Rocket rides sold for $55 million

Space travel broker Axiom Space sells a seat for $55 million

The travel broker Axiom Space sold its first of three seats on a SpaceX rocket, and a 10 day stay on the international space station, for $55 million. CNET

dis-rup-shun: This is an interesting cluster of commercial, private and government interests. Which entities stand to gain from private citizens paying a commercial rocket company for time on a multi-national government funded space station, and what happens when space tourists get in the way of valuable scientific experiments and potentially endanger astronauts who have trained for decades to spend time in space?

Techlash — no more office space allowed in San Francisco

The city of San Francisco expects to pass Proposition E (pundits indicate that bill has 55% support). Proposition E limits construction of new office space based upon the amount of new housing stock created. Local residents are celebrating the proposal, while economists and venture capitalists are highly concerned. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Despite exceptionally high housing prices and shocking growth in homeless population, San Francisco’s tech boom continues to draw the best and brightest to the city. The city is looking more like a closed system — if you pour in thousands of prosperous jobs, you can’t force the low wage earners out of the city — they want and need to be there too, but are increasingly forced to live in the streets. With remote work tools getting better by the month, tech companies should find it easier than ever to tap into lower cost, distributed work forces outside of the Bay Area.

Apple App Store bans many COVID-19 apps

Apple joins other Big Tech companies on controlling the misinformation associated with coronavirus. Apps that help track the virus that are not submitted by health organizations are blocked. Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: Amazon is working to take down price gougers who are selling masks and sanitizers at outlandish prices, and Facebook is working to eliminate misinformation posted on its network. Apple is doing its part to prevent misleading or overly opportunistic apps. It is encouraging to see that Big Tech is collectively focusing on protecting people and helping the global community steer its way through the current health and economic crisis.

Oppo watch is Apple Watch lookalike for Android

Chinese manufacturer Oppo has released a good looking Apple lookalike. The product runs the Android-based ColorOS, and will be released for sale first in China on March 24th. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The watch is not an exact knock-off of the Apple Watch, but very similar. Just as in phones, Apple set the look and feel for an armada of smartphones from many brands — none as successful as Samsung — sold to people who liked the technology but preferred not to join the Apple faithful. As the smart watch gains market share, expect Apple to dictate the design, feature set and pricing even while Android powered watches eventually overtake Apple’s share of the market.

Consumers love Microsoft, Amazon distrust Facebook, Twitter

Verge consumer survey shows what tech companies are loved and disdained

The Verge completed a follow up survey to its 2016 survey on public perceptions of tech firms. Facebook lacked trust in 2016 and has fallen precipitously, while Amazon, adored in 2016, remains a public favorite. Microsoft is the must trusted tech company (75% trust it), followed by Amazon (73% trust it).

  • 56 percent said the government should break up tech companies if they control too much of the economy
  • 72 percent said that Facebook has too much power
  • 51 percent said Google and YouTube should be split into separate companies

dis-rup-shun: What is surprising about the survey is that Apple is in the bottom half of companies discussed. Has Apple’s premium product positioning and pricing made it an elitist brand that does not appeal to the masses as do Google, Netflix, and Amazon? Perhaps Apple has become the Nordstrom’s in a Target world, where technology is now a lifestyle necessity of all but the most impoverished, and highly accessible brands are seen as providing great utility to society. Facebook, however, remains a powerful but disliked brand — a precarious position for long-term success.

Walmart readies answer to Amazon Prime

Walmart will soon launch Walmart + which is a fee-based loyalty program aimed to combat Amazon Prime. Amazon now controls 40% of online retail, Walmart.com controls 5%. Walmart is exploring perks for which it has a unique advantage, such as 1,600 grocery stores in the U.S. that could provide free delivery. Aside from free grocery delivery, the retail giant may be hard pressed to find other advantages its chain can offer over Amazon. Vox

dis-rup-shun: Amazon has changed the rules of shopping, with Sunday deliveries so successful that FedEx trucks are rolling down neighborhood streets on Sunday. To beat Amazon at its game, Walmart must not only offer equivalent one to two-day delivery, but must provide a product that so delights customers, as Amazon Prime Video does, that consumers will, as with Amazon, feel as if they are receiving something for free. Grocery delivery is great, but more of a necessity than a pleasure. Free ice cream delivery, or make it dessert delivery, could be a game changer.

