Gig economy bolstered by California voters

California vote gives gig economy green light

Hanging in the balance yesterday was California Proposition 22, which would require gig workers such as Uber and Lyft drivers to be considered employees and receive benefits. The defeat of the proposition was a green light for emerging gig economy companies, including DoorDash, Instacart and Postmates which rely on hourly contractors to provide new services at low prices. Other states will likely see the California vote as an indication of consumer sentiment. CNet

dis-rup-shun: The gig economy, defined as using the Internet to temporarily employ under-used resources, such as cars, people or homes, make up 1% of the U.S. workforce and rising, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While a small percentage, the ability to reduce the unemployment rate by 1% is a big deal. Expect new and innovative ideas, such as Task Rabbit and Wag!, to continue to pop up and help supply meet demand.

Even AT&T is ready to cut the cord

AT&T is in talks to sell up to 50% of its legacy DirecTV, AT&T Now and Uverse units to private investors. The potential transaction values the DirecTV business, for which AT&T paid $67 billion, at somewhere in the range of $15 billion. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The startling decline in value of the DirecTV business unit in just five years is hard to fathom, but is a reminder of why Randall Stephenson, former AT&T CEO, rode off into the sunset earlier this year. The company is now in a position to hastily remake its video strategy to compete with a much more nimble Netflix that does not have the baggage of wireless services or legacy telecommunications and satellite TV services to deal with.

Game console strategies summarized

With new consoles on the verge of release, The Verge summarizes Microsoft and Sony’s future in gaming. Microsoft is out to create, maintain and grow new game customers regardless of platform — providing solutions for PCs, for mobile from the cloud, for discount consoles and for serious consoles. As Microsoft will not release its new consoles with new blockbuster game titles, it will lean heavily on compatibility with legacy games to excite users. Sony’s Playstation strategy is focused on providing a premium console experience with some brand new titles and with a new haptic feedback readied controller, the DualSense.

dis-rup-shun: The differing strategies will be exciting to watch, as it appears that Microsoft is hard at work to fend off newcomers to the gaming space such as Amazon and Apple who are seeking to convert everyone to a game subscription. Sony, on the other hand, may further engage the traditional core gamer — a specialized but profitable niche market — and extract additional dollars per unit by rewarding loyalty and honoring the exclusive experience sought after by serious gamers.

The best smart home products

Gizmodo provides the latest of frequent lists of best smart home devices. Gizmodo’s list has a few dark horses. The picks include:

Best Wi-Fi mesh router: Netgear Orbi.  Best smart speaker: Nest Audio.  Best robotic vacuum cleaner: Neato Botvac D7 Connected. Best smart display hub: Google Nest Hub Max. Best smart lock: August Wi-Fi Smart Lock. Best smart plug: Belkin Wemo Mini. Best connected lightbulb: Philips Hue. Best connected security camera: Logitech Circle 2. Best in-home exercise system: Peloton Bike.

dis-rup-shun: Most of us are spending a LOT more time at home, and investing in smart products for entertainment, convenience and security makes more sense than ever before. Fortunately the industry keeps cranking out better and more affordable smart home products.

In-game campaigning further blurs reality

Politicians turn to in-game campaigning

Biden’s campaign has released a “Build Back Better with Biden” roadmap within the popular computer game, Fortnite. This placement follows an in-game voting station and Biden yard signs found in Animal Crossing New Horizons. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: Meeting your target market on its own turf remains a timeless saw within marketing, and the Biden crew has done just that, further blurring the borders of real life with the alternative realities of gaming. Just when you retreated to computer and console games to escape the barrage of political ads — you find yourself back to reality.

Ford hints of $20,000 electric car

The future of the auto industry is electric, and with Gen Alpha’s less likely to own cars, Ford is gearing up for a new kind of car experience. Current electric vehicles (sedans and trucks) are targeted to a luxury buyer, but the future calls for highly affordable electric vehicles, according to Ford’s new CEO, Jim Farley. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Car makers are scrambling to reinvent themselves as it appears that the industry will revolve around fractional use (transportation-as-a-service) of autonomous, electric vehicles — three key elements that are missing from the majority of offerings today. Electric vehicles require little maintenance and few moving parts, threatening the service revenues of the auto dealership. Given that many consumers will give up auto ownership for transportation service subscriptions, the sales department of the dealership also faces an uncertain future. Which elephantine auto maker can tap dance the best to avoid the endangered species list?

