Zillow cites reshuffling of real estate

Zillow CEO cites the beginning of real estate reshuffling

In an earnings call, Zillow CEO Rich Barton stated that the uncertainty of the duration of the pandemic, combined with indefinite work from home policies by many companies, has initiated a reshuffling of real estate. Major trends include expanding room to work at home with additional privacy, valuing outdoor spaces including yards and courtyards, and fleeing large, expensive cities. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Research by Interpret shows a significant uptick in purchases of TVs and digital entertainment devices during COVID-19. Understandably, people are investing more in their home lives and making repairs and improvements. Barton believes that these trends will last beyond the next few months, signaling a significant shift in living trends. Life in large cities has been arguably more pleasant, with roads less crowded, air less polluted, and fewer people in public places. The question is, ten years from now, will we see 2020 as the year that city planning and home plans changed, as people spent more time in home offices, kitchens, walking in the neighborhood and enjoying their patios and yards?

Packaging as a service

The pandemic has caused online shopping to surge, straining logistics providers and significantly increasing the amount of packaging waste. Enter LivingPackets and The Box, a container intended to be reused hundreds of times, and packed with intelligence that notifies the shipper and receiver of its whereabouts, its contents, and if it has been opened or tampered with. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Smart packaging already makes sense for high value contents, and a number of companies have created packaging with inexpensive sensors. Cheap sensors in a box can be tossed, assisting with security but not with reuse. LivingPackets will have to convince shippers that the costs of maintaining The Box are less than the costs of disposable packaging plus loss claims. For high volume customers who can return the boxes easily when the next shipment arrives, it may make sense.

Interview with Bill Gates: this will be over in 2021

Bill Gates, in a lengthy interview with Wired, expresses optimism that COVID-19 disruption, for rich nations, will be over by the end of 2021. For poorer nations, it will take another year, and it will take several years to recover from the economic damage done by the pandemic. Gates states that the innovation of drug companies will shorten what otherwise would be a five year run before the global population builds natural immunity.

dis-rup-shun: Gates’ ability to cut through the media noise to deliver straight facts is a breath of fresh air, and knowing that Gates has invested essentially all of his wealth, time and talent into making the world a healthier place is inspiring. May his friends Mr. Bezos, Zuckerberg and Musk follow in his footsteps as they become the elder statesmen of tech.

Streaming wars hit tipping point in Q2

The streaming video providers all had a blockbuster second quarter. The pandemic has buoyed old and new services alike, and the question is what is the long term outlook for consumers and how many services will the average household keep after the shelter in place timeframe? Disney + service is several years ahead of growth projections. Netflix subscriptions surged by 10 million new additions. ViacomCBS’ new ad-supported, free to consumers service sold ample advertisements, and NBCUniversal’s new Peacock service signed up 10 million new subs. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Speaking of reshuffling, the pandemic has resulted in consumers taking more action on adjusting their TV spending to provide what they want and when. The big question is how will the return of live sports impact the time and money spent on streaming services, as the hours of viewing time freed up by the absence of live sports has driven, to a large extent, the pursuit of original content.

Teledoc becomes first health tech giant

First true health tech giant is born

Teledoc, one of the largest remote care companies is acquiring diabetes management giant, Livongo, for $18.5 billion. The combined company is expected to reach $1.3 billion in revenues this year as remote care is surging. Livongo relies heavily on coaches and a line of glucose monitors to help employers help their employees manage diabetes. Teledoc’s 70 million customer reach expands Livongo’s care potential. Stat

dis-rup-shun: The remote care model, in place for half a dozen years or more, is surging as a result of the pandemic. Remote care is a big win for consumers, as convenience is a bonus, and a win for doctors, who are able to see more patients via telehealth. Employers are winners in that the cost of care and ability to access the right care quickly helps keep people on the job.

Disney Plus exceeds expectations and takes second place

Disney executives forecasted that the new streaming service would reach 60 million to 90 million subscribers by 2024. On Tuesday, the company announced that it had reached 60 million subscribers. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The Mouse continues to surprise, as a dip in theme park attendance seems to be offset by a smash new streaming video service that is doing what no one expected — gaining on Netflix as a strong second place provider. Disney executives earned their stars by launching special features such as Star Wars’ Mandalorian and then the broadcast of Hamilton. Expect another surprise soon that will entice even more people to sign up for the service.

Cadillac unveils Lyric: the future of driving

Watch out Elan, Cadillac is about to leapfrog electric cars with its 300 mile range Lyric SUV. This is the future of cars and the future of GM, a company that is pulling ahead of Ford and Chrysler’s EV development. The Lyric styling is very impressive as is its environmentally responsible, fast-charging battery system, its 33 inch curved display screen, and Super Cruise self-driving mode. CNET

dis-rup-shun: While price was not revealed, this is the EV to have. Early photos of this sophisticated SUV will engage a new audience that wasn’t excited about Cadillac and will be a strong competitor to those considering a Tesla.

Uber beats expectations on bad quarter

Uber’s Q2 revenue declined 28% but beat analyst expectations. The ride sharing business was off by 73% over last year, but the food delivery business was up 113%. Food delivery has moved from luxury to necessity, and the company beat analyst expectations as a result. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The pandemic may be exactly what Uber needed to reshape its business, reduce costs, and find the profit in the drivers for hire business. In another diversification move, the company purchased a European taxi software company. Expect Uber to be a much more efficient company post-pandemic.

Black Girls Code to train a million girls

Black Girls Code

One national study determined that black females comprise only 3.1% of computing jobs in 2019. Kimberly Bryant formed the organization Black Girls Code to teach 1 million girls to code by 2040. The organization was founded in 2011. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Among the many great promises that Bryant’s organization provides, one is to fix the problem of facial recognition. The potentially highly useful technology has been scuttled by major tech companies due to the inherent racial bias determined to be a part of the technology. In short, a technology developed by mostly white programmers has been tested by mostly white testers, resulting in code that works mostly well on white populations, but not well with other races.

Examining evidence against Big Tech

CNBC does a great deal of digging through the more than one million documents collected by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on antitrust. The excerpts provide direct evidence of BigTech execs making defensive and offensive moves to thwart smaller competitors, such as Diapers.com, WeChat and Yelp, to name a few.

dis-rup-shun: Despite the revealing documents, drawing the line between operating a competitive business and using unfair advantage may, in some cases be difficult. Amazon looks more guilty than Facebook. And Google looks more guilty than Apple. Nonetheless, it is clear that these giants need a big babysitter to remind them of the rules of commerce and when they are stepping over the lines.

EU puts Google’s acquisition of Fitbit on hold

In other antitrust news, the EU commission on competition is investigating the proposed $2.1 billion merger of Fitbit with Google, expressing concerns of data privacy. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: The EU has long been very aggressive in protecting the data privacy of its citizens, having created the GDPR standards for data privacy over a year ago. Google will likely make some assurances on how and where Fitbit user data is stored, and will likely satisfy the EU commission and move forward with the merger, and continuing its efforts to catch up with the Apple Watch, which is dominating the wearables market.

Sorting out the home security confusion

Our friends at CNET have done a nice job of explaining the growing confusion that is home security. There are DIY systems that are self-monitored, those that include pro-monitoring and there are professionally installed pro-monitored systems, and drawing the line between the categories is more difficult. In a pair of reviews, the CNET team lists the best DIY systems as SimpliSafe, Abode, Nest Secure, Ring Alarm. Other mentions include Honeywell Smart Home Security System, Scout Alarm and ADT/SmarThings Starter Kit. The editors also list the best pro-installed systems, and Comcast Xfinity wins that race.

dis-rup-shun: I will be discussing the differences in home security and smart home buyer segments in a presentation next week to the Security Industry Associations webinar. Anyone is welcome to attend if they register here.

 

Tablet sales surge in pandemic

Q2 tablet sales up to 26%

According to Canalsys, sales of tablets rose 26% in Q2. The iPad was the biggest winner, shipping 14 million units, but others including Samsung, Amazon, Lenovo and Huawei benefited as well. CNET

dis-rup-shun: In uncertain times, when working and schooling from home are critical for survival, yet the paycheck is uncertain, the tablet provides a cost-effective substitute to computers, TVs and game consoles. The pandemic is just the accelerent required by many industries to have a record quarter, just as many are barely surviving.

Microsoft’s xCloud game service is $15 per month

Microsoft seeks to become the Netflix of games with its xCloud service at $15 per month, or free to those that already subscribe to the company’s Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. The new service expands game play to Android mobile devices and will eventually be available on Windows PCs. The service provides unlimited access to over 100 games including “Destiny 2,” “Gears of War 5,” “Grounded” and “Halo 5. To accompany the service a number of third parties have built mobile game controller cradles that convert mobile phones to handheld gaming devices with easily accessible sticks and buttons. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Cloud gaming services will seek to appeal to a larger gamer population — one that is less likely to spend the money on Xbox consoles or games. In the “as a service” economy, consumers are accustomed and seemingly willing to make long term, small payments for unlimited services as shown by the success of video streaming and music streaming, not to mention monthly shaving or clothing subscription services.

Google’s augmented reality brings insects and animals into your home

Google is quietly building a case for AR, a technology that holds much promise but few applications. Using Google’s AR technology on Android devices, one can add many dozens of insects, felines, and exotics in 3D to their home and to photos — spicing up selfies and family portraits. TheVerge

dis-rup-shun: AR will find a place in our everyday lives, likely in maps and navigation, and then for shopping for products. For now, however, creating lifelike 3D creatures in our photos is a good demonstration of the technology in an educational and entertainment setting. With people spending so much quality time with themselves, why not enjoy the animal kingdom and increase your appreciation for nature?

Google’s Pixel 4A top of class

For an Android phone that rivals $1000 plus phones, this model has a number of industry leading features at a price of $349. The product has a leading camera, a sharp OLED screen, a headphone jack, and a very slim case. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Differentiating a $1000 phone over rivals at half he price or less will become more and more difficult for Samsung and Apple. Apple has the advantage of an ecosystem of popular products and apps, that, for the Apple faithful, simply can’t be substituted for Android products. For the rest of the pack, it is a race to the bottom as big players such as Google drop prices to gain market share. The smartphone business is looking a lot like he PC business of a decade ago.

TikTok survives the weekend as Microsoft chats with White House

TikTok survives the weekend — fate still uncertain

TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, has been declared, by President Trump, banned from operating in the U.S. Watchers expected the service to be shut down over the weekend, but news of acquisition by Microsoft were confirmed on Sunday. Microsoft hopes to conclude a deal by September 15th. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Microsoft has, with the exception of its Xbox division, been focusing on corporate and cloud-based computing. The company shut down its Mixer video game streaming service in June, encouraging users to shift to Facebook. Acquisition of TikTok would be Microsoft squarely in the social network business, in competition with Facebook. The move will be good for Facebook in the midst of anti-trust proceedings by Congress, as it will provide the company with an acceptable competitor that does not play in this space, possibly lessening pressure on Facebook. If Microsoft pays a market fee to ByteDance, then everyone may be a winner, with ByteDance’s investors making a large return, TikTok users continuing to enjoy the service, Microsoft gaining a lucrative business unit, and POTUS ensuring that exploitation of U.S. user data occurs only on U.S. soil.

Google buys stake in home security leader, ADT

ADT is the largest provider of professionally monitored home security services in the U.S. Google, with its Nest brand of smart thermostats, cameras and smart speakers/displays has been selling into homes mostly through retail and HVAC channels. Google’s investment of $450 million for 6.6% of ADT portends of Google products being sold through ADT’s team of salespeople and installers across the U.S. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: This move by Google could be the end of speculation regarding BigTech’s role in professionally installed security. For several years, the industry has been wondering when and how the giants will engage the pro-installed segment. With this partnership, Google can move directly into the professional channel, securing a share of the devices installed in each new home or small business served by the nation’s largest sales and installation team. The Google Nest Home Hub line could eventually serve as an alternative to the ADT “panel” — the heart and brain of a home security system. These components are currently supplied by Resideo (hardware) and Alarm.com (software). With its investment, Google will begin to enjoy a small share of the millions in recurring monthly revenues generated by ADT and can begin to edge out Amazon’s Alexa voice technology which is baked into ADT’s Command system. Declaring that Google will use the home security system to take over the entire home ecosystem and disrupt the current pro-install channel is premature, as there are many hurdles to doing so. What cannot be underestimated, however, is the ability to leverage Google’s advances in AI and cloud technology to offer a home automation and security system that is much smarter than anything in the field, including facial recognition, false alarm detection, smartphone integration, and “community monitoring.” The parties that will sleep less, as a result of this partnership, are Alarm.com and Resideo.

Bob and Doug splash down

The SpaceX and NASA team launch and recovery of astronauts to the International Space Station concluded on Sunday with a perfect landing. After 63 days in space, the two “Space Dads,” as they have become known, landed off the coast of Pensacola to a waiting gallery of private fishing and pleasure boats. The intact Dragon capsule was loaded onto a recovery ship where the space travelers were removed and whisked to the Pensacola Naval Air Station via helicopter.  New York Times

dis-rup-shun: The flawless mission is an unmistakable and significant victory for many parties. First, for NASA and the U.S. Government, as it successfully selected, regulated and orchestrated a private third party in one of the largest private/public missions ever, demonstrating that the agency can work with a flashy and bold company such as SpaceX in a restrained, disciplined and safe manner. Secondly, this is, of course, a triumph for Elon Musk and his SpaceX team, as they have demonstrated their ability to send humans to space and return them very safely. Musk’s bold claims of frequent commercial flights to space and Mars landings seem much closer now. Finally, the mission was a great victory for technology. The Dragon craft, like a Tesla, is highly automated with elegant glowing touch screens that seem to suggest that the astronauts are simply there to watch the automation from a gaming chair. The fact that the mission performed flawlessly and to precise timings and landing points is confirmation that today’s technology, while not perfect, is astonishingly accurate.

 

Big Tech versus US Congress

USA vs Big Tech

The day on The Hill occurred on Wednesday, and legislators, as expected, held no punches while interviewing the CEOs of Big Tech — Google’s Pichai, Facebook’s Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Bezos and Apple’s Cook. A few key moments included: “Our founders would not bow before a king, nor should we bow before the emperors of an online economy,” stated David Cicilline, chairman of the subcommittee. Rare bipartisanship was in the house as Jim Sensenbrenner, R, Illinois, made it clear that company size and success are not the concern, but blocking competition is. The congresspeople have done their homework and it appears clear that some action will be taken, but not for many months.   CNET

dis-rup-shun: The congresspeople sound focused, measured and determined, not something that can be said, of late. It appears that mounds of anti-competitive evidence have been collected and the action of the committee going forward will not be about if Big Tech is anti-competitive, but what to do about it. The congress must find a balance between the pressure for the USA to lead in the race with China on 5G and AI, keep the job creation engines cranking, and restrict these same companies from anti-competitive practices. Finding that balance will be a challenge and will take some bright minds.

Perseverance Mars rover launched on Thursday morning

One of NASA’s most ambitious projects launched for Mars in the early hours of Thursday — putting the rover on the surface of Mars this coming February to explore a crater that once held water — 3.5 billion years ago. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The craft, with its self-driving rover and helicopter will explore like no other explorer before, drilling into the service of the planet in search of subterranean water molecules. If water is identified, what will the next move be?

Best smart home products: Google and Amazon removed

CNET constantly provides “best of” lists. It’s latest Best of Smart Home products list removes products directly branded by the two giants, and excludes companies owned or funded by Google and Amazon. The remaining top players are:

Best smart speaker… Apple HomePod

Best smart display … Apple iPad

Best mesh WiFi system… Netgear Orbi

Best smart plug … TP-Link Kasa Smart

Best smart light bulbs … Wyze bulb

Best smart thermostat … Honeywell T9

Best home security camera … Arlo Pro3

Best home security system … Simplisafe

Best video doorbell … Arlo video doorbell

Best smart lock … August Smart Lock Pro

dis-rup-shun: These companies provide solid products that work with the Amazon and Google products not listed. Given the antitrust winds blowing in Washington, it is unlikely that these companies listed will be acquired by the two giants, perhaps helping them shape their courses to live in a market being expanded rapidly by the giants.

Ready for your smartphone to help brush your teeth?

Wired reviews the OralB iO Series 8 connected toothbrush. Aside from being expensive ($250), the device does not always accurately reflect what parts of your mouth have been thoroughly brushed. But for someone who is plagued with problems, having a visual guide via a smartphone app may be worth the investment.

dis-rup-shun: The market is full of newly launched connected appliances that fail to fully reach the potential of connectivity, or have failed to offer any real benefits of connectivity. It may be a while before tooth brushing apps reach a mass market, but the benefits are not hard to imagine especially when costs are inline with everyday products.

Alexagate jams Alexa’s microphones

Alexagate device jams Echo’s microphones

For a mere $99, one can purchase an add-on device designed to sit atop one’s Amazon Echo in order to render the microphones ineffective by bombarding them with sound waves. To stop the blocking, one simply needs to clap (remind you of something else?) and then speak the watch word “Alexa…” TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: The mere existence of this device raises some curious questions. Do owners of Amazon Echos not believe that the on-board mute button works? Do owners of Echos really fear that their privacy is being invaded? If yes to the above, do these owners get sufficient benefit from these devices that they don’t just turn them off to relieve their privacy concerns? As more and more devices come with voice control built-in, the question becomes more relevant: is the convenience greater than the perceived risk? Apparently the 30% of households that own one or more of these devices answered yes.

CES goes online

The Consumer Technology Association announced what we have all been expecting, CES 2021 must not be a live event, but a virtual gathering. Las Vegas will miss out on the 171,000 tech tourists that descend upon the city each year from around the globe. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: This is the right move — anything less would have put CTA in a bad light and would have led to many disappointed (and possibly infected) exhibitors. The blow to Las Vegas, the travel industry at large, and exhibit companies, still reeling from the cancellations of last spring, cannot be overstated. The economic superpower that is CES will be but a shadow of its normal self when presented online. Like many things impacted by Covid-19, CES is one that may have needed a reset. The event has become so enormous that it is difficult to manage from a visitor’s perspective. Perhaps the post-Covid-19 event will be more user friendly.

Apple vs. Google and the world in mobile app philosophy

It is important to understand the architectural tension between Apple and Google at this point in the evolution of mobile technology. Put simply, Apple wants to drive all users through its App Store, where it can not only maintain quality of experience, but control all app-based commerce. Google and a large number of large companies including Uber and Microsoft, are proponents of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) — apps that are in large part powered by the web, but continue to function even if not connected. PWAs drive commerce to the web, Apple apps keep commerce in the app store. CNET

dis-rup-shun: This mobile app philosophical difference is yet another example of closed versus open approaches, and Apple is one of the few companies that has thrived, over a long period of time, within a closed architecture. Android is the dominant global operating system because it enlisted the help of the non-IOS world and created strength in numbers. Just like mobile operating systems, one mobile app architecture will not win, but the ways of building and doing business on the two platforms will grow increasingly different.

Perseverance rover set to explore Mars in 2021

The Perseverance rover is NASA’s new self-driving Mars car, that includes its own helicopter, 24-camera array, and water well drilling apparatus. The device has unprecedented intelligence, battery power, and on-board capabilities, including instruments that will attempt to find oxygen in the Martian atmosphere. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Given the increased attention on the new space race, with countries and companies competing to get back to the Moon and to Mars, NASA has really upped its game and packed this mission with significant scientific capabilities. This mission will aggressively check Mars for water and for atmosphere — clearly seeking to discern how challenging it will be to, one day soon, colonize the planet.

 

Google extends work at home for one year

Google delays office reopening until July 2021

The Mountain View company announced that the work from home option, for employees who are not required in the office, will remain available for another 12 months. The move is attributed to the uncertainty of schools reopening for the Fall 2020 to Spring 2021 school year. CNET

dis-rup-shun:  Google is confirming that which was expected — uncertainty over the Covid-19 pandemic will last well into 2021. The move will likely be followed by many companies, and will further the diaspora of urban workers to mountain, beach and lake houses, keeping restaurants, transit systems and shopping malls mostly empty for the coming year.

Atlas of Surveillance shows where surveillance is occurring

Between Ring doorbell cameras, license plate readers, traffic cameras and individual building security cameras, a fabric of surveillance points cover urban areas.  The mapping project is a collaboration between  the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the University of Nevada, Reno, Reynolds School of Journalism. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Just like in the action series 24, it appears that cameras are almost everywhere in urban areas, but unlike 24, accessing all the feeds quickly and easily is a bureaucratic impossibility. Perhaps the constitutional separation of states and Federal governments and their agencies will keep this an impossibility, or perhaps Google will do it first! 

Chernobyl fungus could prolong space visits

The sun’s harmful radiation is filtered by Earth’s atmosphere, minimizing damage to humans. In space, however, without the filtration of the atmosphere, humans receive 20 times the radiation as on Earth, making outer space uninhabitable, long-term, for humans. A fungus that is thriving on the radioactive Chernobyl site has been sent to the International Space Station for observation and results show that it may become an important companion to space explorations, as the bacteria consumes harmful radiation and converts it to energy — enabling fast growth of the organism. CNET

dis-rup-shun:  Further wonders of science — a “clean up” fungus is available to do what mankind has not figured out how to — clean up harmful radiation. Just when you thought Earth could never undo the damage inflicted by man, we see an auto-correction mechanism. Does such an organism exist for the damages caused by global warming?

Apple begins manufacturing iPhone 11 in India

Apple holds 1% of the share of the Indian smartphone market, but it is a dominant player in that country’s luxury phone market. After striving to find a contract manufacturer in India, its partner Foxconn has started building iPhones in Chennai. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun:  The move enables Apple to reduce its reliance on China-based factories while increasing its presence in the world’s second largest smartphone market, from which it could launch a lower end iPhone built especially to take advantage of the enormous market.

Alexa is now asking you the questions

Alexa is now asking questions to consumers

Hunches are the Amazon name for machine learning triggers that anticipate, most frequently correctly, what you want Alexa to do. Alexa may ask you, upon hearing you walk into the kitchen, if you want to turn on the coffee maker, as you do daily. Alexa usage has quadrupled over the past two years, and the devices are getting better and better at understanding our patterns and habits. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Creepy or cool? On the one hand, one must remember that Alexa’s “mind” is only a series of algorithms that become more accurate the more data they have to factor into their calculations. On the other hand, if a third-party has the ability to analyze this data for unauthorized or un-known purposes, conflict is coming. What is a fact, is that voice has already become an important part of our interaction with machines and will likely be used to start the car engine or select the floor for the elevator to stop. Touchless controls will be more important to a pandemic-aware society, and those that resist will find it increasingly difficult to function in many settings.

Big Tech goes to Washington

Big Tech companies have been summoned to testify before Congress on Monday and discuss anti-competitive practices. Wired’s scathing account of how competition is dead, and has been for a couple of decades among the tech giants, spares Apple from bad boy status. Amazon has altered commerce, Google has created a curated Internet, and Facebook has fueled extremism in America, according to Wired.

dis-rup-shun: If competition is good for both business and consumers, and if the U.S. and Western nations are experiencing unprecedented income inequalities, then it will important to see if the visit with Congress next week leads to any real action by regulators, or more “window dressing.”

Intel announces chip delay 

Intel’s stock price was hammered in the markets yesterday after the company announced an expected six month delay on its next generation product – 7 nanometer processors. The delay will cause Intel’s largest PC customers, including Dell and HP, to delay new product offerings. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Will Intel’s dominance over intelligent devices ever return? Not likely, as the chip making business, as the delay announcement reminds us, is a very difficult and precise business. Intel owned personal computing, but recently lost Apple, as the company has moved to making its own semiconductors. Intel mostly missed the mobile market, and the Internet of Things business consists of hundreds of device types, so being really good at more than a few will be exceedingly difficult. Note that Intel’s execs were not invited to the antitrust conversation in Washington this Monday, as the chip company is no longer a candidate for limiting competition.

Microsoft shows off Halo Infinite

Microsoft’s Xbox Series X preview session live streamed yesterday, teasing the public with views of new games. Front and center was Halo’s new release, Halo Infinite, which boasts bolder and bigger graphics at 10x the frame rates of prior versions. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The Halo franchise has been the biggest driver for Xbox, and Microsoft is counting on the sequel reviving the core market’s appetites for another helping to the tune of  probably close to $400 or more for the Series X console, plus the game. Our society has greatly changed in the last few years, and have the tastes of core gamers changed as well, such that they are less interested in Halo and other first-person shooters? Microsoft conducts a great deal of research, and has apparently concluded that the core buyer is still a shooter.

Cybertruck plant lands in Austin

Austin scores $1.1 billion Tesla plant

The much hyped Tesla Cybertruck will be built, only appropriately, in Texas. Tesla confirmed that Austin will be the location of the $1.1 billion factory, nestled along the Colorado River between downtown Austin and Austin’s Bergstrom airport. The factory is expected to employ 5000 people on 2,100 acres, with an average starting wage of $35,000, including benefits. Austin American Statesman

dis-rup-shun: Austin has long been a winner of innovative projects, continuing to host significant outposts for tech companies including Apple, Google, Dell’s headquarters and IBM — the company that arguably started tech in Austin. Other than several semiconductor fabs, Austin is not a manufacturing center, so the Tesla plant diversifies the type of tech in the Lone Star capital, and will also serve as a strong market for the new electric pickup truck.

Xbox debut event starts now

Microsoft will follow Sony’s big online event that occurred last month with a big reveal today at 9 am PT. The event will offer a sneak peak at new games to be offered on the Xbox Series X, in hopes that Playstation’s slick reveal won’t sway any of the console faithful to the dark side. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Now, more than ever, Sony and Microsoft have to make the console experience really special as cloud gaming services enable the convenience of all-you-can-eat plans, as well as cross-platform gaming. “Premium experience” is the driver for console gamers and both of these platforms look like they will deliver.

Facebook enables Zoom-like features

Facebook has announced a feature for its Messenger Rooms app that enables users to stream video calls to up to 50 people. The move is to counter the ability of paid Zoom users to livestream to Twitch, YouTube and Facebook.  CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The race to own the video conference is becoming fierce, and the big winner is the corporation and organization, as conducting virtual business could not be much easier. The big losers, of course, may be real estate owners, airlines and hotels, as virtual meetings seem to work really well.

Slack sues Microsoft for bundling Teams

Slack has filed suit against Microsoft for its virtual work app, Teams, which is bundled as a part of the Office suite (no additional cost). Slack’s complaint is not about the similarities of the product (there aren’t many), but about Microsoft’s practice of bundling the app with its Office suite, just as it did years ago with Internet Explorer — the move that buried Netscape’s Navigator (and Netscape– RIP). Onmsft.com

dis-rup-shun: A virtual workplace app such as Teams should be a part of every suite of products, and we can expect Google to add something to their office suite at some point. Perhaps Slack should be selling to Google right about now.

Spotify continues march to dominate streaming audio entertainment

Spotify continues dominance with Joe Rogan acquisition

Spotify is the dominant player in streaming music and is doubling down to be the streaming audio entertainment leader. The company has 130 million paid subscribers worldwide, well ahead of Apple, Amazon, and Google. Streaming music makes up 47% of global music revenues. Adding Joe Rogan’s podcasts, along with DC Comics and Kim Kardashian further differentiates the service with hot names. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: As the streaming video players have taught, offering original content is the key to keeping ahead of competitors. Spotify has taken a play from the video streamers and is widening the gap between it and its nearest competition. The company will be the dominant radio station, not just music station. Expect other popular audio entertainment, including sports and news, to be added to the platform.

Uber drivers sue for access to proprietary data

A group of Uber drivers in the UK who seek driver data to help unionize drivers in their nation are suing Uber for access to driver information. Uber says that statistics on drivers, including their speed, locations, acceleration, etc., are part of the company’s secret algorithms that bring it competitive advantage, and cannot be disclosed. Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: The need for competent regulation of Big Tech firms, and difficult decision making about ownership of data is becoming more important, and more difficult every day. These data ownership questions are very significant, and precedent setting, and the creation of better government regulation is not only justifiable, but critical.

Coming soon: balloon rides to space

Space Perspective, a Florida based company, wants to take passengers to the highest levels of the Earth’s atmosphere, where the sky is black and one can see the curvature of the Earth. The pressurized capsule seats eight and includes a bar and bathroom. The company hopes to begin operations as early as next year. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Coming soon — kiddie birthday parties at 100,000 feet. The experience sounds exciting, but what government body regulates and inspects Space Perspective, ensuring that craft are well maintained, adequately equipped with safety gear, and is willing to send out a rescue party should something go wrong? Is this the purview of NASA or the FAA, or the FTC?

Instagram adds fund raising feature

Instragram, in response to a rise in activities to respond to social justice causes, has enabled a fund raising feature within the app. The fundraiser lasts for 30 days, but can be renewed. Fundraisers will be reviewed by Instagram before they can be posted. Does fundraising on social media work? Since 2015, 45 million people have raised over $3 billion on Facebook and Instagram according to CNET.

dis-rup-shun: Instragram is taking on GoFundMe, the best known fundraising platform, finding yet another important use case to incorporate into its platform. Despite criticism to the contrary, Facebook and its entities have a finger on the pulse of the population, and seek to ride the wave of people’s growing passion about causes.

 

 

Microsoft’s xCloud keeps gamers in the family

Microsoft straddles gaming platforms with xCloud 

Microsoft will offer xCloud cloud-based games to subscribers of its Xbox Game Pass subscription service. The free offering will extend cloud titles to subscribers, allowing them to play titles across mobile devices and computers. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: It’s a smart move — keeping Xbox enthusiasts within the brand even as cloud gaming offerings attempt to lure players from consoles. Microsoft must fight a two-front battle: keeping core gamers enthralled with its next generation Xbox platform, Xbox SeriesX, while also taking on cloud game offerings from companies such as Nvidia and Amazon.

Covid crushes Indian smartphone market

India is the second largest smartphone market and has experienced more than one million cases of Covid-19. When the nation ordered a lockdown in March, even online retailers Flipkart and Amazon were prohibited from selling. Smartphone sales for Q2 are down 48%. Xiaomi is the market leading seller of smartphones in India. TechCrunch.

dis-rup-shun: Does a setback of this magnitude offer an opportunity for rivals to unseat Xiaomi’s leadership in the Indian market, or will the company emerge from the quarantine with even more market force? At this stage in the game, buying market share is an even more long-term strategy, as economies of scale are more difficult when revenues are half of expectations, but Xioami has much to lose if rivals such as Vivo and Samsung gain on the company during difficult times.

Netflix — tech company or media company?

As Netflix has been, for a number of years, the face of the future of home video entertainment, a debate has ensued if this is a media or tech company. Wall Street has treated the company like a tech company, with a market value comparable to giant AT&T, even with revenue less than 10% of the latter. With the promotion of co-CEO Ted Sarandon, a content mastermind, the company’s emphasis on media content is clear. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Properly valuing Netflix is a challenge, as the company must spend vast sums to keep ahead of catalog-rich rivals such as Disney +, Peacock and AT&T (HBO) TV. This investment keeps profits out in the far distance as well, yet being first and the king of market share continues to provide the company with an out sized valuation.

UAE Mars probe launches successfully

The UAE’s space program, with a probe heading to explore Mars, launched from Japan early Sunday morning, Pacific U.S. time. The probe, launched from a Mitsubishi made rocket, is the first of three Mars explorations to launch this month as NASA and China also expect to launch Mars missions. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The space race, between sending probes to Mars, re-exploring the Moon, and sending satellites into space has become a very active business. With problems seemingly escalating here on terra firma, will governments and corporations continue to focus vast investments on things in outer space? How are the benefits of exploration and science quantified beyond the ability of companies such as SpaceX to build a commercial, low-orbit internet facilities?

China and Europe driving home-grown internet infrastructure

China’s plan for a new internet, called New IP

The Chinese government has ambitions to build a new, faster internet. This version, called New IP, will be controlled and operated by governments, giving governments access and insight into users, activities, and, presumably, control over all of the above. CNET

dis-rup-shun: To say that users will not be in favor of governments controlling the internet, and access to apps and content, is, well, a gross understatement. China’s proposal will undoubtedly be vehemently opposed by people everywhere, including  China. Those that stand to lose the most, of course, are Chinese citizens who may find that alternatives to New IP are one day closed,creating isolation not experienced since before the internet.

Europeans seek alternatives to cloud giants

German and French policy makers have formed an alliance called Gaia X as an alternative to U.S. and Chinese cloud giants, Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Alibaba. Orange, Deutsche Telekom and SAP are the foundation members of the alliance, which will undoubtedly involve other Europe-based companies. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The fear of concentration of power, in this case information, into the hands of a few very strong players, has, for several centuries, led to rebellions, revolutions, resistance and new legislation (anti-trust). Once again, the European Union is far more active at working to curb Big Tech’s market dominance than the U.S. Congress.

Boeing 747: another Coronavirus victim

British Airways announced that it will ground its entire fleet of 31 747s and rely on more efficient aircraft during this time of anemic international travel. The company has been operating the iconic aircraft for nearly fifty years.  CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Like a hurricane, Coronavirus is reshaping the landscape and accelerating the evolution of many technologies, including aircraft. The world’s largest production airplane, the A380, was shuttered a few months ago after only fifteen years of production. The travel industry has been, arguably, one of the most impacted by new technologies over the past decades (Sabre, Expedia, AirBnB, Hotels.com, Uber, to name a few) and now the industry must quickly adapt to a much different and much smaller market.

Time for an e-Bike?

e-Bikes, bicycles with electric assist motors to help with hills, acceleration and long hauls, are popping up all around us, helping to replace public transportation. CNET offers a look at several top models, from a compact by Swagtron, to a premium model from Trek.

dis-rup-shun: Expect the standard bicycle that most every boy and girl receives between ages 8 and 12 to be an e-bike, as the electric-assisted versions become more affordable and eventually only a little pricier than non-electric versions. In a handful of years, the only non-electrified bikes will be built for avid road racers and those seeking super-cheap basic transportation.

5G to transform healthcare – eventually

5G to be a life saver for emergency health

Imagine a call to 911, where the health statistics and full history of the patient’s pre-existing conditions are sent to the paramedics for review en-route to the patient. Care choices they make, and preparations made in the ER will be patient specific and could make the difference in the patient’s recovery or death. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The implications for 5G to transform healthcare are many, including remote patient visits (telehealth) and emergency response. While that is exciting, such a scenario also depends on easy and fast access to a database that stores patient records. Whose database, and how can we ensure that the important privacy afforded by HIPPA laws don’t prevent emergency technicians from gaining immediate access? Better network technology is a great start, but access to patient records remains an industry challenge.

