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Is Apple Leading a Techno Cartel?–Futurum Tech Podcast Episode 030
by Olivier Blanchard | February 1, 2019

On this edition of the Futurum Tech podcast, we take a look at Facebook, apple and Google, asking have they become part of the techno cartel? Plus Microsoft’s emotional and empowering Super Bowl campaign, Facebook’s quarterly numbers, Apple’s FaceTime face plant, how you can stream local TV channels for free and how you can download your Google Plus data, if you still have any before, it’s purged from the interwebs forever. This plus our predictions on the future of Intel under newly minted CEO Bob Swan. All this and more on this edition of the Futurum Tech podcast.

Our Main Dive

If there was an Alpha dog in tech this past week it must have been Apple, who checked Google and Facebook back into reality after they went afoul of Apple’s user agreement. Looks like a bit of a cartel move to us…

Our Fast Five

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

  • Microsoft’s emotionally uplifting Super Bowl ad
  • Getting LoCost TV with LoCast
  • Facebook’s quarterly numbers
  • Intel’s new, and perhaps reluctant, CEO
  • How you can download your Google+ data (if you have any)

Tech Bites

Apple’s FaceTime FacePlant.

Crystal Ball: Future-um Predictions and Guesses

What does the future hold for Intel under its new, yet experienced, CEO?

Transcript: 

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 Dan Newman and Fred McClimans. How are you guys doing today?

Fred McClimans: We’re good. We’re cold. We’re snowy. We’re enjoying polar vortex. It’s like global warming has been stopped.

Daniel Newman: Shout out from sunny Chi-beria, where my car’s tires actually stuck to the ground at the airport.

Olivier Blanchard: Really?

Daniel Newman: Took a while to get them off, but you know, at a slight cold temperature of what around -60 windchill and a -26 low. I have now felt what it’s like to be on the top of Mount Everest, but only colder.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah, that’s, that sounds fun. Well, I’m in South Carolina and it’s actually kind of chilly today. It’s almost 45, 44 degrees. So, we’re kind of, you know, batting down the hatches. Yeah, I don’t know how you got to survive out in the, the wilds of the north. But anyway, so we’re going to start today’s show with a discussion about technology cartels? Question mark? Then we’ll share some of our favorite tech news stories of the week in our Fast Five segment as usual, followed by Tech Bites, in which we highlight one of the biggest tech related fails of the week. And as usual, there’s a long list to choose from. So hopefully we take the worst one and we will end the show as usual with our crystal ball.

As always, before we begin, 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.

All right, so let’s begin with our main topic of the day, which I’m not sure that the term cartel really applies yet for technology companies, but I think that if something doesn’t happen soon with regard to regulation, legislation, some kind of oversight, some kind of guardrails for companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and the like, we may end up in a situation where we could possibly see these companies essentially setting the rules for the industry, for their business practices and essentially figuring out who sets the rules by whomever happens to have the biggest stick. Who has the biggest, the most market power, who has the most ability to harm or to cause harm to some of its competitors and other tech companies.

And we got a bit of a glimpse of that this week, even though the move was actually justified in my opinion, but we got a glimpse of that this week when Apple pushed back against both Facebook and Google with regard to some certification for some of their enterprise products.

And to explain what happens, I’m going to pass the baton to Fred, who discussed this with me earlier this morning and it seemed like he had a pretty firm grasp on the situation and was able to explain it fairly quickly.

So, in 45 seconds or less, Fred. Or a minute and a half. What happened between Apple, Facebook and Google this week?

Fred McClimans: So, the way Apple works when you install an application on the phone, that typically comes through the app store and if you’re somebody like a Google or Facebook and you’re doing internal development, you want to have the ability to create and load applications before you get to the app store. Sort of a beta test process.

Now, Apple has a program there called Test Flight and I use that a lot to Beta test software all the time. But for really internal development, there’s something called an enterprise cert or certificate and Google and Facebook both have enterprise certificates so that they can, without even touching Test Flight, without touching Apple in any way, they can load their own software, essentially bypass the app store and all the rules and regulations and that’s where we get into the issue here.

