Facebook – Empty head

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Another smart speaker that badly needs a brain.

  • It looks like Facebook is joining the ever more crowded smart speaker bandwagon, but without a decent brain inside the box, it may as well be a paperweight.
  • One possibility is for the device to use Cortana as it comes from one of the few companies that doe not compete directly with Facebook: Microsoft.
  • The device looks like it will be using a 15-inch screen from LG and will be manufactured by Pegatron but beyond that there are very few details.
  • I suspect that Facebook may be trying to take a slightly different tack here.
  • This is because:
    • First: the smart speaker market is already very crowded,
    • Second: Facebook has no brain of its own to install in the box,
    • Third: Facebook is more focused on community than smart home.
  • Facebook’s main objective in life is to bring its users closer together using its apps and to give them a sense of community.
  • While this all sounds great for users, the reality is that they will end up spending more time inside Facebook’s fledging ecosystem, generating more traffic and thereby increasing Facebook’s ability to make money from them.
  • Hence, I suspect that this device may be aimed more at making it easier for Facebook friends to spend time with each other by voice, video, messages or even images.
  • However, to earn a place on the increasingly crowded countertop of consumers, it is going to need voice functionality of some description.
  • I think that Facebook M, which is Facebook’s own digital assistant is hopelessly inadequate to fulfil this role, meaning that Facebook will have to get one from somewhere else.
  • Top of my list for this is Cortana which, while not the sharpest tool in the box, it is the only one whose owner is not competing directly with Facebook.
  • In fact, I have seen Microsoft and Facebook creeping closer together (see here) over the last few years and this is a collaboration that could make some sense.
  • With a bit of tinkering on Microsoft’s part, Cortana could be taught how to deal with the majority of the tasks that users ask smart speakers to perform.
  • This work is probably already going as Microsoft may already be working on a smart speaker of its own.
  • Combining this with the screen and Bing would give the device a reasonable shot at doing a decent job of answering queries.
  • This is just another example of how badly Facebook needs to bring its AI up to a level at which it can compete on a level playing field with Google.
  • This would also help Facebook deal with the objectionable content problem that it has on its platform as its current answer to this is to throw more humans at the problem.
  • For me, this has to be Facebook’s number one strategic priority and the progress displayed at F8 on image and video recognition was somewhat encouraging (see here).
  • I am still quite cautious with regards to Facebook’s outlook for this year as I don’t think that either its video offering or its gaming offering are mature enough to bring the company back to high growth in 2017.
  • This combined with requirement to really improve its AI to compete with the other digital ecosystems leads me to still prefer Baidu, Tencent and Microsoft.

Baidu – Talking machines.

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The way in China is wide open for Baidu.

  • Baidu’s strategy around its AI platform and its Duer OS has become clearer and with the support of a large number of chip vendors, it is in pole position to be a major player in smart connected devices in China.
  • DuerOS is not a traditional OS like Android or iOS but instead is a much more focused sub-system that is capable of bringing intelligent voice control and intelligence to any device in which it is implemented.
  • DuerOS’s direct comparisons are the software that runs on Amazon’s family of Echo products, Google Home or JD.com’s DingDong.
  • While Duer still speaks no English at all, I think it is currently by far the leading contender in this category for China for two reasons:
    • First: ecosystem. Baidu has already lined up an impressive list of component and device manufacturers who will be implementing DuerOS in their products.
    • Realtek, Intel, Nvidia, MediaTek, RDA, Conexant and ARM have signed up to support the system, which combined with a series of device makers, should create a pretty healthy ecosystem.
    • There are already around 30 products in the pipeline encompassing pretty much the entire range of domestic electronic devices and appliances.
    • Second: Artificial Intelligence. RFM research (see here) has indicated that Baidu’s AI is second only Google and certainly far better than anything else currently on offer in China.
    • This is a product of years of work as well as having developed by far the leading search function in China.
    • The net result is that DuerOS, like Google Assistant, should be able to provide users with the best experience when it comes to understanding and dealing with voice based requests.
  • Putting these two together put Baidu in pole position when it comes to creating an ecosystem within which a whole series of devices can talk and understand both the user and each other as well as work together.
  • This represents a big threat for Xiaomi which has laso built quite a large ecosystem of smart devices but they really lack the intelligence that DuerOS can offer.
  • The upside for Baidu is that by powering all of these voice-enabled gadgets, it will be able to gather data about its users that it will be able to make its search all the more relevant.
  • One of the big differences between China and Western markets is that no one seems to care very much about privacy (see here) meaning that this strategy could work very well.
  • I don’t expect Baidu powered machines to suddenly start spewing out voice-based advertising but learning what its users like and what their needs are will help it make its search results more accurate and hence more valuable to advertisers.
  • Baidu is still the search leader in China but its recent problems with fake advertising are only just behind it and this could provide a good pillar for long term growth.
  • I think that its real rivals, Alibaba, Xiaomi and Tencent, are miles behind when it comes to AI and voice-based services, leaving the Chinese market wide open for Baidu.
  • This combined with its leadership position in AI and search are the main reasons why I still like Baidu together with Tencent and Microsoft.

