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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.