Facebook and Google both were running programs where they were marketing and advertising a beta research version of their software and paying people, like in the case of Facebook, $20, to load this Facebook research app and the research app really researched. It wasn’t about testing the software, it was about allowing Facebook to gather all the data on the user’s phone. This is about intelligence.

This is about gathering information about what apps people are using, where they’re using them, how they’re using them, who they’re connected to. Similar to what Facebook did a few years back when they acquired a VPN company and they said, hey, everybody use this VPN. It’s going to make everything you do secure. And it turns out that what they were really doing was tracking the applications that people were using across the VPN so they could get an insight. And in fact, I believe they made at least one, possibly more, acquisitions of emerging application companies based on this data.

So, Apple found out about this and Apple said, hey, we’re cutting you off. That means no more Google, you know, YouTube betas, no more Google Plus betas, since it’s going away anyway. And both companies kind of said, yup, yup, we got it, we did something wrong. We’re shutting it down. And Apple subsequently restored their rights to have these enterprise certificates for in house testing only. And that’s where we stand today.

Olivier Blanchard: So, let me ask you this, because I was reading about it Fred and you had a pretty good explanation there. But the really big challenge here was that they were circumventing the way that people were able to download and then run an app on their phone without actually procuring it through the app store.

Fred McClimans: Right, right.

Olivier Blanchard: So it was basically letting them self-police an app, make decision that this app was okay and they were sort of using their overall relationship with the Apple ecosystem to say, hey, no big deal if we throw this test app and this test app and really let anybody or a large constituency of people use them and we follow whatever rules we want. Is that kind of what happened?

Fred McClimans: So you know, with the Apple ecosystem, it is a closed ecosystem. If you want to have an application that runs commercially on an iPhone, you have to go through the app approval process with Apple and they look for things like that. It’s different from the Android world. In the Android world, pretty much anybody can write an app and throw it up there in the app store.

In this particular case, the big legal issue here. I mean, there’s sort of a scumbag issue of Facebook and Google, you know, literally crawling through users’ phones, you know, all their chat messages, their pictures, all sorts of stuff would be available to them. But the legal issue here is one that the enterprise certificates are supposed to be for internal use only. They’re not allowed to take them into the wild and do what you said, bypass the app store and Test Flight process to essentially jailbreak users’ phones.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I mean, my first gut reaction, and this goes back to last week on our show, if you’ve listened to us where we talked about that particular app. Facebook was sort of getting yelled at about this subtly, a week ago, so we sort of caught this at the edge of the storm with the whales and the gaming and the way that they were putting doors and paying kids be under the table to sort of get access to see, well, that was sort of an example. That was actually a very specific example of what came to a head this week.

Fred McClimans: Yeah, I mean this is literally the antithesis of CSR: Corporate Social Responsibility. It’s corporate social irresponsibility because the kids that are taking the $20 bucks, downloading the Facebook app or the Google app onto their phone, there’s no way that one out of a million, maybe more, maybe two out of a million understand what they’re actually giving away in this incredibly complex user agreement along the way.

They just look at it and they say, hey, it’s $20 bucks. Great. Facebook app. But the lack of scruples, I can’t believe I just used the word scruples. Yeah. The lack of scruples on the part of these companies is just astounding. And you know, we’re seeing in the media today that there are some employees that, similar to when Google kind of leaked out that they were working on a search engine that would include some level of censorship for China, there are people at Facebook now saying, hey look, we need to rethink, is Facebook really where we want to be?

But the one people that do want to be at Facebook, interestingly enough, our investors, Facebook had a great earnings report today and investors were willing to just overlook this entire mess and say, “Hey, yeah, you know, you made your numbers, let’s boost stock.” Even though they just got caught being scumbags.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah. I feel like that’s like a segue to part two of this conversation and is overall, you know, there’s just this ongoing continuum that I’ve come to recognize that no matter how poorly a company behaves, a good earnings report will circumvent any malfeasance on their part. Like, you come up with a good earnings report and it’s like, oh, we forgot about that. I mean, Apple had some really bad things going on. They’ve had terrible numbers overall with their iPhones. China’s blasted them. India’s blasted them. They’re in the middle of all these different lawsuits. They’ve had multiple patent infringement suits against them.

