Exploring Apple’s Role in News Literacy

on March 20, 2019
Reading Time: 3 minutes

I grew up in the age of Walter Cronkite and other very trusted news broadcasters. My family turned into Cronkite, affectionally known as “Uncle Walter” to many of us, every night, to hear CBS’ nightly news at 6:00 PM.

As a nation, these news broadcasts were critical to keep us informed of world and national news. In my case, it conditioned me from an early age to trust these news reporters to dispense accurate and impartial news reports. The concept that they would even consider reporting on something that was not vetted and checked out in detail never even entered my mind. In fact, until the last 15-20 years or so, these national broadcasts were gospel to many of us “boomers” as CBS, ABC and NBC news were pragmatic and mostly on the money.

NVIDIA Deepens Lead in AI and Autonomy

on March 19, 2019
Reading Time: 3 minutes

There are some semiconductor companies that I feel are more susceptible to disruption. NVIDIA isn’t one of them. There are numerous reasons why I say this but the main one is focus and R&D. NVIDIA has been the use case I use when talking with the industry when I give a counter example to first party semiconductor initiatives of companies like Google and Amazon. While I fully believe it makes sense for some companies to make some of their semiconductor/data center hardware there are many cases where this isn’t a good idea.

PCs and Smartphones Duke it Out for Gaming Champion

on March 19, 2019
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Everyone knows that gaming continues to be a very hot category, drawing more eyeballs, hours, and dollars than virtually any other activity that most people engage in on their digital devices. The growing popularity of this week’s Gaming Developer’s Conference (GDC) and the range of new gaming-related announcements expected from that event further confirms it. From the runaway popularity of games like FortNite, to the billions in revenue generated by Pokemon Go, to the staggeringly large audiences for eSports competitions and game streaming services like Twitch, gaming continues to have an outsized impact on the devices we buy and the services we use. In fact, Netflix recently summed things up nicely when they noted that the biggest competition for their video streaming services weren’t its direct competitors, but games like Fortnite.

What isn’t quite as clear…which type of gaming devices and platforms are taking the lion’s share of people’s attention and activity? A new online survey of over 2,000 consumer gamers in both the US and China conducted by TECHnalysis Research shines some light on these critical questions. As it turns out, the top device categories are dependent on where you live, as illustrated in Figure 1.

Fig. 1
Survey respondents were asked to select which devices they owned and which ones they gamed on from 17 different device categories (ranging from Windows 10-based desktop PCs, to iPhones, to Android tablets, etc.). In addition, they were asked how much time they spent gaming on each device they owned. The combined results highlight that, in the US, PCs and smartphones were essentially tied (PCs had a fraction of a percentage lead), in terms of amount of total gaming time spent on each device. In China, on the other hand, PCs had a significant lead over smartphones, highlighting the importance that gaming PCs continue to have there. It’s also interesting to note that game consoles still command about 18% of overall gaming time in the US and were the third most common category, but only about 8% and fourth place in China. (This stems in part from the fact that sales of gaming consoles were banned in China for many years.)

Interestingly, on an individual basis, Android phones were the top gaming device in both countries in terms of frequency of ownership, percentage that were used for gaming, and hours spent gaming. In the US, iPhones were second in terms of time spent gaming, barely edging out Windows 10-based desktops, whereas in China, Windows 10-based desktops had a clear lead over iPhones.

Fig. 2
The results split by platform show that Android is the clear platform leader in the US at about 28% share, but barely edged Windows 10 in China. iOS is the second most common gaming platform in the US, just ahead of Windows 10, but is in third place in China (though at a relatively similar 20% share).

In addition to the individual device and platform results, a key takeaway from this new research study is that gaming has become very much of a multi-device and multi-platform phenomenon. On average, US respondents said they owned 5.5 devices and gamed on 4.4 of them, while Chinese survey takers reported owning 5.1 devices and gaming on 4.1 on average. Clearly, gamers are eager to extend their gaming experiences across a wide range of devices and wide range of platforms.

This has important implications for game developers, game networks, and those companies looking to develop and offer game-streaming services (including Google, Microsoft, and many other major players). Because gamers own and use multiple devices for gaming, it’s only logical that they would want to be able to run their games on as diverse a range of devices as possible—even across those with very different screen sizes, as well as computing and graphics power.

We’ve already seen the gaming industry start to adjust their development plans to this new reality, and the multi-platform, multi-device support for games like FortNite are clearly a sign of more that is to come. In addition, because of this move, most consumers are going to expect higher and higher graphics quality and gaming performance from all their devices. This will likely lead to increased focus both on the built-in graphics and gaming capabilities of devices, as well as demand for more cloud-based solutions that can leverage the increasing number of powerful GPUs from Nvidia and AMD now making their way onto servers. In addition, the low-latency potential of upcoming 5G networks could prove to be very important (and in demand) for gamers who want to extend a high-quality gaming experience to more devices and more places.

Interest in gaming shows no signs of slowing down, and the devices, technology, games, and services that power it are likely going to enjoy many years of robust growth. It’s an exciting time for the gaming world, and it’s certainly going to be a fun industry to track and watch.

(Look for additional details on the TECHnalysis Research Multi-Platform Gaming Report in future columns.)

Why the FCC May be Calling on Facebook and Other Live Streaming Services Soon

on March 18, 2019
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Right after the terrible massacre at a mosque in New Zealand last week, I read a piece written by Nestor Ramos of the Boston Globe that suggested the Internet is Broken.

Here is an excerpt of what he said:

On Friday, in the hours after 49 people were gunned down in a white supremacist terrorist attack at two New Zealand mosques — the whole thing streaming on Facebook — the graphic video of the incident ricocheted around the Internet faster than social media companies could control it.
The nearly 17-minute video appears to show a gunman opening fire in a mosque, just as he’d announced on the fringe social media platform 8chan.
His rambling manifesto was already posted online, waiting for the violence that would make it mean something. And though Facebook took down the user’s account after being contacted by police, it was too late: The video had been released into the world, and even mainstream social media services didn’t have much hope of stopping its spread.

It is now clearer than ever before: The Internet, this thing we all built together, has gotten away from us. There is no checkbox in the settings somewhere to rein in its cyclical malevolence, each nightmare sewing thousands of seeds that will one day, after years of patient tending on message boards, grow into nightmares of their own. The Internet is broken.

When I was contemplating writing this piece, I wanted to title it, “The Internet Genie is out of the bottle.” But given all of the broad amount of negative content, and fake news and opinions already propagated over the Internet, especially since the Arab Spring showed how Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites could be used to push propaganda, agenda’s and even change, the fact that the Internet is now uncontrollable is not new news.

