Google: The Good, the Bad, and the Untrustworthy – Futurum Tech Podcast Episode 014

On this week’s Futurum Tech Podcast, we provide an update on to Google’s products and brand trust. Plus, we take a look at Amazon’s push into advertising dominance. Freddy, the Google-powered Omnibot from Freshworks, AR headsets from manufacturing, improved battery life for watches, and we try and take a stab at the real story behind Bloomberg’s China hack story. All this and more on this week’s Futurum Tech Podcast.

Our Main Dive

Google had a big week, beginning with its announcement about the Google Home Hub, as well as the Pixel 3 smartphone. There’s been a lot of hype surrounding these devices, showing that there’s not a single brand that’s running the market for phones and smart home products right now. It’s not just all about Apple or Amazon. Google can succeed in this space, too.

That being said, there may be some trust issues when it comes to Google. Firstly, the Pixel is made by HTC, not Google itself, unlike Apple’s products. So consumers may be a little more confused on who to contact—Google or HTC?—when the phone breaks. And take into account the fact that HTC’s market share is very low, which doesn’t inspire confidence among the public. For these reasons, it’s hard to predict that the Pixel 3 will take many sales away from Apple, since those users seem to enjoy the Apple ecosystem as it is.

Bottom line: Despite the hype surrounding new Google products like the Pixel 3, we’re not sure how many people are willing to migrate to non Apple products right now. The trust for Google devices just isn’t there yet. It’s there for Apple and Samsung phones, which is why they own this market right now. However, we do think Google will gain some traction here eventually, maybe in four or five years—assuming they’re able to gain and hold the trust of consumers in this space.

Our Fast Five

We dig into this week’s interesting and noteworthy news:

  • Freshworks just announced its new omnibot, Freddy, which was designed to help agents provide better service in B2B and customer support situations. Basically, the Google-powered Freddy is specialized for helping agents, not consumers, which seems like a good move for now.
  • As with any device, the battery life on wearables is often a concern. While you can make batteries larger and more efficient, it’s hard to make them last as long as most people would like, especially on a watch that’s on pretty much all the time. But engineers recently discovered ways to adjust the system so it uses less battery when only the display is being used, and more when other functions are being utilized. So expect wearables to have longer battery lives next year, up to two or three weeks!
  • Amazon seems to be into everything these days, even ads. In fact, advertising is now a pretty big part of the company’s profits, as it’s driving more than $4.5 billion in revenue this year alone through its ad platform. Google gets about $40 billion annually, with Facebook coming in second place there. But if Amazon can keep up its pace when it comes to advertising, it could catch up to Google and Facebook within a few years.
  • Bloomberg Businessweek recently wrote about a supposed mini chip that the Chinese government implanted into some servers that made their way to Apple and Amazon server farms. There was little evidence that the story was legit, but Bloomberg Marketwatch released another article talking about the Chinese government and network ports, or the tiny plastic prong at the end of a network cable. That might have been what the original article was trying to discuss, which seems a bit more possible, though still something we should probably look into a bit more! After all, this suggests the Chinese have been spying on some pretty big tech companies.
  • Realwear released an AR headset that has a little screen that can attach to the front of a helmet, and we just have to say it’s amazing. It’s lightweight, has tons of functions to play with, and great clarity. The Realwear HMT-1 AR will be used in 20 manufacturing facilities spread among 11 countries, allowing lots of employees to simply look at an industrial device to get more information through sensors.

Tech Bites

This Tech Bites award goes to all the technology companies—like Google, Facebook, Apple, etc.—that still want the public to provide their private data after they’ve made it clear their top priority is not our security or privacy. Instead, we’re expected to keep putting devices in our home that watch or listen to us, and keep using tools that broadcast our lives, as they slowly lose our trust while making a profit. Maybe one day these tech companies will take our security more seriously, but when will that be?

