Apple outperforms again

Apple stock rises on strong earnings

Apple reported on its Q4 earnings, which showed better than expected results, despite iPhone sales down 9% from last year. Strength in Apple’s recently beefed-up services offering and wearables (watches and AirPods) led to a strong quarter. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: What do you do when your flagship product’s sales are slowing due to market saturation and differentiation is becoming more difficult? You diversify, of course, and seek to differentiate your products by creating more add-ons (AirPods, news, music, TV and gaming services) that strengthen the value of your core product (iPhones). Apple is a master at execution — both device building and marketing, and its success with new products and services is playing out in text book form. The Cupertino hero continues to lead not only technology, but the tech economy.

Ford improves user interfaces to be more tablet-like

Ford will be equipping cars next year with a 15 inch touch screen which will enable simultaneous display of navigation, radio and phone, via either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Over the air updates will keep the features and applications current unlike today’s static systems. Wired

dis-rup-shun: We can thank Tesla for showing the auto industry that big screens are not only possible in-dash, but highly desirable. For a decade or more, the technology in cars has been significantly inferior to that of consumer electronics, creating a disappointing experience. Automakers are waking up to the reality that they can differentiate the car driving (and buying) experience with leading edge technology. Just notice that half of car commercials now are not about the car but about the apps available in the the car. Expect future car tech features to be so engaging that consumers will increasingly decide to purchase an additional wireless account for the car.

Tesla debuts solar roof 3.0

Tesla’s slate-looking solar roof tiles are made of a new unspecified material that is easier to install, will withstand 110 mph winds and hail up to 2 inches in diameter. The new tiles come with a 25 year warranty. California’s rolling blackouts to prevent wildfires makes solar much more desirable. Wired

dis-rup-shun: The concept is brilliant but the past application flawed, and Tesla has struggled to be an energy company. Musk, however, like most great pioneers, is unfazed by failure and may get this right. If roof tiles can, in fact, reliably generate electricity and cost about the same as a composite shingle roof with solar panels installed, or can be heavily subsidized by an energy company, then this can be a highly desirable innovation in home building. Climate change is no longer science’s theoretical problem, and as fires, floods, big tornadoes and hurricanes wreck our lives, we are ready to spend more money to be more prepared, and this is one way to confront the increasing perils of home ownership.

We’re not making it hard for hackers – a list of crappy passwords

More than 21 millions stolen passwords used by Fortune 500 employees were found on the Dark Web by researchers. Of these, 95% were plain text and only 25% were unique. Some of the worst passwords commonly used include:

000000, 111111, 123456, password, abc123, opensesame, penispenis, welcome. Forbes

dis-rup-shun: The password game is maddening, with many accounts requiring different rules and all urging users not to use the same password. The only relief is the dubious yet effective encrypted browser based password control program, but placing all of your keys in Google’s hands seems to be a gamble in itself. The market is ripe for a new technology for authentication, but there seems to be little innovation other than two factor authentication. Opportunity?

Glasses so smart they read your brain waves

Smart glasses monitor your brain

Narbis smart glasses include sensors, one that sits atop your head, to measure brain waves to determine when you are distracted. Upon determining that you are distracted, the glasses black out your lenses, supposedly snapping you back to attention. Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: Perhaps this approach is preferable to a life on Ridalin, but after the scathing abuse your child would receive by wearing this crazy device, you the parent might have to be medicated. A number of smart glasses are coming to market, all with unique benefits, but the problem they seek to solve is still a bit murky. This product category needs a really strong use case, like streaming movies to your lenses, or heads up display mapping for drivers, but it is unlikely that any vendor, save Apple, can create a stylish, lightweight, practical and easy to use pair of smart glasses that the masses will want to own.

Amazon offers free grocery delivery to Prime members

Amazon will drop its grocery delivery fee of $14.99 per month for Prime members, reportedly due to Amazon’s increasing efficiency at delivery. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Amazon’s reinvention of logistics is moving quickly. Deliveries of products purchased via are increasingly delivered by grey vans that run with frequency between local delivery hubs and homes and businesses seven days a week. How will UPS and FedEx, companies that have enjoyed a virtual duopoly for decades, respond to new efficiencies found by Amazon? The cost of shipping may soon decrease as Amazon increases competition in the industry, or an unexpected player such as Uber may fight for a slice of the parcel delivery business.

Zuckerberg needs to shut up, says prof.

