YouTube approaches Netflix-sized revenues

YouTube video revenues reach Netflix level

As if we needed more evidence that cord cutting has reached mass market scale, YouTube announced advertising revenues for the quarter of $6 billion, up from $4 billion. At its current pace, Alphabet’s YouTube division will reach Netflix’s revenue size of $29 billion by year end. Netflix’s revenues are derived completely from subscribers, whereas YouTube relies on both subscriptions and rapidly increasing ad revenue. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: While the video entertainment market continues to change dramatically, the desire for advertisers to reach their audience and the need for advertisements to fund content does not. While Netflix has turned the video economy upside down, its reliance on subscriptions for revenue limits its ability to fund new content and new initiatives. Alphabet’s multi-channel approach to advertising — dominating on-line advertising and now gaining ground rapidly in the arena we used to call TV at home — places the company in a position to bypass Netflix and potentially build up an arsenal of original content. Does the viewing audience need more original content? Consumers says yes.

Microsoft crushes COVID

The long list of companies that had their best years continues, and Microsoft reports its best quarter since 2018. The company’s Azure cloud services unit continued firesome growth (50%) and the Xbox division reported 34% growth. All other divisions (there are ten) expect for Office Consumer reported double digit growth, resulting in 19% across the board. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Microsoft is like a utility stock or a grocery chain — its products are staples that are required for our existence and while it has competition, it dominates the majority of its categories. Think of it as the new GE. Satya Nadella, with some support from COVID, deserves extensive credit for focus, execution and stamina. While people have been loading up on bitcoin, they may have overlooked the long game brought to investors by the no-longer-sexy Microsoft.

Musk’s next frontier — your home

Elon Musk, increasingly a voice worthy of your attention, is fixing his sights on people’s homes… their garages, to be precise. Musk is citing Texas’ recent winter grid failure and rolling blackouts in California as proof positive that utilities are not equipped for the future and that maintaining a constant and renewable energy supply depends on a combination of your electric car and your Tesla Powerwall (in-home battery) to stabilize energy consumption. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: It used to be fun to bash Musk and his brash claims, but after he has successfully sent people to space, is a prime supplier to NASA, and has opened a car plant in China, we have to listen closely. Energy providers have known for nearly two decades that they are standing on a burning platform, and hopefully are considering a progressive, eco-friendly future with Elon and Tesla paving the way.

Tertill — a Roomba for the garden

From the original designer of Roomba is Tertill, a similar device that, powered by solar, traverses the garden to whack any detectable weeds with its nylon weed whacker. Barrier devices can be located around tinder young plants in order to repel the roving weed whacking robot. At $440, the device is not an impulse buy, but can be obtained through CNET for a $90 discount.

dis-rup-shun: Robots — so much promise but such little success at doing the things we don’t want to do as well, or better than we can. Save for industrial robots used on an assembly line, robots, especially at home continue to fall short. The reality is that many home chores require the dexterity and nimbleness of the human body and machines just aren’t yet as good. No doubt, over time, robots will be equal to the task, but how long? Expect to wait another decade for really productive home robots.

Ring continues to fortify security offerings

Ring offers new security devices

Ring, the DIY product company owned by Amazon, continues to offer new security-related products. The new products include an outdoor smart plug, an outdoor siren, and an outdoor solar-powered light. The outdoor smart plug enables people to add lighting that can be controlled through their smart home app. The siren is mounted outdoors and, when triggered by the Ring security system, makes it easier for neighbors to see and hear an alarm. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Ring continues to build out its DIY offerings — filling gaps in its offerings. The solutions appear to continue to be friendly enough for self-installation – guarding against cross-over into the pro-installation realm. As more devices are included in the Ring arsenal, however, one ponders when Ring’s full kit will rival that of security systems providers. Ring continues to court the do-it-yourselfer and provide new ways to retain them even as their homes and needs increase.

New movie release plans will spur home theater growth

Disney, Universal and WarnerMedia have all announced shortened release windows for new movies — making them available to home streamers either on release date or after a shortened theatrical window (the time that movies are exclusively available in theaters). CEPro expects these changes to continue to spur the demand for home theater rooms in high-end homes.

dis-rup-shun: The permanent effects of COVID-19 appear to include the way we watch new releases — transferring spending from the theater into the home. The future of the movie theater is definitely in question, as that sector will have to go through its own transformation which will continue to include adding alcohol and premium food to its locations, and perhaps adding more content to entice viewers. Will the double feature make a return, or will theater owners join together to create exclusive content?