And all I’m saying is amongst all this though, one report, they made $20 billion in the last quarter. They showed some good growth in services and even though their numbers were 15% down on their most popular device that makes so much of their money, everybody’s like, we don’t care. Stock shot up. Their market cap went up like $80 billion this week. I mean it had a humongous jump as a result of a, what I would call an average to above average earnings call. But it was just good enough that everybody says, we don’t care. Everything’s fine.

Daniel Newman: Well, it’s weird because on the case of Apple specifically, Apple’s numbers are actually pretty horrible. And the services, the percentage of revenue that it derived from services is actually very, very small compared to iPhone sales, right? Compared to hardware. And hardware took a giant hit and for some reason, because Apple is Apple, number one and Apple also was able through its amazing marketing process. I mean, it really is good at marketing, at managing expectations, at controlling the narrative, 100% of the time.

Apple managed to over the course of the last six to eight weeks, completely reset market expectations by saying, hey, you know, we’re going to have some bad numbers and by the way, we’re no longer going to share actual like, you know, unit sales for our devices. So, the market kind of adjusted to okay, it’s going to be bad news.

And then when the bad news came, the market was like, oh wow, they actually kind of exceeded expectations.

Fred McClimans: Well, Olivier, there’s a business model there that they’re sliding into that investors have already accepted and that’s the model of Amazon. If you look at Amazon, Amazon’s largest revenue source by far is their online e-commerce, the retail. But that’s not where they derive their profits. That’s not the nice juicy EPS boost.

That’s AWS, which is a very small portion of their revenue.

Similarly, we see Apple kind of moving into that type of a model. But I think more importantly here, this whole issue here, you know, it kind of highlights the fact, as you pointed out earlier, I’m not sure what the right phrase is here, but we have a tech industry that is dominated by a very small number of players who acquire companies left and right, and they’re just building up their control. And I think, you know, Dan, we were talking earlier and you mentioned this was sort of a, you know, self-policing exercise, one of the major, two in this case, two of the major firms, Google and Facebook kind of stepped out of line and you know, big boy Apple, who happens to have a better perceived position on data and security, just smacked them right back to where they were. Right back to where they came from.

Olivier Blanchard: Which is, you know, honestly it is there, it is Apple’s right. And I think Apple was right to do what they did. But the bigger question, and I think Kevin Roose from the New York Times noticed in my Twitter feed of all places, made a couple of good points yesterday that I wanted to kind of like throw at you and get a reaction about. And he said, and I quote, “It’s weird, but probably necessary/inevitable that Apple is now Facebook’s de facto privacy regulator.” Okay? So just hold that thought for a second. And his second point was, “It’s increasingly plausible that the future of tech regulation is just three to five companies constantly de-platforming each other under the guise of user protection.”

While elected officials argue about, I don’t know, the Ben Shapiro VR experience or something.

Fred McClimans: You know, look at the, the response that Apple had. They found out about this, they immediately took action, you know, and it was not a little, hey, you know, we’re thinking about doing something here. It was swift. You know, when has any government that is rooted in democracy, taken that kind of swift action in a situation like this? You know, we could be here for the next 20 years and I don’t think the US is ever going to get a GDPR-like set of guardrails for how data and users are protected in the Internet. I just don’t see it happening. If anything, I think most companies in the US are starting to realize because they are global, we’re going to have to adhere to GDPR, Meanwhile, the US Congress, pretty ineffective for the most part in that space.

Olivier Blanchard: Right. So do you think, and this is a question to Dan, I guess. When I mentioned the term cartel earlier, we haven’t really entered the true definition of cartel, legally speaking when it comes to these companies. But I think we’re in kind of like the pre-cartel stage. You can kind of start to see the framework of potential issues with these companies kind of dealing with each other and setting rules and essentially kind of saying, okay, this is our turf. Don’t get into this. We’ll agree to kind of formulate our deals and our turfs in a certain way that benefits us all.

But in the end, the US government would have nothing to do with that or very little to do with it. And we’ve seen how easily and over the last couple of weeks the FTC can be weaponized by tech companies to completely screw up and abuse their own responsibility to kind of be the police for that space. And two, because legislators seem to be so completely out in the weeds with this and not even close to understanding how any of this works or how to regulate it or to enforce any kind of oversight over it, the people, the consumers, voters are not being represented, at all. It’s essentially these companies setting all the rules with no one else knowing what to do about it.

