Women in tech lambast Silicon Valley

Women in tech speak out against Silicon Valley

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

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

Google flirts with $1 trillion, but with murky future

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

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

Google’s Loretta Super Bowl ad called “evil”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The end of insurance, transportation and retail

Extinct in 20 years: insurance, transportation and retail

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

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

Electric Hummer pickup truck coming in 2021

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

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

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

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

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

Apple updates its maps and Look Around

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

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

 

 

Amazon’s cash cow

A stellar quarter for Amazon

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

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

Your thermostat called the repairman

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

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

A Facebook control panel for personal data

Facebook has rolled out a tool to show you which websites are using Facebook data to serve up ads and how to easily stop sharing. Follow these steps to limit the amount of Facebook activity being fed to other sites. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Facebook is feeling the withering criticism of the public and the shame generated by Apple by claiming to be the safe company while looking down its turtlenecked nose at the social networking giant. Hats off to Facebook for its transparency and its proactive move to help consumers manage data privacy. A similar dashboard needs to be required of every app that is fueled by data, as a privacy policy standard, policed by the FCC or FTC.

Ring’s attempt at better security

Doorbell and camera maker Ring has reacted to hacks, criticisms and lawsuits by adding a security dashboard to its app. The dashboard enables users to turn on two-factor authentication, to view which apps can access the camera account, to see if passwords are set, and to opt out of giving police access to videos. The security features, according to TechCrunch, are still quite weak, despite providing the user with new controls. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Despite the fact that Ring’s implementation of security measures is not industrial strength, the company should be commended for adding an easy to understand security control panel (see Facebook’s data access control panel above). Debate in the smart home market has long been that if products are highly secure, consumers will be frustrated by the more rigid account generation and sign on processes and pan the product. Data suggests this is true, yet consumers are outraged when really lazy passwords such as “12345678” are easily hacked. Making it easier for consumers to protect themselves is the right move, and very important to keep legislators and hackers at a distance, and Ring is on the right path.

 

Apple reports a stellar quarter

Apple crushed it

The Q3 earnings report is in and its great news… Apple’s revenue exceeded Wall Street’s expectations. The key news is that iPhone sales were up 8% and other products (those tough-to-get-for-holiday AirPods) slightly beat expectations, and services were slightly below expectation. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: This is great news for the global economy. It shows that the economic engine called Apple was still able to create enough shiny new gadgets to excite consumers around the world. The services business is tough, and it will take a while for Apple to figure out how to extend the aura of its brand — design and user experience — to services.

Apple pushes directly into India

Apple has sold products in India through a number of retail partners that have discounted products and generally had lackluster performance. Apple will launch its own online store for India in Q3, followed by brick and mortar stores, with the first in Mumbai. India is the second largest smartphone market in the world. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Apple doesn’t do well with third parties, and the premium, luxury experience of its retail online and brick and mortar stores will create an event in Mumbai and other Indian cities. The company has announced plans for a lower cost iPhone for big markets like India, and that product will undoubtedly do for India what the C-Class Mercedes Benz did for the U.S. — provide a luxury brand experience for a more affordable price and larger market.

Filmic app enables dual camera filming

An iPhone app by Filmic may transform the way people use smartphone cameras. The app enables use of two of your phone’s cameras at once, providing simultaneous and different streams. One view could be a selfie at the same time as the outward action is being filmed. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Will this app transform the future of pictures? Will it become customary to show two different views in one frame? Expect amateur videos to become very artsy as consumers learn how to edit-in different video camera angles, making even basic videos look like Hollywood products.

Boeing’s 777X has foldable wings

For news not related to the 737 MAX, Boeing completed a test flight for the very large, long haul 777X. Airlines want larger planes for long haul routes, maximizing economies of scale and creating very profitable operations. One problem with bigger aircraft is that they require a larger wingspan, which causes problems in tighter, crowded airports. Boeing is making this massive jet more nimble by enabling the wing tips to fold up during taxi, shortening the wingspan by 24 feet, then fully extending them for flight. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The company is in desperate need for some innovation credit as the 737 MAX debacle drags on. Innovation is what has kept Boeing the number #1 player in avionics. If the newly appointed interim CEO, Dave Calhoun, wants to make the company great again, he will focus on leadership through innovation, and, of course, improved testing and safety processes.

