Big Tech Topics On My Mind
While the tech space hasn’t been entirely devoid of substantial news over the past several weeks, there has been a bit of a “spring doldrums” feeling in the runup to summer that officially kicks off in late June.
Sure, the tech industry has been entertained by the ongoing Elon Musk/Twitter saga and Netflix’s shedding of subscribers that may or may not underly significant shifts that are going on in the video streaming space. Like many others, I feel I’ve forfeited much of my sanity watching portions of the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard trial.
But I digress. I would like to use this newsletter to drill down on three tech topics that I believe are incredibly important to consumers and businesses but are getting underreported.
Matter smart home standard appears to be gaining momentum
Given recent events over the past several weeks, it’s hard to deny that the Matter interoperability standard is not picking up steam. I’ve written extensively on the Matter initiative, which promises to dramatically simplify the setup and use of smart home devices, regardless of the vendor or brand of the product itself. Anyone who has dipped their toes in the “waters” of the smart home knows that the overall experience can be painfully frustrating and baffling from a user experience standpoint.
But the Matter initiative is gaining more credibility every day, especially with last week’s Samsung announcement of its Partner Early Access Program for its SmartThings smart home platform, allowing scores of companies to begin testing their Matter-compatible products.
The Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA), the entity behind Matter, has previously said that numerous devices are subjected to their testing. Still, it has revealed precious little about the process beyond its announcement in March that the crucial software development kit (SDK) for Matter device aspirants was delayed.
Last week, Samsung SmartThings messaged that it is working with popular light, lock, and sensor vendors such as Yale, Wemo, Netatmo and WiZ, Leedarson and Nanoleaf to ensure numerous products are available and ready to be released when Matter formally launches later this fall. Matter’s home run feature, called Multi-Admin Control, allows every Matter product to connect to and be managed by one or more smart home platforms (e.g., Amazon’s Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant and Samsung SmartThings, of course).
Given the company’s smartphone market share position and its sizeable smart appliance presence, Samsung’s full-throated support of Matter is a massive feather in the cap of the CSA, which has gotten bruised as the launch of Matter solutions has been delayed several times over the past two years. Regardless, one gets the sense that Matter is getting close to the finish line, and the delays will have been worth it if the initial devices are truly interoperable as advertised. Amazon has been highly supportive of Matter, and the company’s recent Tech Talk webinar was unequivocal in its desire to embrace this new interoperability initiative. For myself, it’s hard not to get excited about a future smart home world where it’s irrelevant to ask where your new smart lock works with Apple Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant or Samsung SmartThings.
Apple WWDC rumors
Trying to guess what Apple will unveil at its upcoming Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) is a bit like predicting what college basketball team will win the NCAA Championship before the tournament begins.
That said, it’s a pretty sure bet that Apple will use WWDC to unveil its plan for iOS/iPad 16, macOS, watchOS and macOS. There will undoubtedly be interface tweaks (particularly if the infamous notch on the iPhone disappears when new models are released in September). Still, there has also been some chatter about car crash detection and even emergency satellite features.
Given Apple’s long-stated commitment to the digital health space, it won’t be surprising to see a completely new version of its Health app that focuses on expanded sleep tracking functionality (an Apple favorite) and potentially medicine management, allowing users to scan their pill bottles into the app for reminder capability. It will be interesting to see if medicine management can overcome liability concerns from Apple’s legal team. Still, that feature could offer tremendous value to users from all age groups.
I’ll be looking for any details about Apple’s rumored mix-reality headset, dubbed Apple Glasses. If the rumors are to be believed, Apple’s forthcoming solution (representing the first genuine “new” smart wearable since the Apple Watch was introduced in 2015) will be priced in the $3,000 territory. That price point rumor doesn’t shock me as the company currently sells a $6,000+ Mac (its Mac Studio) and a $5,000 display. Let’s face it: Apple has never been a stranger to premium pricing.
This kind of pricing strongly suggests to me that its rumored new headset will be not aimed at mainstream consumers but business professionals/enterprise users with narrow usage model AR/VR requirements. Due to battery and electronics requirements considerations to enable compelling VR/AR capability, it’s also hard to believe that an Apple Glasses will have the same aesthetic design appeal that the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch have come to personify. Where is Jonathan Ivie when you need him?
Can you still believe there’s a console game shortage?
In the scheme of things, it’s certainly not as important as the current baby formula shortage. However, more than a year after they were launched, getting your hands on a new PlayStation or Xbox is still challenging without paying an exorbitant premium.
Unfortunately, “flippers” have become infamous for grabbing up the fresh restocks obtainable online with the help of lightning-fast buying bots. The consequence, of course, is that this phenomenon forces the average consumer to buy units off the secondary market for obnoxious, $100 (or more) markups.
But traditional resellers/retailers are not at the root of the issue, which plagues the console reselling “underworld.” The horrible actors are the software developers who sell these bots to wannabe flippers in the first place. Of course, this problem is not exclusive to video game consoles: “AIO resale bots” (as they are referred to in the industry) can be used to corner the market on any in-demand product, particularly sneakers, graphics cards and video game consoles. The nefarious can leverage these easy-to-use and low-cost tools to pass through the digital checkout infrastructure to automatically order new products once they become available on a retailer’s online site. These bots, which are marketed as a service offering, are frequently used to take advantage of online ordering from Best Buy, Target, Amazon, and Walmart. These bots must be used in a prepaid fashion to obtain the product, which carries its level of risk for flippers.
It probably won’t surprise you, but the use of these bots is perfectly legal. Most of the scalpers using these services are working out of their homes, and scoring a $200 premium on a PlayStation 5 a few times a day may be preferable to working on a traditional job. Of course, the scalpers may be in pain once the world’s supply chain returns to some sense of normalcy, and they get stuck with lots of expensive, prepaid products. Regardless, retailers must better defend themselves from these bot-enabled scalpers, as consumers are already being hurt by excessive gas and inflation-riddled food prices. This situation is another factor increasing the odds of a U.S. recession later this year.
Mark Vena is the CEO and Principal Analyst at SmartTech Research based in Silicon Valley. As a technology industry veteran for over 25 years, Mark covers many consumer tech topics, including PCs, smartphones, smart home, connected health, security, PC and console gaming, and streaming entertainment solutions. Mark has held senior marketing and business leadership positions at Compaq, Dell, Alienware, Synaptics, Sling Media and Neato Robotics. Mark has appeared on CNBC, NBC News, ABC News, Business Today, The Discovery Channel and other media outlets. Mark’s analysis and commentary have appeared on Forbes.com and other well-known business news and research sites. His comments about the consumer tech space have repeatedly appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, TechNewsWorld and other news publications.
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