In a scathing article, Wired states more emphatically than all other scathing articles about Zuckerberg, that the company simply refuses to learn from its mistakes. UVA professor Vaidhyanathan attributes Zuckerberg’s incompetence at Congressional hearings on the company’s “chaos, arrogance, panic, overreaction and defensiveness.” Wired

dis-rup-shun: Facebook’s refusal to thoroughly and convincingly make changes that prevent fake news or breaches in personal data baffles both the public and lawmakers. A company so questionable will struggle with controversial proposals like the launch of private currency Libra. Expect Facebook to continue to be the lightning rod that excites lawmakers into increasing scrutiny of all of BigTech, perhaps taking a little pressure off of more grown-up companies. 

NASA unmanned space plane spent 780 days in space

The X-37B is an autonomous space plane that resembles a miniature space shuttle. The plane just returned from a 780 day mission during which it performed a number of classified experiments. The plane was launched by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Space commerce is getting a lot of press lately, with billionaires leading the race for the Moon and Mars, but perhaps the biggest news is that which is not being shared from NASA’s secret experiments, as the U.S. space agency quietly gains confidential data about whatever it is that it is learning in space. NASA is walking a tight line as its programs rely heavily on commercial contractors — yet seeks to advance technological and, certainly, defense innovations that will remain national secrets.

Google attempts purchase of Fitbit

Google rumored to be purchasing Fitbit

According to Reuters, Google is in talks to acquire Fitbit, the company that was an early leader in fitness trackers, then eclipsed by the Apple Watch. Fitbit’s newest Versa 2 has a number of distinguishing features and long battery life that make it a great choice for people focused on fitness over a general purpose device. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Fitbit is a loved brand for early fitness users but with a questionable future, thanks to Apple. Having a parent like Google will ensure future iterations. Google, however, has a patchy device record, as its warm embrace of Nest has been more of a wet blanket, while its Google Assistant and Pixel phones are good competitors. Adding Fitbit is a sign that Google is increasingly ready to compete with Apple and Amazon in the device business, and not allow either to run unchecked. As stated previously, the current tech business is about subsidizing razors (devices) to sell blades (services), to use a time tested marketing adage. To add value to its Pixel phones, Chromecast TVs and Google Nest Assistants, the company must have an answer to the Apple Watch and keep the Google experience pure across multiple platforms. Who would have thought, ten years ago, that Google and Amazon would be serious device builders?

Uber announces Uber Money — a service for drivers

Uber Money is a credit card and digital wallet service designed to assist its four million drivers who need instant access to cash as well as advances for gas. Many drivers, especially in certain geographies, don’t have bank accounts, challenging the friction-less ride sharing experience. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Uber faces a number of challenges, like making a profit with a business model which is, so far, inherently unprofitable. Another critical challenge is attracting and keeping drivers who are easily lured by competitors. By adding value to its own platform with a digital wallet, drivers will stay loyal to Uber, at least until a credit card powerhouse such as Visa offers a similar service to competitors. If, however, Uber offers digital money tools to its drivers for no charge, the big credit purveyors, accustomed to earning 2% to 5%, may not be so eager to challenge Uber Money.

New and improved AirPods Pro available October 30th

Apple’s Pro line extension to AirPods features interchangeable silicone ear tips to find that perfect fit and better cancel outside noise. Full Siri support, noise filters to enable hearing of announcements and select sounds, and sweat protection are features designed to justify the $249 price tag. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Apple is a master at following a hit with an upgrade, and that is certainly the case with AirPods — yet another Apple product that has set the standard in its class. Siri support and native pairing and control with iPhones (not requiring a separate app to manage the devices) means that substitutes, at any price, offer an inferior experience. Selling desirable accessories that reinforce the value of a flagship product is a key to long term domination, and is critical to Apple as the number of inexpensive iPhone competitors grows.

Virtual reality finding a home in senior residences

VR has positive effects on seniors, and is used to provide both group and singular experiences, like taking a trip to the Grand Canyon or views from the Eiffel Tower. According to a study by Rendever Health, VR experiences led to a 40% increase in happiness. HealthTech Insider

dis-rup-shun: Senior care is an unexpected but excellent application for VR, as stimulating experiences or visits to places of one’s past must bring joy and nostalgia. VR, when presented as a singular entertainment experience may not be very engaging, however, group VR sessions build community and create buzz about what was seen — leading to viral enthusiasm. VR continues to have niche appeal, but senior care is a high growth niche.