Crystal Ball: Future-um Predictions and Guesses

This week, our Crystal Ball focuses on Google. Will it keep its current disconnected strategy when it comes to its software, hardware, search business, etc.? Or will it try to unify some of its biggest offerings while working on improving the brand? Basically, will it become more like Apple? We think Google is so many things currently—including search, ads, Pixel, Android, YouTube, etc.—but it needs to bring it all together to create a brand we can trust. So will it? Maybe if consumers and government officials in the US and Europe put enough pressure on Google, it will go the direction we’re hoping. But we’re not going to bet on that right now.

And there you have it, this week’s Futurum Tech Podcast.

Transcript:
Intro: On this week’s Futurum Tech Podcast, we provide an update on to Google’s products and brand trust. Plus, we take a look at Amazon’s push into advertising dominance. Freddy, the Google-powered Omnibot from Freshworks, AR headsets from manufacturing, improved battery life for watches, and we try and take a stab at the real story behind Bloomberg’s China hack story. All this and more on this week’s Futurum Tech Podcast.

Olivier Blanchard: Hi, and welcome to this week’s edition of FTP, the Futurum Tech Podcast. I’m Olivier Blanchard, senior analyst with Futurum Research. Joining me today is my colleague, Fred McClimans, as Dan is out working somewhere. How are you doing today, Fred?

Fred McClimans: I’m doing great, Olivier. We’ve got a lot of really, I’ll say, debatable, controversial stuff to talk about this week. I’m really looking forward to this edition of FTP.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah. There were a lot of news, so we had to kind of distill it down to, unfortunately, just a few. Hopefully, we’re going to hit the most important ones. We’re going to start today’s show with a focus on a Google’s very big week, a good week and a bad week at the same time. Then, of course, we will share some of our favorite tech news stories of the week in our Fast Five segments. And then we’ll follow that up with Tech Bytes, in which we highlight one of the biggest tech-related fails of the week. We will end the show with our crystal ball, which we haven’t even talked about yet. We’ll come up with a crystal ball prediction during the show. It shouldn’t be that hard.

As always, it goes without saying that this show is intended for informational purposes only/entertainment, if you’re into that. No advice or insight provided here today should be taken as investment advice. Now that that’s out of the way, our main topic today is Google’s very big week. To recap, Google very early this week had its big reveal for a lot of the new hardware and software that it’s introducing this year. On the one hand, you had the Pixel 3 introduction, you had the Google Home Hub. There were a lot of updates. But those two items kind of stole the show. Pixel 3 is one of the more anticipated premium smartphones of the year, and Google Home, and then smart displays in general have been kind of big on the smart home technology wish list for consumers, and Google is pretty heavy into that.

Fred, did anything kind of jump out at you this week about Google’s announcement and Google’s security breach issues that, really, you want to start us off with?

Fred McClimans: Well, I think that if you kind of put this, the Pixel, in context here, yes, everybody knows the Pixel technology. It’s popular. It’s out there. At the same time, though, when I go around and talk to people, “Hey, what do you have? Google? Apple? What’s your phone of choice,” I’m not running into that many people, at least that I know, that are really super hyped up about the Pixel 3. I think part of that comes out of sort of the basic realization here that Google as a brand is not the brand that it used to be, you know? It doesn’t have that cleanliness that it used to have, or that crisp feel.

I think today, I’m one of the individuals out there that I look at what they’re doing and I say, “Do I really want a Google Home in my home? Do I really want to take that extra step with Google, knowing that what they have is probably useful, but maybe not in my best interests for that?” When it comes to phones, I think, personally, I’d much rather stick with an Apple phone, and when it comes to in-home devices, I’d probably rather stick with an Amazon device. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense logically, perhaps.

But I will say the Pixel 3, the hype around the product, the hype around the Google Home announcements is big. It’s very big. I think I would be doing a disservice if I underestimated the significance of what we see taking out here. I think what it really does more than anything else, is it demonstrates that the market that we’re in today, it’s not a foregone conclusion that there is any one provider that dominates the market. There is no one winner in the handset market. There’s no one winter in the home market. I think a lot of these areas are still very much in play.