Wattbike is a different connected stationary bike experience

Wattbike offers a indoor cycling experience for “real” bikers. The Wattbike, available for $2,599, has 22 gears and uses magnetic resistance to simulate a real bike. It does not have an integrated monitor, but features a holder for a smartphone or tablet, which can be used with a number of third party riding apps for those that are not into Peloton’s virtual studio experience. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The Wattbike experience will likely appeal, much moreso than Peloton, to the true biker — not only given the bike itself, but because of the “solo” approach without scheduled classes, and the freedom to choose apps. Of course true bikers may also prefer to bring their bike inside, put it on rollers, and choose a favorite app. Expect to see more variants of connected fitness experiences in the coming months.

California registration of Tesla’s halved during Q2

The number of Tesla’s registered in the company’s best buying state, California, halved during Q2, the initial quarter of the quarantine. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: No, the citizens of California are not falling out of love with electric vehicles, nor of Tesla, but of driving itself — and therefore of purchasing the next car.

Espresso portable display is an elegant solution for Mac or PC

Many knowledge workers now insist that having external monitors are critical for work, and Espresso has developed a slim, easy-to-use and easy-to-connect model with a compact stand. The device sells for $320 to $350. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: The quarantine has required home offices to be setup in interesting places, and places that often change. Piling monitors into a car or plane to relocate to the office/retreat at the beach or the mountains often results in some beat up monitors, if they can come along at all. Portable monitors are the answer, and you can use them long after the quarantine is over.

Grocery carts obsolete cash registers

The cart is the cash register, declares Amazon

Amazon’s Dash carts — grocery carts that watch what you put in them and scan as you go — are replacing cash registers and cashiers at a pilot store in Woodland Hills, California (near Los Angeles). CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Skipping the check out line at the grocery store — good news! Eliminating more employees from the economy — ouch! If this is the new face of shopping, then Amazon will have a lead — perhaps by not sharing the cart technology with non-Amazon stores, or perhaps by dominating point of sale technology as a technology provider, or  by creating so many Prime membership benefits that Prime will be the biggest buying club ever — leading to preferred video, shipping, shopping, delivery, doctor visits, theater seats, airline tickets, hotel rooms, and the list goes on.

Google fined for not erasing personal data

A high ranking European official put Google to the test, citing a European Union law, enforced in 2014, that gives a citizen the right to request removal of data from a search engine. When Google failed to comply, the company as fined 600,000 Euros. CNET

dis-rup-shun: More power to the EU for keeping Big Tech inline. Using my personal data in exchange for free services is fine, until it isn’t, and then people should have a way to turn back and become anonymous. In some cases those rights are granted by law, but how can they be enforced? Call in the data privacy police. This is an emerging problem that will become a political hot potato in coming elections across the globe.

It’s happening: companies are cancelling office space

Companies, particularly start-ups that are always looking for ways to reduce cash burn, are not renewing office space. CBRE predicted, in May, a 7% drop in office rental rates and vacancies to rise as high as 15%, up from 12% in Q1. Many companies in Silicon Valley have already started to beef up staff outside of the Bay Area.

dis-rup-shun: There are great reasons to have an office, but the pandemic has proved that many businesses can run quite well without them. After a drought, leasing will increase, but space planning and use will be different, with many more “hotelling” configurations for workers that may spend only a day or two per week in an office.

Microsoft is ready to take back schools, with Kano

Kano, a maker of inexpensive computer kits that kids can build and use, has partnered with Microsoft to build an inexpensive computer kit that runs Windows and can help cash-poor school districts purchase computers for kids. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Between iPads and Chromebooks, Microsoft was being forced out of the public education marketplace. In another sign of Microsoft’s return to a great run company, this partnership should help more kids grow up on Microsoft products. The problem, of course, is that the future of schools is in question as the shelter-in-place continues and the return to classrooms is very questionable one month before many school districts normally open.

 

 

The new world order of entertainment

Understanding the new world order of home video services

CNBC lays out the new taxonomy of home video distribution: the first tier is the pipe into the home — which has changed the least. It is still mostly Comcast and AT&T, but 5G players such as Verizon are shaking up this tier with mobile broadband (no wires to the home). Tier 2 is messy. New players such as Roku and Amazon with Fire TV control 70% of connected TVs in the US (about 400 million). Other streaming device players include Apple, Google, Samsung, Comcast, Xbox, Sony PlayStation. The third and top tier consists of companies such as Netflix and Disney + that aggregate their own content with other content to create a comprehensive streaming platform, designed to keep you in their “home” as long as possible. The big players have sought to be the new network, offering a mix of genres and formats. Others, like ESPN+, continue to be specialists in a particular category.

dis-rup-shun: In the midst of the market’s creative destruction, it is helpful to have a map of the new world. Thanks CNBC. If the market can support only two or three major providers, then will other streaming offerings continue to pop-up for special interest segments — replacing today’s myriad of special interest channels that garner very few hours of the total market’s viewership? It is possible that the new world will feel a lot like the old world, just with different players in the middle.

The UAE is going to Mars

The United Arab Emirates is ready to send Hope, its Mars orbiter into space this summer, as the result of six years of preparation. The launch is scheduled for July 14th, U.S. time. The project has been in cooperation with University of Colorado Boulder, UC Berkeley, and Arizona State University. TheVerge

dis-rup-shun: The renewed space race — with multiple entities quickly sending new crafts to the Moon and Mars — is a curious mix of private enterprise and government agencies. Will China, the U.S., or Amazon be the first to establish meaningful activities on Mars, and what constitutes meaningful?

Sirius buys podcaster Scripps

SiriusXM has announced that it will follow a prior move of Spotify, and beef up its podcast offerings. The company will purchase E.W. Scripps for $325 million. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Just as stated in the first story above, the new landscape players are continuing to evolve, reinvent themselves, and blur the lines. The new consumer, thanks to the Internet and the proliferation of podcasts, has quite an appetite for specialized content. Podcasts are the new talk radio and to be a full content platform you have to offer all content. SiriusXM started with cars and is creeping onto computers and other devices. Spotify started on computers and smartphones and is creeping into cars.

 

 

Mmhmm and Teams transform video conferencing

Mmhmm app turns video calls into interactive show

Former Evernote CEO Phil Libin has developed the future of video teleconferencing. The Mmhmm app works with any video conferencing system and transforms the experience by enabling the presenter to become large, small, semi-transparent, “stand” in front of the presentation content just like in a conference room, choose any background, and place presentations in a picture in picture window. TheVerge

dis-rup-shun: Innovation — it never stops amazing. This is a simple idea yet so innovative and potentially transforming. If virtual presentations are as compelling and attention grabbing — perhaps even more so — than live presentations, then the future of work really is changed forever. Mmhmm’s functionality will be integrated with video conferencing apps, and the real losers will be airlines, hotels and Uber drivers, as the benefits of being live and in-person become smaller and smaller.

Microsoft Team’s Together mode, like Mmhmm, will transform virtual meetings

The timing of this Microsoft news flash is surely no coincidence, following the unveiling of Mmhmm. A new Teams feature, called Together Mode, puts all virtual conference attendees in the same background setting, so they look like they are in the same room. It is a way to neutralize the distraction of individual settings and create a virtual institution. CNET

dis-rup-shun: This is a pretty intriguing development. Suddenly the fun of exploring someone’s home office or bedroom over their shoulder is removed and we are back in a classroom or auditorium, focusing on the speaker, the content, or on the faces in the crowd. Universities and colleges, especially those that are really expensive — you need to be very, very swift to re-purpose your dorms, your lecture halls and labs. You won’t be needing many of them starting last semester.

Next generation Google Home Nest speaker

The original Google Home speaker was released in 2016 and has not had a major refresh. As part of a regulatory filing in Japan, watchers have identified the next generation product. It is tall, flat and fabric covered. What will be more interesting is to see if the product’s skills, or software functions and sound quality are drastically different from the generation one product or if this is mostly an update of the form factor. TheVerge

dis-rup-shun: Google has some branding work to do, as just describing this new product as the Google Home Nest smart speaker is a mouthful. As the sound quality of the flagship product improves, Google takes on the traditional speaker makers such as JBL, Sonos, Sony and Bose. As Amazon rapidly adds thousands of “works with Alexa” partners, Google continues to figure out what it does better than Amazon, and so far, that is search. The company’s marketing, however, is yet to position it as the best “_______,” and so consumers continue to struggle with the decision of which ecosystem to invest in, and the product continues to be a distance second to Amazon’s Echo line, but well ahead of Apple’s HomePod.

Facebook’s civil rights audit reveals setbacks and missteps

Facebook performed its own internal audit of decisions around civil rights-related posts and censorship. Civil rights organizations that reviewed the report criticized the company for some missteps which were “significant setbacks” for civil rights. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Where is today’s equivalent of the Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, who made tough and unpopular decisions about the identity of that publication? Facebook can no longer be the world’s bulletin board — that position has led to unending acrimony. Facebook is the new Washington Post, New York Times, or Asahi Shimbun. It must change its position to a curated, biased source of information with stated editorial guidelines that not all will like, but that are clearly stated. Trying to define the narrow path between free speech and dangerous rhetoric is losing battle.

Streamed Hamilton exceeds hype

Disney Plus’ Hamilton delivery exceeds hype

According to the staff at CNET, the Hamilton on-screen experience exceeded hype and delivered an exceptional at-home experience – even better than expected. Mobile downloads of the Disney + app jumped 72% over the Hamilton debut weekend.

dis-rup-shun: Disney remains the king of entertainment, following the debut of Star Wars spin-off The Mandalorian with Hamilton. Impressively, the company has made its late-to-the-streaming-party service a “must have.” One can only imagine what will be the next must see small screen event?

The first 5G PC

Lenovo’s Flex is the first laptop with onboard 5G, making it capable of connecting in most any urban setting without finding the nearest Starbucks hotspot. No need for WiFi and no need for tethering to the smartphone, as the computer is, essentially, a built in smartphone. Tested in NYC, download speeds ranged from 170Mbps and 200Mbps compared to home broadband speeds around 115Mbps to 140Mbps, while AT&T iPhones show speeds of 49Mbps. CNET

dis-rup-shun: A 5G laptop is great for the mobile worker but just like the 4G iPad, having a mobile device with a dedicated connection requires a monthly wireless data fee, adding to the cost. It is more likely that we will own 5G smartphones that will offer super fast hot spots to our mobile devices — computers and tablets. For those with a fat budget, a 5G laptop will be a dream in airports, hotels, coffee shops and while accessing the internet from a client’s secure premise. This, of course, assumes we will again be traveling in the near future.

Uber swallows Postmates in scramble to keep business growing

Uber’s ride sharing business (unprofitable before Covid-19) is down 80%. The company’s attempt to purchase Grubhub was thwarted for antitrust concerns, but smaller food delivery company Postmates is expected to gain SEC approval. The food delivery business is up sharply during shelter-in-place, and Uber Eats needs to beef up its market share to compete with Grubhub and DoorDash, and to stem the losses from its ride sharing business. TheVerge

dis-rup-shun: Winston Churchill said, “Don’t waste a good crisis.” Uber has an opportunity to right-size its ride sharing business, lowering overhead and waiting for post-Covid-19 ride sharing to rebound, potentially making this line of business profitable. In the meantime, Uber needs to run fast to scale up its food delivery business to make up losses in the core ride sharing business. The next year will be pivotal for Uber.

Magic Leap taps top Microsoft exec to lead it out of woods

Peggy Johnson, one of Nadella’s top stars at Microsoft, has agreed to become CEO of troubled augmented reality company, Magic Leap. The well-funded (Alphabet and others invested $3 billion) start-up launched an impressive but expensive product in 2018, and quickly found that appeal for the $2000 system was low. The company has laid out a significant portion of its team and its founding CEO has resigned. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Can lots of investment and one of the best corporate leaders in the country create an AR product that delights its target market (be it commercial or consumer buyers)? AR is cool, but so far it is a nice-to-have technology unless you are a fighter pilot. Stay tuned for an interesting challenge and hopefully a successful outcome.

Picture the pandemic through consumer data maps

How consumer data paints a picture of the pandemic

Five data points from everyday consumer activities, collected by the companies that we trust each day to provide services, shows a profile of the impacts of Coronavirus on activities and the economy. A chart of requests for directions, for walking, driving and mass transit, on Apple Maps, indicates a lull and subsequent recovery in people going places. Restaurant bookings on OpenTable signals a partial recovery, then faltering, of dining out activities. Hotel occupancy data reveals that hotel bookings rates remain at or below 50%. Air travel shows very little recovery from all time lows, and American Airlines announced that it is overstaffed by 20,000 employees. Home purchase data shows that real estate transactions are approaching a pre-COVID-19 level. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Data maps of our daily habits provide fascinating views of the state of our economy. While these maps show what is down, the activities that are skyrocketing are home entertainment, including movies, games, music, and purchases of food and alcohol. The question then is one of shifting spending — and determining the net reduction in overall spending as a measurement of economic recession resulting from the loss of jobs.

Lemonade IPO shares soar as insurance disruptor goes public

Lemonade is an online insurance provider that was launched in 2016. It provides homeowners and renters insurance using a monthly subscription model, and using AI and chatbots to speed the application and claims process. Opening shares soared 138% to $50 on day one. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Clearly the market is recognizing the company not for its size against the giants Allstate, Geico, Farmers, State Farm and others, but in its ability to successfully deliver a new pricing and operations model, using AI and chat bots, rather than human agents and actuaries.

IKEA makes smart shades affordable

Who hasn’t marveled at the coolness of smart shades and smart blinds at a friend’s very expensive custom automated home. Those custom shades were likely from Somfy or Lutron. IKEA continues its march into the smart home for every man and woman. Its Fyrtur line of automated (Zigbee-powered) shades work with Apple Homekit, with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri, and cost from $129 to $179 before the $35 Zigbee hub. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Home automation, despite a myriad of great products, has barely entered the mass market. According to research firm Interpret, smart speakers, the most diffuse smart home product, is in about 30% of U.S. households. IKEA is bridging the gap between expensive custom automation, and extremely affordable smart home accessories that are attractive, easy to install and high tech.

Guide to drone purchases

Is it time to get your own drone? Wired reviews a list of seven popular models for a range of budgets and applications. From photo enthusiasts to Star Wars fans, a number of options are available from $33 to $1,600.

dis-rup-shun: Just like the GoPro made adventure photography easy for everyone, drones make aerial photography accessible to all. Many real estate and vacation destination advertisements feature, as a standard, aerial photos, and expect construction and insurance professionals to employ the devices in their everyday work. Imagine the savings in insurance and hospitalization costs from reductions in people climbing towers, building and houses to perform inspections.

YouTube TV jacks up price

Cutting the cord is looking less attractive

Cutting the pay TV cord from cable or telco TV provides significant savings, until it doesn’t. YouTube TV, originally offered at $35 per month, is now $65 per month. When compared to cable bundles starting at $67 per month before set top box and HD fees, the motivation for cord cutting is diminished. Forbes

dis-rup-shun: It is inevitable that content providers seek to earn a profit, and it is inevitable that the costs of content increase as NFL owners expect to earn more, and customers expect to binge more. More streaming competition from the likes of NBC (Peacock) and AT&T (AT&T TV) will keep the pressure on the incumbents (DirecTV and Netflix) to keep prices competitive, but the rising costs of content will maintain pressure to charge more. In the end, cutting the cord may result in temporary savings that are not sustainable.

Google acquires smart glasses maker North

North, the smart glasses maker that has been quietly chugging along, creating smart glasses that look like ordinary glasses, has been acquired by Google for an undisclosed sum. Speculation puts the acquisition at $180 million, but that is less than the funds raised from investors. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: It is not like Google to wildly overpay for a strategic acquisition, so one would expect that the number is higher than capital raised, but this is a tricky space. No vendor has yet proven that there is real demand for smart glasses, and Apple, for years, has been rumored to be working on glasses. If any brand can make smart glasses mainstream, it is surely Apple, and Google needed to make additional acquisitions in order to maintain its position of “fast follower” behind Apple innovation.

Sound detection part of new IOS 14

As the media unpacks all the new stuff in the next Apple iPhone operating system, one interesting feature is the ability to identify sounds that your phone will warn you about: smoke alarms, car alarms, leaky faucets, coyotes, cookie jar rattle… CNET

dis-rup-shun: Audio detection is an entire industry, possibly the size of the video camera industry. Imagine if all of your devices (phones, tablets, computers, smart speakers, smart appliances) are listening for suspicious sounds. They could detect a fall of a senior, a burglar, or a malfunctioning AC unit, and they could also detect and transmit words or sounds that you want to keep private. The conflicts and debates will be ever present as listening technology goes mainstream.

How to capture fireworks with your phone

Capturing the glory of annual 4th of July fireworks will be, more than ever, attempted with phones rather than standalone cameras. Certain settings, like no zoom and no flash, will result in better photos. Steadying the camera on something is a first step. Wired

dis-rup-shun: The constant upgrade of camera phones means that most people aren’t very skilled at the new art of smartphone photography. The only way to learn is to try, and this holiday is a great opportunity to relearn the lost art of photography. Happy 4th of July!

Lululemon acquires mirror

Lululemon acquires Mirror fitness

Workout clothing maker Lululemon makes its first acquisition, agreeing to purchase at home personal fitness provider, Mirror for $500 million. Mirror, a competitor to Peloton, provides a $1,495 connected mirror camera device that offers online group fitness, or one-on-one personal training sessions. The company’s primary competitor, Peloton, has 886,000 subscribers, up 94% in a year. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The clothing company is making some very strategic moves here. It is cashing in on the “connected community” movement that has resulted from Coronavirus, ensuring that its core customers, the workout enthusiast who wants to impress those at the yoga studio, have a way to continue to spend time and money in leggings. It has an advantage that Peloton does not, and that is the ability to offer one-on-one personal training sessions. This is an opportunity for premium customer experiences which will offer more opportunities for Lululemon to demonstrate its clothing line to a well heeled buyer. The clothing company is following business icon Apple’s model of using content (classes) to increase the value of its hardware (clothing).

Despite Coronavirus, 5G rollout begins in 2020

Coronavirus, in late February, led to the cancellation of the mobile industry’s primary trade event, Mobile World Congress. That cancellation put the world on notice that the virus was a force to be reckoned with and blocked thousands of opportunities to promote the next mobile telecom standard, 5G. The same pandemic, however, has fueled demand for 5G, as people are spending more time online. China, in particular, has shown its interest in 5G as the bulk of the expected 190 million 5G subscribers in 2020 will be in China. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The pandemic has not slowed the development of 5G infrastructure, meaning that as soon as consumers are ready to upgrade their smartphones and networks, the carriers are ready. With the world sheltered in place, drops in Internet service have become more common than ever (I bet there is data on that). Consumers are ripe for a migration to an all 5G home and mobile network, if carriers wish to offer fixed mobile broadband solutions. Let’s see if AT&T, distracted by its absorption of Time Warner and its change of CEOs will seize the moment, and if T-Mobile/Sprint, mid-merger, can make 5G a marketing priority.

An iPhone without charger or headphones?

An Apple expert, TF Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, speculates that in order to keep the next iPhone (iPhone 12) at the same price as its predecessor, Apple will ship the device without a charging cable or earbuds. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: If the speculation is true, Apple will change the industry standard such that other makers will also stop shipping accessories in the box. But is a charging cable to power the very device in the box really an accessory? It is in Apple’s best interest to not include earbuds, thus compelling buyers to gravitate to their premium priced Airbuds. Can Apple provide less for their flagship device and still delight its loyal customers? Probably.

The future console is in the cloud

The future of gaming is in the cloud. With every major gaming platform offering a cloud service and more rumored on the way, the role of the cloud is at the center of gaming. Gaming, like video, drives enormous revenues, and other than bandwidth, the responsiveness of data centers will be the biggest factors in good game experiences. Data centers are in a race to create the best gaming infrastructure, not only by having high capacity, but by placing data centers on the right parts of the globe to minimize latency. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Like Netflix for video, cloud gaming services will become the new standards for gaming, and consoles will remain to serve only the enthusiasts who want the experience that only hardware in the home can provide. But the middle of the road gamer, who has traditionally been on the edge of the console customer base, will be content with cloud games, meaning Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo will have to work harder to serve the core gamer, or will have to create an experience so unique that it simply can’t be replicated in the cloud. And at least one of them will.

Apple Watch goes medical

Apple watch adds medical insights

Apple continues its pursuit of healthcare through it primary wellness device, the Apple Watch. The company announced a number of wellness feature enhancements this week, but one, in particular, seems designed to serve the medical, not consumer, community.  The device’s abilities to measure gait, heart rate and mobility enable it to form an activity index that could help doctors measure overall health or decline over a period of time. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The fact that these features are designed to appeal to medical professionals, not just consumers, is likely a sign that the company’s tight partnership with care professionals is resulting in marketing to the medical community. Of course, equipping the medical community with unique tools leads to doctors, therapists and clinicians urging seniors, in particular, to purchase these devices to track long-term health, promoting the device as a leader in wellness tracking and driving it to become a standard among the growing senior population.

Omnicom division joins boycott of Facebook ads

Facebook continues to be embroiled in controversy, this time due to its unwillingness to curtail what the group calls “irresponsible propagation of hate speech, racism, and misleading voter information,” according to Omnicom ad adency Goodby Silverstein. The agency represents brands including BMW, PayPal and Pepsi. CNBC.

dis-rup-shun: Facebook, the platform that people love to hate, along with other social media platforms, faces increased pressure to draw a tighter line on what it allows to be posted. Is this censure-ship, or just the right thing to do? Should social media platforms be a platform for freedom of speech — all speech, right or wrong, or should they be the new newspapers, all known for their editorial decisions and inherent bias? The social networks are at a junction, and the public has essentially dictated that they will be the new newspapers, requiring them to choose their editorial bias, which will guarantee that whatever position they choose will enrage some segment of the public that believes use of social networks is a “right,” not a privilege.

Wyze continues to rock the camera world

Wyze has introduced a $50 no-wires outdoor camera. The camera communicates wirelessly to a  base station which connects to your router via ethernet or WiFi. Cloud storage of video is free. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Remember Datsun or the first Hondas? These were very inexpensive newcomers to the auto world that were initially mocked, but, a decade or two later, taken very seriously, especially as they later built premium brands such as Infinity and Acura. Wyze feels similar in that they have rocked the smart home gadget market with high quality products at ridiculous prices, and have continued to introduce quality products at gradually higher prices. Expect Wyze to be swallowed by a Big Tech player. I will cast my vote for Google Nest.

8 best smart speakers for Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant

Wired provides another look at smart speakers. This review assumes that the reader can choose a preferred smart assistant technology — Wired prefers Alexa or Google Assistant. The review then crowns winners by category: Best Overall – Sonos, Best for Alexa — Echo, Best Portable — JBL Link, Best Soundbar — Yamaha, and so forth.

dis-rup-shun: In the past few years, several product categories have collided into one: bookshelf speakers, portable speakers, and smart assistants. It is increasingly difficult to separate these products into those categories, but rather call them one and designate, as Wired has done, the best for a particular application. Whatever you call them, chances are that several of these devices exist in each home and that one of them is your primary source of music.

The Apple show — dazzling software enhancements

A summary of Apple’s Monday product announcements

Apple’s announcements are well covered in the press, but here is a quick read:

  • Future laptops and desktops will run on Apple’s processor, not on Intel’s. Apple says this will enable better performance.
  • iOS14 (iPhone) software enables a person to customize their home screen and choose other email and browser apps as defaults (instead of Apple Mail and Safari). AI automation helps determine when a user wants to see which data and widgets, perhaps making the experience less “cluttered.” Message interfaces and features are enhanced, and a video window can float on top of other apps while multitasking. Siri has a new interface, and maps are enhanced by tips from partners such as Zagat.
  • Apple Translate is a new language translation app that, running on an iPhone, can be placed between two different language speakers and can translate in real time.
  • CarPlay updates include the ability to send an electronic car key through text messaging, enabling your friend to borrow your car when you text the key. Currently this feature only works on BMW 5-series, but will expand soon.
  • AppClips are small, lightweight apps that can be downloaded via QR code or textx message. These clips take the place of a store’s promotional app — increasing the chance that people will use them on impulse since one no longer has to go to the App Store.
  • iOS14 (iPad) is designed to look and feel more like a MacBook, with improved search and with a new stylus (Pencil) that can enter text by handwriting anywhere there is an input field.
  • AirPods will automatically switch between iPhone and computer — without requiring a manual Bluetooth switchover.
  • Apple Watch has enhanced sleep tracking features that will help nudge people out of bed in the morning. A new app includes a hand washing timer to make sure you are practicing healthy living habits.
  • Home App, the app designed to control smart home devices that comply with Apple’s standard, uses the iPhone camera’s facial recognition technology with external security cameras.
  • Apple TV now supports picture-in-picture, and allows multiple accounts per device.
  • MacOS Big Sur — the computer operating system, includes bigger, better interfaces, a messaging app that mimics the iPhone, and enhanced Safari that automatically reveals the security features of websites and automatically translates websites.

dis-rup-shun: Apple continues to enhance its customers’ experiences across the product line and continues its march into more proprietary avenues, eschewing the chipset made by the world’s largest silicon vendor, Intel. But the company is clearly capable of delivering on its promises, and seems now stronger than ever. Of some concern is that most enhancements are software based, suggesting that it is now extremely difficult to conceive, invent, build, launch and market new devices — the very thing that Apple is so good at doing. Hopefully Apple will invent a few new cool devices, along with its outstanding software.

Can Apple truly transform healthcare?

Apple’s progress report on revolutionizing health care

Apple has stated that health is a target market for the company, and its Apple watch is arguably the most sophisticated all-purpose wearable that is also packed with heart monitoring and fall detection features. But what are the next big chasms for Apple to cross to transform healthcare? The data generated by Apple devices is not being easily integrated into care provider routines as doctors are already overwhelmed. Integration and access to consumers’ electronic health records remains a complex challenge. Many opportunities for Apple exist, and perhaps more direction will be revealed at the company’s worldwide developers’ conference this week. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Apple has equipped consumers with data about sleep, body motion and heart activity, giving us all more data than ever before. The healthcare industry, however, has not been screaming for more consumer data. The industry is being roiled by falling prices and new reimbursement models, so 180 days of your cardiac data may not be your doctor’s first priority. The question Apple must answer is if it wishes to continue its focus on equipping individuals with new insights into their own health, or if it seeks to transform clinician practices through providing remote care tools. There is plenty of room down both paths, but likely not enough time and resources to effectively pursue both.

Moneyball comes to European football via AI

Moneyball — the practice of analyzing large amounts of sports performance data to improve the results of a team and maximize return on investments, is finally coming to European football thanks to the AI analytics company, Acronis. Acronis has partnered with clubs including Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, and Inter Milan to help the organizations collect, analyze and eventually monetize data. Wired

dis-rup-shun: While data analytics has long been a critical part of sports management for baseball and other sports, it is new to European football. Whether data is used to improve player recruiting, play calling or advertising effectiveness, expect some very noticeable changes to occur as teams use numbers to improve both on-field and overall financial performance.

Drone deployed mosquitoes help control illnesses

Sterile male mosquitoes injected into infested areas reduce the insect’s populations by reducing the next generation, lowering the overall count of the malaria spreaders. This sophisticated treatment method eliminates spraying but requires people to introduce the sterile mosquitoes into infested and/or hard to reach places (swamps, mountains, etc.). The use of drones to release cartridges of sterile mosquitoes in infested areas, then return to base to refill, has increased the effectiveness and reduced the time of deployment. Techcrunch

dis-rup-shun: Drones continue to find their niche applications outside of hobbyists, and global disease prevention is clearly an important and potentially lucrative opportunity. Hobby, military, medical, real estate, film making and photography are all areas in which drones seem to have found adoption beyond trials. Expect to see the work of drones become a staple in these industries.

Camera wars: Arlo joins the floodlight camera race

The smart home category continues to gain heft, and Arlo has been a quality provider since Netgear purchased the brand (then spun it off in 2018). Ring gets the credit for inventing the flood light camera category, or at least for making it popular. According to CNET  Arlo has taken the lead with this high quality, $250 very bright light/camera combo which can be powered via battery, solar or AC power. Quality, as always, may be dependent on the device’s WiFi connection.

dis-rup-shun: For people seeking home security without committing to a long, large contract from a traditional provider, these new devices continue to offer strong alternatives. Device makers such as Arlo, and integrated-monitored systems providers such as ADT need to quickly partner to make these devices common for both DIY and pro-installed customers, and benefit from customer interest in this new product category.

 

Spotify joins with DC Comics and Kim K

Spotify stock climbs with addition of DC Comics and Kardashian content

Spotify, the major player in streaming music, has found its next growth spurt in podcasts, which the company has been adding over the past year and a half. The company has inked deals to bring podcasts from DC Comics and Kim Kardashian — bolstering company value. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Podcasts continue to be an increasing form of entertainment, replacing time reading books, newspapers and even listening to music. Spotify is an example of a disruptor that is staying ahead of its own disruption, by carefully watching consumer habits and shifting to capture the consumer where he or she is moving. It’s a smart move that is being rewarded by the market.

California initiative to create an electric highway

West Coast Clean Transit Corridor Initiative, led by West Coast state governments, is an initiative to lower emissions by encouraging the switch to electric powered trucks to carry freight up and down the West Coast. The initiative will begin by placing charging stations every fifty miles along Interstate 5. Initially the stations will be for mid-sized trucks, and then for long haul trucks. Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: California’s leadership is impressive, as it is ready to provide infrastructure support for vehicles that are just now appearing at scale. Many other states will wait until their roads are crowded with large electric trucks and will expect private truck stop operators to provide electric charging. Pacific States’ initiatives will be a model to watch — will providing electric infrastructure actually accelerate adoption of electric over the road freight carriers?

Siri command to remember if you get pulled over

An outside developer has created a Siri command to remember if you get pulled over. The command automatically turns on your iPhone camera, mutes your phone, and sends a text with your location to an emergency contact. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Bad cops are making life hard for the majority of well-trained and cool-headed officers that protect us and keep our communities running smoothly. It would be important, however, for loved ones to know where you are if you are pulled over and possibly removed from the scene. This utility could be critical if legal proceedings were to follow a traffic stop.

Amazon bundles Blink camera with Echo Show for $5

Amazon owns connected WiFi camera maker Blink, and is now bundling the product with its Echo Show smart display product for a mere $5 extra. It is a no-brainer if you have someone or something around the house that you want to keep an eye on (baby, pet, teenager’s room, driveway, etc. CNET

dis-rup-shun: As Amazon dominates the smart speaker space with Alexa, it is important to watch where Alexa’s influence will expand. In the music space, Amazon has not swallowed up other music device makers, and has struggled to make its own music service, Amazon Music, the top contender. On the search side, Alexa is a distant second to Google Assistant, and the company appears to not be working to close that gap. On the smart home side, Alexa is dominant, controlling hundreds of connecting devices. Amazon’s ownership of Ring and Blink provide a strong foundation for creating a bigger, connected, smart home ecosystem, and expect to see more complete, fully integrated home security offerings from the Blink/Ring/Alexa coalition in the near future.

 

Will private colleges recover from Covid-19?

Private colleges: terminally infected by Covid-19?

Online educational provider, Coursera, reports that enrollment in its online classes us up 520%. This follows the closing of 91% of schools worldwide during the pandemic. Many colleges are now facing class-action lawsuits from parents and students who are demanding a refund for expenses paid and services not received. Coursera founders expect online learning to be the new normal. Many universities, such as Georgia Tech, have already invested in online alternatives, however many colleges are unprepared to face a changing customer base. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Covid-19 is the tsunami that has reshaped value perceptions for colleges and universities, whose pool of applicants will be reduced by parents whose finances have changed, and by students who reexamine the value of a $50K to $400K investment in a four-year degree. Competitive mid- and top-tier colleges that offer online alternatives will hobble those that do not. The fact that few foreign students will apply to colleges abroad during Covid will greatly reduce the applicant pool.

Robinhood fintech app spurs millennial participation in stocks

The mobile trading app, Robinhood, is designed to help consumers make small investments easily from mobile devices, with no fees. The platform has grown to 10 million users since its inception in 2016. Its convenience and free model is spurring interest and participation in the stock market, and many are taking government stimulus checks and investing extra funds in the beleaguered stocks, such as airlines. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: In a matter of a few short years, one of the most established industries on the planet — retail stock trading — is turned upside down by a small upstart in Silicon Valley that decides to offer stock trades for free, causing huge established players to follow and shift their business models. Retail brokerage houses now must make money off of other financial services, including credit cards, and banks need to have their innovation teams on the ready as Google, Samsung, Apple and others have entered the financial arena.

Movie theaters post-Covid

CNET considers the fate of movie theaters — an industry rocked by Covid and, in many cases, racked by debt. Some potential outcomes of theaters include: returning to normal and full capacity sometime in 2021, offering subscriptions similar to the failed Moviepass app, ensuring steady revenues for theaters who cater to a loyal core customer. Another outcome, already occurring, is the acquisition of theater chains by Big Tech such as Amazon, Apple and Netflix. As Big Tech deepens investments into creation of original content, securing theatrical distribution for expensive products will bolster the top line. Amazon has reportedly initiated plans to purchase some theaters, which will undoubtedly drastically disrupt the movie theater business.

dis-rup-shun: Imagine the various services that could be offered from an Amazon-owned movie theater.  First of all, kiosks in the lobby could be used to order almost any product, which would be waiting in the lobby to take home after the show. Or one could walk through the concession area and select any refreshments — no lines and no cashier — and the charges would magically appear on one’s Amazon account. Prime members would likely get the best seats in the house, and possibly a free drink, and those that aren’t Amazon members could buy their tickets with the assistance of an Alexa-powered ticket booth. The Amazon movie theater would offer a dramatically different experience from competitors.

Baidu withdraws from U.S. led AI coalition

Baidu, the Chinese online giant, has withdrawn from the Partnership on AI, a US-led consortium developed to address the ethical dilemmas inherent in artificial intelligence  applications. The company was the only Chinese participant, and its withdrawal further pits China vs. U.S. in next generation technology development. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Public opinion seems well divided regarding partnerships with China, with many citing unfair practices as reasons for withdrawal, and others calculating the loss of access to inexpensive and fast production, as well as the vast Chinese market. It is clear that U.S.- China relations will be one of the top political issues in coming elections.