Telemedicine as good as live

Telemedicine visits seen as effective as in-person

Telemedicine and remote doctor visits are particularly valuable in rural communities, where access to certain highly skilled providers is limited. In this free whitepaper, a recent study of patients at Mercy Children’s Hospital network determined that for children with Asthma, telemedicine visits proved as effective as in-person visits. TechRepublic

dis-rup-shun: Telemedicine will keep many rural hospitals in business despite their lack of diverse specialists at the local hospital. It is exciting to see telehealth working, providing people with quick, local access to care even if provided locally with the help of a distant specialist. The industry urgently needs more clinical data to confirm the success of telehealth and more case studies are needed to accelerate the new care models that will dominate our society in a few short years. Connecting to care specialist remotely will become the norm for people living in large cities as well as rural areas, a shift that will improve the economics and slow the rising costs of care while providing better experiences for patients.

Microsoft beats Amazon for Pentagon cloud contract

The JEDI contract, short for Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, is a Department of Defensive initiate potentially worth $10 billion over ten years. The initiative is a significant computing upgrade for Defense, moving military operations to the latest cloud technology. Market leader AWS lost the deal to Microsoft’s Azure service. Some state that the decision was influenced by President Trump’s bumpy relationship with Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, a newspaper known for criticism of the President. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Microsoft is on a strong run, with a number of victories for CEO Nadella and team. Amazon’s own success has fueled a number of Microsoft’s wins, most notably a significant cloud contract from Walmart, Amazon’s arch rival, and FedEx, two competitors to Amazon. Once considered an ‘evil empire’ for its dominance over the personal computing industry, Microsoft is now viewed as a humble, highly competent player, with Google, Facebook, Amazon and even Apple seen as the controversial bullies of BigTech.

Samsung’s modular TVs fit custom sizes and spaces

In its sponsored video series on new technologies, BestBuy with Gizmodo explains what is a modular TV and why it is unique. Modular TVs are bezel-less 8K TVs that can be fashioned into different sizes according to spaces and custom requirements.

dis-rup-shun: TVs in homes and, of course, in digital signage applications are about to get much more interesting, with entire TV walls replacing big TVs hanging in prominent places. As odd shaped panels appear in interesting spaces, new applications will arise to curate video content, which will remain in a letterbox format, to intermix TV and movie content with video content to fill in the gaps. Consumers will design the content layout of video walls, overlaying a rectangular NFL game over a virtual aquarium, for example. Control applications will turn consumers into video program directors, making playing with big screens that much more fun.

NASA building new rover to find water on the Moon

The VIPER rover is a small vehicle that will explore the dark south pole of the Moon where the presence of ice crystals has been confirmed in prior explorations. The VIPER will drill samples in the Moon’s surface when sensors determine it is near water. The craft is scheduled to begin work in 2022 and will be conveyed to the Moon by one of the commercial space companies vying for NASA contracts. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Plans for locating, drilling, pumping, storing and maybe even purifying Lunar water has implications for many industries. Who will be the water utility for the Moon? A cadre of contractors will be required to help NASA get into the water business, and consortia consisting of aerospace companies along with hydro engineering companies, pipe and pump companies will all compete for future contracts. New interest in the Moon and space will direct millions of dollars to space technology companies.

Smart home and spying

Smart home products used by landlords to spy on tenants

Smart locks and cameras are celebrated for their roles in fighting crime. In NYC, however, a company called Teman is promoting smart home technology as a way to evict renters who are illegally subletting, and as a way to combine apartments in order to circumvent rent control laws. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Again, we must struggle with the consequences of law enforcement better enabled by technology. If cameras make it easy for a landlord to enforce an agreement prohibiting a tenant from operating an AirBnB, is that a bad thing? Of course, it is a matter of perspective and the more technology enables law enforcement, the more carefully we must craft our laws.

Wireless carriers unite to control Android text messaging

The four major U.S. wireless carriers (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint announced) this week announced CCMI, or the “Cross-Carrier Messaging Initiative” for Android. The initiative seeks to build a common application for business and consumer text messaging on Android phones, providing an alternative to SMS. TheVerge

dis-rup-shun: If you have ever switched universes from iPhone to Android or vice versa, you have experienced the fact that text messaging is one of the largest differences between the two mobile OSes. Open standards, where many companies can play together, is the technology equivalent of a Utopian society. History shows, however, that most every vendor seeks to implement open standards with a slightly unique twist to provide more value to its customers resulting in what is affectionately termed “bloatware” or useless baggage bringing no value. Google has let the carriers take over messaging on Android and hence risks third-party interests interfering with what Google is known for — simplicity.

