A Blog by Jonathan Low


Jun 23, 2021

Why PC Sales Are Rising As They Become Giant Smartphones

If you can't beat 'em, copy 'em. 

The features that made smartphones indispensable are now being incorporated in the next generation of PCs, stoking the demand driven by remote work, education - and life - during the pandemic. Apps and internet connectivity are enhancing the bigger screen size and more powerful processing already available. The hybrid workplace and its continued demand for Zoom chat accessibility are another advantage. Investors are trying to determine how these crossover features can be optimized. JL 

Christopher Mims reports in the Wall Street Journal:

Every major PC brand is incorporating more of the technologies that have made our phones so central to our lives. PCs are benefiting from web apps. They’re embracing power-sipping but powerful processors and sharper displays, along with the decrease in thickness and weight—and increase in battery life. Most transformative, laptops will get direct connections to cellular networks, including 5G. The (pandemic) uptick in sales of PCs will persist (because) of behavioral changes including  a shift to people buying new PCs every four to five years instead of six to seven, and that “work from home” means employees need their own devices.

Jun 22, 2021

Can Social Audio and Video Chats Outlast the Pandemic?

Yes. This is probably not an 'either/or' but another option.

These services are convenient, people have become accustomed to communicating this way as an alternative and the pandemic inspired new habits. Plus social media companies see a way to monetize these habits so will promote them. And we know that works. JL

Shannon Bond reports in NPR:

The social media companies have a lot to gain from winning creators' loyalty. Audio chats could keep people on their apps longer. And the companies could eventually take a cut of the revenue their audio stars generate. So they are racing to roll out ways for hosts to get paid. The timing of audio-chat features seems a bit late. Pandemic restrictions have eased in many places and people are beginning to socialize more in real life (but) people have "formed new habits" during the pandemic, and some of those will stick.

Why Those Million Dollar Covid Vaccine Lotteries Offer Only Small Gains

Behavioral incentives like million dollar lotteries provide only incremental successes primarily because the number of unvaccinated people who might be persuaded to get inoculated is shrinking. 

At this point, people are either willing or simply refuse to consider it. Lotteries and other promotions can make some difference but cannot drive huge numbers given the number who are ideologically opposed. JL 

Dan Goldberg and Tucker Doherty report in Politico:

While Ohio did see a two-week bump in adult vaccination rates after becoming the first state to offer sizable cash prizes, the pace of vaccinations there has fallen off. And states that followed its headline-grabbing example made some small gains without showing evidence of any comparable surge. State lotteries and giveaways offer diminishing returns in part because the group that is willing but not persuaded to get vaccinated gets smaller and smaller every day. “Most changes happen at an incremental level — there is no silver bullet.”

Japanese Refuse To Work From Home, Despite Low Vax Rate and Looming Olympics

For all their success, Japanese corporations have not widely embraced the distribution to individuals of technologies that make working remotely possible. 

In addition, Japanese work culture is still highly structured, hierarchical and reliant on 'face time' in the office, making work from home appear more of a threat than an opportunity. Meanwhile, the country is undergoing another Covid surge and vaccination rates are 17%, among the lowest in developed countries. JL 

Michael Fitzpatrick reports in Fortune:

Even with the government’s urging, a growing COVID outbreak, and a slow vaccination campaign, Japan’s workers continue to trudge to the office. The latest figures show remote work has ticked up to 20% across Japan since the start of the pandemic, just ten percentage points higher than "normal." Japan refuses to work remotely (because of) corporations’ failure to embrace technology, and an epidemic of ‘presenteeism’ that’s plagued the country far longer than the coronavirus. Japanese work processes "are based on rigid protocols, personal interaction, constant training on the job, and group communication.”

The Reason Million of People Get Post Covid Vaccine Antibody Tests

Scientists discourage post-vaccination antibody testing because it diverts medical personnel from more urgent work. 

But it turns out millions of people may not produce sufficient post-vaccination antibodies due to various health conditions they may have - and need to know where they stand. JL 

Apoorva Mandavilli reports in the New York Times:

Antibody tests can be crucial for people with weak immune systems or those who take certain medications — a broad category encompassing millions of people who are recipients of organ donations, have certain blood cancers, or who take steroids or other drugs that suppress the immune system. Mounting evidence suggests that a significant proportion of these people do not produce a sufficient antibody response after vaccination.

Not Being Amazon Is Selling Point For Many Ecommerce Startups

There appears to be increasing concern about the power of Amazon and other big tech companies. While ecommerce startups are small blips by comparison, they are growing robustly, suggesting there is a market for Amazon alternatives. JL

Dana Mattioli reports in the Wall Street Journal:

A growing group of businesses and organizations positioning themselves as anti-Amazons are working to unite small businesses that have lost sales to the e-commerce giant and tap into concern about its growing clout and competitive practices. Even before the pandemic, though, there were signs of public wariness about it and other tech giants. A poll found 59% of respondents said Amazon was bad for small businesses. 57% of respondents said that government should increase its regulation of tech companies. Individually, companies  are mere blips compared with Amazon’s colossal sales, but they are growing.

As Consensus Grows On Covid Vax Booster Need, Moderna Triples Capacity

There appears to be a growing consensus that Covid vaccine booster shots will be necessary in the coming year, especially as the Delta/Indian variant becomes the dominant extant strain of the virus. 

In anticipation, Moderna has announced it is tripling capacity in order to meet that need. In the meantime, governments are beginning to grapple with the logistics - and costs - of a required third shot. It is in this scenario that the new vaccines belatedly coming on the market - like Novovax - may actually help fill the the requirements as testing of mixing vaccines progresses. JL

Holly Ellyat and Katrina Bishop report in CNBC and Vandana Singh reports in Yahoo Finance:

Moderna will be adding two new production lines at the plant where it manufactures its COVID-19 vaccine to prepare for making booster shots. Coronavirus vaccine booster shots will likely be needed in the fall, according to experts, who are urging governments to organize them now. It comes as the Delta variant of the coronavirus, first identified in India, continues to spread rapidly across the world. The U.S. and U.K. have already signaled that they could roll out Covid-19 booster shots within a year. Now, pressure is building on governments to mobilize booster shot programs