So Dan, do you think that we run the risk of this prediction for the next three to five years actually coming true, with these companies have continued to set the rules, continued to have power and potentially form what may in hindsight be labeled as a cartel?

Daniel Newman: You sort of answered it in your question.

Olivier Blanchard: Was it a rhetorical question?

Daniel Newman: That’s something I like to do, too. The example of Apple weaponizing, not just the FTC but the KFTC, the TFTC, China, Europe, to their benefit. And it’s also sort of this merry-go-round, right? Of fees coming down. You know, Europe’s probably been the harshest on these tech companies for privacy and data abuse.

They do have GDPR, but most of the amounts they’ve basically fined are still speeding tickets in the grand scheme of things. They’re still barely finding enough that’s going to change any meaningful behavior.

So to answer your question, these companies have immense amounts of power. They can certainly dictate things. When a company that makes $20 billion in a quarter complains about seven and a half dollars in fees for the use of a company’s intellectual property, you know, it makes a huge amount of difference when you’re selling millions of units.

But the point is, is you made $20 billion and you’re claiming that there’s a harm to your organization. The government’s listening. We are worlds behind, but there isn’t anywhere that’s doing it really well. It’s not like there’s parts of the world that are doing this policing in a very, very proficient manner.

Like I said, perhaps you could say Europe’s a little bit further ahead with GDPR, but their innovation ecosystem is hardly anything to get excited about. The tech that’s actually coming out of Europe isn’t setting the world ablaze right now. So that sort of self-regulatory environment that you’re seeing here in the US or that nationalized interest in innovation that you see in China certainly seems to be spawning more investment or innovation that’s coming to market, being globally adopted.

So, in full circle? Cartel? Yeah, any time you have that much money and that much power when you have $250 billion in a chest somewhere in Ireland that you don’t even need to have in your organization to run it day to day? You’re clearly in a position of power.

And so, right now they have all the power. They wield all the chips and all the cards and these technologies companies, technology, by the way, is really what all these government entities need to use to police society. They need these companies. They can’t actually do their jobs without it. So there’s a delicate balance of how much power they can strike before they’re actually going to harm themselves and their own abilities to operate.

Fred McClimans: So, you know, I’m going to take this opportunity here to announce that in the spring of 2020, I will be launching my new Netflix TV series, Technos, covering the untold story of Pablo Zuckerberg.

Olivier Blanchard: Nice. Yeah, no, we might. But you know, I think the government does have power here. The US government is the US government. It has the power to do whatever the heck it wants and to bring these companies to heel. And it’s unfortunate to me that whenever you know Congress, whether it’s the Senate or the House of Representatives requests the presence of some of these tech CEOs, sometimes they opt to show up, sometimes they opt not to, and they don’t really feel compelled to answer any questions or to be entirely truthful or accountable.

Now the thing is they are accountable to no one but themselves. And I’m going to briefly talk about a little insight into Facebook’s numbers and performance in our Fast Five segment, which is rapidly approaching to kind of highlight some of this.

But these tech companies, I guess are accountable only to A themselves and their investors. They’re not accountable to us in the way that the US government is accountable to us. And in order to strike, I think, the right balance so that we’re not a Wild West increasingly controlled by tech companies with a government that has no ability or willingness or incentive to push back against them and assert some of its authority to protect consumers, and China where the opposite is true, and the tech companies are the governments and they assert all the power over their people. I think there’s a balance that the United States, and Europe for that matter, but should probably strive to strike in the next few years, so we don’t end up with these two polar opposites that in the end, on one end to the other, end up harming consumers and concentrating too much power in the hands of a few.

On that, I give myself the last word. Let’s move on to our Fast Five segment. We’ll have plenty of time over the next few months and even coming years to revisit this topic, because it’s not going away any time soon. So Dan, what is your first Fast Five story of the week? What caught your eye in the last few days?