AT&T TV: meet the new face of cable TV

AT&T has exactly eight video service offerings, and the newest is simply AT&T TV. The new service looks like a skinny cable bundle (just the major channels), is delivered over the Internet, and costs only $50 per month. The catch, however, is that a two year contract is required, and year 2 costs $93 per month before a plethora of add-ons. CNET

dis-rup-shun: The masses are cutting the cord and there are many, many streaming TV package alternatives. Hulu and YouTube TV are the early leaders with bundles that look like cable, but cost a lot less, and provide whole-home (multiple device) solutions. AT&T TV is a clever offering, in that it will appeal to those that believe they should join the cord cutting revolution, yet just aren’t sure if non-traditional providers will give them what they want. Enter AT&T with a promise to deliver the new TV dream while also providing a familiar pricing package full of expensive add-ons and increasing prices over a contract period. Once again, the company will churn the same user base that it recently churned from U-Verse to DirecTV.

Another one (SpaceX rocket) bites the dust

Elon Musk’s SpaceX lost another Starship that apparently buckled under pressure as nitrogen filled its tanks. This follows a series of failures of different types and parts of rockets as the company remains hellbent on getting reusable space travel ready for prime time ahead of competitors. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Every rocket failure can be seen as a setback, but should be seen as great progress towards achieving safety in space. Every failure, let’s hope, is one less that will occur with precious cargo such as humans, aboard. The stakes for winning space are very high and commercial space travel is one area of technology that American entrepreneurs are leading the globe.

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.

Tech and military collaboration critical, says Bezos

We are the good guys, implores Bezos

Bezos, addressing the audience of the Reagan National Defense Forum, implored that cooperation between Big Tech and the Department of Defense is critical to national defense. Bezos stated that the country is in big trouble if tech firms do not provide new technologies to the Pentagon. CNBC

dis-rup-shun:  Bezos was reacting in part to protests from Google employees over Project Maven, a contract to assist recognition of faces and objects from drone video feeds. Google, under pressure from employees, decided not to renew the contract in 2019. It is important to remember that national defense spending funded much of our nation’s tech industry, especially if one considers NASA to be a scientific face of a larger national defense initiative. Tech employees are not asking themselves who, if not the U.S. and its allies, will develop superior weapons technologies. Expect some tough showdowns in the coming quarters between Big Tech employees who want nothing to do with war, and company management, who will remind the employees, to their chagrin, that peace is often maintained by brandishing the most sophisticated weapons. Unfortunately, such realities will make BigTech companies “less cool” work places for some.

Metropolitan area Change in innovation jobs Change in share of US innovation jobs
1 San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 77,192 2.0
2 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 56,394 1.3
3 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 52,288 1.1
4 Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH 26,066 0.4
5 San Diego-Carlsbad, CA 19,949 0.4
96 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV -6,569 -0.4
97 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD -9,178 -0.4
98 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX -8,969 -0.5
99 Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI -12,582 -0.6
100 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA -8,322 -0.7

dis-rup-shun: Tech companies in the Bay Area have pledged millions to help alleviate the housing shortages they have created. Despite a strong national economy and aggressive hiring plans, the BigTech economic engines aren’t replacing the middle America jobs they have displaced with online markets and cloud computing. The Amazon HQ2 debacle in New York diffused the excitement of building alternative tech centers, but U.S. cities need to continue the dialog with BigTech to spread the wealth that is being generated by the Internet economy.

Google Maps does track your every move

If you are wondering if Google knows everywhere you have been, the answer is yes, if you have accepted the default settings. With a few changes to the defaults, you can turn that tracking off or limit the amount of history stored. The steps for doing so are in CNBC.

dis-rup-shun: The debate regarding if ads sent to your phone or computer were in fact the result of where you went, continues on. It is certainly possible that ads can be directed to you based on your location as Google stores this data, to a minute level, unless you disable these features. This tracking information can be a good thing in that it helps to inform travel times for the public, and it can help you remember where that great restaurant or hotel is that you saw on your last trip and wish to research. If you are going somewhere that you don’t want others to know about, it is probably wise to turn it off. Expect to see both regulatory and public sentiment force Google and Big Tech to display a simple, easy to access dashboard which enables you to understand what personal data is being stored, and for how long.

