The Russian One is a new commuter tram that looks like something from a sci-fi film. The futuristic tram features LED cabin lighting, felt-covered sofas, wooden handrails, and sliding glass doors that operate by touchscreen. Luckily, photographer Ilya …
Next time you’re about to dump beer bottles in the recycling bin, consider that they could be used to make a house instead.
Armed with $11,000 and 8,500 discarded beer bottles, Chinese architect Li Rongjun spent over four months using bottles to build the second floor of his two-story house in Chongqing, China, according to Chinese media.
At least 40 layers of beer bottles hold the top level together. The ground floor, on the other hand, is built with mud and brick. The entire house spans 312 square feet, with each floor rising nine feet high.
Li plans to use the beer bottle section of his home as an office.
But he might want to be careful. One architect told China Daily that the structure is at risk of collapsing since the top level “has no load bearing wall and the weight the beer bottles could carry is limited.”
The idea of turning beer bottles into building material isn’t new. In the 1960s, Dutch brewing giant Heineken made beer bottles look like bricks so that they could be used for affordable housing later. The World Bottles — or WOBO, as they were called — could interlock with each other when laid horizontally. But the concept was dismissed as being too impractical.
Given Li’s creation, imagining beer bottles as glass bricks doesn’t seem like such a far-fetched idea — as long as the house doesn’t collapse, that is.
If the world needed any more proof of how absurdly convoluted the streaming music business is, the former frontman of the legendary band Talking Heads has now provided it.
It seems that even David Byrne, a music industry veteran who was the lead singer of the critically-acclaimed Talking Heads, is as much in the dark as everyone else about some of the royalty rates that Apple and other streaming services pay artists when their songs get played.
In an op-ed in the New York Times, Byrne says that it’s time for the record labels and streaming services to open up the “black box” and make clear exactly “how they share the wealth generated by music.”
The music industry is a notoriously difficult business to understand, with byzantine, private contracts, deals and licenses governing how much musicians get paid. The issue has been thrust in the spotlight as new Internet streaming music services increasingly replace digital downloads, CDs and other forms of recorded music sales.
New streaming music services such as Apple Music, Spotify and Google’s YouTube give consumers instant access to unprecedented amount of music right at their fingertips, but the innovation has not translated into a golden age for musicians.
“Tales of popular artists (as popular as Pharrell Williams) who received paltry royalty checks for songs that streamed thousands or even millions of times (like “Happy”) on Pandora or Spotify are common,” write Byrne. For lesser-known artists, the situation is even worse, he says.
Musicians appeared to have won an important battle in June when Taylor Swift forced Apple to back off a plan to not pay royalties to artists during a free three month trial period of its new streaming music service.
But Byrne notes that it’s still not clear how much Apple agreed to pay or how they will determine the rate. Even people in the industry like Byrne don’t know:
I asked Apple Music to explain the calculation of royalties for the trial period. They said they disclosed that only to copyright owners (that is, the labels). I have my own label and own the copyright on some of my albums, but when I turned to my distributor, the response was, “You can’t see the deal, but you could have your lawyer call our lawyer and we might answer some questions.”
Byrne didn’t get much more detail when he asked YouTube similar questions.
I asked YouTube how ad revenue from videos that contain music is shared (which should be an incredibly basic question). They responded that they didn’t share exact numbers, but said that YouTube’s cut was “less than half.” An industry source (who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the information) told me that the breakdown is roughly 50 percent to YouTube, 35 percent to the owner of the master recording and 15 percent to the publisher.
The first step towards creating a more equitable business model for everyone in the music industry is to open up the black box and provide more information, in Byrne’s view.
