Finding the right new TV service

The de- and re-construction of TV

Traditional pay TV services have unraveled quickly with the rise of streaming services. But the rise of multiple, partially unique streaming services has led to a growing number of small, monthly subscription fees slowly choking the wallet. But if you are seeking free or ad-supported streaming services, there are quite a few free services, though they are long on older content and short on originals. They are Crackle, Tubi, Pluto TV, Kanopy, Roku Channel, Plex, IMDb TV, Vudu. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Then there was cable. Then there was the $180 monthly TV bill. Then there was Netflix and its followers.  Then your monthly TV bill was $240. Then you cut the cord and your bill was only $100 (multiple streaming services and lots of ad hoc purchases). Then there was AT&T TV which was just like cable but with different bundling and pricing. Then you realized new TV looks a lot like old TV. Expect the young, tech savvy and un(der)employed to stop paying for premium streaming services and feast on free and bootlegged programming. For the paying household, what did all that gain? New choices, better bundles and the majority of TV viewing being ad-free.

Uber reveals statistics on sexual assault

Uber released statistics which show 5,981 reports of sexual assault between drivers and riders in 2017 and 2018. The data includes reports of 235 rapes. Riders were often the accused, but in the case of rapes, the majority of the accused were drivers. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Uh oh, this is bad news. Seems like new things are really great until they aren’t. Get ready for a firestorm that rips through the ride share industry, reducing ridership and stock prices. The results will include much better driver screening and safety standards, lots of in-car video cameras, controversy over the loss of privacy from video cameras installed for your safety, and the rise of more exclusive subscription-based ride services with well-screened drivers, and, of course, higher prices.

Chime challenges banks and skyrockets in value 

Chime is the largest of virtual banks, with no physical branch. It has recently closed a $500 million Series E investment round and its valuation has ballooned to $5.8 billion — a 500% increase in the past 9 months. The bank is opening around 150,000 new accounts per month, catering primarily to those who have had rocky relationships with banks by charging no overdraft fees, no fee for accounts, and early deposits on direct deposit paychecks. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Disruption delivered by Internet companies often follows the same pattern — break the established rules of the industry in order to deliver customers what they really want, using the Internet as delivery mechanism, and don’t worry if the business model is clear — as that is secondary to locking up users. 

Will cheap security products win trust?

CNET offers a list of very inexpensive products designed to give you peace of mind through monitoring. The list includes Wyze cameras and Wyze sensors (each priced at $20), Amazon Echo Dot to provide smartphone alerts if it hears anything of concern while you are away ($25), and inexpensive smart lighting, again from Wyze for $8 for one bulb.

dis-rup-shun: These are really inexpensive products, but a system, they are not. What is a system? It is a collection of different devices with specialized functions that are integrated and can be controlled as one. These are great for dabblers and for apartment dwellers and for those not interested or willing to pay for an integrated home security system. The question is, will these products impact the market for home security systems? The answer is no. These products remain in a separate category and we should devise a better name for them, as they appeal to a different buyer with a different set of needs.

Decade’s biggest tech blunders

Biggest tech missteps of the decade

CNET has been chronicling the past decade in tech, one in which revenues from Amazon, Google and Facebook have exploded to join Microsoft and Apple as tech giants. Some highlights of the series include:

  • Microsoft Kin (2010) — this Blackberry-like phone device was innovative, but data plans were pricey. It’s shelf life was two months.
  • Qwikster by Netflix (2011) — Netflix, in one announcement, increased its subscription fee by 50% and spun the DVD by mail business into a new entity called Qwikster. Both moves were reversed within weeks after scathing consumer and industry outrage.
  • Palm fizzles (2011) — after developing and selling the most loved PDAs in the industry, including the Palm Pilot, Handspring Visor, and Palm Treo smartphone, the company developed operating system WebOS to better compete with iOS and Android. Instead of becoming the third major mobile platform, the company lost consumer support and was purchased, in 2019, by HP for $1.2 billion. HP’s Mark Hurd, the architect for HP/Palm’s mobile strategy, was dismissed by the board in 2010, ending any hopes of a Palm resurrection.

dis-rup-shun: It seems the many lessons to be learned from failures, big and small, are quickly forgotten, or at least many of CNET’s featured blunders have faded from memory but a common thread is “fail fast, recover fast.” At the speed of technology, missteps must be followed immediately with a correction or an alternative, as long, plodding attempts to gain acceptance of spurned ideas appears to be fatal.