The Internet and social media sites are not regulated, but there is a great deal of discussion going on about finding ways to deliver governmental oversight, especially on social media companies. To date, outside of direct censorship that China, North Korea, and some other countries dictate for their citizens, very little governmental oversight exists.

US officials have been threatening government regulations on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and others, but so far have not delivered any concrete ways to do this. But with this recent live streaming of a horrible massacre that was tied to a white supremacy manifesto, we have perhaps a practical way to deal with at least one aspect of social media that demands some form of controls.

Because live television and radio broadcasts are regulated by the FCC, they implement a five-second delay to any live programming. Monitors and sensors, some human and these days also automated, look for content that breaks FCC rules and either bleep it or does not allow it to be broadcast at all.

This may be an area where we could see some intervention on live streaming sites in which the FCC looks at them the same way they view live TV and Radio and look at streaming sites that go to a mass audience. They could place them under some form of a significant delay rule and mandate they monitor or use AI to make sure this type of content is controlled.

Facebook, YouTube and others who streamed this event, took down at least 1.5 million streams that were showing this video of the New Zealand shooter, but as of Sunday night, there were still at least 1.5 million sites still showing it. The sad fact is that they will never be able to take them all down and this recorded event will be available forever in some shape or form on nefarious sites around the world.

Facebook and other live streaming sites could still be allowed to deliver live streaming to smaller groups of people, which is part of Facebook’s VR strategy. But if a live stream goes to a mass audience, it would come under some type of FCC ruling that goes through perhaps an hour delay so that it can be filtered to make sure things like this New Zealand massacre never see’s the light of day. Other regions of the world would also need to have similar laws and rules for this to work. On a worldwide basis this type of live streaming could not be stamped out completely, but it would reduce how much something like this could be shown live.

Of course, any concept of regulating the Internet will be highly controversial. But this New Zealand shooting being shown to a worldwide audience is dangerous on so many levels. One is that once you view it, you can’t unsee it. It also can serve as a means to bolster other radicals to consider doing copy cat versions of this against anything they are against. We could come up with dozens of other reasons why live streaming of massacres, executions and many other deeply offensive content should never be allowed to be shown.

The FCC’s oversight of live TV and Radio has not been considered censorship. Their role is to protect the airwaves and what goes over it and are rules based. The FCC could work with the social media sites to come up with the kinds of rules that keep this type of content away from people as part of this oversight. Facebook, Twitter and others who provide live streaming services should do this type of policing on their own and self regulate this type of content. But if they won’t, they can expect that the FCC and other communications regulatory bodies around the world will come knocking very soon.

Podcast: Apple – Spotify, Facebook Issues, Nvidia – Mellanox, Tesla Model Y

on March 16, 2019
Reading Time: 1 minute

This week’s Tech.pinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell analyzing the potential ramifications of the spat between Apple and Spotify, discussing Facebook’s extended outage, as well as the departure of major executives, talking about NVidia’s proposed purchase of networking company Mellanox, and chatting on the launch of Tesla’s Model Y crossover/mini-SUV.

If you happen to use a podcast aggregator or want to add it to iTunes manually the feed to our podcast is: techpinions.com/feed/podcast

HoloLens 2: Microsoft Brings Mixed Reality as a Service to Market

on March 15, 2019
Reading Time: 4 minutes

My fellow columnists have already written extensively about HoloLens 2 here and here, covering the product’s notably better field of view, the addition of eye and gesture tracking, its connection to Azure, and its pole position in the race to the next era of computing. It is a testament to the product that there’s still more to say. Specifically, I’ll cover the leap forward it represents in comfort (and why this is so important), the new hardware customization program, and—perhaps most importantly—the rollout of HoloLens 2 as a service.

Comfort Is Key
When Microsoft launched the first HoloLens, company executives talked a great deal about how they had scanned many, many human heads so they could design and build a headset that was comfortable to wear. After demoing that first headset numerous times, I think it’s safe to say they never scanned a noggin like mine. Regardless of how careful I was in sizing and placing the original headset on my head, within a few minutes, it was sliding forward on my face, making for an uncomfortable fit and imperfect mixed reality experience. HoloLens 2 fixes all that.

In addition to the amazing auto-calibration for pupil distance and retina log-in features, HoloLens 2 is simple to put on and go. Microsoft has shifted the balance of gravity on the device, and while it’s still far from light when you pick it up, it really does seem to float on your head once you’ve put it on. The result in a much more comfortable fit, and one that I didn’t need to constantly readjust once I put it on. The importance of this can’t be understated. Companies are going to be asking employees to put this device on and be productive. The ability to do so quickly, and the fact that it’s much more comfortable over longer periods of time, will go a long way toward encouraging those workers, even the most skeptical ones, that the effort is worthwhile.

Another notable upgrade to HoloLens 2 is the ability to flip up the front of the headset while it’s on your head. This lets the wearer have a conversation with another person without having to a) look through the lenses or b) remove the headset entirely. Microsoft took to heart feedback it received from users of the first product to implement it in the second. This is the type of iterative improvement that delights end users, and it’s the type of thing a vendor can only learn by shipping that first product.

Purpose-Built Products
One of the key elements of the HoloLens 2 launch that hasn’t been widely discussed is the rollout of the customization program. While Microsoft designed the HoloLens 2 to suite a wide variety of use cases, the company realizes that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to mixed reality environments. The new customization program allows Microsoft’s customers and partners to create HoloLens 2 products specifically designed for their individual needs. The first product announced as part of the program was the Trimble XR10.

The XR10 integrates the HoloLens headset into a hard hat form factor, geared towards workers in construction, oil and gas, manufacturing, and mining. The company was a launch partner with Microsoft for the original HoloLens, and it has a range of applications including Tekla, SketchUp, Revit, and SysQue designed to work on the platform. Trimble says the RX10 will carry an MSRP of $4,750. That pricing, which is notably higher than the HoloLens 2 base price of $3,500, helps drive home the fact that while some pundits are still complaining about hardware cost, companies that have done the ROI work quickly come to realize the value of these products. I expect we will see additional customized HoloLens products from Microsoft customers and partners going forward.

MR as a Service
Those who read me regularly know I’m big on the concept of Device as a Service, which lets companies bundle hardware, software, and services into a multi-year contract tied to a monthly fee that eliminates the challenges associated with a huge up-front capital outlay. One of the areas where as-a-service has real legs is in the offering of VR, AR, and MR. That’s because most companies are just beginning to explore these areas, and they don’t have existing infrastructure, hardware, software, or, frankly, expertise in the area. As such, I was thrilled when Microsoft announced that in addition to the option to buy HoloLens 2 outright, it would offer the headset as part of an ongoing service.

