Tech: Snapchat releases new smart sunglasses
Snapchat is “expanding its horizons beyond its core messaging app,” said Peter Kafka in Recode.net. The social media company, best known for its disappearing pictures and videos, unveiled its first hardware product last week: a pair of smartphone-connected sunglasses that can record and share video. The glasses, dubbed “Spectacles,” record in 10-second bursts when you tap a button on the side of the frames; the video can then be automatically shared on the Snapchat app. CEO Evan Spiegel has downplayed the impact of Spectacles for now, describing them as a fun “toy.” But, in a nod to Snapchat’s growing ambitions, the company has rebranded itself “Snap Inc.”
By moving into hardware, “Snap is stepping up the fight against Facebook,” said Damon Beres in Mashable.com. Its chief social media rival has also invested heavily in wearable tech, purchasing the virtual reality–headset maker Oculus for $2 billion in 2014. “Spectacles are a much smaller deal,” but serve as proof that the company “is prepared to move beyond its social-sharing app.” Spectacles, which will go on sale this fall for $130 a pair, could also accelerate the company’s already explosive growth by encouraging more people to spontaneously share photos and videos without reaching for a smartphone. Another advantage: “Spectacles don’t look like dorky Google Glass.”
Aerospace: Elon Musk sketches vision for Mars trips
Elon Musk unveiled a plan this week to put humans on Mars “in roughly the next decade,” said Andy Pasztor in The Wall Street Journal. Speaking at an international space conference in Mexico, the billionaire entrepreneur described how reusable rockets would launch passenger ships into orbit, return to Earth, and then blast off again with more fuel for the passenger vehicles’ six-month journey to the Red Planet. Musk, whose company SpaceX has become a leader in private space flight since it was founded 14 years ago, didn’t lay out specific funding projections, but said any mission “is going to be a huge public-private partnership.”
Pharma: Pfizer scuttles breakup plans
Drug giant Pfizer said this week it won’t split into two publicly traded companies after all, said Linda Johnson in the Associated Press. The company, which makes Viagra, Lipitor, and Lyrica, spent $600 million over the past several years studying and preparing for a possible breakup, with one firm to be focused on generics and older drugs and the other on newer patent-protected drugs. Investors, frustrated by the company’s lagging stock price, “argued that by splitting up, the resulting two companies might grow faster than one.” The chances for a breakup faded over the summer, however, amid increased sales.
Tech: Feds sue Palantir for discrimination
The Labor Department has accused Silicon Valley data analytics company Palantir Technologies of discriminating against Asian job applicants, said Jessica Guynn in USA Today. The government’s lawsuit, filed against Palantir this week, alleges that Asian applicants were routinely eliminated in the company’s screening process “despite being as qualified as white applicants.” The “notoriously secretive” company risks losing its lucrative government contracts with clients like the U.S. Army and the FBI thanks to the suit. Palantir “firmly” denies the allegations.
Banking: Legal woes mount for Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo “has been hit with at least four prospective class-action lawsuits” since it fired 5,300 workers for opening accounts without customers’ knowledge, said James Rufus Koren in the Los Angeles Times. One case was filed this week in Los Angeles federal court on behalf of employees who said they were either fired or demoted “for refusing to open bogus accounts to meet aggressive sales goals.” The bank also agreed this week to claw back $41 million in compensation from CEO John Stumpf.
How the wealthy test their advisers
“The bonds that wealth managers develop with their clients are unusual,” said Brooke Harrington in The Guardian (U.K.). Today, the world has 167,669 “ultra-high-net-worth individuals”—people with at least $30 million in investable assets— many of whom are paranoid about becoming targets for scam artists, kidnappers, and scheming relatives. Many wealth managers describe having to perform “extraordinary acts of service” early in the job to prove themselves trustworthy. David, a British manager in Hong Kon g, described one client who demanded that he secure 1,000 sides of smoked salmon for a business deal in Japan in the span of a few days. Eleanor, an American manager based in Geneva, was asked to locate a bracelet lost outside a London restaurant, which the client would not identify. When she somehow managed to find the jewelry, she “earned a loyal client for decades to come.”