Mobike vs. Ofo – Blood soaked economics.

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Here comes another bloodbath.

  • Another battle is brewing over ride hailing but the fact that it is bicycles rather than cars will make no difference to the blood-letting that is likely ensue.
  • The big contenders in this space are both Chinese, headquartered in Beijing comprising of Mobike backed by Tencent and Sequioa and Ofo backed by Alibaba and Didi Kuadi.
  • This is coming to head now as Ofo has just raised a massive $700m following on from Mobike which raised an almost-as-massive $600m last month.
  • Both of these companies are going to use the money raised to expand overseas in what is likely to become a brutal battle to become the go to place to rent a bicycle.
  • Mobike and Ofo offer a docking station free rental service making it much more convenient for users as they can leave the bicycle wherever they choose.
  • Mobike is currently the leader with a presence in 100 Chinese cities, 100m registered users and up to 25m trips being taken on busy days.
  • Ofo has a presence in 150 cities with 6.5m bikes in the market but I think it is stretching itself much more thinly than Mobike.
  • This is because to get to same level of usage every Ofo bike would need to be rented nearly 4 times every day.
  • Furthermore, in Singapore, where both services are present, Ofo bikes are much harder to find compared to Mobike indicating a much thinner spread across more locations.
  • This is also because the Ofo app does not tell the user where its bicycles are to be found which is something that needs to be rapidly fixed if Ofo wants to have a chance of competing successfully.
  • Outside of the blood-soaked economics (see below) these schemes have two big problems.
    • First: theft and vandalism. Neither Ofo or Mobike have said how much their bicycles cost to make but it is clear that they are not nearly as robust or as thief-proof as the much more expensive but bomb proof bikes to be found in many Western cities.
    • This means that they are far more prone to vandalism and theft which Ofo has particularly suffered from to date with poor locks and no GPS tracking.
    • Second: capacity management. It is not uncommon for users to all want to go in the same direction at the same time.
    • This causes problems in ensuring that enough bicycles are available at the right place at the right time which becomes infinitely more complicated with no docking stations.
    • Furthermore, Mobike and Ofo bikes have been found in trees, blocking pedestrian paths and clogging up parks when the weather is nice.
    • While one can get away with this to some degree in China, municipalities in the West are unlikely to allow it to happen.
    • For example, Bluegogo (another Chinese bike sharing start-up) was forced to shut down operations in San Francisco for exactly this reason.
  • These are all problems that can be solved, but the biggest problem of all is likely to be how the economics of this business are likely to work.
  • Bicycle renting is a commodity business where the barriers to entry are simply how many bicycles one can buy and make available on the streets.
  • The net result is that now that both companies have a huge treasure trove of cash to invest, they are likely to go on a massive user recruitment drive.
  • This means free rides and discounts in order to encourage loyalty.
  • As long as one company is not more than twice the size of the other in any one location, then neither will make money resulting in substantial cash drains at both players.
  • I suspect that both companies are likely to target the same international cities (like Singapore) which will result in a bloody struggle until one gives up and leaves or is acquired by the other.
  • In the meantime, this is great for users who have access to plenty of cheap transport, but the minute there is only one dominant player left, prices are likely to rise.
  • It is not so great for investors who will be footing the bill for winning as much share as possible, but given that this battle is effectively Tencent vs. Alibaba, is not as if they can’t afford it.