The reboot of the Tomb Raider Franchise was a risky decision by Square Enix (OTCMKTS:SQNXF), but one that paid off. During E3 2015, Square Enix revealed its latest game, “Rise of the Tomb Raider” and its exclusivity to Microsoft Corporation’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox One for one full year. Game director Brian Horton in an interview to […]
What’s it like to chat with Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman? “He smells bulls— from miles away.” That’s according to a summer intern who got to sit down with the chief executive in his midtown Manhattan office. Gorman extended an open invitation to summer interns to coordinate with his staff and visit him in groups […]
Microsoft Corporation’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows 10 was released on July 29 and the new operating software has been reportedly installed on 14 million devices within 24 hours of its release. The company’s plans to roll out an enhanced operating system for devices was received with “positive” feedback from users, according to its official blog, even though […]
Tesla is special. It excites people about its cars in ways that other car makers can only envy. There are other car brands that achieve this. But they have names like “Ferrari,” “Lamborghini,” “Pagani,” “McLaren,” and “Porsche.” People put posters of the hottest rides these automakers make on their bedroom walls. They’re dream machines, and they […]
Goldman Sachs Group Inc (NYSE:GS) has reportedly agreed to settle a case brought forward by investors. According to Bloomberg, the firm has agreed to pay $270 million towards the settlement. The lawsuit relates to investors’ concerns that the bank allegedly mislead them over the dealings of mortgage-backed securities. The lawsuit is led by the pension […]
Tesla is special. It excites people about its cars in ways that other car makers can only envy.
There are other car brands that achieve this. But they have names like “Ferrari,” “Lamborghini,” “Pagani,” “McLaren,” and “Porsche.” People put posters of the hottest rides these automakers make on their bedroom walls. They’re dream machines, and they look the part.
And consequently the Ferraris and Lamborghinis of the world are compelled to make their sexist and most exciting cars stand out. This is not subtle styling, but that isn’t what the customer expects if they’re spending more than $1 million:
Over-the-top doesn’t even begin to describe it:
Supercars, it goes without saying, are supposed to be super. If you want to play in the rarefied fields of 0-60 in under 3 seconds, you need to follow the leaders.
Unless you’re Tesla.
Tesla is currently building one car in one factory. It’s a relatively luxurious sedan. It’s elegantly styled. But it’s hardly wild and crazy:
But the most high-performance version, the P90D with “Ludicrous Mode,” can do 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds. Numerous supercars are slower. Very few are faster.
The P90D, Ludicrous-equipped, can be had for less than $150,000.
Compare that with a McLaren P1 at $1.2 million.
McLaren and Ferrari build very few cars each year, so they’re justified in charging staggering sums for the privileges of ownership. And they do have to spend a lot to develop exotic bodystyles and high-horsepower engines. But the price is also part of the marketing. A supercar needs to be super-expensive.
Tesla, meanwhile, builds a fairly simple vehicle. The Model S consists of four main parts: the chassis; the electric drivetrain; the battery pack; and the in-car interface, the software systems that govern the car’s functions. Pricing is certainly at the upper levels of the “everyday” auto world, in the same ballpark as BMW, Audi, and Mercedes. But it’s hundred of thousands less than the exotics that the Model S can match for performance.
This is a bigger deal than it might seem.
Here’s why. Supercar ownership is something of a burden. It’s been said that the two best days of your life as a Ferrari owner are when you take delivery of the car and when you sell it. Driving a Lamborghini Aventador around the broken asphalt thoroughfares of a major American metropolis is a nerve-jangling affair. Very fast and very expensive cars are very cool for short burst on open freeways. That acceleration! That sound! But traffic invariably appears and kills the party.
The Model S, by contrast, is no burden all. It can quite competently imitate a classic highway cruiser. It can be equipped to seat seven. It has a back seat. There’s room for luggage. In a lot of ways, it’s really a blisteringly fast Buick.
The performance has been one of the genuine surprises of the Model S story. Tesla entered the auto business with a snazzy car, the Roadster, that was supposed to be fast — the goal was to prove that electric cars didn’t need to be glorified golf carts. The assumption was that the Model S would be a more stately and domesticated vehicle, a precursor to Tesla’s assault on the mass-market.
But over time it became evident that the particular characteristics of electric motors meant that the Model S could achieve some stunning numbers, without the company needing to do much on the car’s basic architecture. They basically added small spoiler to some of the higher-performance trim levels. Zowie!
