Thursday, April 23, 2015

Google's Mobile Launch: It really may be about the bigdata!

Yesterday Google launched "Project Fi" - Google's foray into providing mobile service. As CBC reported the service "will cost $20 US a month plus $10 per gigabyte of data used" (I am still an accountant, trained to find the numbers!). According to the Google blog post on Project Fi, the service will:
  • Find the fastest connection: The service will enable the Google Nexus 6 to switch to the fastest mobile connection, whether it's home/work WiFi, WiFi hot spot, Sprint's network or T-Mobile's network.  
  • Seamless transition between networks: The above service is not just about data, but also voice: when you transition between networks, you can keep on talking without any disruption. 
  • Ties cellphone number to the cloud, not the device: Is this the end of SIM cards? With this service, you can take a call on any device (tablet, laptop, etc.) 
  • Refund for unused data: While implied in the CBC article above, Google has structured the plan to refund the customer for the amount of unused data. 
As I had noted in an earlier blog post, one of the possible reasons that Google is entering into mobile world is to get access to mobile data. Specifically:

"the hidden strategic objective is a big data play: what could Google do with the new data feeds? Sure they already get from being able to correlate the information it already gets from their Android devices. However, they will now be able to analyze this data with the additional data that moves through their MVNO network, such as demographic information and location data. What good is this to Google? In a word: advertising. Advertising is still the biggest source of Google's revenue and adding this pool of data to their reservoir can only add to the bottom line."

Although this project is in "user testing" mode, the video indicates that this is not simply a giant "user acceptance test". Specifically, the announcer says "Getting it in users hands and finding out all the new amazing things we can build that will make your lives easier." (Go to 1:34, if you don't have the 2 minutes to spare)

In other words, the service will actively work with the early adopters to target services that work with the users. Of course these services will be a better way to target ads, such as location based advertising or augmented reality.With respect to the latter, you could use your phone to interact with an augmented reality billboard, store, etc. And Google could turn these numbers back to potential advertisers to demonstrate the effectiveness of such technology. In fact, Google (according to the Verge) invested over half a billion in Magic Leap, an augmented reality firm. But let's see how this rolls out.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Re-corporatification of IT? TMT Tech trends continue to prove true

Came across the coverage of Intel's first quarter results. According to the Australian:

"The Silicon Valley giant, which said last month that revenue would suffer in the first quarter due to sagging PC sales, reported net income for the period grew just 3 per cent on overall revenue that was flat with the year-earlier ­period."

However, not all is bad. The article also noted that:
"Intel’s data centre group, which includes chips for server systems, posted a 19 per cent jump in revenue."

The shift in growth confirm's the Deloitte TMT Predictions for 2015:
"Consumers don’t always lead the way: The pendulum swings back to enterprise adoption
Historically, new technologies, like PCs and cellular phones, were adopted by the enterprise and then by the mass consumer market years later. In the last decade, it’s been the opposite. Tablets and smartphones with large screens were adopted widely by consumers first, but the pendulum will start to swing back. In 2014, consumer uptake of wearable technology like smart glasses was modest, signaling a shift away from the consumerization of IT. Enterprise adoption of wearables, 3D printing, drones and the Internet of Things (IoT) will have a bigger impact generating more economic value in goods and addressing business needs than the consumer market for those technologies"

Although not specifically mentioned in the press release, Intel's increased revenues is a confirmation that the shift from consumer IT to corporate IT is something that can't be ignored.

Full disclosure: I work at Deloitte, but you can click the links and audit the above analysis yourself to ensure that the analysis is valid. And to ensure completeness, Duncan Stewart and team reviews their predictions to see what they hit and miss each year. So tune in for that in January 2016!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Amazon & Drones: Role of "Regulation" in technology disruption

A number of news outlets reported Amazon's testing of drones up here in Canada. According to the Globe & Mail:

"U.S. companies like the online shopping juggernaut Amazon are increasingly choosing Canadian airspace to test new drones after being hamstrung by restrictive laws in their own country that could take up to two years to change, experts say"

Amazon showcased its vision for using drones to deliver light packages in late 2013 (see video below). However, they have been vocal about their frustration with the US regulator to test their innovation. 

The US regulators seems to have buckled under the pressure that the e-commerce giant put on them. According to Gizmodo:

"The Federal Aviation Administration has just given Amazon clearance to begin flight-testing the drones in the United States. Again. For real this time...This is the second time in as many months that the online retail giant has received a drone testing certificate from the FAA. Last time around, however, the certificate only applied to an already-obsolete prototype. Frustrated by the Feds’ inertia, Amazon recently began testing its delivery drones at a “top secret” location in Canada, just 2,000 feet from the US border."

We could explore this from a point of view of how we actually live in corporatocracy - where corporations with millions in the bank drive governmental policy instead of the average citizen. But let's not do that. Instead let's focus on how "regulation" itself can impact technological innovation.

I don't mean regulation just in the narrow sense of the "big bad government" passing this law or that statute. But a much broader concept of how societal conventions and how economic powerhouses in the Capitalist society actually determine the course of technological development.

Take for example the rise of the iPhone in the corporate environment. What allowed consumerization to take place (i.e. allowing users to connect their favourite smartphone devices to the network instead of the corporate devices) was that Microsoft took an open approach to licensing it Exchange Active Sync. They could have created a walled garden that allowed Windows Phone only to connect to their email server, however, they paved the way for iPhone and  Android to connect their devices to the corporate email server. Microsoft as the "regulator" of which mobile device can connect to its mail server - if you will - essentially enabled the iPhone and Android to displace our beloved BlackBerries from the corporate environment (for more on this see this post). Had Microsoft saw more profit in walling off the market for its own devices the ability for Apple iDevice to disrupt corporate IT would have been stifled if not suffocated.

Think this is an isolated incident? Unfortunately, that's what the hype wants you to believe

For example, David Sarnoff of RCA squashed FM radio in order to protect his AM Radio technology and pave the way for television. The inventor, Edwin Armstrong, who initially was Sarnoff's friend, had foolishly shared his technological innovations with him only to be betrayed by him. FM Radio technology had the potential to share data, such as faxes - back in the 1930s. Can you imagine the state of the wireless technology had this technology been allowed to flourish? Well that's the point. Sarnoff - as a regulator of radio technology - saw fit to erase it out of existence.

AT&T is another case in point. It ironically attempted to slay the then maverick David Sarnoff's  nascent radio technology. However, Sarnoff was able to work with the FCC and others to defend his fledgling start up, RCA, and beat the odds (unlike his "friend" Armstrong who ended up taking his life unable to achieve the same victory against Sarnoff). In 1934 AT&T blocked the answering machine for fear that it would undermine their business because "ability to record voice would cause business people to shun the telephone for fear of having their conversations recorded". So although much good came out of AT&T's Bell labs, the point is that it was effectively the one acting as which innovation saw the light of day and which did not.

What this illustrates is that the mythical innovator whose technological rises to the top through some kind meritocratic process is just that - a myth. Rather innovation is much more about how society appoints through or market mechanisms those that will ultimately sanction technology or kill it. We have the Internet because the inventors were part of a governmental DARPA project. If Bell labs had invented the TCP/IP protocol would they have taken the same route or would have it gone the way 1934 AT&T answering machine? To answer that would be pure speculation, but it is entire possible I wouldn't be writing this blog post if some "regulator" had decided otherwise.