Deciphering the zeitgeist

A blog by Scott Taylor

Insights on emerging patterns, every Friday.

Deciphering the zeitgeist

A blog by Scott Taylor

Insights on emerging patterns, every Friday.

Deciphering the zeitgeist

A blog by Scott Taylor

Insights on emerging patterns, every Friday.

Writing

Humane's AI Pin and Rabbit's R1 are two hardware AI devices that have tried to make a big entrance, but so far, haven't lived up to expectations. These companies made big claims and put a lot of effort into their designs, but the reviews haven't been great and most folks seem hesitant to jump on board, or like me, are rushing to cancel pre-orders!

The Humane AI Pin, a fancy AI assistant worn on clothes, has encountered issues like overheating, slow response, and missing features. It has complicated gesture controls and no screen, frustrating users. Priced at almost $700 with a monthly subscription, many question its value despite raising $241 million from Microsoft, OpenAI's Sam Altman, and Salesforce's Marc Benioff.

The Rabbit R1 has faced challenges, including lag, unexpected AI behavior, and a lack of basic features like setting alarms or reminders. It's limited to keyboard input (when tilted sideways) and mainly uses two buttons, allowing touchscreen only in keyboard mode. People have gained root access and discovered it's based on Android— and could potentially just have been an app. At $199, many question its value over their smartphone. Still, the R1 managed to drum up $10 million in pre-order sales, so there's clearly some interest.

These hardware startups are up against some serious challenges, especially with a juggernaut like Apple looming on the horizon. While Apple hasn't launched its own AI wearable yet, it wouldn't be surprising to see them integrate similar features into future versions of the Apple Watch or iPhone. Take the recently announced Limitless AI pendant, which clips to your clothes and records everything you hear. Apple could easily build that kind of functionality into their existing devices. With their massive resources, loyal customer base, and strong focus on privacy, Apple could quickly dominate the AI wearables market if they decided to enter the fray.

Building hardware is just plain hard, even without AI. You need a lot of money for research and development, then figure out how to actually make the thing at scale. People have high expectations and they're not going to drop their tried-and-true gadgets for something new unless it's really mind-blowing. For AI wearables to really take off, they need to offer something you can't get from the devices you already have in your pocket or on your wrist. If they can't do that, they might just end up being pricey toys that don't get much use. Even with millions in the bank, hardware AI startups have their work cut out for them.

Share buybacks are a hot trend in corporate America, with companies like Apple and Uber joining in. But as the frenzy reaches fever pitch, investors wonder: Is it a good deal or a distraction?

Yesterday, Apple made headlines with a $110 billion buyback plan - the largest in U.S. history. But they're not alone. Wells Fargo, Lennar, Northrop Grumman, RTX, Uber, Meta, Airbnb, and General Motors have all announced buyback programs, reflecting a trend of companies rewarding shareholders with excess cash.

Buybacks seem like a win-win. Companies boost their earnings per share (EPS) by reducing the number of shares outstanding, making their financials look better. And investors get a tax-efficient way to cash in, since buybacks can drive up stock prices without dividend taxes.

Not everyone thinks buybacks are great. Critics say they're just a short-term boost that diverts money from R&D and employee raises, which actually help a company grow. There's also suspicion that buybacks are a way for execs to line their pockets, since their bonuses and stock options are tied to EPS targets.

Why are companies so buyback-crazy? For starters, they're sitting on cash from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. With the shaky economy, some companies see buybacks as safer than big investments. Plus, financial engineering makes quarterly numbers look good.

Buybacks aren't always the magic bullet they're made out to be. They can give a stock a short-term boost, but they don't do much for a company's long-term health. If a company's just buying back shares to prop up its stock price, that's like putting a Band-Aid on a broken leg.

Some worry that the buyback bonanza is a red flag, as companies face slowing growth, regulatory scrutiny, and the need for new revenue streams. Others see it as a sign that companies are transitioning from high-growth darlings to value stocks that return money to shareholders.