Scientific community shocked by SpaceX satellites

Elon Musk’s SpaceX company is, (great news) providing a way for every corner of the U.S. to receive broadband coverage via a chain (bad news) of up to 1,800 Starlink satellites. The satellites, being launched in batches every few weeks, are forming a mesh of shiny objects, criss-crossing astronomers’ view of space. The company has stated that future launches will include a dark coating on each satellite to reduce its reflective-ness. ZDNet

dis-rup-shun: An ongoing battle between science and commerce in space has begun. It will likely not end soon as more and more commercial and defense-minded technology is sent into orbit at a breakneck pace. Just as commercial (over)fishing of the seas impacts the biology of oceans, the arrival of industry into space will forever impact the nature of star gazing. Who will arbitrate such matters that include not only contests between science and commerce, but between nations? Expect space management to become an important, volatile and highly contested field in the next half decade. Perhaps this is an avenue for law schools to pursue.

Trade War consequences: China as innovation leader

China vs. U.S. tech race — who ends up stronger?

A key tenet of U.S. tariffs imposed against China is curtailing the illegal use of intellectual property by Chinese companies. An unintended consequence of the trade war is strengthening of Chinese tech leadership, as China’s tech giants, including Huawei, Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu are developing their own AI microprocessors and mobile operating systems. The U.S. needs to develop and fund a national agenda for reaching new gains in technologies such as AI and 5G, says think tank CFR. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Countless examples throughout history confirm that competition is good. Competition is proving China to be swift and agile in moving from tech follower to tech leader. If trade wars are accelerating innovation in China, it stands to reason that the EU, US and India will step up innovation as well. Would open economies without tariffs reward innovation at the same rate? Perhaps the US agenda of greater enforcement of IP laws will be successful, especially when Chinese companies develop more IP than the US.

Apple CarPlay gets an update

Apple has made some useful updates to CarPlay, the app that enables your in car display to more easily display your iPhone screen. New features include a split screen, allowing you to see a map and media player at the same time. Also, a passenger can now look things up on other apps while connected to CarPlay and the car display still shows the map. The Apple Maps has been enhanced to make it more travel friendly. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: If your car isn’t compatible with CarPlay or Android Auto, then you need a new car. Integration between the car and the smartphone is perhaps the most important car feature aside from the actual car systems, and the ability to seamlessly integrate both in a safe manner will greatly influence the customer experience. Successful integration provides a powerful platform for entertainment and shopping, as Xevo, a division of Leer Corporation, has shown. Xevo’s growing list of merchant vendors are the preferred vendors that are easily displayed when you search for gas, tires, food or other services from your car.

Musk unveils Starship Prototype

Elon Musk’s SpaceX unveiled, this weekend, its enormous Starship rocket prototype. The large, stainless steel reusable craft will be flying in a matter of months, says Musk. What is not understood is the business model for such a large rocket – far larger than needed to launch satellites. Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: Musk’s unbounded thinking (and spending) put him in the realm of Steve Jobs, especially if SpaceX is able to make commercial space travel and delivery routine. SpaceX is years late in delivering on a NASA contract for Commercial Crew development, and Musk’s problems and cultural problems at Tesla suggest potential for problems at SpaceX. The Starship concept is way ahead of its time and the business model for a large, reusable rocket is, as of now, unknown, but perhaps that is not as important to Musk as being first at something truly revolutionary.

Motorola Razr re-boot: foldable

The popular Razr will come around again, this time, however, it will be a foldable — the new technology that has proven hard to bring to market. Motorola’s mobile assets are now owned by Chinese PC maker, Lenovo. The phone was supposed to have been delivered this summer, but now appears it will be a late year release. CNET

dis-rup-shun: While innovations in smartphones have continued along existing lines, providing better cameras, batteries and apps, it is time for something different. A phone that incorporates current technology (apps), the latest technology (foldable screens) and yesterday’s iconic memories (Razr) could be a hit and a great change from the status quo.

AirPods in the subway create danger

AirPods causing dangerous rescue conditions in NYC subway

Many people in NYC have chosen inopportune moments to adjust AirPods — just as they are stepping on or off the subway. The uptick in lost AirPods create danger or at least a hazard, both for MTA employees who have devised devices to rescue the ear buds off the tracks, as well as a few individuals who have dared their own rescues. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Technology continues to create cultural crises — and high value products like AirPods lead people to take risks. Such crises are the birthplace of innovation, as subway operators may launch new rescue services, for a fee, or insurance companies may offer ear bud insurance, or hardware stores may create an AirPod extractor tool. Innovation follows innovation, and new opportunities are born.

