“Should this exist?” is not typically a question that technologists ask themselves, Caterina Fake says. The Flickr cofounder turned investor says that most entrepreneurs and engineers will ask themselves, “Can this exist, could this exist, how can we gain the funding to make this exist? Those are the conversations we’ve been having for the past 15 to 20 years about technology.”
But that narrative in tech is evolving, Fake tells WIRED on this week’s Gadget Lab podcast, from one of ideation, optimism, and changing the world to a stark reality in which technology can do as much harm as good. The cracks are showing, and suddenly, Fake says, “people are asking, ‘Whoa, what have we done? Is this what we really wanted to build?’” That line of questioning was the genesis for her own podcast, Should This Exist?, a WaitWhat original series made in partnership with Quartz.
On this week’s episode, Fake also weighs in on IBM’s usage of Flickr as a database with which to train its facial recognition algorithms. Could Fake, or any other entrepreneurs who created new products in the early 2000’s, have foreseen the obsessive photo-sharing culture we’re now living in? Yes … but also, no.
Additional note: WIRED’s Gadget Lab team taped this podcast before news broke about a mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, that was live-streamed on the internet. At the time of publication, at least 49 people were reported to have been killed. WIRED will continue to follow this story.
Send the Gadget Lab hosts feedback on their personal Twitter feeds. Our guest this week, Caterine Fake, can be found at @caterina. Arielle Pardes can be found at @pardesoteric. Lauren Goode is @laurengoode. Michael Calore can be found at @snackfight.
How to Listen You can always listen to this week’s podcast through the audio player on this page, but if you want to subscribe for free to get every episode, here’s how:
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Dimension Data senior managers are approaching lenders and investors to raise cash for a possible deal for the group’s Africa and Middle East (MEA) operations, which could be valued at about US$800-million (R11.5-billion).
That’s according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential.
Senior managers at Dimension Data are considering a buyout of some of the South African IT services company’s operations from its owner, Nippon Telegraph & Telephone, the people said.
NTT is merging its various international technology businesses, including Dimension Data, under a new holding company
A transaction could lead to a re-listing of Dimension Data, the people said. If the approach is successful, Dimension Data’s management would also take control of Internet Solutions, they said. The plans were first reported by TechCentral.
Representatives for NTT and Dimension Data declined to comment.
NTT is merging its various international technology businesses, including Dimension Data, under a new holding company to better serve global clients. This may encourage the former Japanese phone monopoly to agree to sell the MEA operations, said the people.
NTT bought the then London- and Johannesburg-listed Dimension Data for £2.1-billion in 2010 as part of a breakneck global acquisition spree that also included an expansion into the US. Dimension Data focuses on IT consulting and technical and support services. — (c) 2019 Bloomberg LP
From L-R: Ido Sum, Partner at TLcom, Omobola Johnson, Senior Partner at TLcom, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Founding Director of the World Wide Web Foundation
Africa-focussed venture capital firm, TLcom hosted Internet founder and pioneer, Sir Tim Berners-Lee at Westwood Hotel, Ikoyi, Lagos. The VC firm welcomed Sir Tim to an intimate tech industry reception, with key figures from Africa’s tech community in attendance, including Elo Umeh, CEO of Terragon and Etop Ikpe, CEO of Cars45.
Hosted in partnership with the Web Foundation, TLcom Senior Partner and Web Foundation Board Member, Dr Omobola Johnson, discussed the gender digital divide and strategies to close it as well as how the internet and the web are driving social and economic inclusion in Nigeria, with Sir Tim, who is currently working with governments, companies and citizens to build a new Contract for the Web. This comes after Sir Tim this week announced his wish to build a better web that serves all of humanity, which he set out in an Open Letter to mark the Internet’s 30th birthday.
As one of the leading VCs for African markets with leading companies such as Andela, Kobo360, Terragon, Twiga Foods, and mSurvey in its TIDE Africa fund investment portfolio, TLcom continues to focus on how entrepreneurship, the internet and web-based technology can make an impact and grow on the continent.