Apple’s app ecosystem the size of Sweden

Apple’s App Store ecosystem generated $500 billion in 2019

The staggering sum is an estimate of the amount of revenues that flow through Apple’s app and commerce ecosystem, not direct revenues to Apple. The total includes merchandise, travel products, entertainment products, app sales, and content. The figure puts Apple’s app store the size of the GDP of Sweden. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The economic power of U.S. based BigTech companies continues to amaze, as these engines are big drivers of economic growth, even during this pandemic. As one considers the amazing contributions that Steve Jobs made to the world, one of them was placing Tim Cook at the helm, as Cook has not only continued Apple’s innovations (arguable at a slower pace than Jobs) but has provided even handed leadership in place of Jobs’ firebrand personality.

Walmart acquires technology from CareZone

Walmart’s acquisition of CareZone’s technologies helps the company compete more effectively with Amazon as it continues to ramp up its healthcare strategy. CareZone’s technologies helps people manage their drug prescription dosages and better understand insurance coverage. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The consumerism of healthcare has been slow in coming, and with Amazon and Walmart racing to innovate the pharmacy industry, the rest of the healthcare industry won’t be far behind. Expect apps that demystify the pharmaceutical lingo, explain the pricing and offer multiple options on the app, provide dosage- based packaging, and that change the way we order and receive prescriptions from the corner pharmacy. Look out doctors and care organizations, you’re next.

FCC casts doubts on the viability of SpaceX’s broadband satellite service

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been hurtling chains of satellites into low orbit for the past year. So far, 500 are orbiting the earth. The Starlink “train” is designed to provide broadband services to all corners of our planet — especially beneficial to rural locations. The FCC has stated that it does not believe that Starlink can meet its latency thresholds, and therefore won’t be eligible for the FCC’s $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund investment. SpaceX has one month to convince the FCC otherwise, or else it will lose a shot at the first awards of the government program. CNET

dis-rup-shun: SpaceX is coming off of a big win after its successful launch of astronauts Bob and Doug two weeks ago, and it is hard to imagine that SpaceX would have launched the Starlink without being certain that its performance will be a game changer. This leads one to wonder if politics have crept into the performance evaluation of the satellite program — but of course that would never happen.

2020 as predicted in April 1975

University of Pennsylvania professor, Lewis Shayon, predicted in 1975 that the world in 2020 would be very different. That world, according to Shayon, would include newspapers that would flash on a computer screen, and could be shared with many people. He went on to predict:

“TV will be the ‘ask-for-it-and-get-it medium. Information, games, education will be created in electronic packages, stored in vast computers and retrieved by individuals to suit their special tastes at their own time preference.”

“Every room will have a TV screen and a finger keyboard. In the kitchen you’ll punch up a film and follow a recipe. Kids will do their homework by checking in with two-way television instruction programs. They will solve math problems with the help of distant computers via the homecom center screen.” Forbes

dis-rup-shun: When one stops to ponder the world we live in, especially through the lens of this 1970s author and professor, it is hard to conceive what our world will look like in 50 more years. Certainly flying taxis, self-driving cars, and medical scanners that diagnose us from home or office (if those still exist) and teleportation will be one of the few technology fantasies yet to turn reality.

 

Want to Zoom with your favorite celebrity?

Cameo service enables Zoom calls with celebrities

If you would pay anything to chat with Brett Favre or skateboarder Tony Hawk, you have an opportunity to book a call through the Cameo celebrity site. For fees ranging from $1000 to $15,000 for up to 10 minutes, you can gawk in person (virtually) or have a celebrity drop in to a loved one’s birthday celebration. Cameo is reporting a significant uptick on participation by both paying customers and interested celebrities. TheVerge

dis-rup-shun: The Internet enables the economic theory of supply and demand, first set to print by Alfred Marshall in 1776. If Marshall could see us today, paying celebrities to further monetize their “down” time, and bidding up the prices for access, he would be proud of his theories. People or Vanity Fair will do well to develop a pricing tracker of celebrity chat time and publish rankings of whose time is worth the most.

AT&T considers selling Warner gaming assets

What do you do when you are $200 billion in debt? You sell whatever is not absolutely essential to your business, and AT&T, having acquired Warner Brothers for content to fuel its various video distribution platforms, is rumored to be selling Warner Games which includes assets such as “Harry Potter,” “Game of Thrones,” “Mortal Kombat.” The sale could raise $4 billion. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The old leaders of video distribution are in a life or death battle for a place in the new world of video distribution, and AT&T can certainly be credited with going big. While the world still questions the company’s purchase of DirecTV for $49 billion, AT&T’s grab of Time Warner for content makes perfect sense.

WiFi 6E is coming soon

On the heels of WiFi 6 that debuted in 2019 comes WiFi 6E. The new standard is the result of the FCC releasing additional spectrum. The 6 Gigahertz spectrum enables the transmission of very large amounts of data at very close distances, but requires new routers and new chipsets for client devices. In other words, until you buy a new phone, computer or tablet with the new chipsets, you won’t enjoy the new benefits. CNET

dis-rup-shun: WiFi seems to be the invisible commodity that no one can get enough of, despite paying handsomely for it on a monthly basis. Perhaps it is time for service providers to offer an 18 month technology (router and speed setting) refresh as a part of ongoing subscriptions, keeping customers on the latest and fastest technologies, rather than risking customer ire. 

How to clean up your act online

If you have awakened and decided that you are not the person you used to be, you will be pleased to learn that social network giants Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have provided utilities to make it easier to delete old posts and photos.  Wired

dis-rup-shun: Social network operators are getting thrashed just as often as their members for allowing or not allowing a certain post, and as a result, are helping their members clean up their old posts and living less incendiary online lives. While “The Facebook” was started in a Harvard dorm as a way to have some online fun, a lot of people are not having much fun answering to Facebook posts.

EU to file antitrust charges against Amazon

EU to file antitrust charges against Amazon

While the US government (FTC, DOJ) continues its months long investigation of antitrust practices of Big Tech, including Amazon, the European Union moves to file charges against Amazon.com. The charges stem from Amazon’s use of third party seller information to develop its own private label brands. The charges may provide guidance to the U.S. commissions investigating Amazon. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Once again, the European Union regulators act decisively and (relatively) swiftly against U.S. based tech companies. While U.S. regulators continue threats against the same companies that are increasingly driving the tech economy, E.U. regulators are on the offensive, setting precedents for online commerce. Recall that the E.U. acted decisively more than two years ago in implementing the sweeping GDPR standard to protect and enforce data privacy — a move that U.S. regulators are yet to emulate.

GrubHub to merge with European Just Eat Takeway.com

GrubHub’s merger talks with Uber broke down amidst concerns of regulatory resistance, given that two of the three largest food delivery networks were planning to combine. The merger with Europe’s Just Eat Takeaway.com will provide scale, but will be less likely to be perceived as anti-competitive. Just Eat Takeaway.com’s merger with GrubHub will offer a premium over proposed terms of the Uber deal. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Food delivery, like ridesharing, offer significant benefits in convenience to customers, but are built on business models with thin margins. Scale is the only answer to long-term viability, and GrubHub has found a partner to provide the bulk it needs in order to compete in a cutthroat competitive environment. The company hopes it has found the thin line between sufficient scale and anti-competitive size.

Google, Facebook and Microsoft cooperate to end online child sex abuse

There are more than 4.5 billion people online, and content for every possible age and interest. Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter have formed a coalition called the Technology Coalition to provide more resources to detect and prevent the sexual exploitation of children on the internet. Predators have been detected on child-specific sites such as Roblox, and the Technology Coalition wants to make it easier to identify and block bad actors. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Despite the world wide web being around for thirty years or more, it still feels like the early days, in many ways. With ever more innovative devices providing households and all ages with access to content, protecting children is extremely difficult. With children receiving smartphones at young ages, the barriers to adult content and the sharks that swim with it are nearly non-existent. The Technology Coalition has much room to work here, as the parental controls industry seems to have failed to develop effective solutions that offer safety without making managed surfing highly frustrating. Perhaps this is the place for AI to help find that gray area between dangerous and edgy.

Oculus Quest: still the best VR headset

Virtual reality (VR) has come a long way, and Facebook’s Oculus provides the best experience, according to CNET. The experience is simple, requiring few cables, connectors and software drivers. For gaming, new concepts, and alternate worlds, the company is on the leading edge. The dilemma, however, is that the technology does not fit into current reality as a tool or extension of our current daily routines.

dis-rup-shun: What will it take for VR headsets to become a mainstream consumer technology? If VR provided an alternative, and more enjoyable way to perform ordinary tasks, like participate in social media or even check and answer emails, then the technology would become mainstream. For now, VR is the tool for specialists, be it for intense gaming or learning. It will likely be another year or two until VR makers learn how to appeal to the mass tech market.

Apple splits with Intel

Apple is leaving Intel

A number of years ago, Apple announced that it would begin using its own processors for some of its Mac models. Today the company has announced that it will be making the transition in 2021. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: This move is significant in that it represents the beginning of the end of Intel’s relationship with a very large customer and it also signals the opportunity for Apple to further differentiate its computer line from the PC world by changing the microprocessor foundation on which the product line is built. By using chips that specialize in graphics, or computations, or in power savings, Apple can differentiate its product line beyond the software which today makes the experience different. Apple, unlike the rest of the computing industry, is becoming more, not less, proprietary. The strategy seems to be working so far!

The new rental economy adjusts to pandemic business

Rental companies, offering furniture, cars and rooms are adjusting to new models and finding success. While Hertz filed for bankruptcy, Turo, the site for car owners to rent out their cars, has found demand from people who are avoiding public transportation. Room renters are finding that many people need some privacy and away time after many months of quarantine-ing. Furniture rental businesses are finding success renting home office furniture and equipment. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Our global economies are clearly reeling from an unprecedented shut down, unlike anything seen before, but the resiliency of creative, enterprising people who have never-before-seen-tools of the Internet and social media, are rising from the ashes. Re-purposing assets and transaction platforms to meet the latest demands, whether they are masks or medicines, is the definition of entrepreneurship and it is rescuing our economies with unexpected haste.

IBM exits the facial recognition business citing racial injustices

IBM’s new CEO, the man who will be responsible for saving the company from gradual irrelevance, has already initiated some changes. Arvind Krishna has called on Congress to take bold action on racial injustice, and has stated that facial recognition technology, with its inherent bias against minorities, is not a technology that IBM can build a business on. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Aligning social responsibility with growth opportunities can be challenging, as the heads of Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and now IBM are finding on a regular basis. BigTech, despite its threats to competitiveness, is using its market strength to set new agendas — and more quickly than lawmakers can do. Consider that the new attitudes of corporate America are being set by a new tranche of leaders, many of whom are minorities themselves.

Microsoft rethinks gaming and XBox

Microsoft’s gaming leader, Phil Spencer, makes the point that the most popular forms of media, including Netflix, Kindle books, and Spotify music aren’t confined to a single platform. Games, and the ability to play with anyone on any platform, shouldn’t be locked into a single platform. With cloud gaming playing a larger role in the gaming space, the future of consoles is uncertain, but most likely more open and part of a bigger, cross-device ecosystem. Wired

dis-rup-shun: The examples Spencer uses underscore that successful media properties are rarely, in this time, locked into particular devices. With the intense competition between Apple and Android worlds, app makers have to create great experiences for both ecosystems, but only for two –making apps success across two platforms much easier. In the age of community created online, walls and barriers will be less popular, and cross platform experiences will continue to edge out walled gardens.

 

States consider break up of Google’s ad business

Attorney’s general consider breakup of Google’s ad business

Google’s ad business makes up the majority of its $161 billion in revenues. 50 state attorneys general are concluding that Google’s practice of bundling ad tools, along with its ownership of YouTube and Gmail, are anti-competitive. The Department of Justice is separately investigating Google and may combine its investigation with that of the states. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Like AT&T of old, great efficiencies have been created by the dominant service provider, and only government intervention can disrupt the ad machine created by Google. The U.S. government’s line in the sand is heavily influenced by political winds, and with the large issues of a pandemic, racial injustices and a sputtering economy, will Google escape the dismantling that some have predicted?

Apple adds features that make iPad a PC

Apple has quietly added a number of useful features into the latest iPhones and iPads. Features include better iMessage search, voice search, volume control, optimized battery charging, and more. One significant feature is the ability to pair a Bluetooth mouse to an iPad. CNET

dis-rup-shun: An interesting change has been occurring, with many people abandoning a laptop PC or MacBook as their primary personal computer, and using the ever more powerful iPad as their primary personal computing device. With the addition of a keyboard, this has made basic computer usage pleasant for many, however using spreadsheets and other mouse intensive applications (CAD hobby programs) has remained frustrating. Now, with the ability to use a mouse with an iPad, a full laptop is even less necessary.

Ready for an e-bike?

Cowboy is an e-bike maker that has released its second generation bike that has better gear ratios (making stop start riding in traffic even easier), has a removable battery, and updated software. The control app enables you to unlock the bike as you approach (for quick getaways), provides theft detection technology, and crash detection technology that calls for help if you wreck. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Electric assisted bikes currently cost over $2000 and are made by only a handful of companies, but expect the technology to become standard across most brands in the their mid- and upper- level models. Prices will fall as the technology becomes widespread, and selection of the bikes will depend, in large part, on the quality of their app in addition to features and craftsmanship.

A guide to the best monitors under $200

CNETreviews a number of leading monitors for under $200. Suggested brands include BenQ, LG, Dell, and the Auzai portable. Except for hard core gaming applications, these models will provide strong additions to a home office and, in some cases, decent built-in speakers. The Auzai portable works well for people in small spaces or who need to move their monitor frequently.

dis-rup-shun: If you haven’t been working with an external monitor, you don’t know what you are missing, as the extra screen space seems to increase productivity and simplify multi-tasking.

Zoominfo “Covid IPO” a smash

Zoominfo (not Zoom) skyrockets in IPO

The first tech IPO since the beginning of the coranavirus lockdown soared on Thursday, with an 80% price increase over the opening on day one. The tool uses AI to help companies find contact information for their target markets – an essential tool for sales. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: It was a bold move to test the public markets during times of uncertainty, and especially during a week of tremendous unrest over racial injustices — when many businesses are closed or closing early. The IPO’s success shows, aside from the fact that quality companies are rewarded, that our online/virtual economy is functioning quite well. Businesses that rely on in-person transactions and physical locations are clearly suffering, but our virtual business transactions are carrying on.

Slack and Amazon form alliance

It’s all about scale, and the new alliance increases Slack’s footprint across the entirety of Amazon, while ensuring more business from Slack for Amazon’s Web Services, the cloud engine powering Slack. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Remember Microsoft Azure cloud’s alliance with Fedex to help counter the dominance of Amazon Web Services and growing delivery network? The Amazon empire strikes back as it allies with friend Slack in an effort to beat down Microsoft — both its cloud services (Slack runs on AWS) and its Teams shareware — an existential threat to Slack. There is no earthly power that can beat Microsoft’s advantage of bundling Teams for free into its still very dominant Office suite, but this buys Slack more runway to differentiate and find new business models.

WiFi: the standard that enabled the smart home generation

CNET offers a look back over the past 25 years of tech, and discusses that the barrier to growth of the smart home was a lack of a home wiring standard. That standard arrived in the form of no-wires, with the advent of WiFi and eventual deployment of the standard first by tech savvy consumers buying WiFi antennas, then by telcos building WiFi into home routers.

dis-rup-shun: It is hard to imagine life without WiFi. It has become a commodity only slightly less-important than electricity, and just as expected. Streaming video and cord cutting is causing the de-coupling of Internet services (and WiFi) from the cable and telco, which will only accelerate with 5G providers who will offer fixed-mobile 5G alternatives to wires-to-the-home WiFi. We will all benefit greatly from this new competition.

Teleportation, time travel and the list of things to come

CNET’s list of technology visions that haven’t happened

We are awash with utterly amazing technology that we use every day. But what about the ones promised that have yet to occur? CNET’s list includes: hoverboards, Microsoft’s original Surface (a computer that was a table), flying cars, housekeeper robots, food pills, time travel and teleportation are a few of the favorites.

dis-rup-shun: There are generally three reasons that these technologies are not mainstream, and the least of them is technology. Bigger hurdles are competition in a time when the tech giants are so big that reaching scale for, especially, hardware devices is extraordinarily difficult. The lack of good use cases is another hurdle that has caused many advanced products to simply not find their place in our culture. As technology advances allow, many more impractical solutions without a problem will be trotted out in hopes of commercial success and a few will stick.

Ring updates its home security system

The second generation of Ring’s security system is a lot like the first, according to CNET, and according to the same review, it is the best of the inexpensive, DIY security systems on the market. Professional monitoring is $10, and the system can be had for less than $200.

dis-rup-shun: As Amazon owns Ring, we now have a convergence of hit products in an integrated smart home system: Ring’s well-known doorbell plus Amazon’s Alexa come together. Look out SimpliSafe, that’s a lot of brand power to outsell. The vulnerability of Ring’s products has been the unreliability of WiFi in certain parts of many homes, and potentially the WiFi booster in the kit removes that barrier.

SpaceX’s next launch: more satellites

On the heels of the successful Dragon launch of astronauts to the International Space Station on Saturday, SpaceX will launch its next batch of the eventual 12,000 it plans as its Starlink low orbit Internet provider. This batch of 480 satellites includes one with a visor to block the rays of the sun at certain times in orbit in order to prevent reflecting light back to earth, as the shiny train of satellites has forever altered the earthly view of the heavens. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Scenic views, be they vistas of historic and important capitol buildings, or beautiful vantage points of nature, have almost always succumbed to commercial development, and Starlink is one more example. This obstacle, however, is hard to alter once it is airborne as a chain of 12,000 spacecraft, so let’s hope this blackout works so our grandchildren won’t ask what the night sky was really like when filled only with real stars.

A guide to buying a gaming PC

What’s a gaming PC? It is a super-powerful PC (not Mac) with the latest add-on GPU (graphics processor) that will likely cost well over $3000 and can, of course, make a great office PC. It has a number of important gaming peripherals and is often assembled from components, but increasingly can be purchased off the shelf and ready to compete. Wired

dis-rup-shun: With time spent on gaming up at least 10% during quarantine, serious gamers have reason to take another look at their home horsepower. The world has likely changed and some changes, like socializing with your gamer community from inside your home, are unlikely to change post-quarantine. Expect the sales of gaming peripherals, licenses, and accessories to remain robust through this calendar year.

The internet of bees is saving crops

BeeHero is providing the Internet of hives

Bees are critical to the pollination of crops, and are dying at an alarming rate due to infestation of damaging mites. To prevent loss of crop production, farmers are calling on bee keepers to set up and tend important hives on and around fields. BeeHero, an Israeli tech firm, has developed an IOT sensor that resides inside the hive to monitor health, activity and stress levels, and transmit the information to bee keepers who can act quickly if problems are detected. Hive management has resulted in 30% to 100% increases in crop yield. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: IOT and agriculture are a good fit. IOT technologies, at least for consumers, have been hampered by difficulties to demonstrate adequate ROIs. Agricultural yields are directly measurable and a great showcase for IOT. More successful demonstrations will inspire new developments and greater contributions to better living through technology.

Google Pixel phones include personal safety features

Google continues to differentiate its phones through personal safety features. Last year it shipped car crash detection features and this year it is providing features that enable a user to have the phone confirm their safety if they are on a run or walk alone. The phone pings the owner on set intervals and requires an “all okay” response and, if none is received, informed one’s contacts of potential danger. TheVerge

dis-rup-shun: Differentiation through software is more important than ever, as smartphone makers struggle to find new hardware features. Keeping people safer and healthier is a strong selling feature, and while Google is going deep into safety, Apple continues to go deep in  healthcare.

U.S. Army considers using SpaceX’s Starlink network

Starlink is the chain of, ultimately, 42,000 satellites that SpaceX is launching into low orbit around the earth. The U.S. Army is testing the system as a way to deliver Internet services to hard-to-reach places around the globe. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Truly global Internet service will be a game changer to communities, to first responders, and to the military. The disastrous situation seen in Lone Survivor is but one example of fatalities that could have been avoided with truly global, high-quality data connectivity.

AirBnB landlords face shakeout as small players sell at losses

Coronavirus quarantine, ending most travel for at least two months, has caused a fire sale among small, independent landlords who are selling properties to big operators. Mom and pop investors and real estate owners, often leveraging debt to purchase rental properties, are shedding debt payment and selling at discounted prices while large investors are consolidating their holdings, picking up bargains. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Technology has not caused this industry shake-out, but has enabled far more people to participate in the modern hotel-ing business — one that appeared low-risk until the pandemic. Real estate is an industry that has traditionally been wrung out every decade or two, so this is just the latest in what is a highly cyclical industry. The individual traveler, however, loses when the diversity of housing options and prices is consolidated into the hands of large operators who control supply and pricing.

SpaceX crushes it for NASA

Launch America a multimedia event

The successful launch of NASA’s contracted-to-SpaceX return of astronauts to space from U.S. soil proved a celebratory event. One of the best YouTube compilations is, ironically, from BBC.

dis-rup-shun: Bob and Doug’s excellent adventure is amazing in many ways, including the fact that mankind has the technology to safely deliver humans to a space station that is moving at the speed of 4.76 miles per second (17,136 mph), that the company entrusted to complete this mission, SpaceX, did not exist until 18 years ago, and that the video footage of this event is crystal clear, from many camera angels and narrated as if it is a promotional film for both SpaceX and the U.S.A.

Software bot tracks security flaws for Pentagon

ForAllSecure is a company spun out of Carnegie Mellon University. Its software vulnerability bot, called Mayhem, rapidly analyzes code to spot vulnerabilities that then must be fixed by human coders.  The company is enjoying a $45 million contract to spot bugs in systems across the entirety of the U.S. military. Mayhem was born out of a Las Vegas hosted hacking competition sponsored by DARPA, with a $2 million prize. Wired

dis-rup-shun: A perfect application for artificial intelligence is to make AI more intelligent. With essentially all U.S. weapons systems having some software vulnerabilities, Mayhem’s value is, well certainly in the multi-millions of dollars.

Must read guide to 5G terms

5G is here and if you didn’t already know, it is the latest wireless transmission technology that is supposed to drastically increase data (and voice) transmission speeds over the air, create thousands of new jobs as people build new transmission facilities and develop software and service, and transform how we use mobile devices. CNET’s guide to understanding 5G lingo includes DSS, MIMO, small cell, and many others. CNET

dis-rup-shun: 5G is much hyped, and may be all of the things it is claimed to be, or simply may be an upgrade to our existing wireless infrastructure. What is certain, however, is that global governments are claiming that the country with the most 5G technology (providers and users), will gain technology superiority over its neighbors. So the 5G race, like the space race, will be intensely followed by the media.

Robots are replacing wheelchairs

Robotics continue to find important applications and one with great promise is for ambulatory impairments. Robot exoskeletons are providing relief and hope for people who can no longer walk. New examples are being developed by Caltech. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Commercialization of robots for impaired people will occur in only a handful of years, as enabling impaired persons to move around and exercise their bodies will provide any number of health and healthcare cost benefits, aside from the freedom and hope provided to those currently confined to wheelchairs.

An app that powers the kitchen sink

Finally an app for your kitchen sink

The Kohler Sensate smart kitchen faucet includes built in voice control — powered by your choice of Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant. And of course, there is an app to configure it, control it, and to view water consumption. Just tell Sensate that you want a two cups of water, and hold out the vessel. Power connection under the sink is required. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Smart home is here to stay and gaining traction fast. If you are worried about data security and privacy, you won’t like the fact that your kitchen sink is listening in on every conversation, but resistance is futile, as soon most every appliance and light switch in new homes and upscale hotels will be smart. For $895 to $1100 it should listen to your every command. Your grandchildren will be fascinated to learn that you once had to actually touch the handles on faucets around your home.

Cisco shells out $1 billion for Thousand Eyes

Thousand Eyes is a network health monitoring company providing diagnostic services to high-growth cloud businesses including Microsoft, PayPal, Slack and Lyft. Cisco, feeling left behind from slowing core network equipment growth has shelled out one billion dollars for the growth company, keeping things interesting. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The John Chambers-era Cisco seemed adept at going where the action was and remaining highly relevant as it powered the growth of the modern Internet. In past years, the company has been less visible, milking many of its cash cows but seemingly less on the front line of innovation. CEO Chuck Robinson is making a smart play that will keep Cisco enjoying the growth of cloud providers.

GE sells lighting brand to Savant

There are few brands as familiar as GE for lightbulbs, and time will tell if Savant, the smart home systems provider that seeks to address a mid-market, somewhere between Crestron on the high-end and Ring on the low-end, will continue to sell under the venerable brand. GE continues to shed assets in order to restore its former high performance, and the transaction allegedly fetched $250 million. CNET

dis-rup-shun: This acquisition is a product strategy head-scratcher. It is akin to Ruth Chris offering Krystal burgers, or Apple selling burner phones. Perhaps the high ticket Savant business wants a low-priced commodity to keep cash flowing faster, or perhaps it will use GE’s smart lighting line to move people up the food chain from a simple smart light bulb to a complete smart home system.

Time to get serious about home WiFi

Google Nest mesh router is a big step up from Google’s WiFi. If you have an unexpectedly larger number of people working from your home, you may be ready to look at upgrading WiFi. CNET discusses the major differences between the new generation Nest mesh router, and the first generation which can be summed up as easy controls through an app, each “pod” is also a Google Assistant smart speaker, with greater overall range and speed.

dis-rup-shun: WiFi is definitely spottier when three or four people are working from home, each hammering on Zoom on and off throughout the day. Now more than ever, a WiFi makeover is in order.  If we had only known, the $300 Google Nest WiFi investment would have been an easy investment on quarantine’s eve.

HBO Max, yet another streaming service

HBO’s new streaming service, HBO Max, enters the fray

HBO has entered a new option in the streaming wars, but their offering is more complicated. First, it costs $15 per month as opposed to Disney + for $7 and Netflix’s starting price of $9. Secondly, it doesn’t support 4K, nor is it available on the most common streaming devices — Roku and Amazon FireTV, and thirdly, if you already pay for HBO, you may have to pay for HBO Max separately. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The shape of TV continues to change quickly, and with more choices comes confusion. HBO’s entry into the fray will continue to up the ante for great original content, and consumers are the big winners in that battle. Currently, a great deal of cross-over exists among the streamers, with Amazon Prime offering access to HBO programs and STARZ select content for additional fees. The big question is, can the average household cut the cord, consume all it wishes, and still spend less than a pay TV service? For now the answer is yes, but the complicated future may put us on track to spend like we were still on DirecTV or Comcast.

Drones permitted to deliver protective equipment in North Carolina

Commercial drone flights remain heavily regulated by the FAA, but a special project of Zipline and Novant Health permits delivery of masks and front line health worker supplies during the pandemic. Drones are flying as far as 20 miles round trip to deliver packages of masks to health workers in Charlotte, NC. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Drones continue to face challenges of regulations, as interference with aircraft, with utility lines, and with neighborhood associations whose residents don’t want drones buzzing overhead and recording videos through their windows remains formidable.  Drone companies are using Covid-19 to gain footholds in industries, and these opportunities will, no doubt, accelerate adoption into commercial activities, and will also likely lead to designated flight lanes and landing platforms.

Tesla cuts EV prices

In the U.S. and China, Tesla will cut prices for its production vehicles as it attempts to jump start both factories as well as demand for its electric vehicles. Production has resumed in its Fremont factory. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Much talk abounds about how the post COVID-19 world will look, and we can be assured that demand for cars will be reduced for at least three years, if not longer. More people have learned that they can work from home, reducing the wear and tear on autos, which should last quite a bit longer if commuting frequencies are reduced. We are likely already in a recession, and most people will defer auto purchases in these uncertain times. This leaves Tesla, and every other car maker, with no other choice than to start a fire sale that will likely last the rest of this year and into next until inventories can be reduced.

Boeing resumes production of its 737 Max

Despite Coronavirus induced airline slowdowns and layoffs of over 700 workers, Boeing is restarting manufacturing of its beleaguered airliner.  The company is yet to receive clearance from the FAA to resume flying the aircraft. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: The company must see light at the end of the FAA testing tunnel, else deploying more capital into the program doesn’t make sense. The aircraft, assuming it becomes safe when revamped, is still an ideal configuration for the expected post-pandemic travel world, providing an efficient vehicle to optimize shorter-haul loads with a larger passenger capacity. If the aircraft is approved to resume flying, airlines may rely on it to play a bigger role in post-pandemic schedule restarts.

NYC sets guidelines for sex and dating

NYC sets policies for sex and dating during coronavirus

NYC’s Department of Health has issued guidelines for sex during coranavirus that states “You are your safest sex partner.” Online dating through dating websites has skyrocketed, and Zoom and FaceTime dates have become a common practice. With no messy logistics and complications of finding a place to meet and splitting the bill, some daters are booking up to four dates per evening. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: With the expense of an evening out and the uncertainties of what physical interaction will occur, using online apps to vet a potential partner will likely become a permanent part of the matchmaking process. In-person meetings may occur only after multiple online meetings, potentially changing the revenue model for online dating services.

Privatized U.S. space travel starts tomorrow

If the weather holds tomorrow, NASA will send the first astronaut from U.S. soil in nine years to space, in preparation for a trip to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX rocket, contracted by NASA. The event will be broadcast live via NASA’s and SpaceX’s websites. SpaceX

dis-rup-shun: NASA 2.0 is completely dependent on contractors who have essentially taken over all of the aspects of launch, mission control, and recovery. The U.S. government is putting its complete trust in private enterprise, demonstrating capitalism and semi-open competition at the very heart of national security and innovation. Let’s hope this experiment goes well.

Now, are you interested in VR to be more social?

Virtual Reality, or VR, has had many fits and starts, but limited consumer enthusiasm beyond gamers. XRSpace, a VR company from a founder of HTC, has announced its VR headset platform, available for $599 in a WiFi version. XRSpace is making the VR experience more social, so that users can meet up with avatars of their friends, and together attend events such as basketball games. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Has our societal structure really changed such that we will spend more time socializing from home? We now have the tools to engage far more with others without leaving home, and this may well have a permanent impact on sports, concerts, bars, and airlines, as we find from home engagement to be far more fulfilling, thanks to network-based technologies.

The new, remote Silicon Valley

Facebook expects that 50% of its employees will work remotely over the next decade. Accordingly, salaries will be adjusted based upon one’s home work location. Companies like Facebook that are creating remote work and chat tools will increasingly build upon distributed work forces. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Those who live and visit Silicon Valley frequently will be relieved that the area could receive relief from overcrowding, shortage of affordable housing, and a very tight workforce supply. Remote working could enable some normalcy as well as relieve the mounting demand for higher wages to area workers — potentially boosting productivity while lowering average wages paid.

TV for the great outdoors

Finally, a TV for the great outdoors

Samsung has introduced The Terrace, a high-end TV that is weather proof, and features a wireless connection to the set top box(es) that can be located indoors. This QLED TV starts at 55 inches and is available in 65 and 75 inch models. The TV is water and dust resistant, and priced accordingly — up to $6,500 for the biggest model. CNET

dis-rup-shun: As shelter-in-place continues, enhancing the back yard setup is even more attractive, but will Samsung, at premium prices, convince people to pay 3x the cost of a cheap TV that can be replaced every 18 months? Like its Frame flat mounted models, Samsung is drilling deeply into its most premium buyer segments, displacing high-end competitors such as LG.

Microsoft Build — the king of software thrives

Microsoft held its annual Build developer conference virtually this week. 200 thousand people register for the online event. The agenda focused largely on the Azure cloud platform. Microsoft is enhancing Azure’s AI capabilities, and providing a free package to healthcare companies, further investing in vertical cloud infrastructure to help open up the previously closed and proprietary data structure of healthcare companies. In addition, Microsoft is enhancing its popular Teams app with Lists, a task management application. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Microsoft 3.0 under Nadella is a breath of fresh air, with the company being less of the evil empire it was under Ballmer, but instead making very targeted and strategic enhancements for both consumers and industries, such as healthcare. The company seems more customer driven than in prior decades which is mostly thanks to much tougher competition in today’s marketplace. And to attract 200 thousand people for an online conference — this is a warning shot to the event planning industry. We may not be willing to give up three days to travel to crowded convention centers and overpriced hotels for conferences when virtual works.

Nvidia thrives on coronavirus

This semiconductor company made its name on graphics processors for gamers, which is partially responsible for it outperforming projections for the quarter. Jensen Huang, the founder and CEO, has kept this company nimble, and now it is thriving on a chipset designed for complex computations in data centers — following business to the cloud  and powering customers in a more virtual world. The stock is up 50% for the year. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Nvidia has continued to live on the fringes of giants Intel and Qualcomm, by focusing on niche applications and becoming the premium provider for those applications. Specialization and focus pay off again.

How well did you wash your hands?

Now there is a device, particularly for commercial establishments, that scans hands after washing to determine if any bad stuff remains on them. The PathSpot scanner can be mounted on the bathroom wall above the sink, and uses fluorescent light imaging and algorithms to detect bad things like e. coli. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: What is the economic cost of not washing your hands well? It could be zero, or it could be a week of work missed, or a week of work missed for ten infected people, or closure of a restaurant for several weeks, or spreading of a pandemic. The cost of a device seems trivial in light of these possibilities.

Apple accelerates the demise of college life

The death of college as we know it: Apple’s Schoolwork 2.0

Now, like never before, opportunities abound to participate in the radical and sudden transformation of the educational process. Apple had started the process with its Schoolwork app, but has accelerated the release of version 2.0 to make sure the company secures a strong foundation in the educational market. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Classroom apps are not new, nor are virtual classes. Millions of students and tens of thousands of teachers around the world, however, are now expert on the challenges and triumphs of online teaching and it is here to stay. As companies such as Apple redefine the learning experience to be Internet-centric and generally more convenient online, classrooms become unnecessary nice-to-haves. Colleges — meet your competition — it is headquartered in Cupertino, California and doesn’t lose.

Apple glasses — can they succeed?

Apple has been rumored for a handful of years to be producing smart glasses that combine AR into a new form factor. The latest rumor is the Apple Glass will cost $499 before prescription lenses. As CNET rightly points out, for Apple Glass to catch on and not befall the fate of Google Glass, the glasses must be comfortable, everyday accessories that replace our current glasses.

dis-rup-shun: Recall when you learned that Apple was going into the watch business. First reactions may have been doubt that Apple could pack sufficient technology onto a wrist and that the category was dying with younger people using smartphones to track time. Now Apple enjoys the largest share of smartwatches and the category is the highest growth segment of its product line. Let’s hope Apple can make glasses smart, and bring augmented reality to the everyday, not to mention making eyeware more exciting than even Warby Parker has done.