Big Tech wants regulation

Big Tech execs ask for more regulation

At the World Economic Forum at Davos last week, tech execs from multiple companies ask governments to set regulations on tough topics such as data privacy, encryption, AI and content monitoring. Caught between the pressures of congressional investigation and strong consumer backlash, Big Tech wants the government to set limits. Wall Street Journal

dis-rup-shun: One of the first concepts new parents learn is that children need boundaries to feel secure. Tech execs are asking federal governments to give them some boundaries and act like parents in order for them to feel secure about the limits of their businesses. Tech companies are rewarded for plowing new ground and providing services that have never before existed, however the backlash over stepping on data privacy is creating serious blow back from consumers and regulators, and turning some of the most loved brands, including Facebook (especially), Google, Amazon, and, to a lesser degree, Apple, into villains. Getting regulators to set the rules for the future will be tough. With disorganized agendas and partisan posturing consuming our regulators, the chances that they will get ahead of technology trends are, unfortunately, slim, however the new cooperative attitudes by Big Tech could make the career of a legislator who seeks to set a strong agenda.

Happy birthday iPad

Exactly 10 years ago, Apple unveiled the first iPad. It was thicker, slower, heavier, but not radically different than today’s model. At the launch, Steve Jobs mentioned that netbook computers had failed to add extra value to the customer experience. Forbes

dis-rup-shun: The company has sold over 360 million of the devices in the last decade, and while annual sales have slowed, the product keeps getting better. The iPad has become what the netbook was intended – a smaller, more portable computer. It appears that one of the most popular applications of the device is to purchase an add-on keyboard and use it as a very portable computer.  If Apple and all the buzz surrounding Jobs had not pushed the iPad into an adoring audience, the tablet would have never made it as a category. One can argue that the tablet is yet to find its true use case and the fact that the iPad was a big iPhone is what drove its growth. The brand power of Apple continues to bring magic to rather mundane product concepts, like wireless ear buds, and the magic seems to only be better in the post-Jobs era. Let’s see what’s next.

Apple earnings report: iPhones, Apple TV+, China

Today’s fiscal Q3 earnings report from Apple will include some important revelations worth noting. iPhone, the biggest part of the company’s earnings, have been down, but the iPhone 11 seems to be hot. Sales of products in China are under stress, as Chinese tech giants flood the market with highly competent but much less expensive smartphones. Apple’s new video streaming service, Apple TV+ has launched and early results will be revealed. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Today’s announcement will answer several very important questions for the direction of the tech economy. Question 1: are the incremental benefits of the iPhone 11 interesting enough to get a strong sales response? Observations of Apple stores over the holidays suggest yes. Question 2: Do Chinese consumers still think Apple is special enough to pay more money than for less expensive non-Apple smartphones? Observations of strong performance by emerging companies suggests the answer is no. Question 3: Is Apple’s new streaming TV service, Apple TV+ special enough that Netflix, Amazon Prime and now Disney + (Mandalorian) subscribers will add yet another service to their bundles? Logic suggests that these results will be mixed — not a home run, but given these services are brand new, the service will be off to a good start.

Strong guidelines for monitoring teens’ online access

Wired takes a stand, setting guidelines for how parents monitor teens’ mobile internet access: remind your children that you, the parents own the device, set periodic inspections to ensure compliance with no bullying and no adult content, no device use during meal time, and the consequences of violation are loss of the device for a period of time. Statistics show that 61% of parents monitor their children’s online activity, 42% of children have been bullied online, and 35% have been actively threatened.

dis-rup-shun: Parenting takes courage, and in the digital age, with fewer established rules, parents have to make them up either before they present the device, or set rules as they go. The transition between content for kids and content for adults seems non-existent, with the tween label having all but disappeared. In the Internet Age, individuals have to create their own rules, as much of the road is unpaved.

Sonos feels the burn

Sonos feels the fire from loyal customers

All of us who own Sonos products received a letter of explanation from Sonos CEO, Patrick Spence, who admitted to not handling the Sonos obsolescence announcing well. The letter reiterated that old Sonos gear would not receive feature updates, but would receive security patches. He also announced that the company was working on a way to essentially split home networks into two domains, so that legacy gear could operate in a second environment, maintaining its usefulness in the home without preventing new Sonos gear from having being updated. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: It seems that Sonos has forgotten about the scorching, white hot criticism that Nest received when it decided to brick the smart home hub it acquired from Revolv. Criticism was brutal, as it must have been for Sonos. Tech company leaders must remember that their companies have invested thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars into connecting with customers through social media and image building. Quick decisions that do not put those customer relationships first can torch a stellar image in a matter of days — just ask Sonos.

