Innovation Wrap: Kodak Finds New Life, NASA Searches For Life, Intel Struggles With Life

By Thomas Rice | More Articles by Thomas Rice

Here’s your weekly wrap of technology, innovation, and finance news.

?️ Space

NASA successfully launched its new plutonium-powered rover, Perseverance, to Mars to search for signs of alien life.

The Perseverance rover and the Ingenuity robotic helicopter.

Virgin Galactic unveiled the interior of their SpaceShipTwo spaceliner.

Amazon will invest $10 billion in its satellite internet network, Kuiper, after receiving FCC approval. The network will consist of 3,236 low Earth orbit satellites and will compete with SpaceX’s Starlink network.

CNBC details how SpaceX beat Boeing in the race to launch NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.

? Finance

Eastman Kodak is having a good week! The company, which went bankrupt in 2012 and re-listed in 2013, has pivoted from photography to cryptocurrencies to drugs. The stock rallied after receiving a $765 million federal loan to produce ingredients for coronavirus treatments.

Alphabet’s revenue dropped for the first time in its history during Q2, while Facebook’s revenue grew 11%, underscoring the superiority of Facebook’s advertising model and the substitutability of their ad slots; not even an ad boycott could stop them.

? Chips and Computing

Intel is struggling with their 7-nanometre production process and is considering outsourcing manufacturing, sending their stock down 20% over the past week. TSMC, who they’d potentially outsource to, saw their stock rise 19% over the past week, while Intel competitor AMD’s stock has risen 31%.

“With the latest push out of process technology, we believe that Intel has zero-to-no chance of catching or surpassing TSMC at least for the next half decade, if not ever,” Susquehanna analyst Chris Rolland wrote in a research note.

Google claims its new TPUs are 2.7 times faster than the previous generation.

?  Health

Coronavirus vaccine hopes are rising after several positive results.

There are more than 160 coronavirus vaccines in development around the world. About 140 of these are at the preclinical stage, meaning they are still being looked at in laboratories and in animal tests. Another 25 are already being tested in people.

The rate at which the tally has risen to 160-plus is unusually fast. “What is phenomenal is the numbers changing over the past few months. The amount of research is incredible,” says Sheuli Porkess at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.

?️ Ecommerce

COVID-19 is driving luxury brands to prioritise online.

Kering, which owns brands including Gucci and Saint Laurent, said on July 28 that e-commerce accounted for 13% of its total retail sales (pdf) in the first half of 2020, up from just 6% during the same period last. CFO Jean-Marc Duplaix pointed out on a call with investors that even as stores have reopened around China and Europe, digital growth continued to accelerate.

UPS average daily shipping volume rose 21% in 2Q, faster than the company has ever recorded, thanks to the surge in ecommerce purchases. The demand has improved pricing power for UPS, which has increased prices in the double-digit percentage range for some large shippers in recent weeks.

“At the beginning of the second quarter, we assumed demand would slow,” Chief Executive Carol Tomé said on Thursday’s earnings call. “Instead, we saw just the opposite.”

▶️  Streaming

The gap between when a movie shows at the cinema and when it’s available to rent online will shrink from 90 days to 17 days, at least for Universal Pictures movies that show at AMC theatres after the two companies struck a deal. As part of the deal, AMC will receive part of Universal’s digital rental revenue which has never happened before.

“AMC enthusiastically embraces this new industry model,” AMC CEO Adam Aron said in a statement, adding that the company is, for the first time, “participating in the entirety of the economics of the new structure.”

?  Gaming

Matthew Ball wrote an excellent piece on Nintendo, Disney, and Cultural Determinism. For an investor, understanding a company’s culture and what they will do is much more important than understanding what they could or should do.

Culture is the critical distinguisher between not just Nintendo and Disney but also Nintendo, its gaming peers, and the consumer digital ecosystem overall.

Electronic Arts reported its strongest June quarter sales ever as people stayed home and played games.

Net revenue soared to $1.46 billion, topping estimates calling for $1.05 billon. Of that, $1.1 billion came from the live services and other category, while the full game category brought in $359 million. Live services are generally in-game items, perks, and added content purchased after the game is sold.

⚡ Other Snippets

Facebook researchers have developed a general AI framework called Recursive Belief-based Learning (ReBeL) that performs better at Texas Hold’em Poker than humans and any prior poker AI (see their paper).

Mark Zuckerberg says there’s no end in sight for Facebook employees working from home, while Google plans to keep employees home until at least July 2021.

Alternative meat startups have raised $1.4 billion from venture investors so far this year, more than doubling the $500 million raised last year. Impossible Foods has raised the most, at $500 million, followed by OatlyMemphis Meats, and Perfect Day.

About Thomas Rice

Thomas Rice is the portfolio manager for the Perpetual Global Innovation Share Fund, based in Sydney, Australia. You can find him on Twitter at @thomasrice_au.

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