Buybacks are a tool in a company's financial toolbox. They can be smart in moderation, but when companies rely on them too much, investors should be wary. The frenzy may boost stocks short-term, but it's unclear if it's a treat or a trick to distract from bigger challenges.

Writing

Humane's AI Pin and Rabbit's R1 are two hardware AI devices that have tried to make a big entrance, but so far, haven't lived up to expectations. These companies made big claims and put a lot of effort into their designs, but the reviews haven't been great and most folks seem hesitant to jump on board, or like me, are rushing to cancel pre-orders!

The Humane AI Pin, a fancy AI assistant worn on clothes, has encountered issues like overheating, slow response, and missing features. It has complicated gesture controls and no screen, frustrating users. Priced at almost $700 with a monthly subscription, many question its value despite raising $241 million from Microsoft, OpenAI's Sam Altman, and Salesforce's Marc Benioff.

The Rabbit R1 has faced challenges, including lag, unexpected AI behavior, and a lack of basic features like setting alarms or reminders. It's limited to keyboard input (when tilted sideways) and mainly uses two buttons, allowing touchscreen only in keyboard mode. People have gained root access and discovered it's based on Android— and could potentially just have been an app. At $199, many question its value over their smartphone. Still, the R1 managed to drum up $10 million in pre-order sales, so there's clearly some interest.

These hardware startups are up against some serious challenges, especially with a juggernaut like Apple looming on the horizon. While Apple hasn't launched its own AI wearable yet, it wouldn't be surprising to see them integrate similar features into future versions of the Apple Watch or iPhone. Take the recently announced Limitless AI pendant, which clips to your clothes and records everything you hear. Apple could easily build that kind of functionality into their existing devices. With their massive resources, loyal customer base, and strong focus on privacy, Apple could quickly dominate the AI wearables market if they decided to enter the fray.

Building hardware is just plain hard, even without AI. You need a lot of money for research and development, then figure out how to actually make the thing at scale. People have high expectations and they're not going to drop their tried-and-true gadgets for something new unless it's really mind-blowing. For AI wearables to really take off, they need to offer something you can't get from the devices you already have in your pocket or on your wrist. If they can't do that, they might just end up being pricey toys that don't get much use. Even with millions in the bank, hardware AI startups have their work cut out for them.

Share buybacks are a hot trend in corporate America, with companies like Apple and Uber joining in. But as the frenzy reaches fever pitch, investors wonder: Is it a good deal or a distraction?

Yesterday, Apple made headlines with a $110 billion buyback plan - the largest in U.S. history. But they're not alone. Wells Fargo, Lennar, Northrop Grumman, RTX, Uber, Meta, Airbnb, and General Motors have all announced buyback programs, reflecting a trend of companies rewarding shareholders with excess cash.

Buybacks seem like a win-win. Companies boost their earnings per share (EPS) by reducing the number of shares outstanding, making their financials look better. And investors get a tax-efficient way to cash in, since buybacks can drive up stock prices without dividend taxes.

Not everyone thinks buybacks are great. Critics say they're just a short-term boost that diverts money from R&D and employee raises, which actually help a company grow. There's also suspicion that buybacks are a way for execs to line their pockets, since their bonuses and stock options are tied to EPS targets.

Why are companies so buyback-crazy? For starters, they're sitting on cash from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. With the shaky economy, some companies see buybacks as safer than big investments. Plus, financial engineering makes quarterly numbers look good.

Buybacks aren't always the magic bullet they're made out to be. They can give a stock a short-term boost, but they don't do much for a company's long-term health. If a company's just buying back shares to prop up its stock price, that's like putting a Band-Aid on a broken leg.

Some worry that the buyback bonanza is a red flag, as companies face slowing growth, regulatory scrutiny, and the need for new revenue streams. Others see it as a sign that companies are transitioning from high-growth darlings to value stocks that return money to shareholders.

Buybacks are a tool in a company's financial toolbox. They can be smart in moderation, but when companies rely on them too much, investors should be wary. The frenzy may boost stocks short-term, but it's unclear if it's a treat or a trick to distract from bigger challenges.