The offering is called HoloLens 2 with Dynamics 365 Remote Assist, and it costs $125 per user, per month, for a three-year contract. Included in that fee is access to Microsoft’s see-what-I-see Remote Assist application, regular updates, plus enterprise-grade security. I hope to see Microsoft roll out additional as-a-service offerings around HoloLens in the future. In addition to making it easier for customers to get started with mixed reality, it also helps drive the important narrative that the HoloLens is ultimately more powerful when it you connect it to Microsoft’s Azure.
And that’s one of the many reasons why the HoloLens 2 is such an exciting product. With the first version of the product, Microsoft jumped out ahead of much of the industry. As a result, it took its fair share of criticism around things such as field of view, comfort, and cost, despite the fact it clearly labeled V1 a developer product. The company listened to that feedback and took its time in bringing to market the HoloLens 2, and this one is ready for prime time. I look forward to seeing all the new ways companies find to utilize this product, and the interesting new applications developers will create utilizing all the new features and capabilities.

Is your phone number your new ID number?

on March 13, 2019
Reading Time: 3 minutes

One of the most annoying things early cellular phone users had to deal with was that every time they got a new mobile phone, they were forced to get a new number by their network provider if they switched to a new network. In the first ten years of cellular use, I had at least four phone numbers and had to continue to give these new numbers to family and business associates every time they changed.

Captain Marvel: Woman in the Workplace and Superhero

on March 13, 2019
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Last weekend, my daughter and I went to see Captain Marvel to soak in all the goodness of a badass female superhero. I had not read many reviews beforehand to avoid any spoilers but I was thoroughly briefed by the kid, who is a Marvel superfan, so I knew what to expect as far as how Captain Marvel fits into the Avengers’ story. I was also hopeful we would walk out of the theater feeling a similar sense of uplift we felt after watching Black Panther. What I was not expecting was to see so many parallels between Captain Marvel and women in business.

A stretch? Not really. Am I reading into things too much? Possibly, but I am betting many women will be able to relate and see the same things I saw. I’m not saying you have to be a  badass female superhero capable of superhuman feats to succeed in the biz/tech world, except that you do!

Listening to Your Emotions Has a Role to Play at Work

At the start of the movie, Vers (aka Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel) is seen training with Yon-Rogg, a Kree warrior who tells her that she needs to let her head lead her and not her heart. This message of not letting her emotions guide her is a recurrent theme in the movie and ultimately is brushed off by Captain Marvel embracing all her memories to find her power.

In my career, I have been told time and again that I am emotional, I show my feelings, I am too passionate, I have a short fuse. And I know I am not alone. Women are often labeled “emotional” because many men do not really know how to deal with their own emotional landscape let alone the thick thriving vibrant gardens that can be women. A woman arguing against the consensus or passionately selling an idea or position is labeled emotional or angry or excited or even crazy as the great Nike ad encourages us to be. Yet, a man showing his emotions through swearing, throwing things or raising his voice can be seen merely as disappointed or frustrated. I’d go as far as to say it’s been codified, in tech and out, as the cost of being a leader. The price of genius.  A guy who follows his gut is smart, daring, even ambitious. But a woman who follows her heart is often seen as irrational. Even if you do not follow tennis, you might have heard of heard of the Serena Williams incident at the US Open where a display of emotions that are usually ok for male tennis players was called into play.

But let’s forget for a second how biased the whole “emotionally charged” female portrayal is and look at the benefit of acknowledging your emotions rather than suppress them. There is, of course, a difference between recognizing and harnessing your feelings and just letting your emotions rule your judgment. Emotional Intelligence has grown in importance over the years so much as to be seen as a critical component for AI and Digital Assistants. But how can we get it right for the computing power to be when our workplace does not? Emotions are not a weakness and being able to recognize them in ourselves or others can help us be better at our job. This is particularly true in some line of business such as hospitality, care, teaching, creative professions like design but also extremely important in any leadership position. Every business should recognize emotional intelligence as a skill but tech as the responsibility to do so in order to avoid bringing today’s problems into tomorrow’s world.

Empowerment Does not Only Come from Others

Captain Marvel gets her power by accident, but despite her training with Yon-Rogg, she finds her full strength in herself by herself. It was not the training, and it was not the men or women in her life who give Captain Marvel her full powers. Her best friend does help her find her way, but ultimately, Carol finds her own strength by drawing from within.

When it comes to women at work, we often talk about mentors and supporters we talk about other people empowering us to be better, achieve more, go further. Less frequently we turn to ourselves for strength and skills and power. Hard not to think that it is likely because, just like Captain Marvel, we are often told not to be too confident because we become cocky, we are told not to raise our voice because we become hysterical and we are told we cannot have children and a career cause we cannot have it all. But what if instead of listening to the voices that tell us what we should not and cannot do we focused on what we know we can do? And what if we surround ourselves with positive influences that allow us to take the power we have within and turn it into something great?

We all Win When Women Support Women

Trusting more in yourself does not mean you should do it alone. Maria Rambeau is Carol Danvers’ best friend. She is a Black single mother who is a great fighter pilot and who is confident, self-aware and loyal. It is because Maria knows who she is that she can remind Carol of who she is. Ultimately it is Maria’s support that transforms Carol into Captain Marvel.

Women are still battling to be heard, be seen, be invited to the table even as the tables get bigger. Especially at the more senior level, being in tech or politics or, any other business, to be honest, there are so few opportunities that some feel the battle is not just with men but with other women. There is often criticism, lack of support, and lack of loyalty when it comes to women. I think this kind of attitude towards our fellow women is one of the reasons behind Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 Presidential Elections.

It is rare to witness a representation of the level of loyalty and support that Maria has for Carol and to see what that enables is certainly something we should try and replicate in our careers. Supporting, amplifying, encouraging, mentoring women is an excellent thing for all, for the one who give and those who receive. I have been lucky to have had male and female sponsors and mentors in my career and random women who shared pearls of wisdom over the years. There are plenty of women I look up to, and I always try and give back in any way I can. I am a little selfish of course because I am hoping to foster a wave of support that will mean by the time my daughter and her generation will get into the business world and they try and take a seat  at the proverbial table they won’t have to bring a folding chair ala Shirley Chisholm in 1972 but the will be invited, remunerated and advanced just like their male counterparts.


There were many magical moments in Captain Marvel, and as we often do, I did stop to think if maybe some aspects were a little over the top. Was she flying too high? Was she glowing too much? But my very wise little girl pointed out that Vision also flies, and Thor has glowing eyes, and yet I never said those were too much. Maybe I listened to my own voices over the years saying I should control my power, and I should be realistic about my career expectations and my life goals. But what if, instead, we embrace our inner Captain Marvel and go higher, further, faster, what then? When we build and create for those who come after us, the world we know is possible even if doesn’t exist yet.