Clubhouse app, highly exclusive and highly valued

How does an app with only 1,500 users and no website get valued at $100 million? The answer is exclusivity. You have to know someone special to get access to this rarefied social network that hosts video discussions between such as MC Hammer, and venture capital titans Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz. Users can browse and enter virtual rooms where there may one or more celebrities available for chat. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: It’s all about access, and people are willing to pay handsomely to get access to influential people. This raises the question, if this app is successful at drawing a bigger audience, will the audience be getting the access they crave? Unlike essentially every other app, perhaps Clubhouse is not about scale, but is about paying high prices for access to inaccessible people.

Apple acknowledges the facial recognition problem

If you have been fighting your iPhone for facial recognition while you are wearing a mask, Apple understands, and has reduced the time between facial recognition failure and pop up of the keypad for code entry. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: While this is helpful, Apple users still have to struggle to attempt to unlock their phones to make a mobile payment while holding their groceries while masked. Using location tracking and AI, Apple should enable your phone to understand your behavior and remain unlocked as you navigate your regular grocery store or pharmacy — struggling to read your on-phone grocery list and make an electronic payment at checkout.

Fedex and Microsoft unite to conquer Amazon

Fedex and Microsoft unite against rival Amazon

Today Microsoft and FedEx announced details of their partnership to best Amazon by combining Microsoft’s cloud services with FedEx’s logistics network to create a better shipping experience for customers. Amazon, the kingpin in cloud services, is rapidly growing its own logistics business, adding both trucks and planes to rival FedEx and UPS. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The smart people at Microsoft continue to amaze, and perhaps they have some impressive strategies to beat Amazon at their game of total world domination. But Amazon has been fueled by the quarantine, with growth well in advance of projections. Stopping Amazon will be difficult without assistance from the Department of Justice, and that looks unlikely at the current time.

A robot that guesses your emotions from your walk

Researchers at the University of Maryland have developed ProxEmo, a robot powered by software that reads people’s gait and body language to determine their emotional state. By observing people’s facial expression and mapping their walking gait onto a model, the technology determines if the person should be given more space, or if they are potentially in need of support. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Technology to improve health and wellness is on the rise, but few applications are designed to monitor and manage mental health and wellness. Public school systems around the country have spent significant dollars for cameras with facial recognition technology that is designed to identify hostile visitors who may intend harm.  Mental wellness is an under-served need that will benefit greatly from artificial intelligence.

An app for NYC subway sounds

For the hundreds of thousands of people who used to spend a part of their day on a subway, and are missing the familiar sounds, there’s an app for that. TheVerge

dis-rup-shun: Thanks to the Internet for bringing really long-tail content to the general public.

Best smart locks

Digital Trends reviews the growing smart lock category and chooses August Smart Lock Third Generation as the best, most secure, and easiest to install. The review also categorizes the best lock for your chosen smart home platform (Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Home). The review also includes Level Lock, a unique option that fits all of the electronics inside the door, concealing the fact that you even have a smart lock.

dis-rup-shun: This review implies that consumers are choosing their smart home products based on their preferred control interface (Alexa, Google, iPhone, Android phone). But most smart home products work with all of these interfaces, so this approach does not help a confused consumer. It will take apartment communities and builders to make smart locks a standard offering for this product to reach a mass market, but the Gen Z consumers who are never without their smartphones will prefer buildings and homes that offer smart home technologies.

CES in the time of Covid-19

Is CES 2021 viable in the age of Covid?

Forbes takes a look at the chances of the world’s largest consumer electronics event, CES, produced by the Consumer Electronic Association, taking place as planned. Despite the event being seven months away, assembling 160,000 people in a crowded venue is likely to be seen risky by many of the event’s sponsors and participants. Forbes

dis-rup-shun: It is hard to imagine a year without the bittersweet meeting of the entire tech industry for three brutal days of shuffling across miles of concrete and standing in dozens of cab lines. To be clear, there are few events anywhere that can yield as many meetings, discoveries and news headlines as CES, not to mention pumping billions into the Las Vegas economy. A virtual CES just wouldn’t do much for anyone.

MIT uses appliance data to measure health

MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab is developing a system that uses a single motion sensor in the main room of a home, combined with a sensor that measures electricity used by appliances, to determine one’s household patterns, and anomalies. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Remote monitoring of seniors has become a higher priority with many residential facilities closed to visitors. AI becomes smarter with more data, making better assessments between actual emergency and simple deviation in routine. Commercially available remote senior monitoring systems are currently in market from innovators such as People Power, Alarm.com, GreatCall, and should become commonplace offerings of retailers, telcos and insurance companies in the next few years.

How gamers made Romania and Singapore fastest Internet countries

Today Romania and Singapore enjoy some of the fastest constant broadband internet speeds in the world. Their broadband infrastructure was created to whet the appetites of gamers who were willing to pay for steady, fast services and, in the early days of the Internet, frequently connected physical cables from apartment to apartment to great LANs for gaming. As cable providers entered the market, gamers would share the fastest cable service across their LAN. That grass roots competition led to high speed and low latency services nationwide. Wired

dis-rup-shun: This is a great story of supply and demand, and human innovation. The article also discusses how Google’s Stadia cloud gaming platform, despite having good content, is limited by inconsistent Internet services throughout the world, making the gaming experience inconsistent and less appealing. Apple’s Arcade, on the other hand, focuses on casual games in which latency is less of a factor.

August smart lock gets smarter

A new, smaller, better smart lock is available from August. The new model, called Wi-Fi Smart Lock, uses built in Wi-Fi, no longer requiring a separate hub device. For $249, you can unlock or lock your home from anywhere in the world that you can access the Internet — perfect for AirBnB, assuming that will come back. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: August, like Nest was to thermostats, is the lead innovator of the smart lock business, but the real mass market upgrades of locks to smart locks will be driven by the giants in the industry such as Schlage, Kwikset and Yale by Assa Abloy – the company that has recently purchased August Home. As Assa and its big competitors roll the August technology into brands that locksmiths and builders know well, then we will see a proliferation of smart locking homes. I’m guessing this transition will happen in three to five years.

 

Spotify DJ feature enables group experience

Spotify enables group therapy

Spotify’s premium subscribers may now enjoy and group listening feature. By offering others a temporary code, the subscriber can quickly create a group listening session in which all members can control the queue and be the DJ. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: For music lovers, the fun of Spotify has long been to sit with friends and ask questions about favorite bands — then play favorite songs. Now a group of people can share control and set new rules for the session, enriching the Spotify experience over its rival music streaming providers.

TiVo Stream 4K cord cutter

If you are familiar with TiVo and want to cut the cord, the company has released a dongle/remote combination device, similar to Chromecast, Roku and Amazon Fire Stick. The $49 device uses Google Assistant for voice search, and provides top notch sound and video quality. The device provides an intelligent user interface that learns based on what you like to watch. Forbes

dis-rup-shun: With live sports on hiatus, there just aren’t many compelling reasons to pay a fat cable TV bill anymore. And those DVRs that we have learned to love? They are playing a smaller and smaller role in our lives as we are more inclined to stream, except of course, for Grey’s Anatomy and non-existent sports.

Quibi is not essential entertainment, say consumers

Despite initial signs that this video-only subscription video service was an early hit, things are not going well. Slow subscriber uptake is being blamed on Corona virus and on the app’s inability (by design) to not share screen shots with other apps or on social media. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: It seemed like this novel concept was off to a great start, serving 1.7 million downloads in its first week. It seemed that Corona virus and a captive audience’s need for entertainment would provide the launch with unprecedented advantages, but alas, it seems that people are not craving another subscription entertainment service. With an all-star cast of executives (Jeffery Katzenberg, Meg Whitman and others) behind the venture, creative ideas may improve uptake. With T-Mobile offering a free year of Quibi, word of mouth may create demand among people who will pay.

Tesla will support in-car video conferencing

Musk recently commented that Tesla models will soon support video conferencing, using the tiny built-in camera and the 15 inch displays on the dashboard. The features are ideal for future, self-driving models, but will be available in limited situations before then. Forbes

dis-rup-shun: Tesla is working hard to show the auto industry a lot of things, but one of those is that a long lag time for new technologies to be built-in to cars should not exist. Technology accessories have long been important product differentiators, and by incorporating important features, like a 15 inch tablet on the dash, Tesla is engaging tech lovers and digital natives.

Work from home is here to stay

Work from home is a permanent shift

Given the uncertainty of the future of the pandemic growth curve, employers will be very slow to invite workers back to offices. The staggered reopening of offices, combined with the effectiveness of tools provided to workers to work at home, will make working at home a permanent option for many employees. Global Workplace Analytics pegs the per employee savings at $11,000 per year. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Many companies, for a number of years, have been coordinating geographically dispersed workforces using Internet-based tools. Now that the rest of the economy has been forced to test virtual work forces, the results are positive, and the demand for face to face or shoulder to shoulder teams is greatly reduced. The industries impacted, to name a few, are public transit, real estate developers, office furniture makers, and certainly airlines.

Minecraft hosts virtual graduation ceremony

A number of college seniors and Minecraft players, frustrated by cancellation of their graduation ceremonies, developed the concept of Quarantine University. The virtual university will host a ceremony featuring the avatars of graduates of multiple universities — 1,338 from 439 universities. Wired

dis-rup-shun: While it is unlikely that post-Covid graduation ceremonies will be virtual, expect to see more events taking place on multiple digital platforms. In-game experiences already include live concerts, and will increasingly become a platform for live events other than gaming. In-game wedding anyone?

5G critical to telehealth, says Qualcomm

Qualcomm’s CEO explained that the data speeds afforded by 5G are critical to telehealth, particular regarding the use or portable ultrasound machines and stroke detection devices. Today over 200 million telemedicine networks exist in the U.S. alone. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Network providers and their vendors, such as Qualcomm, are working hard to justify the expense, and migration to, 5G networks. Carriers have no choice but upgrade networks, and finding high bandwidth applications that justify premium pricing is a priority. Telehealth is a niche application that has become far more important during this pandemic, and will increasingly be an important component to future healthcare plans.

Withings sleep pad helps diagnose sleep problems

For those that find sleep difficult, and don’t wish to wear a watch to bed, Withings Sleep actually tucks under your mattress and provides a plethora of sleep data to your smartphone. The data is then used to analyze your sleep difficulties, and suggest ways to enhance your rest. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Quantified self — the movement to quantify personal performance for a number of tasks, is the companion to telehealth. Healthcare professionals in the future will increasingly rely on data in order to both diagnose maladies as well as ensure adherence to treatment regimens. Expect healthcare professionals to increasingly recommend or even prescribe the use of data collection devices.

Tinder’s online dating usage is up

Match’s Tinder sees increase in online dating

Led by the company’s Tinder division, Match is seeing an uptick of 17% from last year. The increase is fueled by women under 30 who have increased messaging traffic on the platform. Dallas Morning News

dis-rup-shun: Being alone at home provides a great deal more time to explore interests, including finding someone to see once you can see people. Pre-Coronavirus statistics showed that the online generation was not dating or having sex as much as older generations — satisfying their interests with other online adventures. Statistics in one to three years will reveal if the current generation of young and single people are in general, more satisfied with dating online than in person.

Smartwatch shipments up 20% in Q1

Consumers wanted more smartwatches in the first quarter, and Apple’s share is 55%, followed by Samsung at 15% and Garmin in third place. The increase is thought to be driven by people wanting to monitor their health during the lockdown. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Fitness is one preoccupation of people with time on their hands, and walkers are jamming the streets all over the world. Given the lockdown did not impact most consumers until late in Q1, the sales statistics cause one to contemplate if buying a smartwatch was a pent up demand that was satisfied as people increased fitness activities in lieu of social activities in the second half of March.

Mobile handset manufacturing resumes in India

The world’s second largest smartphone market, India, will allow handset manufacturers to gradually resume manufacturing this month. China’s Xiaomi is India’s largest phone supplier. The supply chain had completely shut down, leading to zero phone production last month. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: The global supply chain for smartphones has sputtered, stopped, and now has resumed in China and India. Will consumers, later this year, be faced with shortages as a result of certain components not meeting demand, or will the current trend to hold on to handsets longer lead to a more permanent, general slowdown in smartphone consumption — a factor critical to the health of the tech sector?

Robot deployed in Singapore parks to encourage social distancing

Spot, the cheetah-looking robot designed by Boston Dynamics, is roaming Singapore’s principal park this weekend to remind visitors to keep their distance from their neighbors, playing pre-recorded messages. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: A pandemic is a perfect time to test robots and drones, as the public’s acceptance of both is much higher than normal. Safe delivery of products is a logical application. But what about replacing much of urban police forces with robots with cameras that roam public areas to enforce ordinances? Will consumers, who can’t be identified with anything other than facial recognition, heed the commands of a machine? We are about to find out as robots are increasingly deployed in public places. Expect the presence of a machine with cameras to lower the crime rate in certain public areas.

 

Peloton revenues surge 66%

Peloton revenues up 66% as online fitness booms

The online biking and fitness company has expanded from spin classes to treadmill classes to bootcamp, crossfit, running and many other fitness activities. Last month it hosted a class with 23,000 participants. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: If you haven’t tried this COVID winner, you will find that the quality of the workouts is as good as any expensive exercise studio in town, save for the camaraderie. Peloton’s short-term success will put a long-term dent in fitness clubs. Fitness clubs will need to emphasize and promote personal training, as classes at home are as good as at the club.

Microsoft unveils more Surface options including earbuds

Microsoft continues to refine its Surface line, with additional units and accessories, including a docking station, upgraded headphones and new earbuds. Microsoft’s high quality hardware line gets stronger in the midst of slumping PC sales. Wired

dis-rup-shun: While the economy is in shambles, higher-end technology companies are seeing strong demand for quality products among those that are spending an extraordinary amount of time on screens at home. Microsoft continues to compete well with its biggest customers, such as Dell, Lenovo, HP, Acer and others. The big PC makers will need to continue to find ways to expand into consumer electronics — something they have failed to do many times, as the PC business continues to mature and as Microsoft and Apple continue to carve out strong shares.

Best online games to play with friends during lockdown

CNET reviews the top online games to keep us entertained during lock down. Some favorites include Jackbox Games — easy online games, the Escape Game — the best virtual escape room, Tabletopia — the best online board games, Houseparty — best mobile games, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons for a hang-out activity.

dis-rup-shun: Two ironic truths of the lockdown are that, one, technology is bringing us community, and two, our sense of community has strengthened. These are generalizations, but it is safe to say that our pre-COVID fears that out culture was unraveling in part due to people’s immersions into their small screen has reversed. Screens are now the conduit for maintaining and even deepening our communities, and casual gaming together is a new way to have fun together.

Smart home platform Wink abruptly shifts to subscription model

Wink, the smart home hub with much promise, purchased by will.i.am in 2017, has stated that due to economic conditions, the company will now charge a monthly fee of $4.99 to subscribers who wish for their hub to continue operating.

dis-rup-shun: The smart home business is a tough one — requiring players to have deep pockets in order to make complicated business models pay off over time. The upside to the category has always been the ability to charge a monthly fee in exchange for a valued service, as just selling hardware works only for a few very efficient companies. will.i.am will be better served at less complicated ventures.

 

 

 

Telehealth surges paving the way for change

Telehealth surges – possibly reshaping care delivery

Just how much has COVID boosted the telemedicine industry? The incumbent players in the space include Teladoc, MDLIVE and American Well, as well as international companies including Britain’s Babylon, Sweden’s Kry and France’s Doctolib. Babylon signed on 140,000 new users in the UK since the onset of COVID. Companies have been providing telehealth for more than half a dozen years, but the healthcare industry has been slow to embrace remote care. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Healthcare providers in the U.S. have been on a building tear, throwing neighborhood clinics into many neighborhoods, creating, in many places, a glut of walk-in clinics. For this reason, along with resistance to change, telecare has not been attractive to providers. Consumers, however, have experience the convenience of remote care, and will likely, for many years, hold on to a fear of being in places with sick people. Expect care providers to embrace telehealth and blend remote services into traditional offerings.

Britian’s NHS creates its own national contact tracking app, shunning Google and Apple collaboration

Britain’s National Health Service has developed a Bluetooth-based contact tracking app which stores contact data between all users of the app in a database. If individuals choose to self-identify as infected, the app can notify all of those people who were in contact with the infected person. The NHS app stores data on a central server, whereas the Google Apple contact tracking app stores info on smartphones in a decentralized architecture. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: So, to whom do you wish to provide your location data: Big Tech, federal government, or no one? In the spirit of helping our communities track and address pandemics, do we offer data and participate, or, as CNBC states, is mission creep too tempting by any party? Big Tech already has the majority of our personal data if we own a smartphone, so perhaps trusting BigTech to use the data not only for profit but also for good is enough. Separation of tech and state will have to remain strong for all but those who wish to entrust all personal info to their governments.

Tom Cruise and Elon Musk collaborate on movie filmed in space

Cruise and Musk are apparently partnering on a project to film a movie, or some of a movie, aboard one of Musk’s SpaceX crafts. No details were offered on schedule, plot or names. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Musk has often been guilty of blurring the lines between space business and show business, and Cruise has often been guilty of considering himself out of this world, so the collaboration may be a match made in heaven. Before launching Hollywood into outer space, SpaceX must successfully send a NASA astronaut to the International Space Station on May 27th. If that goes well, perhaps movie talk is in order.

A rare event — Apple products on sale

A number of hot products from Apple, including the generation 5 watch, iPad, iPod and AirPods are among the items being cleared from Best Buy stock — an event that rarely occurs. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Strange times make for strange sales, and Best Buy, despite having a steady online business, is suffering mightily, like most all other retailers, from stores shuttered for nearly two months. Expect quite a few surprising sales as companies across the globe from Neiman Marcus to Best Buy fight for survival and liquidate inventory.

Covid Coach is the mental health app to keep you coping

Covid Coach mental health app helps people cope

Covid Coach offers people in isolation a number of tools to deal with anxiety, loneliness and depression, by offering tips on applying for unemployment, meditation guidance, and a way to measure stress and anxiety in an effort to manage it. Wired

dis-rup-shun: The app, from the National Center for PTSD is yet another way to engage technology for health. As mental health treatments are rarely discussed, providing a confidential, easy to access tool for everyone, the National Center for PTSD is proving the value of public health programs.

NVidia scientist creates $400 ventilator

The innovators at Nvidia, the chip company that has powered game consoles, auto dashboards, and millions of PC graphics processors has developed a simple, power efficient ventilator using a small number of components. It’s $400 price tag stands in contrast to the $20,000 charged by traditional ventilator manufacturers. The system is now being submitted to the FDA for emergency certification. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Competition is good, and the pandemic is tearing down many walls that were erected by companies that don’t want competition. One barrier that justifies the inflated price for medical equipment is FDA certification. With an emergency certification process in place, the FDA will be hard-pressed, after the end of the pandemic, to prove why nimble companies cannot compete, in perpetuity, with the healthcare equipment incumbents.

Use your phone as video camera for video calls

It’s easy to join video calls with your phone, but if you need to share your desktop and your office computer does not have a working camera, several apps enable your phone to serve as video camera for your desktop video calls. For Android to PC, there’s DroidCam. For iPhone to PC, there is iVCam, and for Android to Mac, try EpocCam. Wired

dis-rup-shun: In the age of work from home, image matters, and having a crisp, steady image and great audio are the new “dress for success.” If your built-in camera is crummy and you have an older smartphone that is not in use, this may be the answer.

Airbus app helps airlines find parking places for aircraft

The airline industry is operating at 5% of last year’s numbers. More than 16,000 aircraft are parked. Finding enough space at airports around the globe to stack giant planes is an unprecedented logistics challenge. Airbus has developed an app that helps airlines find new places to park jets. Watch the video here CNBC.

dis-rup-shun:  The drop in demand for aircraft will take months to years to ripple through the economy, forcing aircraft manufacturers to turn to new revenue sources, like on-the-ground maintenance. Maintaining jets in remote locations that are not in service will be a big business for the next year. Now is a time to see how innovative Boeing and Airbus can be at not building new planes.

A smart vaping device?

Smart vaping — tracking (bad) habits

IO(S)T — the Internet of smoking things is here. The PuffPacket, developed with the help of researchers at Cornell, connects your vaping device to your smartphone via Bluetooth, at which point vapers can view their vaping activity on an app, and can opt to send it to the cloud where various other parties may use the data for various purposes. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: What is the value of your vaping data? To vaping device and cartridge manufacturers, knowing when and how you use their products will help them improve both their products and their advertising. For you, knowing when you most enjoy the experience will help you purchase the right supplies for the right times, or will help you know when you need substitute products if you desire to quit. For regulators, the data will help them understand trends and policies needed to protect minors.

Coronavirus damage report: advertising

This week, a number of advertising-fueled businesses reported earnings. The good news is that a slow March did not hurt the top line drastically. The bad news is that the damage will come in the second quarter. Some executives expect the pullback in advertising to come in waves over the coming quarter, but expect sector performance to vary. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Two factors are working for the advertising industry’s favor: one is a very strong January and February, which kept the quarter somewhat healthy, and the diversification of Big Tech companies that are not only major advertising engines, but also purveyors of entertainment, logistics and video conferencing — all of which thrived in usage during shelter in place.

Studio quality microphone to enhance video calling and video making

The Rode GO lavalier microphone is the $199 device that is next in the transformation of your home into a top notch conference center or video production studio. During the time of quarantine, many have purchased new monitors, special behind computer lighting and created special backgrounds. Adding a wireless mic brings high quality audio to the home studio/office.TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Remember the book Wikinomics? The book, published in 2006,  stated that the new Internet economy was all about decentralizing (formerly) specialized functions, such as journalism and yes, movie making. Pro-grade tools available for a few hundred dollars or less will continue to blur the lines between amateur and professional content and provide massive amounts of long-tail content for the world to enjoy.

Amazon smart oven: IOT gone awry

Wired’s Joe Ray chronicles the frustration of trying to find conveniences provided by a smart oven. Amazon’s offering, leaning heavily on Alexa, the smartphone app, and cross-selling packaged food from Amazon, proves complicated and, ultimately, not helpful. Wired

dis-rup-shun: In defense of Amazon (not that they need defending), much of the problem is that the microwave was intended to make something complicated (cooking) very simple. The truth is, using IOT technology to make something that is already simple more simple results in complications. It is safe to say that very few people actually cook in their microwave — it is for quick heating or thawing — and therefore trying to turn the device into something more is a task in itself. IOT is valuable to consumers when it solves a problem. When IOT goes looking for a problem, it usually fails.

 

Moxie robot teaches kids what parents don’t

Moxie robot builds children’s social and emotional skills

Moxie is a small robot for children. It is designed by the founder of iRobot, makers of Roomba whose current company, Embodied, has identified the need to help children with deficiencies in social and emotional development. Moxie becomes a new friend and mentor for children, helping them learn to make eye contact when speaking, remember to thank people, and complete a number of human tasks. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Sad. Parents aren’t modeling social and emotional skills for their children and need to outsource parenting to a little robot. On the other hand, we all know people whose parents clearly skipped those lessons when raising them, and would have benefited from a robot step-parent. Expect teaching robots to be common household appliances in three to five years.

Zoom chooses Oracle in chess match with Google and Microsoft

Zoom announced that it has chosen Oracle, a distant “also ran” cloud infrastructure provider to handle the exploding demand for Zoom’s video conferencing services. The choice became clear as cloud leaders Microsoft with Teams video conferencing software and Google with its Meet video software announced plans to provide the software for free (Teams is a no-cost add-on to users of Office). Zoom stated that it was not interested in funding its rival’s free offerings. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The diversity of the organizations under Big Tech’s umbrellas make it hard for smaller technology players to determine who is friend or foe. Is Google’s massive ad platform, the leading online marketplace, also a threat as it collects shopping and traffic data of all of its customers’ customers? Is Amazon’s leading cloud platform — a significant infrastructure provider — providing competitive data to Amazon.com? Scale obviously has advantages, but creates many conflicts that are the source of much of the Justice Department’s concerns about Big Tech, which have been muffled by the COVID crisis.

Electric Harley Davidson is the company’s latest reinvention

Harley’s LiveWire is an exciting offering in the growing electric motorcycle market. Harley has broken its tradition of using mostly its own components and has sourced best of breed components from other vendors to create a state of the art device. For $30,000, one can have an efficient, renewable energy work of art. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Harley has taken a play out of Tesla’s playbook. That is, the company is first launching a state-of-the-art, top-of- the-line product that redefines the company’s image as leading innovator. GM’s approach to electric vehicles — starting with the economy-minded Volt, proved unexciting. Harley, like Tesla, can later target a larger, more mainstream motorcycle buyer with a less expensive electric model, but first it will tantalize the market with a product many people, including non-cycle enthusiasts, would like to own.

Indoor security camera round up: Wyse wins

CNET offers a quick review of the top indoor Wi-Fi connected cameras, from the best value to the most sophisticated. The Wyze camera costs $20 with 2 weeks of free video storage. Netatmo works with HomeKit, the iPhone native home control app. Nest Cam IQ recognizes faces and tells you who is coming and going.

dis-rup-shun: These amazing cameras at amazing prices will continue to make homes smart. My employer’s latest survey, research firm Interpret, determines that 11% of U.S. broadband users have a smart security camera installed. With the Nest Cam, how could you teenager ever deny coming home after curfew? Expect that 11% to grow steadily as people solve “home problems” with video.

 

Drones deliver meds to retirement community

UPS and CVS use drones to deliver meds to retirement homes

Residents at Florida’s The Villages retirement community will receive medications via drone, starting next month. The companies have been testing the service since last year and are now addressing the challenges of the current conditions by delivering medications to a facility that is particularly vulnerable to visits from non-residents. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The current shelter in place environment is a text book application for medicines delivered by drones — especially since most drones cannot carry a heavy payload. Light loads such as medications, in emergency situations, are an ideal application of the aircraft. Regular specialty delivery applications will advance the role of drones as everyday link in the logistics chain.

Airbus 380, the largest passenger jet, is 15 years old and retired

The massive A380 is the largest production passenger plane ever built and is Airbus’ answer to the Boeing 747 — provided to a market that was clamoring for large, efficient craft to optimize hub and spoke airline operations models. The A380, however, turned out to be more fixed asset than most airlines wanted — requiring terminal and tarmac re-configurations and oceans of fuel to operate. Airbus expected to sell over 1200 models over its product life, but pulled the plug on the program after selling only 251. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The Corona Virus pandemic did not kill the A380, but it put the last nail in the coffin as all A380s are currently grounded. Attacking business problems with scale is difficult, and risky. While scale often looks like the proper strategy on paper, the inflexibility created by commitments large enough to keep a fleet of A380s flying has proved to be a hindrance. The A380 will be honored as both an engineering feat as well as case study in business planning.

WFH is working well for a large number of displaced workers

In a multi-state survey, 42% of respondents reported to be working from home, up from 9% who were working from home pre-COVID. Among respondents working from home, 24% indicate a desire to remain at home or working at home more frequently after the shelter in place order is over. 60% of workers stated that they are equally or more productive at home than in office, and 28% said time saved on commuting was spent working longer. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Even a 5% shift in work habits will send ripples through the office economy — lowering demand for office space, office supplies, lunch counters, commuter trains, bus seats, tolls, gas consumed and dry cleaning, to name a few items. The productivity gains proven from web conferencing and remote work platforms such as Teams and Slack will result in permanent structural changes to many organizations — and potentially better performance and lifestyles for workers.

Books sales are booming – not just at Amazon

Online booksellers are pandemic winners. Independent bookseller upstart Bookshop expects to complete $6 million in sales in year one, and hot topics are gardening, sustainability and eco-friendly activities, while guide books, travel and foreign language topics are duds. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Not just Bezos, but everyone in the online book business is enjoying the spoils of a captive audience. At home online entertainment companies are thriving, including those that support cooking, streaming video, music services, games, sexual health, exercise and home delivery, to name a few.

Your personal data could prevent future pandemics

Social networks may be the future of epidemic tracking

Carnegie Melon University is working to use self-reported personal data to Facebook and Google, about COVID and statistics on doctor visits to build a data map of the pandemic, which may be a powerful predictive tool for future outbreaks.  Wired

dis-rup-shun: This is a great example of how using your data and mine can help scientists identify movement of diseases from region to region, perhaps better preparing communities for what is coming, and understanding what actions may be taken to curtail outbreaks. This data is provided by willing volunteers, so if it seems creepy or “overstepping” consider that individuals have decided to make a contribution, using the new currency of personal information. After all, you are already contributing every day, thanks to your smartphone.

Facebook adds video calling for 50 to Messenger

Facebook won’t get left out of the video conferencing boom. The company will begin, this Friday, enabling free video calling for up to 50 through Messenger rooms over which the host can control access and invite people without having Facebook accounts. Video call traffic in WhatsApp and Messenger has more than doubled since the beginning of the global pandemic. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: First there was the telegraph, and a company called ITT dominated. Eventually the telephone replaced the telegraph, and calling was dominated by AT&T. Then, of course, there were mobile phones dominated by a company called Cingular Wireless, and then there was the Internet, dominated by Google for search and Facebook for social networking. Will Zoom become the dominant video conferencing provider of the next era, controlling the majority of video conference calls? Not if Facebook can stop them with WhatsApp and Messenger. Leadership is changing quickly with the world turning to virtual communities and Facebook knows that an opportunity lost may not ever be regained.

Fortnite in-game concert event attracts 12.3 million players

Epic Games’ Fortnite property hosted a live, in-game concert by rapper Travis Scott. The psychedelic event was a debut for new music from the rapper. The event follows prior events featuring a never before seen clip from Star Wars, and Chance the Rapper’s Quibi debut. Event attendees received special Fortnite loot. CNET

dis-rup-shun: An alternative reality is not complete without an alternative economy, and attracting players with big name live events does a good job of pumping up the latter. Epic is creating buzz for Fortnite and, just like a live concert, gets a bump from selling special items within the event. And you thought there was nothing to do during quarantine?

Airtime app creates a YouTube viewing party

The new Airtime app from YouTube enables a group of friends, families, or associates to experience a curated set of video together, in a private viewing room on YouTube. Once friends are alerted and invited, then sign in to a private room where they can, together, watch a movie of show, watch and video chat with one-another, and pause the video as desired. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Forget homework — every night is now a Friday night sleepover with this app. This blend of YouTube and Zoom takes virtual community building to a new level. Expect group activities such as going to a mall, a movie theater or a frozen yogurt shop to be permanently impacted by increasingly better ways to hang out without every leaving home.

 

Google changes the ad game, again

Google requires all advertisers to provide identity to consumers

Google is making a major change to online advertising, requiring all advertisers to provide their identity and country of origin for any consumer that clicks “Why this ad?” button. All advertisers will be given 30 days to comply with the same disclosure that Google has required of political candidates since 2018. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: It is very gratifying to see new CEOs such as Google’s Sundar Pichai join Microsoft’s not-so-new CEO, Satya Nadella, do logical and smart things to make their companies better industry leaders. Maybe Zuckerberg will get inspired to polish up his company’s tarnished reputation, and take a leadership position in the right direction.

Apple releases cheap but powerful iPhone

Apple’s iPhone SE is out this Friday, and while Apple has not made much noise about it, it is a powerful offering at $399. For less than half of the flagship iPhone 11, one can get the same processor, much of the same camera technology (no zoom or wide angle) in what is an iPhone 8 case. Battery life is shorter, but if you charge daily, no big deal. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Why is this a big deal? Apple needed to beef up its low end to ward off growing rivals from Korea and China that are offering amazing functionality for less. Also, in the post-COVID-19, yet-to-be-named recession we are now in, plopping down a grand for a new device will be a low priority. As long as you are not ashamed by your smaller screen, you can replace your old or broken phone without breaking the bank.

WAH desk injuries? Get a massage gun

One side effect of sitting at your desk for inordinate hours is aches and pains in the back and butt. Percussive massage guns are an increasingly important work at home tool, along with large monitors, standing desks, and back lighting for web conferences. There are a variety of massage gun models for different conditions. Jen Reviews

dis-rup-shun: Working at home, if you are not home schooling, raises efficiency and output for most knowledge workers. It also required that people learn when to leave the office. For many, the result is 14 or more hours in the desk chair, especially since our social lives often take place from the same seat. Post sheltering massage businesses should see a surge in demand, but until then, massage guns and Peloton workouts will sustain us.

Smart homes learn by listening

Carnegie Melon University and Apple are partnering to develop Listen Learner AI technology. Listen Learner is an AI based technology that enables smart devices in the home to identify sounds and attach them to an action. For instance, jingling of car keys might signal to your home that you are leaving and you want to put your home into an away mode, with lights off, temperature in save mode, and the alarm system activated. To train smart systems to recognize those sounds is a tedious process, but Listen Learner technology tries to guess and asks you, verbally, to confirm. This process is much more convenient for home owners and more likely to succeed. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Despite people’s fears of big brother listening, audible AI technologies are pushing ahead. Expect home security systems to depend less on your arming them as they learn to recognize motion and sound patterns and decide, mostly correctly, when it is time to arm. The applications for seniors are very promising. If your home recognizes the sound of the front door opening and doesn’t “hear” a return, it could notify caretakers. Or if it senses the sound of a fall, it could take immediate action, perhaps saving a life.

 

Google opens healthcare API to connect providers

Google opening healthcare API

Google’s Cloud unit continues to pursue the connected health industry by opening its health information interface, called Google Healthcare API. This action enables different healthcare information providers, regardless of if they are using Google’s cloud, to connect to a common data interface intended to integrate disparate health information sources. The Department of Health and Human Services previously issued a mandate restricting vendors from a common practice of blocking information exchange between systems. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Microsoft’s Azure cloud service has pursued a similar path to encourage standardization and information exchange. The healthcare industry, quite simply, has used data as a competitive advantage, making it difficult for consumers and doctors to shop for competitive services. Creating an open data exchange will enable willing healthcare providers to de-mystify the healthcare pricing and payment system, and empower consumers to choose what they pay to whom. Fear of sharing personal information with BigTech will hinder some, but when shopping for care becomes as easy as ordering an Uber ride, consumers will overcome their privacy concerns.

The rise of the Apple watch

The Apple Watch is now five years old, and last year, according to Strategy Analytics, the company shipped an estimated 31 million units while all Swiss watch brands combined shipped about 21 million units. Today the Apple Watch offers about 20,000 apps, most that require the use of the iPhone (which offers 2 million apps), and include many health and fitness apps, including an FDA approved EKG sensor. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Apple is, in fact, redefining the definition of the watch, much like it did a phone. Calling an iPhone a phone is almost a misnomer, given that voice communication is such a small part of the utility it offers. Soon an Apple Watch will provide so many seemingly-essential functions that comparing the device to a wrist watch will be for the purposes of nostalgia only. As CNET says, watch makers that have not joined the smart watch race have essentially missed the window to do so.