Chip shortage shuts down auto assembly lines

Supply chains for many products remain impacted by COVID-19, including semiconductors. When automakers realized demand recovered quickly from a brief COVID slump, they found that increased demand for devices including computers, mobile phones and game consoles created a shortage. The ripple effect includes the temporary halt of Chevy Colorados and GMC Canyon pickups, as well as Ford F150 pickups. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The global economy continues to be in flux while some industries face unprecedented demand as others continue to reel from shutdowns of restaurants, hotels, and drops in travel, to name a few. The shortages plaguing products that contain semiconductors could last until next year — causing consumers who may be flush with stimulus funds to reconsider new product purchases.

New Sportify interface unites mobile and desktop

Spotify released a new desktop interface designed to provide a similar experience on both desktop and mobile. The uncluttered experience makes it easier to arrange favorite tracks and podcasts. Engadget

dis-rup-shun: Unifying user interfaces is not a new concept, but is a strategy pursued by a surprisingly few companies. Spotify has been aggressive about reinventing audio entertainment — moving from music tracks to aggressively promoting podcasts. With the likes of Clubhouse redefining audio entertainment yet again, Spotify is on its toes — working to make listening a highly customized, personalized experience across mobile and desktop devices.

Apple pulls plug on original HomePod

Apple pulls the plug on original HomePod

Apple announced last week that it will discontinue the HomePod — the original version that was initially priced at $299. The company, instead, will focus future development on its HomePod Mini, the $99 version of its Siri-supported smart speaker. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Apple’s move is not surprising, but disappointing. Why has the company that is capable of doing just about anything not given us enticing home automation options? Does Apple not think the home automation/smart home market is big enough? Global enough? It is not the company’s nature to shy away from paths that are well trodden by competitors such as Google and Amazon. After all, the strong growth of the smart home market will be even stronger when consumers are more confident that their most trusted brand can make the experience seamless, elegant, and interoperable with other products. Apple, please bring us video cameras, doorbells, thermostats and the like that will seamless work with HomeKit on our iPhones, iPads and Macs.

New Nest Hub tracks sleep

Nest has released its 2nd generation hub and apparently wants it to live next to your bed. In addition to voice controls, control of smart home devices, and an ample screen, the device will track sleep patterns using Soli technology. The device is priced at $99 and is the smaller, camera-less version of the larger hub. TheVerge

dis-rup-shun: Despite being available for several years, this product is still looking for a home in our homes. Kitchens are logical control centers of homes, but Google wants to put this hub next to your bed and help you with your sleep. For those that want to measure sleep, doing so without a wearable or an under-mattress device is nice, but many will be reluctant to place a listening device in their bedrooms, especially from a company that does such a fabulous job of collecting detailed information about our every move, browsing action and purchase. Let’s see how this goes over with consumers.

Phone Wars: Samsung brings back accessories in mid-range Galaxy

Samsung has unveiled a new line of Galaxy phones — the A52, A72. As expected, they bring even more features at lower costs. The prices are not yet disclosed, but expected to be in the range of $500 to $650. The surprise of the announcement is that Samsung is bringing back features and accessories that were abandoned last year: an earphone jack, a memory card slot, and a charger in the box. Of course differentiating new phones with features is increasingly challenging. Samsung has improved display quality, sound quality, and camera quality — with a 32-megapixel front-facing camera and four rear-facing cameras. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Samsung is making some quick shifts in strategy as research indicates people are keeping phones longer — closer to 3 years, and many have felt a significant squeeze from the pandemic. By providing more for less in a mid-range product, Samsung is likely to pick up a few market share points. It would be fascinating to view the market research that says consumers want chargers, memory card slots and an earphone jack. Were these added back to gain more market share or to stem consumer backlash that was caused by the elimination of these features?