Digital sensors – Eyes and ears.

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Sensors are the eyes and ears of AI.

  • Data is the raw material of artificial intelligence (see here) meaning that will be increasingly critical that the sensors that collect that data are reliable and accurate.
  • Nowhere is this more true than in eHealth where inaccurate data is useless at best and deadly at worst.
  • This is why there is still a big market for extremely expensive medical monitoring equipment but I see signs everywhere that this is starting to come to an end.
  • This also explains the problems that the likes of Fitbit, Apple, Xiaomi, Garmin and others are having as the data they generate is such low quality that it can really only be used for recreational fitness.
  • I see two ways in which the data that these sensors generate can be improved.
    • First: Improve the quality of the sensors themselves.
    • If an optical heart rate sensor can gather data as reliably and as accurately as an ECG, then this would have substantial ramifications for cardiac medicine.
    • Not only could the equipment costs be slashed, but high-risk patients could be continuously and un-invasively monitored allowing many cardiac events to be predicted and stopped before they occur.
    • The sensor industry is feverishly working on this with the latest launches promising more and more accuracy and detail.
    • Despite this, I have yet to meet a cardiac sensor company that is claiming that it can hit the kind of quality that would allow it to be certified with the FDA.
    • The same is not true in blood pressure where small start-up Leman Micro Devices is making some bold claims.
    • It has come up with a tiny blood pressure sensor that can fit onto a smartphone which it thinks is very close to being good enough to measure blood pressure at a medical grade with FDA approval.
    • Second: create intelligent software that improves the quality of the data.
    • There are many examples of algorithms being used to meaningful conclusions from low quality data both in and out of the medical field.
    • In automotive, retro-fitted vibrations sensors are being used to track the condition of tyres, wheels, shock absorbers, brakes and the steering wheel (see here and here).
    • This is not because a great sensor has been invented, but because these companies have worked out to interpret the data that most people consider to be random noise.
    • Phillips is also quite good at this which is why its health watch is recognised to be generating good quality data even if it does struggle in other areas.
  • Hence, I see the road to accurate data being made by eroding the problem from both ends combining both better hardware sensors and much better software to interpret the signals.
  • I think that this is crucial as sensors are the eyes and ears of the machines upon which the world increasingly depends.
  • Consequently, I think that sensors will remain an area of intense investment and an area where I would want to be invested.
  • The issue of course is to separate the solutions that have real prospects from those that are merely riding the wave of hype and easy investment.

 

Alphabet – Goodbye blue sky pt. II.

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Homeless robots find permanent shelter.

