Biz Break: Apple may be changing its car focus; Facebook gets hit by the IRS

Top of the Order:  

Who Needs Four Wheels, Anyway? Well, you do if you want to drive a car. And if you want to build one, too. Apple has reportedly been looking into building some kind of car of its own, because, why not? There was a time when Apple didn’t make digital music players or mobile phones, either. They decided to do that, and things turned out pretty well.

But cars? That’s something different. It’s an old-school industry (despite new-school technologies from the likes of Tesla) in which the margins historically are razor thin. And it’s also hard to picture someone going into a dealership and haggling over an Apple Car.

So, with services, software and apps becoming a bigger area of growth for Apple, maybe it would serve the company better to look at building the next great technology for the car or tomorrow. It might just involve technology that lets a car drive itself.

That’s the theory being put out there after reports that, earlier this year, Apple hired a guy named Dan Dodge — yes, his name is Dodge — who used to run the automotive software division at Blackberry, to help lead whatever it is that Apple is doing in the field of self-driving technology. Bloomberg reported Dodge’s hiring “according to people familiar with the project.”

(I reached out to Apple about confirming Dodge’s joining the company, but didn’t get a reply back in time before having to file this post.)

Dodge is said to be working with longtime Apple hardware executive Bob Mansfield on developing Apple’s vehicle technologies, which are said to have shifted in priority toward self-driving software as opposed to an actual car. It doesn’t mean Apple isn’interested in making an Apple Car, if you will, but it could mean that Apple sees there is more, and easier, money to be made by building the stuff that other automakers need for their next efforts.

Of course, it’s still so early in Apple’s car-development ways that, who knows what, if anything, Apple ends up doing in the car market. But hiring a guy named Dodge may say more than Apple wants to about its designs on the car industry.

Middle Innings:

Maybe Send in the Repo Man: The Internal Revenue Service likes its money. And it doesn’t like it if you don’t pay your taxes like it thinks you should. Just as Willie Nelson.

Well, Facebook has found out that you can’t hide from the tax man, especially after the IRS has sent you seven different summonses asking you to explain some of your tax strategies overseas. And now, the IRS wants a lot of money from Facebook.

And it really is a lot of dough. Between $3 billion and $5 billion. The IRS slapped Facebook with a delinquency notice, saying the company owes that money, plus interest and liabilities, due to how the company went about transferring it global operations to Ireland back in 2010. Facebook has said it will challenge the IRS claim in federal tax court, meaning that it’s probably too late for both sides to settle this over a pint of Guinness.

Bottom of the Lineup:

Here’s a look at how some leading Silicon Valley stocks did Friday …

Movin’ On Up: Gains came from Gigamon, Fair Isaac, Cepheid, Nektar Therapeutics and Omnicell.

In the Red: Decliners included Fortinet, Ixys, 8×8, FireEye and Lam Research.

The tech-focused Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.1 percent to 5,162.

The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average slipped by 0.1 percent to close at 18,432.

And the broad-based Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 0.2 percent to 2,173.

Quote Of The Day: “Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.” — Napoleon Bonaparte

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Photo: The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium is decorated for an Apple media event in Sept. 2015. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)


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    The guy ran Blackberry’s automotive software division? Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

  • justbobf

    Apple tried licensing it’s software to other companies with the disastrous Mac clones debacle in the 1990s and then with Motorola and iTunes in the early 2000s. (Personally, I think they just partnered with Motorola because they wanted inside info on phones.)

    I doubt if they will make that same mistake with cars.

  • Charles Gousha

    That Blackberry software division – QNX – is a separate business division from Blackberry’s phone division, and it’s still one of the leading suppliers of Car OS’s on the market.