sandwich would be sold out by the end of the week at its U.S. restaurants, the business news outlet said..

But the restaurant chain says that it intends to bring back the chicken sandwich as a feature of its regular menu, not simply a limited-time offer.

“It is a permanent menu item,” Dana Schopp, a Popeyes spokesperson, told Forbes on Wednesday.

Eric Smallwood, the president of Apex Marketing, says the chicken sandwich’s media value built relatively slowly in the days right after it went on sale. The big jump in media value came when news outlets began running taste tests comparing the sandwich with other fast food companies’ chicken offerings.

“Popeyes is not top of mind when it comes to fast food,” Smallwood said. But thanks to the chicken sandwich, “now everybody’s looking and asking, ‘Where’s the closest Popeyes?'”

The attention that Popeyes received could not have happened a decade ago without social media, Smallwood said.

As soon as a company launches a promotion that is noticed in Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, “it picks up, and it explodes from there,” he told Forbes.

Research contact: @PopeyesChicken

Gatorade launches BOLT24, a ‘functional beverage’ that fuels athletic performance

July 15, 2019

Gatorade is adding to its signature line of sports drinks for the first time in 20 years. The new drink, called BOLT24, is targeted at refreshing and rehydrating athletes—with a no-sugar, high electrolyte, better-for-you beverage formula, Forbes reports.

Fitting squarely in what the beverage industry identifies as the “functional drink category,” BOLT24 is said to contain only 80 calories; and 100% of the daily value of antioxidant vitamins A and C; as well as vitamins B3, B5, and B6. Notably, the product contains no artificial sweeteners or flavors. It delivers electrolytes from watermelon and sea salt.

BOLT24 is described as “the first product in a new platform for the brand,” suggesting that Gatorade intends to produce other, perhaps similar products. The launch this week coincided with the ESPY Awards, one of the biggest nights in sports. It will appear on store shelves across the country, as well as on Amazon, later this summer.

The official statement released by Gatorade’s PR agency reads: “With this launch, Gatorade’s commitment to fueling athletic performance goes beyond the field, supporting athletes’ athletic lifestyle around the clock by providing advanced, all-day hydration.”

According to a report by Mordor Intelligence, the global “functional beverage” category— which includes energy drinks, sports drinks, nutraceutical drinks, dairy alternative-based beverages, fortified juices, and enhanced water—is expected to grow 8.66% in the next five years, topping $208.13 billion by 2024.

The three launch flavors are  Mixed Berry, Tropical Mango, and Watermelon Strawberry. Suggested retail price is $2.19 for each 16.9 ounce bottle.

Research contact: @Forbes

Online education provider Coursera is now worth more than $1 billion

April 29, 2019

Coursera—the Mountain View, California-based online learning platform founded by Stanford professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller in 2012—is now worth well over $1 billion, according to an April 25 report by Forbes.

Indeed, CEO Jeff Maggioncalda told analysts last week that the company had raised an additional $103 million in funding.

“This gives us the resources to more aggressively push on our mission of greater access to quality education and greater opportunity for people who are being left behind in this economy,” he said.

According to its website, Coursera now has 35 million learners more than 150 university partners; and offers over 2,700 courses and more than 250 specializations.

Specifically, at a cost of $49 to $99 per month, Coursera offers 14 online masters degrees, in computer science, business and public health—from schools like the University of Michigan and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. And it just launched its first online bachelor of science degree with the highly regarded University of London.

In addition, its revenue—which Forbes pegged at $140 million in 2018—is fueled in part by partnerships with 1,800 enterprise customers, who use it to provide continuing education to their staffs. They include Adobe, which paid Coursera an estimated $150,000 last year to provide machine-learning courses to its employees.

What’s more, Coursera sealed its biggest deal ever just there months again, when it contracted with the Abu Dhabi School of Government, an entity set up to train 60,000 government employees in digital skills like data science and artificial intelligence.