New study suggests Gaming Disorder not caused by gaming

The confusing conclusion of a study by the Oxford Internet Institute of 1,004 adolescents, half of whom played online games for over 3 hours per day, is that “problem gamers” would be problem teens even if they didn’t play games. Wired

dis-rup-shun: So another observation from the study is that of 525 heavy gamers, most appear to socialize “normally.” The study offers some relief to the gaming industry that is often accused of ruining its best enthusiasts and warping their minds. Before video games, the same population were often called bookworms or introverts. The study adds credence to the many studies that suggest that the human personality is mostly full formed by age seven.

What’s all the buzz about quantum computing?

The tech news has been abuzz all week with Google’s assertion that its Sycamore quantum computer has completed in 200 seconds a computational task that would take an ordinary supercomputer 10,000 years to complete. IBM didn’t like the news and has tried to discredit the achievement. CNET

dis-rup-shun: What do mortals need to understand about all of this? Here are a few takeaways.  Google has some serious R&D chops and the microprocessor kings, such as Intel, Qualcomm, Samsung and others may have a new competitor. Quantum computers are a few years from being generally available, but they can do all the things we say computers will do in the future much better and faster: artificial intelligence, complex logistics planning, super-fast and accurate facial recognition, etc. Given their high cost and complex power and cooling needs, quantum computers will be available from cloud providers who will rent cycles (like the early mainframe days). Combined with 5G networks, super fast computers located in data centers many states away will offer instantaneous results to highly complex tasks faster than the blink of the eye.

Amazon makes second healthcare move

Amazon makes second healthcare acquisition

Amazon has purchased Health Navigator, a company that helps physicians route patients to the correct care givers and a facilitator of telehealth. The company currently serves a number of companies but has informed them it will not renew its contracts after the Amazon merger. Amazon intends to make Health Navigator a part of its Amazon Care group, a division focused on providing care to its growing armies of employees. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Amazon is building a new care model for its internal employees that makes use of remote care and physicians’ assistants and nurses to better apply the proper set of skills to the appropriate needs. While this is wonderful news for employees, one must assume that this is also a pilot for a new care model which would be rolled out nationally, perhaps with Amazon’s prior acquisition, online pharmacy PillPack. Given the direction of our healthcare industry, Amazon’s disruption could be a welcome catalyst to a more efficient and more affordable healthcare market.

Tesla earns a profit and scores in China

Tesla reported earnings for the quarter which show the company returning to profitability with a slim margin. At the same time, the company reported that its new Shanghai plant is up and running and will produce one thousand Model 3s per week.

dis-rup-shun: Elon Musk is a pioneer. Pioneers have to be tough as nails, have unbridled belief in their missions, and not be worried about others’ perceptions of them. Musk qualifies in these regards and is on a path to change the auto industry as well as U.S. – China trade relations. In a time when U.S. companies are moving production out of China, Musk has jumped in, taking advantage of a new Chinese regulation requiring foreign manufacturers to build products in country in order to avoid a 25% tariff. Tesla is in place to be a huge success in China, with high fuel prices and rising incomes. Success in China will help the company continue to win U.S. and global buyers as Tesla’s technologies will be better tested and better financed, continuing to entice auto owners to retire their gasoline cars.

License plate recognition technology: a good thing?

Axon, the company that makes the Taser and a host of other law enforcement technology has developed a dash cam capable of reading license plate numbers. Concerns about infringement upon civil rights accompany this new technology, as ethics boards determine the limitations of its application in law enforcement. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Violating the law is one thing, but getting caught is another. How many times have you driven a car with an expired registration because, despite your best intentions, you were late sending in the renewal? Chances are you were not fined as police have far too many demands to scrutinize every window sticker. Axon’s cameras, however, could do the trick and quickly notify police persons that you were in violation of this or other crimes, like driving with stolen plates or that the car is registered to a criminal. If all laws were more systematically enforced thanks to technology, would that make for a better society or a call for fewer or less stringent laws?