Speaking at the event, Dr Omobola Johnson stated: “As much as Sir Tim’s attendance is a reflection on the opportunities the internet has provided, it is also about the potential it holds for Africa moving forward. Sir Tim’s and the Web Foundation’s ethos of bringing interconnected communities together to shape our internet’s future, and ensure the web is fit for purpose for a global community, is one that resonates completely with us at TLcom. We are delighted to be hosting him here in Lagos, and hope he will be inspired by our collaborators in the tech ecosystem.”
Touching on the potential within Nigeria, Sir Tim Berners-Lee also added: “With its vibrant tech community and several millions yet to be connected to the internet, Nigeria represents both the present and the future of the internet and the web.”
EdTech to bridge performance gaps among South African learners
With the government committing to increased spending on education in its next fiscal year, and President Cyril Ramaphosa having announced a particular emphasis on bolstering the digital environment in classrooms with appropriate hardware, the Western Cape is now looking towards how best to harness digital technologies to improve on its overall matric result rate.
However, for educational technology (or EdTech) to up the ante in classroom results and successfully address a number of the issues endemic in the South African education system, the real focus must first be on content over hardware, says Dr Corrin Varady, chief executive of IDEA Digital Education.
“There is no doubt that technology will have a valuable effect on education and training,” says Varady, “but first, before we consider the hardware that is required, we must create excellent and relevant content in a way that will deliver high-quality, interactive resources for learners, while at the same time enabling professional development for teachers.
“The most outstanding results seen internationally occur when high teacher practice combines with high technology contexts.”
To this end, the Western Cape Department of Education has entered into a partnership with Edtech company IDEA Digital Education to roll out a measurable, outcomes-based approach for both learners and teachers in 2019, following a robust test phase of the programme which has been run over the past two years in selected schools via the WCED ePortal.
“What’s been missing so far in South Africa has been an outcome-driven solution for, students and parents, that builds digital teaching and learning practices, as well as tools created specifically for teachers to develop them professionally and promote educational excellence,” says Varady.
This is of great importance, notes Varady, with the quality of South African teachers having been highlighted as one of the focus areas in the report Priorities for Education Reform in South Africa, developed in collaboration between the University of Stellenbosch, the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Endowment and Funda Wanda – the latter being an NPO that works towards literacy. Presented to National Treasury on 19 January, it forms part of the basis of the government’s renewed commitment to education and notes that “no education system can move beyond the quality of its teachers.”
Acknowledging that the majority of South African teachers do not currently have either the content knowledge nor the pedagogical skills to enable them to successfully teach the set curricula, the report notes, among other concerns, that in a national representative sample of primary schools, 79% of Grade 6 mathematics teachers could not themselves score 60% or higher on Grade 6 or 7 level
One of telecommunications operator Rain’s shareholders, Patrice Motsepe’s African Rainbow Capital (ARC), has attached an intrinsic value to the company of R11.7-billion, or almost a third of Telkom’s market capitalisation.
The ARC Fund’s 20% stake in Rain was valued at R2.3-billion — using a discounted cash-flow model — at the end of December 2018, ARC said in interim results for the six months ended 31 December 2018.
The value of the fund’s investment in Rain increased by R186-million in the second six months of the 2018 financial year, it said, implying its total valuation rose by R930-million.
Rain is aiming to become a full-service mobile network operator, focusing on data as a primary offering
“Overall, the growth prospects for Rain remain optimistic,” ARC told shareholders in a presentation this week. “Revenue growth has been encouraging and significant progress has been made to further improve on network performance and stability.”
It said Rain is deploying a 4G/LTE-Advanced network and is well placed to use its radio frequency spectrum assets to roll out 5G.
“Rain is aiming to become a full-service mobile network operator, focusing on data as a primary offering,” ARC said.
It listed the operator’s major assets as its spectrum licences, including allocations in the 1.8GHZ and 2.6GHz bands. Rain also has spectrum at 3.6GHz, which could be used for 5G.
