Google is in the process of selling Motorola to Lenovo for $2.91 billion. It’s big news since just a couple years ago they bought them for $12.5 billion. Seems like a big loss, but when you count the different pieces that have been absorbed and factor in the patents that stay with Google then the loss is much closer to a couple billion dollars. I’m not sure that the patents were really worth much to start. I say that because most Android handset manufacturers are still paying a license fee to Microsoft and Google failed to extract much money from Microsoft for their use of media patents used by the Xbox. With Motorola losing $384 million this year, it still makes sense if Google doesn’t want to be in the device business. Of course, two years ago they said that they wanted to create a premier device. Oh well.
All this is happening just as Microsoft is completing its purchase of Nokia’s Devices and Services division. They are redefining themselves to include a significant devices focus. So does this even make sense? Will they be selling off the remnants of Nokia in a couple years? As the Facebook relationship status says, “It’s complicated.” Hal Berenson (ex Microsoft manager) wrote a nice blog post on the whole phone, phablet, tablet situation. It paints a picture which requires Microsoft to execute well with it’s device plan if it’s going survive in the devices space. Of course regardless of how they do in devices, their enterprise divisions will still thrive. There’s just a lot of flux in the marketplace and what seemed like an obvious thing two years ago has changed and you wonder why anyone thought that before.
Historically Apple has always been a producer of devices. Sure they make software as well, but the money comes from the devices and people purchase them because they have the reputation of “just working”. I don’t think that’s necessarily true, but it’s true enough for them to have done pretty well of late. If you look at the long game though, people tend to only complain about their manufacturing of devices when they aren’t doing very well. All these things have cycles and you can expect another one when the volume of sales slows (which it will). Right now, they are looking good though.
I still think we have a few more years before things settle out. As I mentioned a few posts back, the smart devices and wearables are coming. Google just got out of the phone business (hardware) and purchased a few smart devices companies. So are you ready to swap your phone for a watch? (Correction: These are seen as companion devices and not replacements)
I can remember watching “The Jetsons” during the 70s and thinking that before long our houses would be just like theirs. We would have automated equipment everywhere taking care of the stuff that people didn’t want to do. Most of the SciFi shows sort of pointed to a future that included different amounts of home automation. Alas, it hasn’t really happened as quickly as I thought it would. High costs, low usability and a lack of good products has been the norm for some time. I would have like to put up some cameras and the connected Nest smoke detector was looking pretty good as well.
It seems that Google like it as well since they announced today that they were purchasing the company Nest for $3.2 Billion. Right now, Nest has two products that they currently sell. They have a thermostat and a line of smoke detectors (both Wi-Fi connected). You can bet that if you are an up and coming professional that you have one or both installed in your house. Both are slick devices designed by a company found by ex-Apple designers. Good stuff, but unless they have about $2.5 billion stuffed in the basement of Nest then I think Google overpaid a little. Something tells me that they have a little something special cooking in the back room.
So is it finally time for home automation systems to come of age? If we lived in a vacuum then perhaps it would be time, but unfortunately (or fortunately) we don’t. Google has also recently bet big on wear-ables (Google glasses and is dabbling in watches). All of these items aren’t needed for basic human functions. With economy showing an overall slowing trend that looks to either get worse or get very worse, I don’t see a majority of middle America spending their rent and food money on home automation. Sure there will be a small percentage of yuppies out there that will buy them, so it might just be moderately successful. These are $150-200 devices and not an inexpensive item. Even if the price comes down, are you ready to change all of your locks and light switches (especially since they are all probably still working fine). Bottom-line is that I don’t see this industry moving very fast.
What does scare me are the moves that Google and others are making to have access to the information around us. All of these new devices have sensors that are constantly collecting info to help improve our lives. By that same token, they can also be used to control us as we become more dependent on them. The recent revelation of the NSA spying activities has me casting a more skeptical eye on the cameras and microphones around me. Having my home automation stay disconnected starts sounding better every day.
