Android wins GM’s dashboards

Google’s Android is chosen for future GM dashboards

Google won an important battle to control in-car infotainment systems, when GM decided that Android will power its models starting in 2022. Android in car will mean seamless access to Google Maps and Google Assistant, beating Amazon’s Echo Auto out of that spot. GM will continue to offer Apple Car Play in models, accommodating both iOS and Android users behind the wheel. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Combining auto-makers’ in-car systems with smartphone interfaces makes for an awkward match up, especially if you frequently rent cars and try to learn every brand’s unique approach to important navigation, communications and music controls. Leveraging the ever improving smartphone interface is the preferred path, and making the car an extension of the smartphone (which needs to disappear while we drive) is the best, and safest, consumer experience. Expect the role of mobile operating systems to expand deeper into home controls, including music players, TVs, and kitchen appliances.

Must haves: a phone charger built into your walls

Debuting at the CEDIA Expo event is 4AMPS 4A-WCC2 charger with integrated cord . This is a DIY faceplate that anyone who has the courage to remove an electrical outlet face plate can slide into the exposed socket to retro-fit an existing socket. The result is an in-wall socket with added 3 foot retractable charging cord for charging both an Apple device (Lightning connector) and USB-C. The product sells for $35. CEPro

dis-rup-shun: Admit it — you have hid your charging cord from your roommates, your kids or your spouse, as it seems someone in the house always seems to be missing theirs and borrows yours. A built-in retractable cord that disappears when not in use is genius, and placed in a few strategic locations will improve the lives of more than a few people. Expect this kind of offering to be standard in homes and high-end hotels, alike.

Groupon’s offers on medical treatments a shock to doctors

ArsTechnica reports that doctors are aghast to learn that patients are using Groupon specials to shop for medical treatments such as mammograms, eye care and dental work.

dis-rup-shun: Memo to doctors: your services are becoming another consumer service that will be discounted, promoted and hawked, like carpet cleaning and brake inspections. The Internet has been slow to disrupt healthcare and bring the same conveniences and transparency that it has for travel, for book buying, and for restaurant reservations. But the open market, courtesy of the Internet and fueled by partnerships with consumer companies like CVS and Aetna and the entry of Amazon, has arrived. This will be great for consumers and insurers, but disruptive to doctors whose incomes will now be set by the market, not by the AMA.

Is $170M penalty a slap on Google’s wrist or historical?

Google agreed to pay fine of $170M to the FTC and the State of New York for violating COPPA rules designed to protect the identity of children. Google was targeting specific ads to children under 13, in violation of COPPA. The fine is the largest ever for violation of the privacy act, but has been criticized as “paltry” in relation to Google’s $137 billion in 2018 revenues. The company did agree, however, to use Artificial Intelligence to identify and protect children’s content going forward. CNN

dis-rup-shun: This penalty and controversy sounds very similar to Facebook’s $5 billion penalty in July for revealing personal information – also decried as being too lenient on a multi-billion dollar company. Here are the currents swirling around regulation of Big Tech firms: 1) Many government and business leaders are claiming that Big Tech is too powerful and anti-competitive and that their astronomical lobbying expenditures are buying leniency from the Feds. A series of investigations into Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple are queued up for the remainder of this year, and the recent settlements set the tone for size of the penalties.  2) Apple has initiated a “good guy” campaign, building privacy protection features into its products at the public relations expense of Facebook and Google – increasing pressure on the industry to raise the privacy bar. 3) Google researchers have discovered a “zero day” hack of thousands of iPhones, creating a public relations embarrassment for the good guys at Apple. 4) Penalties levied against Facebook and Google are small relative to revenues, but some of the largest of their kind, leading one to believe that the Feds are firing a warning shot to test the pain points of both Big Tech and the public. Expect to see a series of relatively low penalties levied against Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple and others in the next half dozen months.