  • Alphabet has reached a deal to sell both Boston Dynamics and Schaft to SoftBank leaving it more focused on its core business of collection and monetisation of Internet data.
  • Boston Dynamics is a robotics company that specialises in robots that are autonomous as far as navigating and adjusting to their immediate environment.
  • SoftBank is also acquiring Schaft from Google which is a humanoid robotics company that was spun out of the University of Tokyo.
  • These robots can move around with relative ease but how they would be able generate value for Alphabet shareholders was always unclear.
  • At the end of the day Alphabet is a data and analytics company whose objective is to categorise and understand every piece of digital information that users generate and to sell those insights to marketers.
  • Every other piece of hardware that Alphabet makes from Google Home to Pixel and Internet Balloons, have the capacity to collect huge amounts of data and thereby generate can value to the core business.
  • Autonomous robots that can carry out physical tasks do not generate data about users because they are designed to replace them making them a bad fit inside Alphabet.
  • Furthermore, the robotics effort at Google was the brainchild of Andy Rubin and his departure, combined with the much greater focus on fiscal discipline, meant that the robots became homeless inside Alphabet.
  • I have long believed that Boston Dynamics will be much more at home inside a company that can make use of them.
  • Good examples of this are Amazon and Alibaba for logistics or someone like DHL or UPS.
  • Softbank is a good example of this but also has the benefit of a very long-term mindset when it comes to its strategy.
  • SoftBank already produces the Pepper robot which is supposed to be able to read human emotions and help shoppers when they enter a shop or place of business.
  • I met Pepper when wandering the halls of Mobile World Congress and CES and have to admit I was not that impressed by what it was capable of.
  • Consequently, it looks like SoftBank needs to really beef up its robotics expertise if it wants to be a player in this space which is what these two acquisitions should start to accomplish.
  • Hence it looks like this acquisition will not be part of the $93bn Vision Fund but instead be part of SoftBank itself.
  • Boston Dynamics, Schaft and I suspect SoftBank’s own robotics division have been struggling to find ways to generate revenue necessitating a home with a very long-term view.
  • That home used to be Alphabet, now it is SoftBank.
  • The sale of these two businesses will further boost Alphabet’s short term financial performance but I continue to think that all of the recent fundamental improvement in Alphabet is more than discounted in the share price.
  • Hence, I continue to prefer Tencent, Baidu and Microsoft.

Essential Products – Not essential.

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Andy Rubin still works for Google. 

  • Essential Products Inc has launched a series of products aimed at creating an ecosystem but none of them do anything or enable anything that is desperately new.
  • Consequently, the real beneficiary from another nice looking, easy to use phone will be Google whose ecosystem will be front and centre of the flagship device.
  • Essential Products Inc. was founded by Android creator Andy Rubin and has launched two devices and two accessories in a bid to stitch together the fragmented smart home space.

Phone

  • The Phone is similar to the Galaxy s8 although its screen is lower resolution, not waterproof and the battery has a slightly lower capacity.
  • Its one major area of differentiation is that the chassis is made from injected Titanium and has a ceramic back, potentially making it much more resistant to being dropped and scratched.
  • When it comes to screen protection, both are using Gorilla Glass 5 meaning that resistance to screen smashing should be about the same.
  • It also has two pins on the back (much like the Moto Mods concept) to which accessories can be attached.
  • The API for the accessory pins will be made available to developers to create their own devices to attach to the phone.
  • However, it has the price to match at $699 compared to $750 for the Galaxy s8 which is where I think the trouble will begin.
  • Phone is nice looking but I can’t see how it does anything that is not already available and outside of chassis resistance, Samsung gives more hardware bang for the buck.

Home

  • Essential products has also launched a voice activated home controller that aims to bring the smart home together in one place.
  • This is something that the smart home badly needs as the Alexa user experience is dire and hardly any products and services work with Google Home.
  • This product is different for two main reasons:
    • First: it is not designed to play music unlike other offerings although it does has a small speaker like the Echo Dot.
    • Instead, it is aimed at bringing all of the home’s devices together into a single place to manage them in an easy and fun to use way.
    • This device is also able to integrate these products such that smart devices can work together in new, fun and potentially very useful ways.
    • For example, when the timer goes off, the room’s lights can be flashed on and off rather than the generic alarm bell sound that everyone else uses.
    • Second: Home has a small screen on the top that is designed to enhance communication and interaction with the user.
    • RFM research (see here) has found that voice communication with machines is very far from being good enough to work effectively without a screen for output.
    • Consequently, this configuration makes a lot of sense.
  • The device runs its own OS called Ambient OS but Essential intends to open this up completely such that anyone can write functionality for the product.
  • This device takes a massive risk because 70% of the usage of devices in this category is as a Bluetooth speaker.
  • Consequently, there is a sizeable risk that this device will not appeal to the majority of users looking to buy something in this category.
  • Another big issue is the source of the AI that will be running Home as this will be the heart and soul of this product and the AI in Ambient OS currently looks as dubious as Bixby (see here).

