Thanks to James for sponsoring today's session!
James invited me to listen to episode 70 of Ben Thompson and James Allworth's podcast Exponent. It's a great show, it's on my usual list even though I don't always have chance to keep up with every episode. I'll go into a bit more detail, but first, the run. Exponent discussion continues after the map (below).
Since I've been out of action for almost two weeks, it was great to get back to a long run. I managed 14 miles, I did have a bit of tiredness and stiffness in my thighs but that's to be expected I think, with the break. Great to be back at it though, plus it's the first day of spring and the first run this year in shorts!
I think James picked this particular episode as there's a great discussion of what will be the next digital hub, where the main players are right now, and what business models the presenters perceive they are following.
The discussion starts with the Amazon Echo, and how it is a surprise hit in terms of how well it works, but also how it is a very shrewd move into the living room, and potentiall the digital hub space. Ben comments on how the Google Chromecast is a better way in to the living room space than the Apple TV, and although he pulls back from his first position, I still think is wrong. In terms of the Chromecast assuming the smartphone is the current digital hub, I think he's right. But no matter how clever the technology is, and how seamless it is to cast instead of using the more traditional model that the Apple TV relies on, this is never going to be how real people use their TV. The Chromecast for me is the epitome of geek gadgetry: sure it might be the 'best' way to do things, but most people just do not use their smartphones in this way. First, the smartphone has become the digital hub, yes, but most people do not realise it has become this. Second, normal people do not, and will not – ever – control their TV with their phone.
Anyway this is really an aside. I think the main point made in this episode about how Amazon, with cheap hardware and great services, are potentially leapfrogging Apple and Google in the living room, is really interesting. What's more, it's not just the living room - it is the general interface to tech that isn't the smartphone. This puts Amazon in a really strong position if the next digital hub after the smartphone is the cloud, as Steve Jobs predicted, or even if it's a living room or set-top box on the way to being the cloud.
The other really good point made in this episode is about the importance of hardware, as opposed to the services it connects to. Apple are master of hardware design, and even more crucially, selling hardware is central to their business. Will the toppling of Apple come at the same time as the toppling of the need for good hardware?
Finally, remember to support the second-best in taxi companies and probably in most other spaces: it's how we keep the prices down!