Why safer cars cost more to insure

Cars are safer than ever and crash rates are down. Insurance costs, however, have risen 29.6% in the past decade. The reasons for the disparity include the rise in distracted driver claims, thanks to the proliferation of smartphones, and the expense of repairing highly instrumented cars. Bumpers, for example, are full of sensors. Windshields are equipped with built-in cameras, high intensity headlamps can cost as much as $1800, and parts of cars are made of carbon fiber. Wired

dis-rup-shun: High insurance rates required to own and operate a car seem to favor the trend toward renting and paying-per-use over ownership. Separately, when we make a transition to self-driving cars, and those cars get in a crash with human-driven cars and the cause is “murky,” whose insurance pays? Expect a period of time when crash data from cameras and sensors from autonomous vehicles make the case that human drivers caused a collision, and the collective reaction from insurance providers for human driven cars will be to raise the rates to “account for crashes with autonomous vehicles.”

Big Tech seeks to change sharing of personal health records

While you read this article, a meeting including some of the largest health information providers in the country, including Cerner and Epic and including Big Tech companies such as Microsoft and Apple, is taking place to discuss a potential action by the Department of Health and Human Services to make consumer health data more open. Today, it is often difficult for a patient to access his or her own health records and move the data between different health providers. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The question consumers need to ask is, who has given me better access to data that has resulted in self-empowerment? Does authorizing Big Tech companies such as Apple or even Google to house my data in their clouds make for a better healthcare purchasing experience, or is there risk in these companies having access to my very personal health data? While you ponder that question, ask yourself if the current kings of health information are working hard to create transparent, consumer friendly healthcare purchasing markets. It is a very important showdown, and what is certain is that the current system must change in order to improve and our Big Tech companies can certainly bring about change faster than the institutional healthcare data provider incumbents.

Technology for better cat health

The PurrSong Pendant is a Fitbit-like collar that holds a charge for one month and measures your cat’s activity and alerts you, through a smartphone app, when there are changes in patterns, which may indicate that kitty is sick. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Using machine learning to detect differences in activity from a “normal” baseline is being applied to senior care, but can work for most any age or animal species. Annual spending on pet care in the U.S. in 2018 was $72.5 billion, an increase of 4%. Globally, the pet care market is estimated by Grand View Research to reach $202 billion by 2025. Expect a host of connected technologies for pets to enter the market in coming years, following the same introductions for humans by only a couple of years.

 

 

The next TV gets 4K over the air

The next gen TV is built for cord cutting with 4K tuner

TV features continue to evolve quickly, even though people don’t replace TVs quickly. The latest feature is including a 4K tuner into the TV. TV channels in most major markets will begin to transmit the super high resolution 4K format over the air (free) this year. Cord cutters can rely on an antenna to receive local stations in 4K provided they have a built in tuner (new TV) or using an external set top box. Antenna and set top box are extras to purchase. CNET

dis-rup-shun: For those wishing to cut the cord (see instructions in Tuesday’s post), to receive local channels, one can either use the local TV apps provided by Roku or  YouTube TV or one can put up an antenna on the roof or in the attic, and either buy a special set top box or a new 4K ATSC 3.0 compatible TV. With TV features now changing quickly, you should buy up when purchasing a TV, hoping that spending a few hundred extra dollars will keep your TV compatible with the latest technology for a few more years. Unfortunately it looks like the days of not having a bunch of extra boxes plugged into your older TVs will never arrive. Despite the amazing technologies available for home entertainment, it seems that every home implements TV a bit differently, challenging the AirBnB concept and making hospitality TV systems in hotels even more necessary.

DNA testing is down, impacting 23andMe

Makers of DNA testing equipment confirmed what CEO of 23andME reported, and that is people are doing less DNA testing. The breakthrough technology enabling consumers to test their DNA led to fast growth for the company, ballooning to 700 people. The company is now laying off 100 employees due to a sharp decrease in testing that started in 2019. The CEO attributes the downturn to people’s concerns for privacy, and fear of a recession, resulting in more cautious spending. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The fears of a recession in 2020 seem to have calmed, so the drop in DNA testing must, in fact, be related to privacy. It is a fact that many people who have performed the test are not happy with what they have discovered, but the question is, is there a growing wave of consumer fear about loss of privacy? Ring, the doorbell camera maker, is facing backlash from consumers over video sharing. Consumers whose homes or faces appear in their neighbors’ shared videos are feeling exposed, and perhaps a side effect of a connected society is a society that feels watched over. This is a trend to watch in the coming months.