Olivier Blanchard: I’m going to disagree a little bit with you on the preferring to hold on to Apple. I still don’t really understand, aside from very … No, seriously, aside from very practical, very specific reasons why people would rather hold on to the iPhone ecosystem, remain in it, as opposed to moving on to the really solid Android stuff that’s out there now. Notably, the Note8 and the Note 9, more recently are amazing phones. Samsung didn’t really pull a rabbit out of a hat, but managed to really steer itself away from the very bad press it had not so long ago with exploding phones. I think they’re on the other side of that now with extremely good phones.

Pixel 2 had a few issues, just like every new release has issues. But generally, it’s considered a really solid phone. By the way, we should probably say that it’s made for Google by HTC to Google’s specs. So, it’s not like Google just kind of like came out of nowhere and started designing phone. They relied on a channel partner, on a technology partner that already was pretty good at it. Everybody is pretty much in agreement about how good the camera is on the Pixel line, whether it’s the 1, the 2, or the 3. I’m actually using a Pixel XL now, first generation. I’m going to go ahead and get the Pixel 3 and test it out. I have to admit that even the Pixel XL has an amazing camera. In a world where phones are more camera and computer than actual phones, that’s kind of important.

But what I’ve noticed, though, is when I talk to iPhone or iOS users, the reasons why they don’t want to switch from Apple to the Android ecosystem tend to either be kind of irrational and emotional … I’m not saying that’s wrong. It’s just kind of like, you know, they’re more comfortable with iOS and they don’t want to change, and that’s fine. And then you have specific objections like, “All of my music and all of my media is through Apple. If I switch, I lose all that. I lose my years of investment in media.” That’s a really good reason. Another good reason is that whether you like it or not … And I prefer Android now … iOS is much easier to use. It’s slick. Just being able to swipe in and out of menus, and the navigation is much more instinctive than it is on Android, no matter how good Android is.

And then you have people who have entire iOS ecosystems, and they have MacBook Pros, and they have the iPad, and they have … Basically, all their stuff is Mac, and so it would be kind of silly for them to switch to another phone, simply by virtue of the fact that it would create layers of additional work for them or layers of friction that they don’t experience now, even though the performance of each individual device might be much better than their Apple devices. I understand that. It’s just I’m surprised that you, being, you know, and working closely with Dan and I who are not huge fans of Apple anymore, or at least we’re disappointed with Apple’s direction the last few years, still hold onto that Apple.

Fred McClimans: I have a lot of history with Apple. I started using Mac devices back in the early ’80s. Before that, I used Windows devices, and then CPM devices before that, and a variety of others. I think with Apple, there are a lot of reasons why I’m still very deep into the Apple ecosystem. That doesn’t mean that I love everything Apple does. I don’t. I think there’s things that they just fundamentally get wrong. But when I look at the Google ecosystem, there’s just a lot of players in that space. There are a lot of people that shed some doubt, perhaps, on, “Well, what product am I really getting? Which version of Android am I really getting? Is this phone as secure as this phone over here?” When I look at the Pixel, okay, so that’s designed by HTC. What’s HTC’s market share in the smartphone market? Is it 20%? 10%? 5%? No, keep going lower. It’s down there at the bottom. They don’t have a lot of market share.

When I look at Google and the trust issues they have right now, and I look at HTC, a vendor that most people don’t know, yeah, okay, so maybe there’s not the excitement about that because at least with Apple, I know I’m getting something from Apple, and I know I can go all the way up the food chain to Cook and go, “Hey, what’s going on here-”

Olivier Blanchard: Really?

Fred McClimans: … and I have this….

Olivier Blanchard: Wait. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Hang on. Are you making the argument that Apple is trustworthy, more trustworthy than all the other tech companies because you can go talk to Tim Cook and hold him accountable?

Fred McClimans: No. Here’s what I’m saying, when I have a trust issue with my Apple device, there’s one company that I can go search for, and there’s one company I can look to. With the Android ecosystem, there are dozens of companies that are out there. When I have an issue with a device, even with an HTC or a Google Pixel 3, who do I talk to about that?

Olivier Blanchard: You’d talk to Google about it. It’s their device.

Fred McClimans: Yeah. But how do you talk to Google? Is there a Google store that I can go to and I can actually deal with people on the Google … No, it’s not.