Top trends for installing dealer channel in 2020

CEPro has released its predictions of the top trends impacting home systems integrators (or installing dealers) for the coming year. They are:

  • Biophilia — or bringing nature in. This impacts technology in the form of lighting that emulates circadian cycles, as well as sensors to track indoor air quality.
  • Landscape Lighting — home integrators will be making landscape lighting a part of smart home systems, with automated scheduling, energy savings and security elements.
  • 8K Video Resolution — if you purchase a TV in 2020, then you will consider an investment in 8K resolution.
  • 5G Network Adoption — 2020 will see deployment of 5G and the sunset of 3G, which will be a big event for the alarm industry.
  • Smart Water Management — water is now a precious resource, and managing its use, as well as detecting leaks, is a new job for smart technologies.

dis-rup-shun: Great opportunities abound in controlling some simple things. Indoor air quality has been rising in importance to consumers over the past hand full of years as people are far more aware of what they are taking in, and HVAC vendors stand to add millions in revenues if they can capitalize on this trend. Water management is another important job for smart technologies, as many cities are increasingly regulating the use of water, especially outside on the front yard. Companies such as Rachio, RainMachine and Orbit as well as leak detectors such as LeakSmart and Roost will find increasing demand, especially in new construction.

TechHive’s list of best leak detectors for smart homes

Amazon putting Alexa into every corner of your life

There’s an Echo for everything, and now Echo Flex is available as a plug-in module to go into small spaces such as bathrooms, pantries, workrooms, or wherever there is no room for wires. The small device sells for $25 and plugs directly into an outlet as to take up no counter space and features a tiny speaker, plus add-on modules for a night light, a motion sensor, and future devices. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: It has been speculated that Amazon’s primary interest in making Alexa a part of every part of your life is to make it easy for you to shop on Amazon.com with your voice. Research shows, however, that shopping is not one of the primary use cases for Alexa. Amazon, nevertheless, is working hard to make Alexa the primary human to machine interface, especially in places where keyboards are not ideal, such as in your car. The question then is how will Amazon monetize Alexa beyond shopping? One answer is in making the growing Amazon family of devices, and the services that run on top of them, more valuable as the ecosystem grows. Replacing the three remote controls on the coffee table with voice commands can make life much simpler. Amazon could easily create tighter integrations between Alexa and Amazon Prime Video, for example, causing its own streaming video service to be preferable to others. It is possible that Amazon has not had time to perfect its grander strategy as it is in a race to put Alexa in every place possible, and will figure out many ways to monetize its dominance later.

Careem helps Uber approach profitability

Uber’s ride has been bumpy ever since its losing IPO. The company has been making some strides to put it on a projection to profitability. Uber’s acquisition of ride sharing company Careem has given it access to over 33 million riders in the Middle East and North Africa, high growth areas that will be instrumental in helping the company earn a profit by its target year of 2021. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Uber paid $3.1 billion for Careem’s 33 million riders, or roughly $94 per rider. The company continues to make investments not only in its core business, but in future gambles such as autonomous cars, helicopter ride sharing and a hourly worker brokerage service called Uber Works. Whether Uber’s value will ultimately be derived from being a large scale service company or from its transaction delivery platform is yet to be seen, as profitability is at least a few years away.

Uber plans to test self-driving cars and air taxis in Dallas

Uber points to Dallas as test city for self driving cars

Uber has big plans for Dallas, including a second headquarters in the downtown neighborhood of Deep Ellum, expecting 3000 employees to be based there. The company halted tests of self driving cars after one of its cars killed a pedestrian in Arizona. Road tests have resumed in Pittsburgh and will begin in Dallas in the near future, the company states. In addition to self driving car tests, the Dallas operations will test the company’s urban air taxi service. The Dallas Morning News 

dis-rup-shun: A Town Hall meeting is scheduled in Dallas to get resident’s feedback. Dallas likes to think of itself as a progressive city, so tech leaders are welcome, but is there fear of being run down by driver less cars in downtown Dallas? Given that driver-full cars offer enough danger, Dallasites will be hard pressed to oppose Uber’s move to their city.

