Fitbit Fit for Wall Street; President Obama Not Making Dems Happy; Softbank’s Robot Wants Your Affection

Fiscal fitness…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Fitbit made its highly anticipated Wall Street debut today and beefed up its valuation to a very fit and healthy $4 billion. CEO James Park, who had some 20 million shares, has now banked a very robust $600.6 million. Even though $732 million was raised for the IPO and the initial price per share was but $20 a pop, the stock surged 52% on its very first day of trading. Opening up the fiscally glorious day at over $30 per share, Fitbit clearly sent a message to Wall Street that it has arrived and that investors totally dig the stock. The company, which trades under the very aptly named FIT (catchy, huh?) has been drawing some not so flattering comparisons to Blackberry. There is currently a number of other companies offering similar devices. And despite Fitbit’s insistence that it is different from the rest, many analysts are still wondering if Fitbit can keep ahead of the competition, as it seems to be doing now. Or will it lose its swagger with consumers if it can’t innovate quickly and effectively enough. Hmmm….

Things could get ugly…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s called the “fast-track trade bill” a.k.a. “trade promotion authority” and it’s causing quite the stir in Washington. Basically, it’s a bill that lets the President negotiate global trade deals and Congress can opt to reject or approve them. It just can’t make any changes to them. It’s a take it or leave it kind of thing. Sounds completely harmless, right? That depends on whom you ask. Democrats, and unions don’t like the bill. They feel it will cost American jobs. Of course, American businesses are totally down with the bill and want to see it passed because they feel it would lead to more opportunities which is just fancy talk for: lots of money. The House of Representatives already voted in favor of it and the bill’s fate is now in the hands of the Senate. This bill is all part of President Obama’s master plan to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership that would make trading between the U.S. and 11 other countries so much easier and take away a bunch of pesky obstacles. If the Senate votes to pass it, well then, I guess you’ll have some very ticked off Dems and union members. Oh well.

All I want for Christmas…

Image courtesy of  Boians Cho Joo Young/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Softbank, in a joint deal with China’s Alibaba and Taiwan’s Foxconn, is putting its adorable robot “Pepper” up for sale beginning June 20. Well, in Japan anyway. But don’t worry. It’s set to make its U.S. debut sometime next year. Now, adorable may not be the first word that comes to mind when you think of robots, but consider that Pepper enjoys contact with humans, particularly on its head and hands, and was initially used as a greeter in Softbank’s phone stores. Pepper, affectionately dubbed the “robot with a heart” goes on sale for $1,600 with an additional $200 for monthly service fees and maintenance. The bot is apparently also good with kids and makes for a great employee as well, though not necessarily in that order. There must be a joke in there somewhere.The cuddly bot is also able to recognize human emotions and can even react with anger and joy. I’m pretty sure there was a sci-fi horror flick based on that premise.

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Cyber-Monday Madness; Move Over George Clooney, There’s a New Robot in Town; Cyber-Cookie Scouting

Monday cyber blues…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Cyber-Monday is expected to be a little less cyber and a lot more Monday thanks to promotions that started a lot earlier than Monday and are lasting a whole lot longer past Monday. The National Retail Federation is expecting 127 million shoppers to log on and purchase some of their holiday shopping from their computer. That may seem like a huge number except that last year saw 131 million people doing some of their shopping online. Some of this has to do with the fact that a lot of deals can be had in stores as well as online. This past Thanksgiving weekend saw 5.3% fewer shoppers with 11% less money spent. However, do not despair, as this Cyber Monday alone is expected to rake in some $2.5 billion (though to be fair, it is going to be a “Monday” that lasts several days).

Mr. Roboto…

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Continuing the cyber-Monday theme, Amazon.com expects this to be its biggest cyber-Monday yet. Last year the online marketplace shipped off 36.8 million items worldwide, which comes out to 426 items per second. This year the company expects to surpass that. So it’s a good thing it’s employing a fleet of 15,000 robots that it purchased (presumably not from Amazon.com) from Kiva Systems a few years ago for $775 million. The robots will be used to “pick and pack” and are expected to reduce shipping time from hours to mere minutes, according to a company spokesperson. But it’s not just Amazon that has hopped on the robotic train. Just ask George Clooney – who has been unceremoniously replaced by a robot charmingly called Pepper to become the new “face” of Nespresso in Japan. Approximately 1,000 stores across the country are expected to get their very own “Pepper.” I guess that was harder to achieve with George Clooney. It seems the robots’ artificial intelligence have expanded their conversational ability by actually listening to what customers say. Apparently the same could not be said for Mr. Clooney.

The sweetest things…

Image courtesy of SOMMAI/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of SOMMAI/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Girl Scouts of America just got a whole lot more adorable now that they are getting a bit more tech-savvy as they embark on their Digital Cookie Program. Yeah. That’s right. The cookie fundraiser, meant to teach the girls a bit about entrepaneurship have upped their cookie game. They will be setting up online shops – each girl scout will get her own digital cookie website – to market their cookies and track sales. There are 2 million girl scouts milling about the country. That adds up to a lot of Thin Mints. The girls tend to sell about 200 million boxes of cookies a year which fund not just the organization, but camps and trips as well. Creeps and weirdos need not apply as consumers will need to get pre-approved by the scouts’ ┬áparents in order ┬áto purchase the delicacies. So how does that help someone if they don’t know anybody who has a child who is a girl scout? The cookie websites will sync with Facebook pages. Surely via Facebook they’ll be able to gain access to those delightfully delectable boxes. But f that still doesn’t help, and that certain someone has no Facebook friends connecting them to girl scout cookies then perhaps it’s just the universe’s way of telling them to lay off the cookies.