Is the Future of Mobile Flexible or Foldable?–Futurum Tech Podcast Episode 018

On this edition of the Futurum Tech Podcast, why flexible screens are the future, but folding phones probably aren’t. Disney Plus, Disney’s streaming content strategy gets investors very excited for the future. Some buyer beware, how technology can drive Deep Fake news. Harley Davidson’s hot new electric bike, is it the future for Harley Davidson? And news from the wild, wild west of the post net neutrality era. Those stories and more coming up.

Our Main Dive

Samsung has demonstrated its flexibility once again, this time with flexible screens for its line of mobile phones. But is this really the future of mobile? We dive into the flexible vs foldable debate and discuss the larger market impact and the need for that elusive killer app.

Our Fast Five

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

  • The troubling merger of fake news and deep fakes into #DeepFakeNews
  • Harley Davidson’s Project Livewire and the shift to electric motorcycles
  • Apple’s move to sell iPhones through Amazon
  • Disney’s studio earnings and the Disney + streaming service
  • The arrival of the ELPIS Center for IoT Security

Tech Bites

Net Neutrality and how Sprint is throttling Microsoft’s Skype service.

Crystal Ball: Future-um Predictions and Guesses

Will anybody actually trust, or even buy, Facebook’s new Portal video device (or will it follow the Facebook Home Phone into oblivion)?


Daniel Newman: Welcome to the Futurum Tech Podcast. I’m Daniel Newman, your host today, joined by my always esteemed colleagues, Olivier Blanchard and Fred McClimans. Welcome back to another week and welcome to the show today, gentlemen.

Fred McClimans: Welcome as well, Dan. Good to have all three of us here for a change.

Olivier Blanchard: I know, right?

Daniel Newman: It’s always great when all three of us show up the same week. But hey, we’re busy, we’re traveling, we’re taking care of clients, customers, and simultaneously trying to keep up with all things that are technology.

Which is why we have this show. And although are seven or eight segments allow us to talk about seven or eight things, there are always seven or eight thousand interesting things going on in technology. So, for all of you that do decide to tune in, we hope we’re picking out seven, eight, nine really interesting things each and every week here on the Futurum Tech Podcast.

Now, before I jump in, I do have to remind everybody on the show that we will be talking about companies that are publicly traded on the exchanges. However, this show is not intended in any way to provide you with financial advisory or to make you want to buy or not buy stocks. I can’t say we won’t make you love companies or hate them, but we don’t tell you what stocks to buy or not to buy here on the Futurum Tech Podcast.

Now, today’s opening segment, which is our big topic of the week, Samsung developers conference, which by the way, just a side note, not Apple, not Facebook. Kind of a change of pace for us since we seem to always like to talk about those companies. And I’m sure they will come up throughout our show. But Samsung this week, their big developer’s conference out on the west coast. They made an announcement… they have many announcements. They made a massive investment in AI or a commitment to a long term massive investment with all kinds of tech centers around the world, north of 22 billion dollars. More to be disclosed there in the future, and probably a topic for a future episode here.

However, probably the most mainstream item that came out of this, the one that blew up my tech meme, blew up my Twitter feed was foldable technology. And so, I want to kick off this segment right here, gentlemen. And I want to ask you, let’s just start off really clear cut and dry. Olivier Blanchard, are people going to be using foldable devices in the near future? And what do you think about the Samsung announcement?

Olivier Blanchard: Well, let me put it this way, I think foldable screens are the future, but I don’t think… I’m sorry. Let me rephrase that. Flexible screens are the future, but foldable smartphones are probably not. It doesn’t really serve a purpose. I don’t think that anybody ever looked at their iPhone or their Note 9 and said, you know what? I really wish I could fold this phone. I know that a few people accidentally tried to fold their iPhone 6 by sticking it in their pocket a few years ago. That didn’t work super well.

Daniel Newman: Wah, wah.