Daniel Newman: The number one thing that caught my eye was the appointment of a CEO by Intel. So a lot of people don’t realize, but over the last several months, Intel has had their former CFO sitting in the interim role until it’s had a solid yet tumultuous period of time. They’ve had some struggles with 5G modems. They’ve had some successes in their cloud space and in fixed 5G. There’s been a huge amount of demand and growth of demand for servers in cloud and for PCs. That was surprising. They caught them by surprise. It caused shortages across the chip industry. They’ve had a bit of a struggle getting to their 10 nanometer Ice Lake product, but over the last several months, they’re announcing shipments this year of that 10 nanometer product, the Ice Lake, they’ve been steadily catching up on demand.

Their earnings report was close. They got a little bit beat up for it, but overall, it was close and it was all done while having an interim CEO in Bob Swan. You know, my comment on it was, I basically think the guy earned the job. They left him in that interim post for a long time and the company performed well while he was in there. And while a lot of people kind of suspected more of an outsider, maybe a more bullish Benioff or a Satya, tech-visionary type, he really I think fits the profile of Intel. Kind of head down, focused, let’s build products, let’s not necessarily worry about marketing as much as let’s worry about building the products that everyone’s going to utilize in their technology.

So he had a great comp package out of his deal, but I did like to see that Intel’s board put a lot of stress on his compensation being tied to overall performance. So, they’re certainly not out of the woods yet, but I think it’ll help stabilize the company to give them a CEO to now know who’s in charge and let the company start going with that.

Olivier Blanchard: All right, Fred, what’s yours? What’s your first Fast Five?

Fred McClimans: Do you remember Aereo?

Olivier Blanchard: No.

Fred McClimans: And there’s a good reason. Aereo ran into some legal issues head first when they launched their service. Aereo was a company that offered its subscribers the ability to stream. Literally, they would broadcast out, digital local TV stations. So your NBC, ABC, FOX, CBS, you know, et cetera.

And essentially they were taking the feeds from these and they were kind of pushing them back out with individual antennas all over the place and they thought they had a great model but they ran into legal issues and it turns out that it’s not legal to actually steal somebody else’s cable feed and re-broadcast it out for profit.

So along comes this new company called Locast. Locast is kind of following in that general footstep, but in a different model. Locast is a nonprofit organization. In fact, you can go to their website and I suggest you do. Their website is Locast.org. And what you can do with Locast is you can, if they provide coverage in your area, you can donate if you like or not if you don’t like, they’re giving it away for free. As a nonprofit, there’s an exemption for them. So legally, they seem to be in pretty good terms here.

So if you’re somebody like me that cut the cord a long time ago, having access to local TV channels is kind of nice. It works off the GPS system in your phone or on your laptop. You can also, as I do, I streamed the local channels through my Roku, smart TV. Really slick. So check it out. It’s interesting, I know they’re going to get challenged somewhere along the way. Right now, they’re in nine major cities. They cover 23% of the US market, which is about 26 or 27 million homes out there. So, check it out and we’re going to follow this one. I want to see what kind of legal challenges come up to it, but as for now, it’s free TV.

Olivier Blanchard: All right, cool.

Well, my Fast Five is actually part of a bigger discussion that we could have had today, but we don’t have time. Since we just got a lot of quarterly numbers from some of the major tech companies. We got Amazon, did really well. Facebook also did really well. Apple not so well, but it was well received. All these companies put out their numbers from the last quarter and everything looks pretty strong in general, but something caught my eye about the Facebook numbers that’s a little bit difficult to frame and in just like a two minute segment, but I’m going into try.

So Facebook saw 32% growth in revenue in its North American markets and 27% increased revenue in its European markets. I hope I didn’t inverse those, but I think those are right. But it only saw one like basically roughly 1% growth or zero to 1% growth in in North America and Europe with regard to its daily and monthly users, I think. So some growth in the number of people using the platform on a regular basis but roughly flat. Right? Basically what we are seeing in terms of growth for iPhone sales for Apple, you know, five or six months ago.

And regardless of this flat growth or this near-zero growth, we’re seeing these, you know, 27-32% growth in revenue, which comes for the most part from advertisers. Two pieces of light bulbs went off over my head. The first one was I found it strange that given the number of scandals that Facebook seems to be accumulating recently about user privacy and scandals that are specific to abuse of trust with regard to their users, users don’t seem to be leaving the platform. It’s not really having an impact on the platform whatsoever.