It was the value add to end all value adds. The car of the future, powered by electrons, designed and built in Silicon Valley, was a four-door Ferrari!
At a tenth of the price.
Ultimately, this is the greatest frosting anyone ever put on an already delicious automotive cake. You can have a beautiful, luxurious, virtuous, futuristic car. And it can delivery mind-bending speed. The 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year can do it all. And it can travel upwards of 300 miles on a single charge. Impressive.
The supercar market and the run-of-the-mill luxury market are separated by a vast gulf. It takes a lot of convince a customer to upgrade from, say, a BMW M4, an incredibly powerful and exciting car that goes for around $100,000, to a idiosyncratic supercar with seating for 1.5 humans and the ground clearance of a boa constrictor with his stomach sucked in.
You might ask yourself, “Do I really need to spend the extra million to be thrilled beyond speech four times a year under ideal conditions, but with no place for my golf clubs much less a gym bag?” You have to be very passionate about supercar ownership. You have to be something of a zealot in exchange for the wowser velocity.
With a Tesla p90D, however, the heroics are … just … there. Sort of like Clark Kent. He’s got the costume under his suit. If he needs to, he can fly.
Tesla didn’t set out to sell a supercar. It was only with the arrival of the P85D last year that it dawned on us all that the Model S could do some amazing things in a straight line. But now with the advent of Ludicrous Mode, the Model S can be thought of as a save-the-planet supercar alternative, quite easily.
That’s a secret weapon. Although maybe not so secret anymore.
Feet the world over rejoiced when Converse revealed the redesign of its famous Chuck Taylor All Star. The new model, called the Chuck Taylor All Star II, features completely redesigned innards (using parent company Nike’s Lunarlon foam impact-absorbing technology), a padded tongue, and micro-suede lining. They’re like a stealthy luxury version of the retro original. Beyond feel […]
Lockheed Martin Corporation’s (NYSE:LMT) squadron of 10 F-35B jets has been declared ready for combat by US Marine Corp Commandant General Joseph Dunford, according to a Reuters report. This would be a significant milestone for the company, as Lockheed has received various issues with the aircraft’s software and so had been working on the software […]
Although ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft continue to expand across the country, the services remain one of the least popular ground transportation options among business travelers.
Dubai’s property market looks like it has hit a peak. Residential real-estate sales fell by 69% in the first half of 2015 compared to the same period the year before, according to a report released by the country’s Land Department. This after the IMF warned the Dubai government that it could be facing another property […]
From HotelNewsNow.com: STR: US hotel results for week ending 25 JulyThe U.S. hotel industry recorded positive results in the three key performance measurements during the week of 19-25 July 2015, according to data from STR, Inc.In year-over-year measurements, the industry’s occupancy increased 1.5% to 79.1%. Average daily rate for the week was up 5.1% to […]
Facebook is on top.
No other tech company is executing so well across so many areas at once — from product development to business management to public relations.
Take a look:
Users are addicted. Facebook has more than 968 million active daily users, the company said on its earnings call this week. Let’s put that another way so it sinks in. Nearly 1 billion people — one out of every seven people on planet Earth — checks Facebook every day. And these users aren’t just conducting a search query or two, they’re spending more than 46 minutes per day on the site.
More users are coming aboard every day. Facebook’s monthly active user count increased 13% from last year. That’s not a big percentage, but it’s starting from an absolutely enormous base and went from 1.32 billion users to 1.49 billion users. another way of looking at is that Facebook added 173 million new users since last year. That’s greater than the population of Germany and the U.K. combined.
It’s already planning for the day when current internet users are saturated. CEO Mark Zuckerberg portrays the Facebook-funded Internet.org as a way to bring internet access to the the next billion people who don’t have it today, but this isn’t just for charitable purposes. The more people who are online, the more people can use Facebook. That’s how 1.49 billion becomes 3 billion. Or 5 billion. And it’s creating some really cool technology — like this internet-beaming drone plane and these communication lasers — to get there.
