Hello HomePod. So Long Sonos & Bose

Sonos founder John MacFarlane’s vision of a connected speaker that could wirelessly stream music was too seductive to resist for a broadband and connectivity junkie like me. Even before the product evolved from a concept to design, I was sold on the idea of Sonos and what it represented. For years, the company’s speakers have been the preferred way of listening to music in my tiny apartment. But it is time to say goodbye to Sonos — though, not for the reason you might think.

Yes, most of my Sonos gear is over a decade old and needs an upgrade. And I’m told their new speakers look nicer and sound better than ever (of course, they only need to sound as good as the high-def stream on Spotify). But I am not going to be upgrading with Sonos. This has nothing to do with their core product. The problem is that they are bundling the speakers with voice assistants, specifically Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Yes, you have to turn on these features and enable them for use, but I remain highly suspicious of what can be done surreptitiously. You can blame it on a growing mistrust of the big tech, and their decision making processes.

What Lee Iacocca & Steve Jobs had in common

Lee Iacocca, the auto industry legend who was credited with the launch of the Ford Mustang and the revival of a moribund and defunct Chrysler, passed away this week. It prompted me to read as much as I could about him and learn about his methods. I mean, what better way to pay homage to a guy known for his maverick management?

AmazonBasics is killing it (& the competition)

We pay a lot of attention to Amazon’s AWS, Prime and Logistics business, but we don’t pay as much attention to something which could become a big business for Amazon: the AmazonBasics private label brand.

The Seattle-based Internet behemoth launched AmazonBasics in 2009, and since then it has added over 2000 products to its private label brand. It accounted for about $7.5 billion in revenues, a drop when compared to $233 billion Amazon brought in 2018. But the potential of this business is pretty high — and according to Joshua Fruhlinger, AmazonBasics are best sellers in 22 out of Amazon’s 51 categories. Interestingly:

While Amazon’s private label is clearly helping to maximize profits, they are rarely #1 sellers. In fact, on average, AmazonBasics products tend to rank somewhere in the middle of the top-100, especially as of late. The only products to average in the top-10 of their respective categories for any significant time period include AA batteries, microfiber cloths, and AAA batteries.

Like every big-box retailer, Amazon was smart to introduce its private label products, except I bet it is way more focused and intelligent about what classes of products to target. Unlike other retailers, it has a lot of data that can help the company predict demand more effectively. And it can also slow down the production of products that aren’t much in-demand, by keeping a close watch on data. This kind of data loop is why presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is all upset about Big Tech.

The Bing of Maps

Seven years ago, Apple decided that it’d had enough of using Google’s mapping data. They realized that maps and mapping services were so strategic that they couldn’t really afford to depend on a smartphone rival. So, they began building their own, and in September 2012, the company launched Apple Maps. And if I am being honest, the program has always been akin to that baby face that only a mother can love.

When it launched, Apple Maps was widely panned for being inaccurate and missing key information. Google launched its own dedicated Google Maps for iOS three months later and has never looked back. Apple, on the other hand, has spent billions on Apple Maps in an effort to build a more accurate and rich experience. Yet, in many dense locations, like San Francisco Bay Area or the Big Apple, it still performs like the kid who got into the private school because their grandfather’s name was on one of the buildings. On sheer merit, Google Maps was and still is better.