Facebook’s Portal is a Coronavirus winner

As often covered, Facebook’s smart display offering, the Portal family, was received tepidly when introduced, mostly due to people’s lack of trust for Facebook’s privacy policies. Now the devices are out of stock on most online stores. Strategy Analytics estimates that Facebook has sold about one million units in 2019 and 200,000 units so far this year. This success, however, represents only 2% of the market, of which Amazon has 45%. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The pandemic may have saved this product line from extinction, and it seems that many people believe that Portal is a better solutions for seniors than its competitors. Will Facebook seize this opportunity and seek to carve out its place in the aging-in-place market, or will it continue to throw small stones at Goliath? Facebook has an opportunity to double down on attempts to prove that the company is trustworthy, and winning over seniors would be a smart way to build a beachhead of consumer support.

Battling slow Wi-Fi?

If sheltering in place has made you more aware of the ups and downs of your home Internet service, then read CNET‘s explanations and suggesting course of correction. First, the review suggests that inconsistent Internet speeds are the result of your provider throttling your speeds to better share bandwidth across customers. They can do so given legislation that gave them that right (net neutrality). Step 1 in the diagnosis is to run some speed tests through M-Lab. If this test verifies inconsistencies, then you may wish to install a virtual private network (VPN) through software, to conceal your streaming volume and schedule from your provider. In theory, this will reduce fluctuations they impose.

dis-rup-shun: The article also suggests that you call your provider and threaten to switch if they won’t stop jacking with your speeds. It seems that we are as dependent on Wi-Fi for living as we were with dial tone and maybe even moreso, but the mysteries of getting constant, stable coverage are battles faced my most households. Is it poor infrastructure to the home, or is an old router, or inadequate signal to cover the home? It seems that there is a real opportunity for an Internet Doctor service to replace the dying Cable Guy.

BigTech increasing presence in wallets

BigTech gaining increasing share of wallets

Tech firms have been seeking to replace our wallets with electronic payment methods which are very popular in many countries, but slow to catch on in the U.S. Apple’s credit card, along with payment services from Google and Samsung are increasingly accepted and 15% of Starbucks orders are now mobile.  McKinsey found, in a 2019 survey, that only 35% of people trust Facebook to handle their finances, compared with more than 50% who trust Apple and 65% trust Amazon. BigTech firms know that direct access to consumer spending data is a treasure trove of marketable information. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Banks are sitting ducks. While BigTech cannot take over all capabilities of banks, and while banks exist under charters issued, in the U.S., by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), many of their services will disappear. BigTech will take more transaction fees, annual membership fees, small loans, and yet to be created financial services. Currently big banks are forming close relationships with BigTech, which is a competitive strategy, but will also accelerate the displacement of traditional banking as tech firms acquire both ownership and knowledge of the industry.

Facebook accelerates gaming with dedicated app

Facebook is launching a dedicated app, Facebook Gaming, that allows users to watch live game play or to share live their own game playing. This release is timely, given the uptick in gaming as a result of the global pandemic. The app positions Facebook against live game playing platforms of YouTube, Amazon’s Twitch, and Microsoft’s Mixer. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Game playing is up by more than 20%, according to some sources, and Facebook is simply accelerating a plan that was already in testing in Asia. Facebook continues its wise moves to diversify and enrich its platform, as the core service is mature and losing many of its followers to alternative social media platforms that are seen as more trendy and relevant, as Facebook becomes, for millennials, like the phone book of their parents’ generation.

Apple Music now available without iTunes

Apple Music is now competing with Spotify, allowing streaming directly from a web browser for those with a paid subscription. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: We can thank Apple for reinventing the music business and igniting a round of innovation with the coupling of iTunes and the iPod. Apple, however, botched iTunes and the Apple experience when it made moving and authorizing owned music from device to device, complex. Apple’s failure to keep iTunes as the most friendly music experience pushed consumers to streaming platforms such as Real Audio, Pandora, Spotify and many other competitors. Now Apple is doubling down on services and trying to capture more of the market it gave away a decade ago.

Mendel air sensor critical for indoor growers

Mendel has manufactured a $99 air sensor that tracks temperature, humidity, VPD, and Lux (lumens). Data is refreshed every 15 minutes and displayed on an app. Mendel, reportedly, was encouraged to develop this technology by cannabis growers whose margins are thin and investments high. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Self-sustainability is more interesting than ever, with trips to the grocery store being dangerous and disappointing as a number of products, including produce, in short supply. Growing things indoors is challenging and the air sensor critical. With large numbers of people entering the cannabis business, demand for “smart gardening” products will remain strong.

NBA and Microsoft take basketball to the cloud

NBA moves to the (Microsoft) cloud

Remember sports? The NBA and Microsoft announced a sweeping contract which employs Microsoft’s Azure cloud to create an enhanced fan experience — enabling fans to access historical videos and select camera angles. The contract also includes the NBA’s widespread use of Microsoft’s Surface devices. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Question:  How do you beat the cloud giant, Amazon? Answer: You leverage assets (a line of PC/tablets) that your competitor does not have, and you position your services to invent a new way of watching sports to create new camera angles and special features for online users. Microsoft continues to execute beautifully under Nadella and beat dominant AWS in some very strategic accounts.

Apple to develop over-the-ear headphones

According to Bloomberg, Apple is readying a line of over the ear, noise cancelling headphones. The company owns Beats, which offers a number of over-the-ear models. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Over-the-ear headphones seem like a not very innovative product and it’s a bit of a surprise that Apple is pursuing this product now. What are some reasons? Firstly, the company has made so much money selling its premium priced AirPods that it can’t resist the urge to follow that act with another audio accessory. Secondly, given the fact that the future appears that it will be spent, in large part, on video conferencing applications, demand for audio accessories is greatly increased. Finally, since the company already owns Beats, it can repackage the technology and use existing supply partners quickly. In short, it is a low risk way to expand a profitable product line.

Website provides the office and workplace noises you miss

For those that are on the edge of insanity from the quiet or repetition of sheltering at home, the microsite Reichenbergerstr 121  offers a cacophony of office/coffee shop noises, taking you back to the time when you worked around people. Sounds effects supplied include:

  • Clandestine whispers of two people trying to gossip in an open office
  • Opening of a La Croix can
  • The retro summer jam everyone at the office agrees is a bop
  • Mediocre but hard-working Keurig machine gurgles
  • The marketing manager who worked with someone named Felicia and smugly shouted “bye Felicia!” 3 to 30 times daily
  • Two people apologizing for bumping into each other in the hall
  • C-SPAN broadcasting a Congressional hearing
  • Mysterious laughter from the one area where everyone is best friends
  • My editor trying to eat lunch the quietest that anyone has ever eaten Lifehacker

dis-rup-shun: This site does offer good amusement, especially if you start it and leave it, forgetting it is running until you hear distant giggles or an occasional whistle. Perhaps, once people return to public places, the sounds of crowds can be used to jump start traffic to empty shops and restaurants, and get the pump primed, so to speak. What would we do without the wonderful place called the World Wide Web?

Rokid glasses “see” COVID-19 from a distance

Chinese start-up Rokid has released infrared glasses that are able to see people with high body temperatures from three meters away. Outfitted on hospital workers or airport security agents, the technology could help remove infected people from crowds and public places. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: While this technology could be very useful, its use again seems like a violation of privacy, wherein the eye in the sky scans the crowd for people that will be escorted, by storm troopers, to an unidentified back room.

 

Ecobee joins home security race

Ecobee offers home security system

Ecobee, known for their well-designed and high featured Wi-Fi smart thermostats that include Alexa voice support, has launched new home security products and a cloud monitoring service. With the addition of the company’s entry sensors, Wi-Fi connected camera, and cloud service, it is now able to offer a complete, integrated home security system to rival other DIY offerings from Nest, Ring, Simplisafe and Honeywell. The home security system market is getting more crowded, and more interesting. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Ecobee products are well designed, so this system may turn out to be a better experience than similar DIY offerings. What’s most interesting is to watch device makers, such as the Ecobee of five years ago, add more and more products and features to their ecosystem. The question is, will these systems continue to grow in functionality to rival more complex and complete systems such as those provided by ADT/Alarm.com and Vivint? Do Ecobee’s and rivals’ DIY systems compete with professionally installed security systems, or are these buyers as different as buyers of SUVs and Priuses?

Verizon to buy video conference platform BlueJeans

In what could be one of the first post-pandemic restructurings, Verizon will pay $400 million to acquire the internet video conferencing platform BlueJeans. BlueJeans boasts 15,000 current customers. Verizon sees the platform as a logical add-on to its 5G offerings, as more workers are expected to work remotely after the pandemic. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: This may be one piece of evidence that the corporate landscape will change as a result of COVID-19. Verizon is counting on the increased popularity of video conferencing tools to be more than a temporary uptick, and to become a permanent and important part of the core telecommunications offerings. Expect to see a large brand reach out to acquire the superstar Zoom in the next six months as the pandemic dust settles.

Peacock streaming service launches

NBCU Comcast has launched its own answer to the video streaming wars. The Peacock streaming service has multiple forms: a limited, free, ad-supported version, a $4.99 ad-supported version for non-subscribers to Comcast/Cox pay TV, and a premium ad-free version for $7.99. The service is now part of the pay TV bundle from Comcast and Cox — included in their pay TV offerings. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: It feels as if NBCU is late to the streaming party, with Disney + having gained so many subscribers who may have decided to be three service households with Prime, Netflix and Disney +. To squeeze in a fourth service, or to prefer Peacock over other services seems unlikely at this point. NBCU was wise to use this service as a value-added sweetener for those who have not, and maybe will not, cut the cord. Investing in core customers is wise, and NBCU’s strategy seems to be to straddle the old and new worlds of TV services.

Fitbit adds features and no bulk in Charge 4

Fitbit has added a new, slim fitness tracker to its lineup. The Charge 4, for under $200, provides GPS and heart rate alerts. For core fitness fans who want a slim, attractive device and don’t want the bulk of a smartwatch, this is a new alternative.  CNET

dis-rup-shun: Fitbit is doing a good job of finding niche markets within the niche of wearables. Just emulating the Apple watch is a tough strategy, so creating more specialized devices for micro-segments is a good way to expand the market into spaces that are likely not on Apple’s road map. Fitbit is building highly specialized fitness trackers for fitness enthusiasts who have very particular size, weight and feature requirements. Stay tuned to watch the divergent paths of the swiss-army-knife Apple approach, versus the specialist approach of Fitbit.

Quibi thrives in first week

Quibi one week later…

Last week Quibi, the short form mobile-only streaming content provider, launched. The service provided 1.7 million downloads in week 1. The company stated that it has sold out all of its advertising slots for the remainder of the year, and will accelerate its plans to enable casting of programs to a TV. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: As stated last week, this company got Corona-lucky. Never before (or again) will the target audience of people with disposable income have so much time on their hands to experiment with a new, unique form of content. Let’s not forget that Quibi has offered a free 90 day trial, but trials that require a credit card number are quite sticky.

Create a looping video to stand in for you during video calls

New tools make for new creativity, and it is easy to create a video of yourself sitting and listening attentively in a video call — unless, of course, you are called on to contribute your comments. By using Zoom to record a video of yourself sitting and listening, with an occasional gesture or nod, then editing to create a seamless loop, you can create a video virtual background. Lifehacker.com

dis-rup-shun: Having some fun and letting your personality show through is more important that ever. and this hack has been used to amuse. One of my colleagues uses this feature to create a background of himself walking by and waving into the camera — quite a shock while speaking to him, live. Another colleague replaced himself with a puppet, which sat in his chair as he manipulated its mouth and arms through a one hour company-wide status call. Humor is helpful.

Amazon hires yet more workers

Amazon is hiring another 75,000 workers, on the heels of the 100,000 it hired last month. Most workers are in logistics — helping to fulfill orders in warehouses and packing delivery trucks for daily runs. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Talk about a windfall! Amazon cannot keep up with the inundation of orders from people sheltering in place. Fortunately, the company is making a dent in the massive joblessness caused by the pandemic. The interesting question again is how will Amazon benefit long-term from the massive, likely temporary, uptick in business? Can it retain many of the at least 175,000 new employees it has hired, and will it keep a much larger share of the market for regular household supplies than it enjoyed pre-COVID-19?

Pandemic brings cities an opportunity to reconfigure

Among the many impacts of the pandemic is less crowded streets, but overcrowding of sidewalks and public parks in large cities such as New York, Bogota, Calgary, and Denver. Many cities have closed off streets, creating pedestrian-only centers. Low levels of air and noise pollution, combined with more pedestrian friendly atmospheres promise to create a better experience for urban dwellers. Wired

dis-rup-shun: The world will be a better place after it (we) recovers from the current crisis, and making cities more livable will help us restore our need for community and connected-ness. City planners should make the changes permanent. Expect large cities to be less car friendly as they transform dense areas to favor walkers and large gatherings.

 

Nintendo: case study in resilience

Nintendo: a top player for 130 years

Filmmaker Adam Isaac has produced a 20 minute online documentary of Nintendo – the company that entered and dominated the game console market in the 1980s and has survived fierce competition from Sony, Microsoft, Google and a plethora of smartphones. Its latest offering, the Switch, is sold out across the U.S. CNBC offers a look at what has kept the former game card, ramen noodle and taxi company at the top through so many successes and failures. Donkey Kong was the first big hit in the days of video arcades, a $27 billion industry in 1982. A string of hits included NES in 1985, GameBoy in 1989, N64, DS2, GameCube, Wii and Switch, when released in 2017 caused caused company revenue to jump by 116%.

dis-rup-shun: A great example of company reinvention, the head of the company saw the playing card business drop and applied the company’s gaming DNA to electronics. Like Steve Jobs, Nintendo leader Miyamoto has kept the company focused on two key elements: making games fun (over realism) and keeping game content and hardware tightly coupled. Facing the new world of gaming on smartphones and inexpensive cloud services, most notably Apple’s casual game service, Arcade, Nintendo must either compete on the cloud or remain entrenched in specialized devices. This crossroads is just one of many make-or-break decision points that the company has faced over its 130 year history.

Broadband speeds fall in major cities during COVID-19

Speeds have decreased in many large cities as a result of increased Internet traffic, according to network monitoring company, Thousand Eyes. Despite the reduction, the speeds have remained adequate for entertainment, video calls, and most online activities. Speeds in New York City dropped by 20%, whereas the decrease in Austin, Winston-Salem, and Oxnard was up to 40%.  ArsTechnica

dis-rup-shun: Our global economy, as damaged as it is, is in large part intact thanks to the Internet. As one looks at all prior recessions, depressions and setbacks, none has occurred during a time when so much of life and business are online. Even the Great Recession of 2008 occurred in the early days of streaming video entertainment and before video conferencing was as easy and as accepted as “business as usual.” When the dust settles and we survey the damage of the coronavirus pandemic, we will find that many industries remained intact and even benefited as a result of the crisis. The facts don’t lessen the damage to many, but will certainly prove that an online economy is a far more resilient economy.

SpaceX rapidly builds another Starship prototype

Multiple corporations are vying for NASA’s renewed budget for space travel, and SpaceX and Boeing will begin trips to the International Space Station this year. SpaceX’s heavier craft, the Starship, will not be used for the scheduled ISS trips, but is critical to the company’s delivery of heavy cargo into space. The new prototype replaces two others that imploded during pressure testing. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The space race is just that, with a dizzying pace of launches, experiments and new prototypes built. Competition is good for the industry, but some of the space racers are extremely competitive, pushing hard on the limits of technology and engineering for companies that theoretically will earn a profit. Expect to see more fiery crashes as competitors race for big contracts, and hope that safety measures will more than adequately protect human lives from aggressive new space travel projects.

Professional lighting for video calls is a career booster

A $50 investment in a desktop ring shaped lamp from UBeesize placed behind your laptop provides lighting on your face that transforms your image on web conferences. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The new “dress for success” involves looking healthy and confident on numerous daily video conferences. Even though you have your gym shorts and flip flops on down under, having a healthy and attractive glow proves that sheltering-in-place has not dulled your edge.

The best video conferencing software is…

The best videoconferencing software

The world is abuzz about videoconferencing which, along with Internet connectivity, has essentially saved the world from self destruction in the time of sheltering. By now everyone has experimented with a number of video conferencing apps. Wired provides a summary of the top contenders. It reviews Apple FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Houseparty and Google Hangouts.

dis-rup-shun: Funny how different each of these apps, which all bring people together virtually, really are. Houseparty brings people together to waste time together. Teams brings people together to manage many computer-based tasks, FaceTime is perfect for showing people what you are doing in the moment (action), and Skype is really not good for anything. Zoom remains one of the easiest and best tools. Hopefully all of these providers will enjoy great success in return for the incredible utility they have provided, mostly free, to the world in quarantine.

How to influence millennials

Success of flattening the coronavirus curve, it has been said many times, depends on the millennials. This cohort of young and mostly healthy people can make or break global efforts to slow the virus. A marketing company called Xomad, with the help of the government of Bangladesh, created a Social Leader Council, consisting of 200 social media influencers. The company successfully persuaded the influencers to user their platforms (many on Instragram) to encourage people to stay home. The company has also worked with influencers in Los Angeles, paying them a fee to join the campaign, which, in terms of delivering the message, is proving effective. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The new rules of marketing are far less decentralized, requiring brands, or causes, to work through dozens of fragmented channels in addition to traditional channels of TV, radio, and even search. The power of influencers is significant, with people viewing dozens of different posts depending on tastes, making the task of messaging more challenging than ever. Xomad will have many important lessons to teach as a result of their public service work.

Palantir a coronavirus winner

Another company making lemonade in this time of lemons is data analytics software company Palantir, a privately held company backed by the controversial billionaire, Peter Thiel. The company’s contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services enables the CDC to amass large amounts of data on COVID-19 cases, uses of ventilators, locations of infections, and much more. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Data analytics is the new plastics (Google The Graduate if you are too young to understand this phrase). The Internet of Things and the future of computing is about connecting end devices such as sensors, smart phones, cars, thermostats to the cloud, where vast amounts of data are collected every second. That’s impressive, but more impressive are the companies that can figure out how to make actionable insights from vast oceans of data.

Happy Easter and Passover

Blessings to you and your family as we celebrate that which is greater than us during the Global Reboot. Let’s take this time to be in touch with what is most important and what we wish to retain on the other side.

Last Russian rocket ride

The last ride on a Russian rocket

The U.S. ended the Space Shuttle program in 2011 and since then has depended on Russia to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. The price of a seat on a Soyuz rocket is $86 million. Today’s launch of Chris Cassidy is the last scheduled trip with the Russians, as the U.S. will turn to both SpaceX and Boeing to launch U.S. astronauts from U.S. soil later this year. Wired

dis-rup-shun: What would JFK say if we asked him how he felt about his space dream being outsourced to Russia? In the age of Trump and renewed nationalism, NASA is relying on the free market to renew the space program and again compete in the space race. While both Boeing and SpaceX have had their share of challenged test flights, the plan to send an astronaut to the ISS this year remains intact, with the Russians on standby to sell a seat “as needed.”

The Animal Crossing phenomena

Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a new version of a beloved Nintendo Switch game, was released on Friday, March 20. It sold an amazing 1.88 million physical copies in Japan in its first weekend, setting a record for Nintendo Switch content. In the rest of the world, the game has created so much social media buzz that many celebrities are joining in the discussion, fueling the excitement for the life sim game. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Now is clearly an exceptional time to immerse oneself in a game. What makes this game so intriguing? Perhaps it is because it gives players a new opportunity to live a sim life as they expect that real life should be — providing new opportunities to build skills, trade, interact and even recreate with others with outcomes following expectations.  Life is difficult when it doesn’t follow expectations, and retreating into a fantasy world where things are the way they should be is comforting  — until you stop playing.

How to help your car shelter in place

Your car was built to drive. It was not designed to sit in the garage or driveway for weeks. Keeping the battery charged is the primary concern, and running the car for 20 minutes per week keeps up the charge and keeps lubricants circulating throughout engine, steering and brake systems.  Cleaning all interior surfaces with a mixture of water and rubbing alcohol will make the vehicle ready for post pandemic use. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Sheltering in place has temporarily decreased air pollution in major cities, and given Mother Earth a little reprieve. It has also decreased the time spent and stress created by commuting in heavy traffic. Will our societies have a different outlook on daily routines post-pandemic, encouraging more work from home and less resource wasted on getting knowledge workers to an office location where they may sit, isolated in cubicles, working on a computer?

Drop a line to Asia

How do you keep the Internet infrastructure across the globe working, especially with a spike in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic? Answer, you run a new cable connecting the U.S. mainland to Taiwan. Google has gained approval by the U.S. Department of Justice to run a sub-sea fiber optic cable to Taiwan, citing increased demand. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: We are all extremely dependent on the Internet for work, for shopping, for entertainment and for communication. But just who owns the Internet, builds and maintains it? There are a number of articles that answer the question, but many companies own, operate and charge tolls for its use, and one of the big players, of course, is Google. While Google bashing has become en vogue due to aggressive use of personal information, it is important to remember that Google’s sale of your personal shopping and political preferences generates the revenue that pays for the cables on the sea floor that enable you to WeChat or Facebook across the globe for “free.”

Nintendo Switch nearly unobtainable

Nintendo Switch hotter than toilet paper

And that is a compliment. The wildly popular game Animal Crossing has added to the frenzy to find the hand held game device which is in short supply. Buyers have gone online to Craigslist and eBay to find devices. “I found someone selling a Switch with a roll of toilet paper and a mini bottle of hand sanitizer for like 720 dollars,” Jennifer Baik, 24, said. “I was like what’s more valuable here, the Switch or the toilet paper?” Charlotte Observer

dis-rup-shun: Online games and gaming devices are COVID winners. While game research Interpret doesn’t have the data, one can expect that many old XBoxes, Nintendos and PlayStations have been dusted off and once again have become part of the daily experience. One could track pricing of second hand games to see if their prices have increased in the past two weeks.

Solve TP shortage — don’t use it

Bidet manufacturer Tushy is facing a 10x increase in demand for its product , a simple, DIY bidet attachment to the toilet. The attachments are about $100 and eliminate the need for toilet paper. The CEO says that given Americans’ reluctance to embrace, like other parts of the world, the bidet, our society flushed 15 million trees down the toilet each year.

dis-rup-shun: Another COVID winner — the bidet. From an environmental perspective, adding a bidet seems like the responsible thing to do, even without a global pandemic, unless, of course, you are in a region where the value of water is greater than the value of paper. Again the question is, how well will these COVID winners due when this is over? Expect long-term gains from higher awareness of companies such as Tushy.

Sex toy and condom sales skyrocket

Sex toy manufacturer Lelo is reporting a 40% increase in sales and online pharmacies are reporting a doubling of condom sales. Experts are mixed on if the pandemic will lead to a large number of conceptions as past crises have. WiredUK

dis-rup-shun: Let’s just hope that the increase in sexual activity does not get mixed up with the spike in use of Internet video conferencing, or a new online amateur industry will be born.

Best work at home laptop games

For people who are living on their laptops and looking for a little diversion between conference calls, CNET offers a lineup of the best games that can be “snacked” — that is, enjoyed in short sessions without requiring hours of indulgence. Top suggestions are: Deep Sky Derelicts, Disco Elysium, Fortnite, Blade Runner, Thimbleweed Park.

dis-rup-shun: Games that help us interact with people are probably the best diversion, especially for those sitting alone in their own home or apartment — isolated from coworkers and loved ones. On the other hand, perhaps games that connect us with other people are even more important for those trapped at home with loved ones!

T-Mobile CEO: industry game changer

How John Legere changed the mobile phone industry

John Legere took over the unimpressive carrier T-Mobile in 2012 and transformed not only T-Mobile, but the U.S. wireless industry in a few short years. Here are the biggest innovations to his credit:

  • He created the “un-carrier” by eliminating contracts for post-paid accounts (no contract pre-paid offerings were already in market).
  • He eliminated handset subsidies, shifting the industry to pay the full price of the phone over installments.
  • He enabled rapid upgrade options, giving people the option of switching to the latest equipment and valuing trade-ins higher.
  • He made international data cheap or free, in some cases, making international traveler much friendlier from a communications perspective.
  • He is a self-made social media star.
  • He made bashing the competition a standard practice within wireless marketing
  • He opened up earnings calls to everyone

Leger has stepped down as CEO of T-Mobile upon the completion of the T-Mobile/Sprint merger. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Legere is yet another example of David vs. Goliath.  Legere decided to rewrite the rules of an established industry that put T-Mobile in a distant fourth place. He shunned the corporate image and appeared always in Magenta T-shirt and long hair. Last week, by completing the merger with Sprint, he took the irrelevant T-Mobile and turned it into a very solid third-place contender that will challenge AT&T and Verizon in deployment of 5G services.

Meal kit roundup — Blue Apron wins

Wired has assessed fourteen on-line meal-in-a-box delivery services, and has evaluated them on price, food quality, variety and recycle-ability. A complaint across all services is that they generate a lot of waste, so packaging was a consideration. The winner, Blue Apron, was lauded for reasonable price ($7 per meal per person per day), its efficient packaging, and its Mediterranean-style food offerings.

dis-rup-shun: With at least fourteen offerings, it is likely that a competitive shake out will eliminate some of the variety of this segment, but that could lead to the winners offering more variety of choices. Meals-in-a-box could eventually improve the poor eating habits of low income households and middle income food-lazy households, but still require the patience to follow some simple directions and do some prep. For those who don’t feel empowered in the kitchen or don’t live with a master cook (I’m sorry for you), there are no more excuses for eating less then great food all of the time.

U.K. phone towers attacked by those linking coronavirus to 5G

Attacks on four of Vodaphone’s cell phone towers followed social media posts linking coronavirus to 5G technology. British ministers are taking to social media to clear the record on 5G and dismiss any linkage to the pandemic. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Where there are people, there are conspiracy theories. If you find it shocking that so many ordinary people could have such wild ideas, then you haven’t yet watched Netflix’ Tiger King — a reminder that ordinary people are, well, not very ordinary.

Smart home technology predicted to be in one-half of homes

ProBuilder features an article by smart home platform company Ezlo’s Roger Gregory. Gregory cites research firm Berg Insight’s prediction that 63 million U.S. households will be “smart” in the next three years. Gregory addresses builders by reminding them that smart home technology is no longer a luxury, but a standard offering that actually increases the sale-ability of new homes and increases revenue.

dis-rup-shun: Smart home adoption will follow behind awareness, which is growing, but still low. Gregory does not address one problem of smart home technology, and that is the concerns of a substantial share of the population that smart home are not secure or are offering a big brother the opportunity to eaves drop. Better provisions and better education by the smart home technology industry is needed to minimize conspiracy theories and maximize privacy.

IKEA to use AI to remodel your home

IKEA nabs augmented reality provider

Ikea’s store division, Ingka Group, has purchased U.S. startup GeoMagical Labs — a company that enables AI-based renderings through a smart phone. The technology will enable users to take a smartphone photo of rooms they wish to decorate, and then fill an image with virtual IKEA furniture, becoming their own interior decorators. Reuters

dis-rup-shun: One can assume that this will become the new standard for furniture, paint, floor covering and clothing shopping… take a snap of that which you wish to change, try out virtual samples, then press a button and Amazon, UPS or FedEx will deliver within the same or (godforbid) three days.

Exactly how much have our online habits changed?

App Annie is a research firm that captures actual app usage for IoS and Android. In short, due to the pandemic, app usage has increased between 10% and 30% during the most intense times of shelter-in-place. Gaming usage has soared, and non-games app usage is also substantially higher. Time on apps is up as is spending through apps, as people buy more games, books, music and supplies.

dis-rup-shun: Mapping our pandemic behavior will provide great data for anthropologists, policy makers, doctors and marketers for years to come. Suffice it to say that consumer technology, in general, has been a big winner of the Coronapocalypse. The real question now is how much of the surge in digital services usage will remain when we find a new normal? It is safe to guess that most all of the services that we are using heavily will experience a significant fall back when the crisis is over, but will level off higher then pre-pandemic levels. 

Apple accidentally unveils new tracker product

It seems that there are so many Apple watchers, that whenever the company posts something out of the ordinary, people notice. Such a posting was caught by a blogger who reveals that Apple appears to be about to release an object tracking service — similar to Tile. AirTags, as the product is called, will feature some sort of battery operated tracking device that one can affix to wallets, keys, bicycles and other objects that could get misplaced. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: For Tile, the news is not so good, though the company may benefit from Apple’s advertising and marketing power, generating more awareness and demand for the product category. Tile may have to price below Apple to find its niche within the object tracker market, and there are plenty of similar case studies of Apple absorbing a technology that is already in market. A few to study are smart watches, sleep monitors, and even ear buds.

New product from Ring — Doorbox

In another inadvertent product leak, it appears that Ring is about to release the Doorbox. A picture is captured by CNET fuels guessing on what the device will do. It could be a mailbox that detects motion and affixes to a door or gate. The picture suggests that the device does not have a camera.

dis-rup-shun: Ring is working quickly to move from provider of niche connected smart home products, to provider of do-it-yourself integrated systems. The fact that the company is owned by Amazon makes for an interesting future, with tighter integration between the devices and Echo-powered devices. Other than SimpliSafe, there aren’t many complete DIY smart home system offerings in market. Nest comes and goes leaving Ring an opening to be the most complete provider of low-priced smart home products at retail.

Toilet paper, monitors and laptops: in high demand

 

Monitors, laptops and toilet paper

Sales of monitors and laptops have surged since we sheltered in place. NPD, the market research firm that counts sales receipts, shows computer monitor sales doubled in the first week of March while laptop sales were up 10% CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Setting up home offices and getting screens just right for all of those Zoom calls has been critical to WFH. As stated before, many sectors of the tech market will thrive as the result of the pandemic: video conferencing, Internet infrastructure, cloud services, computing devices, streaming gaming and entertainment.

Apple purchases weather app Dark Sky

The popular weather app, Dark Sky, has won multiple awards for its IOS version. Apple confirmed that it has purchased the company and will shut down the Android version. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Why does Apple want another weather app? The company has, in the past, purchased technologies that it views as best-in-class. But what’s more is that a number of apps, and weather apps in particular, feed data to a number of other apps and get paid per transaction. It is likely that Dark Sky offers a strong data source to multiple apps and can feed data to a number of Apple products and services. Owler.com lists Dark Sky’s revenues at only $2.5 million. We know Apple is working hard to build out its services business and maybe Dark Sky will be the foundation for a premium weather service.

Microsoft purchases Affirmed Networks

Affirmed is a company that provides software that enables wireless carriers to expand their networks by using cloud services. While terms of the transaction were not disclosed, it is speculated that the transaction is valued at over $1 billion. Affirmed Networks is in a strong position to capitalize on the 5G network build out, currently underway. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Another victory lap for a tech company despite the pandemic. Microsoft Azure is working hard to catch up to Amazon Web Service, which is way ahead. But Microsoft has shown several times that there are advantages to being a tech company with a cloud service. Cloud services can be leveraged into existing tech tools and infrastructure, creating a seamless platform. Amazon, on the other hand, has done a good job building new tech tools that extend the cloud into the premise, but the online retailer has to convince companies that it know tech down deep. Everyone has their strengths and has to work twice as hard to build strengths where they don’t already exist.

Beta Technologies builds recharging platform for electric flying taxis

Beta Technologies is building a flying taxi and, fittingly, needs a place for the craft to land and quickly recharge. The facility also offers comfortable quarters for pilots (or are they called taxi flyers?) to recharge while their craft is getting juiced up. The test facility is located in Burlington, Vermont. Wired

dis-rup-shun: If taxis will become electric and will fly, then they have to go somewhere to recharge. Some very forward looking business people at Beta Technologies want to be ready when the time comes. This combination of a futuristic service station, helipad and sky diner is certainly way ahead of its time, but when the time comes, Beta will have a well-researched offering.

 

Quibi arrives next week

Are you ready for Quibi?

What’s a Quibi? It is a new streaming video service for $5 per month (or $7 for no ads). But it’s not just another streaming service. This one is available only for your smartphone, enables you to choose the camera angle you wish to watch, and is owned and produced by celebrities, and offers programming that is no longer than 10 minutes, and packed with screen stars. The service has already produced a healthy number of episodes and will have 175 original shows in year one. Despite the pandemic, the service will launch next week.  CNET

dis-rup-shun: I was on the fence about Quibi, but given the current appetite for entertainment, I think that Quibi is the luckiest company on the planet. There is no better time or circumstance than now to launch a very specialized video service that will give people a lot to talk about. Those that don’t understand the talk will be forced to subscribe to be a part of the new normal. Just look at the impact on our online lives that Netflix’ Tiger King is having, then imagine all the talk is about something that only costs another $5 per month. Quibi will be thanking the coronavirus.

Air pollution is down – way down

The European Space Agency satellites have noted a significant decrease in air pollution. Significant visual changes are seen over Wuhan, a factory city, and Italy’s Po Valley, where the Alps block smog from industrial centers around Milan. The pandemic shutdown is providing scientists with a glimpse of what a reduced pollution future will look like and where it will change the atmosphere most. Wired

dis-rup-shun: If we are tallying up wins from coronavirus, we can credit the atmosphere as a winner.

Microsoft is a coronavirus winner

Use of Microsoft’s cloud services, including Teams and Skype video conferencing applications has skyrocketed. Teams use in Italy for a one month period was up 775%. On the news of the company’s strong performance, the stock was up 7%. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Let’s face it, the Internet is what is keeping our economy open during the pandemic. If our internet infrastructure collapsed, then we would devolve into a 1980s-like experience, with a bunch of smart devices that are computing islands. The companies that are keeping our lives together are the companies that make the devices, software, services and telecom infrastructure. Unless the company is involved in point of sale computing, the IT sector should be thriving in this time, and thank goodness for companies that make great, reliable products.

Free Zoom backgrounds

Need a less messy home office for your constant Zoom calls? A number of graphics providers have made backgrounds available for free — some animated. Sites are Unsplash, Canva, Modsy, and choices include PeeWee’s Playhouse, a confused John Travolta, and many others. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: It is nice to see that ingenuity is alive and well, jumping on the meteoric rise of Zoom and providing razors to go along with the free blade of Zoom conferences. Expect to see a list of video conferencing accessories, including software, devices, stands and microphones. We are an adaptive people.

