Friday Five – Apple launches a credit card, underwater cables, graying workforce, and the rise of gaming athletes

Credit cards? There’s an app for that

It’s finally here: the long-awaited Apple Card is out to a limited number of customers in the Apple Card Preview. 

Similar to other Apple tech, you might not want to invest in this card unless you’re already within the Apple cult of products. Having a physical version of this new card is actually completely optional, because like many things in life, there’s an app for that! A digital version of the card has been specifically designed to work with Apple’s Wallet app. A place no longer just for old plane tickets and rewards cards, now you can use your Apple Wallet to apply for the card and pay it off too. The intuitive new “card” even comes with ten instructional videos on how to use it.

The card itself is no different from any other credit card, other than being made of titanium rather than plastic. It offers no annual fee, and 1% cash back on purchases (2% for using Apple Pay). However, the digital app offers an experience more thought out than Apple’s idea to get rid of its headphone jackIt comes complete with a map tracking every purchase as well as graphs visualizing spending throughout the month so you can be reminded of how much debt you’re incurring from that morning Starbucks run. The Apple Card might be the way Apple is trying to increase its business, but with a focus less on the card itself and more into the mobile experience of using a credit card, it might be Apple’s way to get you to buy an iPhone after all.

From the basement to the big leagues: The rise of eSports

The wealthiest athletes are beginning to look different than we might expect them to. Practicing for an average of 5.28 hours a day and starting to hone their craft as young as possible, these athletes look a lot like those watching them: kids who didn’t listen to their parents when they were told to stop playing video games and do their homework.

Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf is a 16 year old who just won over $3 million playing Fortnite at the first-ever Fortnite World Cup. This might have you wondering why you ever got out of your parent’s basement and looked for a “real job” if playing video games can turn into such a lucrative career. eSports has broken into mainstream media, with universities creating eSport teams, and even “real” sports teams like the Vancouver Canucks are investing in this phenomenon.

But this industry isn’t all fun and games; companies are noticing how lucrative the eSports industry is. Twitch is owned by Amazon, and one of Amazon’s main rivals, Microsoft, wants to be the Bowser to Amazon’s Mario and directly compete with its own streaming platform called Mixer. The advertising revenue gaming brings in has a huge potential, with 250 million users across the world playing Fortnite, and 2.3 million people tuning in to watch the World Cup…and it keeps growing. As eSports exec Ari Segal says, “Every day, a baseball fan dies, and two gaming fans are born.”

The Scarlett Letter F

Facebook is now adding ‘from Facebook’ to both Instagram and WhatsApp in the AppStore, and is likely rolling out this name change to the splash screen for both apps in the near future. What is Facebook hoping to accomplish here? Most likely beleaguered Facebook is hoping to enhance their brand image by more closely associating with its well-liked WhatsApp and Instagram brands. This is more likely to dilute both Instagram’s and WhatsApp brand image to being uncool and lacking privacy, respectively. Facebook is playing a high-risk mid-reward game with hoping the goodwill from Instagram and WhatsApp will transfer to the mothership brand. Branding and messaging are hugely important for creating positive story telling around a company’s product. Will this rebrand drive more positive engagement with Facebook a-la the reinvention of the Old Spice brand with their zany ads, or go the way of putting lipstick on a pig like New Coke?

Under the sea: Jaws, Ariel and the Internet

Underwater cables, hundreds of thousands of miles long, are powering the internet. It may seem like very low-tech infrastructure for the World Wide Web, but the 99% of internet data transmission goes through this winding network of cables. The tubes themselves aren’t too impressive, a bit larger than a Coke can … predictably there is a YouTube clip of someone using a table saw to slice one in half. The tubes are mostly reliable but aren’t infallible – during 2012’s Hurricane Sandy several exchanges of undersea cables linking North America to Europe were disrupted. Natural disasters can lead to cable damage, but for the most part humans cause cable failures by dropping ship anchors and fishing nets onto the cords. In 2008 there was fears of deliberate human sabotage of three cables off Egypt. There are also some reports of sharks gnawing through cables which could make for the next Sharknado plotline.

Laying down the cables is a hugely costly endeavor, taking years and costing millions of dollars. One project co-funded by Microsoft and Facebook took two years to lay a 4,000 mile 10.2 million pound cable called Marea. An interactive map of the network of cables, and which tech giant owns them, can be seen here. Governments are growing wary of private companies laying cable infrastructure. In 2017,  Australia blocked China’s Huawei proposal to lay a cable, citing cyber risk, and instead funded the project themselves.  More recently Huawei sold 51% of their undersea cable firm to deal with mounting pressure from the US. Historically internet providers were the major investors and layers of cables, however this is transitioning to content providers like Google, Facebook and Microsoft – an 8 fold increase in five years. As privacy and data concerns mount, as well as anti-trust investigations into the tech giants, should governments be required to provide the cable infrastructure, the same way they are responsible for roads? Or do consumers not care as long as they can stream Sharknado faster than Ian Ziering can slice through a shark with a chainsaw?

Ageism: From The Simpsons to a workplace near you

Alf Clausen, the longtime composer for The Simpsons, was probably yelling “D-oh!” into a stack of music scores as he received news of his unceremonious sacking from the show after 27 years, 550 episodes, and 23 Emmy awards for his work on the iconic contribution to American pop culture. This week Clausen is out for blood, suing the show’s makers for unlawful, ageist termination, saying his replacement “was substantially younger in age, who was not only paid less, but was not disabled.”

Ageism is no joke, especially in our greying world. Standing out in the generational melting pot, Baby Boomers are still the ruling elite of our modern workplace. However, they are not immune – 53% of Boomers have felt the painful sting of age discrimination at work. Chagrined by skim retirement savings, the silver-haired cohort will pour into a workplace near you – by 2024, nearly 1 in 4 people in the labor force will be over the proverbial hill. In this air-tight labor market (especially in foodservice) a sullen teen is now flipping patties next to a jolly Golden Girl, and in the professional environment returnships are back on exec agenda.  Age narrative is evolving, but ageism is still a thorn in the side.  HR, the ball’s in your court.   With the US corporate training market growing nearly 10% over the past 5 years, there should be room for a few diversity and inclusion lessons for the class.

Read last week’s edition of Friday Five: Cloud-y skies ahead for Capital One, retail rebirth, and child stardom on YouTube

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