Netflix strategy — increase price and value indefinitely

Last week’s increase in subscription prices for Netflix is baked into the long term strategy of raising prices each year, along with increasing the value of the service each year. The company has veered away from its strategy of becoming a low-cost HBO replacement, to one of becoming a low-cost replacement of the entire cable package. As the quality of the cable bundle degrades, given that providers will reserve the best content for streaming services, Netflix will increase the quality and price of its offerings. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Netflix continues to create a new price tier for streaming services in the range of $13 to $20 per month. Because the company is not seeking price parity with cable bundles that easily average $100 per month, it leaves room for consumers to add 2 or 3 services to the household mix. Even with several streaming services, the new bundle is priced far below cable, forcing traditional cable providers to meet streaming TV packages such as Hulu, Sling and YouTube TV at a $50 to $60 per month price level. If you haven’t already, it’s time to restructure your TV bundle.

A man’s hatred of printers

Wired’s Simon Hill asks why, in the 2020s, do printers still suck? Describing the awkward relationship most homes have with their inexpensive devices that consume semi-precious ink cartridges and the ferocity of ink subscription services at insisting the printer stay on and connected, Hill hits home.

dis-rup-shun: The cost of printing, unlike the rest of consumer technology, seems to have hit a floor beyond which it will not fall, despite the ridiculously low prices of printing devices. Leave it to Amazon to deliver printed documents to our doors in about an hour after hitting the “Print to Amazon Prime” button.

Rivian transforms the pickup truck experience

Rivian R1T is the shape of trucks to come

What’s a Rivian? It is an all electric pickup truck that is larger than a Ford Ranger and smaller than an F-150. Like the future of electric vehicles, it is powered not by one central engine and drive train, but by four electric motors linked directly to each wheel, resulting in a simpler design, more space in the cockpit, and regenerative breaking which means that the vehicle progressively slows as you back off the accelerator. The Rivian comes in three different battery range options, adjusting price and time between charges to meet particular needs. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The electric future is arriving quickly, with many exciting offerings arriving in 2021. It seems like the most excitement is with trucks, including the new Electric Hummer, the Rivian, and the Tesla Cybertruck. But trucks are where auto makers earn a profit and where many electric options will be offered.

Netflix implements price increase

Netflix announced a price increase of around $1 for each of its plans. These new prices will show up on customer bills in the next two months. Shares of Netflix and competitor Disney were up on the news. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: It has been discussed many times that the current streaming economy doesn’t add up — to win more subscribers, streamers have to create and acquire very expensive premium content — which must be subsidized by other profitable business units.  Unlike Disney, CBSViacom, AT&T and others, Netflix does not have theme parks, wireless services or a large catalog of syndicated shows. Expect Netflix to continue to raise prices and live in the area defined as “cheaper than cable, but more than it used to be.”

Advertising recovery buoys Alphabet, Pinterest and Snap

Google parent Alphabet posted better than expected earnings across all of its operating concerns, driving its share price up 7%, and confirming that advertising has rebounded from its early-COVID-19 pullback. Meanwhile, other Big Tech failed to impress Wall Street, resulting in a decline across the tech sector. Apple’s sales figures for the iPhone 12 are not included in the past quarter’s less than interesting results. Twitter’s stock was down on strong performance but disappointing new user acquisition. Facebook stock was also lower on a decline in users, and Amazon’s growth expectations did not exceed what has already been recognized as the target range of up to 38%. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: In what continues to be two sides to the same COVID-19 coin, online sales and advertising continue to surge, even as retail, restaurant and service businesses gasp for life. Cash continues to flow through the online economy, creating demand for knowledge-worker jobs and providing disposable income to be spent on food and consumables, if not the latest fashions and hottest new restaurants.

Bose Tempo audio frames: sunglasses that talk

For $250, you can own Bose’s Tenor, Soprano or Tempo audio framed- sunglasses. These stylish sunglasses enable you to listen to music, take calls or talk to Siri without fumbling for AirPods or extracting your phone from your pocket. For those times, like riding a bike, when you want entertainment but don’t want to block outside noise, an audio sunglass frame may be the solution. CNET

dis-rup-shun: What could be better than discreetly listening to music, conference calls, or podcasts while running, walking, biking or skiing? As we humans continue to believe in the myth of multi-tasking, tools that help us be two places at once are invaluable, and at this price, these frames are worth a try.

