It is possible to be too rich

This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. Here is a collection of past columns . Amazon has more than 800 people is working on ...


This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. Here is a collection of past columns.

Amazon has more than 800 people is working on what looks like video conferencing gadgets on wheels, but it’s not sure that customers want them.

Apple has spent nearly a decade and untold billions of dollars departure, withdraw from and several times rework a project to develop a car that may never hit the roads.

Google and Facebook continue to spend billions purchase and building fancy complexes when no one is confident about the post-pandemic needs of face-to-face office work.

We want successful companies to tinker with expensive projects, even if they don’t come to fruition. Wandering and stumbling is how invention occurs. But that may not be all that goes on in the research labs and corporate suites of America’s tech giants.

Part of what we’re seeing now are companies that are so wealthy that they sometimes throw money away – hey, why not ?! – in a way that prevents themselves and other companies from innovating in a revolutionary way.

Yes, I am really asking if it is possible to be too rich. (And yes, that’s a problem I’d like to have.)

Let me explain to you why we should care that a handful of tech giants are wasting their time and money.

Not having enough money can put a strain on a business or entrepreneur, but it can also foster focus and inventiveness. There is an axiom about tech start-ups that those founded during times of financial crisis often turn out to be the most successful. Young companies and their leaders learn to do more with less and only focus on their best ideas.

And like a wealthy friend who installed gold toilets in each of his 25 bathrooms, having that much cash can force companies to pursue half-baked ideas.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that Amazon testing concepts for a department store with digital clothing tags that customers can scan with their phones to try on items and then add robots… for whatever reason. Technological gadgets are probably not the way to improve the shopping experience for humans, but Amazon can experiment with overly complicated concepts because hey, why not? It can work.

When Amazon throws money at an issue, other companies often respond with their own high-tech countermeasures. Shortly after Amazon bought the Whole Foods supermarket chain, Kroger hatched a plan to futuristic stores with digital shelves to quickly change product prices and help people shop faster. Walmart and other stores deployed robots detect stockouts and test systems for automate the payment process.

Certain types of retail technology, especially parts automation that buyers never see, can turn out to be major breakthroughs. But the trap retailers and Amazon fall into is fixating on the flashy on the really useful. Did anyone stop to ask: is a digital touchscreen or a robot the best way to do this? Walmart last year abandoned on its shelf sweeping robots because simpler alternatives were just as good.

Amazon can try all of this because it has seemingly endless money. But what else could Amazon, Kroger, or Walmart do that is more likely to improve shopping rather than chasing costly “Jetsons” dreams?

Many small tech companies are also concerned that tech giants are hoarding talent because they can. Imagine the mid-level software engineer doing a bank at Google who might otherwise start a driverless car business, or a Facebook manager who might instead run a second-tier e-commerce business to become the next Amazon.

The owners of America’s tech giants – shareholders – mostly trust Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft to follow the right paths to wealth. (Sometimes shareholders are concerned that these companies are wasting money, which has changes of direction or other company actions.)

We want Big Tech to keep investing to deliver new products and services. But we all know that having so much money can make people and businesses unruly and impulsive.

If you haven’t already received this newsletter in your inbox, please register here.


Tip of the week

What if I told you that your iPhone might feel like new even if you didn’t put in $ 700 for the “the most incremental upgrade ever”? Brian X Chen, New York Times consumer tech columnist, tells you how.

There is a widely shared conspiracy theory that phone makers deliberately slow down phones as they get older to get you to buy a new device. In fact, the opposite has been true. In recent years, Apple’s iPhone software updates have made older phones faster, and Google’s Android version 12, due in the coming weeks, was also designed to improve performance.

It’s true that phones slow down over time, but for different reasons. Like a car, smartphones need maintenance to stay in top condition. Here are some tips on what to do to give your phone a boost if it’s feeling sluggish:

Replace the battery. Some manufacturers, like Apple, slow down phones when the battery is on the fritz so that the device works longer. A simple remedy is to replace your battery through the company or at a local phone repair shop. Depending on the phone model and the repair shop, a battery replacement can cost anywhere from $ 30 to $ 80.

Pay attention to your storage. A lot of people don’t realize that just because your iPhone or Samsung phone has 64 or 128 gigabytes of storage doesn’t mean you need to fill it up completely. The device will run faster if more of its storage is available. So at least once a year, purge apps, photos and files that you no longer use.

New start. Over time, phones can appear sluggish and buggy due to software updates, changed system settings, etc. If the basic maintenance steps above don’t help, try backing up all data on your phone and erasing all data on the device completely. Then reinstall the operating system and restore your data from the backup. This can fix software issues that would otherwise be difficult to diagnose.

  • Germany wanted to stop the worst online abuses, but failed: The country passed a law in 2017 requiring companies, including Facebook and Twitter, to quickly suppress hate speech online. My colleague Adam Satariano details the ways in which the law did not necessarily stop all harassing online messages, including those that threaten political candidates with violence. Free expression groups also say the law sets a dangerous precedent for government internet censorship.

  • There is no quick fix to bringing the Internet to more Americans: Bloomberg News focuses on a rural area of ​​Arkansas to explain why it’s difficult to build referral internet pipes in all parts of the United States. What is needed is probably a mixture of technologies, such as a project in Arkansas to reuse a transmission spectrum from the United States Navy for zap internet signals from water towers, flag poles, prison and other high places.

  • Change these settings now: The Washington Post has a to guide to settings worth changing on Amazon, Facebook, Venmo, and other popular websites and apps, and why we’re better protected if we do.

My colleague Erin McCann tweets regularly Pictures of that lovely dog this dragged at his door in London.



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