The company has managed revenue growth incredibly well since going public. Take a look at this chart:
When Facebook went public in spring 2012, investors could look at the past few years’ performance and see a fast-growing company. At that time, Facebook had no mobile advertising business. It started selling mobile ads that same quarter.
Since then, the businesses that Facebook used to rely on have gone flat — but mobile advertising has grown in a perfectly up-and-to-the-right trajectory. All of Facebook’s revenue growth since its IPO has been in an area that didn’t exist when it filed to go public.
Facebook has multiple other revenue streams it’s just waiting to tap. Facebook just started selling self-service, targeted ads — the kind Google made famous for search — on Instagram. Analysts predict it will be a billion-dollar business in the next couple of years.
Facebook hasn’t even started to monetize its messaging products, Messenger and WhatsApp, which are used by more than a billion people combined, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg dropped a big hint about messaging on the earnings call. Basically, the company’s going to follow the same exact process as it did with the News Feed — use Messenger as a way for users to communicate with brands, then gradually charge brands to reach those users.
Not all of these products will succeed with users or turn into big dollar signs. But some surely will.
Its acquisition strategy is genius. You may have a teenager at home who thinks Facebook is boring, for old people. They probably use Instagram instead, like 300 million other people. Or maybe WhatsApp, like 800 million other people. Facebook owns both.
Plus Messenger, which is its own, standalone app with 700 million users.
It’s quietly revolutionizing the $140 billion hardware market. While most of us know Facebook the product, the company is quietly putting the screws to decades-old computer infrastructure giants like Cisco by taking the designs it built for its own data centers and releasing them under an open source license. Now, a bunch of startups are taking those designs and starting to build businesses around them.
The days of awkward PR gaffes are over. Remember Zuck’s disastrous, sweaty, on stage performance at the D Conference in 2010? Contrast that with his calm demeanor at more recent conferences, or the pitch-perfect way he announced his wife’s pregnancy — and past miscarriages — this week. The guy’s gone from being viewed as a sort of uber-rich brat who doesn’t care about your privacy to a likable genius. Oh, and speaking of privacy, when’s the last time people got up in arms about Facebook’s privacy policies?
Don’t take my word for it. Wall Street analysts are tripping over themselves to explain why you should buy the stock.
The iPhone revolutionized tech more than any product since the personal computer, but it’s eight years old. Apple hasn’t had a big hit product since — iPad sales are sinking, the Watch is off to a slow start, and Apple Music is shaping up to be its worst-received product since Apple Maps.
It’s bigger than Facebook by many measures — users, ad revenues, profits — and it had a solid quarter too. But Facebook is coming up fast in areas where Google should’ve dominated, like mobile and video. Google’s not going anywhere, but unless one of Larry Page’s moonshots starts to pay off soon, it’s not going to rule the tech industry like it did last decade.
Microsoft? Comebacks are fun, but it’s been playing defense for years.
Amazon is probably the closest — lots of users, impeccably managed business, and at least two major lines of business (e-commerce, the original, and Amazon Web Services, its $7-billion-a-year cloud computing juggernaut).
But Amazon has had an extra decade to get its business churning, it doesn’t reach as many users around the world as Facebook does, and it’s never proven it can turn consistent profits like Facebook has.
Every generation in tech has its hero. The current generation kicked off in 2009, the beginning of the long boom.
Facebook won this generation. Mark Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg, and the rest of the people there should take a deep breath and enjoy their success.
But not for too long. The one thing you can always count on in tech is that kings have a short reign.
Look around and it seems pretty obvious that technology has made daily life easier.
We can watch almost any film or listen to any song at the press of a button. People pay their bills on their mobile phones. Stressed parents get to dodge trolley tantrums by swapping the supermarket run for online shopping. And let’s not mention all that free online news.
But, for all the convenience that new innovations afford us, what if this rise of technology is actually exacerbating inequality?
There are certainly some red flags right now.
The first warning signs come from financial markets where technology stocks have soared this year.