“Rain intends to build a dedicated national LTE-Advanced network and infrastructure that will eventually facilitate an environment where open access to the Internet becomes a reality in South Africa, with the best possible quality and Internet speed, at affordable rates.”
Rain has about 3 000 LTE sites nationwide from which it serves retail clients. It also has a national roaming agreement with Vodacom.
In October 2018, Rain suspended new sales of fixed-LTE (fixed-line broadband replacement) services due to network congestion. ARC said this segment was a “relatively small component of the overall business”.
Sales of Rain’s mobile connections to end users are “meeting targets”, with its unlimited off-peak data package proving most popular.
Cedric Miller, newly appointed Chief Executive Officer Altron.
JSE-listed Altron has announced Cedric Miller as Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Miller, who will join the technology Group on 1 May 2019, has more than 27 years’ financial and accounting experience, having worked extensively in global investment and retail banking.
Mteto Nyati, Altron Group Chief Executive says: “Cedric brings a wealth of knowledge to our company and his experience in the financial services is a distinct advantage. Given his track record in leading people and companies through periods of change, Cedric will be key to driving our growth through the One Altron strategy.
Miller is a qualified Chartered Accountant (CA) and Certified Financial Planner and holds an advanced certificate in Taxation. He is currently Chief Financial Officer for Standard Bank’s Personal and Business Banking (Global) unit and has experience spanning being CFO for its Global Investment Banking division as well as working as Chief Operations Officer (COO) for the bank’s subsidiary in Argentina.
Altron Group COO Andrew Holden, who had been acting CFO, will step down from this position at the end of April.
“We would like to express our appreciation to Andrew, who assumed this additional role over the past few months,” concluded Nyati.
Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg has announced the resignation of the company’s Chief Product Officer, Chris Cox, and the head of WhatsApp, Chris Daniels.
Cox has been with Facebook for more than a decade and currently oversees the company’s core suite of apps. The heads of all of Facebook’s most important teams — Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Facebook itself — all report to him. He’d been floated as the next CEO, should Zuckerberg ever step away.
Daniels took over WhatsApp last May after WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum left. Prior to that, he’d been running Facebook’s internet.org initiative, which was meant to bring internet regions of the world currently without connectivity. Under his leadership, WhatsApp added forwarding limits to decrease the spread of misinformation. It also announced plans to being showing advertisements, despite being founded on a promise of never showing ads.
Facebook doesn’t plan to appoint anyone to immediately fill Cox’s role. Zuckerberg announced that Will Cathcart will be the new head of WhatsApp and Fidji Simo will be the new head of the Facebook app.
“This is an important change as we begin the next chapter of our work building the privacy-focused social foundation for the future,” Zuckerberg said in a note.
Facebook has lost several top executives during the last two years, including its general counsel, chief security officer, and co-founders of WhatsApp, Instagram and Oculus, a virtual reality firm it bought in 2014.
Ericsson, UNESCO scale up skill development in AI for youth
Ericsson and UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) have formed a new partnership to educate and empower the youth, with the development of a new digital skill learning program that has specific emphasis on scaling up Artificial Intelligence (AI) skill development for young people.
With the rapid deployment of advanced technologies such as mobile broadband, cloud, IoT, automation and AI, a new set of skills is required to enter the workforce. There is an unprecedented opportunity to harness technologies and use them to advance not only economies but also to combat some of the world’s looming challenges. Next-generation 5G services are set to play a key role in accelerating digitalisation and the impact of technologies like AI.
The impact of AI is also felt across the education sector where it has the potential to increase access, automate process, curate learning and improve outcomes in education. It will continue to bring new opportunities for enhanced learning, new forms of learning and offer more flexible lifelong learning pathways.
With this background, Ericsson and UNESCO are combining their respective strengths to create opportunities to scale up skill development in AI and other key digital skills for young people.
