Boeing has designs on a tilt-rotor commercial airplane that could carry 100 passengers and take off vertically using wingtip rotors that later rotate. Also: Paul Allen is reportedly selling a pretty pricey painting of a jet; and Microsoft tries some new angles in hardware.
The filing cabinet of futuristic ideas that is the U.S. Patent Office this week logged a new entry from Boeing: a tilt-rotor, vertical-lift commercial airplane that in one version carries at least 100 passengers.
It’s a fixed-wing aircraft with rotors on the wingtips that can be positioned like helicopter blades for takeoff and landing, yet rotate around to become propellers in flight.
The idea is that it can fly fast over long distances, like an airplane, yet take off and land vertically at either end, like a helicopter.
You’ve probably heard of the military tilt-rotor, the V-22 Osprey, jointly developed by Bell Helicopter and Boeing — at a cost of almost $13 billion — for the U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force.
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It’s used, for example, to ferry as many as 24 combat-equipped Marines swiftly from an offshore aircraft carrier into the middle of a ground battle. If the fighting is too intense for a landing, the aircraft can hover as the soldiers rappel to the ground.
The Osprey has a controversial safety history. During development and testing, four crashes killed 30 U.S. service members.
Since it became operational in 2007, the Osprey has been successfully deployed in combat in Afghanistan, Iraq and in Syria, though eight more people have died in crashes.
The new Boeing patent, which names five employees as co-inventors, shows a tilt-rotor with significant differences from the V-22.
The proposed civil version features up to four engines powering the tilt-rotors. Those engines are all placed on the fixed wing rather than integrated into the tilt-rotors as on the V-22.
Another difference: While the V-22 has a high wing across the top of the fuselage and a twin tail, the patent shows a wing and tail similar to those on a commercial airliner.
The inventors argue that placing the engines on the wings makes the tilt rotors lighter so that they require less structural reinforcement.
They claim that the low wing makes maintaining and fueling the aircraft simpler. A further advantage of the low wing, according to the patent, is “the availability of mid-cabin exit doors without the need for escape slides.”
There’s no mention of an option for the passengers to rappel to the ground.
— Dominic Gates: email@example.com
Allen said to be owner of painting
The Pentagon used to buy F-16s for about $18 million apiece. Now, reports Bloomberg News, billionaire Paul Allen could get nearly twice that for a 53-year-old painting of a fighter jet.
Allen could triple his investment when his Gerhard Richter painting, “Dusenjager,” hits the auction market for as much as $35 million.
The painting will lead Phillips’ evening sale of 20th century and contemporary art on Nov. 16 in New York.
Allen is said to be the owner, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.
The work sold for $11.2 million in 2007 at Christie’s in New York, an auction record at the time for the artist.
Michael Sherman, a spokesman for Phillips, declined to comment on the seller’s identity. A spokeswoman for Allen declined to comment.
Painted in 1963, “Dusenjager” depicts a gray jet traveling through a pink sky at what looks like a piercing speed.
Estimated by Phillips at $25 million to $35 million, the work is part of a group of Richter’s eight early photo-based paintings that depict World War II-era aircraft, some with bombs in free-fall.
“Dusenjager” has the highest estimate among at least 18 of the artist’s works that are scheduled for sale during bellwether semiannual auctions in New York. The estimate for the combined group — which consists mostly of abstract paintings — is $114.3 million to $165.2 million.
It’s been a mixed year for the market of the 84-year-old German artist.
While an exhibition of his new work at Marian Goodman Gallery sold out in New York, two significant paintings were withdrawn from auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s earlier this year.
Sotheby’s accounts for 10 Richter works, all from the collection of Steven and Ann Ames, with two estimated at $20 million to $30 million. Christie’s has four works including one consigned by musician Eric Clapton, estimated at about $20 million.
Phillips has a client who placed an irrevocable bid, guaranteeing that the 6.6-foot-wide artwork sells at auction, the company said.
“This is a defining early Richter,” said Jean-Paul Engelen, worldwide co-head of 20th century and contemporary art at Phillips. “The painting has this extreme power that’s seductive but on the other hand is also threatening.”