Accessories.

  • Essential products has launched a charging plate for the Phone that connects through the two pins as well as a 360 degree camera.
  • I think that the charging plate is pretty useless as wireless charging is starting to come of age and inclusion of one of the standards in the device would have enabled a good user experience with products already present in the market and in users’ hands.
  • For example, because the Galaxy S8 supports Qi charging it will work with any compatible pad.

Take Home Message.

  • When I originally wrote on Essential Products (see here), my view was that it needed to produce must have devices and in that regard, I think it has failed.
  • The Phone is a Google Ecosystem device with a few nice features but less bells and whistles than the Samsung Galaxy S8 for almost the same price.
  • The Home has the most potential but it is taking an awful risk in that it is not addressing by far the biggest use case and has dubious AI.
  • It will also be dependent on third party developers meaning that it will need volume but even in its best case it is not going to out-ship Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa.
  • Consequently, I remain unconvinced with regards to what is special and different about Essential Products and suspect that many consumer electronics buyers will feel the same way.
  • Differentiation in hardware is extremely difficult meaning that Andy Rubin needs to have some software tricks up his sleeve that he is yet to show.
  • Failing that, it seems that this company will end up enriching Google more than itself.

DJI – Brains not brawn

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The spark at DJI is in its software prowess.

  • DJI has launched a new drone which I think clearly demonstrates this company’s unique ability to take on its US rivals and come up with a better product.
  • DJI has launched the Spark which is a palm sized drone that looks to be so easy to fly that the controller is an optional accessory.
  • The Spark is equipped with a 1080p 12MP camera and is controllable with a smartphone app but most importantly it sports a level of autonomy that makes it easy for anyone to fly.
  • Its chief rival in this space is the Dobby drone from Xerotech, which is pretty easy to fly using a smartphone but does not offer the level of sophistication that the Spark does.
  • Specifically, I am referring to the ability to completely control the drone using hand gestures and a series of autonomous modes that are aimed at still and video selfies.
  • This level of autonomy has been under development for quite sometime and DJI continues to demonstrate that it is ahead of all its competitors, including those based in US.
  • This is extremely rare for a Shenzhen-based hardware company which tend to turn out very cheap copy-cat devices and have no understanding of software at all.
  • The difference between Chinese designed devices and the much more expensive versions sold by US companies tends to be found in software functionality and reliability.
  • This is why the US versions still sell well in developed markets as consumers can recognise and are willing to pay up for quality products.
  • DJI completely bucks this trend as it is turning out better products than all its competitors making it a worthy leader of the still small, but growing drone market.
  • What is unusual about DJI is that its differentiation is now rapidly becoming based on its software which offers the best level of autonomy currently available.
  • This has really come to light in its two most recent products, the Mavic Pro and now the Spark.
  • The Spark is DJI’s first attempt at the consumer market as the device is priced at $499 compared to all of its other products that are above $1,000.
  • For its more expensive products it is not so important for them to have a high level of autonomy as they tend to be purchased by users who are either professionals or experienced flyers.
  • This is aimed at those that have never picked up a drone before and as long as it lives up to its billing it should be very easy and great fun to fly.
  • Most of all, the autonomy should allow selfies to be taken where the “pilot” is participating in the scene rather than flying the drone.
  • DJI is continuing to stay ahead of its competitors and is the first Chinese company to lead a segment of consumer electronics rather than be a fast copier.
  • If it was listed, I would be looking at DJI with great interest.

SoftBank Vision Fund – UB40

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Pressure to employ capital is the biggest risk.

