The Day Fry’s Died

Goodbye Fry’s — we will miss you indeed

The demise of Fry’s Electronics hurts more than so many closings of the past year. As Wired reported, the chain was an important if eclectic part of many people’s journey through technology. Wired reports that Fry’s was yet another victim of the Amazon Effect. It was a place that claimed “if it has a plug, we sell it.”

dis-rup-shun: What made Fry’s important is what has made it irrelevant. For many years, it was one of very few places that had anything you needed related to computers or electronics, and you could pick up a case of Pringle’s alongside a new hard drive. Fry’s, for many of us, was always a long drive away, as the stores were frequently located in outer suburbia. It wasn’t a place easy to drop in to meander, rather it was a place to visit with a purpose. Nowadays, the best place to aim through endless isles of unrelated but interesting stuff is at the end of a mouse — And getting products from Amazon is so much quicker and more convenient than driving, parking wandering, reading, then choosing.

The Broadband Miracle of Mississippi

The Governor of Mississippi is changing the state in a most radical way — spending a portion of the state’s coronavirus stimulus grant of $1.2 billion on rural broadband. The state’s connectivity is currently ranked as 42nd among the fifty states, with at least 35% of rural residents without access to broadband. The Mississippi legislature smartly assigned the money to 15 electric co-ops and gave them only six months to spend it, creating a mad rush for deployment. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The pandemic has brought, along with its destruction, a myriad of success stories. Upgrading the rural citizens of Mississippi is a brilliant move, especially with the unplanned infusion of $1.2 billion into the state’s coffers. The long-term implications for the state are numerous as access to jobs, education and information will increase for an otherwise un-connected population.

Scheduled text messages — now on Android

Android users received a highly beneficial feature with the addition of scheduled text messages on Android phones running Android 7 or higher. Previously this feature was available only with third-party messaging apps. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: In a time when smartphones are so advanced, meaningful new features are few and far between, but this one is significant.  How many times have you forgotten simple tasks that others have asked you to do because you are focused on something else? How many times do parents fail to register with children who are so engrossed in their mobile device that they never heard a request, despite nodding their heads? This feature, for parenting alone, is worth installing instantly.

Target to open mini Apple stores 

Target continues its battle to remain a relevant alternative to online purchases, and the company has fared well during the pandemic by offering same day pickup at most stores. Now the company will open mini-Apple stores within a store — hoping to keep people coming to Target as the outlook for a return to shopping as normal appears only months away. 17 Target stores will feature an Apple shop in the initial roll-out, which will not include a Genius Bar. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The blurring of the lines continues in retail and tech, and Target has always lived on the edge of mass discount retailer and upscale shopping experience. Target’s electronics department has long been almost good enough, but lacking a few options. This move will close that gap to an extent, and likely skew the customers entering the store slightly upward as it will attract a few more shoppers seeking premium Apple devices.


Ring + Alexa make for electronic doorman

Ring and Alexa now work together to handle visitors to the front door

Ring, owned by Amazon, now has a feature, available to premium Ring Protect subscribers, that employs Alexa to converse with visitors to your front door. Through the Ring app, subscribers can turn on Alexa Greetings which will respond to a visitor, based on their statements, and report back to the homeowner with a message, or will instruct a delivery person where to leave a package. When integrated with other Ring cameras with motion detectors, the doorbell can warn visitors that they are being recorded. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The concept of the doorbell is changing. Imagine what a technological breakthrough the electric doorbell must have been — replacing the wrap of knuckles on wood and ensuring that the homeowner could hear a visitor even if he or she was far away, and could scurry to the door to greet the visitor. The doorbell of the 21st century will analyze a visitor as they are walking up to the door, performing a near electronic background check, confirming their identify, mood and intentions and determining how to deal with them before they even press the button. With success, homeowners will never have to actually speak in real time or face a visitor, unless they are the anticipated kind. Camera technology will continue to isolate neighbors from one another, but hopefully live safer, and lose fewer packages to porch pirates.

If work has gone remote, why is Big Tech still building?

Wired contemplates the massive Silicon Valley construction projects even as tech companies have opened work from home as a permanent offering. Tech companies are simply growing too fast to throw building projects in reverse, as these projects have been on the board for a number of years. In addition, many workers surveyed have stated a preference to return to the office.

dis-rup-shun: Work life after the pandemic appears to offer plenty of options — both a space at an office, or at least cubicle, or the option to work from home, or a combination of the two. The pandemic has given us the opportunity to see if we can rely on remote tools, and effectively coordinate a distributed workforce. The result, for the majority of companies, appears to be a resounding yes.