The ladies on the hill rough up Zuckerberg

Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Chairperson of the Financial Services Committee says candidate Elizabeth Warren has “opened up the opportunity” to consider breaking up Facebook. Warren has declared that she will break up Alphabet, Facebook and Amazon if elected. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: It could be Zuckerberg’s boyish looks, lack of contrition over election interference in 2016, or his extremely ambitious plans for the Libra private currency, but he is Congress’ favorite whipping boy. Congress’ disdain for Zuckerberg guarantees that Facebook will be the first of the Big Tech companies to take the beatings, fines, regulations, and dismantling, if that unlikely action comes to pass. Apple’s Tim Cook, on the other hand, has been making nice in Washington D.C. and building up political capital. Mark needs to take some fatherly advice from his Silicon Valley neighbor.

Dual screen phones are next wave

Dual screen phones emulate laptops

LG is launching a dual screen smartphone on November 1 for $699. The GX8 ThinQ phone’s hinge on its left side opens to be make it a mini-laptop, a game controller, a tent, flat, or a regular phone form factor. CNET

dis-rup-shun: With fold-able phones and dual screen phones, we will soon see some variety in smartphones, which, for the past decade, have been a single candy bar format. This format may move phones and PCs closer together, meaning that PC applications on phones may be easier to use and that the day when our phones are our PCs, tethering to a bluetooth keyboard and external monitor when we are at our desks, is near. With the advent of 5G, companies can more easily store corporate data on the cloud and give employees secure access through approved smartphone/PC hybrid devices.

Microsoft DreamWalker VR technology combines real and imagined worlds

DreamWalker VR today consists of a googles, a smartphone and a bulky backpack. We can expect future variations to be more wearable. The technology combines a view of the real world, with steps, sidewalks, obstacles and other objects with imagined worlds, so one can safely walk long distances through these hybrid worlds. Ars Technica

dis-rup-shun: Will VR become a mainstream product? It makes great sense for training, for operating complex machinery and for gaming, but will it become a mass consumer product? One reason 3D TV failed was the requirement to cover your face with goggles or glasses. Perhaps the advent of stylish and lightweight glasses that are smart glasses will bring VR to the mainstream, but much work is yet to be done to simplify the experience.

It’s predictions season, and here’s Gartner’s view of the future

Market research and consulting firm Gartner offered its future trends list. Here is the short version…

  • Hyperautomation – a set of software and machine learning tools to automate frequent work tasks.
  • Multiexperience – combining VR and voice with standard user interfaces, to create a complex, multi-mode way of interacting with machines.
  • Democratization of expertise – making powerful intelligence such as AI and machine learning easy to implement by normal IT staff.
  • Human augmentation – using technology, such as smart glasses, to improve human tasks and extend human capabilities.
  • Transparency and traceability – the ability to understand and track who, how and where and for what your personal data is being used.
  • The empowered edge – a fancy way of describing more computing power being moved to the edge of networks, not just in the cloud.
  • Distributed cloud – locating cloud resources in order to minimize latency and geopolitical concerns.
  • Autonomous things – a fancy way of saying that more autonomous devices, like drones and vehicles, will be everywhere.
  • Practical blockchain – Blockchain implementations that are less theoretical and actually benefit from the technology. TechRepublic

dis-rup-shun: Come on Gartner, putting complex names on the trends that have been all around us for the past couple of years doesn’t make you look smarter. What are the trends that will most impact our jobs, our lifestyle and our safety, comfort and economy in the next year? Data privacy, entertainment bundles, home automation, connected health, portability of applications and data are at the top of my list.

Netflix ups the content war chest

Netflix raises $2 billion for content development

In the latest move in the streaming wars, Netflix has placed a debt offering to develop more original content. This follows an April offering for the same amount. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Faced with intense competition, Netflix is showing what it’s made of — doubling down for the long haul, intent to win with better content. The question is, can Netflix be a better studio than the studios and drive more viewers to its monthly service than its competitors who have such assets as live sports (ESPN), blockbuster syndicated series such as Friends (AT&T), and a catalog of treasured content (Disney)? Hats off to the scrappy streamer that, when faced with intense competition, is ready to fight. What is certain is that the big winner in the streaming wars will be the consumer who will enjoy boatloads of original content from competing streaming networks, commercial free, for a low monthly fee.