Under the AI for youth initiative the partners will:
Develop and manage a repository of AI and other key digital skill training courses that will be available globally Build capacities of master trainers from selected countries around the globe with advanced knowledge of AI skill development Support master trainers to mobilise AI hub centres and hackathons to train young people on developing AI applications
Heather Johnson, Vice President Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility, Ericsson, says: “At Ericsson we believe that building strong and viable partnerships is key to meeting the global Sustainable Development Goals. This public-private partnership focusing on skill development for Artificial Intelligence is an excellent example of what can be achieved when leaders work together to promote knowledge sharing and cooperation. “
Borhene Chakroun, Director of Policies and Lifelong Learning Division, UNESCO, says: “At UNESCO we think that artificial intelligence is to be put at the service of sustainable development, a whole set of new education and training programmes has to emerge to equip youth with skills required to live and work in artificial intelligence era. Our partnership with Ericsson is critical to advance this agenda”.
The initiative was launched at Mobile Learning Week 2019, UNESCO’s flagship education conference held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from March 4 to 8. The event brings together education and technology experts from around the world with focus on AI and
On a crystalline blue morning in the Chugach Mountains southwest of Anchorage, Alaska, Mike Welch skis about 70 yards through untouched powder before stopping abruptly. The helicopter that delivered him and three other skiers into the mountains has since disappeared, leaving the group to commune with the quiet.
The Chugach National Forest covers nearly 7,000,000 acres—about the size of New Hampshire—and is comprised of jagged glaciated peaks that extend right to the ocean’s edge. It gets absolutely blasted with winter snow. That terrain, plus so much snowfall, makes this place an outdoor-sports paradise. But it can also be deadly.
Welch, the snow safety director and lead guide for helicopter skiing operator Chugach Powder Guides, removes a shovel from his backpack. Above him, on a slope nicknamed the Reef, the other skiers stand waiting, itching to lay down tracks on the beckoning curtain of snow but not daring to proceed without a go-ahead from Welch. A moment later, Welch’s voice crackles over the radio: Sit tight for a few minutes, guys. I’m going to dig a pit.
Avalanches, especially in winters like this one, with huge, even record-breaking snows, kill about 25 to 30 people in the US every year. Data give the false impression that things are no safer now than they were a generation ago, but with so many more people recreating in the backcountry, things are indeed a lot safer thanks in part to technology. For outdoor enthusiasts, and especially for businesses like Chugach Powder Guides, application of the latest safety tech is essential.
Transceivers, or avalanche beacons, are nearly ubiquitous nowadays. Should one or more members of a party get buried, those who were not caught in the slide can switch their beacons from send mode to search mode and begin the hurried hunt for anyone under the snow.
The big change in rescue tech over the last decade is avalanche airbags. Whereas airbags for cars cushion against sudden impact, airbags for skiers and riders are floatation devices. They are really just fancy balloons that deploy from the top and sides of the backpack. A tug on the trigger, usually incorporated into the backpack shoulder strap, deploys a compressed-air canister that in turn inflates the balloon. Other airbag models use extremely high-speed fans to do the trick. The balloon makes the skier more buoyant, and therefore more likely to ride at the surface of the moving snow and, crucially, stay there when the whole nightmare finally comes to a halt. (This is why people say that if you are caught in an avalanche, move your arms in a treading water motion to try to stay at the surface.)
Prototype airbags were developed in the late 1980s, but it took years of refinement for anything resembling market adoption. Since around 2005, people have been using them, especially in Europe, says Henry Munter, the general manager at Chugach Powder Guides. Still, it was a quiet trend.
The Department for International Development’s Transforming Energy Access programme has already helped people and businesses across Africa cut 2 million tonnes of carbon emissions and improve the lives of 3.2 million low-income people. It has also leveraged $359 million worth of investment in clean energy from the public and private sectors.
At an event in London, the UK’s Minister for Africa, Harriett Baldwin, announced the commitment by InfraCo Africa to develop two solar plants in Samburu and Transmara, each with a capacity of 10 MWAC, to give more people access to affordable, clean energy.
