What in the World—Week of February 27

Starbucks introduces coffee with olive oil

Do you want cream, sugar, or olive oil with your coffee?

Starbucks stores in Italy have begun selling a new drink called “Oleato” that combines coffee and olive oil. On its website, Starbucks says that the drinks represent a “transformational innovation in coffee.” Following their initial introduction in Italy, the beverages will be rolled out in Southern California in the spring, followed by Japan, the Middle East, and the United Kingdom later this year.

The new drinks include Oleato Caffe Latte, Oleato Iced Shaken Espresso, and Oleato Golden Foam Cold Brew. The drinks all feature Partanna, an Italian extra virgin oil brand with more than 100 years of tradition. Partanna olives offer what Starbucks’ principal beverage developer Amy Dilger describes as “uniquely nutty, slightly sweet flavours” that are a natural complement to its coffee.

Chinese brands fill Russian void

It’s out with the iPhone and in with the Xiaomi. Chinese brands have rushed to fill the gap left by global brands pulling out of Russia following its invasion of Ukraine last year.

The Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi and another vendor called Realme are now topping the sales charts in Russia, says CNN, citing data from Counterpoint Research.

While Chinese manufacturers already controlled about 40% of Russia’s smartphone market before the war, they have grown to account for 95% of the market one year later. Samsung and Apple controlled a combined 53% of the Russian smartphone market in December 2021, a number that has since fallen to 3%.

A variation of the same story is happening on Russia’s roads, where the Chinese brands Chery and Great Wall Motor are both among the top 10 passenger vehicles, supplanting companies like BMW and Mercedes. According to CNN, Chinese new car sales in Russia rose 7% to 121,800 vehicles last year.

Literary magazines see uptick in AI-generated fiction

Literary magazines have received a flood of AI-generated submissions since ChatGPT entered the mainstream, leading one title, the science-fiction magazine Clarksworld, to announce recently that it is pausing submissions.

According to The Verge, another title, Asimov’s Science Fiction, received 500 machine-generated submissions in addition to 700 submissions written by humans.

Tell-tale signs include repeated titles (Clarksworld received 20 submissions entitled “The Last Hope” with different author names and email addresses), as well as repeated character names, while other submissions are accompanied by a cover letter containing instructions on how the publication can wire them money for a story that has not been accepted.

“Outlets like Asimov’s are getting overwhelmed by AI chum, taking up the time of editors and readers and potentially crowding out genuine submissions from newer writers,” says The Verge.

New round of layoffs trims Twitter’s staff to 2,000

A fresh round of layoffs has reduced Twitter’s workforce to an estimated 2,000 people, down from 7,500 when Elon Musk took over the company in October.

According to The New York Times, Twitter laid off approximately 200 people on Saturday, with product managers, data scientists and engineers responsible for machine learning and site reliability among those affected.

The layoffs also included the founders of several tech start-ups acquired by Twitter in recent months, including Esther Crawford, founder of screen-sharing and video chat app Squad. Crawford had been in charge of the platform’s (generally rebuffed) efforts to charge users for verification check marks and infamously tweeted out the message #SleepWhereYouWork last year.

No longer in the phone game, Nokia refreshes its brand

Nokia has updated its brand identify for the first time in more than 60 years in an effort to end its association with mobile phones—a business it left more than a decade ago.

According to Reuters, the update includes a new logo that swaps out the traditional blue for a range of hues for different use occasions.

“In most people’s minds, we are still a successful mobile phone brand, but this is not what Nokia is about,” CEO Pekka Lundmark told Bloomberg ahead of the Mobile World Congress on Sunday. Instead, he said, the new brand identity is focused on the Finnish company’s emphasis on 5G networks and “industrial digitalization.”

Lundmark said that the company is focused on growing market share, a pursuit that has been helped by government restrictions on China’s Huawei Technologies.


Chris Powell