Samsung readies a less expensive foldable phone

Following the troubled release of the Samsung Galaxy Fold, which will be released in September after a false start, Samsung is said to be releasing a smaller, less expensive foldable phone. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Who doesn’t think a foldable phone and being one of the first to own one, wouldn’t be cool? The new Samsung is expected to have a 6.8 inch display. Having a wider screen, optimized for videos or for viewing multiple apps at once, will be a big hit if Samsung can get the price down. Expect to have one of these on your holiday list this time next year.

The business of Satellite traffic jams and celestial rights of way

The first of many near mishaps between satellites occurred this weekend. Fortunately, these devices are able to detect oncoming objects and change their orbit. As SpaceX creates a constellation of hundreds of satellites that will provide broadband service across the Earth, the likelihood of collisions is rising. This weekend’s near miss was between SpaceX’s Starlink and a European weather research satellite. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: While the technology of space exploration and exploitation are fascinating, the politics and rule setting for governing space will be even more fascinating. Is all of space considered “international water?” Will a company like SpaceX that is taking up more than its fair share of outer space be paying rent to nations? Will we see an international enforcement body that will ensure that everyone plays by the rules? Expect the formation of space law degree programs at leading universities.

What you need to know about Android 10

Android 10 has been released, and like Apple’s latest mobile OS, the innovations are subtle. Aside from being the first release not named after a dessert, Android 10’s notable new features include:

  • The use of gestures to navigate the phone, as back and home buttons are no longer required.
  • Dark mode is supported — meaning the user interface and apps will have a trendy dark look.
  • Accessibility features enable video to be quickly transcribed to text, and people with hearing aids will have a more optimized Bluetooth connection.
  • Privacy features may be more easily selected through enhanced privacy settings.
  • Digital well-being features enable limits for time on certain apps and activities to be metered.

Wired

dis-rup-shun: That’s it. No more. While these features are useful and help differentiate a phone from last year’s model, they will not create a groundswell of excitement or cause a line to wrap around phone stores for days before release. As often mentioned, the smartphone market is mature and getting incremental users, including stealing market share from Apple, is increasingly difficult. New service revenues must come from new services, new apps, and innovative software.

Helicopters catch rockets and return to Earth

Can Amazon’s Rekognition software read a poker face?

Amazon’s AI team claims to accurately detect fear through facial recognition. The Amazon technology, called Rekognition, can provide readings at the cost of $.001 per image. A study of 1000 images, however, suggest that facial expressions do not reliably provide insight to true emotions. Wired

dis-rup-shun: The survival of the human species relies, in part, on people being able to mask true emotions. Amazon’s software likely accurately detects the emotional message on a person’s face, but not their true state of mind. Some people are wracked with fear every day as they enter a school or office building (or return home), so fear detection may not be as valuable as Amazon hopes, but nonetheless, the technology has many possibilities.

Recovery: the key to the new rocket industry

Launch company Rocket Lab is developing a process for slowing down rocket engines after they fall back into the atmosphere, and grabbing them with a helicopter before they fall into the sea. This is one of many recovery solutions being developed by a host of companies including BlueOrigin (first to land a launcher), SpaceX (lands rockets on platforms in the ocean), United Launch Partners and the German space agency (using a helicopter). Wired

dis-rup-shun: Rocket launches are becoming almost a weekly occurrence, and the importance of space craft to defense, communications, science, politics, and eventually, passenger travel, is increasingly evident. Reusable rockets change the economics of space travel, enabling regular and routine launches. The space companies are on the cusp of making rocket reuse standard operating procedure and that will be the tipping point of this new industry.

Connected swim goggles

Form has released swim goggles that project statistics on the lens in real time, giving you timing on each of your laps and determining what stroke you are swimming. The unit can be synced with your smartphone to connect you to the community of swimmers comparing stats on personal performance. Wired

dis-rup-shun: With connected diapers and connected shorts available, swim goggles are a natural. Consider this device an extension of health and wellness wearables, and a niche extension of the quantified self market is created. According to Statista, 27 million people swim for exercise in the U.S. in 2017. 55.9 million run regularly, according to the same source. Logic says the total addressable market for smart swim trackers is about half or less than that of the running trackers. KBV Research estimates the growth rate (CAGR) for fitness trackers to be 18%, making it a decent niche product category.