SpaceX global internet service ready for beta

SpaceX prices Starlink satellite Internet beta at $99 per month

SpaceX, the company that has been pumping hundreds of satellites into low orbit for the past year, is now ready to do business. The company is offering a beta version of its satellite internet service for a $499 kit fee and $99 per month. Speed expectations are low at first, says the company. The service will provide possibly intermittent speeds of 50 to 150 Mbps during its first months as it builds up infrastructure. While this service may be lacking in speed and economy, it may be the best available in many parts of the world. Forbes

dis-rup-shun: SpaceX’s promise is to provide internet access across the globe — enabling a truly global service and one that connects very remote places to the world wide web. With the diaspora of urban workers heading to the hills in the time of COVID-19, connecting urban outposts to the rest of the world is critical, and certainly worth a premium. The philanthropic possibilities of the StarLink service are also exciting — connecting people who had neither the funds nor the infrastructure to the rest of the web can transform economically depressed communities.

T-Mobile pushes into the streaming video business

T-Mobile, always the uncarrier, has been offering its subscribers a companion streaming video (TV replacement business) for as low at $10. Now the carrier is opening up the service to non-subscribers, who can add premium channels to TVision for $40 and up per month. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Thanks to T-Mobile for keeping the playing field competitive and differentiated. Now that Sprint is part of T-Mobile, the company that people liked to ignore is putting a dent in the establishment. And think of a wireless carrier also being your TV provider? That sounds like a company called AT&T, but priced at half of what you used to pay for your TV + wireless bundle.

The demise of cable TV inevitable

Leaders of traditional cable operators are preparing for the nuclear winter that awaits further defection by cord cutters. Cable operators are expected to lose another 25 million households over the next 5 years, calling into question the sustainability of the infrastructure, including financial (debt) structure supporting the industry. Shifting assets to streaming services will have to happen quickly and is already reshuffling the leaders of the pay TV industry, with companies such as Netflix, Apple and Disney joining the incumbents as the power brokers. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Outgoing and departed cable execs, including AT&T’s Randall Stephenson, placed huge bets on keeping enough subscribers onboard to keep the ship afloat, but the the pay TV tide is turning more quickly than some expected, and there is question if revenues from streaming subscriptions will be sufficient to fund the over the top services. Leadership in the streaming industry requires premium content, and producing premium content, either in the form of great shows or live sports is extremely expensive and may require subsidies from other business units, as Disney, AT&T, CBS Viacom and some have, but Netflix does not. In a tough spot, potentially, are owners of sports franchises who will find it increasingly difficult to get enormous TV contracts that they and their players have become so accustomed.

Nest discontinues DIY home security system

Nest has confirmed the discontinuation of its Nest Secure DIY home security system in a box. The kit, released in 2017, sold most recently for $399. The decision to shut down the product comes a few months after Google invested $450 million in professional security leader ADT. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: The discontinuation of Nest Secure is a surprise, and yet no surprise at all. It is a surprise, because it appears that smart device makers like Amazon, it’s Ring division, and Google’s Nest are marching from making popular and well-priced devices, to making well-priced integrated systems consisting of more and more components. It is a surprise in that Google has a vast war chest, and, having made a large investment in ADT, seems to be in position to play the long game in smart home. It is not a surprise in that Google’s hardware strategy is continuously perplexing — seemingly designed by players of musical chairs who don’t stick to a plan for more than a few months. And not a surprise in that buyers of smart home products don’t appear to be buyers of integrated security systems. Security systems buyers appear to be different animals, and where the two meet is still hard to discern. One thing for certain: someone at SimpliSafe has cracked a bottle of champagne on the Nest news.

 

Facebook amps up the cloud gaming race

Facebook launches cloud games but not on IOS

Facebook is joining Google, Microsoft and others with a cloud gaming offering. Facebook’s offering, however, does not require controllers and does not offer a console-like experience. The offering will likely increase the appeal of gaming within Facebook, but is not supported on IOS, given Apple’s app policies. The feud between Facebook and Apple originated with Tim Cook’s remarks about Facebook’s privacy policies, and continues as Facebook joins the growing parties of companies objecting to Apple’s control of commerce via the App Store. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Companies are jumping on the anti-trust bandwagon, trying to seize an opportunity to crack Apple and Google’s hold on all things app. The situation, however, is more interesting when Facebook, one of Congress’ targets for reform, is adding fuel to the fire. Will Apple escalate issues by furthering its criticism of Facebook’s security policies, and will the feud accelerate legislative actions? The infighting among BigTech companies will hasten needed legislative actions. Meanwhile, every tech giant will soon have its cloud gaming offering, making it difficult for customers, regardless of their price/performance preferences, to resist playing games at some point in their week.