15 important tech trends for the next decade

As we near the year’s end, it is time to hear various analysts’ thoughts on the future. Here are the top 15 of 90 trends that were presented in London by CSS Insight. Read them all at ZDNet

  • By 2021, algorithmic and anti-bias data auditors emerge to tackle “pale, male and stale” artificial intelligence
  • By 2023, psychometric testing of software developers becomes commonplace
  • By 2021, Amazon buys 5G mobile spectrum for its own use in at least one market
  • In 2020, Apple launches its “Apple Privacy” brand
  • By 2021, a Premier League football club launches a facial recognition ticketing system
  • Artificial intelligence replaces referees in a major sporting event by 2022
  • Samsung launches Galaxy Glasses in 2022
  • Environmental pressure sees virtual reality displace 20% of business travel by 2029
  • By 2025, one in 50 households in affluent markets owns a domestic robot
  • Brain–computer interfaces evolve beyond medical applications into commercial offerings by 2027
  • By 2023, a lack of diversity in data sets pushes a wearable device maker to pay users for their data
  • Oversupply of 5G smartphones in 2020 sees prices plummet
  • In 2020, at least five operators start to offer subscribers an annual smartphone “health check”

dis-rup-shun: Some of these are easier to visualize than others. A vendor needs to take ownership of a privacy standard and make that an asset that differentiates the brand. Apple is a logical player to do so. Others will follow in a race to provide the most private, best secured services and products — and that’s a great achievement for all. Facial recognition in lines at airports, concerts and events would be a convenience, if it works and at airports we are glad to give up our identities as all of us simple travelers know we don’t need to be security checked. The oversupply of smartphones has already started, resulting in a less costly iPhone, and likely to bring on more great choices for a lot less money for those that don’t need a state of the art camera in their smartphone.

3D printed organs replace cadavers 

Stratasys’ J750 Digital Anatomy 3D Printer and new synthetic materials together result in a 3D printed heart that is so realistic in texture and structure, that it will replace human cadavers in many institutions. The printer can create an exact replica of a heart with a particular anomaly, to be studied prior to surgery. Tech Republic

dis-rup-shun: As the medical industry is rapidly squeezed by rising costs and labor shortages, technology can impact the level and cost of care in thousands of ways. Building organ models that are nearly realistic enough for human use will increase the level of education and preparation for health professionals, and will enable people with injuries and medical conditions to keep a copy of their bodies available for care professionals as a 3D medical record.

Is Uber’s future a history lesson?

Uber implements hiring freeze

Uber, having gone public in May, has enough cash, $13.7 billion, to continue losing money for two years. The company has never been profitable and has warned that it may never be. The company recently trimmed one third of its marketing staff and has announced a hiring freeze for technical employees. Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: Can a company that never earns a profit be a success? Uber has successfully changed the world of transportation, has successfully raised $8.1 billion in its public offering, rewarding its investors, and has experimented with new business concepts such as food delivery, helicopter taxis, scooter sharing and is betting on driverless cars. Like a hurricane, the company is a destructive force that reshapes the landscape forever, but may be a passing phenomena whose future is relegated to history lessons. Now the race is on to see if management can generate a profit, lest the company be only a grand experiment.

Roku a rising star in the turbulent streaming video market

Netflix is now facing a number of well-funded competitors in Disney, Comcast, Apple and AT&T who are competing for a slice of the household streaming subscription budget. Roku, a company aggregating access to many streaming and related video services, earns a fee from initial purchases as well as a small revenue share from services it offers to the 36% of connected homes that it serves. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: If streaming services such as Netflix are analogous to TV networks in the old TV world, only without advertising revenues, then Roku is analogous to cable TV, only without subscription fees. That is, the networks have to pay a carriage fee to Roku to gain access to connected homes. Unlike the streamers, Roku is not locked into a difficult battle to create unique (and costly) original content.