Olivier Blanchard: Wah, wah. But generally I don’t think that it really solves a problem. The stuff that’s going to make people buy new phones, is new capabilities that they actually want, it’s going to be longer battery life. We’re looking for thinner, lighter, and more durable form factors, better screens, better audio, faster charging. Nobody sits there and wants a phone that’s going to be twice as thick as every other phone and that can fold in and out, in and out, in and out.

And I think also, it’s a fantastic technological and engineering achievement, don’t get me wrong. But I think that, for this particular use case, not only does it not solve a problem and not really create value for the user, I think it’s also a very likely point of failure. And, when you think that phones are already inching their way from a thousand dollars to 15 hundred dollars, this is not going to lower the cost. Right? And it’s a point of failure. And I just don’t see how consumers are going to be super enthusiastic about spending a thousand or more on their phone that they’re going to want to keep for about two years, which is the average now, on a phone that is potentially going to fail because the middle of the screen eventually is going to get worn out and stop flexing.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, that’s an interesting thing to think about. Will it get a crease in it eventually over time, like a piece of paper, and start to be really awkward to use.

Now, Fred, you are an outward, outspoken Apple fan boy. And so, if this was an announcement from Apple and your iPad Mini suddenly became an iPad Mini and an iPone, as my two year old calls it.

Fred McClimans: iPone?

Daniel Newman: Yeah, he uses the pone. Or he says, give me your hi, because that’s all he sees us do. But anyways, come on. You got to bring kids and puppies into every show. It makes them better.

Fred McClimans: Absolutely.

Daniel Newman: If you could take your mini iPad, fold it in half and now have a mini iPad that was also an iPhone, would you buy it? Because that’s really what we’re talking about here. But, because it’s Samsung, it’s not getting quite the same response from the market. Or is Olivier right? Is it not getting the same response because it’s not what people are going to want or need?

Fred McClimans: Well, first off, let me just say that I do enjoy Apple products. Fanboy? Maybe that’s a little bit too strong, because I can be very critical of Apple. And I have been very critical of Apple.

In this case here, you’re asking me a hypothetical. If Apple introduced the same product here that Samsung is introducing, would I be excited about it? And the answer there is, yes, but not because it would be Apple. I think this is actually a really slick piece of technology. If you look at the product that we’re really talking about here, I’m not sure that foldable is quite the right way to describe it as much as bendable or flexible. Because we’re not talking about something that creases in half quite like a piece of paper would. We’re talking about something that bends. It does have some curve. And there’s some really good engineers that have been working on this for years that I’ve figured out ways to layer the screen technology so that it has that inherent ability to flex there.

But probably more importantly, is there a use for this product? Right now, it’s interesting, they didn’t bring this out as a product. Here it is, kind of the way Apple does, where Apple likes to just kind of drop something in your lap.

They brought it out at the developer conference. That highlights one of the key missing components that we have today. And that is, what’s the app? What’s the use case for that?

Now, I think there are many in the gaming realm. I can think of a couple just from usage around the home. I can’t tell you how many times I’m talking on the video phone with somebody and I’ve got people on the other side of the phone from me who want to see what’s taking place. Simple use case? Yeah. But it’s there. So, I think it’s going to be really critical that Samsung, along with other people like Nokia that have demonstrated flexible screen phones in the past, like there were a couple of other announcements recently around this about the same kind of development effort, ZTE being one of them. I just look at this and I go, there has to be something that really drives the adoption of the technology.

And, for me, that’s going to be the applications. And we haven’t yet seen what those applications look like. And that’s kind of what we’re waiting on here. But overall, I think this is a great piece of tech. I think it’s a great move. Now it’s up to the developers.

Daniel Newman: So, we have to qualify your fanboyness. And your fanboyness is a comparable to Olivier and I who are much harsher and much more critical. Right? And then, to your point though, really doesn’t matter who brought out the technology. I was sort of making an analogy to the fact that, if some companies bring something out it’s automatically expected to be accepted and to be something everyone would be excited about. Whereas other companies bring out products at their developers conference because they’re not quite sure what the heck to do with their innovation, which is what it kind of sounds like is going on here with Samsung.

I will say Olivier made some great points about battery life, device size. Because I can remember back to my early days, I had a Verizon phone. And it was one of those phones that it was the slider keyboard phones in the early days. And it was probably almost an inch thick. It was probably about three quarters of an inch thick. And skinny jeans are all the rage these days and girls put their owns and devices inside there Lululemon pants, right, in the back between their waistband.

Fred McClimans: Oh, don’t go there.

Daniel Newman: And boys put there… well, it’s true though. I have two tweenage, teenage kids and even my wife does that. It’s just easy for them. And guys like to put their phones in their pockets or in their suit coat pockets, which aren’t typically very large. So, I think form is going to be an issue here is how thin can they make the device?

Because, in my mind, I’ve always seen architects showing up to meetings with what looks like an architect drawing, and they’re rolling it out, but it’s a completely interactive display that you could roll out onto a flat table and start to engage and interact with. That’s really cool. A eight inch screen that folds in half and becomes a small profile phone device, I think it makes sense in the fact that we are carrying around all these devices now. So, we’re carrying around a phone and we’re carrying around a tablet and great. You could have both in one device. I think that makes a lot of sense.

I think what would make more sense or what will make more sense is when you don’t have to put that device in your pocket anymore because you have some sort of mixed reality engaged connectivity that allows certain day to day text messages, notifications, and stuff you want to see maybe right in front of your eye. So, that device doesn’t have to necessarily be in your pocket.

Fred McClimans: Right.

Daniel Newman: Now, this foldable device becomes much more dynamic. And to Samsung’s credit, bringing it out for their developers was more of a sign of saying, we want to coordinate, collaborate, and orchestrate with you to come out with more use cases, as opposed to a New York City launch and saying, here’s the product, buy it. Because they’re not really saying that. And, to this moment, it isn’t really a product yet. It’s going to be a product. They’re not selling it. You can’t go buy this just yet.

All right, great segment guys. Great start to the show. I am stoked, as always, to jump into our not so fast, Fast Five. Because we always say we’re going fast, but we never really do. Olivier, I want to have you kick it off. Disney had some interesting news this week.

Olivier Blanchard: Yes. So, Disney had a really positive earnings call and a really sweet announcement too. So, the earnings call, the part that was really interesting is that their studio revenue grew 50% year over year. So, that was a really, really strong showing. And, coupled with the fact that Disney just announced Disney Plus, which is going to be their streaming service, kind of like a Netflix or Hulu, is also making investors very excited for the future of Disney. And don’t forget that Disney has, I think, majority ownership now in Hulu, another streaming service. And Disney pretty much owns everything from Star Wars to Marvel, I believe.

So, there’s a really huge opportunity for Apple to make a major splash and become a pretty serious competitor of Netflix. And that’s basically Disney has a potential cash machine on its hands, if it can deliver properly.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. You can’t ever rule out Disney. They get experience.

Olivier Blanchard: Yes.

Daniel Newman: They’ve been quoted many times in our books, including Building Dragons and FutureProof, which by the way, if you haven’t bought, you probably should just go out right now to and buy that. But we do talk about Disney a lot because they really are one of those companies that gets experience. So, I say stay tuned there. More to come. Netflix, you are not out of the woods just yet. Fred, you want to talk about some doctored video info wars and the risk of Deep Fake news, which maybe we’ll have to trademark that.

Fred McClimans: Yeah, yeah. The Deep Fake news, just what we need. So, it’s almost impossible this week to go onto any social site and not encounter the full force and the dual competing sides around the event that transpired earlier this week between the president of the United States and Jim Acosta, a reporter from CNN. They got into a fairly heated argument. I don’t want to say argument… actually, no. I think it’s fair to classify that as an argument. During a press conference, Jim was kind of pushing the president to address some questions in a way that the president wasn’t comfortable doing. And tried to follow that up a few times and it got kind of terse with the president pretty flat out being very critical of Jim Acosta, which ultimately resulted in Jim being banned from the White House. He is no longer a card carrying member of the press corps there.

Now, the thing that’s kind of interesting in this is that, during the Q&A session, an intern, a White House or a Press Core intern, tried to grab the microphone or take the microphone from Jim Acosta. And there was a little bit of maneuvering to kind of, Jim, get out of the way and so forth. But, at one point, Jim’s arm and the reporter’s arm happened to meet. At that point Jim says, hey, pardon me ma’am. And continues on.

Well, that got all blown out when the White House said that putting hands on the intern was crossing the line and banned Jim. So, people immediately took to the video. What actually happened? I mean, this was a live stream.

Everybody saw it. And the killer here is that InfoWars stuck their nose into this mess and they released a somewhat doctored video that had a couple of frames enlarged, a couple of frames missing perhaps or extended in length to make it appear as if Jim was actually striking the woman’s arm.

I mean, this could not get any more bizarre until you look at how this kind of played out here. It turns out that the InfoWars person took the video from an animated GIF. You can call it a GIF, if you like, I’ll call it a GIF. G-I-F. And, during that animation process when you convert a video to a GIF, there’s naturally frame loss, frame distortion. He then took that which had already been modified just by technology and created his enlarged video, which does look very incriminating. The White House released that. Sarah Huckabee Sanders in the press office Tweeted that out. And boom, instant firestorm here.

I think what this really highlights more than anything else is, when we’re talking about technology, the ability to discern original from fake for the average person, it simply does not exist anymore at this point in time. And, when you’re going from one technology, video, to GIF, back to video again, you’re going to run into even more issues here. So, it’s sort of just a take on the sad state of technology and politics that we have. But I think this is an issue that, now that it’s out there, we’re going to start to see a lot more of this kind of not quite doctored but doctored video that perhaps, more than anything else, lacks context around how it was created for people to understand what actually took place.

Daniel Newman: Kind of like when a Brittany Spears and Lil Wayne put their voices through the voice box. And suddenly everyone thinks they’re really talented, right? But I’m serious. Like, we’ve been so-

Fred McClimans: Auto tune.

Daniel Newman: Auto tune. We’ve been so manipulated by technology for so long, we really can’t discern anymore good and bad, accurate and inaccurate. And this is, by the way, a huge opportunity for AI and machine learning. But it’s also a huge opportunity to be screwed up by AI and machine learning. So, that’s a great topic and maybe a bigger topic than a Fast Five for another day.

Fred McClimans: My second will be short.

Daniel Newman: That’s good, because we’re over already. So, speaking of Fast Five, I have one. Two companies, which by the way, many people have already forgotten, Amazon and Apple. Well, Amazon many years ago, like three or four, thought they could get into the mobile device business with their Amazon Fire phone. Which, by the way, was one of the most epic failures ever in this space. By the way, when we’re all talking about how great Amazon is, we forget that one. They have made their share of flops in their days.

Well, Amazon, I think for now, has given up on being a mobile phone device company. But they did enter a partnership, and I just read in the press today, with Apple to sell iPhones and iPads on Now quickly, I’m sure there are many retailers right now that have a slight shake in their boots because anytime the big A decides to get involved with any product and start bringing it to market, there’s room to be afraid.

Just yesterday I was having coffee with a global distributor of wire and cable. And they were saying, even in that business right now, companies that are doing B2B commercial business with large volume purchases of fiber optic or connectivity network cable are afraid of when something goes and becomes listed on Amazon. So, Apple entering this partnership is going to send waves. It’s going to send waves through the industry and through the way that iPhones, and iPads, and other Apple devices are procured.

The only thing I really leave to wonder, and maybe this is something for a follow-up discussion, is Amazon doesn’t really like to be told how much they can sell stuff for. And Apple doesn’t really like their stuff to be discounted. So, I could really see some interesting dilemmas here. Will people still buy from Amazon, even if there’s no financial benefit? Which is a lot of the reason with Amazon’s notably tiny margins on hardware that they’re so successful. Can they still be successful when there’s no benefit? Let’s kick it back to you for a quick one before we let Olivier cap off our Fast Five.

Fred McClimans: Right. So, this one is a little bit self-serving of a sort, I suppose. But yesterday I had the privilege of helping kick off a nonprofit organization called Elpis. That is the Greek word for hope. Elpis. The full name is Elpis, The Center for IoT Security. It is a nonprofit organization that the founding members, of which I am one, includes a number of players from government, from industry, and from academia. And our goal is to set up an organization that has the ability to raise awareness of IoT, and edge security, and digital security in general to foster collaboration between industry, academia, government, and consumers or businesses and users. And lastly, to help inform policies that we think actually benefit the greater good. And to make people aware of what policies exist and where we think there’s room for improvement.

So, you’ll be hearing a lot more of that in the near future. Again, that is Elpis, not Elvis. I know one of you two is going to crack on that. But it’s Elpis, The Center for IoT Security.

Daniel Newman: Elvis Presley. Had to make the joke because you set them up, I knock them down. All right, Olivier, last one. We are talking Momo cycles. Come on.

Olivier Blanchard: Yes.

Daniel Newman: Kind of makes you want to go, I want to ride that Momo cycle.

Olivier Blanchard: Yes. Yes. So-

Daniel Newman: So, what’s going on with Harley Davidson?

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah. We always talk about phones and all kinds of technologies, but today we’re going to talk about motorcycles. So, this is really cool. Harley Davidson, which you don’t necessarily think of as a technology company, and which has run into a few economic hurdles recently, it’s trying to reinvent itself for new markets. And the times indeed are a changing because, this week at the Milan Motorcycle Show, Harley Davidson introduced or at least presented for the first time it’s LiveWire, a completely electric motorcycle.

And I have to say, just based on the pictures I’ve seen, that thing looks hot. So, we don’t have any specs. I don’t have any idea how far it will go on a charge. I’m assuming more than a hundred miles. They would have to. But the thing is gorgeous. And Harley is definitely transitioning into the fully electric market now for a whole new generation of bike riders. And, if I ever have the extra cash to do this, my midlife crisis exercise will be to buy one of these, because it’s pretty damn gorgeous. So, there it is.

Fred McClimans: Yeah. I can’t wait to get my hands on one either.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah, maybe we can-

Daniel Newman: We can all have a company one, right? No, it’s considered for research, right? Like the way we buy servers or-

Olivier Blanchard: Exactly.

Daniel Newman: Or devices to play with. I guess now that automobiles and motorcycles are kind of considered high tech devices, I guess they become on the books assets. Let’s do it boys.

Olivier Blanchard: I’ll be glad to review one of these for six months.

Daniel Newman: Sure. Sure. You know, there is your tour. You know, Olivier, anyone that knows you know that’s not the kind of bike that you like to ride. You ride one of those bikes that come with spandex.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah. That’s true. But I’ll make an exception. I’ll buy some leather for this.

Fred McClimans: Oh, righty.

Daniel Newman: All right. Just not the same fit as the Spandex, right?

Olivier Blanchard: Oh, totally. Totally the same fit.

Daniel Newman: All right. That’s would be awful.

Olivier Blanchard: Rockstar leather thing.

Daniel Newman: Thanks for ruining everybody who’s listening to this day. In case you want more of that, follow Olivier on Instagram.

We’re going to move on to our tech bites segment. And I’m kind of stoked to talk about tech that bites today. And my topic, it’s a little bit different. It’s about Skype and throttled Internet services and Sprint. I did want to make one small quick tech bites comment is, Tesla 3 came out with their key fob and didn’t put the passive unlock feature on. Seriously Tesla, come on. You bite.

Okay. Sprint. Skype. Net neutrality. Okay, so there’s a company that monitors… you know Fred, quit nodding your head. I’m going slow. I’m thinking this one through a little bit. Sometimes I have to process the brain. When you video podcasts that come on as audio, you can’t see them rolling their eyes at you. But I’m telling you, Fred was rolling his eyes at me, everybody.

Fred McClimans: Hey, I’m willing to wait because I know it’s going to be good.

Daniel Newman: It’s going to be good. It’s always good. This show is really good. By the way, subscribe, if you haven’t already. We’d love to hear from you more often.

Fred McClimans: Yeah. Smash that button.

Daniel Newman: Smash it. So, Sprint got busted. There’s basically a company, a third party company, and we’ll put it in the show notes, the name of them, because I don’t have it memorized right now. But their job is to monitor companies for following net neutrality rules that are still in place or that exist. And we know that’s all changing. But this company was monitoring the telcos. And they found that Sprint was intentionally throttling data for customers using Microsoft Skype applications specifically, and basically people who are using mobile Skype on their devices.

So, they were trying to have Skype phone calls. And, obviously, we know the impact when you’re a telco like a Sprint who… they make their money on sending calls over their infrastructure and people using Skype are sort of using what you would call a lower income, lower moneymaker for them. Right? Because now you’re doing it over lines that aren’t necessarily theirs. And the data is traveling through different sources than theirs.

What do you guys think about this? It’s kind of an interesting little writeup. It was something I kind of found. It was a little more obscure, not something that’s been talked about a lot. But, with net neutrality rules changing, is this kind of a preview of what we have a lot more to come, which is kind of what was interesting to me. Or is it something that we just kind of need to shrug our shoulders and say, it’s probably happening everywhere. Fred, why don’t you take this one?

Fred McClimans: Yeah. Well, this is a tricky one here because I don’t want to necessarily blame this on the demise of net neutrality. But on the other hand, I kind of do want to blame it on the demise of net neutrality here. You have a new playing field where it’s now acceptable to throttle back applications or potentially individual users or types of users based on what they’re doing. And, in this particular case, you got to kind of ask the question, why? For Sprint, it’s a clear bandwidth issue, from my perspective here, unless I see something else. I think it’s kind of a cheesy move.

Sprint has denied that they’re specifically throttling back Skype. They’re falling back on the old argument that hey, we don’t throttle applications. We may throttle types of bandwidth, and it just so happens that the type of bandwidth, and the protocols, and the data structures that were throttling back just happen to coincide with Skype.

There was some talk a while back about this also impacting other video applications. So, I think this is more a situation of Skype kind of getting caught trying to cheat bandwidth a bit here, on the part of users. And Skype users are getting caught in the middle. And that’s unfortunate.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. So, it’s the app, it’s called Wehe. And it’s an app you can basically use to test whether or not the app is performing at the level it should, based upon the bandwidth that you’re getting from your carrier. And so, the exact data of this came down to something like… they said it was… they used 100 thousand consumers. They tested one thousand nine hundred sixty eight Skype calls. And in 34% they found that… and this was done between January and October of this year. They basically found that they were getting substantially less bandwidth when trying to do video calls then they should have been allotted.

Now, this kind of aligns closely to some of the issues that have gone across other carriers this year with say Netflix. And it really just comes down to bandwidth being this priceless commodity. I think they’re almost priming the pump to be able to raise prices for data to higher speed access. I really like it’s more and more of us want video calls, want on demand video, and watch to our Netflix. And we’re getting these unlimited data plans. I think these companies are starting to look for ways to get us to pay more. It’s kind of like when you go to the hotel and they’re like, you get this free WIFI but it’s really crappy. For 19 dollars more, we’ll give you better WIFI.

Fred McClimans: Exactly.

Daniel Newman: And sometimes I wonder if it’s even any better. But I think it’s that whole psychology of, God, I need my video to be fast. Olivier, what do you think about all of this?

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah. Well, I think that net neutrality is going to be kind of a political tennis ball. I think it’s going to go back and forth a few more times before we settle on where it falls. In the meantime though, I think a lot of these cases are going to have to be decided in the courts. And so, even if net neutrality rules are not reinstated the way that they were previously, I think that case is like this one where companies can show in federal court that they are being not necessarily discriminated against, but targeted will probably get us about halfway there. So, I’m not really concerned, but it’s going to be a messy battlefield for the next few years for sure.

Daniel Newman: And does Sprint really want to be ticking off Microsoft, and Netflix, and other companies that are really essential to their entire ecosystem. So, not only is it a consumer pain, but it’s also pain for the companies who are being throttled. Because let’s face it, most people, the first thing they think is bad is they think their carrier is bad. But then, they’ll start blaming their device. Then they start blaming the app. So, the blame doesn’t just land in one place. It typically lands in a handful of different places, depending on how savvy the user is.

Fred McClimans: Right.

Daniel Newman: Or, then again, how not savvy the user is. So, all right guys, moving on.

Olivier Blanchard: I’m just saying that users tend to blame the network before they blame the device or the app. So, I think that, if consumers get angry enough and one of the providers, one of the carriers, like T-Mobile for instance, makes it really easy and really transparent for its users to say like, look, we have the cheapest rates and the fastest. We’re not going to throttle anybody. I think, if customers buy and they bite, it’ll set the stage for the rest of the market.

Daniel Newman: Well, with those two companies merging, T-Mobile and Sprint, I guess it’ll be a-

Olivier Blanchard: I guess maybe that was a bad example.

Daniel Newman: They will be a little bit odds to say… that’s going to work out.

Olivier Blanchard: That’s true.

Daniel Newman: But John Legere, he’s a progressive thinker, and he certainly is a risk taker and a rule breaker. So, let’s move on guys.

Crystal ball, okay? This is always fun. Facebook… so, Amazon has sort of successfully found its way into everyone’s home with the Echo, and, of course, with Prime, and with doorbell cameras, and, and, and, and. Well, Facebook has been in our homes for a long time but they really have only been on our devices. Right? And actually the use of Facebook in our homes on our desktops and stuff has shrunk at a rapid rate, while our mobile use is continuing to grow. So, now they’re not even being used as much while we’re at home, or unless we’re using it at home on our mobile device.

Facebook wants to be in our home though. And, over the years, they’ve offered some different services and solutions. One of them has been Messenger. And, obviously, they’ve had video and video chat for some time. Although, I’ve never really seen Facebook’s video chat take off at the same rate as say Apple’s FaceTime or Skype. And I think there’s a lot of different reasons. And I think one, of course, being people tend to trust Facebook the least. Although, that hasn’t stopped us from sending messages, it just stops us from doing video with them. And I think other reasons is the quality of service and just when they came to market.

But Facebook now has this Portal product. So, they’re going to get into the hardware game. And they want to start shipping us Echo like devices. So, just another company that wants to put smart devices in our home, keep us more connected under the guise of adding value and quality to our life and keeping us in touch with the people we love.

But, as we know, there are going to be massive factors in privacy, massive factors in intrusion, massive data collection. And who knows who is listening to these conversations.

So, for the Crystal Ball today, I’m going to ask you guys a simple question. Facebook Portal, by the way, don’t listen to me or my bias. I want to hear from you. Facebook Portal, will it be a success? Fred?

Fred McClimans: No.

Daniel Newman: Is that it?

Fred McClimans: Well, I can qualify that, put some context around it.

The idea of having a larger screen device in the home for video calling, I mean, that’s something that’s been promised since the old AT&T back in the ’70s. And I do have to say, there are a lot of times when I get on video calls, video chats with friends and family and I quite literally have a little bracket that sits in one of the rooms that I can just slot the phone into. And it sits there so that everybody can see what’s going on.

So, the value proposition I think is good there. But I think this Facebook Portal, without much value add, it falls into the same category as the Facebook Phone.

Daniel Newman: Oh.

Fred McClimans: Who cares?

Daniel Newman: That was the Fire Phone?

Fred McClimans: Well, no. So, remember Facebook tried their cut at a phone back in 2000, was it 13? 2014? Much fanfare about taking an Android phone and turning it into a Facebook phone where the actual OS presented Facebook as the home page of all of that. They had some really great, and confusing, and bewildering commercial TV spots for it, but it faded fast.

Daniel Newman: So. I have to be honest, I actually didn’t know that. Somehow I was under a rock. And, while Amazon was putting out massive failures of a device, Facebook tried and it was so unpopular that I didn’t even hear about it. And I don’t even know how that’s possible. I don’t know, Olivier. Maybe we were in the middle of writing a book.

Olivier Blanchard: Must be.

Daniel Newman: I’m not even kidding. I don’t know.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah. I hadn’t heard that either. No.

Daniel Newman: So Fred, you are our new scoop reporter, uncovering the news that nobody has heard before. You heard it here first. Facebook tried to-

Fred McClimans: The news of yesterday. Yes.

Olivier Blanchard: Fred does a degreaser.

Daniel Newman: Tried to put out a phone. Heard here first on the Futurum Tech Podcast. So Olivier, you are the fan of Facebook in this group. You spend more time there in a day than I spend in a month. Tell me what’s going on. Is this going to work? Are you going to buy it? You going to be calling home to France on the Facebook Portal?

Olivier Blanchard: No, there’s no way this works. So, two reasons. One, it’s an also in product. There’s other products out there that do this. Like Fred said, you can use your own device, your own tablets, your own phones to do this with whatever app you want. Amazon is better at it. The Form Factor is actually pretty popular and out there already.

So, I could see this being a win if Apple got into the game and decided to do something with this. But, no. So, the also in aspect of this makes Facebook a latecomer. And there’s no additional value to it.

Second, which I think is a more important issue, consumer trust when it comes to Facebook is even lower than their trust for Google and their trust for Amazon. So, there is absolutely no way that a sane, reasonable person is going to spend money when they have all these other choices to do this sort of thing. To put a Facebook device, a Mark Zuckerberg spying device with cameras and microphones in their house, under the current conditions, I just don’t see it happening, not at scale.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. Their timing could not have sucked more, could it?

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah.

Daniel Newman: Like just when nobody trusts us, let’s put out devices so we can spy on you in your home. No. We all want to give our personal, and private, and most intimate details did Jeff Bezos. And you know that. I mean, God. I mean, how could people even consider another alternative to it.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah.

Daniel Newman: But so, I can finish this show kind of where we started it. See, what we really need here is about an eight inch foldable device that you can take out of your pocket that has some sort of magnetic properties. You can stick it on your refrigerator. You can press Skype button and you make a call. And now you have Portal, by the way. And you could do it anywhere.

And I’m not being facetious. I mean, it really is that whole like, where can I stick the device? You talked about the slot you stick the phone in, Fred. It’s like, well, I mean that’s basically it. The only reason people don’t do more video on their mobile device is because they have to hold the phone. If you could just stick it somewhere, you know? How often do you like prop your phone on something to watch video? Right? It’s like, when you’re on an airplane, how much does it suck? Well, they’ve made these things that go on like the back of airplane seats so you can throw your phone in it and now it’s like your mini TV. If you can take that smaller profile iPhone, make it twice as large with a foldable, now you kind of have an application for it. It sort of is your travel mobile content consumption anywhere device. And, much like the iPhone, in the end, it just becomes a device that you can make a call on if you need to.

So gentlemen, another week, another great Futurum Tech Podcast. Want to thank you all for covering so much ground. For all of you out there, in case you didn’t hear me earlier, subscribe, become part of our community. Join the Futurum Tech Podcast. We put out shows weekly. We also have a series called the Futurum Tech Podcast Interview Series where we talked to our vendor and technology partners. Our first one with Dell just came out. We’ve got new episodes coming out with SAS, with SAP, with Cisco, and other companies that will be coming in the months ahead of us. So, join, subscribe, be part of our community. We appreciate it. For Futurum Tech Podcast this week, Dan Newman, Olivier Blanchard, Fred McClimans saying goodbye. We’ll see you later.

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.

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Author Information

Daniel is the CEO of The Futurum Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise.

From the leading edge of AI to global technology policy, Daniel makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology investments. Daniel is a top 5 globally ranked industry analyst and his ideas are regularly cited or shared in television appearances by CNBC, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal and hundreds of other sites around the world.

A 7x Best-Selling Author including his most recent book “Human/Machine.” Daniel is also a Forbes and MarketWatch (Dow Jones) contributor.

An MBA and Former Graduate Adjunct Faculty, Daniel is an Austin Texas transplant after 40 years in Chicago. His speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.


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