Olivier Blanchard: Have you heard of customer service?

Fred McClimans: Google has the worst customer service in the world.

Olivier Blanchard: This may come as a surprise, but I’m going to suggest something. If you have a problem with your Pixel phone, you can take it back to where you bought it, one of the carrier stores like Verizon, for instance, if that’s where you got it from, or you could Google, “I have a problem with my Google phone, my Pixel phone. What should I do?” As a matter of fact, I’m fairly certain that with the on-board AI now on the new Pixels, you can talk directly to your phone, and your phone will help you solve the problem and connect you to the right people.

So the notion that because HTC manufactures or designs the Pixels for Google is somehow less of a direct route than iPhones, which are entirely manufactured by contract manufacturers and filled with technology from dozens of companies, from their chips to their software, is a little bit strange to me because they’re literally the same model, aside from the fact that Apple is a stack and Android is a broader ecosystem. The mechanism by which a phone is designed and brought to market is almost indistinguishable through the supply chain, whether it’s made by Apple, made by Google, or HTC, or Samsung, or whomever.

Fred McClimans: Yeah. I’ll put it this way. I’m playing a little bit of devil’s advocate in this here, but-

Olivier Blanchard: Oh, I know. I can tell.

Fred McClimans: With the Apple ecosystem, there is a fairly well-defined ecosystem. I think that for some users out there, that ecosystem matters. Is the Pixel 3 going to take market share away from the iPhone in any way? I don’t think so. I think the market for the Pixel 3 is a different market than the market for the iPhone X, the XS, the 10 XR. I think it’s just a slightly different demographic that exists out there. That said, I think the Pixel 3, the Pixels continue to get better. The performance continues to get better. The reviews on the camera, as you said earlier, it’s a kick-ass camera, you know?

So there are a lot of things that I think are happening right in this area, but we do tend to think of the marketplace as being sort of the Apple marketplace and the non-Apple marketplace, and in the non-Apple marketplace, there are a lot of competitors out there. If you are the kind of individual that says, “Yeah, I don’t want an Apple phone,” you’ve got a large number of choices to choose from out there. In that sense, I don’t see the Apple or the Pixel really having that much of a significant impact in the marketplace.

Now, there are other things that Google is doing that I think, yeah, there’s some debatable areas there, you know, Google Home. Do we really want Google Home? Or even Facebook’s … What the heck was it again? Hang on, I’ve got the Portal. Facebook Portal. Do we want these devices in our house readily gathering information on us. I’m not so sure there. And then, of course, there’s the whole issue that we talked about before the show today, Google Plus.

Olivier Blanchard: Actually, what we’re going to do is move on to the fast five before this show turns into an hour-long show, but we will circle back though to security and some of the other stuff that Google had to wrestle with this week that we can cover in the segment. I will, however, give myself the last word for this segment. It’s admiral’s prerogative. I think that really the fight right now, at least in the mobile handset market is really between Apple and Samsung. Those are the two titans, and I really do see Samsung potentially eating into Apple’s business there. Pixel has already been around for, this is only the third generation. They haven’t been really out there for that long. They don’t have as much of a history. They don’t have as much of a runway, so I’m not surprised that the market share for Pixel is still very small. What I will say, though, is that unless they screw this up and Pixel 3 is not as good as people hoped it would be, I do see them gaining traction, getting speed and four or five years from now it’s entirely possible, again, if they don’t screw this up and if they deliver on their promise, I could see Pixel being a valid number three or top three smartphone after whatever Samsung and Apple release next.

Fred McClimans: Yeah. In some markets, excluding China, I would agree with that or India perhaps.

Olivier Blanchard: Absolutely. Okay, so moving onto Fast Five. You have three, I think, today. Usually we have two plus two plus one.

Fred McClimans: I do.

Olivier Blanchard: You have three, so do the honors. Start us off with your first one.

Fred McClimans: So, the first Fast Five here, I’m actually going to weave in a bit of Google into this. Google chatbots were the rage a couple of years ago when they first started to move into that space and everybody talked about how Google and their AI bots were going to be everywhere in our phones and our devices. We’ve all backed off from that a bit. The chatbot functionality has morphed from what it first started to be, but one of the biggest changes that we’re starting to see is the shift from chatbots from consumer-facing to business-facing.

This week, while I was at the Freshworks Refresh 18 Conference in New York City, they announced their new omnibot, Freddy. Freddy is an omnibot designed to assist the agent in a B-to-B environment or a customer support environment, and the approach they’ve taken here I think is spot on. They are, by the way, using a bit of Google technology in there, so we see a bit of Google assistant integration. We see the hallmarks of the integration with Google and Freshworks, which I think is great, but the focus of Freddy is to help the agent better serve the customer, help the agent learn, prompt the agent to take certain steps, to educate and train the agent and refine what the agent is doing over time. For me, this is where there’s a much bigger market opportunity than in the consumer space right now. It’s a much smaller opportunity, but it’s an opportunity that you can learn from and advance much more aggressively in. With Freshworks and Freddy and an omnibot designed to help the agent, not the consumer, I think this is a winning move at this point.

Olivier Blanchard: Good point. That’s a good one. Okay, so my first one actually has to do with wearables, and I’m going to be brand agnostic here, although I will mention Google a little bit, but this is something I’ve been kind of sitting on for several is weeks, no actually it was several months. I saw some demos out on the west coast over the summer that showed essentially that the next evolution of wearables and watches, especially with regard to battery life. There’s not a whole lot that we can do to improve battery life right now. You can make a battery bigger. You can make the software better. You can change form factors and software a little bit to get a little bit more efficiency out of batteries, but ultimately one of the big problems, one of the big hurdles for wearables is that the battery doesn’t last near as long as consumers would like it to, especially if, say for a watch face or something with a display, you’re expecting that display to be on all the time.

Long story short, what engineers have managed to do, and these are not Apple engineers, by the way … This is more in the non-Apple space, so let’s call it the Android space, I guess. What they’ve been able to do is kind of create a dual system by which the hard, heavy processing elements of a smart watch or wearable device with a display are essentially only required for about 5% of the time, 5% of the device’s use, and the other 95% of the time those heavy processing tasks are really dormant and all you really have is kind of like a “watch mode” or basic passive display mode. What engineers have discovered is they could, by tweaking the battery system and some of the software, enable these devices to only draw from the heavy processing battery requirements when somebody is talking on the phone or checking something on the internet or actively using GPS, while most of the time, the other 95% of the time, when only the display is supposed to be up like a watch face, that can use a smaller battery or a smaller component of a battery that can last a lot longer.

The result of this is that wearables, especially smart watches, starting this year, will have much longer battery lives and will also be able to have a live display in watch mode for extended periods of time as opposed to shutting down and essentially looking like a piece of black glass. Garmin is taking advantage of this. Google’s Wear OS is also taking advantage of this, so I think it’s going to become a trend. One thing that I’ve noticed, and I’m partial to Garmin because I’m an endurance athlete, so Garmin is a huge part of my life, Garmin just announced a line of pretty rugged outdoor smart watches for the military and for endurance extreme athletes that has GPS built in, all kinds of stuff, heart rate monitor, so it’s a full spectrum of pretty much everything that you can ask for to wear on your wrist. It’s rated to 100-meter depth. It’s pretty incredible. I noticed that its battery life will last up to 14 days in watch mode, up to 16 hours in heavy GPS mode and up to 40 hours in what they call UltraTrac mode, which is basically kind of like a periodic GPS ping that just kind of like turns itself on and off over time to help you kind of not track your movement continuously, but track your progress along the course.

All this to say that your watches, the new generation of smart watches in the Android ecosystem, starting this year and definitely next year, will probably have two to three week battery lives if you use them mostly as just a plain watch to look at the time and will be able to last more than one day without being recharged with very heavy inconstant use of all of the features. That’s really good news. That was not a Fast Five. That was a long two. All right. Go ahead. Go ahead. Introduce your third one.

Fred McClimans: I tell you. My second Fast Five here is where you might actually see those watches advertised, and that would be on Amazon. When we look at the market penetration of Amazon into different areas we often talk about AWS and we talk about eCommerce, but advertising on Amazon has now become a major part of their revenue. They’re going to drive over $4.5 billion in revenue in 2018 through their Amazon advertising platform.

That’s huge. That’s the 1, 1.5X from last year. When we look at this now, obviously you have Google that’s up there in the $40 billion a year range. You’ve got Facebook number two. If Amazon can really keep this going, and we already know that Amazon is by far, when people are looking to purchase something, they’re the first place that people start to search for product. If they can continue this push here we could actually see Amazon, their advertising platform, in a couple of years, actually start to put some significant heat onto Facebook and Google, and I think that’s going to be a really interesting battle to watch.

Absolutely. Okay, so my second and final Fast Five, so we’re at number four now, is a follow-up on a story that we mentioned last week in which we were, at least I was skeptical. You’re less skeptical about it than I am I think, but it’s a story covered by Bloomberg Businessweek about a mysterious super secret miniature chip that had been implanted by the evil Chinese government into a bunch of servers that had somehow found their way into Amazon and Apple server farms among others. I think they were the only two companies cited, but there were roughly 30 US technology companies that might have been affected by this. The report was vehemently denied by both Apple and Amazon who claimed to have no idea what in the world Bloomberg MarketWatch was talking about, and the main source of all of this were these half-dozen unnamed sources within the US governments. Immediately, the people in the tech industry were skeptical, not so much about the fact that the Chinese were spying on us and planting chips in our devices, but skeptical about the extent to which this miniature chip was able to do the things that the article claimed it was able to do.

I just came back from a 5G summit in Texas and got a chance to talk to a bunch of very well-versed analysts and technology executives and IT professionals and they all kind of agreed with me that it’s not really the most credible story ever. However, Bloomberg Marketwatch did release a second story in which it talked about network ports. So, it’s basically the little plastic prong that sits at the end of your network cable, those being compromised and being used by the Chinese to spy on technology companies. That one makes a lot more sense. That one is actually much more within the realm of something that they could realistically do and that would be much easier to track. I just want to reiterate that my skepticism about the initial story about the magical super miniature chip, that skepticism is growing more and more by the day.

Fred McClimans: Very good. The question I have on that, though, is admittedly there are a lot of holes in this story, but then you have to ask, A) Was this something that was just simply made up by Bloomberg, and I don’t think the answer to that is yes. Then you have to ask, if it wasn’t made up by Bloomberg, what’s the genesis of the story? There’s something deeper taking place here that we don’t know what it is yet at this point and I’m really curious to find out.

Olivier Blanchard: I don’t think Bloomberg would have made it up either. I think that Bloomberg might have been sold a dubious bill of goods and apparently they weren’t the only ones.

Fred McClimans: By a large number of people.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah. They were the only news outlet and technology reporting outlet to bite on that. I’m assuming that they weren’t the only ones who were given this information, but they were the only ones who actually went with it. Nobody else backed that up. So, with the US government being somewhat motivated to potentially escalate or at least apply more pressure to the Chinese government within the midst of impending trade wars, I think that we can easily find motivation for this type of story to find it’s way to the press. I just want to still reiterate that whenever you hear stories like this and they’re only carried by one news source and none of the others will back it up or independently confirm it, that’s probably a sign to a….

Fred McClimans: Yeah. In fact, I’m going to do a quick shout-out here for an organization out there called CivikOwl. That’s Civic with a K. They actually vet and rate the quality of news stories based on the number of impartial third-party sources that are referenced in those stories. So, that’s a great thing. That’s C-I-V-I-K-O-W-L. Worth looking up.

So, my final Fast Five for the day, real quick one here. Last week I was out I Houston meeting with HPE, Intel and a bunch of their partners in the industrial IOT ecosystem. I had a great opportunity to get hands on with a product by a company named Realwear. They have an AR headset that really wraps round the back of your head, little screen out in front attaches to a helmet if you need it to. Phenomenal piece of technology. It has just come out that they and Colgate Palmolive, and Palmolive I did not know until this story broke and I actually looked it up that Palmolive was actually the original formulation of palm oil and olive oil which makes sense. But they are dropping the Realwear HMT-1 AR headset into 20 manufacturing facilities in 11 countries, I can tell you from first hand experience with this device, it’s lightweight, the functionality, the view image that you get from this little bar that wraps around in front of your eye is phenomenal. The clarity is great and the ability to literally point or look at an industrial device and get extended information off the sensors attached to that device is phenomenal.

So when it comes to AR we all like to talk about the glasses and our phones and so forth but here’s some real world application that makes good business sense, good safety sense, good training sense. So hats off to Realwear and the technology they’re developing.

Olivier Blanchard: Alright cool. So that does it for our Fast Five. So now let’s move to the Tech Bites which again, there were a lot of contenders this week. And so I couldn’t really narrow it down to one in particular and I don’t wanna dump on Google more than I need to. But let’s say that today’s Tech Bites is inspired by the “security breach” which wasn’t really a breach at all I think of Google and it’s users. That led to the shutdown of Google Plus or at least some version, the consumer facing version of Google Plus. And so my Tech Bites this week I think goes out to all the technology companies, whether they’re Google or Facebook or Apple or whomever that still want us to provide more and more information, more and more data that reiterate that we need to trust them with our privacy and our lives, that try to sell us cameras and listening devices to put in our homes, to record us and broadcast our lives to the world and still at the same time seem either not particularly interested in protecting our privacy or actively working to undermine that privacy to line their pockets.

And so with no particular company in general, or in particular, I think that’s an adequate Tech Bites and the fact that we’re still here, that I have to sound like a broken record, week after week, talking about data privacy and data security with these companies. I think denotes the fact that there’s still a huge problem that’s being talked about a lot but that’s not actually being addressed.

Fred McClimans: Well you know, I’ll narrow it back to Google, and I’ll just look at this particular situation where it’s debatable whether it was a significant event or just sort of more of a interim nuisance in terms of, “Hey look here’s a flaw that we have in our … Or an exploit that’s in our system.” Either way, from my perspective Google failed in a couple of ways on this. The first was notification. When this came out, what we saw was a corporate policy that said okay, “Let’s read the law, let’s read our obligations and let’s make a legal determination. What’s our exposure?” So I think that whole approach there, yeah, it just doesn’t feel right. And I understand why they do that but they need to address that. It does not make me feel any more warmly about Google.

And then the second thing was just the lack of transparency around shutting down Google Plus. I mean, let’s face it, I’ve been a Google Plus user for years but I stopped a couple of years ago because there just wasn’t anything there. And I think for a lot of people, despite the fact that Google has kind of morphed the platform to actually provide some reasonable functionality. I think this is just an excuse to shut down Google Plus on the consumer side just once and for all. An event took place, they’re gonna take advantage of it and they’re gonna say, “Hey look this is it, it’s gone. We’re washing our hands of this thing that we never should have steeped into in the first place”, because Google just does not know how to do social in any way.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah. Well it should never have been a social platform. It should have been a collaboration platform.

Fred McClimans: Yes.

Olivier Blanchard: But that’s a topic for us for a different day.

Fred McClimans: Yes. Yes.

Olivier Blanchard: So yeah, I’ll give myself the last word, that one as well because I can. But I do see a glimmer of hope in Europe. European regulators, not just the European Commission, but individual countries like United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, seem to be taking aim at Google over this one, yeah and it’s pretty much like, I think they have people work full-time to try to extract money and sue very large US tech companies whether they’re Apple, Google, Microsoft or whomever. And I think that’s if we can’t legislate them or force them as consumers to do the right thing or to steer themselves towards more data privacy and more data security for it, for their users. I think that very severe financial penalties across Europe and other jurisdictions might help motivate them to get there. And that’s what I see happening across Europe. We’ll keep an eye on that for you. So we now come to the last section or segment of our show, which is the Crystal Ball. So as usual or at least when I am the host, I want to circle back to the original story and ask you Fred, did you look into your crystal ball and tell me where Google goes from here. Let me help you with the direction that I want us to go into.

Fred McClimans: I love that. Where are they going and let me tell you first.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah, let me kind of like set some guard rails. Does Google continue to just kind of blunder along with its rather disconnected strategy between hardware, software, search business, privacy, et cetera? Or does Google start to consolidate some of its strategy and starts taking its reputation and its entire brand experience and brand identity more seriously, and tries to be a little bit more like Apple? Like it seems to be wanting to two years ago and now it seems like they’ve lost their way. But do you think they can find that way again or do you think they just continue on this kind of unstructured path?

Fred McClimans: To be honest, I don’t think since the early days of Google search that they’ve had a coherent brand strategy for the business. I think the breakup and the creation of Alphabet was a good step there and a necessary step recognizing that Google is search. But Google is also advertising. Google is the pixel, it’s Android, Google is waymo. I mean think about that. Google is also autonomous driving, Google is YouTube. I think there are so many different aspects of Google that they have become sort of the 21st century conglomerate and I don’t see them changing that any time soon. I’m not sure they need to other than they do need to provide a bit more coherent strategy and synergy between them. And some corporate transparency. But no, I don’t see them bringing everything together any more today than they were two, three years ago.

Olivier Blanchard: Okay. Well that’s kind of grim. Well I don’t know …

Fred McClimans: It’s not grim, it’s just the way they are.

Olivier Blanchard: I don’t disagree. I mean, they’ve shown attempts but they haven’t shown an ability to together. But I think that regardless of that, they need to learn because if Google really want to displace Apple in a hardware world, if they really want to be a player in the smartphone market, in the home automation or smart home market. And they really want to integrate themselves in every aspect of our lives, which they seem to have that business strategy, they just don’t necessarily have the cultural strategy. Google needs to learn to not only bring it all together but also create a brand that breathes and lives trust. If we cannot trust Google, Google will not be successful as the company that it is trying to turn itself into. And so either they succeed in this or they fail. But there’s no half measure here. It’s either they will or they won’t. Right now, I don’t think they will but if jurisdictions in Europe and the United States apply enough pressure, and if consumers apply enough pressure, then I think they will have no choice but to move in that direction.

So that’s, I think does it.

Fred McClimans: It does.

Olivier Blanchard: This edition of FTP: The Futurum Tech Podcast. Thanks for listening. Catch us next time, same time, same channel as they say. Don’t forget to subscribe so you will have access to our podcast as soon as it’s released and in the meantime, have a great week.

Outro: There will be plenty of more tech topics and tech conversations right here on the Futurum Tech Podcast, FTP. Hit that subscribe button, join us, become part of our community. We would love to hear from you. Check us out, futurumresearch.com or Futurum Tech Podcast. Daniel Newman, Fred McClimans, Olivier Blanchard. We’ll see you later.

Fred McClimans

Fred McClimans

Fred is an experienced analyst and advisor, bringing over 30 years of experience in the digital and technology markets to the Futurum team. Prior to Futurum, Fred launched the equity research team at Samadhi Partners and provided marketing strategy through the Wasabi Rabbit digital agency. He also previously served as an EVP and Research Vice President at HfS Research, launching its Digital Trust practice and coverage of emerging "trust-enabling" technologies. Fred previously founded analyst firms Current Analysis (now GlobalData, acquired by PDM), Decisys (acquired by the Burton Group/Gartner), and the Aurelian Group. Fred’s analyst and consulting experience also includes Gartner and E&Y, with technology experience at Newbridge Networks’ Advanced Technology Group (now Alcatel) and DTECH LABS (now part of Cubic Corporation).

A frequent author and speaker, Fred has served as a guest lecturer at the George Mason University School of Business (Porter: Information Systems and Operations Management), keynoted the Colombian Associación Nacional De Empressarios Sourcing Summit, served as an executive committee member of the Intellifest International Conference on Reasoning (AI) Technologies, and has spoken at #SxSW on trust in the digital economy. His analysis and commentary has appeared through venues such as Cheddar TV, Adotas, CNN, Social Media Today, Seeking Alpha, Talk Markets, and Network World (IDG). Fred is also a founding member of the non-profit Center for IoT Security.
Fred McClimans