Allen, a co-founder with Bill Gates of Microsoft, has a $20.2 billion net worth that ranks him 33rd on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. In 2014, Allen sold a Mark Rothko painting at Phillips for $56.2 million. The work was acquired for $34.2 million in 2007, also at auction.
In 2015, Allen helped co-found Seattle Art Fair. A selection of artworks from his collection has been on a tour of U.S. museums.
Buying art turned out to be “a very, very good investment for me,” Allen told Bloomberg in a 2015 interview. “I didn’t go into it thinking this way.”
— Bloomberg News
Amazon ups the ante in China
In a world where a large part of the goodies Americans buy comes from China, Amazon.com is introducing an interesting twist targeted to Chinese shoppers: a membership program that includes shipping for products coming from Amazon warehouses in the U.S.
It’s a version of Amazon’s successful Prime loyalty program, targeted to a huge market where the Seattle company lags behind local giants such as Alibaba.
The Chinese version of Prime offers customers there shipping for items sold on the Amazon Global Store, fulfilled from warehouses in the U.S. and shipped via air across the Pacific.
It’s the first time Amazon wraps cross-border shipping into a Prime membership, and it seems to target strong demand among Chinese consumers for imported products.
It’s the same thirst for American brands that led Costco Wholesale in 2014 to strike a deal with a unit of Alibaba for an online store that would sell imported products in China.
Chinese shoppers are expected to pay a promotional price of about $28 for their first year and then about $58 per year thereafter. Free cross-border shipping would apply on orders worth more than $30.
Parcels from the Amazon Global Store, which also serves dozens of countries where Amazon doesn’t have an online marketplace and a physical distribution network, would take between five and nine days to land on shoppers’ doorsteps in China. Orders worth more than $295, or an annual shopping bill worth more than $2,950, could trigger longer waits due to customs regulations, Amazon warns.
Prime will also include domestic shipping in China, where Amazon acts as a platform for third-party merchants.
— Ángel González: firstname.lastname@example.org
Microsoft tests a new direction
Microsoft, used to unflattering comparisons with Apple, is trying to step out of its rival’s shadow in computing hardware.
Chasing the iPod a decade ago, Microsoft built a punchline with its Zune music player. Surface tablets didn’t unseat the iPad. And all of the company’s marketing muscle, and billions of dollars spent on Nokia’s handset unit, couldn’t turn a Windows Phone into an iPhone.
A Microsoft media event this past week to show off new hardware and software remained remarkably Apple-like, analysts and journalists in the audience said. In between glamour shots of products and marketing videos, executives waxed poetic about the creativity that technology enables.
(In one contrast to the Steve Ballmer era, the event wound up ending on a poetic note, with Chief Executive Satya Nadella quoting poet Rainer Maria Rilke.)
But unlike past Microsoft attempts to parrot Apple’s marketing strategy or products, the company recently has been striking out in new directions.
While the new Surface Studio that Microsoft introduced Wednesday shares the computer-to-monitor pairing of Apple’s iMac, it contains the latest in Microsoft bets on touch input and new ways of thinking about the computer.
The Surface Studio’s 28-inch touch screen can lie nearly flat on a desktop for use as a digital canvas. It can be manipulated with a digital pen or a new companion dial that can zoom in and out, toggle color settings or adjust volume.
Apple is hardly dead in the water. Sales of the iPhone last year brought in more cash than Microsoft’s entire product line combined, and the Apple’s new MacBooks unveiled on Thursday, which lack a touch screen but introduced a tactile bar on the keyboard, drew their typical buzz.
But Wednesday’s presentation by Microsoft, analysts said, was the latest evidence that the company is serious in carrying out Nadella’s mandate that Microsoft only dabble in hardware where it can add something to the conversation.
“They’re trying to define the new era of computing, and that’s really hard,” said Stephen Kleynhans, an analyst with researcher Gartner. “The challenge with that strategy, is the ‘best’ always moves.”
— Matt Day: email@example.com