Jack Ma of Alibaba is about to speak here at the opening night of WSJ.D. He's being introduced with a light show and Chinese music.
Dennis Berman of the WSJ is noting that Ma made last money in the last 90 days than Amazon made in 20 years.
Alibaba, Ma says, is "an ecosystem that's helping small businesses to grow." Telling a story about his investment in a soccer team. "In China, when you see 10 people they play like 111 people."
In the future, Ma says, Alibaba needs to help China with health problems and mental health problems.
Ma says that department stores in China are doing badly, and they blame Alibaba.
He's also discussing Alibaba's activities in the movie business: He says it's an important way to influence young people. And Alibaba is "the biggest entertainment company in the world" because so many people spend so much time at its site without buying anything.
In American movies, the hero doesn't look like a hero at the start, but turns out to be one--and must live. In Chinese movies, "I've never seen a hero who didn't die."
Ma says he was inspired by a trip to Silicon Valley 15 years ago, when he saw parking lots full on Sunday. He started Alibaba. "Now, it's our time." 11 Main is a site which lets Americans buy from Alibaba merchants.
"The next ten years, I believe China should import." Alibaba helped Washington sell 150 tons of cherries to China, Alaska sell seafood to China. Pollution in China hurts local agriculture.
Ma: "I don't shop online, but my wife buys everything online." Such as fresh crabs.
Berman says that Alibaba's financial services give consumers a far better deal than they get from traditional Chinese banks. Ma says that five years ago he said "If banks don't change, let's change the banks." Alipay has 300 million active users, the third largest payment network after Visa and Mastercard.
Ma says his attitude towards the Chinese government is to love it but not to marry it. Alibaba has created 14 million jobs for China.
The reform side of the government supports Alibaba, he says. "I've been criticized for 15 years--people call me a crazy guy. When people praise me, say 'you're great,' I have to get used to it."
Ma says the issue in Hong Kong is that young people don't feel hope. "This situation cannot last long." And in America, he heard people say "Yes, we can," but not "How we can." In answer to Berman asking if Americans have gotten too soft, he says we're sometimes "too hard. You're everywhere."
Who works harder, eBay or Alibaba, Berman asks. Ma says it's about working smart, not hard. "It was so difficult for us to hire 15 years ago. People who weren't too bad, we hired them. Today they're big successes. We never give up."
Berman: Would Alibaba buy eBay? Ma: "Would you sell it?" He praises the company and says it's too early to think about it. "There are so many good things in the world. I want to buy Google, I want to buy Apple, but I can't. Let them be good."
Would Alibaba buy PayPal? "Buying and selling is like a marriage. You want to marry her, she doesn't want to marry you."
Berman asks about Alibaba's mobile operating system. "Is it a threat to Mr. Cook?" Ma says they do OSes and financial services because they want data. He also points out that Google isn't working well with the Chinese government, so its services don't work smoothly in China. Alibaba needs to make sure its services work smoothly.
Ma says he's learned a lot from the movies, from The Godfather. "My favorite movie is Forrest Gump."
Berman is inviting questions from the audience. "If you do not have a question on your mind, you should be ashamed of yourself." Andrea Change of the LA Times asks Ma to be more specific about his strategy in Hollywood this week.
Ma says that he came to Hollywood to learn, and to tell people that the Chinese movie market will be the most important one in the world as the middle class grows. Berman asks about whether government restrictions on culture make for bad movies; Ma says the Internet is changing that.
Gregor Freund of Versal points out that Ma was once a teacher and asks about Alibaba and education. Ma says "I learned so much from being a teacher...you always hope that your students will be better than you." Alibaba is going to put a lot of emphasis on education.
Berman says that Ma's attitude towards China seems dark. Ma says he's quite optimistic, in part because Alibaba grew so fast. As far as pollution goes, "In ten years, China will have blue sky, if we start now."
Ma says China needs more doctors, more hospitals, more medicine companies. But data can help improve mental health and therefore leave it requiring less hospitals, doctors, and medicine. He says that Hollywood movies are good for mental health.
Berman asks Ma to name one or two opportunities in the U.S. Ma: "I don't want to scare you." Lots of opportunity for ecommerce beyond Amazon and eBay. End of Ma interview.
Tim Cook is onstage. The WSJ's Gerard Baker is pointing out how busy Apple has been--iPhones, Apple Watch, iPads, Apple Pay, iMac. Which categories will be the principal drivers of growth?
The iPhone is Apple's biggest business, Cook says, but that doesn't mean the other lines aren't important. Apple has a huge services business people don't pay attention to.
"In the long arc of time...the iPhone is still going to be at least 50% of the company's revenues and profits. That's how I see it." But Apple's revenues were 180 billion, and the other 50% of that "is a lot...the Mac business grew remarkably last quarter."
"I'm not going to support other people's tablets, because I think there's a lot of awful stuff out there," but the iPad is doing fine and is doing things other devices have not.
Cook points out Apple Watch isn't shipping yet, but he's impressed at the constituencies who are interested in it--not just tech people, but health and fitness and fashion. "I give Jony and his team incredible credit here, because they saw something you wear has to be personal...it can't be geeky."
On Apple Pay, in the first 72 hours, a million cards were activated. Visa and Mastercard says that Apple Pay now accounts for more mobile wallets than everyone else combined. "And we've only been at it a week!"
Tim went to Whole Foods to try it. "You're no longer fishing for your credit card....it's the first mobile payment system that's easy, secure, and private."
As for CVS and Rite Aid pulling Apple Pay to buttress their own wallet, Cook says you're only secure if your customers love you. He also points out he had to switch out his plastic cards twice last year, and it's "a pain in the butt."
Cook says Apple looked at everyone else, and you couldn't honesty say any of them were easier than a wallet.
Baker asks about Apple Pay battery life. Will he be able to use it late into the night? Cook says that they expect people to use Apple Watch so much they'll need to charge it each night. But they're still learning about how people use the watch.
Baker asks about changes in the streaming video market. Cook: "I think what HBO is doing [with a streaming-only service] is very smart" because consumers want to be able to get HBO easily without a cable TV subscription. "I think the current system leaves a lot to be desired." And we'll probably see even more streaming services if the Comcast/Time Warner merger is allowed to go through. "There's a lot to be done in this area...what we'll do, I don't want to be so clear on. But it's an area of a lot of interest and I'm optimistic there's an opportunity to do something great in this space."
Baker asks if the smartphone wars will be like the PC ones, where Windows dominated and the Mac was a niche. Cook says it's not a fair comparison: He's gotten zero letters complaining that there aren't enough iOS apps. It's easier to write iOS apps than Android ones. Last year, Apple sold a quarter-billion iOS devices. "I wouldn't call that a low-volume business."
On the Mac, Cook is asking Baker which he'd rather own, the Mac business or HP and Lenovo. "I can interview, too." Baker declines to answer. Cook says he'd rather be innovative and there's nobody in the business who wouldn't prefer to own the Mac.
Baker asks Cook about Carl Icahn's insistence that Apple should buy back more of its stock. Cook says that it's already doing the biggest buyback of any company. "I don't spend a lot of time talking to Carl...but there are some things I agree with him on. I agree the company is undervalued. That's why we're buying back shares."