London Tube deploys UV technology to clean surfaces

London’s Transit for London authorities have outfitted multiple locations with UV-light based cleaning devices that sanitize handrails on escalators. The authority states that trials of the technology show that it reduces germs on handrails by 50%. UV light is projected on handrails at one point in their circular rotation, keeping them constantly treated.  CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Public spaces will never be the same after COVID-19, and London is taking action to make spaces safer — not just from COVID-19 — but from germs carried and transmitted through touch.

Tips for a telemedicine future

Telemedicine is likely a part of your future. While most people will continue in-person doctor visits, these visits will likely be augmented by telemedicine appointments. Telemedicine provides an opportunity for patients to centralize their care information in one place, as providing a list of medications, contacts and health history will increasingly be the responsibility of the patient, not the doctor. This information will enable different care professionals and specialists, to be included in a remote care model. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Telemedicine will enable participation by multiple specialists, in many parts of the world, to be involved in the care process, and moving from a model in which a primary physician is the central point of one’s health care journey to one in which the patient is his or her own advocate will not happen for some. But for the masses who will be challenged with ever rising prices for shrinking coverage, movement to more cost effective care models will likely involve shopping for telemedicine suppliers and presenting one’s own case to chosen providers.

Bissell SpinWave is a robotic mop and vacuum

The evolution of robot vacuums continues, and Bissell’s $250 SpinWave combines mopping capabilities with vacuuming. The device looks much like a Roomba but includes two spinning cloth mops and a water tank in the unit. CNET

dis-rup-shun: For the price, these devices are helpful with regular maintenance, but technology has a way to go before replacing elbow grease. Expect robotic home cleaners to be a household mainstay in five years, but until then, they are nice-to-have additions to heavy duty vacuum cleaners, mops and brooms.

Quibi: a spectacular failure

Quibi is one of the more spectacular tech flops of the decade

Quibi will be shutting down before end of year, terminating its contracts with a long list of movie stars, athletes and celebrities who were featured in the mobile only short form videos. Quibi was original and bold. In a time when lives were far more mobile, would people become so fascinated with premium content that this fad would have been a hit? Former Disney CEO and Quibi leader, Katzenberg, along with Meg Whitman of eBay fame, have issued an apology for blowing $1.75 billion in a little over a year, and will go on to other creative projects. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Perhaps Katzenberg and Whitman saw themselves as the next Steve Jobs, creating something radically different and of high quality, that people would love. Speaking of Jobs, if Apple acquired Quibi and branded it Apple iPhone TV, or something similar, initially giving a few hours of content to every Apple device owner, then migrating them to paid plans, the service would likely be a smash hit. Consumers, however, are not in the mood for another monthly charge that only lives on a mobile device, especially when spending most all of their time at home.

The surge of electric pickup trucks

Overnight, the world is faced with a number of electric pickup truck choices, even though the pickup truck audience has not been asking for one. GM’s electric Hummer, an electric F-150, Tesla’s Cybertruck, join startups Rivian, Bollinger and Lordstown on the truck scene. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Pickups and SUVs are the growth engines of the auto market, and the vehicles that are sold at higher margins. Electric pickups, however, come at higher prices, in some cases, prices over $100K. So the automakers are counting on tapping a luxury truck buyer, not the average pool man. Time will tell if the market will bear a glut of expensive, luxury electric trucks, but GM and Tesla are betting yes.

Large percentage of Apple’s service revenues paid by Google

Google is paying rent to Apple. The search company pays Apple to be the default search engine of the Safari browser, resulting in revenues attributed to Apple Services in the amount of $8 to $12 billion per year, or 17% to 26% of Apple’s services revenues last year. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The number of Safari users who would likely select Google to be the default browser would likely be near the same figure even if the search engine was not associated with Safari. The red flag, however, is that Apple has touted the early success of its services business, implying that people were lining up in droves to pay a monthly fee for games, music, news or other content. It turns out that a quarter of that success is attributable to Google’s rent payment.