 

Fitness trackers show activity crisis

Fitness tracker data shows less movement, more sleep, with telehealth intentions

Evidation Health conducted a study of 160,000 U.S. citizens including 68,000 with fitness trackers and watches from Apple, Fitbit and Garmin. The data reveals that quarantined people are 39% to 50% less active than prior to quarantine, and time asleep has increased by 10% to 20%. Most notable, however, is that people’s willingness and future plans to visit doctors via telehealth has risen to 30% from 19% pre-pandemic. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The pandemic will accelerate the telemedicine industry (as it has the video conferencing industry) by three to five years, as the crisis is proving the efficacy of remote care to doctors, payers and patients. This sea change would have taken years in ordinary times, but when the crisis abates, telehealth will be a standard tool in care portfolios and will serve to trim escalating care costs.

14 apps to combat cabin fever

Wired offers some great alternatives to madness, as people strive to pass the long days of living mostly indoors:

Calm — a meditation and relaxation coach.

Headspace — another meditation and relaxation coach.

Libby — an electronic library card enables check out of books and videos.

Noisli — emulates a multitude of ordinary sounds.

Brain.fm — musical accompaniments to accelerate a desired state of mind.

JustWatch — a guide to finding and starting whatever programs are online on a streaming service.

Google Duo — another video chat app.

House Party — a party-like video chat app.

Peloton — a fitness app for people without the bike.

Aaptiv — a fitness training app with online coaches.

Design Home — an interior design app.

Minecraft — a virtual world app that can include others.

Nuzzel — an app for curating news based on what your contacts are reading.

YouTube — a good place to get lost watching things you never imagined.

dis-rup-shun:  I recommend Simone Giertz, aka Queen of Shitty Robots, on YouTube. This is fascinating entertainment, especially considering that Simone does this for a living.

UAE citizens appeal to government to allow use of WhatsApp and Skype

The UAE prohibits use of free communications apps, requiring its citizens to use government telecommunications infrastructure. Last week the government allowed temporary use of Zoom, Skype for Business and Google Hangouts, but has not allowed WhatsApp, Facetime or regular Skype. Citizens are calling for support of all major communications apps as they seek to connect with relatives around the world. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Just as the Berlin Wall was torn down after a few crosstown communications were allowed in 1989, the UAE’s stranglehold on communications policies could quickly slip away with frequent use of internet conferencing. If it happens, the good people of UAE can thank a global crisis for gaining what most of the rest of world considers to be innate internet freedoms. Another potential Coronavirus winner.

Polaroid instant film camera reborn

In a long and strange trip, the functionality that made the Polaroid camera a hot item in the 60s and 70s has been reunited with the brand name, and the instant film camera is re-born. The Polaroid Now camera costs about $100 and, based on film costs, each picture costs about $2. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: What is the demand for a bulky but fun camera which provides instant printed, color photos in the online age? Perhaps this throwback to the time when processing ordinary film took a week and Polaroid owners whipped out pictures in minutes will strike nostalgic chords. It is hard to imagine, however, that this technology will go beyond a very small niche. Polaroid marketers should work to make these instant photos unusually artsy in an effort to create a fad and hope it has legs.

 

Shared innovations fighting medical supply shortages

Public private cooperation yield 3D printed ventilator extender

Prisma Health is a company that, based on an idea from an ER doctor, created a simple three way valve that enables one ventilator to serve four patients. The device can be quickly created with a 3D printer and was approved for use under an FDA Emergency Use Authorization rule. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: It is exciting to see innovation, flexibility and generosity abound, as great ideas are being rushed to the field while, at the same time, acts of generosity are always growing. The pandemic will ultimately good for healthcare as new innovations including telehealth and telecare, technology concepts that have been ready for prime time for several years, but blocked by the healthcare establishment, are now being implemented.

British vacuum makers Dyson and GTech to the rescue

Two well-known British vacuum cleaner companies, Dyson and GTech have quickly switched production from household appliances to ventilators, using inexpensive and quick to produce parts. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: If you have seen the movie Apollo 13, you will recall when a group of engineers were placed in a conference room with a bag full of objects that the astronauts had available in their capsule. They were given about 24 hours to construct a lifesaving solution. The good people at the vacuum companies have tackled a similar challenge.

Ford manufacturing face shields based on open source design

Lennon Rodgers, director of the Engineering Design Innovation Lab at University of Wisconsin-Madison, answered the call from a local hospital, requesting that the lab create face shields, as the hospital could not get adequate supply. Rodgers, with the help of local designers and his M.D. wife, developed a prototype and posted it on the web as an open source design. Ford, along with other companies, used the design to fabricate what it expects will be 75,000 units this week. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Speed and agility. Two things critical to slow the global pandemic. Thanks to the instantaneous and global availability of information via the Internet, many parties can react quickly and take action. As soon as a Coronavirus vaccine is developed, it must be an open source solution that drug manufacturers worldwide can produce rapidly.

Slack announces integration with Teams

In an interesting move, Slack has announced interoperability with Microsoft Teams. In the wake of coronavirus, Microsoft has revealed that some 44 million people are using the product daily. Microsoft is bundling the product in its Office suite, making it a tough competitor for Slack. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Slack was there first, but just like Netscape, will discover that Microsoft’s installed base receiving Teams will likely bury a standalone utility product. Slack’s move to inter connect with Teams is a good one, and may keep Slack fans from having to follow IT departments that mandate corporate use of Teams in the future, but the execs at Slack won’t be sleeping well for the foreseeable future.

Amazon gives and takes away

Amazon essential items policy is killing retailers

Many small retailers have built their businesses using Amazon as their only channel to market. Thousands now find that Amazon will not accept or ship their products for weeks, given its “essentials only” policy to deal with the pandemic. While retailers understand the need for the policy, they must quickly find alternative channels such as Walmart.com through which to sell products. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Amazon, for many small businesses, does all the heavy lifting in terms of sales and distribution. Their policies — be they the order that products appear on a web page, or when shipments are de-prioritized — are a reminder of the need for diversification in most all things: suppliers, customers, lenders, and investors.

Facebook Portal a pandemic winner

Facebook’s Portal is a web conferencing device built for families and friends to watch TV together and enjoy video chatting. The devices were discounted by journalists and serious tech fans when they were announced just prior to holiday season in 2019. Facebook’s privacy problems were seen as a barrier to acceptance of the device. Now, the simplicity of the device is making it a favorite of consumers. Facebook Portal TV is now sold out. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: My how circumstances can change things. The simplicity of Portal TV and its fun features is well aligned with a literally captive market that is hungry for human connection. Call Facebook lucky or prophetic, but Portal is turning out to be a visionary product.

Amber smart circuit breaker a home electrical game changer

Amber Solutions, a Silicon Valley startup, has developed a semiconductor that manages electricity. The product, when placed in a circuit breaker, can sense and manage changes in current, power surges, shorts, and enables both remote control of circuits as well as reporting of energy usage. Amber Solutions

dis-rup-shun: The implications for smart circuits include the ability to control all devices in the home with a single app or single skill. The app could easily enable different scenarios such as conservation mode, vacation mode, security mode, and could detect problems with appliances, such as HVAC systems, long before they gave out. The question is how Amber will win over the circuit breaker giants such as Eaton, ABB, Leviton, Square D and others.

Apple releases new laptop like iPad

iPads continue to look and feel more like light, thin, touchscreen-capable laptops, and the latest release from Apple even claims to be a replacement for a laptop. The new iPad Pro is more powerful, supports a stylus, supports a mouse or trackpad, has new camera technology and LIDAR support. LIDAR technology enables augmented reality — the ability to superimpose dynamic images on top of photos. You need to watch the full Apple video to appreciate the potential. Apple.com

dis-rup-shun: It seems more and more people are using iPads as their daily computing device. The question Apple has to ask is if pushing the iPad as laptop cannibalizes more PC sales or MacBook sales. Given that there are more PC laptops in the world, the math would likely reveal that the new product wins over more PC users in volume. Nonetheless, Apple has, many times, shown that there is room for a new class of device, and getting more people to use iPads as their “travel computer” may not reduce sales of full strength MacBooks. Time will tell.

Is the Internet pandemic-proof?

Will the pandemic crash the Internet?

Verizon reports that voice usage on its network was up 25% the week of March 12th, and total web traffic was up 22%. Usage of streaming media services was up 12%, VPN usage jumped 30% and online gaming spiked up 75% while social media remained stable. So far, the Internet appears sturdy and robust, despite the claims by a few analysts who believe the infrastructure will not be able to handle more traffic. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The internet has performed beautifully under the strain of WFH and School from Home (SFH), by informal accounts. The service providers, often bashed for a litany of issues, should be commended for building robust, stable, and scalable networks that are, quite frankly, the most important resource, other than food and water, for the continuous functioning of our shelter-in-place society. Perhaps we can look at all of those government mystery fees on our bills with a little less disdain.

covidnearyou.org site built in one week by volunteers

Covidnearyou.org created a website to help people map where the virus has been confirmed, helping close the gap of inadequate testing facilities and capabilities. The site was the idea of Rem Ramaswami, the head of product at Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs when he and his wife felt sick. Rem knew he could not build the site without help, so he gathered the support of friends who work for Apple, Amazon, MongoDB, CloudFlare, Alphabet and other tech firms. Together, working through the nights, they built the site in about seven days. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Community spirit, innovation and creativity will enable our culture to soar despite the current hurdles. Expect to see a number of impressive collaborative efforts bringing people together to do good. We learned from 9-11 that hard times bring out the best in people, and some great stories are already circulating.

Oura ring may help detect illness early

Our bodies send signals before we become ill, but we don’t often have ways of detecting the warning signs. Oura makes a ring that is a sensor that detects changes in temperature and sleep patterns and may be able to detect changes that signal illness, like coronavirus. Oura is working with UCSF to outfit 2,000 healthcare professionals to determine the effectiveness of the rings. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Collecting and building large sets of data is critical for applying data analytics and AI, and is difficult to do given HIPPA regulations that ensure privacy. Wise tech firms, like Google, have been able to collect data sets through partnerships with hospitals and academic institutions. Commercial and academic partnerships will build the empirical evidence required to lead healthcare providers and payers to adopt new technologies for the betterment of our care systems.

Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp enjoy surge

It’s not just Zoom and Microsoft Teams that are enjoying unprecedented volume. Facebook products Messenger and Instagram Live usage have doubled over last year in certain regions, especially Italy. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Socializing over the internet works. It is definitely not as good as being in someone’s presence, but it enables people to make eye contact and see each other’s faces and feel the warmth of their presence. Video chats will keep the fabric of our culture intact until it is safe to high five, shake hands, hug and kiss.

 

Race virtually against pro car drivers

Pro race drivers competing against gamers

With the cancellation of Formula One, NASCAR and Indy Car races, professional drivers are competing against themselves and against gamers in online SIM races. Esports events are featuring virtual races with familiar professional drivers. TheVerge

dis-rup-shun: Online gaming technology levels the playing field — driving skills and all athletic skills, for that matter, do not necessarily translate to dominance in video games — making the mixture of professionals and amateurs even more interesting. The NBA and MLB will benefit greatly by keeping fans engaged through Esports events, keeping the most enthusiastic well engaged. A number of pro sports owners also own Esports teams and facilities, and the current crisis will encourage further diversification into video franchises.

Car dropped from tower onto trampoline

Why? Because it was a challenge. A former NASA and Apple engineer and a band of video bloggers do what no one has done before — drop a car 121 feet onto a specially designed, industrial strength trampoline. This 15 minutes and 45 second video is well worth all the time you will waste watching it — not only because we are all fascinated by the immutable laws of physics acting on objects under severe distress, but because the reactions of the brilliant and well-funded pranksters strikes a cord of joy and adrenaline that takes us back. Wired

dis-rup-shun: In these times of utterly unbelievable and distressing news, this fifteen minutes will transport you back to the time when sheer amazement and joy can be found by doing totally crazy stuff. Watch it!

FluSense system detects public illness

Researchers at UMass Ahmerst are developing a system that measures the number of coughs detecting in public places. It uses thermal sensors to estimate the number of people in the room, then computes something along the lines of coughs per capita and frequency of coughs to measure relative changes of health in public areas. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Collecting health data from those who have not yet identified themselves as sick, by going to a doctor or hospital, could lead to insights about the onset of flu before healthcare resources are aware, or needed. As the system does not identify individuals, it does not compromise privacy, but could lead to better predictors of public health.

Bidet attachments ease the need to horde toilet paper

Europeans aren’t queuing up at the market for a run on toilet paper because in many European homes, the bidet has long been a permanent fixture. Bidet attachments can retrofit nearly any toilet for $20, $80 and up, providing a cleansing that nearly eliminates the need for paper. Running a supply line to a hot water source, however can be a bit complicated. CNET

dis-rup-shun: While the coronavirus may leave a permanent mark on traditional ways we educate our college students and how we use expensive office real estate, it is not likely to permanently change the way Americans go to the bathroom. Bidets, for reasons unknown, have not been popular in the U.S., but now there are even better reasons to try an inexpensive attachment which could lead to graduation to a Kohler bidet model that includes a light, a heater, and Bluetooth connectivity.

 

Improving your webcam look

How to look good on a webcam

Life is now enjoyed via web conference, and looking good on a webcam requires a few tricks.

  1. Elevate the computer to be at eye level, else your audience is looking up your nose.
  2. Look into the camera, not the screen. The lack of eye contact is noticeable.
  3. Get a good microphone. The one on your laptop stinks.
  4. Create better lighting by changing the tone on your monitor. Go to settings and choose a warmer hue than monitor blue.
  5. Don’t sit in front of a window — you will be a silhouette.
  6. Choose a good background. This can be performed with software in some video conferencing apps, or by moving to a good spot.  CNET

dis-rup-shun: Face it, you aren’t going anywhere for at least a few weeks — especially if you live in California.  Your chance to make a first or second or nth impression is right here in your home office and you might as well amuse yourself and your coworkers by stepping up your web conferencing game.

Microsoft Teams reaches 44 million users 

As stated above, life is now about web conferencing. All the providers are seeing massive increases in usage, and Microsoft Teams, a very full featured remote work application that incorporates video chat, screen sharing, and instant messaging is enjoying more than double the usage over its 20 million figure last November. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The bulk of online humanity is now trying out a video conferencing platform, but most may not realize that Teams is both a video conference platform and a virtually work space. Microsoft took some lemons from the abysmal Skype product and made lemonade, and except for some hard to find control features, the product is delightful. Slack will have to step up given that Teams is bundled in Microsoft Office suites. Just ask the good people at Netscape what bundling means.

Pornhub does its part for Europeans

Adult content website Pornhub has extended premium memberships for free for a month to the good people of Italy, France and Spain. The company saw dramatic spikes in viewership after the offer. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Well, as we tell children at birthdays, it’s the spirit that counts.

PS5 versus XBox X Series

CNET tries to fill in the missing blanks to determine which new console will be better. Both will be well powered with AMD processors, will have faster memory units and offer backwards compatibility for existing games software. Sony is expected to offer a fairly different controller, and Microsoft is expected to reduce latency via software on its controller. Both are using different architectural approaches to accomplish better performance, but the question of what games will be available on the new devices lingers.

dis-rup-shun: It’s the content, of course, that makes the device! Both companies have kept game titles well concealed, with a few titles known for XBox. Even one totally awesome game on a new platform will sell many, many units.

 

Security owners want more smart home

Smart home security systems owners want more

In a recent study conducted at Interpret Research, owners of smart home security systems indicated a significantly higher intention of purchasing smart home products than people without security systems, suggesting that systems dealers and manufacturers have an interested market, ready for upgrades and add-ons. Interpret

dis-rup-shun: The smart home industry is waiting to understand if smart home product purchasers are more or less inclined to purchase integrated systems, like smart home security systems, after they purchase one or two smart home products. The Interpret study suggests that security systems providers are fueling growth of more products. Next month the company will publish data indicating how important device interoperability is to smart product buyers.

Playstation 5 unveiled

Sony, in a live webinar, unveiled the latest Playstation — number 5. The high-powered console is based on an eight-core AMD CPU and GPU, with SSD storage, haptic feedback and adaptive triggers based on the games being played and what you are doing in the game. The device promises to offer a premium experience. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: These are interesting times for the console makers, and the pandemic and subsequent quarantine may help the console makers, as occasional players will be reminded of the hours of fun and community received by playing on the console. With mobile and cloud-based options eating away at the core of the consoles’ markets, the devices have to deliver an even better experience but still remain priced in the sweet spot of the mass market. It looks like both Sony and Microsoft will deliver on a powerful experience and will get the game content community engaged in another console generation. What happens beyond this generation is harder to predict, as console alternatives continue to get better and offer more titles.

The best video games to play in quarantine

Whatever your preferred genre, there is a multiplayer version of the game you choose which will enable you to meet new people and feel like you are not stuck at home. Some favorites covered by Wired include, Final Fantasy XIV, Don’t Starve Together, Jackbox, Overwatch, Divinity: Original Sin 2, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s Warzone, Stardew Valley, World of Warcraft Classic.

dis-rup-shun: Contact starved quarantine-ees will have to find solace in online communities. The volume of video conference calls must have increased 10 fold or more in the past week, teaching even the skeptics that video calling from home is almost as good as being in an office. Watch productivity spike for home workers (who don’t have children home schooling simultaneously).

Lots of work-from-home newbies are setting up big monitors

If you are perfecting your home office for a long WFH stint, here are some good guidelines to purchasing and connecting a larger monitor to your laptop. If you have a new laptop, you will find that you no longer have standard USB or HDMI ports, as new machines have all gone to the tiny USB-C connector, requiring an adapter or port replicator to be purchased with a new monitor. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Once home workers perfect their setup, it will be difficult to return to the office for more than an occasional team meeting. Will the demand on office space be less after the pandemic as workers want less from their office space and are more willing to be “hotelers” and share space?

 

Amazon on hiring tear

Amazon to hire 100,000 immediately

Amazon has been overwhelmed with orders, especially for consumer staples. Given the potentially long duration of the pandemic, door-to-door delivery may become vital for many who are unable or afraid to shop at stores. The company is beefing up its delivery system, including drivers and warehouse workers, and is encouraging people displaced from the restaurant industry to apply. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Amazon is another silver lining company, one that will prosper during the global pandemic. While the global supply chain is being disrupted and is affecting Amazon, its delivery business will continue to boom and its grocery delivery business may finally get the push it needed to become a household habit. The tech giants do appear to be going the extra mile, using their strong cash positions to assist displaced employees and contribute to the great good.

Bill Gates says good bye to Microsoft

Gates, founder of Microsoft in 1975 with Paul Allen (now deceased), has retired from Microsoft’s board of directors. He has also retired from the board of Berkshire Hathaway, in order to spend more time managing the philanthropies of the Gates Foundation. Gates stated that Microsoft has never been in better hands. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: It is a heart-warming story to see Bill, who, along with a handful of visionaries including Steve Jobs, changed the world. Some of the greatest tech companies that helped change the world, including IBM, HP, EDS, Xerox, Sun Microsystems and even Cisco have lost their way and are either gone or struggling. Gates and Steve Jobs have both moved on, but the leaders that are now at the helm have found new markets and kept the market innovation at the forefront. Now that “Neutron” Jack Welch has passed away, Gates could be the next senior statesman-management sage, showing today’s leaders how to be great.

Remember movie theaters?

The theater industry just had its worst weekend at the box office in two decades. Several major releases were postponed, but theaters remained open, which may not be the case in subsequent weekends. The damage was total revenues of $55 million, an amount that is often earned by a single film in one weekend. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Not wanting to pile on the doom and gloom, we must consider that life after the pandemic will be different. Streaming movie experiences keep keeping better, with better content, better video quality, better user interfaces, and better pricing. Theaters will always be special places to go to get away, to have the one-of-a-kind popcorn buckets, and to take a date when its not yet appropriate to invite a date to your home. But will the pandemic finish off the several week exclusive window that new theaters enjoy before new releases are streamed to home TVs? If so, it will be hard to go back, and movie theaters will lose one big differentiating advantage.

Still don’t have AirPods?

If you are one of the few people who didn’t receive AirPods for the holidays, and if you are determined not to give Apple any more of your money, check out this review of the best wireless ear pods. Sennheiser, Jabra, Sony, Samsung, Anker, and others, all have a place in the top choices. CNET

dis-rup-shun: It is impressive that the consumer electronics industry keeps inventing new must have products. There are a few of us who haven’t yet decided that ear pods are “must haves,” but eventually even the laggards are buyers.

Working from home? Upgrade your Wi-Fi

Upgrading home Wi-Fi now that you are WFH

Millions of people have been barred from the office and are not working from home. With home Wi-Fi now critical to both work and play, there are some easy ways to improve the reliability. Replace your cable or telco router, relocate your router, add a Wi-Fi signal booster, use power line networking to transmit data over through your  electrical outlets, or try using a wired network. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Networking equipment products should be enjoying a significant sales increase as the nation and world retreat to home offices and strive to maintain a semi-normal routine. Corporations will quickly learn that businesses, for the most part, will run quite smoothly with remote workers. The current pandemic may ultimately reduce demand for office space as corporations realize that the work force can be highly productive without the added costs of offices.

Xbox Live service goes down on Sunday

Xbox Live’s service was out for two hours on Sunday. The company has not yet reported if the outage was the result of heavy usage, but it was restored by Sunday evening. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: It’s Spring Break and the ski resorts are closed, air travel is discouraged and everyone is encouraged to stay home… and play games. The Internet providers will be tested in the next weeks as people connect virtually and play games, stream movies, and video conference while working from home. Computer peripherals and accessories, including printer cartridges and paper will be hot quarantine items.

Everbridge emergency management software surges with the pandemic

Everbridge, a public company based outside of Boston, was founded after 9/11 to help companies monitor, manage and communicate in a disaster. The company’s software has been important in tracking coronavirus outbreaks and enabling companies to communicate with employees and customers. The company recently signed a $25 million, 5 year contract with the state of California. The company’s shares are trading at 17 times earnings, well above its average of 11 times. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: As the world braces for economic crisis, finding the winners during bad times will be interesting. Everbridge has a good business model, as natural disasters are a given, and are predicted to be coming more frequently thanks to climate change.

Online game usage surges as schools close

Fortnite, Call of Duty are winners of coronavirus debacle

It has been hard to find silver linings in light of this week’s decimation of life as we know it. Publishers of online games Fortnite and Call of Duty, Epic and Activision, are enjoying surging demand for the game titles. Telecom Italia has reported a surge in network traffic as people stay home from school and work and rely on internet connections for gaming, video consumption, and online classes. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Streaming video services, likewise, will be fully exercised as people stay home during the global sports and concert blackout. Virtual live concerts and sporting events will resemble pay-per-view boxing matches, and may create new entertainment formats that are less reliant on live audiences.

Visual One makes web cameras very smart

Web cameras have become very popular, but motion-based alerts can be some common that people begin to ignore them. Visual One is a company using machine learning and a low cost Wyse Camera to identify types of motion that may interest you — like someone taking a package off the front porch, or a dog jumping on the couch. Being able to select which of these events are worthy of an alert makes a web camera far more useful. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Today’s smart home is a misnomer when we realize how smart products are getting ready to become, and the boost in utility they will provide. Such intelligence, of course, will continue to sound ethics alarms when your webcam is able to send alerts like “Suzy’s boyfriend came through the back gate at 10:48.”

Shadow cloud gaming service comes to U.S.

Another cloud based gaming service is revising its offer for the U.S. market. Blade, a French company offers a monthly fee of $11.99 for a more powerful gaming experience. The service provides a full Windows 10 instance, meaning that for the monthly fee, you essentially have full use of a powerful Nvidia-charged PC, that will run any Windows app you choose — remotely. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: An objection to cloud gaming is latency. With a more powerful processor in the cloud, latencies will be reduced to those in the network, not the data center. Shadow’s offering may make Chromebooks or tablets more feasible, providing all the tools one needs to perform specialized tasks, but from a light weight, low-powered device. 5G will further improve this latest twist on cloud computing.

Foreign made drones to be banned from U.S. Defense purchases

Trump’s administration is preparing an executive order to ban the purchase and use of non-U.S. made drones in military and government applications. The order cites the potential for compromises of national security that could result from sensitive data being transferred to foreign nations. The drone market is expected to be worth $15 billion by the end of the current decade. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: On the heels of the release of detailed accounts of  the massive Equifax data breach, sensitivity toward cyber attacks is high. About 70% of the market is controlled by China-based DJI. The majority of the DoD’s fleet is made up of China-based manufacturers. Old films of East Berlin or Russia during the Cold War showed odd looking Trabant cars, made locally in East Germany. The perils of closed markets are very apparent.

COVID enables tech to crush the college experience

Virus-fighting technology likely to change college forever

Thousands of colleges and universities across the globe announced their closure — some for weeks, others for the duration of the semester. Most all closing institutions will rely on online learning to substitute for people gathering in classrooms, labs and lecture halls. USA Today

dis-rup-shun:  Will academic institutions ever go back to a classroom setting after their abrupt shifts to online education? The late Steve Jobs suggested that college classrooms would someday be replaced by computers and live gatherings would be only for the purpose of holding study groups and help sessions. Perhaps to justify large tuitions and preserve tradition, many high ranked private colleges have employed online learning only minimally. This is now changing in response to COVID-19, and institutions large and small will find that it is easier and less costly to operate a virtual college. Suspended extracurricular activities, sports teams and aging facilities may not be resumed and the collegiate college experience may forever change, especially if quarantines drag on beyond a few weeks.

Stop touching your face! There’s an app for that

If you are following hygiene instructions and washing your hands frequently and trying not to touch your face, you are now aware of how frequently you do it. Slightly Robot, a startup, has created the Immunotouch wristband that buzzes every time your hand approaches your face. And yes, there is an app that enables you to track your retraining progress. The device was originally designed to assist those who have developed the bad habit of pulling their own hair out, but has been opportunistically re-purposed to assist in the battle against coronavirus. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: While an interesting solution for those really determined to keep their hands off of their face, it seems likely that smartwatch makers may quickly respond with an app that takes advantage of the existing accelerometer in the device. China has deployed a number of apps to track one’s proximity to people who have tested positively for COVID-19. Leveraging technologies to assist in controlling pandemics makes perfect sense, and tech companies that do so will endear themselves to the public.

Chip Wars: The (Intel) Empire Strikes Back

After years of attempts, AMD’s 3rd generation Rizen CPUs, the Zen 2,  beat the performance of Intel’s Core i5 9500. A new Intel chipset, the Core i5 10400, will put Intel back on top, at least until AMD rolls out Rizen Gen 4. Forbes

dis-rup-shun: It is tough to stay on top, and after several decades of dominance, Intel is being attacked on many fronts. ARM processors won the mobile race, with Qualcomm a big winner. Nvidia bested Intel with its GPUs for superior graphics in in-car displays such as those in VW and Audi, and now AMD is edging Intel in its core market, the consumer PC. Competition is good for the consumer, and it is certainly giving Intel a thorough run.

Quibi launch mired by lawsuits and coronavirus

What is Quibi? It is a new video subscription service that displays only on smartphones, uses original content no longer than 10 minutes, and is backed by a number of high-level celebrities and business moguls, who are taking a BIG gamble that their exists an appetite for this unusual service. Another unique-ness is that you can rotate the phone and get a completely different camera view of the action — letting you, the viewer, determine the best angle for the action. The service is set to launch in a few weeks, but coronavirus fears prohibit public launch events, and a company called Eko has claimed that Quibi, and several of its executives who came from Snap, who discussed, under NDA, the possibility of using Eko’s technology, have stolen the screen flipping technology. Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: Foretelling demand for Quibi is tough. On the one hand, it seems that we all have too many video sources to watch and too many monthly subscriptions to pay. On the other, it seems that if really compelling content is offered by Quibi, and everyone starts talking about it, the urge to spend just a few more dollars per month will be irresistible, just so we can join the conversation.

The end of the cashier is near

Amazon Just Walk Out technology about to transform retail

Amazon has been developing, through its cashier-less stores, technology that accurately charges a customer for what they have taken from a store using sensors and cameras. Shoppers enter the store and scan an app, then simply walk out with their purchases. Receipts are optional via email. Amazon is now selling this technology to other stores, and it is expected to appear not only in shops, but in movie theater and baseball concession stands. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Isn’t it ironic. The company that took shopping online and wrecked retailers is now in a position to transform retail shopping and eliminate check out altogether. Even shoplifting will be transformed, as thieves and the goods they remove will be well documented by sensors and cameras. This is not the first time Amazon has taken an internal technology and licensed it to the public. The company’s own remote data center technology became the foundation for Amazon Web Services and its Software as a Service tools that it sells to thousands of customers, generating over $25 billion in revenues in 2018.

Health records opened: big win for consumers and Big Tech

In a move that took a decade and a village of healthcare companies and legislators, the Department of Health and Human Services cracked Epic System’s stranglehold on personal health records. Epic Systems, a company protected by a slow-to-change industry that is careful to safeguard privacy, effectively controlled electronic health record access and resisted Big Tech’s efforts to interface with health records for use with smartphones and health apps. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The health care system and its incumbents are right to insist on the highest level of data privacy and compliance with HIPPA, but enabling tech companies easier access to consumers’ health records will accelerate the creation of a transparent market with open pricing and clearer choices. To be able to shop for your next MRI or even compare costs of surgeries from place to place will rock the care industry, but will ultimately lead to more competition between care providers, a higher focus on service, and a more cost effective care system. Bring it on.

Ready to carry a password key?

Passwords suck. Many are not secure and remembering multiple passwords requires uncommon genius. A new security technology, called FIDO, is working on replacing passwords. FIDO requires a combination of a physical USB key and a biometric reader (fingerprint or facial recognition). FIDO apps on your smartphone, when tethered to a PC via Bluetooth, can serve as the physical key. FIDO is reported to be far more secure than any prior security method and, even better, is able to block spammer and phishing schemes. CNET

dis-rup-shun: It is a rare person that sits at a computer without their smartphone nearby, so FIDO could transform security without much hassle. Eliminating passwords that need to be complex and always different to be secure will be a great day. Most people still seem to carry keys, so adding one more for data access sounds like a reasonable possibility.

The Internet lives in a hotel in NYC

Wired goes inside one of the large Internet hotels where servers, switches, miles of cable, power plants and backup generators live under very tight security. Multiple hotels house interconnection of networks such as AT&T, Google and Verizon, enabling them to exchange data across their separate networks. The hotels house hundreds of servers, some which are owned by the networks, and some by their large clients.

dis-rup-shun: You will enjoy the photos that show how a click of a mouse can connect us to millions of data sources from around the world. The resources required to create the Internet are clean, yet massive. Huge amounts of power, cable, plastic sheathing and diesel fuel (for backup) are required to enable the high reliability network. The rapid growth of data will require ever more resources, pushing against the resource reductions delivered by the now sputtering Moore’s Law. The distributed nature of Internet hotels, however, provides effective protection from potential disasters.

 

Rocket rides sold for $55 million

Space travel broker Axiom Space sells a seat for $55 million

The travel broker Axiom Space sold its first of three seats on a SpaceX rocket, and a 10 day stay on the international space station, for $55 million. CNET

dis-rup-shun: This is an interesting cluster of commercial, private and government interests. Which entities stand to gain from private citizens paying a commercial rocket company for time on a multi-national government funded space station, and what happens when space tourists get in the way of valuable scientific experiments and potentially endanger astronauts who have trained for decades to spend time in space?

Techlash — no more office space allowed in San Francisco

The city of San Francisco expects to pass Proposition E (pundits indicate that bill has 55% support). Proposition E limits construction of new office space based upon the amount of new housing stock created. Local residents are celebrating the proposal, while economists and venture capitalists are highly concerned. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Despite exceptionally high housing prices and shocking growth in homeless population, San Francisco’s tech boom continues to draw the best and brightest to the city. The city is looking more like a closed system — if you pour in thousands of prosperous jobs, you can’t force the low wage earners out of the city — they want and need to be there too, but are increasingly forced to live in the streets. With remote work tools getting better by the month, tech companies should find it easier than ever to tap into lower cost, distributed work forces outside of the Bay Area.

Apple App Store bans many COVID-19 apps

Apple joins other Big Tech companies on controlling the misinformation associated with coronavirus. Apps that help track the virus that are not submitted by health organizations are blocked. Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: Amazon is working to take down price gougers who are selling masks and sanitizers at outlandish prices, and Facebook is working to eliminate misinformation posted on its network. Apple is doing its part to prevent misleading or overly opportunistic apps. It is encouraging to see that Big Tech is collectively focusing on protecting people and helping the global community steer its way through the current health and economic crisis.

Oppo watch is Apple Watch lookalike for Android

Chinese manufacturer Oppo has released a good looking Apple lookalike. The product runs the Android-based ColorOS, and will be released for sale first in China on March 24th. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The watch is not an exact knock-off of the Apple Watch, but very similar. Just as in phones, Apple set the look and feel for an armada of smartphones from many brands — none as successful as Samsung — sold to people who liked the technology but preferred not to join the Apple faithful. As the smart watch gains market share, expect Apple to dictate the design, feature set and pricing even while Android powered watches eventually overtake Apple’s share of the market.

Coronavirus spurs telehealth use

Coronavirus may be catalyst for telehealth

Telehealth applications are proving effective to keep the worried well out of hospitals and clinics. Those who wish to confirm that they do not have the virus are turning to telehealth apps including Teledoc, Anthem’s LiveHealth Online, United Health Group, and Aetna’s CVS Minute Clinics. Remote physician visits, through an app, prevent overcrowding of the health care system, which can be better utilized to treat those with positive symptoms. Reimbursement for telehealth still has some obstacles to overcome, including paying doctors who treat people across state lines. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: There must be some silver linings from coronavirus, and a thorough test of telehealth systems, including reimbursement of healthcare professionals, should be one. Our healthcare systems must lean heavily on telemedicine to address the looming care crisis (that exists without coronavirus) and the burden is on health insurance companies to provide incentives for consumers as well as doctors to use telehealth before crowding doctors offices and clinics for basic care issues.

GM gets serious about beating Tesla

GM showed off a new modular chassis and battery platform designed to be the foundation for a large variety of models from GM, Cadillac, Chevy and Buick. The new battery technology uses less cobalt and more aluminum, and is expected to get ranges of 400 miles on faster charging time. In the mix are a new Cadillac EV as well as a Hummer electric pickup truck. TheVerge

dis-rup-shun: Ever since Tesla’s market valuation ballooned to more than 3x that of GM, the big automakers have received the message. The message is that their side agenda of mixing a few electric cars into the fleet is a death wish, as the future is starting to look all electric. Now the question is if the service stations, lube franchises, and auto repair businesses are thinking long term. Certainly petrol burners will be on the road for a decade or two, but with the average family SUV being electric in a handful of years, the demand for combustion engine automobile services will fall like a rock. This will also put a big dent in auto dealership service revenues, as EVs simply require far less repairs and maintenance.