Minister for Africa, Harriett Baldwin, said: “Transforming Energy Access is using the UK’s expertise in technology and finance to provide power for people across Africa and tackle one of the world’s biggest challenges, climate change. The UK government’s investment in clean energy and waste reduction for people and businesses will help millions of people across Africa. It’s a win for the developing world and a win for the UK”.
In 2018, the Government of Kenya reaffirmed its intention to achieve Universal Electricity Access by 2022 and to continue developing the power sector: including the strategic use of on-grid, off-grid and small-scale solutions. The Samburu and Transmara projects will directly contribute to achieving this goal.
To date, private sector investment in Kenyan solar has focused on either large-scale plants or local mini-grids/solar systems. The Samburu and Transmara projects will demonstrate the commercial viability of strategically sited small-scale solar plants (10MWAC and below) and so mobilise greater private sector participation in this market segment.
In addition, work is also underway to explore the potential for one or both of these solar projects to take part in a local currency power purchase agreement (PPA) pilot. If confirmed, the solar project(s) would be amongst the first in sub-Saharan Africa to have negotiated local currency renewable energy PPAs outside of South Africa.
Facebook isreportedly preparing to launch its own version of bitcoin, for use in its messaging applications, WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram. Could this “facecoin” be the long-awaited breakthrough by a global technology giant into the lucrative market for retail financial services? Or will it be yet another exaggerated “crypto” project, buying into the continuing excitement about decentralised peer-to-peer exchange but, in the end, not delivering very much?
Time will tell, but my two decades of research into the economics of payments makes me sceptical.
We know little about Facebook’s plans. So far there is just one company statement about a new group set up to look into cryptocurrencies reported by Bloomberg: “Like many other companies, Facebook is exploring ways to leverage the power of blockchain technology. This new small team is exploring many different applications. We don’t have anything further to share.”
WeChat Pay doesn’t involve cryptocurrency. It uses established server technologies to enable people to transfer money in and out of conventional bank accounts
Some investigative journalism from Bloomberg and the New York Times reveals a little more. Facecoin (and the similar “gram” cryptocurrency being developed by the privacy focused messaging app Telegram) will apparently be a “stablecoin”. Rather than having a fixed amount of currency that fluctuates in price, depending on demand, facecoin will have a fixed price and the amount of it in circulation will vary. So unlike bitcoin it will not be a vehicle for speculation.
What will the fixed price be? Bloomberg reports it will be fixed against the dollar. The New York Times says that it will be against a combination of dollar, euro and yen. Who will use it? Facebook is apparently focusing on providing a technology solution for the large and lucrative remittance market for payments into India. Will transactions in facecoin be anonymous like those in bitcoin? No, they will be associated with Facebook accounts, so they won’t be an easy means to avoid laws and regulations.
Scepticism in order
While this is a fascinating development, some scepticism is in order. If there is one common feature to the many hundreds of crypto and blockchain finance projects announced over the past four years, it is exaggerated early claims. In one ongoing research project, I have found that of 103 projects announced since 2015 applying so-called blockchain technologies to financial services, all but a handful have quietly disappeared. None have yet been taken through to commercial-scale launch (although around half a dozen may achieve that by 2021).
Is there anything about Facebook’s plans to suggest a different outcome? The obvious parallel is with the Chinese payment solution WeChat Pay, globally the largest mobile and Internet payment solution used by “900 million active users”. In Beijing and Shanghai, “even beggars have QR codes” that allow passers-by to scan and give them money using their smartphones. The integration into the WeChat messaging system is what gave WeChat Pay the critical mass to achieve widespread acceptance. Facecoin’s integration with WhatsApp and other Facebook services could support
Oracle prepares South African youth for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Twenty one previously disadvantaged (PDI) South African students, of which twelve are female, graduated from the Oracle Graduate Leadership Programme. Now in its fifth year, the programme focuses on equipping PDI students with specialised IT and leadership skills that prepare them for a career in the IT industry.