Apple and Good Enough Services

on March 12, 2019
Reading Time: 5 minutes

With yesterday’s announcement that Apple is having a media event on March 25th, and the likely hood the event is largely focused on services, I thought it would be good to make some broader points about Apple’s services for us to chew on leading up to March 25th’s reveal.

Proposed Nvidia Purchase and CXL Standard Point to Data Center Evolution

on March 12, 2019
Reading Time: 3 minutes

In case there were any remaining doubts about the future of computing in the data center, those doubts were removed yesterday thanks to two major announcements highlighting the role of connectivity across computing elements. In a word, it’s heterogeneous.

The biggest news was the surprise announcement from Nvidia about its proposed $6.9 billion purchase of Israel-based Mellanox, a company best known for making high-performance networking and interconnect chips and cards for servers and other data center components. In a deal that’s largely seen as being complementary and financially accretive to Nvidia’s revenues, the GPU maker is looking to add Mellanox’s strength and position in providing networking elements into high-performance computing systems to its growing data center offerings.

Specifically, Mellanox is known as being a critical enabler for what’s often called east-to-west networking across servers within data centers. The explosive demand for this kind of capability is being driven, in large part, because of the growth of Docker-style containers, which are a critical enabling technology for advanced workloads such as AI training and advanced analytics. Many of these advanced applications spread their computing requirements across different servers through the use of containers, which enable larger applications to be split up into smaller software components. These applications often require large chunks of data to be shared across multiple servers and processed simultaneously via high-speed network connections. That’s exactly the Mellanox technology that Nvidia wants to be able to leverage for future data center business growth. (In fact, Nvidia uses Mellanox components in its DGX line of general-purpose GPU(GPGPU) powered servers and workstations.)

Nvidia’s interest is also being driven by the nature of how computing in the data center is evolving. The underlying principle is that advanced workloads like AI need to be architected in new ways, especially as Moore’s Law advancements have slowed the speed increases that were previously available to new generations of chips. In particular, in order to maintain performance advancements and provide the kind of computing power necessary for these workloads, these workloads are going to have to split across multiple chips, multiple chip architectures, and multiple servers. In other words, they need a heterogeneous computing environment.

Those same principles are also what drove the other data center-related announcement yesterday from Intel and a number of other major data center players including Dell EMC, HPE, Microsoft, Cisco, Google, Facebook, Huawei, and Alibaba. Specifically, they announced the creation of the Compute Express Link (CXL) Consortium and the 1.0 release of the CXL specification for high-speed interconnect between CPUs and accelerator chips. Leveraging the physical and electrical interconnect capabilities of the upcoming PCI 5.0 spec, CXL consists of a protocol that allows for a cache coherent, shared memory architecture that permits the shuttling of data between CPUs and various type of other chips, including TPUs, GPUs, FPGAs, and other types of AI accelerators. Again, the idea is that advanced data center workloads are becoming increasingly diverse and will require new types of chip architectures and computing models to achieve better performance over time.

At a basic level, the difference between the two announcements is that the Mellanox/Nvidia technology operates at a higher level between devices, whereas the CXL protocol works at the chip level within devices. In theory, the two could work together, with CXL-enabled servers communicating with each other over high-speed network links.

Though it’s early, the CXL announcement looks like it could have an important impact on the evolution of data center computing. But to be clear, a number of challenges still remain. For one, CXL already faces a competitor in the CCIX standard (which Mellanox happens to be part of), and Nvidia offers its own NVLink standard for fast GPU-to-GPU connections. In addition, AMD’s Infinity Fabric seems to offer similar capabilities. If other CPU vendors like AMD and Arm (and its licensees) sign onto the CXL standard, however, that would clearly have a big impact on its adoption, so this will be interesting to watch.
On the potential Nvidia Mellanox merger, the one big question (other than the necessary geographic approvals and the potential geopolitical implications) is whether or not the purchase could drive Intel and other big players in the data center space to work more with other networking suppliers. Only time will tell on that front.

What’s also interesting about both announcements is that they clearly highlight the evolution of data center computing away from simply adding more, faster x86-based CPU cores to individual servers to a much more complex mesh of computing pieces connected together across the data center. It’s heterogeneous computing coming to life from two different perspectives and yet they both clearly point to an important evolution of how computing is starting to be done in data centers around the world.

How the Bose Smart Sunglasses Show how AR glasses Will deliver Audio in the Future

on March 11, 2019
Reading Time: 4 minutes

One of the more exciting products I have purchased in the last few months is the new Bose Smart Sunglasses with the bone conducting headphones built into them. I have many Bluetooth headphones including Apple’s highly popular AirPods and others that you take out of some box and place them in your ears to gain access to music, make phone calls, etc.

For all of these products, the Holy Grail, besides Bluetooth connectivity, is sound quality. If you look at buying ear pods, you have many choices. Prices range from as low as $15 to over $200. The more expensive ones deliver the best sound quality although I have found some around $50 that provide excellent sound albeit not as good as the more expensive ones.

The new Bose Smart Sunglasses with headphones built in is a new twist on ear pods and one that has real ramifications for the eyewear industry. I believe it is a forerunner on how quality audio will be delivered in future AR glasses.

At the moment, the Bose Smart Glasses only have one shade of green in all of their glasses and no choices beyond that. These green lenses are not very dark, and while they do work as sunglasses, people want options in the gradation of their sunglass lenses. Also, it is a one size fits all and in my case, they are rather large, and I have to use a strap to secure it to my head better.

These smart sunglasses signal an essential step in audio delivery beyond standard headphones and ear pods. It makes sunglasses a new medium for audio delivery. Of course, bone conducting over the ear headphones have been around for a while but this is a first for sunglasses, and one can easily see them as one of the best ways to deliver sound to AR glasses in the future.

I spent the last week in Hawaii working on various projects for the State of Hawaii, but when I am in this beautiful state, I always try to get some beach time, even if it just a short time sitting on the beach and enjoying the scenery. During these beach foray’s, I love to listen to music or even a podcast and either used a headset or earbuds to enjoy these mediums. Since Hawaii is also almost always sunny, the other thing that’s is a must are sunglasses. With the Bose Smart Sun Glasses, I kill two birds with one stone.

I try and walk at least two to three miles a day when I am home or on the road and listen to music or podcast as I walk. Now I just put on the Bose Sunglasses, and the audio is built in and don’t have to think twice about carrying an external headset with me on these excursions.

Bose brands their sunglasses “smart” because when tied to a smartphone, you gain access to things like Siri or Google Now voice assistants which are great for initiating a hands-free call or asking for directions. They are also very handy when walking, and voice assistants give you turn by turn directions. I had a rental car in Hawaii with no map built in, so my iPhone was used to give me turn by turn directions through these sin glasses to places I needed locating. I can ask for current news reports, weather, or ask any question of interest.