Microsoft sets the path for a new kind of computer experience

The foldable computer is the post-CES buzz, and Microsoft is showing developers how to create dual screen apps that are properly split so that the fold, in a foldable, isn’t doesn’t obscure the app window. Microsoft is pushing a new form factor that is sort of like the current form factor. That is, the new computer is a clamshell, but the keyboard area is also a screen, and the screen extends upwards (where it should be). Getting developers to build apps for this new, unproven device will be a challenge, but one that Microsoft believes will pay off. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The PC form factor has not changed in years, so maybe the market is ready for something fresh. The thing that has kept tablets from taking over the computing world is the need for a keyboard. If a foldable computer doesn’t have a real keyboard, or an app flat on the desktop that works as well as a keyboard, then this new device is a multi-tablet screen. If this device is visually stunning, with lots of screen space, then making this an amazing video watching device may be the best path to market.

Robots hold things without touching them

Robotics are on the rise in manufacturing, and ultrasound technology enables robotic arms to suspend tiny, fragile, or sterile devices and move them, position them or place them. By blasting sound waves at a certain frequency, robots can keep an item suspended in mid air. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Robotics continue to perform specialized tasks, improving one task after another, and this suspension technology will enable robotics in settings such as surgery, medical equipment manufacturing, and many other applications. The success of robotics is in specialization rather than being an all purpose do-anything device, meaning that the idea of a really useful home assistant is at least a decade away.

 

Moto RAZR is back and beautiful

Moto RAZR is back, and looking sharp

The RAZR put Motorola on the top of the cell phone market, and provided some really strong years for the company. The new RAZR smartphone has a foldable screen, and looks really great, but is reportedly under-powered and overpriced at $1,500. It appears that the device is designed for early adopters who want to show off, but perhaps, if it succeeds in the market, Motorola will drop the price and go head to head with other Androids. Initially the RAZR is only available with Verizon. ZDNet

dis-rup-shun: A couple of big questions are raised by the RAZR.  First, will foldable-screen based phones hold up to the wear and tear that users put them through? This is the first generation, so time will tell (soon). Secondly, are users ready to go back to the Motorola brand, a brand that was iconic a decade ago, but not a player in the most recent decade? If the RAZR flies, then expect Apple to add some folding devices to its mix next year.

Blood oxygen monitoring comes to Fitbit

If you own a Fitbit Charge 3, Ionic, Versa, Versa Lite, or Versa 2, then its time to update the software and see the new blood oxygen graph, and track your numbers throughout the day. Why should you care? Blood oxygen content helps identify sleep apnea, and if your levels are changing, there is a good chance that you are not sleeping well. ZDNet

dis-rup-shun: Fitbit is now a Google company, and we can presume will be in the race for the long haul. How can Fitbit differentiate from the very successful Apple Watch? Both companies appear to be pursuing health and wellness monitoring as important selling factors, and both are following a similar design path. If Fitbit works to be the athlete’s preferred device, doubling down on training and performance measurement apps, it could hold on to a niche it has enjoyed since its inception, allowing Apple to be the general purpose, do-all device, but no doubt Apple will be quick to match Fitbit’s differentiating features.

The best Alexa-capable speakers

The smart speaker landscape is changing fast, and with this week’s announcement by Sonos that older gear will no longer be supported, it is time to consider an upgrade. Wired profiles the landscape and suggests the best solution for different applications. For those wanting to extend the life of their hi-fi or whole-home system purchased many years ago, the $35 Amazon Echo Input is a dirt cheap way to add both Alexa as well as streaming capabilities to your favored music system.

dis-rup-shun: Research continues to reveal that people are buying Alexa-enabled systems primarily to listen to music. Amazon has had moderate success in the streaming music business, and little success making Alexa a shopping interface. Perhaps being the new music system is a Trojan Horse tactic, and once people enjoy music mostly from an Alexa-enabled device, Amazon will find new ways to monetize the device and the services its supports. The company is already on a path to become the new home intercom system, and can easily become the replacement for the land line telephone system.

What to make of the Bezos phone hack?