What’s its secret? Forbes says, that in comparison to more expensive digital degree providers, Coursera does no course production and takes only 40% of tuition. Its marketing costs are low, says Maggioncalda, because it already reaches a huge number of learners.

One example of a low-cost Coursera degree: its online iMBA from the University of Illinois’ highly ranked Gies College of Business, which costs $22,000. Out-of-state students pay $75,000 in tuition for an on-campus degree.

Readers can expect the economical costs and high quality of the curriculum to keep Coursera on high-growth tear.  After America, Coursera’s greatest growth is anticipated to be in India, China, Mexico, and Brazil, in that order.

Research contact: @coursera

On the bubble: PepsiCo to acquire SodaStream in $3.2B transaction

August 21, 2018

PepsiCo and SodaStream International formally announced on August 20 that they have entered into an agreement under which PepsiCo has agreed to acquire all outstanding shares of SodaStream for $144.00 per share in cash, which represents a 32% premium to the 30-day volume weighted average price. The transaction has been valued at $3.2 billion.

The companies said that the deal would enable them to combine PepsiCo’s strong distribution capabilities, global reach, R&D, design and marketing expertise with SodaStream’s differentiated and unique product range—thereby, positioning SodaStream “for further expansion and breakthrough innovation.”

Founded in 1991 in Israel, SodaStream claims to be is “ the number-one sparkling water brand in volume in the world and the leading manufacturer and distributor of sparkling water makers; saying, “We enable consumers to easily transform ordinary tap water into sparkling water and flavored sparkling water in seconds. By making ordinary water fun and exciting to drink, SodaStream helps consumers drink more water.”

The transaction is another step in PepsiCo’s Performance with Purpose journey, the beverage and snack food company said—promoting health and wellness through environmentally friendly, cost-effective and fun-to-use beverage solutions.

“PepsiCo and SodaStream are an inspired match,” said PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi. “[CEO] Daniel [Birnbaum] and his leadership team have built an extraordinary company that is offering consumers the ability to make great-tasting beverages while reducing the amount of waste generated. That focus is well-aligned with Performance with Purpose, our philosophy of making more nutritious products while limiting our environmental footprint. Together, we can advance our shared vision of a healthier, more-sustainable planet.”

For his part, Birnbaum commented, “Today marks an important milestone in the SodaStream journey. It is validation of our mission to bring healthy, convenient and environmentally friendly beverage solutions to consumers around the world. We are honored to be chosen as PepsiCo’s beachhead for at home preparation to empower consumers around the world with additional choices. I am excited our team will have access to PepsiCo’s vast capabilities and resources to take us to the next level. This is great news for our consumers, employees and retail partners worldwide.”

“SodaStream is highly complementary and incremental to our business, adding to our growing water portfolio, while catalyzing our ability to offer personalized in-home beverage solutions around the world,” said Ramon Laguarta, CEO-Elect and President, PepsiCo.  “From breakthrough innovations like Drinkfinity to beverage dispensing technologies like Spire for foodservice and Aquafina water stations for workplaces and colleges, PepsiCo is finding new ways to reach consumers beyond the bottle, and today’s announcement is fully in line with that strategy.”

According to their joint statement, the acquisition has been approved unanimously by the boards of directors of both companies. The transaction is subject to a SodaStream shareholder vote, certain regulatory approval,  and other customary conditions, and closing is expected by January 2019.

A Forbes analysis of the carbonation maker found, “SodaStream had said some time back that the global market for at-home beverage systems has the potential to grow to $260 billion, while the market in the U.S. could generate a cumulative $40 billion. “Of course,” the business news outlet said, “this estimate used the aggressive assumption that these systems will penetrate about 87% of the domestic households, which seems improbable.”

According to small business and marketing advisor Brandon Gaille, the average American consumes 44 gallons of soda every year—a 20% overall decline from peak rates in the 1990s. Sales of sparkling water jumped 8.6% between 2009 and 2011 while soda sales slumped.

Research contact: @Trefis