Smaller cities fighting against brain drain

Small towns are fighting the brain drain of tech jobs to large cities. Despite the conveniences and efficiencies of remote work afforded by the Internet, wage disparities between jobs in large cities and small has increased, leading states such as Vermont to devise a number of incentives, including relocation allowances and co-working office space, to attract workers to smaller towns. Wired

dis-rup-shun: In a decade of flat wages and growing inflation, the attraction of better salaries continues despite a shortage of housing, difficult commutes, and higher crime rates. Companies catering to urban conglomeration, such as WeWork, are enjoying high valuations, but expect the pendulum to swing away from denser living as Generation Z, larger than Millenials or Baby Boomers, reaches a tipping point of high living costs.

5G hype alert: no 5G in iPhone 11

5G, the next generation of wireless technology, will be a game changer for the Internet of Things movement. But the game won’t be changing for at least a year. Apple has announced that 5G, unlike Samsung, will not be a feature of its next generation of phones, as 5G networks simply aren’t ready. ZDNet

dis-rup-shun: In a time when people hold on to expensive smartphones for three or more years, the decision not to support 5G gets more interesting. Perhaps Apple is counting on the widespread deployment of 5G networks, expected in 12 to 18 months, to create high demand for the model after next, and spur sluggish sales, as chances of Android models with 5G winning iPhone owners are small.

Zoom flaw allows cameras to be hacked

Zoom learns a few lessons in 24 hours

Zoom, by far the easiest-to-use web conferencing tool, learned over the weekend that its Mac desktop app can be hacked, giving others access to the Mac’s built-in camera. The company first said it would not completely remove the vulnerable feature, then, in an about face, promised to completely address the problem in a patch to be released Tuesday night. Wired

dis-rup-shun: A hands down favorite, Zoom has been riding high. This incident taught the company at least two lessons often learned by other technology companies: 1. You can’t tell the market that your conservative approach to a security problem will be just fine. Consumer outrage created a public relations crisis, and the company was reminded that the consumer is always right.  2. In consumer technologies, there is a trade off between ease of use and security. In Zoom’s case, making Macs seamlessly access web conferences in a manner easier than its competitors, introduced a security flaw. Better security, thus far, has meant more complexity for users. That’s a problem that few companies have successfully addressed.

Why traditional home security systems are not very effective

A survey by Cove research of 939 people who were robbed revealed that 47% did not have their alarm system on at the time of the robbery. ZDNet

Almost half of US home security system owners admit they systems are switched off before a break in zdnet

dis-rup-shun: The next generation of smart home devices relies on machine learning and integrated sensors to know when occupants are home, away or asleep and automatically arm the home at the right time. By using data from all sensors and connected devices, the intelligent home will make correct decisions about the state of occupants in or out of the home and will make sure it is armed even if owners don’t.

Facebook’s Instagram combats bullying

Adam Mosseri, the new head of Instagram, stated that the company will use AI to determine and inform users when their posts are defined as bullying. He did not say, however, that the feature would block someone from posting offensive remarks. NBC

dis-rup-shun: The free market works again. After significant consumer backlash against Facebook for a string of bad choices over the past two years, the company and its Instagram subsidiary have taken a strong stance against offensive, false and damaging content. Too bad it took several years.

Uber offers helicopters in NYC

While in New York City, Uber users can choose a helicopter to travel from SOHO locations to JFK airport for about $200 for the 8 minute ride. CNN

dis-rup-shun: The service is a precursor to autonomous, flying cars (are those passenger drones?) that will create traffic jams above the traffic jams on the streets, will create consumer backlash from noise pollution, and will begin a reverse migration from cities to more rural areas where people can telecommute.

Wyze adds person detection to $20 camera

Wyze makes an impressive quality IP camera for $20. Now the camera can detect humans from other objects entering the field of view. TheVerge

dis-rup-shun: The price curve for tech products continues to dip sharply, bringing cutting edge technologies to mass markets at a blistering pace. The takeaways: hardware will rarely be profitable, the gadgets surrounding our lives in two years will be different from the one’s we use today, and our identities will be stored in thousands of shared databases and used for safety, profit, and, on some occasions, exploitation.