“Every year our programme takes in previously disadvantaged graduates to address the critical skills shortage in our industry. Any drive towards closing the skills gap and addressing unemployment should be tied to the fourth industrial revolution or we risk our country becoming uncompetitive and irrelevant both locally and globally. By developing the hard and soft skills needed to succeed in the digital world, we are creating a future skills pipeline for Oracle and the wider ICT community,” says Niral Patel, Managing Director and Technology Leader for Oracle South Africa
The Oracle Graduate Leadership Programme is spread over a period of one year and offers a blended learning approach, combining classroom training with e-learning and structured on-the-job training. Oracle South Africa sponsors the full cost of training for all programme participants.
“Before we start training these youngsters, we ask our partners and customers what they need and then build a programme that provides the right skills, relevant for the market. This actively and strategically closes the skills gap all the while providing much-needed employment,” says Patel.
Tshegofatso Biloane, one of this year’s graduates, found employment as a software developer at a consulting services company. “The programme built the right foundation I needed for my career moving forward. It taught me about the industry and how to work with people from different walks of life. I’ll always remember my time spent at the programme,” she says.
Her advice to future students, “Use every opportunity to ask questions, meet new people and gain new perspectives. The knowledge you acquire and connections you make will take you far in your career.”
The programme has successfully delivered 106 graduates to date, with many of them securing permanent employment with Oracle partner companies and other organisations. Enrolment for the 2019 programme has commenced with 28 students already confirmed, with an even split of females and males.
“It is satisfying to look back at the success of this programme over the past few years – the graduates have come in, have been upskilled, sent into the market and have found relevant jobs with our partners and customers,” concludes Patel.
Actress Alia Bhatt, who turned 26 on Friday and will make her Telugu debut with SS Rajamouli’s RRR, says now her wish has been fulfilled as she always wanted to work with the Baahubali series filmmaker.
Alia was interacting with the media at the Economic Times Edge – Femina ‘Maharashtra Achievers Awards 2019’ on Thursday, on the day Rajamouli announced that she and Ajay Devgn would be a part of the period action film which stars Jr. NTR and Ram Charan in the lead.
On being a part of RRR, Alia said: “Now, I am doing the preparation for it. I can’t reveal details of the film because I don’t know whether I am supposed to talk about the film, but… I am feeling really grateful as I wished in my heart that I wanted to work Rajamouli sir and that wish has been fulfilled now, so I feel immense gratitude.
“It’s my first time to work in the South Indian film industry, so I am really excited.”
RRR will tell a fictitious story based on two freedom fighters. The film will release on July 30, 2020, in Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam and other Indian languages simultaneously.
Apart from this announcement, the teaser of Alia’s upcoming film Kalank has got an immensely positive response from the audience. After that she will feature in Brahmastra.
Asked if she she has set a new benchmark for herself by doing such big films, she said: “Whenever I do any film, I first see what is my character in the film and who is the director of the film. I think it’s not important to remember that what benchmark I have set for myself.
“I feel that playing my character honestly is important and what my director wants me do with that character is important than anything else, so I don’t know what benchmark I have created, but now I just want to create something good for my next film with lot of honesty.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday urged well-known personalities and others to strengthen voter awareness efforts across the country.
Urging people to cast their votes in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Alia said: “I tweeted that the nation’s voice is the nation’s choice. We have elections for every resident of the country, so I urge people to go out, cast their vote and make a choice.”
Apple has fired back at Spotify’s antitrust complaint, saying the music streaming giant wants all the benefits of its app store without contributing to the marketplace.
The iPhone maker said the App Store contributed to Spotify becoming the business it is today, a public company that generates over US$1-billion of revenue per quarter, according to a statement on Friday.
Spotify, which offers both free and paid services, complained to the European Union’s powerful antitrust agency that Apple’s 30% cut of revenue was effectively a tax on competitors.
The majority of customers use their free, ad-supported product, which makes no contribution to the App Store
The feud comes as Apple expands by launching new services, moving into new business areas that compete with third-parties on its platform. Its 2014 acquisition of Beats came as the iPhone maker moved into music streaming and on 25 March, the Cupertino, California-based company plans to unveil new video-streaming and magazine services.