Smart vents may fix your HVAC woes

Getting the right amount of air conditioned air to the right room at the right time is a challenge in many homes, and a problem that vexes many homeowners. One application of smart home technology that addresses this problem, well, smartly, is the smart vent. Smart vents open and close based on sensor readings in each room indicating temperature imbalances, and determining which rooms are occupied. Flair’s smart vents draw power from two small C cell batteries and can be connected to popular smart thermostats to “just work.” TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Smart vents should be a standard issue in any home and certainly will be in the future. Using sensor technology to measure and adjust in the background not only is a simple application of technology, it is more efficient and far simpler than climbing into attics to attempt to adjust ducts to change air flow.

 

And you thought you didn’t want a Hummer

The Hummer you thought you’d never want

Hummer is back, and it is electric, and you will want it. The new version features a removable roof and crawl mode for tough terrain. The 300 mile range and 1000 horsepower engine, along with the convertible features make this pickup truck highly desirable to spend time in the great outdoors and be good for the environment at the same time.  CNET

dis-rup-shun: Car companies are trying an interesting strategy to remain relevant in the next decade, and that strategy is to create premium electric vehicles with fat margins and lots of buzz.  The Chevy Volt got a lot of attention, but you don’t see many on the road. A head turner like Cadillac’s new LYRIC EV SUV, or the new Hummer EV, or electric Ford F-150 will get people talking about the new future of the car industry.

Snap’s strong quarter signals comeback for brand advertising

Advertising has suffered during the pandemic, causing a slowdown in the service economy. Snap, parent of Snapchat, posted a strong quarter and year over year revenue growth of 52%, signaling a return of advertising by large brands. The strong results buoyed the stock price of other social media giants. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: While the economy must weather the uncertainty caused by a peculiar election as well as the third surge in coronavirus cases, the rise in all things digital remains a driver of economic growth. Our lives have moved online and outdoors, and companies catering to both of those experiences are showing strong growth and keeping many people actively employed.

Verizon beats estimates

Speaking of all things digital being on the upswing, Verizon added more subscribers of Internet services and wireless phone accounts than expected. The company added 283,000 postpaid phone subscribers in Q3, beating an estimate of 268,000. While the company’s revenues are down, its prospects are up. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: As mentioned above, if a company is in the business of enabling our digital lifestyles, they are in a good place. As the COVID-induced diaspora of city people to the country continues, people need to pick up hot spots or install faster internet service at their beach or mountain houses.

Apple’s MagSafe charger is teenage awkward

Apple’s new wireless charging technology, MagSafe, includes aligning a charging disk to the back of the phone via a built in magnet. Of course, if you are using an older phone that does not have a built in magnet, aligning the surfaces is a little tricky. And Apple does not include the AC electrical outlet plug (brick) in new models, but requires users to acquire one that conforms to the newer USB-C interface. Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: Only Apple can get away with forcing people to adopt new standards without giving them the tools to do so. We are in the awkward adolescent/teenage years of growing into the next phase of connecting and charging devices, and for the next two to three years, there will be countless request from friends and loved ones who ask “do you have this kind of adapter or charger…?” Once we get out of the house, we will have the opportunity to build community through accessory sharing.

Artificial intelligence begins to write emails and memos

AI apps compose emails and text copy

GPT-3 is an artificial intelligence text generation technology that learns the context of communications. By offering two or three word commands, a user can employ GPT-3 to write a thoughtful, relevant email message, ad copy, or memo. Compose.ai and Snazzy.ai are two examples of applications capable of generating relevant and detailed text. Wired

dis-rup-shun: AI authoring apps may be the first real example of machine learning that makes writing skills nearly unnecessary. If machines, not people, determine writing styles, then variations in styles will quickly diminish and certain books will need to be labeled as “handcrafted” or developed by human intelligence in order to distinguished language artists from computer programs. The art of writing will be seldom practiced in business and technical communication.

Gates on breaking up Big Tech

Bill Gates has been through anti-trust hearings, when Microsoft was fined millions in the 1990s. Gates has stated that the congressional investigation of Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google should regulate each company individually, as they each serve different markets with unique challenges. For social media, the issues to scrutinized include “advertising to children, wiretapping, bullying and the dissemination of false information.” For ecommerce, the issues are sharing customer purchase history and shipping address across multiple websites. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Each Big Tech company has unique competitive advantages, but the most complex company to scrutinize is Amazon, as the company is in many different businesses and is able to leverage advantages of, say, Prime Video to gain more information about the preference of online shoppers. Unraveling the highly vertically integrated business of Amazon, by itself, is a huge task, and then there are problem children such as Facebook. The congressional committee on competition will have its hands full, potentially, for several years.