Apple Arcade becoming the Netflix of Games

Apple’s $5 per month game subscription targets the family gaming experience, providing a host of family-friendly game titles without any in-game purchases of weapons, tools or cheats. Designed for a different market from XBox services or Google’s Stadia console killer, the service, like Netflix, offers a variety of titles and genres under one simple subscription price model. TheVerge

dis-rup-shun: Apple executives at some point sat down to determine how they could be like Netflix, and one result was Arcade. In addition to creating a new source of revenues, the service further cements children’s’ affections for the Apple brand — catching consumers for life at an early age. Let’s see what future service models Apple has up its sleeve, and how its successful credit card venture can be woven into these services.

The future of tires: AI and self-healing

Goodyear has introduced a very different concept of tires for the future — tires that use AI to determine, based on your driving style, what your tread should be like, and then using cartridges of rubber-like material that a driver injects into the tire frame, an individualized tread is “grown.” The futuristic concept requires a narrow tire on a slim frame that makes flat tires and changing tire pressure a thing of the past. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Generating rubber for tires, either of natural or synthetic rubber, is a resource intensive process. Disposing of tires may be even worse. As our culture takes a hard look at environmental impact, the tire industry has a lot of cleaning up to do. With electric vehicles still requiring at least four tires per car, the future of the tire industry isn’t bleak like the gasoline engine-based industries, and innovations improving efficiency and reducing energy and waste will be well embraced by EV manufacturers.

Consumers love Microsoft, Amazon distrust Facebook, Twitter

Verge consumer survey shows what tech companies are loved and disdained

The Verge completed a follow up survey to its 2016 survey on public perceptions of tech firms. Facebook lacked trust in 2016 and has fallen precipitously, while Amazon, adored in 2016, remains a public favorite. Microsoft is the must trusted tech company (75% trust it), followed by Amazon (73% trust it).

  • 56 percent said the government should break up tech companies if they control too much of the economy
  • 72 percent said that Facebook has too much power
  • 51 percent said Google and YouTube should be split into separate companies

dis-rup-shun: What is surprising about the survey is that Apple is in the bottom half of companies discussed. Has Apple’s premium product positioning and pricing made it an elitist brand that does not appeal to the masses as do Google, Netflix, and Amazon? Perhaps Apple has become the Nordstrom’s in a Target world, where technology is now a lifestyle necessity of all but the most impoverished, and highly accessible brands are seen as providing great utility to society. Facebook, however, remains a powerful but disliked brand — a precarious position for long-term success.

Walmart readies answer to Amazon Prime

Walmart will soon launch Walmart + which is a fee-based loyalty program aimed to combat Amazon Prime. Amazon now controls 40% of online retail, Walmart.com controls 5%. Walmart is exploring perks for which it has a unique advantage, such as 1,600 grocery stores in the U.S. that could provide free delivery. Aside from free grocery delivery, the retail giant may be hard pressed to find other advantages its chain can offer over Amazon. Vox

dis-rup-shun: Amazon has changed the rules of shopping, with Sunday deliveries so successful that FedEx trucks are rolling down neighborhood streets on Sunday. To beat Amazon at its game, Walmart must not only offer equivalent one to two-day delivery, but must provide a product that so delights customers, as Amazon Prime Video does, that consumers will, as with Amazon, feel as if they are receiving something for free. Grocery delivery is great, but more of a necessity than a pleasure. Free ice cream delivery, or make it dessert delivery, could be a game changer.

AT&T TV: meet the new face of cable TV

AT&T has exactly eight video service offerings, and the newest is simply AT&T TV. The new service looks like a skinny cable bundle (just the major channels), is delivered over the Internet, and costs only $50 per month. The catch, however, is that a two year contract is required, and year 2 costs $93 per month before a plethora of add-ons. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The masses are cutting the cord and there are many, many streaming TV package alternatives. Hulu and YouTube TV are the early leaders with bundles that look like cable, but cost a lot less, and provide whole-home (multiple device) solutions. AT&T TV is a clever offering, in that it will appeal to those that believe they should join the cord cutting revolution, yet just aren’t sure if non-traditional providers will give them what they want. Enter AT&T with a promise to deliver the new TV dream while also providing a familiar pricing package full of expensive add-ons and increasing prices over a contract period. Once again, the company will churn the same user base that it recently churned from U-Verse to DirecTV.

Another one (SpaceX rocket) bites the dust

Elon Musk’s SpaceX lost another Starship that apparently buckled under pressure as nitrogen filled its tanks. This follows a series of failures of different types and parts of rockets as the company remains hellbent on getting reusable space travel ready for prime time ahead of competitors. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Every rocket failure can be seen as a setback, but should be seen as great progress towards achieving safety in space. Every failure, let’s hope, is one less that will occur with precious cargo such as humans, aboard. The stakes for winning space are very high and commercial space travel is one area of technology that American entrepreneurs are leading the globe.

U.S. Air Force ready to help the flying taxi industry

U.S. Air Force offers to help test flying cars

The USAF has offered to assist the flying car and flying taxi makers test and certify their crafts in order to accelerate growth of the new category, for civilian and military use. The move is reported to be the result of the small drone business, vitally important to the U.S. military, having migrated to China, making it difficult for the U.S. military to find domestic drone partners. Wired

dis-rup-shun: The USAF’s dilemma is a new theme that will repeat many times: how to keep at least some core of new technologies from rapidly migrating to markets, such as China, that can produce faster, better and cheaper. With the majority of consumer electronics already being produced outside of the U.S., designating selected technologies to remain on-shore is an unlikely outcome. The Air Force’s move will likely create important military-emerging company partnerships earlier that may, if military funds follow, become long-term.

Sparta Science and the NFL use data to predict injuries

Sparta, a company founded by MD Phil Wagner, uses workout and movement data from NFL players, to create a player risk profile. By compiling thousands of data points from video scans of players, the technology determines points of stress in a player’s movements and predicts injuries that are likely to occur. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The idea of science predicting when we will get injured, sick or die is creepy, but with millions of dollars being invested in pro athletes, especially NFL and NBA players, it only makes sense. Consider the possibility, however, that to purchase a life insurance policy or even health insurance, we will report to a clinic that will run a series of tests and, consequently, assign us to a risk category, to which our insurance premiums will be set.

Internet Archive stores 20,000 VHS recordings

Did you know there is an organization which preserves historical media for posterity? The Internet Archive is a non-profit online library of media of our yesteryear. It is well known for its Wayback Machine, which is a tool that can be used to locate millions of web pages that have long disappeared from the world wide web. The Internet Archive has now stored the contents of over 20,000 VHS recordings, preserving a great deal of 90s videos, commercials and TV shows. Check out the VHS Vault for a black hole of campy entertainment. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: The ability to study history firsthand is invaluable, and thanks to the Internet Archive, future historians can do just that. The downside, of course, is that governments that might wish to control resources such as the Internet Archive can, literally, re-write history. Let’s hope that these resources remain independent, redundant and well preserved.

Unions call for investigation of Amazon for anti-competitive trade practices

Big Tech, facing increasing pressure from Congress, can now add unions to its list of detractors. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Communications Workers of America, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and the Service Employees International Union have petitioned the FTC to look into Amazon’s “immense and growing influence.” The unions call on the FTC to consider Amazon’s “exclusionary conduct to the detriment of workers, consumers, merchants, and competition itself.” Amazon’s reply: the company has created over 500,000 jobs and represents less than 4% of total retail. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: It’s a slippery slope that giant, fast growing corporations walk, and history shows that giants are eventually toppled by regulators. The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 toppled Standard Oil, and President Roosevelt sued 45 additional companies. Not quite a hundred years later Judge Green ordered the restructuring of AT&T. Amazon is, no doubt, reshaping our economy, but can it do so without being seen as a menace? Just this weekend on television, commercials for Amazon’s Pill Pack pharmacy were aired. Amazon’s push into healthcare may provide much needed disruption, but may also draw the ire of a new set of industry regulators.

 

Tempo perfects connected home weightlifting

Tempo weightlifting provides live coaching online

Peloton has changed home workout equipment forever, and Tempo, with Series A funding of $17 million, is on its way to making home weight lifting state-of-the-art. The six foot tall station includes a flat panel equipped with a 3D camera, which monitors your reps and form and corrects improper form. Live classes not only offer you a just-like-the-gym experience, but the instructor on the other side of the screen can see if you are using poor form and can call you out to correct you across the wire. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Imagine a high end home with a collection of state-of-the-art exercise devices.  Because the owner wants only the best, each piece of equipment has its own programming, its own class subscription plan and pricing, and its own schedule for live classes. It would be like going to the gym and finding that every piece of equipment was made by a different company and worked a bit differently. The home fitness industry is entering a stage in which most devices are connected, offer an experience as good or better than from a live trainer, and demand a hefty monthly subscription fee. If the result is that more people get in better shape for the same or less money than going to the gym, then everybody wins. The question will be to see if gym memberships decline, or if the need for human fellowship keeps the gym buzzing.

After information, controls is next tier of smart speaker usage 

Smart speakers are now found in 35% of U.S. households, according to Interpret’s New Media Measure quarterly survey of 9,000 U.S. households. The screen-enabled version of smart speakers, called smart displays, were heavily promoted for the holidays, with commercials for Facebook’s Portal, Amazon’s Echo Show, and Google’s Nest Home Hub. Smart displays will likely be used more frequently than smart speakers for shopping, as only 8% of respondents claim to make purchases through smart speakers. The primary use case for the devices is asking about the weather (53% of respondents), searching the web to answer questions (34% of respondents), followed by keeping a to-do list and task reminders (27%). An impressive 26% of respondents reported that they control smart home devices through their smart speaker. Interpret Analysis

dis-rup-shun: If half of smart speaker owners are now controlling home systems through their smart speakers, the devices are paving the way for increasing adoption of smart home products that can communicate with Alexa or Google Home. Amazon now owns Ring and Google owns Nest, so both companies are poised to finish what they started — building a full array of smart home systems, from lighting to thermostats, cameras, doorbells and leak sensors. With the riches possessed by both companies, however, one wonders why the companies haven’t moved more quickly to acquire these missing pieces. Perhaps it is only a matter of time.

Disney’s new CEO leaves analysts questioning

On Tuesday, Bob Iger, Disney’s CEO, announced his resignation and appointment of Bob Chapek, head of amusement parks, as his replacement. The announcement puzzled analysts who have heard, for the past several years, that Disney’s future is all about streaming video, suggesting that head of Disney streaming, Kevin Mayer, would be tapped for the top job. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The selection was unexpected, but perhaps the toughest job in the room is keeping the magic that is Disney, continuing. The video business is critical to Disney’s future, but what makes the company special is imagination and imaginative content, and perhaps the way to keep imaginations blooming is through the man who kept the theme parks imaginative and fresh.

Home videoconferencing technologies are improving

Share prices for videoconferencing software companies are on the rise, thanks to coronavirus. But the increase in videoconferencing started way before the virus. Gartner Research says that more than 50 percent of global employees will work remotely, on occasion this year, compared to 20 percent in 2016. The result is more software choices, but also better features, such as shared whiteboards, the ability to choose from a variety of backdrops, and even technology from Microsoft that makes you appear to be looking into the camera even when you are surfing Instagram. Wired

dis-rup-shun: The efficiencies of remote work are proving effective, as forming specialized work groups seems to be ever more important in today’s global, connected economies. The industries clobbered are likely the relocation companies: moving vans, corporate apartments and the like, as the reasons for relocating for work are fewer, at least for specialized knowledge workers.

 

Work: Silicon Valley style

Silicon Valley has ruined work

Wired claims that the new work culture of ping pong tables, nap pods, unassigned cubicles, free juice, paid lunches (and dinners) and unlimited vacation days is an export from Silicon Valley. Furthermore, the author claims that this new work culture has ruined work in that it has eliminated the distinctions between work and personal life as work now has no barriers. The days of leaving work after five or six pm and not resuming until the next work day are over, courtesy of Silicon Valley.

dis-rup-shun: For those of us who started our careers wearing a suit and tie, every day, for the sake of impressing mostly our co-workers, the changes in work culture have been astounding. We have watched offices reflect our status, with size and location, then disappear for all except for senior managers, and we have watched cubicles go from large and tall to non-existent. Work today, more than ever, is defined by the culture of its boss(es), and requires teamwork and collaboration, given the lack of barriers between the most senior and most junior of employees. Making work fulfilling, as it fills a larger space in people’s lives, will be the biggest cultural challenge facing business leaders forthwith.

XBox Series X will be fast

Microsoft has released initial information about the next XBox, coming to us near year’s end. The early information indicates that the device will be long on horsepower, enabling games to load quickly, switch quickly between games, and support high graphics frame rates. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Google has disrupted the console space by offering strong titles via the cloud, at very attractive prices. Some believe a similar service from Amazon is inevitable. To remain relevant, console makers will have to emphasize the unique experience provided by a really powerful machine that sits next to their favorite gaming spot. Expect consoles to become even more powerful and expensive, closing the distance between gaming PCs and mass market devices, as much of the mass market migrates to cloud gaming. Console makers will have to re-examine their business strategy and margins to determine how to profit from lower sales of more expensive devices.

Huawei, the Google of China, rolls on with a smart speaker

Huawei has just released a smart speaker for the EU that will take on Google Home and Amazon Echo variants. The Sound X device does not yet come with its own smart assistant software in Europe, but does offer Xiaoyi, its voice assistant in China. The product will not be offered in the U.S. and is a partnership with French high-end audio specialists Devialet. The partnership is a move to position the product for audiophiles who will pay a premium for sound quality. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Huawei, despite intense and ongoing political pressure from the U.S., continues to release new and diverse products, including telecom equipment, smartphones and now, smart speakers. Blocked from the U.S., Huawei is aggressively competing in all other markets, drawing strength from large markets such as India and Europe, a strategy that will pay many long-term dividends.

Rumors indicate a low cost iPhone in March

The next swath of iPhones, coming as early as March 2020, may include a new low cost unit, possibly called the iPhone SE2. The last low cost iPhone was the iPhone SE, sold for $399 is 2016.  CNET

dis-rup-shun: Apple stands to gain a new following by catering to those not willing to spend for an iPhone 11 or 11 Pro. For those that feel they cannot join in the buzz inside the packed (pre-coronavirus) Apple Store, a lower price point will open up the fun to a new clientele. Additionally, it seems that an increasing number of spendthrifts are operating on iPhones that are 3 and 4 generations old. Apple’s new offering may be what’s needed to refresh a significant number of “sleeper” Apple fans.

New NFL rights could be the end of TV

NFL TV rights are linchpin for the future of TV

NFL broadcasting rights are locked up through 2022, but awarding of future contracts will begin in the next months. Currently, NFL broadcasts are held by owners who distribute through traditional pay TV outlets (cable, satellite, over the air). To be seen is if an exclusive streaming video provider, such as Netflix, Amazon, or You Tube steps up to grab exclusive rights to NFL broadcasts — an act that would forever change and further devalue the traditional TV business. It is more likely, however, that the NFL will award the new contracts to companies such as CBSViacom, Comcast and Disney that own distribution both in traditional as well as streaming channels. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: It is possible that our disruptor friends Amazon, or You Tube would do the unthinkable and pay unprecedented sums to lock up the NFL for streaming only. Such an act would rapidly accelerate the demise-in-progress of the traditional TV business and dislodge the remaining Luddites who are holding onto cable and satellite TV mostly for live sports. The big winners, of course, are the fabulously rich NFL owners.

Buffett trades flip phone for iPhone

Warren Buffet’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns 245 million shares of Apple, worth $72 billion. Apple is the third largest component of Berkshire, following the company’s stake in insurance and railroads. Buffett calls Apple “probably the best business I know in the world.” CNBC

dis-rup-shun: This is high praise from the most successful investor of our time, who expresses regret for not owning the company sooner. Buffett has always been an investor in financially stable and traditional companies. Is Apple now the General Electric and General Motors of our time — a traditional, conservative investment? In the highly volatile and high risk world of technology, it is hard to consider any tech player as a low risk investment. Let’s hope Apple continues to lead technology innovation for at least another decade.

Pets go hungry for days as technology failure shocks owners

Petnet, an IOT company backed by a collaborative of investors including Petco, makes the SmartFeeders line of connected products that dispense food to pets on a pre-set schedule. The company experienced an unexplained system failure that took systems offline for a week. While the service is restored, pet owners are left wondering what went wrong and if it will happen again. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: We hope no pets were actually harmed during this outage, and that owners, after some period of time, realized their pets had not been fed. The incident, however, is a reminder that our society is entrusting more and more of the important things in life, including the safety and health of our loved ones, to technology companies. The reasons for the outage are unknown: was it a software glitch, a network outage, or financial turmoil that resulted in kitty not eating for several days? Whatever the cause, vendors will face increasing pressure from consumers to ensure redundancy of technology that is important to them, as consumers expect IOT systems to be as reliable as an electric, water or cellular utility company.

How are your resolutions? Weight Watchers or Noom?

CNET weighs the merits of weight loss mobile app programs from industry veteran Weight Watchers, now re-branded “WW” and newcomer Noom. Both apps include daily tracking of food intake, various levels of coaching, and healthy living advice. WW focuses on a points system, is more flexible, and has three tiers of service and price, whereas Noom is based on calorie counting, heavy on coaching, and has a single, higher price point. Both programs offer clinical evidence that they are effective — with 78% of Noom users losing weight when on the program for over a year.

dis-rup-shun: Weight loss programs such as Weight Watchers had to quickly change to an online program when the world went digital. These programs are examples of human-first services transforming to machine first, with human coaches being offered to support the machine based functions only as needed. While it appears that the digital programs remain effective for weight loss, it will be interesting to learn if the new WW operates at a lower cost, employing fewer humans, than in the days of operating physical Weight Watchers store fronts.

 

EU threatens to block Fitbit sale

EU to Google on Fitbit: “Not so fast”

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB), an entity of the European Union, has raised concerns about Google’s $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit and its 28 million users. The EU has concerns about the big U.S. based tech company acquiring private health data of many European citizens. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: News today is a constant cadence of analysts determining that apps that are not authorized are still transmitting customer location data, and other private data points, all the while with tech companies making constant, and genuine, progress towards device and data security. Data privacy is becoming such an issue in the public’s perception of tech providers that Big Tech must run faster and farther to get ahead of growing consumer unrest. Tech firms would be well served to fund and launch a trusted third-party data privacy and security certification and enforcement agency to create a Good Housekeeping or UL Certified endorsement for products. Google will win and the EU will acquiesce, but good for the Europeans for voicing concerns.

Google Maps receives an upgrade

The battle to be the mapping software for your autonomous future is on, and Google has just updated its maps to be more user friendly, providing a slightly refreshed look and more convenient menu buttons across the bottom of the screen, including Explore, Go, Saved, Contribute and Updates. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Google has to fight back Apple, whose second tier map application has just been improved and updated. The new menu buttons on Google Maps are a threat to some daily app staples that we all enjoy, including Waze, Yelp, TripAdvisor and Facebook. By adding similar functionality at your fingertips, it is likely that reliance on these other apps will decline. Upon further consideration, most of what we do on a smartphone could be integrated into mapping applications — including even text messages — making it harder and harder for other apps to find their place in our lives.

Best Alexa-enabled smart home devices

As Alexa enters its 7th year in our lives and homes, it (she?) continues to play a larger role in a growing number of devices — some not so helpful (microwave oven) and some quite useful. CNET provides a rundown of the ten most useful Alexa-enabled devices:

  • Echo Dot with Clock — the clock radio is reincarnated, but is it listening?
  • Arlo Pro 3 smart cam — view camera streams on Echo Show
  • Ring Peephole Cam — replaces the peephole in your door and provides a great solution for people in apartments or who don’t want to attach something to their door frame
  • Ecobee smart thermostat — if you can talk to your thermostat, you don’t need a separate, stand-alone smart speaker
  • Amazon Echo Show 8 — if you have an Amazon enabled doorbell cam, you have a great front door intercom system
  • August Smart Lock Pro — tell Alexa to unlock the door without getting off the couch
  • SimpliSafe home security system — arm and disarm the home with voice commands
  • Philips White Hue LED — these light bulbs include both Zigbee and Bluetooth radios, and are Alexa enabled. This means you can have smart lighting without an additional hub device — just let your phone and or your Alexa-enabled device talk to your lightbulbs. Simple.
  • TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini — outfitting lamps with a smart bulb or a smart plug is a great convenience if you haven’t tried it. For $30, it is worth a try.

What are people doing with smart speakers?

MarketWatch provides some interesting data on what, exactly, people are using their smart speakers to do. 

dis-rup-shun: With more devices including Alexa or Google Assistant, expect smart home commands, as a use case category, to increase. A home built with all switches voice-enabled is not far away — meaning you never have to flip a switch. But when baby is sleeping, you will want to still flip that switch. Stay tuned next week for more research from Interpret on the role of smart speakers in smart home product adoption.

Microsoft fixes voting

Microsoft seeks to become the voting standard

Microsoft is out to fix broken voting technology through its new ElectionGuard product line that creates dual printed copies of each ballot, encryption, and a certificate validating the vote. If hackers break into the system and change votes, the discrepancy will be more noticeable and traceable. CNET

dis-rup-shun: It is hard for the average voter to fathom how antiquated the polling process is, and why the best minds have not developed as foolproof a system as can be created. If we now bank mostly from home and on our smartphones, why can’t voting be done the same way? And for a fraction of the cost of recruiting all of those volunteers to over-staff polling places.

Redbox offers free ad-supported streaming service

Redbox is feeling the pinch of the slow demise of DVD rentals, and is now launching Redbox Free Live TV. In a world of cord cutters, receiving content via the internet for the price of watching some commercials appeals to many. The free content is organized into channels by theme, and offers a viewing experience more like over the air TV, but with no subscription or per episode charges. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: In the new world of streaming video, there is something for everyone. Premium services, discount services, and free services will all coexist on you internet connected TV, as different services fill different niches. Expect the services that are pumping out original content to take a premium, hybrid price model similar to Amazon Prime Video today, in which one pays an annual subscription fee as well as per-event up-charges. For those that don’t want to pay at all, there is always Redbox over free over the air TV. After all, Redbox offers a better deal than paying a monthly subscription fee and watching commercials.

Can Google watches catch Apple Watch? 

Smartwatches are going after the turf served by the less functional but smaller fitness trackers, such as Fitbit, a company that is being acquired by Google. Apple is doing deals with large health club chains, that now offer discounts to owners and regular users of Apple Watches. Nearly 70% of fitness club members own a device, but only one-third of smartwatch owners belong to a fitness club, meaning incentives to smartwatch owners could be a great enticement to join up. After catering to fitness enthusiasts, the next logical segment for smartwatch makers to target is parents. Smartwatch owners with children under 18 show a high affinity to shop for pizza, jewelry and financial service products — and there is a (smartwatch) app for that. Interpret Research

dis-rup-shun: Digital natives claim they have little need for a watch, since their smartphones provide the time. But digital natives no doubt need an on-wrist communicator to keep them even closer to text messages, so the watch, in its new form as smartwatch, lives on. Once again, apps will define the utility of the device, and Google is running fast to catch Apple, acquiring Fitbit and, in theory some of its users. If Google opens the smartwatch OS, as it did with Android on the phone, then it stands a good chance to at least control the software on the majority of smartwatches after a number of manufacturers catch Apple’s long lead in this category.

Amazon Care now open for Seattle employees

Amazon Care is the company’s internal health care service for employees, providing them for an app for live, remote doctor visits, as well as for scheduling the appropriate Amazon Care health care professional to come visit the employee at home or office. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: It is not unique for a large company to have its own health services for employees, but Amazon is different. It has built its own app, it owns an online pharmacy called PillPack, and it likes to rapidly scale projects that seem to work. This could very well be the test bed for a nationwide alternative care network which would likely change the way we consume health care services — turning the entire care industry on its head in a few short years. Time will tell, but healthcare is an industry very ripe for some Amazon-ization.

 

Musk: Gates is underwhelming

Elon Musk calls Bill Gates “underwhelming”

Bill Gates just reported that he purchased an all electric Porsche Taycan. Musk took to Twitter to report that his past conversations with Gates were underwhelming. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The Taycan takes electric vehicle ownership to a new level — the ability to be environmentally responsible and drive one of the premier car brands. Gates, whose foundation focuses on climate change, along with many other issues, gives Musk full credit in an interview in Inc. for changing the automotive landscape. Gates, who has long been a Porsche fan and owns a very rare model 959, explains his decision by saying that the Porsche, while premium priced, is “very, very cool.”

Ring gets serious about data security

Ring, owned by Amazon, has been criticized both for its relationship with law enforcement, as well as for the ease that its system can be hacked.  Last month, the company announced a data privacy dashboard, enabling consumers to more easily see and control what data is shared with third parties. The company just announced that it is implementing two-factor authentication for its users, requiring them to input a code sent to a smartphone when they log in.  TheVerge

dis-rup-shun: Ring is doing the right things to make sure its smart home products are protected and that its products are transparent in terms of sharing user data. Ring is on the leading edge of a movement by most product makers to provide consumers with more visibility into data sharing. Consumer displeasure, mixed with the pressures of congressional inquiry, have caused Apple to take the position that it is the “privacy company,” distinguishing itself from rivals Google, Facebook and Amazon. Good news for consumers, other Big Tech firms are following suit. Expect to see data privacy dashboards and two-factor authentication become standard offerings for smart home and consumer electronics products.

Latest squeeze on Huawei – cut off access to chip making equipment

Only days after disclosure that the Equifax heist was conducted by operatives of the Chinese army, the U.S. Commerce Department is considering a new policy to require users of U.S. made semiconductor manufacturing equipment to obtain licenses. This registration effort would seek to prohibit, or at least keep track of machines sold or used for Huawei production. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The international Whack-a-Mole game continues, with the U.S. Commerce Department taking stock of what is left under U.S. control that it has not already used to limit Huawei. Huawei, a marvel in resistance, continues to respond to U.S. sanctions by building its own products, including a new smartphone operating system. The long-term effect of this latest chess move could well be the development of semiconductor manufacturing technology in China. Each obstacle may slow the technology giant, but not for long.

Use Alexa to find your lost phone in the house

If you aren’t yet using Alexa at home, this could be the best use. With a voice command, you can ask Alexa to call your phone and, assuming the phone is not on silent, you are in luck. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Alexa has many tricks to make life easier, but none that will win over those with Big Brother Syndrome. The fear of Jeff Bezos listening in to arguments about whose turn it is to walk the dog or other highly classified in-home discussions will keep the marvels of voice assistants out of the home for the foreseeable future. Amazon’s real technology feat will be to create a feature that convinces people their data is safe, and that they can take a chance on voice technology.

Sex tip app launches with $5M investment

Lover – sex tip app funded by Tinder founder

Lover is an app funded by Tinder founder Sean Rad. Lover is founded by board-certified sexual medicine clinical psychologist Dr. Britney Blair, who shares that the site is built on decades of research. Blair claims that the site not only enables people to have better sex, but overcome sexual problems, including ED. Blair states that in pre-launch testing, 62% of people with ED reported improvements within three weeks of using the app. Lover is free for 7 days then charges $9.99 per month. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: TechCrunch points out that digital pharmacies such as Ro have reached a $500 million valuation in 18 months. Commercials for ED drugs from online pharmacy Roman and Hims are frequent, indicating that there is big money here. A non-pharmaceutical approach to sexual health, along with tips, tricks and “how-to’s” from a legitimate source will be a runaway hit.

Ditch the Disk group calls for new standards for medical imaging

“Ditch the Disk” is a group of tech execs leading a movement to get the medical industry to move beyond storing imaging files on CD-ROM physical disks. The industry’s reluctance to part with physical disks creates significant barriers to sharing images between doctors, causing some patients to carry a disk from provider to provider, hoping that all providers have computers with disk readers. The inaccessibility of images is a frequent cause for duplicate testing, increasing costs and unnecessarily exposing people to radiation. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: This is yet another example of pockets of resistance to new technology standards in the healthcare industry. The goal for healthcare should be to leverage the latest tech standards as quickly as possible in order to reduce costs and maximize transparency to the consumer. The consumer-ization of healthcare is happening much more slowly than it should, and the faster healthcare professionals and companies accept that Amazon or Google or others will turn the healthcare industry into a consumer-friendly marketplace, the better their chances will be at avoiding displacement.

A DIY bidet enables luxury living

Butt tech: for $599, one can transform their bathroom into a luxury experience with the Coway Bidetmega 400. The device dependably warms, washes and dries the butt, making this luxury product “the best thing you didn’t know you needed.” Wired

dis-rup-shun: The author suggests that given the problems with our society, including massive debt and out of reach housing prices, it is the little luxuries, such as a heated toilet seat and bidet, that make life wonderful. He also points out that the Bidetmega 400 is not internet connected, so no one has to fear that their toileting activities are being stored in the cloud.

Percussive massage guns are required for fitness enthusiasts

CNET reviews percussive massage guns — comparing a number of less expensive models to the gold standard, the Theragun. Percussive massage guns provide the same healthy recovery of strained muscles as massage therapy by a real person, but anytime.

dis-rup-shun: If you have never tried a massage gun on sore muscles, then you are missing out on instant relief. As our culture spends more on online workouts and health club memberships, expect to see more home appliances created for our obsessions with exercise.

 

 

 

Equifax hack unveiled

Equifax hackers traced to China’s People’s Liberation Army

The Department of Justice has alleged that four individuals who are part of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army were behind one of the world’s largest data breaches, exposing names, passwords and credit information of 147 million people. The hackers exploited a vulnerability in Apache (web) software that was publicly announced, along with a fix. Equifax did not implement the fix for over a week, giving the bad actors time to break in and establish a foothold from which they collected Equifax employee’s credentials — giving them easy access without relying on the Apache vulnerability. From their software base camp, the hackers spent several months carefully studying the Equifax file structure and built a number of schemas to harvest data without detection. Equifax was found, by the DOJ, to have many security weaknesses that made the hacking much simpler. Wired

dis-rup-shun: If four well-trained people gained access to nearly half of all U.S. citizen’s credit information in a matter of months several years ago, chances are good that multiple parties have already quietly gained access to essentially every citizen’s data by now — they just haven’t been caught. Imagine if you will, warfare in which one nation essentially freezes its enemy population’s assets and wrecks their ability to conduct simple transactions, dissolving their net worth instantly. Gold bars buried in the back yard, anyone? Expect data security software and consulting companies to thrive in this dangerous new world.

What you need to know about the Internet of Things

If you have a strong command of the Internet of Things, then skip this article. If you would benefit from a concise explanation of what is IOT, how did it emerge, and where is it going, then read the article. To be really brief, the Internet of Things is the state by which any device with a processor is connected to the Internet so that it can be controlled by other devices (smartphone, for example), can collect data during its use, and can share that data with something else. The benefits are thousands of devices that know us and serve us like we like to be served, and the risks are that bad players misuse the information that things collect and use it against us. Wired

dis-rup-shun: According to Wired, an inflection point for consumer IOT was the birth of Amazon Alexa, in 2014, following Apple’s Siri, several years later. Alexa took the mystery out of smart home and IOT products for some, but solidified the distrust of “big brother” for others. When all of our devices are dependent upon Wi-Fi to run, what do we do when our service goes out?

Sony Pictures Exec hired to run Amazon Prime Video

Mike Hopkins, formerly chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, will run Amazon’s Prime Video and Amazon Pictures units. Hopkins will report directly to Bezos, being one of a few direct reports. CNBC

dis-rup-shun:  The lines between traditional TV services and the new world of streaming continue to blur. Streaming services must have their own studios, period, as content is the primary differentiator. In this way, the new face of video will look a lot like the early days of movies, when a handful of movie studios owned movie theaters around the country and controlled distribution of their content. Today, streaming distributors control the studios making the content, hence becoming more vertically integrated.

Microsoft’s first Android phone is spotted

Spy photos captured pictures of Microsoft’s self-branded Surface Duo, which runs Android. The photos demonstrate that the clam shell of thin glass can be oriented in multiple way to create multiple layouts — including several screens of different content, or content across multiple surfaces. The device, while open, appears to be smaller than an iPad mini, but larger than the largest Samsung Galaxy phone. Arstechnica

dis-rup-shun:  Is it too late for Microsoft to hew out a share of the mobile phone market? Missing the smartphone market was one of Steve Ballmer’s biggest blunders, and one that nearly cost the company its position as a tech giant. The company was too determined that its bloated WindowsCE operating system would eventually prevail, and dismissed Nokia’s and Motorola’s early designs until it was too late. Microsoft’s Surface line caters to premium buyers, so there is a chance that the surface can garner a slice of the premium and profitable end of phablet buyers, and perhaps the company will use its foothold to take a bigger share of the smartphone market.

 

Autonomous vehicle enthusiasm waning

Money flow is moving from autonomous to electric vehicles

Investment funds for autonomous and ride sharing ventures are drying up as money turns toward electric car development. Autonomous vehicles are years away, have uncertain regulatory hurdles, and may not be profitable. Car makers want to make and sell cars, not invest in ride sharing alternatives to ownership. Tesla’s skyrocketing share price, combined with the lower cost of making EVs, has automakers anxious to hasten the transition to electric cars and is shifting the focus of investment to electric from autonomous. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Car makers have to be disrupted in order to shift their focus from the beaten path. Just as Henry Ford II demonstrated in Ford vs. Ferrari, it takes getting insulted to alter the status quo, and it is safe to say that Tesla’s valuation over $100 billion is an insult to makers of many times as many cars. Time to double down on electric cars and see how fast the world’s drivers will adopt the faster, lighter, cheaper, but shorter range vehicles. Expect to see better batteries double the range of EVs in the next 3 to 5 years, as new models will be increasingly electric. Despite innovations, that cross country marathon trip will still be a challenge if one has to charge every 5 to 7 hours.

What to do when your smart home is controlled by mobile apps

As the smart home slowly emerges, control of new internet connected devices is through mobile apps and smart speakers, but that becomes a challenge if a guest or house cleaner wants to control lights, locks and other connected appliances. Brilliant, a company that makes programmable controls for the walls, is addressing that problem. For $399 to $349 per room, you can retrofit light switches to programmable touch panels that control all of your connected home systems — without an app and without having to know what to tell Alexa, Google or other smart speaker what to do. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Brilliant’s solution is a bit ahead of the market in that most homes have not so fully converted to smart systems that they don’t have tactile controls, but most of us are experiencing app overload. Having a touch panel on the wall in key places in the home will enable us to actually leave our smartphones in another room and not have to scroll through multiple apps as we add more home systems.