Tovala provides smart oven and meal kits for busy foodies

Tovala is a tech company and a food company. It makes both smart ovens and fresh food meal kits to go in the oven, and the software to scan the food information on the package to cook the contents correctly. The company has received an investment round of $30 million on top of investments made by Comcast Ventures and Tyson Foods. The company is riding the wave of people who, due to COVID-19, are spending more time at home and want to eat fresh foods, but don’t want to take the time to shop or read recipes. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Tovala not only makes the blade, but also the razors, and in classical marketing form, the company provides deep discounts on its razors (ovens) to sell more blades (meals). But does the target demographic really need a specialized oven that can perform other functions, but is primarily geared toward selling the Tovala meal kits? That is a tough sell, but perhaps affluent people who are busy but have not yet purchased an armada of counter-top appliances have room for an extra oven in the kitchen if it assures them of better in-home dining.

Disney’s streaming services shrug off Covid-19

Disney’s amusement parks business has been all but decimated by the pandemic, however Disney’s streaming services, including Disney + and Hotstar, in India, have mostly made up for the losses at the parks. The company now has over 146 million total paid subscribers across its streaming services as of the end of the first quarter. The parks revenue was down 56%, and its future hangs on the rate at which people get vaccinated and return to vacationing. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Disney is yet another of many companies that has been able to dodge the pandemic bullet — not due to luck, but due to good timing. The transformation of the video industry continues to happen in record time, with AT&T DirecTV telemarketers desperately phoning customers to offer to cut their bills in half before they cut the cord completely. Meanwhile, cord cutters continue to tack on extra streaming services — slowly moving their monthly video expenses towards the amounts they formerly paid for cable bundles.

Where does Zoom go from here?

Zoom Rooms are the new conference rooms

After a year of phenomenal growth that helped keep the economy moving even during the Pandemic, how does Zoom continue to stay on top of the video conferencing market? Zoom Rooms, the new name for the office conference room when empowered by the new Zoom software. Zoom Room software counts the number of bodies in a room and helps remind participants how to social distance, or reminds them that too many bodies are in the room to maintain safe air quality. The software also features new controls that turn the smart phone into the presentation remote — providing control to those outside the room, and enabling people in the room to not have to touch the same device. CNET

dis-rup-shun: We are still thinking of Zoom calls as a substitute for meetings in conference rooms, but that is about to change as video conferencing becomes the norm — even with people in the same building. Joining conferences by meeting in the same room will be the new exception to the norm — and will be seen as nice but not necessary. Zoom will need to push the envelope of video conferencing to stay ahead of competitors anxious to close the gap between themselves and the category leader, Zoom.

SpaceX SN9 rocket test ends in fiery crash

Elon Musk’s pursuit of placing humans on Mars continued with another test of the SN9 rocket, which lifted off from Boca Chica, Texas for a successful trip to 10 kilometers. The trip down resulted in a crash, as the craft was not able to right itself for a gentle return to Earth. CNET

dis-rup-shun: SpaceX had a banner year last year, as it twice ferried astronauts to the International Space Station, and back. You have to crack a few eggs to make an omelette, or in this case, wreck a few rockets to get to Mars, so we can rack this up as progress. Musk was also quick to point out that these tests are stressing the bureaucracy at the FAA, which may also need to be cracked in order to accommodate an innovator such as SpaceX.

Microsoft to Australia “I will never leave you”

Last month Google threatened to pull the plug on the country of Australia if it did, in fact, pass legislation requiring Google to pay news publishers a fee to link to their content. Microsoft took advantage of the public relations opportunity by assuring Australians that Microsoft would never pull its search engine, Bing, from down under. Bing holds only 3.6% of the Australian search market. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: While news organizations and media companies have long been the whipping posts of the freedom of information afforded by the internet, it is unlikely, and unwise, for governments to attempt to curtail market forces. As Parler, Trump, Facebook and Twitter are learning daily, restrictions on the posting of news and opinions is a difficult and murky business which continues to lack rules and guidelines. The blurring distinctions between social media providers and news providers will continue to vex modern civilization until credible organizations develop a transparent and public standard that defines news. It may be awhile.

Canon AI driven camera makes photographers optional

Canon’s robotic PowerShot PIC is a camera mounted on a swivel, infused with AI. It follows its subjects and takes pictures either on command or as it calculates it should. This is the ultimate selfie camera, as it makes the production all about you.  TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: The camera industry is an amazing shrinking phenomena and it must reinvent itself or be nearly completely subsumed by the smartphone. Canon is working hard to redefine the camera and create new use cases and form factors, but even so, these new use cases are peripheral to the central role of our smartphones as our “camera for all occasions.” Just like Kodak, brands such as Canon and Nikon will have to hasten their diversification and reinvention to stay relevant.