Disney launches Netflix killer

Disney announces streaming bundle

Disney is ready to accelerate the undoing of the pay TV industry with its announced streaming bundle, offering ESPN, Disney and Hulu at the price of $12.99. That price is equivalent to Netflix and Amazon Prime. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: This changes the streaming game, and the pay TV game altogether. Why? First of all, getting these packages at this price means that Disney is selling at a loss and plans to play the long game. That’s bad news for Netflix, a company that doesn’t plan to make a profit for a long time, and has stated that it will eventually reach profitability through original programming. It will take a great deal of original programming to come close to original content of non-stop sports, Disney’s catalog, and the less interesting Hulu catalog. Given a choice, why take Netflix at all? Because of a few interesting shows. Secondly, AT&T, now entering the streaming game with its Time Warner acquisition, is clearly playing the long game with its own studio. It is also in the streaming business to recapture the cord cutters that are leaving DirecTV for bundles such as Disney’s.

Amazon price pressure — anti-competitive?

Amazon is under investigation by the FTC. What’s of interest to the Feds is Amazon’s practice of telling its third party sellers who offer the same products on other marketplaces for a lower price that they may lose some Amazon perks, like listings at the top of a page, or Prime shipping. This causes the sellers to raise prices on marketplaces such as eBay or Amazon’s costs for listing and advertising, however, are the highest online. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: When you control the largest online marketplace (by far) and you charge your customers fees for placing products in that market, and you penalize customers for setting their own prices, you just may have more influence than “the free market.” Consumers might benefit from knowing that they don’t have to shop because all marketplaces offer the same goods at the same price, but not as much as they benefit from finding better deals and deciding if they are willing to trade a discount for non-Prime shipping. Expect Amazon to have to make some concessions to the Feds.

Man crosses English Channel on hover board

After failing a month ago by wiping out in the sea, inventor Franky Zapata successfully crossed the English Channel this weekend on a hover board, traveling from France to England in 20 minutes. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: As vehicle ownership decreases, giving way to transportation-as-a-service models, and as drone use increases, super fast travel such as hover boards may be an option for commuters.

Amazon delivery robots working sidewalks in Irvine

Amazon is now testing delivery via robotic carts to neighborhoods in Irvine, California. The Scout devices are autonomous, but are accompanied by a person who is there to make sure everything goes as planned and to test sentiment for the devices. One problem to be resolved is sharing sidewalks with pedestrians and Scouts. ZDNet

dis-rup-shun: Will people prefer delivery trucks running through the neighborhood, or robots buzzing along the sidewalk? In densely populated areas, robotic carts from multiple vendors dodging pedestrians won’t be tolerated, but reducing truck traffic on the streets will be favored. A drone lane between the sidewalk and the street could be easily painted, and supported by appropriate fees from Amazon, FedEx and UPS, cities may enjoy a new source of revenue.

How would you regulate Big Tech?

Media and tech execs agree that regulation is inevitable

Execs gathered at Sun Valley conference agree that more regulation of Big Tech is inevitable, but point out that regulation should not be a matter of size, and must address anti-competitiveness and data privacy separately.  CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The tech industry is resigned that additional regulations are coming. Tech leaders such as Google and Facebook should lead the industry by working together to develop privacy standards along the lines of Europe’s GDPR’s standards and should develop a standard for fines to be paid by companies that fail to uphold privacy. This action would reduce the chances that lawmakers break up Big Tech.

U.S. Congress fails to create federal privacy laws

Lawmakers are angry with the FTC’s proposed $5 billion settlement with Facebook for privacy violations. Senator Hawley (R- Missouri) is pushing to move oversight of tech companies away from the FTC. Senators Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Markey (D-Mass) are pushing for sweeping reform of privacy laws that are seen as too aggressive by conservatives. Meanwhile Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) is calling for breakup of Tech Giants for thwarting competition. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Good news: our elected officials are seeking tighter privacy restrictions which are required for our tech economy to offer services valued, trusted and loved by millions of consumers. Bad news: our lawmakers’ inability to find consensus on nearly any policies will enable Big Tech to continue down its current course of “trust us, we will keep data safe.”

Are virtual reality applications DOA?

For years, news reports of virtual reality for the consumer have said the technology is coming to living rooms soon. VR makers are finding that the high cost of VR hardware, and the high cost of developing content, mean that the enterprise market is a better application for the technology than consumers. HP, Varjo, Microsoft and HTC are developing enterprise-grade VR applications for training and defense. Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: Virtual reality applications are similar to 3D TVs, for not one, but three years, the buzz at the Consumer Electronic Show was the advent of 3D in our living rooms. Mass market consumers have been reluctant to sit around the house with a something covering their faces and gamers have not found enough compelling content to make a multi-hundred dollar investment on a headset and game titles. Commercial applications will lower the costs of VR headsets, but it is unlikely that the technology will engage more than hard core game players even in the next half decade.