Smart home and aging-in-place

Interpret, the consumer insights firm that employs this author, is pleased to be partnering with two smart home leaders: Develco Products and People Power Company for a webinar on the state of the smart home and its application to aging-in-place. The complimentary webinar is on Tuesday, March 30th and features Develco Products’ head of sales and Gene Wang, CEO and co-founder of IoT software company People Power. Register here.

dis-rup-shun: The needs for automation to assist seniors and enable them to live in place are acute, and new technologies offer great possibilities for unobtrusively tracking movements of seniors to make sure they are safe, healthy and active. Changes in sleep behaviors, bathroom behaviors, and routines are early warning signs of illness and smart home technologies have the potential to raise red flags before seniors get ill, or worse, experience a fall. Key challenges are determining who will sell these technologies, and who will pay for them. Join us on the 30th to hear how these companies are advancing the cause of technology-assisted aging-in-place.

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.


Smart perfume reflects your mood

And now… smart perfume

Ninu Perfume has combined AI with fragrances. Using a mobile app, you can inform your smart perfume about your day and about how you are feeling, and it “custom blends” a unique fragrance of the day, right in the applicator. The app’s digital assistant, Pierre, helps mix the occasion-specific fragrance and informs you when you are running low and need to reorder. Ninu is made from premium, eco-friendly ingredients and housed in a well-designed case. Input

dis-rup-shun: This is the ultimate internet of things play, as we had breakfast cereal boxes and toasters in the queue for receiving smarts well ahead of perfume bottles, but let this stand as a great symbol for the vastness of this category includes. Making simple pleasures of life more personal and “custom” have merit, as most people want a personal touch, and when we start going out of the house again, this will be a conversation item.

Samsung Bot Handy robot

Samsung showed off, at CES, a one-armed mobile robot that is able to pick up objects, using cameras and intelligence to apply the right force at the right time. The demonstration showed the robot moving dishes from the sink to the dishwasher, pouring a glass of wine, and placing a single flower stem into a small vase. While this device is not likely to reach market in its current state, Samsung is displaying some impressive capabilities which will find their way to market over countless, and likely bumpy attempts to make robots main stream home products. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Specialized robots, such as robotic vacuums, do work and are selling well, but a multi-purpose butler is a long way off. Home tasks can be done very quickly and affordably by efficient-minded homeowners or fair-priced domestic workers. Watching a bulky and expensive robot slowly perform single tasks at low speeds has no place in busy households of multi-taskers. Expect household robots to be at least five years away from being popular items. offers touchless doorbell

In the age of COVID, and with general heighten awareness about spreading infectious diseases, now offers a touchless smart doorbell. by simply standing in front of the device (or standing on an appropriately labeled doormat), the visitor can simply stand and wait to be spoken to. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Doorbell cameras are a great addition to the home, and will become the standard for any home in coming years, but there is room for improvement. First, if you have much activity in front of your house, motion sensing sets off alarms quite regularly, which can be too frequent. Secondly, the delay time from first ring to activation and engagement with the person outside often takes too long. As these deficiencies are addressed and facial recognition determines what and even who is there, then these products will become far more helpful.

Mobile home theater from Asus

The Asus Latte 1 is a home theater projector and Bluetooth speaker about the size of a large cup of coffee which projects images up to 120 inches in size at 700p. While the price is not yet known, the device offers an easy way to turn most any place into a home theater. Input

dis-rup-shun: Think of the places that you could turn into a movie-watching party: dorm rooms, campouts, hotel rooms, birthday parties, business presentations. If you can recall all of the occasions that you have hurried to a client site to give a presentation and the AV gear won’t cooperate, popping out your own projector to “just start” could be an impressive move. While this is a niche product category, it has potential of becoming a useful business or entertainment tool in coming days.


Highlights from Virtual CES

A new GM reveals the future of transportation

GM, following a year when the electric car upstart, Tesla, became more valuable than all of the Big Three automakers, revealed at CES its path for the future. The company unveiled its new division, BrightDrop, designed to provide logistics companies with an all electric delivery van and an electronic pallet platform. In addition, GM’s Mary Barra unveiled a new electric, flying personal taxi drone, called eVTOL which will be branded Cadillac. CNET

dis-rup-shun: These announcements are bold, as it seems clear that GM, the behemoth of American industrialism that foundered for many of the last thirty years, clearly understands that the future is not about fossil fuels, not about people owning multiple large cars, and not about running all over town to shop. The future is heavy with ecommerce, fractional services, gig-economy, and environmental conservation. GM gets it and is acting accordingly, knowing full well that the business model of the legacy carmaker is a path to certain extinction.

