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Billions and a duo
Ephemeral Reviews, Essays and Opinions s°02.ep11 - 2020.06.02
Could Facebook take on Amazon marketplace? The firm is flexing its multi-platform muscle through the introduction of Shops: giving small businesses the opportunity to create storefronts on both Facebook and Instagram, as well as communicating with customers on WhatsApp. Link (T)
Cash is even more king during a crisis. Discounted cash flows make an obvious come back for startup valuations. Softbank and his founder now value WeWork $2.9 billion, it is down 47 billion (94%) from just a year ago. Link (S)
Cash again. $500 billion, about the same amount as the whole European Union aid package, this is the mountain of cash currently held by Alphabet, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft. It looks like they will use this money to acquire promising technologies and companies in the coming months... Link (S)
No less than 14 SaaS public companies are valued above $10bn - they are “decacorns” in VC parlance. Not so long ago, there was just one unicorn: Salesforce. Link (T)
Let’s face it, at this stage of the digital revolution, we’ve lost control of our time. It’s almost cliché by now, but who has never opened YouTube or Facebook to look for a specific piece of information… just to go down the rabbit hole of useless updates and funny videos (or funny updates and useless videos for that matter)? Please let me know if that’s your case, because I’m interested in your story.
We’ve outsmarted ourselves by inventing brilliant time-sucking vortices. I’m not so much concerned about the loss of attention (there’s a fixed quantity of it), rather I’m deeply worried about our loss of intention - we tend to forget why we do the things we do.
Here comes the question of the artifacts that could help us regain control. What if the future of devices were to be found in our technological past, around 15 years ago? That is, in the glorious alliance between the mobile phone and the desktop computer. I think we had struck the right balance back then: the ubiquity of utility associated to the preservation of intentionality.
Of course we could lose ourselves in browsing the web or playing games on our computer, but it was much more likely that we intended to do so in the first place. And for very practical purposes, our phone was an efficient companion: once your task at hand was done, there was no need to stare at the screen for an hour (e.g. the classic call “hey mom, I just left school, could you give me a ride home?”).
By no means am I advocating a return to those pre-iPhone times. There have been so many hard-fought advances that we shouldn’t jettison (please, please don’t take Google Maps away)! But a new equilibrium is within reach, with the adaptation of the phone <> desktop computer model to our current state of civilization.
Here’s my proposal, and let’s call it, by blatant lack of imagination, the Duo:
The Duo Phone and Duo Desktop form a single product.
When you use one of these two devices, the other is unaccessible - death to multitasking!
The number of apps on the Duo Phone is limited.
The Duo Phone focuses on utility apps (phone calls, messaging, maps, camera, agenda, search engine…). Entertainment apps are offline by default; you can just intentionally pre-load content when at home (e.g. a few episodes of your last Netflix shows).
Notifications on the Duo Phone are limited to phone calls and text messages.
One of the main apps of the Duo Phone is a to-do list, unto which you unload all the things you think about during the day to better treat them intentionally later on using the Duo Desktop.
You may think I haven’t said a lot about the Duo Desktop to that point: it’s because it’s the phone use that has to be carefully curtailed. All the rest is to be undertaken through the desktop computer.
A portable screen comes with the Duo Desktop, to have a form factor you can take with you when necessary… but only inside of your home.
Assuredly, it’s a paradox that we’ve nailed the smartphone experience so well, with its ubiquitous form factor, its infinity of services and always-on connection, that we need to counterbalance its appendix-like omnipresence. Its hegemony reached in the 2010s has made us stop imagining new hardware platforms. It’s never too late, and it’s even desirable, to strive to reach a better technology <> life fit.
They are among us. (S)
After having eaten the wearable devices market with its watch, will Apple finally start the AR (augmented reality) competition to master it once again? Welcome Apple Glass. Link (S)
Every time a new concept breaks through in tech, the game of choice in startupland is to try to apply it to as many new areas as possible - and see what will stick. After Uber for X, discover… Clubhouse for X! Link (T)
Lack of (affordable) housing x cash-strapped homeowners = United Dwelling, which turns garages or backyards into new housing units. Link (T)
Under lockdown, esports were the only competitive possible ‘sport’. Will sponsoring budgets follow? Link (S)
Thanks to hardware and software veteran David Rosenthal, ex Sun Microsystems and employee #4 at Nvidia, to bring me back to a Blogger page for such a great piece on the rise and fall of corporate research labs, commenting a research paper: The changing structure of American innovation: Some cautionary remarks for economic growth. The corporate research lab is dead, long live the corporate research lab! Link (S)
You know I love chairs. Here is a retrospective from 1800 until now, a video produced by one of their best manufacturers in the world, Vitra. Link (S)
Three little luzzles about infinity. Nice mind tricks! Link (T)
If you haven’t read the brilliant book Debt: the First 5,000 Years, a thought-provoking essay about the invention of money, you may want to read this recap. Link (T)
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Edited by Stéphane Distinguin (S), Founder and CEO of Fabernovel, and Tom Morisse (T), Fabernovel alum and Knowledge Manager at Spendesk, Stéréo is a digital-oriented newsletter highlighting the main developments and weak signals affecting the world’s societies and economies.
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