Weekend news round-up: Cook blossoms at Apple, fresh princes of Tech Air

16 Jun 2014

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

In our round-up of the weekend’s tech news, we look at how Tim Cook is transforming post-Steve Jobs Apple to better advance humanity, an insight into the enigma of Nest’s Tony Fadell, and how LA rather than San Francisco is home to the new kingmakers of tech.

Cooking up a storm of change at Apple

There is no doubt that Apple CEO Tim Cook had big shoes to fill when he inherited the role from the late Steve Jobs. But Apple is at a crossroads – sales are so large that the machine needs to keep ticking over, but many people are wondering about Apple’s innovation engine. Where are the new products?

The New York Times provided a fascinating glimpse into the post-Jobs world of Apple and how its new CEO is changing the company’s culture and orienting it towards advancing humanity.

“Lower-level employees praise Mr. Cook’s approachability and intellect. But some say he is less hands-on in developing products than his predecessor. They point to the development of the so-called iWatch — the ‘smartwatch’ that Apple observers are eagerly awaiting as the next world-beating gadget. Mr. Cook is less involved in the minutiae of product engineering for the watch, and has instead delegated those duties to members of his executive cabinet, including Mr. Ive, according to people involved in the project, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to press. Apple declined to comment on the watch project.

“Mr. Cook appears to be interested in the smartwatch’s broader implications — for instance, that a watch might monitor heart rate and other vital measures, thus improving health and limiting doctor visits, according to these people. The watch is expected to be released in the fourth quarter, these people said.

“Mr. Cook has also looked outside of Apple for experienced talent. He has hired executives from multiple industries, including Angela Ahrendts, the former head of Burberry, to oversee the physical and online stores, and Paul Deneve, the former Yves Saint Laurent chief executive, to take on special projects. He also hired Kevin Lynch, the former chief technology officer of Adobe, and Michael O’Reilly, former medical officer of the Masimo Corporation, which makes health monitoring devices. Not to mention the music men of Beats.”

Tony Fadell: the next Tony Stark?

Fortune profiled Tony Fadell, inventor of the iPod and the man who sold Nest to Google for over US$3bn. It posed the question, is he the next Steve Jobs or Larry Page? While we’re at it he may as well be the next Tony Stark of superhero Iron Man fame.

“In the late 1990s a young entrepreneur named Tony Fadell tried to persuade Stewart Alsop, a journalist who had recently become a venture capitalist, to invest in his start-up, Fuse Systems. Fadell had done a stint at the pioneering mobile-software company General Magic and then created a division within Philips to make handheld devices. Neither General Magic nor the Philips pocket computers amounted to much. But Fadell intended to leverage his experience with a new venture. His pitch was not subtle. Says Alsop: ‘He essentially said, “I’m the guy who knows more about mobile products than anyone else. Give me money.”’ Alsop declined.

“An entire decade passed before Fadell asked VCs for cash again. But what a decade it was. Fadell abandoned Fuse Systems and joined Apple to lead the team that created the iPod. That singular achievement–the iPod rejuvenated Apple and reordered the music industry–transformed him from a struggling startup guy to an accomplished executive who’d withstood the sound and fury of Steve Jobs. Fadell became known around Silicon Valley as the mercurial ‘godfather’ of the iPod, and he added another dazzling line to his résumé by assisting in the development of the iPhone. When he stepped down from Apple’s management team in 2008, there was much speculation about his next move.”

The spy that got away

The Washington Post had an interesting story about the efforts by the FBI, CIA and US State Department as well as other agencies attempted to capture former NSA contractor Edward Snowden last year when he fled to Hong Kong before arriving safely and remaining in Russia.

“While Edward Snowden was trapped in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport last year, U.S. officials were confronting their own dearth of options in the White House Situation Room.

“For weeks, senior officials from the FBI, the CIA, the State Department and other agencies assembled nearly every day in a desperate search for a way to apprehend the former intelligence contractor who had exposed the inner workings of American espionage then fled to Hong Kong before ending up in Moscow.

“Convened by White House homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco, the meetings kept ending at the same impasse: Have everyone make yet another round of appeals to their Russian counterparts and hope that Snowden makes a misstep.”

Bitcoin broken

Bitcoin’s security guarantee has reportedly been shattered by an anonymous miner with a 51pc monopoly on Bitcoin’s computational power, according to Ars Technica.

“For the first time in Bitcoin’s five-year history, a single entity has repeatedly provided more than half of the total computational power required to mine new digital coins, in some cases for sustained periods of time. It’s an event that, if it persists, signals the end of the crypto currency’s decentralised structure.

“Researchers from Cornell University say that on multiple occasions, a single mining pool repeatedly contributed more than 51 percent of Bitcoin’s total cryptographic hashing output for spans as long as 12 hours. The contributor was GHash, which bills itself as the “#1 Crypto & Bitcoin Mining Pool.” During these periods, the GHash operators had unprecedented powers that circumvented the decentralisation that is often held up as a salient advantage Bitcoin has over traditional currencies.”

Fresh princes of Tech Air

San Francisco has been potentially overtaken by LA as the home of America’s youngest and most dynamic young tech founders, if an article in Re/Code is to be believed.

“Evan Spiegel, co-founder and CEO of Snapchat; Sean Rad, co-founder and CEO of Tinder; and Michael Heyward, co-founder and CEO of Whisper have become, in many ways, the young princes of Los Angeles tech.

“Native sons of a city they decided not to leave, ambitious young men who knew each other as teenagers, they’re building multimillion- and billion-dollar tech companies that are shaping how a new generation of Internet users communicate, date and gossip.”

It goes on: “The three future entrepreneurs started companies that mirror their personalities almost perfectly. Handsome and charming, Rad co-founded the hot-or-not-style dating app Tinder. Soft-spoken, self-effacing Heyward started a secret-sharing site called Whisper. And Spiegel, sharp and unfiltered, founded the disappearing-message service Snapchat.”

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years