What was most significant to me is that with the headphone being in the sunglasses, I was not as self-conscious on my looks as I am with Earbuds of any type are used. To people who see me, they have no idea that my sunglasses are anything but sunglasses. I used them for hours each day while driving, at the beach or going to meetings at the State Capitola in Honolulu. It became much more natural for me to ask Siri questions, activate music or make a call and it became second nature instead of having at least a two or three step process when using external headsets or earbuds.

A few observations about bone inducting audio built into glasses.

First, you will see all types of sunglasses or regular glasses with bone-conducting audio built into their frames. Many people need prescription lenses, and given the success, Bose is having with their Smart Sun Glasses, competitors are taking note and will try to differentiate themselves by making more custom versions to meet their customer’s needs.

Second, I can see how bone-conducting audio will be the number one choice for AR glasses. Bose looked closely at what people wanted if they added sound to glasses and concluded that they did not wish to have in-ear speakers. People wanted their audio experience to be as natural as possible and building the audio into the glasses via bone conducting technology, and they realized this goal.

I have seen some AR glasses prototypes that are in standard frames that have ear pods that dangle from each side and are placed into the ear. While it may work, it adds that “dork” look to the experience. This will be the biggest challenge all AR glasses providers will have to deal with in the future. People will not wear goggles or bulky glasses to deliver consistent AR experiences throughout their day. AR glasses will have to look like regular glasses and most likely will have minimal technology built in beside the optical lenses, Bluetooth radios, and an audio solution.
The heavy lifting will most likely come from their smartphones that provide the AR apps and services to the glasses via a wireless connection.

Bose’s Smart Sunglasses gives us a good idea of how audio will be delivered in AR glasses in the future. The first generation bone-conducting audio in their Sun Glasses are good, but I suspect they will be even better in Generation two and three.

While the kind of AR glasses that are needed to deliver mass market AR is still a few years away, in the interim, we should see the eyewear industry embrace bone-conducting audio in traditional sunglasses and prescription glasses. So that by the time AR glasses do hit the mainstream market, sound delivers in eyewear will be widely accepted and easily adopted within the AR glasses experience.

Podcast: Facebook Manifesto, Warren Tech Company Breakup, USB4 and WebAuthn

on March 9, 2019
Reading Time: 1 minute

This week’s Tech.pinions podcast features Ben Bajarin and Bob O’Donnell analyzing Mark Zuckerberg’s latest post on the what he sees as the future of social networking, discussing the plan from Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren to break up big tech companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google, and chatting about the implications of the newly announced USB4 connectivity spec and the WebAuthn protocol for standardizing password-less authentication across the web.

If you happen to use a podcast aggregator or want to add it to iTunes manually the feed to our podcast is: techpinions.com/feed/podcast

Reflecting on #MWC 2019: Network Edition

on March 8, 2019
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Last week, my Techpinions colleague Carolina Milanesi wrote a terrific piece reflecting on Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona. Since her column focused mainly on the device aspects of the show, I thought an analysis of the network aspects of MWC might be a good complement.

Let me tee off my saying this was one of the most positive MWC events in several years. There was broad realization that this is Year 1 of 5G. Equipment is available, contracts are being signed, and initial services are being turned up. I spent quite a bit of time in major equipment vendors’ booths, and operators were definitely in ‘shopping mode’.  Things will get especially interesting as the first 5G phones are introduced toward the middle of this year.

There was also a broad realization that, more so than with LTE, 5G will be a 10+ year journey. The first wave of services that will hit this year will be more LTE+ or like Super-Wi-Fi: pockets of coverage on a first wave of devices. These are not services that consumers will, initially, pay more for, or that will contribute any meaningful incremental revenue to the operators, over the next couple of years. Much more compelling were the ‘next phase of 5G’ demonstrated in vendors’ booths. Ericsson, Nokia, and Huawei showcased a host of enterprise and industrial business cases, focused on smart cities, the ‘factory of the future’, cloud gaming, and AR/VR. Each found very creative ways to demonstrate the benefits of the low latency (URLLC) capabilities of 5G, which will be among the first true game-changers of 5G. I loved the Bosch screwdriver at Nokia, the robots at the ZTE booth, and Ericsson’s 5G Rock Band.

Now, allow me to get a bit wonky for a minute…but among the major highlights of MWC 2019 were…antennas!  More specifically, something called Massive MIMO. These are the smart antennas that, in various configurations, are going to play a big role in getting 5G deployed. They will reduce the need to build as many new cell sites for 5G, will enable existing 4G sites become 5G sites (great example: Sprint’s 2.5 GHz strategy), and will help expand mmWave site signal range. Ericsson’s acquisition of Kathrein’s antenna business on the eve of MWC signals the need to bolster that part of the company’s portfolio…and while others were gawking at foldable phones, the geeks among us were oohing and aahing at Ericsson’s Radio Stripes.

There are three other mega-trends on the equipment side I’d like to point out. First, it looks like there’s growing momentum for fixed wireless. Several notable operator contracts for fixed wireless were announced, for both urban and rural ‘connect the unconnected’ type applications. Fixed wireless was especially prominent in Huawei’s booth, with its new RuralStar solution.

Second, I came away with some concerns about mmWave. Less on the “will it work” side, and more on the fact that only a handful of countries appear to be seriously considering using mmWave spectrum for 5G. Most of the action is in the sub-6 GHz bands — which is one of the reasons there’s a lot of pressure to move forward on the C-band in the United States. If mmWave doesn’t scale, there are concerns that it will be deprioritized from a CPE perspective, which could mean less choice of, and more expensive, phones and other ‘connected devices’ in those high bands. Plus, there’s still a lot of R&D needed to continue to improve mmWave network equipment and CPE, but it will be challenging to get the proper resources allocated if it’s going to be a niche service relegated to a handful of countries.

Third, there was a lot of positive discussion about more open, and virtualized networks. The O-RAN alliance is gaining momentum, signing up more Tier 1 operators. The Telecom Infra Project (TIP) was at MWC, and made some announcements about OpenRAN field trials. Providing a glimpse of the future, new Japanese MNO Rakuten seemed everywhere at MWC. The company is building the first all virtual telco cloud network at substantially lower cost, using components from a slew of different vendors.

Finally, although the incumbent vendors had an impressive and successful MWC, it also became clear that a new breed of companies are starting to play a greater role in the evolution of 4G and 5G networks, with lower cost, software-oriented solutions. Among the more notable are Altiostar, Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, Blinq Networks, Affirmed Networks, and Athonet. They are not yet disrupting on a major scale, but things are moving beyond trials and demos into some fairly significant wins.