Writing

Humane's AI Pin and Rabbit's R1 are two hardware AI devices that have tried to make a big entrance, but so far, haven't lived up to expectations. These companies made big claims and put a lot of effort into their designs, but the reviews haven't been great and most folks seem hesitant to jump on board, or like me, are rushing to cancel pre-orders!

The Humane AI Pin, a fancy AI assistant worn on clothes, has encountered issues like overheating, slow response, and missing features. It has complicated gesture controls and no screen, frustrating users. Priced at almost $700 with a monthly subscription, many question its value despite raising $241 million from Microsoft, OpenAI's Sam Altman, and Salesforce's Marc Benioff.

The Rabbit R1 has faced challenges, including lag, unexpected AI behavior, and a lack of basic features like setting alarms or reminders. It's limited to keyboard input (when tilted sideways) and mainly uses two buttons, allowing touchscreen only in keyboard mode. People have gained root access and discovered it's based on Android— and could potentially just have been an app. At $199, many question its value over their smartphone. Still, the R1 managed to drum up $10 million in pre-order sales, so there's clearly some interest.

These hardware startups are up against some serious challenges, especially with a juggernaut like Apple looming on the horizon. While Apple hasn't launched its own AI wearable yet, it wouldn't be surprising to see them integrate similar features into future versions of the Apple Watch or iPhone. Take the recently announced Limitless AI pendant, which clips to your clothes and records everything you hear. Apple could easily build that kind of functionality into their existing devices. With their massive resources, loyal customer base, and strong focus on privacy, Apple could quickly dominate the AI wearables market if they decided to enter the fray.

Building hardware is just plain hard, even without AI. You need a lot of money for research and development, then figure out how to actually make the thing at scale. People have high expectations and they're not going to drop their tried-and-true gadgets for something new unless it's really mind-blowing. For AI wearables to really take off, they need to offer something you can't get from the devices you already have in your pocket or on your wrist. If they can't do that, they might just end up being pricey toys that don't get much use. Even with millions in the bank, hardware AI startups have their work cut out for them.

Share buybacks are a hot trend in corporate America, with companies like Apple and Uber joining in. But as the frenzy reaches fever pitch, investors wonder: Is it a good deal or a distraction?

Yesterday, Apple made headlines with a $110 billion buyback plan - the largest in U.S. history. But they're not alone. Wells Fargo, Lennar, Northrop Grumman, RTX, Uber, Meta, Airbnb, and General Motors have all announced buyback programs, reflecting a trend of companies rewarding shareholders with excess cash.

Buybacks seem like a win-win. Companies boost their earnings per share (EPS) by reducing the number of shares outstanding, making their financials look better. And investors get a tax-efficient way to cash in, since buybacks can drive up stock prices without dividend taxes.

Not everyone thinks buybacks are great. Critics say they're just a short-term boost that diverts money from R&D and employee raises, which actually help a company grow. There's also suspicion that buybacks are a way for execs to line their pockets, since their bonuses and stock options are tied to EPS targets.

Why are companies so buyback-crazy? For starters, they're sitting on cash from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. With the shaky economy, some companies see buybacks as safer than big investments. Plus, financial engineering makes quarterly numbers look good.

Buybacks aren't always the magic bullet they're made out to be. They can give a stock a short-term boost, but they don't do much for a company's long-term health. If a company's just buying back shares to prop up its stock price, that's like putting a Band-Aid on a broken leg.

Some worry that the buyback bonanza is a red flag, as companies face slowing growth, regulatory scrutiny, and the need for new revenue streams. Others see it as a sign that companies are transitioning from high-growth darlings to value stocks that return money to shareholders.

Buybacks are a tool in a company's financial toolbox. They can be smart in moderation, but when companies rely on them too much, investors should be wary. The frenzy may boost stocks short-term, but it's unclear if it's a treat or a trick to distract from bigger challenges.