But the other insight is the growth that we’re seeing actually has nothing to do with the user behaviors and users not abandoning the platform yet. It’s pretty much completely propped up by advertisers. So, there’s a little bit of a difference there between user behavior driving the success of a company like Facebook and advertiser behavior driving the success of Facebook.

And what we’re seeing is that while users are not necessarily thrilled with Facebook’s behavior towards them and not abandoning the platform in droves, it’s the advertisers who seem to be really not caring about Facebook’s practices and doubling down on essentially their antiquated eyeballs and impressions model, which hasn’t changed in 60 or 70 years. So I thought that was kind of interesting to point out.

And it kind of reinforces the notion that Facebook’s users are not its customers. We are the products as its users. Facebook’s customers are advertisers, and to a lesser extent its investors, not the other way around. And I think it’s something that’s important to remember.

And with that, Daniel, what is your second fast five of the week?

Daniel Newman: Depending on when you’re listening to this, the upcoming weekend is Super Bowl weekend and we all have a boring matchup between the New England Patriots and Tom Brady and the St Louis … not St. Louis Rams, of Los Angeles. St. Louis strapped with the debt of Los Angeles Rams. Rams.

Fred McClimans: And who? Who’s the quarterback?

Daniel Newman: Goff? Jared Goff?

Fred McClimans: Okay.

Daniel Newman: I know. I’m a football fan, but I’m really more of a soccer fan and the guy that owns the Rams also owns my team Arsenal and he’s a beep. He’s a cheap beep. Sorry, I beeped myself out there because I am not a cranky fan. I really could care less if this game goes off at all. Anyway.

I’m hoping for -50 degrees and I’m hoping their arms freeze and it just that they get well, you know, just really bad passes. Nobody gets hurt. Temporary.

Microsoft though, has launched early their advertisement campaign and they’re going to be focusing on this new adaptive controller technology and they put out this gut, heart turning, eye, tear-churning commercial that shows a number of children with certain disabilities, mostly around arms, limbs that aren’t able to game the way that you know, a traditional with five fingers on two hands are able to game, and they built this really cool new technology. It’s called adaptive controller technology for their XBOX. And the whole commercial just sets your heart on fire a little bit and really gives you all the feels.

And I just thought it was really kind of cool, kind of different, because obviously they’re not talking to a huge percentage of the population. They’re really focusing on a small percentage of population of people with unique needs. And I thought it was pretty cool that they’re going to make the big investment to pay attention to the people that don’t always get the attention and use their money and their clout in a positive way. And that is a trend I really do see some of the better companies leaning towards too, is this is corporate social responsibility, which isn’t a new idea, but more and more, the companies that have had great success kind of owe it to give something back. And gaming for that community of people that have those disabilities really does give them an opportunity to compete and feel equal to those who physically might have a more traditional life or lifestyle coming up.

So I thought it was a really good and interesting commercial and I’m kind of excited to see what else we’ll see. But yet again, the Super Bowl isn’t about waiting until the commercials come out. They just come out, you know, a week ahead of time and it’s become the Brand Bowl. So, I’m also watching to see if anyone does anything really funny or interesting, but then again, I really don’t want to watch the game. I want to know is there any way, any channel where I can just tune into the commercials?

Fred McClimans: Yes. An inverse DVR skip mechanism.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah, no, the hero brands thing has always worked. It used to work for Apple and now Microsoft has kind of picked up that mantle, and it’s really clever, especially at times of economic and other types of stress where everybody’s pretty suspicious of tech companies anyway, to be able to position yourself as a hero brand of major tech company that actually gets everything right and does good things for humanity is just another win for Microsoft. They can do no wrong right now. I haven’t seen them make a major mistake in at least two years. It’s pretty impressive.

All right, Fred, close us out. What is the final Fast Five of the week?

Fred McClimans: Yes. So in the area of corporate social responsibility, we’re going to do a little bit of CSR here, of a sort. As we’ve spoken about in the past, Google Plus, Google’s somewhat lame attempt replicate Facebook was targeted for shutdown and in fact it will shut down here I believe on April 2nd of 2019.