  • SoftBank has announced that the first round of its $100bn Vision fund has closed with $93bn in committed capital but the problem now is going to be how to quickly put this huge amount of money to work.
  • At $93bn, the SoftBank Vision Fund ranks as the third largest private equity fund globally, behind KKR with $98bn and Blackstone which has $311bn in assets under management.
  • The investment strategy will be wide with the fund looking to target long-term investments in both private and public companies right the way across the technology sector.
  • The one exception appears to be semiconductors but the fund will have some exposure there if it takes up its option to take a 25% stake in ARM.
  • The fund is clearly intending on having a significant influence on the activities of the companies in which it invests as the aim is to supply growth capital and accelerate the development of disruptive technologies.
  • I am pretty sure that this will also involve turn-around situations as most disruptive technology and requirement for growth capital is to be found in small companies.
  • With the Vision fund’s lowest investment size at $100m, start-ups and small companies are clearly off the table
  • The main investors are SoftBank ($28bn), the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ($45bn estimate) and Mubadala from United Arab Emirates ($15bn estimate).
  • I estimate that between them they make up 95% of the funds committed.
  • Apple, Qualcomm, Sharp and Foxconn Technology Group make up the other 5%.
  • The fund will shave the option to acquire a 25% stake in ARM ($8.2bn) as well as some or all of SoftBank’s investments in Guardian Health, Intelsat, NVIDIA, OneWeb and SoFi.
  • It is worthy of note that SoftBank’s investments in Alibaba or Flipkart which fit the criteria for the Vision Fund do not appear to be included as potential contributions.
  • If the fund decides to take these investments, they will be offset against SoftBank’s $28bn commitment to the fund.
  • I suspect that the biggest issue that the fund will face will be pressure to find good investments.
  • Rivals such as KKR, Blackstone etc. have grown their asset base over time but here the Vision Fund has $93bn at its disposal from day 1.
  • Consequently, its main shareholders will be wanting to see their money quickly put to work opening the door to making rapid but sub-optimal investments.
  • I hope that SoftBank’s recent (on ongoing) experience in India will be heeded as an example of what happens when too much capital chases too little paper on a wave of hype and optimism.
  • Common sense indicates that the shareholders will not be putting up all of the capital on day 1 but as the investment opportunities arise, they will contribute their share as per the commitments that they have made.
  • This is made all the more likely as I understand that PIF will be raising the money from other investments that it is holding and Mubadala did not have $15bn of spare cash on its balance sheet at the end of 2016.
  • Although the Vision Fund is the third largest private equity fund globally, it is the largest that is dedicated to technology and consequently, it should be a major player in sector going forward.

Juicero – Cautionary tale.

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A cautionary tale for budding entrepreneurs.

  • While Juicero is no Theranos, it has got itself into a life-threatening mess that I suspect has come about solely because it got its business model wrong.
  • Juicero is a Silicon Valley company that claims to offer the kind of juice purchased in a store but prepared freshly at home and is totally mess-free.
  • This works through a cold press that can deliver up to 4 tons of force to squeeze the liquid from pre-prepared pouches of fruits and vegetables that the company also sells.
  • The press can only make juice from the pouches which combined with an app and a database, is able to keep track of the produce the user has, when it will expire and send alerts and so on.
  • The juicer is priced at a pretty punchy $400 (reduced from an eyewatering $700) with each pouch selling for $5-$8 meaning that each glass of juice is going to cost somewhere in the region of $7-$8 depending on how long the machine lasts.
  • With each pouch delivering about 9oz of juice, this adds up to $0.83 per ounce which is broadly in line with the top-of-the-line juice companies in Silicon Valley (see here) which charge around $0.86 per oz.
  • I think that the business model is based around breaking even on the pouches and the service with most of the margin coming from the machine.
  • This explains why the company will only sell the pouches to owners of the machine as without it, the business model would collapse.
  • This is where the problems really begin because it turns out that it is possible to produce a perfectly good glass of juice using nothing but bare hands (see here).
  • A female reporter was able to extract 8.5oz of juice from one of the pouches faster than the machine could produce 9.0oz
  • NASA has measured that the human hands of the average male are capable of producing around 90Kg of force (see here).
  • This means that the other 3.5 tons of force that the machine can produce only increases production by 6% demonstrating that Juicero is massively over specified for the task for which it has been designed.
  • Furthermore, if there is a power cut or the Internet is down, no juice is produced whereas hands work all the time and can even offer juicing on the move with limitless battery life.
  • This is where I think the company has gotten its business model wrong.
  • I think it should have followed the tried and tested printer and cartridge model where the printer is sold at break even or a loss and the money is made on the cartridges.
  • I suspect Juicero could have designed the press to deliver 200Kg of force rather than 4 tons with no perceptible difference in performance other than a much cheaper price.
  • If the company had then sold the device for $50 rather than its starting price of $700, I doubt whether anyone would have even bothered to try and squeeze the pouches by hand.
  • This way the company could have hoped to have achieved much greater volume and in doing so it would have been able to get better prices from its suppliers and make good margins on the pouches.
  • The problem now is that everybody knows that the Juicero machine is surplus to requirements for everyone who can read an expiry date.
  • Hence, a change in strategy is urgently required.
  • Juicero offers convenience and in that regard it may have a future as a subscription service for very high quality juice that one prepares at home.
  • However, it will have to confess its shortcomings, ditch the expensive machine and reorient itself around the printer / cartridge model with something much cheaper.
  • On its current trajectory, it is likely to be squeezed out of existence.