A roadmap to Amazon’s next conquests

The seven industries Amazon will disrupt next

According to analyst firm CBInsights, the next targets for Amazon include the following:

The four industries certain to be disrupted by the Seattle giant:

  1. Pharmacies — Amazon has acquired Drugstore.com and PillPack. dis-rup-shun: Who is in trouble? Pharmacy middlemen (PBMs) and executives enjoying fat profits.
  2. Small business lending — Amazon knows the financial performance of thousands of small merchants that sell on Amazon.com. dis-rup-shun: Who is in trouble? Commercial and local banks.
  3. Online groceries — a notoriously difficult business, Amazon is now expert at both logistics and the retail grocery business from its Whole Foods acquisition. dis-rup-shun: Who is in trouble? Meal subscription services that charge a small premium for meal kits will find Amazon offering more choices for the same or less money.
  4. Payments — the company already owns Amazon Cash, Amazon Reload, Amazon Pay, and Amazon Prime Visa and will work hard to keep more deposits in Amazon accounts. dis-rup-shun: Who is in trouble? Visa, Mastercard and Paypal.

And the industries that may be disrupted by Amazon:

  1. Mortgages — getting approved for a mortgage is a cumbersome activity, therefore ripe for disruption, and Quicken Loans is the leader in fast, online mortgages. Amazon understands online selling. dis-rup-shun: Who is in trouble? Not only mortgage originators, but the archaic title companies.
  2. Home and Garden — several companies are shipping plants and garden kits to new home owners, and this is a supply chain business. dis-rup-shun: Who is in trouble? Amazon needs volume and the mail order plant business may not be very reliable, so Home Depot and Lowe’s will continue to be the go-to companies for lawn and garden.
  3. Insurance — Amazon has a great deal of information about its members, especially Prime members, and can use this data to determine who the better risks are. dis-rup-shun: Who is in trouble? Insurance providers who are not profiling subscribers based on available data and therefore are slow to target the best customers they wish to keep for many years

Ride hailing in China takes a step up

Alibaba (think Chinese Amazon) has created an aggregation service which enables ride hailers (330 million in China) to summon a ride from a single app, rather than compare ride availability across the four major rideshare providers’ apps. The aggregator takes a share of the fare and simplifies the process of both getting a ride and, if you are an emerging ride service, gaining scale. China is raising the required standards for accreditation of drivers and autos, creating a shortage of drivers. TechCrunch

dis-rup-shun: U.S. and European local governments will be wise to follow China with higher standards for drivers and autos, as the demand for more drivers has degraded the formerly consistently delightful Uber or Lyft experience. Taxis are now looking better than they have in five years as many yellow taxis are now cleaner and mechanically equal or better than the average ride share vehicle. Ride share vendors should offer a new class of premium ride, such as ‘Uber Certified,’ which ensures a clean, sound car and a preferred driver.

Waze data shortens emergence response time

It turns out that Waze users are so good about reporting accidents, that Waze learns about a crash 2 minutes and 41 seconds before emergency responders are notified. Wired

dis-rup-shun: Here is yet another example of crowd sourcing from private enterprise functioning better than a government entity’s best and most optimized emergency system. If a free app can provide more accurate emergency data than the tax-payer funded 911 emergency system, then should the public expect that Facebook’s proposed private currency, Libra, can provide better warnings of financial meltdown, fraud or theft than the Federal Reserve Bank? Makes you wonder.

How Amazon will wreck the pharmacy industry

How Amazon will wreck the pharmacy business

Amazon quietly entered the pharmacy business in 2017 and introduced PillPack, a direct to home prescription drug business that packages pills by daily dosage, with dates and times to take the medicine printed on the package. The retail pharmacy heavyweights currently play middle man by negotiating discounts from drug makers for large health insurers, creating special pricing for insurance networks. By selling directly to insurance companies, Amazon will cut out the retail pharmacy giants. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Amazon’s disruptive move will benefit the consumer with lower drug prices and, possibly, lower health insurance premiums, but will destabilize the retail pharmacy industry by forcing it to rely more heavily on the sale of non-drug products, a battle it is already fighting against Amazon.com and Prime. One answer is for retail pharmacies to move more aggressively into care clinics, a trend well underway, putting further pressure on doctor and hospital chains to become more consumer-friendly as they are forced to compete with retail pharmacies for walk-in healthcare.

Direct share offerings will put a squeeze on bankers

Collaboration tool vendor Slack went public this week without assistance from investment banks, gaining 50% value in its first day. The capital raise puts valuation of the company at $23.1 billion. Compare this to Uber’s IPO last month which, by absolute dollar valuation, was the worst performing IPO in history. Both Lyft and Uber have recovered somewhat from a bad initial offering. Gizmodo

dis-rup-shun: Two large IPOs, Slack and Spotify in 2018, were direct (limited banker involvement) offerings. Both companies have enjoyed strong value growth since IPO. Uber and Lyft were heavily hyped by investment banks and crashed after offering. Before we conclude that bankers are bad, it is important to note that Uber and Lyft’s business models do not show profitability in the near term, and seem to be in multiple businesses. On the other hand, Slack is facing stiff competition from tech giants. If we assume that the market is sophisticated enough to understand the competitive landscape ahead of the IPO, then one conclusion is that bankers may be over-promoting offerings and that a more informed market later corrects. Expect direct offerings to become more commonplace, eventually forcing a correction in the fees charged by banking firms.

Zuckerberg outranks Tim Cook

Glassdoor’s anonymous survey of former employees’ views on their CEO has a number of tech CEOs ranking in the top 10. Ranking in the lower half of the 100 ranked are Facebook’s Zuckerberg at 59 (#1 is the best) and Apple’s Tim Cook at 69th place. ZDNet

dis-rup-shun: Interesting to see Cook at the bottom of the heap, especially after a brutal year for Facebook’s public image. Does the secrecy inherent in Apple’s culture create distrust inside the family? Despite Facebook’s missteps, Zuckerberg has been quite penitent in public, perhaps gaining employee’s respect. It is rare for a company as successful as Apple to not become an arrogant empire, and perhaps more transparency would engender more employee admiration.

Netflix will eventually include advertisements, says industry

Netflix, with its 150 million subscribers, faces significant costs from developing original content. Industry insiders predict that Netflix will break its vow of no advertisements as production costs increase and the value of its audience reach soars. CNBC

dis-rup-shun: Netflix continues to pursue a unique strategy — using debt to finance a very large catalog of original content that it can monetize over coming years. As other streaming services are launched from companies including Disney and AT&T’s WarnerMedia, Netflix subscriber growth will be challenged. The barriers to entry for streaming services have become original content — a very expensive barrier. As John Penney, CSO of 29th Century Fox has been telling the industry for years, there is simply not enough non-movie theater revenue in the TV distribution chain to support the costs of original content. The company’s stock price, however, continues to show confidence in the company’s ‘think different’ strategy.

Practicing app hygiene makes life simpler

Clean up your phone

The average person launches 9 apps per day and uses 30 over the course of one month. Smartphones, however, typically have several pages of apps, well over one hundred in many cases. The problem with the old, unused apps is that they are not updated, and become security risks, memory hogs, and location trackers. Popular Science

dis-rup-shun: People purchased high tech tools to manage their lives. Now quality of life, like protecting privacy and un-complicating interactions with devices, requires management of devices. What technology will help us manage the devices that help us manage our lives?

 

HVAC dealer as smart home channel

Philadelphia’s Joseph Giannone Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning is selling smart home features as a way to increase peace of mind during summer vacation. Focusing on energy savings, leak detection, HVAC performance and lighting as security makes a trip to the beach that much more worry free. Yahoo

dis-rup-shun: Much of the industry is focused on the shootout between Google Nest, Amazon Ring and Alexa, and low-end security provider SimpliSafe. HVAC dealers and installers, however, provide a trusted source for information as well as a reliable installation authority. Brand will be less important when recommended by HVAC dealers, as their level of authority, in most cases, will matter more to homeowners than asking friends or family which technology is best. 

Uber and Lyft are unsustainable

Shelly Palmer explains that Uber and Lyft have no differentiation, and therefore cannot attain enough pricing advantage over one another to sustain profits. Autonomous vehicles, however, built by big car companies, will win as their ability to make and deploy products directly to consumers who will “buy” the cars one mile at a time will be more profitable. Uber and Lyft, the argument goes, cannot purchase cars outright and rent them as efficiently as automakers. 

dis-rup-shun: For the same reasons automakers purchased car rental companies — creating large buying groups that cut out the middle man (the dealer) — makers of autonomous vehicles operated by the manufacturer will enjoy a higher margin and a pricing advantage in a cutthroat market.