Just to close this little note out, I’ll remove my tin foil hat and say that you can expect plenty of news in this area of consumer goods. Smart watches will have to take a back seat for a little while as the tech news industry works itself up over this. You’ll see plenty of hand wringing about how Apple and Microsoft have missed the boat. To me, it’s not a boat that they really want to catch right now.
This month was a pretty active one in the tech industry. Apple announced and then subsequently released two new phone models: iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s. Microsoft also announced it’s new duo of tablets: Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2. All of this follows a recent update to the Nexus 7 tablet by Google. Oct 18th will see the release of Windows 8.1 into retail and this will be surrounded by new hardware launching with the updated OS on board. And this morning I see that Amazon and Roku have rolled out new iterations of their products.
The short version of this post is that this doesn’t change anything. The market is locked into its current allocation and although the new technology really is a step forward, it will not move one player in front of the other. Most people are locked into their preferences (and ecosystems) and new hardware/software iterations don’t change that dynamic.
Continue reading Advancement of Technology Continues
As all users of Google Reader know, July 1st is the date given by Google on which they are going to turn off the lights on the product. It’s a real shame as it’s been one of my “daily drivers” for several years. Many times a day I would hit the site to see what had been updated on any of the 30-40 sites that I track. That ended this morning when Feedly unveiled their new “pure” interface for the Feedly reader service. Previously it required a browser extension for either Chrome or Firefox to work, but now works on most browsers without an add-on.
I was driven to Feedly since it is the service that will soon be supported by my Windows Phone 8 app Nextgen Reader. I really love the design of the WP8 app and I suppose I’ll be looking at picking up the Windows 8 version as well at some point. I probably check for new articles on my phone as much as I do on the web browser version.
So with the new browser neutral version of Feedly being released today, I’ve deleted the bookmark to Google Reader and replaced it with the Feedly link. I can now retire my Chrome browser as I used it with the Feedly extension. I still have my Gmail address and I use YouTube, but that’s about my only use for Google products. Unless there behavior changes and I rebuild some of my trust in them, then I don’t see myself using their services (same reason I don’t put information in to Facebook).
So if you need a reader service (and who doesn’t), then check out Feedly. It’ll be interesting to see how it develops and whether they are able to monetize it without doing something that runs off their customers.
Update: The service now has everyone that signed up converted over to their own cloud servers. It seems to be much faster than Google Reader (at the least the GR from the past couple months).
It has been said that when young people see their parents using the same social media outlets as them, they will start moving to a new one. I think that was true with MySpace and I think it is becoming true of Facebook. I suppose Instagram may go the same way. I know that I spend very little time on Facebook anymore as I get much more value out of time spent with my RSS Reader (accessing content on my favorite sites) and more recently, Twitter. At least Twitter has been somewhat content to let things move slowly in updating their system. I have a Google+ account, but I rarely use it since no one in my circle of friends uses it (and I have grown suspicious of Google as a company).
One thing that has extended Facebook’s reign in the social media world is the use of the service as a platform for other companies (games, portals, etc..). Where MySpace was largely a social media delivery system, Facebook provides a lot more basic services (ex. chat, contact management and gaming). I though about deleting my account, but that would remove a lot of information from my People Tile on Windows Phone 8. So instead I’ve just been pruning my friends list to those people that I know well (or to which I’m related). Still have more work to do.
I’ve started “following” a few influential software developers recently and that’s opened my eyes a lot more to the usefulness of Twitter. In fact, I’m just realizing that you need to continue to tweak your follow list on Twitter to make it most useful. For example, SpaceX was launching another cargo ship to the ISS a couple weeks ago. So I started following them on Twitter to get the details. After the de-orbit of the Dragon module, I just removed them from my Twitter feed. I wasn’t interesting in their constant flow of PR, I just wanted to know about their Falcon 9 launch. The search works well for finding companies and people of interest.
To spell it out, social media just keeps changing. I don’t think any of the services provide everything that people need. It seems that as they grow, their need to monetize drives them in a different direction than people naturally want to go. For my needs, I try to find a place where I can manage the amount of “noise” that I absorb.