Scoop raises $60 million for carpooling

Scoop is a carpool coordination app designed for employers to offer scheduled rides for employees. This round of funding, led by Activate Capital, takes the company’s funding to over $100 million.  TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: In a super tight job market, stacking on extra perks can give an employer a slight edge. Enabling employees to arrange a ride, potentially paid by the employer, is a nice extra, but will it hold up when today’s hot market slows down? Match.com should acquire Scoop so that employees can attempt to find a match while commuting.

Smart appliances make purchase decisions

Smart home as shopping platforms

A new report (for purchase) from Business Insider reports that people are using their smart speakers to perform research about products, but not to actually purchase products. The report predicts the smart refrigerator will be the food control center of the home — informing grocery shopping and food delivery. The report covers the strong alliance opportunities between smart appliance makers (that will order goods) and consumer products providers (that will supply the goods ordered by connected appliances).

dis-rup-shun: Dis-intermediation of traditional supply chains is coming. Washing machines and refrigerators sold through Amazon will be delivered with, guess what, automatic links to Amazon.com, pre-configured with your Amazon.com account, to order detergent, milk, eggs and soft drinks from Amazon.com. Who should worry? Appliances makers, grocery stores, and BestBuy.

Find my iPhone works for AirPods

If your AirPods are missing and still powered and still within range of your iPhone, you can use an app to find them. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: The beauty of the connected economy is the ability to bail yourself out of dumb moves — many have found phones in backseats of moving Uber’s, golf courses, under the bed covers, and in the possession of thieves with a quick search from a friend’s device. AirPods, one of the most likely devices to be lost, can be found if they are in Bluetooth range, but unfortunately that is less than about 300 feet, so success may be limited.

Four rocket companies vying for critical Air Force contract

Submissions are due this week for bidders for 24 launches for Air Force surveillance rockets which will take place between 2022 and 2026. Two of four big bidders will win the contract in 60%/40% split. Bidders are United Launch Alliance (Boeing and Lockheed Martin), SpaceX (Elon Musk), Blue Origin (Jeff Bezos) and Northrop Grumman. The contest has very large implications about the future of the U.S. space program as well as the welfare of the competing companies. ArsTechnica

dis-rup-shun: This contest pits traditional aerospace contractors with deep government ties with tech company startups. The traditional contractors have a great deal to lose, as they are not focused on the private space business and have few other customers besides the military establishment. The tech upstarts have focused on more economical rockets and lower cost crafts, giving them a potential advantage, and meaning that they will have great influence on the future of space — both government and private funded. Expect one incumbent and one startup to win the contract, providing both low-cost innovation and trusted providers on the job — likely United Launch Alliance and SpaceX.

The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google

Scott Galloway’s book on “the Four Horsemen” offers a candid look at the actions and power of the tech giants, not afraid of offering strong opinions, and praising the companies for their impressive accomplishments. The NYU Stern Marketing professor has long been a student of the companies. Huffpost

dis-rup-shun: To consider the unchecked power of the big four is sobering — why have these companies not been subject to more regulation? On the other hand, each of these companies has played an out sized role in making the fantastic tech-powered world we live in today. Where would we be without them. Expect a significant amount of restrictions and regulations to be placed on at least three of these companies, Facebook, Amazon and Google, over the next two years as their power has become too large to overlook.

 

 

Drug deals and sex acts

Drug deals, sex acts and doctor conversations

What do they have in common? They were all caught by Siri after mistakenly hearing a wake up (and record) command on an iPhone, Apple computer or Apple HomePod. Some 1% of recordings are listened to by humans in order to judge how well the technology understands and follows commands. ZDNet

dis-rup-shunConsumer research indicates 48% of speaker owners are concerned with privacy, yet the product category has been a smash hit. For many, the assumption is that nothing particularly salacious is going on in the home so there is not much to worry about. Despite the large percentage of concerned owners, the product’s convenience and ‘cool factor’ must be outweighing concerns, as the category is found in 21% of households, a 36% increase, according to Mobile Marketer.