 

Samsung – Edge dancer pt. II

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I think Bixby will struggle against Google Assistant.

  • Samsung has launched its offensive on the digital assistant market but I think it will still be dancing around the edge of the main act on the Galaxy s8: Google Assistant.
  • Samsung has announced that its new digital assistant, Bixby will be present on the Samsung Galaxy 8 with its own dedicated key on the side of the device.
  • Bixby promises to offer:
    • First, completeness: This promises to give users complete control of enabled apps rather than the few tasks offered by other assistants.
    • Second contextual awareness: Samsung is promising that Bixby will be aware of the context within which it has been triggered, making it more relevant and useful.
    • I suspect that it will do this using the hooks in Android that Google wrote to enable Google Assistant to do the same thing.
    • Third natural language recognition: Bixby should be able to understand complex, multi-part questions as well as prompt the user to clarify the pieces that it does not understand.
  • These features are very similar to those promised by Viv, the artificial intelligence company that Samsung purchased in October 2016 which is clearly the source of this product.
  • If Bixby can truly fulfil the promises that it is making, then it will almost certainly will be better than Google Assistant.
  • However, I think that this is a very big ask given that RFM research has found that AI excellence to date has been a factor of time and data volume.
  • Viv was founded in 2012 and has no data from commercial products while Google has been crunching data for 20 years and has orders of magnitude more data than its nearest rival.
  • Consequently, I think that compared to this highly ambitious billing, Bixby is going to fall very far short of the promises that it has made.
  • Furthermore, Samsung’s delivery of Bixby is going to be hobbled by the 2014 agreement that it made with Google where it agreed not to compete in the ecosystem (see here).
  • This is why I suspect that Bixby has been relegated to a button on the side of the device whereas it will be Google Assistant that is sitting on the all-important home button.
  • As a result I think on the smartphone, Bixby will lose out to Google Assistant but on other devices it has some chance.
  • Samsung has a good portfolio of other electronic devices, which combined with its SmartThings offering, could allow Bixby to offer intelligent and intuitive control of other Samsung devices.
  • This could help Samsung to encourage greater ownership of Samsung devices across its range but again this will depend on how good Bixby really is.
  • Over 20% of all Google mobile searches are already done using voice meaning that many users are already conditioned to pressing the home button and asking as well as being used to Google’s quality of service.
  • Consequently, I think that the odds are heavily stacked against Samsung having much success with Bixby but as long as it can continue to outsell Huawei by more than 2 phones to 1, the profitability of its handset business should remain intact.
  • I still pretty cautious on Samsung as I am not convinced that the full fall-out from the Note 7 disaster has been felt in terms of market share, which is what makes the Galaxy s8 launch so important.
  • I prefer Baidu, Tencent and Microsoft.