CareClever Cutii Robot

This is a useful robot. The friendly looking screen and speakers are on a small but sturdy pedestal on wheels. Cutii is designed to help seniors, by keeping them informed, tracking their movements, escorting them on walks, and coming to their aid if they fall. Cutii is not designed to open, close, lift and cook, but it does offer communications and visual contact so that a senior can request access to information, entertainment and communications from his or her robotic companion. Wired

dis-rup-shun: With many seniors in near isolation during the pandemic, such a device would likely be comforting, convenient and could offer a great deal of safety — enabling loved ones to see if a senior’s health appears compromised. Of course, any device that helps a senior in case of a fall could be a lifesaver.

Toto Wellness Toilet

Japanese manufacturer Toto displayed a smart toilet that analyzes waste, with every use, and provides feedback to an app regarding how you need to tune your diet, and other health indicators. The device will be expensive when released, but for those really into the quantified self, it will offer regular feedback on health. Wired

dis-rup-shun: For several years, we have seen smart toilets that offer massaging, soothing, water cleansing, and now, health assessments. Given the costs of such technologies, it will be years before builders offer these devices as standards in upscale homes, but with the recent concerns over toilet paper shortages during the pandemic, bidet-featuring smart toilets will remove one more concern from daily lives.

TCL Series 6 TV with 8K

Chinese TV maker TCL continues to wow consumers with high quality televisions at sub-one thousand dollar prices. The Series 6 offers 8K resolution support in an affordable package. Wired

dis-rup-shun: The world is only now beginning to expect content in 4K resolution, and it will be at least a couple of years before a great deal of 8K content is available, but if you are about to invest in a television that you plan to keep for 5 or more years, buying an 8K set is wise.

N95 Electronic Face Mask

Game hardware company Hazel has developed an electronic N95 mask that not only lights up with different colors, features re-usable N95 filters, but cleverly is made of plexiglass that enables people to see facial expressions and read lips. Wired

dis-rup-shun: We hope that masks are not here to stay, but they may be, or may be for those particularly vulnerable or uncomfortable with no distancing. If we are going to wear masks, being able to see people’s mouths and expressions will make interaction with masked people far more comfortable and effective.

Robotics are a star of Virtual CES

New robots for virtual CES

Increasingly popular stars of CES have been robots. This year’s virtual CES will feature a number of robots including: LG’s UV robot that moves around to disinfect surfaces, Moxie — a Japanese robot that is cute and intended to help entertain and educate children, John Deere’s robotic grain harvester, Daesung’s Hive Controller robot that harvests honey without human beekeepers. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Robots have been slow to become mainstream, instead being heavily utilized in factory automation. As we let go of the misconception that robots are multi-purpose, intelligent servants or companions, and apply AI and automation to repetitive tasks, we will see more frequent adoption. Expect more specialized devices, perhaps not previously considered robots, to be the examples of robotic automation — to prove their value by increasing efficiency and performing tasks that humans find difficult or tedious.

2020: An amazing year for tech

It was a rough year for many, and an amazing year for others. The seven top tech companies increased in value by $3.4 trillion. AppleMicrosoftAmazonAlphabetFacebookTesla and Nvidia. The global pandemic and government investigations have not tarnished the meteoric rise of these companies.  Surprisingly strong iPhone sales, Amazon’s rise in online sales, Microsoft’s Teams surge, and the strength of Google and Facebook’s advertising stronghold plus Tesla’s record deliver of electric cars in Q3 set new records. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Imagine what 2020 would have been without the economic engines of the top tech companies. There is little doubt that their dominance makes it difficult for others to compete, but our economy, without the strength and growth of these giants, may have been very bleak. COVID-19, moreover, fueled the growth of many smaller tech companies, including Zoom and Slack, that have also had a significant year.