A look back at 10 years of smartphones

CNET surveys technologies of the last decade, including a look at how smartphones have transformed our lives. Recalling earliest Android devices and apps which included fart and virtual lighter apps that made thousands of dollars of revenue every day, the article lists the industries that have been essentially destroyed by smartphones. Those include MP3 players, point and shoot cameras, voice recorders, GPS devices, and almost, except for Apple’s actions, the wristwatch. Hot companies such as Nokia,  Blackberry, HTC and Motorola were not successful making smartphones that people wanted, and are paying dearly today. Chinese smartphone makers are quickly developing lower cost and high functionality devices that will challenge Apple and Samsung’s dominance.

dis-rup-shun: As in every technology hardware introduction (mainframe, mini-computer, PC, modem, game device, etc.), the category transforms consumer habits, sells millions of units, changes the way people work and live, becomes mature, and reaches commodity status. Can Apple and Samsung continue to innovate at a fast enough pace to stay ahead of Huawai, Xiaomi and Oppo? Expect Apple and Samsung to aggressively lead critical innovations such as heart and health tracking, and to greatly improve their smart home offerings as value adds. Whatever the leaders do, the Chinese players will be very close behind.

Shine brings the smart toilet to U.S. bathrooms

Smart toilets, like those in Japan, are able to clean a person, clean itself, heat the seat, measure heart rates, and play music. Despite their popularity in Japan, they have never caught on in North American homes. The Shine Bathroom Assistant seeks to ease the U.S. market into smart toilets through its $99 Echo looking device that sits next to or on the toilet and cleans the bowl after every flush. It also detects water leaks that are common in toilets. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Transitioning our homes to regularly feature smart appliances and devices will sometimes be painful, asking us to put connected devices all around our homes, running power cords across counter tops, floors and tables. A smart toilet like those in Japan that has everything built in sounds quite nice, but an external gadget that further clutters the bathroom does not. After all, cleaning the toilet is one of the easier home chores. Perhaps Shine can increase our interest in a fully integrated smart toilet, but it won’t be at the top of many people’s holiday shopping list.

Hackers find a way to spoil smart speakers

Malicious third parties have developed a number of skills for Alexa and Google Home that eavesdrop or phish for passwords. The skills, disguised as providers of horoscopes or random numbers, keep listening long after they have gone silent, or provide an error message that requests a password. Ars Technica

dis-rup-shun: Simply put, with each new technology innovation will come abuse and bad intentions. The data security and malware fighting industry has a bright future, and will be an excellent vocation for the brightest of technical minds.

Smart surfaces are next big technology innovation

Next big thing: smart surfaces

Sentons is a company that has developed a processor and software capable of turning any surface into a user interface. The company uses ultrasound technology to make any surface respond to gestures, touch and other forces. Initial applications are for smartphones — enhancing gaming input and camera controls, but the possibilities extend to most any device. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Smart speakers are transformative and we have only begun to see how they will change machine control. Amazon is just now pushing Alexa into cars. Now we know the next wave of innovation of device interaction — making any surface smart. This will lead to virtual keyboards appearing on counter tops, desk surfaces, and appliance controls no longer being physical knobs or buttons, but virtual. Imagine the convenience of typing on your airplane seat tray since there is no space to open up a laptop. The cost of many devices can be reduced as the electro-mechanical components can be eliminated.

Why Big Tech keeps building hardware 

Apple and Samsung are the dominant device makers of our age, yet Big Tech software and service companies keep introducing new devices. Google, with Pixel and Chromebooks, wants to offer a pure, undiluted Google experience to loyalists. Amazon wants to bring consumers into the Amazon shopping experience by any door, and is willing to build devices that support Alexa to help do so. Microsoft uses its Surface line of hardware to introduce and showcase new features, such as the Duo and Neo folding computer. Facebook wants to dominate AR/VR and is using its Oculus investment to try to be the market leader. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The hardware business is, well, hard, and the margins can be thin. Apple has demonstrated that the new game is not about just making great devices, but using devices as a platform for services, be they music, news, videos, personal fitness, or mobile payments. To be a software and services provider to third-party device makers has become riskier, as device makers often want to use their own services and apps, even if they are not the best. To minimize the risk of displacement, software and service companies are having to take on the difficult, unpredictable, and high cost role of device makers. There will continue to be a few successes, but mostly failures.