Search engine Google’s shares recently hit a record high of over $700, making it one of the most valuable companies in the world, second only to that other tech giant Apple. The moves have fired up the tech-heavy Nasdaq index and taken it back to the giddy heights of the dotcom bubble 15 years ago.
The problem is not rising share prices per se, but rather what they are telling us about the power of shareholders and the consequences in terms of what is left over to be invested in wages and innovation.
This question of how the profits of technology trickle down is explored in the recent book iDisrupted by economist Michael Baxter and entrepreneur John Straw.
Analysing the economic impact of emerging technologies, they highlight two potential agents for rising inequality.
Firstly, patents, and the way they ensure that profits from innovation accrue to larger companies and their owners.
“The existence of patents may mean that the majority of wealth created from innovations boosts the wealth of the very richest in society, but restricts the extent of trickle down,” they write.
Secondly, the fact more goods are being offered for free online.
The problem with this is that just about the only means left to fund digital products is advertising, a sector where revenues are increasingly dominated by a handful of companies such as Google and Facebook.
“Without the enormous volume of content on the internet, there would be little point in either search or social media,” write Baxter and Straw. “Yet the revenue from this content accrues to the companies that provide search and social media, not the producers of content.”
Those two trends play out in the very modern context of lawyered-up, patent-hungry tech giants and the emergence of a free online economy. But at their heart lies a very long-standing tie between ownership and profits.
Indeed, the challenge of fairly sharing the spoils of growth has risen hand-in-hand with shareholder power, according to the Bank of England’s chief economist, Andy Haldane.
He concludes that companies are paying out too much to shareholders when they should be investing more. Shareholders are also being put before employees, but there is nothing new there, says Haldane, citing an example from almost a century ago involving the carmaker Henry Ford.
In a speech published last week, Haldane said:
“In the US in 1919, a case against Henry Ford was brought before the Michigan supreme court by the Dodge brothers, a minority shareholder. They challenged Ford’s decision to reinvest the firm’s profits to expand the business and pay better wages, which they felt contradicted the purposes of the corporation – maximising shareholder return. The court ruled that Ford owed a duty to his shareholders and ordered him to pay a special dividend.”
There are clearly parallels with the modern-day tension between Apple and its activist investor Carl Icahn, who campaigned to encourage the iPhone maker to increase returns to shareholders.
The authors of iDisrupted also look to Ford in their argument on the importance of profits trickling down.
They cite the carmaker’s doubling of wages at his factory to $5 a day and the oft-disputed claim that his motivation was the hope other manufacturers would follow suit and so the potential number of car buyers would rise.
It may be the stuff of myths, but a century later the story provides a neat way of explaining how a rising gap between the few haves and the many have-nots could stop technological advances in their tracks.
Baxter and Straw sum this up: “Those who suggest that technology may create a world of extreme inequality may be right, but equally it may be that unless the profits from technology trickle down, pushing up wages and creating demand, then further technological evolution may be impossible.
“If technology leads to more inequality, it may have the effect of suffocating demand from the economy and can become self-destroying, making further technological evolution redundant as only the few could afford it.”
They are right to worry about the prospects for innovation just as Haldane is right to worry about investment, whether it is in training, innovation or machinery.
You only have to look at the figures on the UK’s woeful productivity performance in recent years. BoE deputy governor Jon Cunliffe underscored these in a recent speech.
“In the 10 years prior to the crisis, growth in the hours worked in the UK economy accounted for 23% of overall economic growth. The mainstay of economic growth, the other 77%, came from growth in productivity,” he said.
“Since 2013, only 9% of UK annual economic growth has come from productivity improvement. The remaining 91% has come from the increase in the total hours worked.”
For companies that want to thrive, the message is clear. For policymakers looking to solve Britain’s productivity puzzle, there are lessons too.
It’s time to ditch the financial engineering and put more into innovation: the swathe of companies using ultra-low interest rates to fund acquisitions would do better to invest in ideas and equipment.
And it’s time to claw back power from shareholders: stop pouring money into dividends and instead let employees share some of the gains.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
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