The Walkcar — a new form of transportation

The Walkcar is a new device from Japanese company, Cocoa Motors. It is the size of a large laptop computer with four wheels. Standing on the composite square device will transport the ride at a maximum speed of 10 mph. At just under $2000, and a size that will fit into a large computer bag, the urban dweller has an alternative to the Onewheel. CNET

dis-rup-shun: If a laptop-looking powered skateboard is called the Walkcar, then are perceptions of transportation changing? How do we define cars? Are new entrants to the workforce counting on Walkcar-like devices to be their transportation of choice, knowing that Uber or fractional rentals of real cars are available for those seldom occasions when more is needed.

Cync by GE Lighting is new smart home line

GE Lighting, purchased last year by smart home device maker Savant, is planning to stay firmly planted in the smart home market. Its C by GE line is changing names to Cync — and will release a new outdoor smart plug and a new app to control it. CNET

dis-rup-shun: GE is a strong consumer brand. The mother company, GE, has sold its brand to many companies, including Jasco that makes a large array of electronics products under the GE brand, and now Savant, owner of GE Lighting, will use the brand to drive affordable smart products into the mass market. Smart light bulbs are a top selling smart home product, and Savant is wise to leverage the popularity of the brand.



Biggest tech events of a year unlike any other

Biggest tech stories of a year we will always remember

It has been a year for the history books. With nearly 2 million killed by the coronavirus, unprecedented racial strife, record wildfires, hurricanes, one of the most unusual presidential elections and even record stock market levels attained, the world is a very different as the year ends. CNET has admirably captured the top 20 tech stories of the year. Here are a few of the most interesting:

Apple broke from Intel and began shipping products with its own M1 processor. This shift gives Apple far more room to differentiate its products from the rest of the pack and may lead to levels of innovation we never expected from Apple.

Tesla becomes most valuable car company, at least for a while, as the popularity of electric vehicles has soared and are now considered by most to be the standard for the future. Despite many bumps in the road, Tesla has soared and has been rewarded for being a pioneer in an industry that is not new, but had not seen, until Tesla, widespread success.

Space gets busy as SpaceX sent astronauts to the International Space Station, launched more constellation satellites, and won a large federal contract to provide rural broadband. Meanwhile China sent a craft to the moon, and NASA launched a robot to Mars.

The pandemic alienated those not online. The digital divide has left 18 million Americans without adequate broadband, meaning 5% of the population could not participate in online shopping, entertainment, community and remote work during the lockdown.

The pandemic was jet fuel for Amazon, which hired 375,000 employees and posted a third quarter profit of $6.3 billion as people flocked to Amazon and other online shopping sites for essentials, including entertainment.

Video gaming surged as those stuck at home played more games, ordered new games, and lined up to purchase new consoles, including the new Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 — meanwhile the Nintendo Switch was difficult to find in stores.

Technology fueled the Black Lives Matter movement as smartphones quickly spread video of the killing of George Floyd and subsequent protests across the world, raising the issues to the height of public conscious.

Quibi came and went. The mobile only premium video service was a big risk and failed big, taking $1.75 billion in investment capital with it. Some blame the pandemic for preventing viral growth of the service, but the pandemic also fueled consumption of other online content.

Streaming video was fueled by the pandemic, as people stayed at home and consumed more content, further boosting Netflix, Disney Plus, Peacock, and HBO Max — which abandoned an industry norm of reserving new releases for movie theaters only.

Zoom becomes a new standard for work and community. Weekend use of Zoom increased by 2,000% as people continued to use Zoom for social gatherings, not just connecting to customers and co-workers. Zoom’s security problems led the company to make a number of changes to its platform throughout the year.

Scientists developed a vaccine in record time, developing what is called a messenger molecule, which tricks the body into creating antibodies. The fast development of the vaccine will likely change forever the way drugs are created, tested and approved.

dis-rup-shun: Many people have agreed that the year 2020 has accelerated the development and adoption of emerging technologies by ten years. While that may be an exaggeration, it is certain that business communications and, subsequently, travel, are forever changed. Entertainment and gaming, telehealth, have been accelerated by many years. Use of offices, home offices and second homes is likely forever changed, as is shopping. Hopefully families and friendships have been strengthened by the pandemic and the good fortune enjoyed by tech firms can help lift those who have been forever damaged by the events of 2020. Happy New Year.