Google Maps updates Busyness feature

In response to the pandemic, Google has added and updated a maps feature called Busyness, that tells you how busy a store, restaurant, park, or other public place is before you go. For those striving to avoid a crowd or beat the rush, this could be a game changer. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Great features like this come to you courtesy of, well, you. Your personal information about where you are (with your phone) at all times provides the input to this, and other great utilities. In the debate over the creepy-ness of Big Tech constantly collecting personal data, we have to remember that great and useful features like this are a reward from allowing the tracking of personal data.

China may block Nvidia acquisition of ARM

Nvidia, a U.S. chip company that is thriving in the world of increased gaming and Internet of Things devices, as well as connected cars, plans to acquire chip design licensing company, ARM, a U.K. based company. The Chinese State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) has the ability, just like the EU or DOJ, to block the transaction based on the grounds of limiting competition. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: While both companies state confidence that the deal will occur, Chinese regulators, having been tormented by the Trump administration over security concerns regarding Huawei and, most recently, TikTok and WeeChat, have to be ready for a fight. Expect SAMR to put a big battle to block this acquisition.

 

Will iPhone 12 spur a supercycle?

Will the new iPhones spur a ‘supercycle?’

In 2014, Apple’s release of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus spurred a massive upgrade cycle and $61 billion in revenues to Apple and their accessory partners. That was the peak of iPhone revenues. Some claim, however, that because 30% of iPhone users have a phone three or more years old, and now that 5G is supported, many will rush to upgrade. Other remind that we are in a pandemic-induced recession and that 5G is not yet important to users. Regardless, Apple’s business is more diversified than ever and its stock price continues to climb. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Apple’s marketing sophistication continues. It now offers more models to fit the tastes and price tolerances of a larger audience, with more shiny colors, and has, like women’s fashion, made an old look (angular corners) new again. Curved edge iPhones will now signal to your friends and peer group that you are out of step and certainly don’t possess the transformative speeds of 5G technology. Meanwhile, Apple, with sleight of hand, has raised the price of the base phone by $100 by introducing a lower end model priced like last year’s base model. Will anyone notice?

Finally, a HomePod Mini

Apple has missed several release cycles in the increasingly crowded smart speaker evolution. It’s expensive HomePod, a $299 competitor to Echo Studio and Google Home Max, was released two and a half years ago and, according to Interpret’s research, appealed mostly to high income families who are Apple loyalist. Yesterday, the long awaited HomePod mini, listing for $99, joined the fray, enabling a more cost-conscious customer to combine interest in a smart speaker or pretty good music player, with admiration for Apple products. 9to5Mac

dis-rup-shun: Apple’s answer to the Amazon Echo Dot is attractive, yet what does it do for us that its competition does not? Other than being powered by Siri, which some may prefer to Alexa or Google Assistant, the device has good sound for a small speaker and attractive cloth housing. For a company that usually offers something more, Apple continues to be a follower in the smart home department — lacking that really compelling experience, or really rich service offering, that has become a part of its fabric.

When PopSockets get in the way

PopSockets, that rubber handle that sticks to the back of your phone to enhance your grip on your $1000 mobile computer, is in the way of Apple’s new MagSafe technology. MagSafe is the technology that enables you to place your iPhone on a charging surface, rather than plugging it into a charger. PopSockets fans will find that they need to remove their beloved accessory to properly charge their iPhone on MagSafe surfaces — an inconvenient truth for a company that has thrived on the back of phones since 2012 and has earned former Colorado college professor, David Barnett and his philanthropies, millions of dollars. PopSockets is said to be designing a new device which can be easily removed for charging, but meanwhile Apple itself is reportedly getting into the stick-on accessories business and that could be a problem for PopSocket. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Making your fortune at the feet of a giant is great, until that giant steps on you. Just ask some of the erstwhile entrepreneurs at Netscape, AOL, CaseLogic, Intercom, and many others — companies who have lived in a niche, until that niche gets big enough to be incorporated into the core product line.

