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One of the tech industry’s big bets is that once a company ships one thing well, it will be able to do the same for anything.
Companies including Uber and Instacart are starting to branch out from one region – bringing people or groceries to their destination – to deliver restaurant food, prescription drugs, home appliances, pet food. and convenience store items. Against that backdrop, this week Uber bought Drizly, a delivery company from liquor stores.
You can imagine the potential if courier services offered almost everything in the sun. But will it work, and is it a good thing?
It is impossible to predict what one-stop delivery will gain or what the effects of ripples may be – both useful and harmful. But we should pay attention to the moves of these companies and think critically about stakes in our small businesses, our wallets, our communities, and the American workforce.
First, Uber’s promise of everything, and then there’s some complexity.
This could be great. The transportation crews could have a lot more to do if they could pick up passengers, deliver burritos, and return barrels of beer. Selling more items can reverse losses at app-based companies like Uber and DoorDash. And it’s handy for those who like to shop from their sofas. Win wins.
It can also be good for our local businesses and communities. Imagine if a local toy store or grocery store could easily serve both those who shop in person and those nearby who prefer delivery. Our favorite businesses can have a second life without going bankrupt by competing with Amazon or shipping orders hundreds of miles by mail.
My colleague Kate Conger tells me that the pandemic has shown that many of us are eager to get things done at home and that has made more tech industry followers believe app-based companies. could become a successful one-stop delivery machine.
It’s also possible that Uber model for whatever won’t work, or if it does, it will entail the worst aspects of app delivery companies.
For everything Uber has to say about its stunning dual business of restaurant food delivery and people mobility, they’re completely different. The customers can be duplicated, but signing up for restaurants and keeping them happy is a completely different game from moving people around.
Additionally, each of the newly delivered merchandise – groceries, convenience store items, home improvement goods and alcohol – has different logistics and operations. Can a generalist be good at all of them?
Also worth mentioning: Many restaurants have said that app-based delivery is a great deal. Would businesses in other industries feel the same way?
If one-stop delivery companies aren’t viable, it could hurt shoppers who have trusted them, businesses that bet futures on them – and especially the lowest employees. in the contract economic hierarchy.
If you hang around in Silicon Valley long enough, you might hear a stolen line from Ernest Hemingway that change often happens gradually then suddenly. Every time we order Cheetos and beer, we and the app companies might be reinventing our habits, communities, and workforce.
Apple car! (Maybe.)
In 2015, my colleague Dai Wakabayashi reported to The Wall Street Journal that Apple was working on an electric vehicle. And today, the company may still have at least half a decade away for its cars to hit the road.
I’m excited about the possibility of having an Apple car. There are more electric cars! But Apple’s history shows that becoming a newcomer in the car industry is not easy. And Apple may have its own downsides that make its car branding no longer a sure thing.
The latest news is that automakers Hyundai and Kia are in talks to eventually produce Apple cars at a Kia plant in Georgia, CNBC reported on Wednesday. Partnering with an experienced car manufacturer is probably necessary.
However, Apple has been here before. About five years ago, the company worked in car engineering with Magna International in Canada. That doesn’t go anywhere, because Apple’s car project is a mess.
The company has repeatedly strengthened its staffing, changed its mind about strategy and laid off a series of people. Apple has also repeatedly talked about whether to try completely unmanned cars or not and whether they should build the car or just design the technology for it. Driverless technology seems to be back.
Never count Apple out. But I wonder if the company’s color scheme reflects potential and irreparable problems. And Apple has a cultural disadvantage here. Steve Jobs launched the iPhone that surprised the world by it, but the company’s tendency to keep secrets and fun doesn’t – or shouldn’t – apply to driverless cars.
An unmanned vehicle must be strictly tested on public roads and won the trust of regulators and the public. Apple must assemble an army of allies on its roadmap – something it doesn’t do to the same degree as its device counterparts. (Apple conducts road tests for driverless cars, but much less so than others.)
I hope it works. But GM’s entire fleet of vehicles could be powered up by electricity before Apple takes a single car out of the factory.