A Blog by Jonathan Low


Nov 24, 2015

The Ultimate Cord Cut: The Case For Time Warner Divesting HBO

You gotta know when to fold 'em...but, as we have seen in the case of Yahoo's stake in the far more valuable Alibaba, the argument for selling a highly prized subsidiary is based on the assumption that management will know how to effectively deploy the profits they reap from the sale. JL

James Surowiecki reports in The New Yorker:

This is an era of radical uncertainty in the media business. But Time Warner can be very certain about one thing: in HBO, it has an asset that’s worth close to thirty billion dollars in a spinoff. Time to cut that cord.

Why Bankers Want In On the Internet of Things

What could go wrong...? JL

Penny Crosman comments in American Banker:

"As bankers, do we care if our customers connect their refrigerator to the Internet? I say we should care. If you're paying for groceries with your refrigerator, as a banker I want to have my credentials in your refrigerator making that payment."

How Rising Workplace Anxiety Is Affecting Productivity - and Health

Uncertainty based on the impermanence of employment, its impact on declining household income and the persistent fear that technology may obviate the need for even part-time work are part of the anxiety spiral affecting today's workforce, its productivity and health.

Add to that the relentless demand for attention driven by technology and a globalized economy. The result is an issue that used to be ignored or considered a sign of weakness, but that in a human capital-driven economy can affect enterprise success. JL

Emma Jacobs reports in the Financial Times:

A growing number of days lost to absence are blamed on mental health issues. 41 per cent of employees from a range of industries reported high levels of anxiety .

The Surprising Secret To Fighting Off Patent Infringement Lawsuits

Most patent lawsuits are filed by 'trolls,' individuals or firms whose business is suing companies for the value of their intellectual property, not actually using the patents, copyrights or trademarks for productive ends.

Such firms are looking for a quick hit in order to minimize their legal costs. So the best policy, as the following article explains, is to not respond to such a suit (after doing appropriate research) as the plaintiffs are more likely to pursue those who do so, assuming that the response is a sign of owner uncertainty about the validity of their claim. JL

Colleen Chien reports in the Wall Street Journal:

The best way to deal with a patent demand may be to take a deep breath — and then do . . . nothing.

Nov 23, 2015

Threat Multiplier? Where Security Experts Stand On Claims That Climate Change Contributes To Terrorism

Demand for scarce resources - like water and arable land - inevitably causes conflict. The question is to what degree. JL

Tierney Sneed reports in TPM:

The security community is taking seriously the idea that climate change, primarily by causing resource scarcity, is leading to more instability in regions vulnerable to unrest. That in turn is helping to create the breeding grounds for terrorism.

Your Phone Is Listening to Your TV

It is hard to imagine that another story about the non-existence of personal privacy will shock any sentient being.

What may be interesting in this case is that governments are beginning to raise questions about what is now called cross-tracking, and that there may be demands for notification of consumers who are subject to it. And there is little question that blocking technologies are soon to follow. JL

Kaveh Waddell reports in The Atlantic:

Information about which devices belong to whom is immensely valuable to advertisers hoping to target ads specifically to you.

Up the Value Chain: iPhone Manufacturer Foxconn Is Banking On Finance For Future Growth

Contract manufacturing is a brutal business: low margins, intense competition, uncertain loyalty from customers. Becoming the best at this set of tasks helped fuel the Chinese economy's growth. But now that they have learned the elements of success - including where the greatest profits lie - Foxconn and other Chinese companies are intent on moving up the value chain from the 'brawn to the brain economy.'

This strategy is aligned with China's broader goals as a global competitor. Foxconn and others are using their knowledge of manufacturing and of the country's supplier network to become lenders and investors in order to secure a future free of dependence on western companies. Competing enterprises - from electronics to finance - have every reason to be concerned as the knowledge Chinese companies gleaned is turned to others' advantage. JL

Eva Dou and Gillian Wong report in the Wall Street Journal:

Foxconn Technology Group doesn’t want just to make iPhones. It also wants to be the banker for the world’s electronics supply chain. Contract manufacturing is a brutally low-margin business, with assembly fees making up less than 1% of the sticker price of an iPhone. Apple’s largest contract manufacturer joins Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent as it quietly ventures into lending