Verizon offers 5G hotspot

Furthering the race to provide 5G, Verizon has announced a mobile hot spot which enables devices to access its new screaming fast 5G network for a purchase price of $650 and monthly data plans costing $90 per month. Verizon is currently serving portions of 5 cities with 5G, and has announced 30 by year end. The Verge

dis-rup-shun: 5G is coming and changes the economics of the Internet of Things by a) making it possible to provide really fast bandwidth to mobile things like cars, or planes or non-mobile things without copper wires such as new buildings, and b) by making 4G a lot less expensive than it is today, enabling things like water meters, security systems, and traffic lights to be inexpensively connected to central stations, providing vast amounts of data that can be used to improve services.

SpaceVR seeks to spread spirituality of space to Earth

Most travelers to space express spiritual moment called Overview Effect. This experience occurs when one gets a view of the Earth from outer space. SpaceVR is a company that plans to launch a satellite that will beam realtime videos of Earth to users of its virtual reality viewing device. Wired

dis-rup-shun: The race to control a piece of space is now being run my many companies and a number of governments. Only one company is looking to outer space to bring a greater sense of peace and purpose to Earth. Let’s hope they are successful.

Can catch

Walmart’s attempts at e-commerce are struggling

Walmart’s e-commerce unit is reportedly losing $1 billion this year.  The company invested $3.3 billion in and has been struggling to keep up with Reports state that while the company is investing in young lifestyle brands, others believe that deep online discounting is the better strategy. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Given Amazon’s scale, Walmart must keep the long game in mind and be prepared to lose several billion more to catch up. While Walmart debates discount versus brand building strategy, Amazon is doubling down on warehouses, trucks, planes, drones, vendor networks, and machine learning algorithms. Amazon has built enormous scale not only in inventory, but in logistics, requiring an ever increasing investment to catch. Will Walmart shareholders and management decide that the cost of the race is too high a price to pay?

Facebook will pay a fine of $5 billion

After 87 million users’ personal information was improperly shared with political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica prior to the last Presidential election, the Federal Trade Commission has levied a fine of $5 billion, representing one month of revenue. Critics of the deal that does not penalize CEO Zuckerberg call it a slap on the wrist, and shares of the company were up almost 2% after announcement of the penalty.  ArsTechnica

dis-rup-shun: The FTC’s action will stand in contrast with the European Commission which is currently investigating several large corporations for similar mis-handling of consumer data. It is expected that the EU will provide proportionally much harsher penalties for similar failures and may be a much stronger driver for implementation of higher standards and better enforcement.

Amazon music growing faster than Apple and Spotify

Amazon’s service reported 70% growth in the past year.  Amazon reports 32 million subscribers to Apple’s 60 million and Spotify’s 100 million. Despite the strong growth, the other services have a strong lead. ArsTechnica

dis-rup-shun: Given that there are 126 million households in the U.S. and 221 in the European Union, combined, the services are reaching nearly 58% of households in both continents, suggesting that additional subscriber acquisition will be increasingly difficult and expensive. Amazon Prime members get a the basic music service, Prime Music for no additional charge, but may find that the limited catalog is a gateway to the Amazon Music Unlimited service which is available to Prime members at a negligible $2 premium.

Petcube incorporates Alexa into pet amusement device

Petcube’s Bite2 and Play 2 are smart devices that remotely dispense treats and provide a moving laser pointer, respectively. New versions of the devices now include Alexa voice capabilities. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: The Internet of Pet care has arrived, and now one can command their Petcube to command their dog or cat to perform tricks or sit for a treat. Amazon’s saturation of the smart speaker space in ever more types of devices is solidifying it as the industry standard for voice control. Why would a manufacturer choose anything but Amazon as its voice interface?