Apple credit card the most successful launch ever

Goldman Sachs, the bank behind the Apple credit card, called the launch of the new card the most successful credit card launch ever. While we aren’t given specific data on the launch, consumer demand has been strong since August. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The magic powers of the Apple brand continue, and Goldman Sachs follows companies like AT&T that have made billions off of Apple’s brand power. The success of the card also prepares the way for Apple to further extend its reach into services including gaming, videos, news and many others not yet imagined. Banks and other partners have to weigh the benefits of a partnership with the risk that Apple will someday decide to offer services without them. If Apple (or Amazon or Google, for that matter) seeks to disrupt an industry, it will, so it makes sense for partners to make as much money while they still can and possibly have a seat at the table for later.

Drone delivery is happening now in Virginia

Wing, the drone division of Google parent, Alphabet, has started delivering small items to residents in Christiansburg, Virginia. Wing’s partners include Walgreens and FedEx and the company has been authorized to deliver packages to certain zones that are beyond the line of sight of Wing traffic controllers. TheVerge

dis-rup-shun: You will enjoy the video that shows how the service works. While we can all think of dozens of complications, the main point is that Wing has beat Amazon and UPS to production. As city streets become increasingly crowded with gray Amazon Prime vans stopping at many houses seven days a week, we have to remember that for Amazon, shipping is not a profit center as it is for UPS and FedEx. One of the carriers’ biggest customers, Amazon, is going to market increasingly without them, potentially changing the economics of the logistics business. If drones will be a profitable delivery mechanism, UPS and FedEx don’t want to lose to Amazon, so FedEx’s partner’s first-to-market win in Virginia is an important development.

Ride sharing fails to dent car ownership

Car ownership up despite ride sharing

Despite the claims that ride sharing and fractional car rental services would lead to fewer people owning cars, the reverse is the case. Shared ride initiatives from BMW and GM have shuttered, and Uber and Lyft are losing vast amounts of money. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Were the futurist simply wrong, or will it take longer for big shifts in ownership habits to change? The article does suggest that decreases in car ownership occurred earlier this decade as a result of the Great Recession, suggesting that ride sharing is now seen as a replacement to the luxury of car ownership. So, the ride share companies just need a good recession to help them be profitable, and the auto makers will be wishing they were still in the ride share business when car sales plummet. 

Robot solves Rubik’s Cube one-handed

OpenAI is a research organization that is developing smarter robots. The organization developed a one-handed robot last year, called Dactyl. This year it taught the robot to solve a Rubik’s Cube using one hand. TheVerge

dis-rup-shun: If you were never able to solve a Rubik’s cube, or never had the patience to learn, then you are reminded that robotics are advancing rapidly and will outperform many of us at many tasks — depressing. However, if you view this amazing video of a boy solving a Rubik’s cube in 4.22 seconds, you are reminded that robotics will never outperform humans when humans are at their best. As stated before, the displacement of robotics will be for ordinary, repetitive tasks and the hope is that these machines will free up mankind for higher productivity pursuits.

Congress calls for in-car drunk driver detection technology

According to the NHTSA drunk driving crashes cost almost $200 billion and killed 10,847 people in 2017. New legislation by two senators, Tom Udall of Utah, and Rick Scott of Florida, call for in-car technology for detecting a drunk driver be installed in every new car. New technology uses infrared to scan blood vessels in a driver’s fingers, or to detect eye movement. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Technologies to increase safety should be a welcome addition and should be fully supported by bipartisan government leaders. The additional costs of technology in the car could be offset by the savings to law enforcement. These in-car technologies could inform you of the location of the Uber driver that your car just hailed as it gives you the disappointing news that you will not be driving tonight.

Big Tech on stage at Democratic debate

Big Tech and anti-competitive practices were a topic at Tuesday’s Democratic party debate. An array of views all agreed that Big Tech needs to be examined more carefully, but not all agreed with Senator Warren’s call to break up all the Big Tech companies. Andrew Yang suggested that returning ownership of personal data to individuals is a way to rein in Big Tech, while Beto suggested companies like Facebook be regulated like publishers, rather than utilities. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Big Tech will test the resolve of Democrats as the Big Tech founders and employees lean heavily Democratic and will want to shower their favorite candidates with riches. But with the Dems promising to curtail Big Tech power, its an awkward dance. Expect to see the sitting Congress continue to keep the heat on Big Tech through fines and investigations and the calls for a break up to grow quiet after a Democratic candidate has been selected.

Cartoon of man selling his own data in tag sale