So, this is worth noting here for a couple of reasons. One, the way Google Plus was implemented, it was something that Google really thought would sort of be the core engine around which all their other apps would operate. They literally forced, YouTube and Blogger and everything else to kind of use the Google Plus technology. They have over the past few years, they have kind of pulled back from that and they’ve segmented things out so that, you know, Google Hangouts today no longer relies upon Google Plus. But what they’re doing with this shutdown is they literally are going to scrub every piece of data from the Internet, all their applications. Anything that is related to Google Plus goes away.

So if you have comments on an old Blogger system. Yeah, they’re gone, as of April 2nd. What you can do though is if you are interested in this, I’m going to give you the URL. You can actually go and you can download all the data. And I would suggest this not to kind of have a backup of things you may have commented on two, three years ago. But download it, take a look at it and just see what kind of information they actually have on you there.

So the URL for that, that is support.google.com/plus/answer/1045788.

Olivier Blanchard: Okay. And we’ll put that in the show notes, I’m sure. All right, excellent. Well, that does it for our Fast Five segments. So now our Tech Bites, which every week is the subject of endless internal deliberations and our unscientific system for choosing the worst of the worst in tech news this week produced a winner and Apple gets the big win this week. The FaceTime bug.

So apparently, Apple had a slight bug in its FaceTime application, which allowed a caller to essentially see and hear the person they were calling through their camera and their microphone before or even without the person they’re calling actually picking up or accepting the call, which would allow a caller to essentially spy on anyone they were calling. And not just the caller, but pretty much anybody. 30 seconds each, Dan, you first. Comments, reactions.

Daniel Newman: It’s an abomination that a company of Apple size, Steve Jobs is turned over in his grave and he’s turning over again and he’s going to turn over one more time because to let a bug like that happen, talk about privacy. I mean, you have just completely relinquished any control to people by basically letting the third party dictate who can open up, pick up a device, call you and listen into your environment. I mean, just mind blowing and they said they’ve almost got it fixed and it’ll be back within a week. So just one more week and you don’t have to deal with the possibility.

Here’s my recommendation, turn FaceTime off on your phones until you update it. Just don’t risk it.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah. Fred, 30 seconds.

Fred McClimans: You know, so this really targets the group video calling and as soon as they figured out what was going on, they literally pulled that, disabled the function. So, there is no more group video calling there. What is interesting is I never used to be a big FaceTime user, but since I stepped back from Facebook, I do use Messenger but I haven’t been on the Facebook app since the end of Q3 of last year. And I find myself using FaceTime a lot more, just to chat with the kids and a family and so forth. But this is amateur night, you know, to let something like this go through and they get speaks to the complexity of technology, I suppose. But yeah, no, they definitely get my vote for Tech Bites with this. Even though they stood up to Facebook and Google.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. I just want to say really quickly though, I actually deep down want success and hear good things about Apple. Like, it felt like five years ago I would’ve had to like search to the ends of the earth to find a story about Apple that wasn’t positive and it feels like now I have to search for something good and I have to actually search for their new products. It’s just their whole litigious strategy, supply chain, China. It’s just thing after thing after thing. It’s like, give me a good story. Come out with something that’s amazing and don’t tell the world you’re going to revolutionize healthcare when all you’ve basically done is put a really, really low level EKG into a wristwatch. I’m sorry. I’m sorry, that is not revolutionizing healthcare. I’m going to revolutionize bodybuilding by doing a pull up after we get off this call.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah, exactly. And same thing. And among us, Fred is still the most pro-Apple of the three but, but Dan and I … I’ve always been a huge fan of Apple and I really hope that Apple turns around and becomes the company that I think it should be, that it can be. It’s just the last few years maybe the culture and the direction have been a little off.

Daniel Newman: When you make $20 billion a quarter, you don’t need more fans, you need more critics. And I’m being sincere.

Olivier Blanchard: No, that’s true.

Daniel Newman: You need people to actually help you because you have enough fans. You need people that are going to keep you where you are. Because Kodak could have used a few more fans and same with BlackBerry, but they didn’t have enough fans apparently to tell them you get them on the right direction. Sit rep.

Olivier Blanchard: It’s true.

Daniel Newman: Not good.