NASA contracts with 13 space companies for Moon and Mars shots

13 companies, including Blue Origin (Bezos) and SpaceX (Musk) have inked deals with NASA to help the agency reach for the moon and planets over coming years. The companies, including Lockheed Martin, will contribute skills such as precise landings and vehicle re-use. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: The future of the NASA program will be a showcase of the free market system, with many aggressive entrepreneurs having to cooperate with competitors and work within a regulation-heavy government program. The collaboration will bring more discipline to the space companies, and will provide NASA with technologies that would take the agency decades to create on its own.

Google may teach us a new set of gestures

Google’s Pixel line of smartphones is now enabling gestures like pinching and swiping in the air, a few inches above the phone screen, to manipulate on screen images. Wired

dis-rup-shun: By now most of us have seen or heard of infants toddling up to a TV screen and trying to pinch or swipe the screen to change it. Fifteen years ago, such behavior would have been insanity, but today, such gestures are as commonly understood as waving goodbye or beckoning someone with hand motions. Apple, via the iPhone, created a new gesture library and now Google may change it, by enabling gesture control without touching the screen. This has many advantages, including cleaner, more sanitary surfaces, and perhaps more immediate success and less screen tapping.

How the Internet has forever changed the sleep industry

Casper started shipping foam mattresses direct to consumers in a box and disrupted the retail supply chain. Within the first month, the company had over $1 million in sales. Many companies followed. Now the industry is being disrupted by gadgets — top mattresses today must be laden with sensors to detect snoring, tossing and turning and heart rates. No evidence exists that smart bedding delivers any improvements in sleep, but the mattress playing field is now raised by smart technology.

dis-rup-shun: The sleep industry is a case study on the speed of tech disruption, first by online sales, then by making mattresses smart even though the technology has yet to improve sleep — reminders that sales channels even for specialty products (food, mattresses, furniture) is ripe for disruption overnight. This industry also displays that “smart” is as powerful a differentiating word as is “natural,” “low-fat,” and “recyclable.”

Self-driving vans deliver Walmart groceries

Robovan delivers groceries for Walmart

Walmart will test a driverless van made by California firm Gatik to deliver groceries from an Arkansas distribution center to homes nearby in Bentonville. The test will include backup drivers who will sit behind the wheel to monitor the robovans. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Walmart, one of the largest retailers of grocery products, is racing to keep Amazon, the owner of Whole Foods and extensive drone development, from eating its lunch. Gatik estimates that driverless delivery vans could halve the cost of grocery deliveries — making the elimination of driver jobs far more appealing to consumers. 

Google Facebook ad duopoly shrinking

Last week’s earnings reports reveal that Snap, Amazon and Twitter’s ad revenues are up significantly, putting a dent in the 51% dominance of Google and Facebook. eMarketer sizes the global online ad market at $333 billion in 2019. Snap’s revenue was up 48% and Facebook’s 28%. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: A decline in the duopoly of Google and Facebook comes at a convenient time for these providers, as Big Tech is under review by Congress for limiting competition. This data will not help Senator Elizabeth Warren’s call for breaking up tech giants, though we see that one of the companies taking share from the duopoly is Amazon, perhaps supporting the calls for limiting Amazon’s rapid dominance of many markets.

All three 2020 iPhones to feature 5G

Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who is reportedly the most accurate Apple watcher, says all three new iPhone models to be released in 2020 will support the new wireless network standard called 5G. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: To repeat a common saying, the pace of technological change will never be slower than it is today. 5G provides data speeds up to 20 times faster than our current 4G networks, and will support far more devices with smaller antennas, using less power. 5G is a big deal because it will enable exponential growth in both number of devices and amount of data than can be downloaded or uploaded on a carrier’s network. If you live in or around a city, you will be awash in connected devices (see connected diaper). If you live in rural areas, well, you will still struggle with basic high speed Internet.  

SpaceX Starship Mars explorer takes a spin  

Musk’s SpaceX continues to aggressively develop and test space craft. Last Thursday the company’s Starship tested maneuverability by taking off and moving laterally about 60 feet, then landing. Musk claims that this is the craft that will go to Mars. Despite multiple fires and mishaps, Musk has sold a trip around the moon to a Japanese billionaire. Wired

dis-rup-shun: For Musk watchers, a pattern to the billionaire’s operational culture proves that risk is not limited by inactivity. With both car company Tesla and rocket company SpaceX, Musk learns by trying and is not afraid of regular failures. In the business of transporting humans, however, this experimentation is high risk, and a balance between safety regulations (consider the 737 Max) and pressing for innovation is required.