Also impressive is the progress Intel has made. They seem poised to be greater participants in 5G than they were in 4G, working with service providers and infrastructure vendors on cloud-based access solutions helping them deliver greater computing resources at the network edge.

Facebook’s Transition to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

on March 7, 2019
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg outlined what he called a privacy focused vision for social networking. It was interesting he didn’t title it a privacy-focused vision for Facebook but seems to make a broader implication that Facebook is going to try and lead in the era of privacy and that other networks should follow suit. That is at least my interpretation of it.

The way things were heading with consumer surveillance by companies on behalf of advertising agencies, the entire concept of a public social network has been under fire and Facebook being under the most fire had to do something. What Zuckerberg outlines in his post is the baby steps toward creating a division of safe, private spaces and more open public spaces under the same social network banner. As interesting as this is, I fear it will turn Facebook into Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and in the end cause more internal strife as each personality competes for power.

Facebook’s Critical Junction
The reality was Facebook had to do something. The direction they were heading was not sustainable from a user growth, user sustainment, or revenue growth standpoint. Facebook’s challenges, which were predominantly caused due to chasing hyper growth and not thinking through the consequences, put them into a position of severely declining user trust combined with a sentiment of an increasingly toxic environment. Not only has Facebook’s user growth slowed to a halt, but the overall consumer sentiment toward Facebook has made it very hard for them to releases new products and services. The latter being one of the biggest issues for their continued growth goals.

While Facebook’s financials have also looked stable throughout the turbulence, the reality is advertiser sentiment has turned in the last 12 months, and every single ad spend survey, ad exec interview, and key themes from big conferences like Ad Week, has proved that the biggest brands and advertisers have already begun shifting some budget from Facebook to other things.

While Instagram remains a favored spot with advertisers, they have traditionally placed campaigns with Facebook that span both Instagram and Facebook. While advertisers still want to advertise on Instagram, they have become sensitive to those ads also being on Facebook. Which means this move by Facebook is to also not jeopardize the upside opportunity for Instagram by nature of the association of Facebook.

My read on the overall situation, and why Facebook needed to do something, was holes were starting to be punched in the ship, and it was sinking slowly. Facebook tried to put on a pretty face, but every single bit of global research I’ve seen does show a decline in usage by all developed market consumers. Despite people’s opinions, I’m confident Facebook was seeing concerning user behavior, and this new plan is in light of their own internal concern that user trends were not going in a good direction.

Is Facebook’s Plan the Answer?
One thing I kept in mind when reading Mark Zuckerberg’s post was whether or not he, and others at Facebook, had a firm grasp on the problem. While not 100% encompassing of the trends in social media behavior, this part of Mark’s post outlines their belief on the underlying behavior.

Today we already see that private messaging, ephemeral stories, and small groups are by far the fastest growing areas of online communication. There are a number of reasons for this. Many people prefer the intimacy of communicating one-on-one or with just a few friends. People are more cautious about having a permanent record of what they’ve shared. And we all expect to be able to do things like payments privately and securely.

While we have run three of our own consumer research studies on Facebook over the past few years, I have been reading behavioral research on Facebook for many years. The one constant behavioral pattern and I think this is critical to understand, is the cycle of a Facebook user when onboard was very heavy usage and then a shift (over time) to much less usage. This is framed by stating mature Facebook user behavior declines, and while they exhibited a period of high daily usage (in minutes), that number declined the longer they were on the service.

Ultimately, this is why Facebook needs a family of services or assets. They need more than just Facebook proper because of this behavior, so they can own a larger share of social media time. Hence the need for Instagram, and new services like messenger, groups, Watch/Video, and other new things they have in the pipeline. The other behavioral pattern was from large groups to small groups. Facebook started off filling a general purpose need, connect with people, then became refined by the user to narrow the focus of those connections to a few.

The narrowing of focus to the few people in your circle is in-line with the Zuckerberg memo stating that one-on-one or smaller group connections are the trends. These are also areas where Facebook will have to make a division between what’s public and what’s private. At a fundamental level, a good question to ask is whether or not consumers will understand and then embrace the difference.

This thread brings out something extremely interesting. Do humans assume that their actions when they go into public spaces are private? This thread would seem to assume that some people do absolutely expect their behavior to be private in public spaces despite the fact that being in public should carry with it that your behavior is exactly that — public.

What needs to be made clear, is there is not a general understanding of public vs. private behavior specifically in public space. Perhaps this is why people posted on something like Facebook and expected it to be a private space when in reality there never should have been that expectation. But this is not a general viewpoint since there are groups of people who do understand when they are in public they are in a public space and not a private one. This simply goes to show there is not a universal understanding of privacy, and the public vs. private dividing lines are not as clear as one would expect them to be.

In light of this knowledge, I do question if this division of public vs. private space is something Facebook users can adapt to. I’ve outlined before my theory on behavioral debt and how hard it is to change entrenched behaviors of your customers. Facebook is up against many years of behavioral debt, on top of a tarnished reputation and loss of user trust, and this seems very difficult to come back from.

Facebook is right, in my opinion, to start to work to build user trust back in several spaces on Facebook where privacy is more important. Messages and Groups are the right places to start. However, both those services are also highly attractive to advertisers, yet it seems that if Facebook is going to promise privacy in these spaces, it will be very hard to also monetize them. This is where the Jekyll and Hyde concern will continue to be a worry. Facebook will want need to continue to chase growth because the public market will punish them if they don’t. Growing from here on out, from a revenue perspective, will require very different turning of the levers than when growth was easier during their user ramp phase. The business/capitalistic persona vs. the do what’s right persona is going to be at odds whether Facebook’s management likes it or not. In many ways, Facebook is again in entirely uncharted territory, and for now, it seems obvious that both investor, advertiser, and consumer confidence in the service is not high.

There is a cynical and optimistic view to take here, and while I have my doubts Facebook can pull this off as one entity, we have to applaud them for recognizing the damage to society that has happened because of Facebook and their attempt to help change things for the better vs. continue business as usual which would have come with dire consequences.

Giving People What They Want — Longer Device Battery Life

on March 6, 2019
Reading Time: 3 minutes

This past week my wife and I vacationed in Oahu with our son, daughter-in-law and two grandsons, 11 and 14. Even though we were in Hawaii where we’re expected to relax, it was an active week with visits to a variety of small towns and beaches across the island and activities that included water sports, hiking, sightseeing and museum visits. Not surprisingly, the one thing we all had in common was the frequent use of our cellphones. The adults used the phones to navigate, find restaurants, take pictures, and check on tourist attractions. The kids used their phones for taking pictures and messaging their friends back home, as well as playing an occasional video game.