Olivier Blanchard: That’s true. It’s tough love. Tough love, not hatred. That’s what we do here. All right, so our last segment, our crystal ball, we’re going to circle back to something that that Daniel brought up earlier and it’s Robert Swan, Intel’s new CEO. I just want to get your crystal ball prediction on what the impact on the Intel will be say in the next one to two years. Positive, negative, specifically what can this bring to the Intel ecosystem? Daniel, you first.

Daniel Newman: Since I kind of covered a lot of this in my Fast Five, I’m just going to say I’m cautiously optimistic. I think he showed growth. I’ve been following the company. You can check my Twitter and a lot of my writing; I follow Intel closely. We do work with Intel; we’ve done research for them. We’re watching what they’re doing.

He grew into the job. He came into it and he said he didn’t think he wanted the job, which is one of the more interesting things that when he took it, a lot of people came back to him and said, “I thought you didn’t want the job.” But I think two things. Sometimes when you step into a situation like that, on the back of what happened to BK, Brian Krzanich, when he got let go, it might have seemed like a scary position to walk into and again, he wanted to keep expectations low so it might’ve been a super intelligent move on his part, keep expectations low.

Say, “Hey, I don’t want this job. I’m going to come in and do my best for a while, find someone better.” And suddenly you’re doing a great job. I liken it to any soccer fans out there like myself, but the guy that came into Manchester United, this Ole Gunnar, the guy from Norway, he was a former player and they brought him in as a caretaker and then he wins eight games in a row and everyone’s like, oh, they’re just going to keep him there for a few weeks until they find a big name manager. Well guess what? The team has done amazing with him in the helm and it’s kind of the same thing right now with Intel. The team’s doing well and it shows something that you can hire from within. It does show, I think these companies that go for the Meg Whitmans and they go for these big outside personalities, a lot of times the return isn’t there and the pay packages are just out of sight.

So they’ve got someone that’s willing to work, willing to show results. I know I was a little longer-winded cause I had already said all this. I’m cautiously optimistic. In two years, I think they will be back on track. At times, we’ve challenged them for the things they’ve done for the production shortages. They are still a gem in the American innovation ecosystem and we want them to win. We want them, just like Apple, just like Qualcomm. We want these companies to do well. It’s good for the US. It’s good for the global economy.

Fred McClimans: Absolutely. Yeah. You know, with Intel, they face a number of challenges. They’ve got some good competition. They’re always getting, you know, nipped at a bit at the heels by Nvidia, by AMD, and others. Right now, we pretty much know where Intel is going. The challenge for Intel is how do you get there? How do you keep that focus on the day to day activities? How do you really get to that level of operational execution that gets you a couple of nanometers tighter? That improves the use of AI and predictive maintenance and so forth in the manufacturing process.

So, it’s no secret kind of what they need to do. I kind of look at this and say that this guy knows the business inside now and I think right now it’s a great fit and you know, I’m looking forward to watching this company really, you know, tighten up the execution across the board and just start delivering. That’s the biggest challenge. It’s not an issue of they need to have some massive whiz-bang innovation that blows the market apart. Right now, it’s just about making sure they don’t make any mistakes, that every execution step is perfect. And I think that’s in the cards here.

We’ll see. But that’s my take.

Olivier Blanchard: I completely agree. I have nothing to add. All right, thanks guys. And that does it for this week’s edition of FTP, the Futurum Tech Podcast. Thanks a bunch for listening. Don’t forget to hit that subscribe button and catch us next week for another round of news and analysis. Have a great week, everybody. Stay safe.

Disclaimer: The Futurum Tech Podcast is for information and entertainment purposes only. Over the course of this podcast, we may talk about companies that are publicly traded and we may even reference that fact and their equity share price, but please do not take anything that we say as a recommendation about what you should do with your investment dollars. We are not investment advisors and we do not ask that you treat us as such.

 

About the Author

Olivier Blanchard has extensive experience managing product innovation, technology adoption, digital integration, and change management for industry leaders in the B2B, B2C, B2G sectors, and the IT channel. His passion is helping decision-makers and their organizations understand the many risks and opportunities of technology-driven disruption, and leverage innovation to build stronger, better, more competitive companies.  Read Full Bio.