Amazon and Google and federal scrutiny

Amazon and Google under federal scrutiny for unfair competitive practices

The Washington Post (owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos) reports that the FTC and DOJ have divvied up duties of looking into the practices of Amazon — a job for the FTC, and of Google, to be handled by the DOJ. 

dis-rup-shun: Google’s dominant search engine and Amazon’s marketplace, together with Prime subscription data, enormous logistics resources and leading cloud platform, AWS, put the companies in the difficult position of direct competition with most of their customers. Owning the very rails of the online market, the Post puts it, is akin to the railroads of the late 1800s. The “coopetition” position of the companies — as they both compete and serve their customers, will undoubtedly be the companies’ defense should the feds take the companies to court.

iTunes is dead

This is the week of Apple’s annual developer event, WWDC. It has been rumored that Apple will shutter iTunes, more tightly integrating movie and music content services into new operating system features, rendering iTunes as a standalone marketplace irrelevant. Engadget

dis-rup-shun: Most people likely fell out of love with iTunes years ago as soon as it swallowed their music collection after their first iPhone upgrade. Launched in 2001, the service was the most important thing that happened to the music industry after music became digital, but iTunes complexity was its demise. By making it difficult to manage and share the content that people rightfully owned, it hastened the shift to streaming music services, which Apple finally joined by acquiring Beats in 2014. By that time, consumers had already tried and settled on several streaming services and the majority chose Spotify. Apple, the company that re-invented music, lost it only a dozen years later.

Space race setback: Stratolaunch shutting down

The race to own space is full-on with several governments (China, Russia, Japan, USA) and several private and public companies (SpaceX, Blue Origin, Lockheed, Boeing and others) aggressively pursuing economic and strategic initiatives. Stratolaunch, space company of late Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, is reported to be shutting down. The company has built and flown the world’s largest aircraft, capable of launching heavy rockets from high altitudes, which reduces the cost and complexity of blast offs from a launch pad.  Engadget

dis-rup-shun: The U.S. government has outsourced space innovation to corporations. The free market will create efficient competitors who will profit from space exploration, but whose goals may not align with political and military objectives. Having a contract with NASA, however, helps stabilize the early days of the new space race.

Odd technology: Muro programmable music box

Muro is a wood and metal retro music box encased by a plastic dome. Unlike its pre-computer predecessors, this version can be programmed with an app to play essentially any tune. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: The appeal of an antique-looking and sounding music box playing Guns N’ Roses is lost on most, but perhaps this tech novelty will be the rage this holiday season.

Google is following you, everywhere

How to control Google’s tracking of your every action

As we all know, or suspected, Google follows what apps we use, what we do on those apps, what devices we use, what we purchase and where we go (or where our phones go). Wired provides simple instructions to limit or disable those functions without pulling the plug on your online life.

dis-rup-shun:  Information is power and consumers are loading Google, Facebook, Amazon, and to a lesser degree, Apple, with more power every day. Whose job is it to inform customers of the choices they are making everytime they install an app or visit a site? Perhaps the Bureau of Consumer Protection, a department within Federal Trade Commission, should take the lead in both informing consumers of their rights as well as requiring a common data sharing dashboard that must be used by all application providers. 

Walmart hires Google/Amazon Chief Digital Officer

Suresh Kumar, formerly of Google, Microsoft, IBM and Amazon, will be Walmart’s new CTO and Chief Development Officer, reporting to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: Walmart, the company that used to be the most feared for controlling the way products are purchased, is now only in the top 5 of most feared, with Amazon clearly in first place. Walmart needs to continue to increase its online sales presence, and has a great deal of ground to gain in services, where Amazon is growing daily.

Is AI really going to wipe out vast numbers of jobs?

The Brookings Institute provides a detailed study of the impact of artificial intelligence on the workforce. Key points:

    • Automation substitutes for labor
    • Machines substitute for tasks, not jobs
    • Automation complements labor
    • Automation can increase demand, creating jobs
    • Capital and labor augmentation spurs innovation
    • Tech possibility is not the same as tech reality

dis-rup-shun: So, will AI displace vast numbers of jobs? The answer is that it will displace many jobs, particularly the simpler, task oriented jobs like delivering food or answering simple support phone calls. Past productivity revolutions have increased demand for knowledge workers and AI will do the same, putting greater pressure on the knowledge divide between those educated and those not.