Blue Origin breaks record for reusing rocket

The space billionaires are playing for keeps — keeping their rockets running, that is. Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin just completed its seventh landing of a rocket returning from outer space. The New Shepard space craft touched down in the West Texas desert on Tuesday, beating the record of Musk’s SpaceX by one. The space billionaires have proven that the future of space travel, like airplanes, includes landing the craft intact. Another new feature of the space race is great, crystal clear video coverage of the launches and recoveries. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Today’s space race is an example of how competition in a nearly open playing field accelerates innovation. Relying only on government-backed space initiatives would result in glacial developments, spurred only by the fear of falling behind other superpower, especially as politicians are increasingly distracted by reelection campaigns and the global pandemic. Regardless of how the Department of Justice regulates Big Tech in upcoming months (or years), Bezos and Musk already have their places in history as true innovators that reshaped global commerce.

AI-coached virtual sales calls more effective?

Chorus AI technology improves Zoom pitches

The traveling salesforce is locked down and doing their best schmoozes via Zoom. But now, Chorus, an AI-driven software platform is able to analyze the Zoom conversation and inform salespeople when they are talking too much, or not addressing customers’ primary objections. This virtual coach can keep salespeople within the guardrails of corporate best practices, and keep those best practices fresh on individuals’ minds. Wired

dis-rup-shun: The idea of a receiving in-meeting tips from an AI-based application has the potential for making virtual sales meetings more productive than in-person meetings. Do you trust an algorithm to tell you when your salesforce is “talking right” over sending them on the road (post-COVID-19) to host power lunches, tickets to games, and happy hours? Most people don’t argue that face to face meetings are invaluable, unless, of course, your team does a better job virtually with the help of a coach.

Tomorrow is iPhone 12 day – what to expect

Apple’s unveilings of the next iPhone are always events that lead to great speculation about how many faithful and how fast, will upgrade to the latest model. The rumor mill, provided by CNET, offers a number of features expected in tomorrow’s release. These include sizes — moving from the three (regular, large and extra large – Pro Max) in the iPhone 11 to four with the 12, which adds a mini (5.4 inch). Enhanced camera features have become a staple of new phone releases, and it is suspected that the iPhone 12 will enable portrait mode in videos. This model will support 5G cellular connections — a feature Apple chose to skip on model 11, which was likely smart timing on their part. And, drumroll, it is rumored that the base price for the 12 will be $649, less than the base price for the 11.

dis-rup-shun: The feature race between Samsung and Apple continues to be in lock step, with each smartphone leader taking a slight advantage with some features that are inevitably offered by the competitor shortly thereafter. In terms of horsepower and cool features, the Android vs. Apple discussion is the phone battle continues to be a commentary on simply on personal preference. Like the upcoming U.S. Presidential race, most people have long ago decided which tribe they prefer and swaying them to a new platform is extraordinarily difficult. These announcement events are really about keeping the core buyer intact and enticing them to upgrade.

Video gaming revenue in China from smaller towns

China is the largest video game market in the world, and 70% of video game revenue is coming from Tier 3 – 5 cities where, according to Niko Partners, 76% of gamers live. Niko Partners believe that better mobile infrastructure, cheaper smartphones, and less entertainment options make gaming a core activity in smaller cities. They note that “smaller cities” often have populations of over one million, meaning that a successful entertainment offering cannot ignore the interests of Tier 3 – 5 cities, in a market of nearly 1.4 billion people. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: CNBC says that Netflix does not view other streaming services in China as its competition, rather it views video games as the threat. Given that smaller cities in China are more likely mobile Internet users than home broadband, the path to higher monetization of services is mobile and therefore, more personal.

China hands out $1.5M to test digital currency

China is leading world banks in experimenting with digital currency. China’s central bank just awarded $1.5M in digital renminbi to 50,000 people in a lottery. Over 3,000 merchants in Shenzhen are setup to accept the currency which is not a crypto currency, and can be accepted by a number of digital wallets. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: China is acting quickly to prevent the rise of efforts such as Facebook and friends’ Libra digital cryptocurrency, which was thwarted by central banks around the world. Moving to digital currency will solve many problems for central banks, and likely create more complex ones as digital security is a moving target. What digital currency will likely do, however, is enable the central bank to see exactly where and how much money people are spending — another loss of privacy and potential loss of control of funds in “emergency situations.”