The one issue that we all faced was keeping all the phones charged. We were constantly looking for the right cords, chargers and back up battery packs that we brought along. While the world has moved to a single USB charger, phones still require three types of cords, Lightening, USB-C and USB-Micro, adding to the confusion. That was true in our case with our assortment of phones, including two iPhone 6 Pluses, a Samsung S9, an iPhone 6, a Samsung Note 5 and an iPhone X. I was the only one that made it through each day, using the new Apple battery case on my X. The others carried back up battery packs from myCharge and Mophie.

Everyone else ran out of juice before we returned to the hotel at the end of each day, some barely making it past lunch. And using the USB ports in the rental car is not a good solution because they charge so slowly. At night we all scurried to recharge our phones and back up battery packs and begin the ritual all over again the next day.

All of this highlights a big issue: For a device that’s designed to be our lifeline, battery life is still a major weakness of our expensive phones, creating anxiety and frustration that’s not being addressed by many of the manufacturers, particularly Apple.

Battery life continues to be the weakest part of smartphone usage, so it’s surprising that it’s the area where we see the least amount of improvement. We’re seeing excellent cameras getting even better and fast microprocessors getting faster. But we’re still seeing essentially the same size batteries becoming less effective with the increase in smartphone use.

With the most recent introduction of iPhones, Apple describes battery life in relation to last year’s models rather than anything more definitive or helpful, such as actual capacity in milliamp-hours that lets you compare. It’s their way of obfuscating the issue, just as they did by removing the run time remaining indication from the MacBooks.

At dinner one night I asked everyone what the one thing was they’d like to see improved on their phones. It was not the camera, display, or processor – no one cared about those. It was battery life with no runner up. It was such an obvious answer, that you have to wonder why more effort is not being done to address it. I’m not talking about new battery technology, just bigger batteries.

We’ve seen no significant improvement on the iPhones especially compared to most other brands. That’s probably because of their overriding focus – perhaps even obsession – to keep the phones thin. But for most of us, the only time we see our phone’s thinness is in the store and the thirty seconds between removing it from the box and snapping on a protective case. Typically, our thin phone is about 0.3 inches thick. Yet once in a case, it’s .4 to .6 inches thick. So, why not just add another 0.1 inch to the battery thickness and provide a 20% to 30% boost in capacity? At minimum a 6-inch display needs at least 4000 mAh to get through a long day, yet iPhone batteries range from 2100 to 2700mAh on most models. Samsung and other brands do better with more than 3000 mAh on most of their phones.

The other issue is that these smaller batteries need more frequent charging, causing them to wear out more quickly. The capacity of the best batteries drops to 70%-80% of their original life after 300 full recharges. In fact, my iPhone X’s battery is now at 85% capacity after a year and a half of use.

I’d love to see Apple offer a top of the line phone with enough battery life to last 12- 15 hours with heavy use. It would go a long way to reduce anxiety and to solve one of the biggest issues with today’s phones. It’s not as if it’s so difficult. Motorola’s Moto E5 Plus has a 5000mAh battery, twice the capacity of an iPhone, and is still just 0.37 inch thick. If Apple is looking to boost their iPhone sales, try giving users what they want.

Loosely Predicting Apple’s Folding iPhone Strategy

on March 6, 2019
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Last week, I participated in a tweet thread that asked people to predict when Apple would do a folding phone. I weighed in that I thought, if they did a folding phone, it could come to market in late 2020. I pointed out that it will take at least until then for the materials to get to the quality and functionality Apple demands for any new technology needed to meet their strict criteria and quality control issues for a phone like that.

The Ride Sharing Conundrum

on March 5, 2019
Reading Time: 4 minutes

As I mentioned in my note about Apple’s automotive ambitions last week, central to our thinking about any potential shift in automotive is developing a philosophy of transportation going forward. While that is incredibly tricky, there are a few data points I’ve acquired recently from several reports on the ride sharing economy which may prove helpful. But first a personal anecdote.

Tech Standards Still Making Slow but Steady Progress with USB4 and WebAuthn

on March 5, 2019
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Accessory cables and passwords may not seem to have much in common, but the reality is they’re both a regular part of our day-to-day tech existence. We use them both, all the time. Yesterday, the two were linked together in a completely different way, thanks to important announcements about each of the technologies making the news.

First, the USB Promoter Group announced the release of the USB4 specification, the latest iteration of this critical connectivity standard. Building on the existing 3.2 version of the spec, USB4 integrates complete support for Thunderbolt 3.0 over USB-C connectors, including transfer speeds of up to 40 Gbps (twice as fast as USB 3.2). In other words, USB4 will bring all the benefits of Thunderbolt 3 to any device that enables the new USB standard, but at no additional cost. This important new capability was enabled by Intel—who invented and owns Thunderbolt 3 technology—offering a license-free royalty for Thunderbolt protocols to the USB Implementer’s Forum. The end result is that, by sometime in 2020, we should see much broader adoption of the technology across a wider range of PCs and peripherals.

Second, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which manages and coordinates web standards, announced the ratification of the WebAuthn (short for Web Authentication) protocol, a new browser and website standard for password-less authentication. Driven by the work of the FIDO Alliance, WebAuthn provides a standardized way for various types of authentication mechanisms, including USB-based hardware keys as well as biometric technologies such as face scanners, fingerprint readers, etc., to pass along credentials securely between devices and websites. There had been some other proprietary methods for doing authentication online, but the official release of the final WebAuthn spec means that we should start to see more websites offer password-free login options soon—all of which will be more secure than the clearly broken password-driven mechanisms of today.

To fully take advantage of WebAuthn, websites will have to build-in support for it—it won’t automatically rid us of passwords—but now that a W3C standard is in place, that process should move more quickly. Thankfully, most modern browsers, including Chrome, Edge, Mozilla, and Safari already include support for WebAuthn, so now it’s just up to the sites themselves to make the effort.

In the case of USB4, we should finally have what we were originally promised with Thunderbolt 3—one connection standard to rule them all—but in a much more egalitarian fashion. No one ever complained about the technical capabilities of Thunderbolt 3, but many PC and peripheral vendors weren’t eager to pay Intel for Thunderbolt controller chips (or IP royalties for the technology), so adoption of the connectivity standard was more limited than many, including Intel, hoped. By making the technology available for free and incorporating it into their next generation Ice Lake CPUs and platforms, the company is enabling much broader support, and we’ll finally start to see a much wider array of devices and accessories—including displays, external GPUs, storage, docks, and more—using it. Unfortunately, labelling and verification of USB4 could still be a bit tricky because of the open-ended nature of the USB standard, but good news is that existing Thunderbolt 3-verified cables and devices should work interchangeably with USB4.

