September Recap: Big Phones, Bigger IPO
September means a few things: back to school, back to fantasy football, and back to the Apple Store for a new iPhone. On September 9, Apple unveiled the big iPhone 6, the “bigger than big” iPhone 6 Plus, and the long-awaited, “don’t call it the iWatch” Apple Watch. Apple sold a record 10 million iPhone 6 units during its first weekend but got some flak after users complained that an update to iOS 8 prevented them from making calls, followed by others claiming that the super-sized versions bent in their pockets. While the “Bendgate” kerfuffle hasn’t been squashed entirely, a Consumer Reports study found that the new iPhone models might be pretty tough, after all.
#Bendgate is just the latest of Apple’s headaches. In September, hundreds of nude and semi-nude photos of celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, and Ariana Grande, were stolen and leaked on web forum 4chan. The hackers claimed to have accessed the photos from iCloud. While Apple denied any culpability, CEO Tim Cook said that the company will initiate stricter security measures, including two-step authentication and more robust notifications of any settings or log-in changes.
In other hacking-related news, 56 million credit cards were compromised in a Home Depot breach bigger than Target’s last year. But even if you’re not worried about getting hacked, you might be slightly concerned by the first case of Ebola reported in the U.S. Maybe you want to pack it all up and go to space. Well, NASA announced it will partner with Boeing and SpaceX to build commercial “space taxis” that will fly to the International Space Station. While these rides will be for astronauts — not the frustrated general public — it’s still pretty cool, and it means that the U.S. will no longer depend on Russia for transportation to the Space Station.
For those of us who can’t literally escape the craziness, there’s still escapism via entertainment. Minecraft, a block-builder game that has swept the nation, made news this month — not because it’s sold 50 million copies, resulted in several merchandising lines, or inspired a whole lot of LARPing (that’s live action role playing, for the uninitiated), but because Microsoft paid $2.5 billion for its maker, Mojang AB. While Microsoft won’t be getting the Minecraft founders, they will acquire the valuable brand.
Speaking of valuable brands, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba raised $21.8 billion in its initial public offering earlier this month, making it the single largest IPO of all time. Alibaba also unveiled its first direct-to-consumer online shop in the United States, pitting itself directly against Amazon and eBay. And they may have cause to worry. Valued at $231.4 billion, Alibaba is larger than Amazon and eBay combined.
Meanwhile, eBay announced it will be splitting with PayPal in 2015 in an attempt to streamline its business as it faces competition from Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Alibaba.
In other movements, this month Larry Ellison stepped down as Oracle CEO, taking on the role of executive chairman and chief technology officer. Mark Hurd and Safra Catz, both co-presidents of Oracle, will jointly fill the role of CEO.
As we say goodbye to Larry, we’re saying hello to Ello, an ad-free social network that has been called the “anti-Facebook.” Ello doesn’t sell user data and plans to make money by selling premium features. It remains to be seen whether Ello will make money or have staying power, but people are already flocking to the site; Ello is receiving up to 31,000 invite requests each hour.
Social networks were abuzz this month with stories about #HeforShe and #WhyIStayed. Emma Watson, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, gave a speech about the need for men to be involved in feminism as the kick-off to the UN’s #HeforShe campaign, inspiring a string of male celebrities to post #HeforShe selfies to show their support. The hashtag #WhyIStayed took off on Twitter following the release of a video of Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens linebacker, assaulting his then-fiancee and now-wife Janay Palmer. Many responded to the video with questions of “Why didn’t she leave him?” prompting a series of inspiring and painful stories about domestic violence with the hashtags #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft.