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The Innovation Apple: Does Apple Still Have Mojo – Futurum Tech Podcast Episode 009
by Olivier Blanchard | September 7, 2018

In this week’s Futurum Tech podcast we ask the question is Apple still innovating? We also look back at some of the big hacks of the past, are we doing enough? We talk Apple, we talk Lyft, we talk BMW, and so much more on Futurum Tech podcast.

Our Main Dive

Apple Events is coming up soon, and we’ve noticed that we’re just a little less excited about it than we would have been years ago. Why is that? Probably because Apple doesn’t seem to be nearly as innovative as it once was. In fact, the company is more iterative than innovative these days, making more incremental improvements than mind-blowing devices we’ve never seen before.

Sure, a big part of that is that we’re so used to the mobile market now. Smartphones, especially iPhones, have made huge leaps and bounds in the last decade, so now it’s hard to surprise consumers. But it doesn’t help that many of Apple’s announcements involve slight improvements to the iPad, Apple Watch, or iPhone, or new models that only offer a few additional interesting features. Either way, these changes are not typically worthy of all the excitement and secrecy that Apple tries to drum up these days.

Bottom line: Apple just doesn’t innovate like it used to. In fact, some of the high-end Android devices—like the Note 8 and Pixel 3—have been getting more interest and excitement from people recently. More people we know are switching from Apple to Android, and it used to be the other way around. So can Apple find a way to keep people super interested in their products? Probably only if they come up with something brand new in the VR, AR, data, or analytics space. You can read more about our thoughts on this by reading Olivier’s predictions about Apple’s upcoming event.

Our Fast Five

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

  • BMW will be incorporating digital assistants like Cortana and Alexa into some of their newest car models soon. So if you want to turn on the AC, heater, radio, etc. you can just tell the AI system in your car and it will make it happen. And this system is actually integrated into the car, not your phone, for a change.
  • This week was the yearly September round of the Silicon Valley testimony with Congress. This time, Google didn’t send anyone that Congress wanted to talk to, so the company simply wasn’t involved—which was odd. As a result, it focused mainly on Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, who discussed how they managed their networks amid claims of Russian interference and political bias.
  • The Justice Department is considering trying to break up some of the tech giants, such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Uber. The government is thinking about taking antitrust action against these major businesses in order to reduce the economic power they currently hold, as this is looked at with concern by some.
  • Lyft may be more of an innovator than we thought, as it just started testing out a scooter service in a few markets. Consumers can rent the electric scooters through an app for $1 plus 15 cents per minute.
  • Sony Pictures was hacked in 2014, revealing a lot of private information. While North Korea was suspected even back then, this week the suspect was named: Park Jin-hyok. Plus, investigators found out more information about his team, such as that its members stole $81 million from a bank in Bangladesh. So we’re glad the group has been identified and charged!

Tech Bites

For this week’s “tech that bites” award, let’s talk about Equifax and Congress. The big breach we all heard about was a year ago, and yet not much has actually changed. We heard all about how Congress was going to push better legislation, try to get more protection for infrastructure, hold Equifax and other companies more accountable, etc. But nothing has happened. Maybe next year will be the year Congress actually does more to protect consumers’ personal information. We’ll see.

Crystal Ball: Future-um Predictions and Guesses

Now for our crystal ball prediction! Let’s talk about smartphones and what they’re going to look like in the future. We’re thinking that we’re going to get to the point where phones are small enough to become wearable, specifically in eyewear. After all, we’ve already been able to make tech devices pretty tiny without losing processing capability, power, etc. And we always have our heads down, looking at our phones. It’s time to get our heads up, which smartphone eyewear would enable. We could get personalized imagery that is customized depending on our field of view, which would be neat. However, none of this would happen until at least 2022, more like 2025 most likely. And there you have it, this week’s Futurum Tech Podcast.

 

 

Olivier Blanchard: Welcome to this week’s edition of FTP, the Futurum Tech podcast. I’m Olivier Blanchard, Senior Analyst with Futurum Research, and joining me today are my co-hosts and colleagues Dan Newman and Fred McClimans. How are you gentlemen doing today?

Daniel Newman: I’m feeling really good today Olivier. Always excited for our weekly recording of this show. I know you’ve come up with some good things to talk about. And your turn to take the lead of the hosting duties.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah. I don’t know if our listeners have noticed. We take turns every week. We’re on a rotation. So it’s my turn this week.

Fred McClimans: Which is why I’m so excited today.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah. I’m the conductor, you guys are the talent. So I’m going to let you guys do most of the talking. I promise.

Daniel Newman: I don’t believe it for a minute.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah. I promise to try. So we’re going to start today’s show with a focus on innovation in the mobile market. Talk about that a little bit with the Apple Events quickly approaching next week. Then we’re going to share some of our favorite tech news stories of the week in our Fast Five segments. Followed by Tech Bites in which we highlight one of the most tech related fails of the week. And then we will end our show through our Crystal Ball. So if you’re new to the show, that’s pretty much the format.

One little note before we start, as always, it goes without saying that this show is intended for informational purposes only. And no advice or insights provided here today should be taken as investment advice.

So moving straight to our main topic today. Next week is the much-anticipated Apple Events, quote unquote. Which we’ve learned to expect to come in the fall every year, when usually the next iPhone and other cool gadgets are delivered. And it’s my opinion in the last few years that Apple makes great products. There’s never been a bad iPhone. Everything they put out has been great. But by the same token, it feels like Apple is falling slightly behind every year, that their designs are becoming more iterative than truly innovative. And that they’re kind of losing some of the momentum, especially against premium Android phones Samsung. So my question to you today is Apple still dominant in the mobility space? Or is iPhone now kind of an also-in product. So I’m going to start with Dan.

Daniel Newman: Well I think the mathematics, statistics would say Apple is still a very, very relevant and meaningful player in the mobility space. Unit sales of premium devices, they still lead many markets and in many places. We’ve talked on this show about struggles in certain markets, for instance India, where their pricing model has made them somewhat difficult for consumers to buy into their products. They obviously aren’t getting a lot of growth or demand inside of emerging markets because their pricing is so prohibitive.

Even to somebody who is not an Apple fan, difficult to write off Apple and say they aren’t innovating or innovative. However, I just did an interview for the Telegraph last week that got published. And that was the very first question that was asked to me, “Is Apple innovative? Is Apple innovating anymore?” And I think if you look at the multitude of Apple launches, they are what I would consider iterative, or micro-innovation, or just incremental improvements. And incrementalism is what eventually put Blackberry out of business. Incrementalism is what has consistently led to companies who once dominated industries to becoming either also-in companies, me too companies, or nonexisting companies.

So I do feel like Apple is getting to a point now where you can only have so many incremental major massive launches. So they’re still playing on that marketing motion that was so successful for them so long. The secretism, the excitement, the simplicity of the Apple launch. And everyone’s, “Oh my god, what’s going to happen?” However, and you’ll color me surprised, but if it’s not just another mid-year or new model phone, updated iPad and some enhancements to their Apple Watch products, and some more changes to their app store, I’ll be very surprised. If they come out with anything that really blows the mind in VR, AR, analytics, data, or some sort of revolutionary product, I would be mind blown.

So long answer to a very simple, short question, are they still innovating? Not really.

Fred McClimans: But they are dominating. I think it’s hard to look at Apple and not walk away with the feeling that they are one of the premier brands, one of the dominating forces in technology today. But at the same time, to your point Dan, innovating, it’s tough to innovate in a market that has been around as long as this market has. And typically, where we see innovation, good examples in the past are where technology or some product arrives that creates that new mark. That opens up something that people weren’t quite expecting. And Apple certainly had that when they launched the iPhone in 2007. And it’s interesting because if I look at the business and the reception from Wall Street, from investors, and from consumers, 2007 really was a defining year for Apple. Interestingly they launched the iPhone that year. And the day after the announcement, their stock was up over 10, almost 10 and a half percent, that’s big. If you look at everything since then, 2008, yeah they dropped five, six points. 2009, they dropped slight. 2010 they dropped a bit. Even in recent years, 2017, they had zero change to their stock price after launching the iPhone X and that’s a huge deal.

You look at that and you say, Okay, the defining moment has passed for this industry. Now it’s about being innovative in incremental steps, as you put it. And if fact, I think there’s area where Apple is on track there. But they’ve also got huge competition today. In fact one of the things that I’m really excited about isn’t Apple necessarily in the mobile space, but Samsung. And the potential to finally get a flexible screen phone. Not just from a consumer perspective, but when I think about the business and the industrial applications that that brings to the forefront. There, I think we have a chance to really see some innovation take place in the market.

Olivier Blanchard: Well, it’s interesting that you mentioned that type of feature. What real advantage would a flexible phone have for the average user? So let’s say the next iPhone or the next Samsung is flexible and it could bend. Is it just a matter of if you don’t put a cover on it, you won’t break it if you sit on it? What’s the advantage?

Fred McClimans: No. It’s more an issue of behavior. When innovation hits the market, behavior changes. When we talk about digital transformation in the enterprise, a company achieving a state of business agility so they can evolve and adapt faster, what we’re really talking about is that organization’s ability to adapt quickly to new processes. To do something that they haven’t been able to do in the past. To be able to not just streamline something, but do something different, generate a new revenue stream. The iPhone, that did that.

When you look at Samsung and the flexible screen, the challenge that we’ve had for so may years is that the iPhone, the Samsung, take your pick, they are a square brick that we hold in our hand. You can flip it open, maybe with the new Samsung, you can fold it. That’s great. That’s not that wow. What I think is wow is the ability to say, “We’re going to take this mobile communications device, and now we’re going to bake it into environments that we’ve never been able to bake it to before. We’re going to be able to do things with that, embed the technology into different systems that we have never been able to do before.” That type of behavioral change, what we can do with our mobile phones, that’s something that I think is waiting to happen. And when it does, I think it’s going to be a wow factor. Not perhaps initially because people will go, “Yeah, great, I can flip my phone in two, I want one.” But once we figure out how to really leverage that bendable OLED screen, there I think really take off.

Daniel Newman: Well, I think to the credit of innovation in general, we often don’t know what we’re going to do with it until we get it. The majority of the market doesn’t actually know what innovation’s going to mean or them until they’ve sort of seen it, touched it, felt it. Kind of like you give a sandbox to a developer and you think they’re going to do one thing with it. And all of a sudden they’re developing a completely different program, solution, capability. So flexible devices, where does it come into? I don’t know, does it turn into a displacement of the Apple of the wearable watches? Can you take your phone, can they make it out of an OLED screen with some sort of rubberized, you wrap it around your wrist and you go for a run? Now you don’t have two devices, you have one device. Or you don’t have to get a cellular watch, it’s just your phone.

Seems a little, as the materials become a little more comfortable and more flexible and more simple, it gets you down to using the singular device. Does it allow you to have it be a little more rugged? Let’s face it; phones and devices are super sensitive. I have two kids, and they’ve all broken their screens. My wife breaks her screen. I think I’m the only one who hasn’t broken my screen, and it doesn’t take much. They show you dropping it off a one-story building, but I’ve seen it fall out of their hands from three feet away and you crack the screen. And is it truly innovation? I don’t know. I think it is in the sense that going from 8 hours to 16 hours of battery life on a device is innovation. And it is meaningful innovation.

I forget where it was, there was an accident in Asia where a guy on his moped fell off the cliff. Or he was on a scooter, went off the cliff, and his phone was in his pocket. And basically he was found because he was able to get on Facebook. And people were able to drop pins of his location. And the phone lasted long enough to basically allow emergency services to find him while the community on Facebook was aggregated in order to help him. Because his actual … It was a Vietnam or somewhere, and I’m forgetting where it was. But his local phone broke, so it was only an American phone. And all he had was Facebook. And the point was that battery life was the difference between life and death.

So can it be innovation? Can incrementalism be innovation? And that goes back to my first comment, yeah. How are we going to use flexible materials? We probably don’t fully know how that’s going to actually to change our lives. But I would like to think that if I put my phone in my back pocket and sit on it some time in the future, that doesn’t mean the end of it. And when my rather large stature sits on anything, it’s the end of it.

Olivier Blanchard: Well, so to come back to Apple, it’s funny because we’ve been talking about something that Samsung is to Apple. So there’s this weird disconnect where we’ve been trained to get really excited about the Apple Events. And to anticipate great things. But at the same time, we haven’t really seen much innovation from Apple since 2007. The iPhone form factor is pretty much the same. The performance of the device, from battery, to modem and download speeds, to UX and security isn’t even as impressive as it used to be, especially compared to some of the premium Android devices out there.

And one thing, I’ve noticed, and this is not scientific, we don’t have data on this, what we do have is just kind of like anecdotal evidence. Everyone that I talk to, and I still run into some diehard Apple users and iPhone fans. But almost everyone I talk to now is really excited about the new Notes. So the Note 9, Last year it was the Note 8. And also the Pixel 3 coming out in a few months. And these were all people who were two years ago, huge Apple fans. So I’m not really seeing a lot of people switch from Android to Apple anymore like they used to, I’m seeing the opposite. It’s just everyone I know is migrating away from the iPhone and getting into premium Androids. I went to Verizon last week to activate a phone, a Pixel. And the guy there only wanted to talk to me about how he can’t wait for the Pixel 3 to come out. That’s the kind of excitement we used to see for Apple. We don’t see that. You guys want to comment? Dan?

Daniel Newman: Well, incrementalism is definitely causing the lag in excitement. I think it’s a combination of the realities of people looking for new leadership. People are excited to see something else, and there’s new leadership coming. I also think we see perception is reality. We tend to surround ourselves and find people that see the world similar to how we do. And so, me being someone that’s often been more negative on Apple for a while, I tend to be more engaged in conversations with those that share my values. I’m certainly not a defender of Apple by any means. I haven’t seen, between Google, Note, or Apple, anything that I would truly call disruptive innovation. Every single one of them has been playing in incrementalism, but I would say they’ve all caught up. And there was a point where those others were not caught up.

And I think that may be the most worrying thing. If I’m out there and I’m investing in Apple, or I’m considering getting behind Apple, do they really offer anything anymore that the other don’t? And I would say no. They really have, besides a closed ecosystem, and Fred, take a breath. Okay. We don’t have a lot of time to talk about it. They used to really have something that was an experience that was far superior, and I wouldn’t say it’s far superior in any way anymore.

Olivier Blanchard: Fred, you’ve, got 30 seconds. Close it out.

Fred McClimans: I don’t expect a big wow out of Apple or out of anybody, at this point. When this market emerged, it was a new market, and there were a lot of innovative things that people were doing. I think, today, we’re bogged down by the reality that the mobile market has been around for a while. We know there are challenges. We know you have to deal with 5G. We know you have security. We know you have battery life. And so, these vendors, they fixate on that, and that’s probably good, because we get good features and good value out of that. I think with Apple, they’re in that situation where they are a legacy player. They’re doing some interesting things. They’ve got automated car technology coming out. They’ve got some good stuff in the medical space. But I don’t expect a lot of innovation, but I’m not dissatisfied with Apple, either.

Olivier Blanchard: Excellent. Well, you guys if you haven’t read it already, I wrote a piece on this at futurumresearch.com. So check out our insight section for a little bit of my opinion on what to expect and what not to expect next week with the Apple event. And I guess we’ll catch up on this next week, same time, same channel to see if we were right or if Apple pulled a fast one on us.

All right, we’re going to move forward with our Fast Five. So, Dan, what is your first tech story of the week that caught your eye.

Daniel Newman: So, BMW is launching in several of their models an Alexa, Cortana, Google AI type assistant that’s going to start to become your daily interaction with your automobile. Female voice to start, although, being a German company, they still use the masculine often when they reference it, but that’s more of a matter of taste and marketing. It’s kind of cool, as you can name it anything you want. And you’re basic day-to-day driving features. I can call it Olivier, “Olivier, I’m cold.” It will drive the heat. “Olivier, I want to listen to this kind of music.” But it’s a fully built in AI. So it’s not like some of the sync type technologies where you’re using a third party that has to be connected through your phone, through the car. This is truly built into the car, AI experience that’s going to be made available in models immediately and will probably be part of the entire line of BMWs in the coming year.

Olivier Blanchard: All right, Fred, what’s yours?

Fred McClimans: So, this week we had the annual September round of Silicone Valley testimony in Congress. The Senate intelligence committee invited Google, Facebook, and Twitter to attend and to testify, and then there was a House committee that followed that that was just limited to, or limited to Jack Dorsey, from Twitter. I had the opportunity on Tuesday to preview the tech politics of all this on Cheddar, and I’ve got to say that pretty much everything we talked about there came through in the hearings. There was a lot of apologetic perspective from the part of the technology providers. Those that did testify, that would be Jack Dorsey and Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook. Interestingly, Google sent nobody. They tried to send Walker there, Chief Legal Officer, who had testified previously. They were told, “No, we’re really not interested in hearing from him. We’d like to hear from Paige or from Sundar Pichai.” But neither of them showed. So they had an empty chair sitting there. Not good.

From my perspective, this kind of tells Congress from Google’s take, “We’re not really that concerned with what you’re doing, we’ll be fine.” But it also sends a message to the user community. I mean, we’re dealing with a lot of issues around politics, around fake news about influence and expecting users to just kind of sit there while Google figures it out, I think is not the best approach. So I kind of dinged them on that, but you know, it was an interesting hearing. At the end of the day, nothing really came out of it. You know, they committed a bit to more collaboration, but I think realistically, these vendors, they need to get together. They need to come up with some internal working standards. They need to be proactive and transparent about data, about influence. And if they don’t, I would expect to see some attempts to regulate portions of their business that would most likely be misguided.

Olivier Blanchard: All right, well mine actually, my Fast Five pick, I only get one this week, is related to that. It’s basically mounting pressure, or momentum rather in Washington. But a DOJ to seriously look at trying to break up tech giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber, perhaps even Twitter. Although that one doesn’t usually come up. But definitely Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Uber. It’s interesting because it hails back to the, about the same time 100 years ago when the steel and railroad barons were under scrutiny by Congress for antitrust issues and were also broken up.

So, there’s this interesting dynamic in Washington that we’re going to see develop, probably unfold in the next few years where there will be, I think, an effort to find ways of maybe breaking up Facebook and Amazon. I’m not sure how that’s going to play out. Antitrust is much more fluid than people realize. There are two very, I would say, emotional camps, when it comes to antitrust, and the way that it’s interpreted by the courts and by different experts, so it’s going to be a really interesting debate to see unfold. I don’t think that the government will prevail if it really does try to break up these companies. But the effort will be … All right, Dan. What’s your second one this week?

Daniel Newman: I’m having fun today. You guys are so serious. Lyft is doing a limited roll out of scooter service. Launching with the app. They did 350 to get started in the Bay and in a few other markets. Buck, and then 15 cents a mile, I believe it is. And then basically zooming around town. Lyft is the next company getting into the scooter sharing business. I think Lyft’s an innovator, I think they’re a player. I think they’re the antithesis, or the anti Uber, in the sense that they’ve gone slower. They’ve grown more organically. They’ve lost less money. They’re doing things smarter. And so I look at little things like this as probably low risk attempts at innovation or product enhancements for their customers. And I think that as we’re moving towards sustainability, things like electric scooters to zoom around downtown, is maybe a better approach than putting everybody in cars. And it’s a way people can get around, and it’s pretty inexpensive if you think, for a buck, and then 15 cents a mile, or a minute, whatever it is, you can have a scooter, get from point A to point B where you need. On with your way and on with your day.

Olivier Blanchard: I just wanted to point out that the laws of unintended consequences. I just read an article, I can’t remember where it was, about the correlation between the rise of scooters, and urban environments and the rise of visits to the emergency room as a result of using more scooters in an urban environment.

Fred McClimans: Makes sense to me.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah, people are crashing into things. All right, Fred. What’s your last one. Oh, I’m sorry, Dan. Go ahead. Go ahead.

Daniel Newman: I’m not ready yet to call it wrong because more people using scooters. It’s kind of like more people starting dead lifting on Friday probably means more back injuries. I mean, I think there’s education and growth that needs to take place.

Olivier Blanchard: It should be simple, but there’s a learning curve there. We’re right at the beginning of it.

Fred McClimans: Well see, Dan, we’re picking it up. We’re being a bit more jovial for you. I mean, if we wanted to get really jovial, we could talk a bit about Elon Musk and what appears to be tape of him getting high with Joe Rogan.

Daniel Newman: But we won’t.

Olivier Blanchard: Or not getting high.

Fred McClimans: Or not getting high.

Olivier Blanchard: You get need to inhale to get high.

Fred McClimans: Yeah. So, my Fast five, my second Fast Five of the day is going back to North Korea. Remember the Sony hack that took place back in 2014. Sony Pictures was hacked. There was a lot of corporate information and a lot of statements by employees and stars that was revealed as a result of that. It was a nasty affair. We pretty quickly pegged it as North Korea. But this week we actually named an individual. Park Jin-hyok, I’m guessing is the name. It’s P-A-R-K J-I-N hyphen H-Y-O-K. And he was named, charged with wire fraud and computer fraud with the hack, but also in the indictment, was some additional information about the team that he’s been working with within North Korea. They are apparently operating out of several other countries, including China. They, over the years, have had some significant successes to the detriment of others.

They stole $81 million from the Bangladeshi Central Bank. And apparently that was almost a billion dollars. Except that they made an error as they were going in there. But, the fact that we can identify people like this, I think is good. But more importantly, it just heightens the level of awareness that we need to have around computer security. And the fact that as we move forward with tech, the enemy moves forward with tech as well. So, glad to see him named. And hoping that this is something we can actually bring to justice.

Olivier Blanchard: I just want to point out that I think it’s pretty awesome that you started that segment with we can be more jovial, and now let’s talk about North Korea. That was a good transition. I think you win that one today.

Okay, so that’s it for Fast Five. So Tech Bites is the section, it’s the section of the show when we talk about the worst mistakes that we found in tech this week, and some weeks it’s hard to pick which one we really want to feature. This week there weren’t really that many Tech Bites, but the one thing that caught my eye, is that after a year, or rather, a year after Equifax’s mega breach, I think you guys remember this, when Equifax was breached and millions of bits of data, private data from consumers, was released out in the wild, it really hasn’t been much that’s been done by Congress. There’s been a lot of talk about, hey we’re going to do this, and we need to have better legislation, and we need to protect our infrastructure, and pass laws to protect consumer privacy and really make these companies like Equifax accountable when they don’t have adequate measures in place to protect our data.

And really it’s been a big giant bubble from Congress on this. It’s been all talk no action, and I thought it was important to mention that, especially in light of the fact that we are seeing indictments, we are seeing federal agencies and law enforcement agencies around the world crack down and try to track down who these bad actors are, Congress is kind of sitting on their hands with this and not doing much to protect us. So maybe this year will be the year that they actually start doing something. We’ll see. Any comment on that guys?

Fred McClimans: Good luck having something take place that’s positive right now.

Daniel Newman: Well there’s got to be a lot of comments on that and I think this could be an entire section of the show. I’m a pretty big cynic right now watching our government consistently look and pass up on opportunities to make meaningful changes. This isn’t just our government, this is the problem with weighted entities trying to move quickly. And the thing about cyber security is it moves very fast. The problem with government is it moves slow. And so, the operations that we’re building to protect and secure our data cannot move nearly as fast as group of hackers in Korea or Russia who are literally, to the Mr. Robot style, in the back of a lab somewhere testing hacking and communicating and collaborating on dark channels. It’s unfortunate. I’ll parallel it to the movie The Big Short, which I’ve enjoyed a few times at this point, and how they talked about the CDOs, the credit default swaps and stuff, and now there’s basically a new product that banks are rolling out that’s exactly the same thing.

It’s tranches that are investment opportunities that, once again, if you look at the math behind how the whole housing market got blown up, it was all very calculated, and everybody involved knew that they would do it and they would get away with it, because the government would be forced to intervene.

This is kind of a similar thing. These companies get hacked, an unfortunate circumstance. The government talks a lot. People move on quickly and forget, because like every major event that’s taken place … Look at every other political event. Someone gets caught doing something terrible. We talk about it on the news for a week. The Kaepernick thing with Nike is a hot thing right now. In a week, everyone’s going to forget.

We’ve entered this really short-term memory society. Bad things happen. All that we need now is sound bite. We don’t actually need action. We talk about it, and they won’t do anything until enough resistance comes up. Not enough resistance has come up yet. We are literally standing, spinning in a world of quicksand while the hackers continue to get ahead.

Olivier Blanchard: Politically engaged populace is what we need. Don’t rely on Congress. Yeah, put their asses to the fire.

Fred McClimans: We do in some areas, California as an example. A lot of people ding California for being a little bit aggressive when it comes to regulation, but I’ve got to give California props, no prop pun intended there, but they actually sat down and they came up with a bill that helps improve a bit in this area regarding data privacy and user data. It’s not a perfect piece of legislation, but it’s passed, as I understand, and goes into effect in 2020.

That kind of highlights, though, the issue. I mean, while everything in Congress just kind of died there, I’m not sure that companies necessarily need to look to the government or should look to the government for cybersecurity issues. I mean, this is something that companies have to be responsible for within their company. If they collect data, they’ve got to secure the data. If they share data, they’ve got to make sure it’s the right data. If they give it to somebody else, they have to make sure that person isn’t pulling a Cambridge Analytica with it.

Where I think we can get reasonable legislation is if we look back to the issues as California did, and as the E.U. has done. Look at data privacy. The challenge here is that in the U.S. we’re just too short-sighted. We know what’s going on here. We know that there are issues with data. We know that there are going to be issues about ownership of data, about the value of data, about how companies should potentially either update users about what they’re doing with the data, what new data they’ve created by aggregating additional data sources in, and then, of course, the whole issue, how do you value that, and should users participate in the spoils of data aggregation.

All these are issues that need to be addressed. We just don’t have anybody that’s sitting there going, “Look, here’s the 10-year, 20-year vision for how we as a country want to approach data,” and as part of that, cybersecurity, and the issues that come with that.

Olivier Blanchard: It’s easier to talk and even just focus on elections and what we want our representatives to do based on the typical issues of abortion, and culture wars, and defense. We haven’t really learned as a society to really put infrastructure, innovation, technology at the forefront of these discussions. They’re still more emotional than not.

Daniel Newman: The great example that you gave, Fred, was a bill that was being rolled out progressively in one of our more progressive states. It’s going to go into effect in 16 months. It’s like we just aren’t moving fast enough. I think your biggest and greatest point was we can’t depend on our government to do it. It’s got to be the private sector. There are areas where the private sector should and needs to lead, and to keep up with Black Hat, we’re going to need to do it in the private sector.

Olivier Blanchard: All right. Well, that’s a topic that we’ll need to pick up again some other day. I’m assuming that it’s going to bleed into the potential breakup of these companies. All this stuff is kind of meshed together.

Now let’s move forward to our last section of our show, the Crystal Ball, and we’re going to kind of go full circle to our original topic. What I was thinking is that smartphones have had pretty much the same form factor, evolved very little since the beginning of smartphones, really. It’s essentially just kind of a little box that sits in your pocket with a predominant screen.

My question to you, if your crystal ball is ready and warmed up, is how long before the next inflection points, the next evolution of devices that we carry with us, and what will the next category of device look like? Is it going to be eyewear? Is it going to be a flexible screen like we talked about earlier? Is it going to be more of a microprojector, so your interface is basically whatever surface you want to project it to? Is it going to be a glove-like device? Is there going to be no change? What do you guys think? Fred, you go first.

Fred McClimans: That’s a pretty wide set of possibilities you put out there. But from my perspective, they all kind of focus in on the area of adaptable wearable technology that goes beyond some of the trials that we’ve seen in the past, people sewing a phone or something into a jacket and trying to sell that for 25x the normal price. I think we’ve moved past that.

I really do think that we’re coming to that point in terms of mobility, in terms of power consumption, processing capability, and the adaptability of the technology where we can now get things small enough to bake them into eyewear. We can bake them into objects. Think of your glasses as sort of the internet of things next device that could be coming down the road there. In that particular space, if I had to choose just one area, I think that augmented reality and derivatives of that are probably the area where we see the next big boost. I’m just not sure when that happens.

Snap just came out with a new version of their Spectacles, supposed to be an interesting step there. I’m really more excited about what Apple might be doing and what other people might be kind of contemplating in that space. But I’d say it’s that whole wearables adaptable technology, and we’re at that point now where it’s about to occur.

Olivier Blanchard: Right. Dan?

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I can’t argue with you, Fred. I have to say I pretty much agree. I think it’s a mixed reality derivative. I’ve said kind of like the evolution of man, where you see the ape, and it goes vertical, and I think we’ve sort of gone the other way with our phones, where we’ve started to kind of curl back over, when you look at society, and we’re kind of pretty soon going to be dragging our arms on the ground so we’re always able to look at our hands and we can see our phones.

I think the movement forward has got to be in our heads up, and that’s going to be delivering data, personalized imagery, probably short and long field, meaning some sort of customization based on field of view. You could use the angle of which you’re looking at a building, and it could personalize a message to you because it knows it’s you and your angle based on where you’re standing, some sort of embed of wearable.

I also do think a short field, whether that’s a contact lens, a pair of glasses, a visor … I think Magic Leap is kind of trying this. I’m not as optimistic as you are, Fred, about Apple, but I do think that it’s going to be augmented. I think we need to get our heads back up. I think we’re missing a lot of our lives right now staring at our little four and five-inch screens and our hands on our laps. Like I say, I call it crotch smiling all day long while we’re working, so getting our heads up is going to be the next big movement, the next big key. It’s not flexible material. It is AR, MR, ER. But I think we’re still five years-plus away from this being mainstream.

Olivier Blanchard: Well, I’m going to agree and not completely disagree with you guys, but a little bit. I think that, to get back to the original question, the form factor of a smartphone I don’t think is going to change all that much. We might see some flexibility in the design, but I think we’re still going to have this kind of pocket handheld device.

What I think is going to happen, though, is we’re going to be adding more and more devices to it, so it’s going to be kind of like a distributed feature type model, where the phone is still kind of like the anchor that does most of what we need it to do, but we’re also going to have a smartwatch, and we’re also going to have the glasses with the AR and MR capabilities, and we’re going to slowly sort of build this panoply of devices that all play with each other, that kind of distribute and adapt to different functionalities based on what the device is. The phone won’t change, but we’ll just keep adding devices and gadgets to it to get more utility out of it.

Fred McClimans: Olivier, you said something there that just triggered a thought. A lot of what we’re talking about there is building that ecosystem of personal devices. Already today we have some of that. For example, I used the handoff feature on my phone. I use my laptop to make and receive calls on my phone, anything that’s in close proximity there.

Just the other day, my son came in very upset because he couldn’t, while playing Fortnite on his Switch, just automatically cut over to the Xbox and continue the same game that had now become available. I think that’s an aspect of this, and yeah, that’s probably three, four years, at least, before we figure out how to actually use the technology and how it allows us to do different things.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah. I don’t think we start seeing really commercially successful AR glasses from a Samsung or an Apple or one of the major players until 2022, so timing-wise I think that’s where we are. I want to push it back to 2025. I think by then it’ll be kind of maturing market, but I wouldn’t expect to see really solid glasses until a gen two, maybe an early gen three, until 2022.

Fred McClimans: There we have it, 2022, 2025. We’re done.

Olivier Blanchard: Yes. That is my crystal ball. Okay. That does it for this week’s edition of FTP, the Futurum Tech Podcast. Thanks for listening. Catch us next week, same time, same channel, as they say. Don’t forget to subscribe, and have a great week.

Daniel Newman: 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 futurumtechpodcast. Daniel Newman, Fred McClimans, Olivier Blanchard. We’ll see you later.

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