The iPod turned 15 years old this week. While I don’t remember seeing the original commercial, featuring a man listening to music on his iBook and transferring songs to his iPod, I can vividly remember the silhouette commercials that ran for many years. At the time, I remember thinking “why would I need this?” I had a discman, and the iPod was expensive. Fast forward a few years, to 2006, and I decided I needed an iPod as I was training for my first marathon – I ended up with the first generation iPod Nano, which I still have today. This was really the re-invention Of Apple, and the beginning of its march into technology dominance. Today, the company is arguably the best-known electronics brand out there and has developed one of the best supply chains in the world. So happy 15th birthday iPod.
And now, on to the news.
- Jabil enters supply chain software business
- Uber in the news:
- Walmart in the news:
- Amazon drones will find landing spots using symbols printed out by customers
- Google Express continues to expand
- Best Buy again offering free shipping through holiday season
Jabil, the electronics manufacturer for Apple, Cisco, GE, and others, is entering the supply chain software business. The solution is basically their Supply Chain Control Tower visibility solution, which is partly based on a third party solution and partly on technology they have developed. The solution is cloud-based, and is already used to monitor its suppliers and its customers’ suppliers to react quickly to potential supply chain disruptions. What they are providing as a service to their electronics customers they want to provide as a solution to other verticals. This is in line with how other manufacturers are moving beyond their traditional business models to drive incremental value and revenue.
Uber is planning its move into the long haul trucking industry. With its recent acquisition of self-driving truck startup Otto, Uber is now trying to establish itself as freight hauler and technology partner within the industry. While it currently only has a fleet of 6 trucks, Otto is planning on adding 9 more trucks to its fleet, and will begin hauling freight bound for warehouses and stores by next year. The trucks will be Otto-branded and will be equipped with Otto technology. Uber is already pitching the service to shippers, and will eventually try to compete with brokers who connect truck fleets and shippers.
In other Uber news, the company has made the first commercial use of autonomous trucks. Using an Otto truck, the company delivered 45,000 cans of Budweiser from Fort Collins, Colo. to Colorado Springs. The driver monitored the trip from the truck’s sleeper berth for the two-hour journey, only taking the wheel when the truck was driving on and off highway ramps. The company worked with the state of Colorado, as state troopers monitored the truck during the trip. Otto was paid the market rate of $470 for the job using one of its trucks outfitted with the new technology.
Walmart is continuing its aggressive play in the e-commerce market. The company has said it will invest $50 million in Chinese online grocery and delivery firm New Dada. Earlier this year, Walmart made a shift in its China strategy when it sold off its online platform Yihaodian in exchange for a stake in local e-commerce giant JD.com. Considering that New Dada is a joint venture that is part owned by JD.com, this move is not overly surprising. The Chinese online grocery business is booming, and Walmart’s investment will make it possible for customers to benefit from faster delivery times from New Dada. Currently, New Dada has over 25 million registered users and delivers to 300+ cities. It will be interesting to see what the next e-commerce move is for Walmart.
Walmart is also planning for the holiday season. The company plans to make tens of thousands more items from its online assortment available for same-day store pickup, and will offer more lower-priced items instead of deals as part of efforts to attract shoppers this holiday season. Based on past holiday seasons, where buy online pick-up in-store volumes have increased five-fold, the company plans to make more items available across specific categories including apparel, toys and seasonal décor. The company also plans to focus more on discounts and offering the lowest prices on items instead of “gimmicky” product deals.
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, is pushing forward with drone testing to make autonomous deliveries a reality in the future. While the US still has very strict rules regarding commercial drones, research and testing in the UK has been going well. According to Bezos, Amazon’s delivery drones will be able to fly up to 20 miles at speeds faster than 50 mph, and find their landing spots via symbols that customers will print out on their computers and place outside. One of the more talked about use of drones, however, is in densely populated urban areas, where placing a “landing symbol” could be incredibly difficult. But these are the issues that Amazon, and a host of other companies, are working on to overcome.
Google Express is continuing to expand its operations. The expansion Tuesday included Alabama, Kentucky, Utah, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Wyoming, and Washington. According to Google, the company will now reach 70 million more people and covers 90% of the country. The service lets people buy online or through an app and have items delivered from local stores the same day, overnight, or within two days, depending on where they live and the time they order. Google Express has more than 50 merchant partners nationwide and is continuously adding new merchants that fit in with the program. Sample merchants include Costco, Whole Foods Market, Kohl’s, PetSmart, Road Runner Sports, Sur La Table, Fry’s, Walgreens, L’Occitane, Payless ShoeSource and Guitar Center.
And finally, as the holiday season approaches (more to come on this topic in a future article), Best Buy is once again offering free shipping on online purchases made between now and December 24. The move eliminates the normal minimum spending threshold of $35 for free shipping. The move is clearly aimed at competing with Amazon during the holiday rush. The big question, however, is how much of an impact will the move make? The majority of Best Buy purchases already qualify for free shipping, so the majority of purchases are not affected. But, Best Buy has said it has made improvements to its fulfillment operations, and most online orders should be delivered in two days or less. We’ll have to monitor that last claim, and see if Best Buy has oversold its efficiency.
That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of week (which, in honor of the iPod’s 15th birthday, is the last song I listened to on my morning run today), People Say by Portugal. The Man.