As with many standards-related announcements, we won’t see the benefits of either of these developments overnight. Realistically, it will be mid-2020 before we start to see widespread deployments of USB4 in devices and peripherals, and large numbers of websites that leverage the security enhancements of WebAuthn. Still, what these announcements highlight, and help us to remember, is that critical tech standards continue to evolve and continue to make important progress towards improving the usability and security of working with tech devices. The process may not be pretty, but the results clearly are. Here’s to a faster, easier, and more secure 2020.

Two Realities for Voice Speakers

on March 4, 2019
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Continuing in my series of publishing some chunks of data from our recent study on smart speakers and voice assistants, I wanted to share what I think are the two most interesting takeaways.

Reflecting on #MWC19 Barcelona

on March 4, 2019
Reading Time: 4 minutes

I have been attending MWC since when it was called 3GSM, and over the years I have seen it evolve and transform to fit with the market and the reality that mobile had gone from being an after-thought to the trend that influences every aspect of our life.

Many announcements throughout the week already received a lot of coverage, so I wanted to share my thoughts on three aspects of MWC19 Barcelona that struck me.

The Past is Hindering the Future

After a couple of years when the attention shifted away from mobile phones, hardware was back on MWC main stage, thanks to both 5G and Foldables. The #5GisHere hashtag was everywhere at the show, and the launch of several 5G ready phones made it feel real.

Foldables were also everywhere either as finished products like the Huawei Mate X and Samsung Galaxy Fold or as concepts like those shown by TCL.  CES sensation Royole was also in Barcelona to showcase its FlexPai. All in all, it felt good to see brands experimenting with different form factors after so many years of rectangular slabs.

As many debated whether or not these devices are a reality for 2019, I could not help but think that both 5G and Foldables, and the impact they could have, were hindered by how the past taught us to think of a phone. Let me explain.

With 5G, companies have been focusing on highlighting speed and lack of latency, using smartphones as the poster child of the technology. There is no question that 5G will improve our smartphone experience, but the reality is that 5G will enable a much broader set of use cases that will impact communication between devices not just between humans. This is the real promise of 5G for me, one that lands well beyond phones and that must be recognized to take full advantage of 5G. Of course, I am aware that those scenarios like connected cities, autonomous cars and so on are on a longer path and that the idea of a faster phone is so much easier to market. My concern is that unless we start to think about these possibilities and how adding connectivity to other devices impacts our phone usage or how the blurring of what is fixed and mobile connectivity impacts our expectations of when and how we want to be connected, carriers and service providers will run the risk to hinder uptake by pricing their service based on old parameters.

Foldables are not that different from 5G. With the two commercial products we have seen from Samsung and Huawei, the manufacturers took a similar approach that focuses on using a foldable display to give us more screen. While this is a safe bet on what consumers might want, I think there is more that vendors should consider. As computing power is shared across devices such as wearables, smart speakers, PCs, in-car infotainment systems… will we need our phones to get bigger or would we need our phones to get even smarter in how they present information to us? I think considering the possibility that phones need to evolve as a form factor that has little to do with a rectangle or a square might help brands be ready for XR glasses by either prepare consumers for them or offer a smart alternative.

I hope that the need to show early success in both categories will not prevent companies from thinking about long term opportunities for both groups.

Chinese Brands Owned the Show

Coming from the US, where the presence of Chinese smartphone brands is minimal; it was mesmerizing to see just how much these brands dominated the show and the conversation.

With a little help from Samsung, that this year did not hold its usual Unpacked event on Sunday night, you felt the show was all about the Chinese brands and Huawei in particular. We have been used over the years to see Huawei heavily advertised throughout Barcelona, but with the Mate X announcement and the hands-on with the device tactically spread-out throughout the show, Huawei was certainly top of mind all week. Huawei also happened to win two GSMA Glomo awards, one for best 2018 smartphone with the Mate 20 Pro and one for the best-connected device at the show with the Mate X.

Other brands such as Xiaomi and Oppo had launch events at the show and got a lot of attention for their 5G and camera phones. It is precisely when looking at the list of 5G phones announced at the show that you realize most of them will not be coming to the US market because a Chinese company sells them.

All the security issues that dominate the conversation in the US every time Huawei is mentioned were absent at the show. As we were celebrating 5G, the gloomy prospect of carriers having to swap out Huawei network gear incurring on huge expense and launch delays was a hot topic for the press. It was clear, however, that it was all about political powerplay rather than security concerns.

Apple: Out of Sight Out of Mind

We are accustomed not to see Apple at MWC or CES or any other big tradeshow. But we usually end up talking about Apple nevertheless. Either because their ecosystem drives the conversation, or because they break some news during the show, Apple always seems to find a way into the news cycle. Last year at MWC Apple won the GSMA Glomo Awards for the Best smartphone with the iPhone X and well as Disruptive Device Innovation with the TrueDepth Camera.

This year, however, it was different. Maybe because it seems a given that Apple will not have a 5G device in 2019 and I would guess not even a Foldable, they were left out of the conversation almost entirely. The iPhone X did appear in some device comparison for newly launched devices acknowledging that it remains the benchmark for many brands out there.

I also felt though that the reason for the lack of this looming Apple shadow on MWC also reflected the reality of the European smartphone market that sees way more variety in vendors that the US market does. The iOS ecosystem is also not as strong in Europe as it is in the US as many services such as News, Apple Pay, Maps Transit are not available across markets.

I do wonder if the fact that Apple will not have a 5G device in 2019 will lead US carriers to be more open about working with other vendors to guarantee a variety of options to their subscribers. HMD, Sony and OnePlus are all expected to bring their high-end devices to the US although no specific carrier announcement has been made thus far and we know at least two of those vendors have a 5G device on the way.

Often what happens outside the US does not get the same level of importance of what happens in the US, but keeping an eye on what takes place around the world is critical to understand the challenges that some vendors are or will face. Market share does not tell the whole story after all.

Podcast: MWC 2019

on March 1, 2019
Reading Time: 1 minute

This week’s Tech.pinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell analyzing the big news from Barcelona with discussion around the transition to 5G, the launch of multiple 5G phones, the potential impact of foldables, and the debut of Microsoft’s HoloLens 2.

If you happen to use a podcast aggregator or want to add it to iTunes manually the feed to our podcast is: techpinions.com/feed/podcast

Pro’s and Cons of the FTC Task Force on Anti-Trust

on February 27, 2019
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Some interesting news hit yesterday about the FTC putting together a task force to more deeply look at issues of anti-trust in America. Part of the focus will be on past mergers which were approved and whether or not regulations should come down on companies where these mergers should not have been approved.

Is There a Market for Folding Smartphones?

on February 26, 2019
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Last May I attended the Display Conference in Los Angeles where multiple display vendors showed their early versions of foldable and flexible displays. The most impressive prototype I saw came from Chinese display maker BOE and was a foldable smartphone that morphed into a mini-tablet when opened.