If you missed it, Bezos’ phone was hacked in 2018 and the hackers revealed some nude photos of Bezos that he sent to his mistress. Bezos hired some investigators to determine how the phone was hacked, and the report implicated Saudi Crown Prince bin Salman. After the alleged hack, bin Salman’s regime murdered Washington Post (owned by Bezos) reporter, Khashoggi, who was critical of the prince. Wired

dis-rup-shun: There are more questions than answers here, and more issues that are not about technology than are. About technology, expect that any device that is connected to a network can and will be hacked. Time to get rid of any pictures that you don’t consider public. One reason that your smartphone wants you to update it frequently is that those updates fix security risks — so update all your devices regularly. And don’t hang out with the Crown Prince or the richest man in the world, as you could get caught in the crossfire.

Amazon pharmacy revving up

Amazon files pharmacy trademarks

Amazon has filed a series of pharmacy related trademarks both in the U.S. and in several countries, in a move believed to be signaling the company’s expansion of its PillPack pharmacy acquisition in both the U.S. and overseas markets. Amazon has registered the name “Amazon Pharmacy,” a different brand from PillPack. The Seattle company has encountered serious resistance from the established players after its previous expansion efforts. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Is Amazon’s push into pharmaceuticals a net positive? Chances are, Amazon will make receiving prescriptions far easier, providing fast, free delivery, and making it easy to purchase related supplies (bandages, thermometers, vitamin supplements) and its vertical integration suggests that it could help address the skyrocketing costs of drugs and cut much fat out of the established pharmaceutical pipeline. Perhaps an Amazon Prime “Pharmacy” membership would provide low drug prices, plus streaming TV and next day delivery of stuff. How would state attorney generals and our federal government deal with a giant that appears to be restricting online competition, aggressively using consumer data, rocking the logistics establishment, and rocking the pharma industry, among many other things?

How to hold on to a 500 million unit market

Samsung, the former king of smartphones in India, the world’s second largest smartphone market, has lost its lead to Chinese Xiaomi. The company now plans to open a $500 million display plant outside of New Delhi. The plant will enable Samsung to take advantage of tax credits in the 500 million unit market. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Samsung has been unseated by a large Chinese handset maker, and is being threatened by another, called Realme. The Chinese companies have demonstrated that they can produce a device liked by millions for lower costs, and this will be a test of Samsung’s ability to compete at the low to middle end of the smartphone market. Apple continues to demonstrate that the handset is a platform for a host of services, starting with apps and including music, news, video, advertisements and games. Losing this position in a nascent market such as India will be a game changer that could clip Samsung’s growth for a decade or more. Watch the company fight viciously to regain and hold its lead against an onslaught of inexpensive Chinese phones.

An answer to the problem of IOT security

IOT devices are growing in number as we embrace connected living. Data security standards, however, are severely lacking, making smart home and IOT products particularly vulnerable (recall the annual baby monitoring hacking gate?). Swiss cryptography firm Teserakt is proposing an open source, end to end encryption standard to secure any and all participating IOT devices, and, being open source, means that the standard can be pounded on, improved and modified by the public, providing person-years of updates and innovation. Wired

dis-rup-shun: An open source encryption standard would raise the bar for all IOT players, and would, hopefully, become a required minimum feature for any connected device, making the world a better place, and avoiding the sensationalism associated with the annual hacking, on national news, of a nanny cam. The connected home industry is caught between developing some truly innovative and useful products, and being rejected for lack of security by the same people who post their vacation photos on Facebook, indirectly advertising the vacancy of their homes.

Netflix’s competition and stock price rise

Netflix reported numbers that confirm that rising competition is slowing subscriber growth in North America. The company, however, knew that was coming and has been working hard to expand in other regions. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: How fast can Netflix run across the globe to convert other markets to be cord cutters? The problem with other markets is that after the big economies are converted, the disposable income available for Netflix subscriptions gets small. Economies such as India offer enormous scale to help offset the lower subscription fees, but can Netflix corral enough unique local content to beat the regional incumbents, who should have taken a lesson from the U.S. market and already have plans to launch their own streaming service? Watch Netflix get purchased by a large media company that is behind in the market — in the next three years.

Ready to cut the cord?

