winning-advantage Business Apple’s Presence at CES Is Mostly Overblown

Apple’s Presence at CES Is Mostly Overblown



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Good morning and Happy New Year. I hope your holidays were restful and as free of technology as possible.

I’ve been culling the ‘what to expect’ lists in preparation for my annual trip to Las Vegas for CES, which begins tonight. The items are generally uninspiring: try-again ideas that didn’t pop last year (5G), big themes you don’t need to travel to America’s most obnoxious city to learn (A.I.), and more TV screens. (This thoughtful piece from Wired gamely reviews the landscape.)

Longtime CES sufferers—sorry, attendees—seem to be quite excited by Apple’s presence at CES, a show it typically shuns in any official capacity, which is how Apple treats any event not its own. Their presence is mostly overblown. Human beings from Apple always are all over CES, mostly attending meetings with partners and customers. Still, it’s notable that Jane Horvath, a top Apple privacy executive, will participate in a roundtable with executives from Facebook and P&G as well as an FTC commissioner. It’s also a bit amusing that Apple’s Airpods, the little runaway hit no one saw coming, has the competition in such a lather.

I’m helping host a dinner focused on transportation, including a fireside chat with John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving car unit. I’ll report back tomorrow.

***

I did a lot of reading and reflecting during the break. For a week I was away from physical newspapers, and while relieved of the burden of keeping up, I still find that even the best news apps are weak replacements for the vastly superior discovery mechanism of the real thing. Some thoughts and highlights:

Bloomberg BusinessWeek had what I thought would be a hum-drum review of the SoftBank Vision Fund’s problems but was really quite good. Be sure to see the unflattering portrayal of Silicon Valley investor Jeffrey Housenbold, including a naughty comment a SoftBank representative denies he said.
• This New York magazine article about the DJ Diplo was wonderful—and a compete epiphany for this non-EDM fan.
• I read David Talbot’s 2012 book Season of the Witch, an indispensable and fun read about San Francisco in the 1960s and 1970s. If you’re trying to figure out this crazy city, I heartily recommend it.
• Erika Fry’s masterful and even-handed feature in Fortune about Sanofi’s debacle with a vaccine for dengue fever in the Philippines is a must read.

***

Lastly, I mourn the passing of David Stern, the former NBA commissioner, who touched me deeply in the few years I knew him. I avidly read about his career and reflected on the cuddly bear of a man I knew only after he retired. (Spoiler alert: He wasn’t always so cuddly.) Stern was one of those youthful septuagenarians, full of life and curiosity for new ideas.

He also was a marvelous raconteur. He once told me the story of how disappointed and fearful his mother was when he decided to leave a cushy New York law firm to join the NBA full-time. (That worked out pretty well.) Stern had a home in Aspen, and for the last few years was a Brainstorm Tech regular. I would often add him to the program at the last minute because he loved to do it, and he always added a ton to any panel he joined. I saw him in July at a pre-conference party and asked if he’d like to join the program again. He clearly wanted to, but was pretty sure and he and his wife had made plans to go bike-riding. He got back to me later that night to say that in fact he’d be pedaling with her rather than gabbing with us. Another good choice.

Adam Lashinsky

Twitter: @adamlashinsky

Email: adam_lashinsky@fortune.com

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This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.

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