Coronavirus could delay tech products for rest of year

Manufacturing plants in China are set to open today, a delay of one week after being closed down for the Chinese Lunar New Year festivities. Due to the caronavirus, manufacturers extended the holiday. Despite the shut down being only one extra week, the delay could cascade throughout the supply chain, especially for hard to come by parts, impacting many devices, including iPhones, and potentially putting a squeeze on holiday 2020 supplies. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The outbreak has served to remind people around the world that despite tariffs, trade wars and quotas, the world economy is tightly integrated. Even if the coronavirus stops spreading, the interdependence on workers, designers, and business specialists won’t, making it difficult to maintain the impressive pace of bringing tech products to market.

Apple fined $27M in France for throttling

Apple failed to let users of older iPhones know that iOS updates 10.2.1. and 11.2, in order to protect phones from weaker batteries, throttled performance at certain times. France’s watchdog organization DGCCRF took issue that Apple failed to alert users of this situation, and had failed to provide a downgrade path for users that wanted to return to older OSes to remove the limitation. The company has agreed to pay a $27M fine. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: While $27M to Apple is lunch money, the reprimand comes at a time when Apple is working hard to boost its image as the consumer friendly company, that safeguards consumer data better than the other Big Tech companies. The action is another proof point that Europe’s technology regulators are far ahead of those of the U.S. — implementing not only GDPR data privacy policies, but enforcing policies already determined. The U.S. is only now considering national legislation in the wake of California’s just initiated data privacy policy, known as CCPA.

 

Console wars nearing last battle

End of console wars: XBox says real competition is Google and Amazon

Arch console rivals Sony and Microsoft will both release next gen consoles for the holiday season, but Microsoft says this is the beginning of a divergence from the console business as it was, as Google, with its Stadia games service, and Amazon, with no game service yet, are the real competitors. Yahoo!

dis-rup-shun: It is fascinating to watch the tectonic plates of tech shift before our eyes and here is a movement. Microsoft, Google and Amazon have something that Sony does not — big, hungry and high profit cloud services. Big clouds, fueled by 5G networks, make for great gaming experiences across any device platform. Will Sony be successful playing the role of old school console maker, or does it have a trick up its sleeve? Apple has launched its Arcade game service and is targeting the casual gamers — a market that is not core to Xbox or Playstation. Keep your old console to show your grandchildren what gaming looked like in the dark ages of the early 21st century.

Smart nuts and bolts — IOT in construction 

Hilti Corporation, a construction parts company based in Lichtenstein, is producing a family of heavy construction nuts and bolts that include a code on each part. The part is scanned with a smartphone running the Hilti app, and data regarding where and when it was installed is recorded and tracked. Dallas Innovates

dis-rup-shun: The productivity gains by both having additional information about every part in a project, as well as the time savings and error reduction from eliminating manual recording and tracking make connected construction safer, faster and less tolerant of errors. Expect to see an increasing number of parts — not just high value parts — coded and easily scanned so that the cloud knows where they are and when they were installed.

Chinese phone makers unite to rival Google Play Store

Google’s Play Store is estimated to have earned Google $8.8 million last year. As the Play Store is banned in China, Chinese phone users have to go to multiple app stores to purchase the apps they want, making it difficult for app developers to create critical mass. Chinese phone makers have united to form a coalition called the Global Developer Service Alliance, enabling developers to upload new apps to multiple app stores at once, replacing the need for the Play Store. Countries expected to participate include China, India, Indonesia, Russia, and Malaysia. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: Trade wars and sanctions are painful, but as “they” say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The Chinese tech vendors are finding ways to work around political boundaries and gaining market share while reducing buyer friction. Huawei, cut off from Android services by Google, has begun development of its own phone OS, called Harmony OS. Expect to see other Chinese manufacturers offering Harmony OS phones if Huawei opens up licensing, working around Google in some of the world’s largest markets.

All Google phones will block robocalls

According to the YouMail robocall index, 4.7 billion robocalls were made in the U.S. in January alone. That equates to 1,800 per second and 14.4 calls to each person. All Google Pixel phones will now have the ability to run its Call Screen feature which blocks (some) robocalls. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Despite legislation blocking robocalls, they are a thing of our future. Expect to see phones compete and differentiate on their ability to effectively block calls and intelligently determine when the call is legit. This feature may become as important to smartphone buyers as a snazzy camera as smartphones are quickly becoming our primary business, as well as personal, communications device.

Disney Plus is a smash hit

Disney Plus already has 45% as many U.S. subs as Netflix

Disney’s streaming TV service has been out slightly over two months and already has 28.6 million subscribers in the U.S.  Netflix, at the end of 2019, had 61 million U.S. subscribers and 167 million on the planet, according to Statista. Comparing U.S. only, Disney Plus is already almost half the size of Netflix. The Star Wars Mandalorian and Marvel properties, plus a very attractive monthly rate, have fueled new subscriptions. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Now we understand why AT&T spent billions on Time Warner ($85 billion, not counting three years of legal fees), and why Comcast bought NBCU. If you are a network and don’t own really compelling content, your chances of competing in the streaming wars are slim. If you don’t have a streaming service, your chances of surviving the great video revolution of the 2000s are slim. The Mouse has been buying up video assets and studios in the past few years, as Disney has clearly figured out how to compete in the Netflix age.

Smart speakers still not used for purchases

eMarketer has lowered its forecast for smart speaker sales, signaling that this product may be approaching maturity, at least for the early majority buyers. eMarketer’s forecast for speaker penetration is 83.1 million users. The firm estimates that 21.6 million users will have made a voice purchase by the end of this year. The desire to see a product and fears of security are cited as reasons for reluctance to purchase on a speaker.

dis-rup-shun: The fact that 21 million voice purchases have been made indicates that this will become a significant shopping method. In the meantime, Google and Amazon continue to battle to become the voice hub of the home. The ways to monetize the money losing device sales are numerous:

  1. The party that owns the home hub sets the standards for connected home devices, determining which radios, which interfaces and even which cloud services work best — potentially shifting millions of users towards a complementary product or service.
  2. People’s primary use of smart speakers is to listen to music. If device vendors can steer people to the vendor’s own music service (this has not been terribly successful to date), then monthly fees for music subscriptions will add millions to the top line.
  3. The home hub can serve as the light switch and voice-thermostat, providing  feedback on energy usage and energy spending. Energy utilities have great incentives to be a part of a home energy hub.
  4. Senior care, as shown in Google’s Super Bowl commercial, can be impacted by a smart speaker, reminding grandmother that it is time to take medicine, or helping her remember things like the day of week or arrival times for care givers.

Would you consider a separate camera?

For those that think photography is more than smartphone pics, cameras also continue to get better. The Fujifilm X100V features a slim body (not as slim as a smartphone), a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor and image processor, and OLED viewfinder. This can be had for about $1,400. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Camera sales are down, and the camera quality of smartphones is getting crazy good. But for that European vacation or safari trip, a camera is still preferred and the image processing technology is following Moore’s Law, getting better and cheaper each year. The question is, do you go for a digital SLR with the great but bulky lens, or do you go with a pocket camera like the Fujifilm X100V?

Sunrise alarms — better than smartphone alarm clock

A new product category is born to fill the space once occupied by the erstwhile clock radio. It is designed especially for those who sleep in a room with no windows. The devices emulate daylight by changing hue and intensity to simulate the rising and setting of the sun. They can also play music, show the time, and be controlled by an app. Reviewed in Wired are the Homelabs Sunrise Alarm Clock, Philips Wake-Up Light (HF3520), Casper Glow Light, Philips SmartSleep Connected Sleep and Wake-Up Light Therapy Lamp, Lumie Bodyclock Active 250, and Totobay Wake-Up Light.

dis-rup-shun: Inventing new product categories is a great way to embrace the smart product disruption. That’s what Nest did with the dumb thermostat, and launched a new industry. Of course Amazon’s Echo is a home run, as is Roku, the smart TV, and smart mattresses. Alexa-powered microwave ovens have been a flop, as have been internet connected refrigerators. It is time for more creative thinking about how to replace products displaced by smart products.

Women in tech lambast Silicon Valley

Women in tech speak out against Silicon Valley

The steady stream of female authors writing about disillusionment with jobs in Silicon Valley continues — Anna Wiener has written “Uncanny Valley,” a memoir of her tech jobs in the Valley. Wiener joins a number of high profile former and current tech employees that have called out the inequities, harassment and moral compromise found at tech jobs in Silicon Valley. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: What are we to make of this growing disillusionment of jobs with Big Tech? Perhaps the collegiate, “no rules” atmosphere of startups is being carried into large tech companies that have real policies and an employee handbook. Working in Silicon Valley means working in a more relaxed environment, but with out sized goals to conquer a niche and become wildly successful. Perhaps the startup mentality, when carried into bigger tech firms, becomes dangerous and unchecked, and with IPOs at a low point, and awareness of workplace abuse on the rise, change is afoot. Expect to see more formality and clearly stated policies, even in smaller Silicon Valley operations.

Google flirts with $1 trillion, but with murky future

Alphabet/Google remains one of the most amazing stories of American business, rising to a valuation close to $1 trillion in only 25 years. It is in the company of Microsoft, Apple and Amazon, all above or close to $1 trillion. The company, however, has failed to significantly diversify its revenue base beyond search advertising, which contributes 84% of total revenue. While there is no imminent disruptor that will unseat Google, unlike its trillion dollar brothers who have multiple successful business units, Google remains dependent on the same business that it launched 25 years ago. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Despite the company’s reliance on search advertising, the company powers the majority of the world’s mobile phones with its Android OS, and its mapping technology may form the foundation for autonomous vehicles. The company, with its Android, Nest, YouTube and many powerful apps, provides a great deal of utility. The company’s deployment of free apps and an open mobile operating system have endeared it to many, but have proven that it is hard to make money at a zero price tag. With a new CEO, perhaps we will see some bold new initiatives, or at least bold new pricing, from Google.

Google’s Loretta Super Bowl ad called “evil”

Google, through a heart warming Super Bowl advertisement, suggested that its Google Assistant could help keep a senior widower’s memories of late wife Loretta alive. The senior tells Google to remember certain thinks about Loretta and the system displays photos of the couple. Tech Blogger Palmer calls this advertisement evil, as the company does not warn, like the Surgeon’s General warning on cigarettes, that all of these intimate details will be used to improve Google’s ability to target advertisements to the senior. Shelly Palmer

dis-rup-shun: Yes, every user of Google’s products should be able to easily determine what personal data is being used by what application. This should be accomplished through a personal data dashboard, much like that now offered by the everyone’s favorite villains, Facebook. But please, Shelly, can we not share in the dream that technology, be it from Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and others, can be effectively used to improve the lives of seniors? It stands to reason that distrust of tech is likely highest among seniors, who have a number of good reasons to resist it, but also have much to be gained by automating their lives. Data, and sales figures, suggest that a very large percentage of our society is happy to pay for services such as memos, photo storage, mapping, chat and email by giving up personal data.

A.I. is like teenage sex (and its happening in HR)

A.I. is like teenage sex,” says Frida Polli. “Everyone says they’re doing it, and nobody really knows what it is.” Fortune summarizes how HR departments are increasingly using AI in the recruiting and vetting process. Here is where AI use is growing at HR:

  1. Chat bots for recruiting
  2. Deep background checks
  3. Employee advisers
  4. Management coaches
  5. Employee review helpers

dis-rup-shun: While AI is automating much of the employee management process, it makes networking that much more important as personal connections remain far more valuable than AI assessments, that is until your personal connection introduces you to the chat bot that you have to convince to hire you.

 

The end of insurance, transportation and retail

Extinct in 20 years: insurance, transportation and retail

According to Dave Jordan, global head, consulting and services integration at Tata Consultancy Services, these industries will be as good as gone by 2040. Insurance, according to Jordan, will be all but unnecessary with autonomous vehicles and will be absorbed into other transactions. Autonomous vehicles will eliminate car ownership altogether, and maker technologies — that is, the ability to print our own products will eliminate the need for retailers. TechRepublic

dis-rup-shun: While Jordan’s warnings of massive restructuring and redefinition of industries is good to contemplate, his predictions, with the exception of car ownership, are a bit extreme. There are many things in our lives to insure such as houses, so insurance for businesses and consumers will not go away but auto insurance will certainly constrict. Personal car ownership, except for hobbyists, does seem to be a necessary evil that we will be glad to eliminate. Retail, however, serves many purposes, including providing an important communal experience and for that reason, will not go away. Jordan, however, is certainly right to claim that these industries should brace for radical change.

Electric Hummer pickup truck coming in 2021

On the heels of the Tesla CyberTruck announcement comes news of an upcoming, all electric pickup branded Hummer, by General Motors. Release is expected in 2021. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Is it marketing irony that the beloved-by-some and hated-by-environmentalists Hummer is being reborn as an all electric vehicle? The giant gas guzzler was retired in 2010 at the time of GM’s bankruptcy. In an unexpected twist, electric vehicles became status symbols, thanks to Tesla and its CyberTruck announcement that has drawn mixed reactions, but plenty of reactions. The CyberTruck buzz has proved that buyers, including EV buyers, want original, exotic, edgy and even expensive models, and GM plans to deliver in an all new EV Hummer.

IBM’s Rometty follows Brin and Larry Page off the ship

Ginny Rometty has announced her departure from the CEO post at IBM. During Rometty’s eight years at the helm, the company’s value has dropped 24%, making it the worst performing large tech company. The next CEO, Arvind Krishna, comes from IBM’s cloud business. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Rometty took a cue from Google founders Brin and Page and got out under cover of a strong economy and strong sector stock prices. IBM has been living on its strong brand and has been slow to change while Amazon, Google, the Big 4, Tata, Infosys and others have eaten its lunch. Rometty was slow to double down on cloud computing and shake up the old guard that makes up Big Blue, and the board never demanded fresh leadership. Now shareholders look to Krishna to pull off a miracle.

Apple updates its maps and Look Around

Apple has invested millions to upgrade its mapping data, relying less on partners and investing heavily on its own mapping data. These improvements will likely not be noticed by consumers, except that Apple’s Street View-like app, Look Around, that provides a person’s-eye-view of addresses, will be better. Google’s mapping technology has been, and likely will remain, well ahead of Apple, but the Cupertino company is striving to close the gap in hopes that iPhone users will not continue to favor Google Maps on their devices. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Online and interactive maps have become essential to life, whether tethered to an in-car navigation system, guiding an Uber or Lyft, or getting guidance on the streets. Advertisements, websites and weather services are inextricably linked to maps and autonomous vehicles will be critically dependent on mapping data. The company that owns the best maps will be to the rest of the online world what Amazon.com is to the online retail world…in control.

 

 

Amazon’s cash cow

A stellar quarter for Amazon

Q: What makes up only 11% of Amazon’s revenue, but 67% of its profit? A: Amazon Web Services (AWS). The company cleared $9.95 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter and continues to dominate the cloud services space. The quarterly performance well exceeded expectations. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: It’s looking like Q4 was a great one for tech companies, suggesting that consumer and business spending are robust and that the economy did shrug off suggestions of recession. Strong performance should help gain resolution of outstanding trade war issues with China.

Your thermostat called the repairman

Nest has initiated testing of thermostat alerts that notify a homeowner when the HVAC system performs irregularly. While the thermostat can’t tell if the motor is about to go out or if someone left the back door open, it can identify changes and degradation in performance and can point the homeowner to repair technicians listed on website Handy. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: This is a step towards the true smart home and it is high time that devices use their connected intelligence to provide significant value. Preventing several days without AC during a Texas summer is very valuable, and getting warnings that something does not look right, including suggestions of who to call, is outstanding. Expect companies like Nest to go the next step and offer calendar options for when technicians can arrive at the home, complete with standard pricing so that with a click of a mouse or finger, service can be scheduled. Coincidentally, this is the model for how smart sensors in the home will identify changes in inhabitants’ sleep and bathroom patterns, can suggest doctors to visit, their prices, and next available appointments.

A Facebook control panel for personal data

Facebook has rolled out a tool to show you which websites are using Facebook data to serve up ads and how to easily stop sharing. Follow these steps to limit the amount of Facebook activity being fed to other sites. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Facebook is feeling the withering criticism of the public and the shame generated by Apple by claiming to be the safe company while looking down its turtlenecked nose at the social networking giant. Hats off to Facebook for its transparency and its proactive move to help consumers manage data privacy. A similar dashboard needs to be required of every app that is fueled by data, as a privacy policy standard, policed by the FCC or FTC.

Ring’s attempt at better security

Doorbell and camera maker Ring has reacted to hacks, criticisms and lawsuits by adding a security dashboard to its app. The dashboard enables users to turn on two-factor authentication, to view which apps can access the camera account, to see if passwords are set, and to opt out of giving police access to videos. The security features, according to TechCrunch, are still quite weak, despite providing the user with new controls. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Despite the fact that Ring’s implementation of security measures is not industrial strength, the company should be commended for adding an easy to understand security control panel (see Facebook’s data access control panel above). Debate in the smart home market has long been that if products are highly secure, consumers will be frustrated by the more rigid account generation and sign on processes and pan the product. Data suggests this is true, yet consumers are outraged when really lazy passwords such as “12345678” are easily hacked. Making it easier for consumers to protect themselves is the right move, and very important to keep legislators and hackers at a distance, and Ring is on the right path.

 

Apple reports a stellar quarter

Apple crushed it

The Q3 earnings report is in and its great news… Apple’s revenue exceeded Wall Street’s expectations. The key news is that iPhone sales were up 8% and other products (those tough-to-get-for-holiday AirPods) slightly beat expectations, and services were slightly below expectation. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: This is great news for the global economy. It shows that the economic engine called Apple was still able to create enough shiny new gadgets to excite consumers around the world. The services business is tough, and it will take a while for Apple to figure out how to extend the aura of its brand — design and user experience — to services.

Apple pushes directly into India

Apple has sold products in India through a number of retail partners that have discounted products and generally had lackluster performance. Apple will launch its own online store for India in Q3, followed by brick and mortar stores, with the first in Mumbai. India is the second largest smartphone market in the world. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Apple doesn’t do well with third parties, and the premium, luxury experience of its retail online and brick and mortar stores will create an event in Mumbai and other Indian cities. The company has announced plans for a lower cost iPhone for big markets like India, and that product will undoubtedly do for India what the C-Class Mercedes Benz did for the U.S. — provide a luxury brand experience for a more affordable price and larger market.

Filmic app enables dual camera filming

An iPhone app by Filmic may transform the way people use smartphone cameras. The app enables use of two of your phone’s cameras at once, providing simultaneous and different streams. One view could be a selfie at the same time as the outward action is being filmed. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Will this app transform the future of pictures? Will it become customary to show two different views in one frame? Expect amateur videos to become very artsy as consumers learn how to edit-in different video camera angles, making even basic videos look like Hollywood products.

Boeing’s 777X has foldable wings

For news not related to the 737 MAX, Boeing completed a test flight for the very large, long haul 777X. Airlines want larger planes for long haul routes, maximizing economies of scale and creating very profitable operations. One problem with bigger aircraft is that they require a larger wingspan, which causes problems in tighter, crowded airports. Boeing is making this massive jet more nimble by enabling the wing tips to fold up during taxi, shortening the wingspan by 24 feet, then fully extending them for flight. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The company is in desperate need for some innovation credit as the 737 MAX debacle drags on. Innovation is what has kept Boeing the number #1 player in avionics. If the newly appointed interim CEO, Dave Calhoun, wants to make the company great again, he will focus on leadership through innovation, and, of course, improved testing and safety processes.

Big Tech wants regulation

Big Tech execs ask for more regulation

At the World Economic Forum at Davos last week, tech execs from multiple companies ask governments to set regulations on tough topics such as data privacy, encryption, AI and content monitoring. Caught between the pressures of congressional investigation and strong consumer backlash, Big Tech wants the government to set limits. Wall Street Journal

dis-rup-shun: One of the first concepts new parents learn is that children need boundaries to feel secure. Tech execs are asking federal governments to give them some boundaries and act like parents in order for them to feel secure about the limits of their businesses. Tech companies are rewarded for plowing new ground and providing services that have never before existed, however the backlash over stepping on data privacy is creating serious blow back from consumers and regulators, and turning some of the most loved brands, including Facebook (especially), Google, Amazon, and, to a lesser degree, Apple, into villains. Getting regulators to set the rules for the future will be tough. With disorganized agendas and partisan posturing consuming our regulators, the chances that they will get ahead of technology trends are, unfortunately, slim, however the new cooperative attitudes by Big Tech could make the career of a legislator who seeks to set a strong agenda.

Happy birthday iPad

Exactly 10 years ago, Apple unveiled the first iPad. It was thicker, slower, heavier, but not radically different than today’s model. At the launch, Steve Jobs mentioned that netbook computers had failed to add extra value to the customer experience. Forbes

dis-rup-shun: The company has sold over 360 million of the devices in the last decade, and while annual sales have slowed, the product keeps getting better. The iPad has become what the netbook was intended – a smaller, more portable computer. It appears that one of the most popular applications of the device is to purchase an add-on keyboard and use it as a very portable computer.  If Apple and all the buzz surrounding Jobs had not pushed the iPad into an adoring audience, the tablet would have never made it as a category. One can argue that the tablet is yet to find its true use case and the fact that the iPad was a big iPhone is what drove its growth. The brand power of Apple continues to bring magic to rather mundane product concepts, like wireless ear buds, and the magic seems to only be better in the post-Jobs era. Let’s see what’s next.

Apple earnings report: iPhones, Apple TV+, China

Today’s fiscal Q3 earnings report from Apple will include some important revelations worth noting. iPhone, the biggest part of the company’s earnings, have been down, but the iPhone 11 seems to be hot. Sales of products in China are under stress, as Chinese tech giants flood the market with highly competent but much less expensive smartphones. Apple’s new video streaming service, Apple TV+ has launched and early results will be revealed. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Today’s announcement will answer several very important questions for the direction of the tech economy. Question 1: are the incremental benefits of the iPhone 11 interesting enough to get a strong sales response? Observations of Apple stores over the holidays suggest yes. Question 2: Do Chinese consumers still think Apple is special enough to pay more money than for less expensive non-Apple smartphones? Observations of strong performance by emerging companies suggests the answer is no. Question 3: Is Apple’s new streaming TV service, Apple TV+ special enough that Netflix, Amazon Prime and now Disney + (Mandalorian) subscribers will add yet another service to their bundles? Logic suggests that these results will be mixed — not a home run, but given these services are brand new, the service will be off to a good start.

Strong guidelines for monitoring teens’ online access

Wired takes a stand, setting guidelines for how parents monitor teens’ mobile internet access: remind your children that you, the parents own the device, set periodic inspections to ensure compliance with no bullying and no adult content, no device use during meal time, and the consequences of violation are loss of the device for a period of time. Statistics show that 61% of parents monitor their children’s online activity, 42% of children have been bullied online, and 35% have been actively threatened.

dis-rup-shun: Parenting takes courage, and in the digital age, with fewer established rules, parents have to make them up either before they present the device, or set rules as they go. The transition between content for kids and content for adults seems non-existent, with the tween label having all but disappeared. In the Internet Age, individuals have to create their own rules, as much of the road is unpaved.

Sonos feels the burn

Sonos feels the fire from loyal customers

All of us who own Sonos products received a letter of explanation from Sonos CEO, Patrick Spence, who admitted to not handling the Sonos obsolescence announcing well. The letter reiterated that old Sonos gear would not receive feature updates, but would receive security patches. He also announced that the company was working on a way to essentially split home networks into two domains, so that legacy gear could operate in a second environment, maintaining its usefulness in the home without preventing new Sonos gear from having being updated. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: It seems that Sonos has forgotten about the scorching, white hot criticism that Nest received when it decided to brick the smart home hub it acquired from Revolv. Criticism was brutal, as it must have been for Sonos. Tech company leaders must remember that their companies have invested thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars into connecting with customers through social media and image building. Quick decisions that do not put those customer relationships first can torch a stellar image in a matter of days — just ask Sonos.

Why safer cars cost more to insure

Cars are safer than ever and crash rates are down. Insurance costs, however, have risen 29.6% in the past decade. The reasons for the disparity include the rise in distracted driver claims, thanks to the proliferation of smartphones, and the expense of repairing highly instrumented cars. Bumpers, for example, are full of sensors. Windshields are equipped with built-in cameras, high intensity headlamps can cost as much as $1800, and parts of cars are made of carbon fiber. Wired

dis-rup-shun: High insurance rates required to own and operate a car seem to favor the trend toward renting and paying-per-use over ownership. Separately, when we make a transition to self-driving cars, and those cars get in a crash with human-driven cars and the cause is “murky,” whose insurance pays? Expect a period of time when crash data from cameras and sensors from autonomous vehicles make the case that human drivers caused a collision, and the collective reaction from insurance providers for human driven cars will be to raise the rates to “account for crashes with autonomous vehicles.”

Big Tech seeks to change sharing of personal health records

While you read this article, a meeting including some of the largest health information providers in the country, including Cerner and Epic and including Big Tech companies such as Microsoft and Apple, is taking place to discuss a potential action by the Department of Health and Human Services to make consumer health data more open. Today, it is often difficult for a patient to access his or her own health records and move the data between different health providers. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The question consumers need to ask is, who has given me better access to data that has resulted in self-empowerment? Does authorizing Big Tech companies such as Apple or even Google to house my data in their clouds make for a better healthcare purchasing experience, or is there risk in these companies having access to my very personal health data? While you ponder that question, ask yourself if the current kings of health information are working hard to create transparent, consumer friendly healthcare purchasing markets. It is a very important showdown, and what is certain is that the current system must change in order to improve and our Big Tech companies can certainly bring about change faster than the institutional healthcare data provider incumbents.

Technology for better cat health

The PurrSong Pendant is a Fitbit-like collar that holds a charge for one month and measures your cat’s activity and alerts you, through a smartphone app, when there are changes in patterns, which may indicate that kitty is sick. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Using machine learning to detect differences in activity from a “normal” baseline is being applied to senior care, but can work for most any age or animal species. Annual spending on pet care in the U.S. in 2018 was $72.5 billion, an increase of 4%. Globally, the pet care market is estimated by Grand View Research to reach $202 billion by 2025. Expect a host of connected technologies for pets to enter the market in coming years, following the same introductions for humans by only a couple of years.

 

 

The next TV gets 4K over the air

The next gen TV is built for cord cutting with 4K tuner

TV features continue to evolve quickly, even though people don’t replace TVs quickly. The latest feature is including a 4K tuner into the TV. TV channels in most major markets will begin to transmit the super high resolution 4K format over the air (free) this year. Cord cutters can rely on an antenna to receive local stations in 4K provided they have a built in tuner (new TV) or using an external set top box. Antenna and set top box are extras to purchase. CNET

dis-rup-shun: For those wishing to cut the cord (see instructions in Tuesday’s post), to receive local channels, one can either use the local TV apps provided by Roku or  YouTube TV or one can put up an antenna on the roof or in the attic, and either buy a special set top box or a new 4K ATSC 3.0 compatible TV. With TV features now changing quickly, you should buy up when purchasing a TV, hoping that spending a few hundred extra dollars will keep your TV compatible with the latest technology for a few more years. Unfortunately it looks like the days of not having a bunch of extra boxes plugged into your older TVs will never arrive. Despite the amazing technologies available for home entertainment, it seems that every home implements TV a bit differently, challenging the AirBnB concept and making hospitality TV systems in hotels even more necessary.

DNA testing is down, impacting 23andMe

Makers of DNA testing equipment confirmed what CEO of 23andME reported, and that is people are doing less DNA testing. The breakthrough technology enabling consumers to test their DNA led to fast growth for the company, ballooning to 700 people. The company is now laying off 100 employees due to a sharp decrease in testing that started in 2019. The CEO attributes the downturn to people’s concerns for privacy, and fear of a recession, resulting in more cautious spending. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The fears of a recession in 2020 seem to have calmed, so the drop in DNA testing must, in fact, be related to privacy. It is a fact that many people who have performed the test are not happy with what they have discovered, but the question is, is there a growing wave of consumer fear about loss of privacy? Ring, the doorbell camera maker, is facing backlash from consumers over video sharing. Consumers whose homes or faces appear in their neighbors’ shared videos are feeling exposed, and perhaps a side effect of a connected society is a society that feels watched over. This is a trend to watch in the coming months.

Microsoft sets the path for a new kind of computer experience

The foldable computer is the post-CES buzz, and Microsoft is showing developers how to create dual screen apps that are properly split so that the fold, in a foldable, isn’t doesn’t obscure the app window. Microsoft is pushing a new form factor that is sort of like the current form factor. That is, the new computer is a clamshell, but the keyboard area is also a screen, and the screen extends upwards (where it should be). Getting developers to build apps for this new, unproven device will be a challenge, but one that Microsoft believes will pay off. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The PC form factor has not changed in years, so maybe the market is ready for something fresh. The thing that has kept tablets from taking over the computing world is the need for a keyboard. If a foldable computer doesn’t have a real keyboard, or an app flat on the desktop that works as well as a keyboard, then this new device is a multi-tablet screen. If this device is visually stunning, with lots of screen space, then making this an amazing video watching device may be the best path to market.

Robots hold things without touching them

Robotics are on the rise in manufacturing, and ultrasound technology enables robotic arms to suspend tiny, fragile, or sterile devices and move them, position them or place them. By blasting sound waves at a certain frequency, robots can keep an item suspended in mid air. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Robotics continue to perform specialized tasks, improving one task after another, and this suspension technology will enable robotics in settings such as surgery, medical equipment manufacturing, and many other applications. The success of robotics is in specialization rather than being an all purpose do-anything device, meaning that the idea of a really useful home assistant is at least a decade away.

 

Ready to cut the cord?

Step by step guide to cord cutting

The art of cutting your traditional pay TV service and replacing it with an Internet TV service has become cocktail conversation. Even luddites are doing it. This step by step guide takes you through the process, which involves some new investments: you must have fast, hearty internet service, and you much either replace old TVs with internet ready TVs (smart TVs) or purchase external connections such as Roku or FireTV for those old TVs. When you are ready to end your pay TV relationship, you can return any devices that you are renting (in perpetuity). Between ending rental fees and government mystery fees, you could save anywhere between $50 to $150, not counting your investment in new stuff. Shelly Palmer

dis-rup-shun: There has been an ongoing debate as to whether or not final TV expenses are lower for cord cutters, given all of the great streaming services and add-ons. The bottom line is that traditional pay TV subscribers have been buying most of the goodies, such as Prime and Netflix, and tacking on premium charges anyway, so lowering the base pay for TV services is a big win, especially given that for now, these services are not opposed to account sharing by your kids at college. 5G will upset the internet subscription pay model, in that super fast 5G connections that can power your entire home’s internet needs will challenge your traditional internet service (and may be the same provider), making what we call ‘faster then required’ much cheaper in a year. It’s a moving target, but you have to jump in some time.

The murky future for Sonos

Sonos has announced a trade-in program for some of its first devices, while also announcing that it will no longer support products dating back to 2006 and 2007. The pioneer in streaming music is directing its efforts on supporting the latest technology, all the while suing partner Google for patent infringement. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Sonos makes some of the greatest products in the connected home realm, with a very simple user interface. Sonos is to whole home audio what iPods were to boom boxes, and Sonos became what Bose was to the prior generation — the mark of really cool home music systems. Amazon and Google, with some help from Apple, JBL and others, are displacing Sonos. Research indicates that the most frequent use case for smart speakers such as Google Nest Home and Amazon Echo is to play music. The biggest complaint, of course, being that sound quality is lacking. The smart speaker makers and the Bluetooth speaker makers are upping their sound quality, while adding support for smart assistants, meaning that Sonos’ advantages as a high fidelity provider of streaming music are all but gone. What’s worse, of course, is that Amazon and Google are happy to sell products below cost as they race to be the provider of shopping services, information services, and a hub for smart home products. If you manage Sonos, how do you compete with that?

Proving space travel is safe

On Sunday, SpaceX, in a final safety test for NASA, demonstrated its human recovery module in the event of a rocket explosion. The recovery module is, essentially, a lifeboat that will bring astronauts back to an ocean landing should there be an in-flight catastrophe. The exercise is in preparation for SpaceX’s upcoming transporting of astronauts to the international space station, not yet scheduled but expected in the coming year or so. Spectacular footage of the flawless launch, explosion, Dragon separation, and splashdown can be viewed on Wired.

dis-rup-shun: The exercise will pave the way for the return of U.S. based rockets ferrying astronauts to space — something that has not occurred since the last shuttle mission in 2011. Boeing, the beleaguered maker of the 737 Max, is competing with SpaceX to be the first to return a U.S. based astronaut in space, but at present the aircraft company has a lot on its corporate plate, giving Musk a chance to steal the spotlight. Of course Musk, with his soaring Tesla auto company, highly criticized solar company, and ambitious boring (tunneling) company, among other endeavors, seems to thrive with a lot on his plate. A private citizen eager to purchase a ticket on a commercial space ride has an interesting choice to make: ride on the craft made by the occasionally fiery Tesla father, or ride with the largest maker of commercial aircraft and semi-complete software. I will wait.

Microsoft pushing hard into remote worker software

If you haven’t been working from a remote site, you may not be aware of Slack, a web-based group working software application that makes it easy for remote or headquarters workers to instant message, call, and file share, all from a pop-up app always running on their PC or mobile device. Slack brought in over $175 million in revenue last year, a growth rate of 42% according to Yahoo! Finance. Microsoft has come after Slack with its Teams application, which it built on top of the awkward Skype VOIP application. Microsoft has gone prime time, highlighting on weekend commercials how the application is transforming the way people work. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Teams and Slack are, in fact, changing the way people work — making it increasingly awkward to use the telephone, tethered or smart, to call a co-worker, when, with a click of a button, one can loop co-workers into a screen session and share a desktop. Document collaboration, while not something that happens in an office, is becoming a common result of frequent use of workflow software. Microsoft, having been blindsided by the commercial acceptance of Google Docs, is not about to give up more of its share of office productivity to San Francisco based Slack, but has declared a full battle to claim the new category, and is bundling Teams with Office 365. Bundling, however, does not ensure success, as Google Chrome has long bested Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and now Edge browsers, despite those being pre-loaded onto Windows computers.