In its response to Spotify’s complaints, Apple said it doesn’t charge for distributing free apps and only takes the 30% from paid subscriptions on its platform. It also said that rate drops to 15% for subscriptions of more than a year.
“The majority of customers use their free, ad-supported product, which makes no contribution to the App Store,” Apple said. “Even now, only a tiny fraction of their subscriptions fall under Apple’s revenue-sharing model. Spotify is asking for that number to be zero.”
‘Same set of rules’
Apple said its revenue share is in exchange for connecting a third-party’s services to its users, using the App Store billing system, and its developer tools that allow Spotify to build its iPhone and iPad applications.
“Developers, from first-time engineers to larger companies, can rest assured that everyone is playing by the same set of rules. That’s how it should be. We want more app businesses to thrive — including the ones that compete with some aspect of our business, because they drive us to be better,” Apple said.
The Stockholm-based music-streaming service also said Apple “routinely blocks” some of its product upgrades, such as integration with the Siri digital assistant and the Apple Watch. Apple described Spotify’s claims as “surprising”, pointing out that the Swedish company has an Apple Watch app that’s ranked as the top app in the wearable App Store’s Music section.
Apple said Spotify has informed it of plans to integrate the music streaming service with Siri and that Apple is “ready to help” as appropriate. — Reported by Mark Gurman, (c) 2019 Bloomberg LP
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has unveiled a cheaper electric crossover SUV, the Model Y, in a bid to regain momentum after a rough start to the year.
Taking the stage at the company’s design studio in Hawthorne, California, Musk showed off a blue prototype of the mid-sized SUV, which is roughly 10% roomier than its best-selling sedan. Three higher-end versions of the new vehicle will start delivery in the southern hemisphere spring of 2020, with a standard one available in autumn 2021, priced at US$39 000 and equipped with a 370km battery, according to the company.
Getting the new vehicle into production quickly will be key for Tesla to build on the momentum of its Model 3, a less-expensive sedan that’s catapulted the automaker up the sales charts and helped Musk post back-to-back quarterly profits for the first time. The new Model Y may also help Tesla shift its line-up toward the tastes of US consumers, who are increasingly ditching sedans for bigger crossovers and SUVs.
Entering the SUV/crossover market effectively doubles Tesla’s addressable market
“Entering the SUV/crossover market effectively doubles Tesla’s addressable market,” Gene Munster, a managing partner of venture capital firm Loup Ventures, wrote ahead of the event.
Musk, 47, took the stage at Tesla’s design studio before a crowd of customers and fans, but was uncharacteristically subdued. He spent much of his presentation talking about the company’s struggles with manufacturing.
“He was not the usual charismatic Elon Musk. He was super low-key,” said Michael Harley, executive editor of Kelley Blue Book, who was at the event. “He was almost apologetic. It was a bit of a reality check. People in the crowd like the car, but Musk only spent a fraction of his time talking about it.”
Only one of the new models was driven onto the stage, where it shared the limelight with other, older vehicles. At the 2016 unveiling of the Model 3, by contrast, Musk showed off three cars and flashed the rising number of customer deposits on screen as they rolled in from people eager to be among the first in line to reserve them.
At the Model Y’s unveiling, Musk said nothing about taking orders or deposits, although Tesla’s website allows people to make “fully refundable” pre-order payments of $2 500.
The Model Y is making its official debut after a rough patch for both Tesla and Musk. In late February, the company announced it would finally offer a $35 000 version of the Model 3, though it linked the ability to do so with a plan to close almost all of its stores and pivot to online-only ordering.
This blindsided employees and investors alike, and Tesla backtracked 10 days later, saying in a blog post that more stores would remain open but vehicle prices would have to rise by about 3% on average worldwide.
Meanwhile, the US Securities and Exchange Commission has reignited its battle with Musk over his use of Twitter early this year, after the billionaire tweeted about the company’s annual