Step by step guide to cord cutting

The art of cutting your traditional pay TV service and replacing it with an Internet TV service has become cocktail conversation. Even luddites are doing it. This step by step guide takes you through the process, which involves some new investments: you must have fast, hearty internet service, and you much either replace old TVs with internet ready TVs (smart TVs) or purchase external connections such as Roku or FireTV for those old TVs. When you are ready to end your pay TV relationship, you can return any devices that you are renting (in perpetuity). Between ending rental fees and government mystery fees, you could save anywhere between $50 to $150, not counting your investment in new stuff. Shelly Palmer

dis-rup-shun: There has been an ongoing debate as to whether or not final TV expenses are lower for cord cutters, given all of the great streaming services and add-ons. The bottom line is that traditional pay TV subscribers have been buying most of the goodies, such as Prime and Netflix, and tacking on premium charges anyway, so lowering the base pay for TV services is a big win, especially given that for now, these services are not opposed to account sharing by your kids at college. 5G will upset the internet subscription pay model, in that super fast 5G connections that can power your entire home’s internet needs will challenge your traditional internet service (and may be the same provider), making what we call ‘faster then required’ much cheaper in a year. It’s a moving target, but you have to jump in some time.

The murky future for Sonos

Sonos has announced a trade-in program for some of its first devices, while also announcing that it will no longer support products dating back to 2006 and 2007. The pioneer in streaming music is directing its efforts on supporting the latest technology, all the while suing partner Google for patent infringement. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Sonos makes some of the greatest products in the connected home realm, with a very simple user interface. Sonos is to whole home audio what iPods were to boom boxes, and Sonos became what Bose was to the prior generation — the mark of really cool home music systems. Amazon and Google, with some help from Apple, JBL and others, are displacing Sonos. Research indicates that the most frequent use case for smart speakers such as Google Nest Home and Amazon Echo is to play music. The biggest complaint, of course, being that sound quality is lacking. The smart speaker makers and the Bluetooth speaker makers are upping their sound quality, while adding support for smart assistants, meaning that Sonos’ advantages as a high fidelity provider of streaming music are all but gone. What’s worse, of course, is that Amazon and Google are happy to sell products below cost as they race to be the provider of shopping services, information services, and a hub for smart home products. If you manage Sonos, how do you compete with that?

Proving space travel is safe

On Sunday, SpaceX, in a final safety test for NASA, demonstrated its human recovery module in the event of a rocket explosion. The recovery module is, essentially, a lifeboat that will bring astronauts back to an ocean landing should there be an in-flight catastrophe. The exercise is in preparation for SpaceX’s upcoming transporting of astronauts to the international space station, not yet scheduled but expected in the coming year or so. Spectacular footage of the flawless launch, explosion, Dragon separation, and splashdown can be viewed on Wired.

dis-rup-shun: The exercise will pave the way for the return of U.S. based rockets ferrying astronauts to space — something that has not occurred since the last shuttle mission in 2011. Boeing, the beleaguered maker of the 737 Max, is competing with SpaceX to be the first to return a U.S. based astronaut in space, but at present the aircraft company has a lot on its corporate plate, giving Musk a chance to steal the spotlight. Of course Musk, with his soaring Tesla auto company, highly criticized solar company, and ambitious boring (tunneling) company, among other endeavors, seems to thrive with a lot on his plate. A private citizen eager to purchase a ticket on a commercial space ride has an interesting choice to make: ride on the craft made by the occasionally fiery Tesla father, or ride with the largest maker of commercial aircraft and semi-complete software. I will wait.

Microsoft pushing hard into remote worker software

If you haven’t been working from a remote site, you may not be aware of Slack, a web-based group working software application that makes it easy for remote or headquarters workers to instant message, call, and file share, all from a pop-up app always running on their PC or mobile device. Slack brought in over $175 million in revenue last year, a growth rate of 42% according to Yahoo! Finance. Microsoft has come after Slack with its Teams application, which it built on top of the awkward Skype VOIP application. Microsoft has gone prime time, highlighting on weekend commercials how the application is transforming the way people work. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Teams and Slack are, in fact, changing the way people work — making it increasingly awkward to use the telephone, tethered or smart, to call a co-worker, when, with a click of a button, one can loop co-workers into a screen session and share a desktop. Document collaboration, while not something that happens in an office, is becoming a common result of frequent use of workflow software. Microsoft, having been blindsided by the commercial acceptance of Google Docs, is not about to give up more of its share of office productivity to San Francisco based Slack, but has declared a full battle to claim the new category, and is bundling Teams with Office 365. Bundling, however, does not ensure success, as Google Chrome has long bested Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and now Edge browsers, despite those being pre-loaded onto Windows computers.