Share price drops for both Amazon and Google after quarterlies

Despite reporting quarterly numbers most companies would kill for Amazon and Alphabet share prices dropped by 8.6% and 5% respectively due to investor disappointment.

More than anything else it shows the high demands of investors but also the confidence which is being placed in the internet giants. With Amazon reporting a revenue increase of 29% to $56.6 billion for the quarter, while Google parent company Alphabet reported $33.7 billion, up 21%, the expectations are certainly high.

Starting with Amazon, the revenue increase of 29% paled in comparison to the more than 10X lift in net income to $2.9 billion. While this would be a regular cash bonanza for most companies around the world, sales guidance between $66.5 billion and $72.5 billion for final quarter were lower than what the market wanted to hear. The more coy guidance for Amazon’s busiest quarter resulted in the 8.6% drop, after confidence during the day sent stock up 7%.

In Google’s HQ the story was slightly different. Revenues of $33.7 billion, up 21%, and net income of $9.1 billion, compared to $6.7 billion in 2017. Shares were down 5%, following a 4.4% rise across the day, after sales figures did not hit the expected heights. The last three months have been a tough period for investors to swallow with various scandals dropping share price by 8.8% over the last three months.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad news. The cloud unit for both businesses is continuing to rack up revenues with AWS up 45% to $6.7 billion across the quarter and Google’s other revenues segment, which features cloud up 29% to $4.6 billion. Encouragingly for both, Gartner estimates the worldwide public cloud services market is projected to grow 17% percent in 2019 to total $206.2 billion, up from $175.8 billion in 2018. IaaS is set to get the largest boost, forecast to grow 27.6% in 2019 to reach $39.5 billion. With so many businesses around the world citing a cloud-first approach, it’s amazing to think only 10% of workloads have been moved into the cloud.

The relatively new venture into the world of smart speakers and virtual assistants is proving to be a continued success story as well. For Amazon, the number of Alexa-compatible smart home devices has quintupled to more than 20,000 devices from 3,500, while the team have also started to launch new products such as a smart home security solution (Alexa Guard), and Alexa is expanding what it can give updates on as well, such sports with predictions, live streams, cooking instructions and maths homework. For Google. the Assistant has expanded to 20 languages and 76 countries, while the devices with screens will help YouTube business, which is attempting to blend in more direct response adverts as well as branding to its proposition.

There will of course be short-term wins for the pair in this space, but this is a long-term bet. Once the idea has been adopted by the mass market, the opportunities to make money through third-party relationships will be quite remarkable. Search revenues can be moved into the voice domain (effectively anywhere) and look how profitable search has been for Google. This is only one way to make money, but both Amazon and Google are putting themselves in a remarkably strong position for the future.

Both businesses might have suffered in the last 24 hours but they are still in incredibly dominant positions. The cloud units still have incredible growth potential, while the smart speaker ecosystem is starting to become a reality. For Google, the is delivering amazing profitability but sales growth does seem to be slowing slightly. Amazon is delivering on the North American market but the business is not as effective on the international scene, posting a loss of $385 million.

There are issues, but these are nothing compared to the billions being raked in and the growth potential in new, lucrative markets.

Google adds some Pixels

Internet giant Google ramped up its involvement in the consumer hardware space with the launch of new Pixel branded smartphones and tablets as well as a home hub.

The Pixel 3 and its XL variant offer both an industrial design and spec upgrade on their predecessors. Initial impressions indicate the redesign is well received and the spec upgrades are significant. There also seems to be more AI stuff going on, including a call screening functions that taps into Duplex technology to save you having to interact with a caller if you’re not sure about them.

Google debuted a new device category in the form of the Pixel Slate – a tablet running Chrome OS that seems to be positioned as a direct competitor to Microsoft’s Surface product range, with an emphasis on hybrid laptop functionality. Once more initial takes seem positive, especially about its attempt to be the best of both worlds, although the full range of requisite peripherals and accessories does make it an expensive proposition.

Lastly we have the Home Hub, which is an AI-driven smart speaker with a 7-inch screen that will compete with equivalent products from Amazon and Facebook. One big difference is that Google is making a virtue of it not having a camera installed in an apparent bid for people to take it into the bedroom or even the bog. There’s also a physical mute switch to prevent the device listening to you, which seems like a good say to allay fears about being spied on by Google, but does call into question what the point of the device is.

“Our goal with these new products, as always, is to create something that serves a purpose in people’s lives – products that are so useful they make people wonder how they ever lived without them,” said Rick Osterloh, VP of Hardware at Google. “The simple yet beautiful design of these new devices continue to bring the smarts of the technology to the forefront, while providing users with a bold piece of hardware.”

The Pixel 3 starts at £739, with the XL coming in at £869. The Slate starts at £549 without peripherals, while the Home Hub will set you back £139. Google has managed to throw down the gauntlet to the majority of the consumer tech world with one set of launches, which is fun, but time will tell whether any of them are able to claim significant market share. Here’s a vid.

 

Connected speakers could refresh smart home euphoria

Enthusiasm for connected devices is on the rise, but it’s taking the buzz away from smart appliances and the smart home category on the whole.

According to research from GfK, products which are geared towards improving connectivity and entertainment are gaining traction in the market, though this is replacing the appetite for smart home appliances which are geared towards efficiency and functionality.

“Take-up of smart home products in the UK continues to rise, with interactive speakers the hot product of the last year,” said Trevor Godman, Divisional Director at GfK. “In contrast however, the level of consumer excitement about smart home as a category has lost momentum somewhat – particularly for smart appliances and smart health products.  As smart home pivots to the mass market, it is essential that manufacturers look at what is holding consumers back and communicate compelling benefits that capture consumers’ imaginations.”

While Godman is taking a rather negative approach to the trends, we do not see it in the same light. The idea of the smart home, and various devices in the kitchen or around the house being connected and programmable is not a new idea. The smart fridge or connected light bulbs have been around for years without stimulating enough momentum for the segment to really take off. A creative spark was needed to engage consumers and offer an attractive proposition, unfortunately, smart energy readers do not offer this. Smart speakers and TVs do however.

For the mass market to embrace new ideas, there needs to be genuine excitement. Being able to switch the light in the living off with your smartphone might be functional and useful occasionally, but the smart speakers capture the imagination of the consumer. These are products consumers would actually want to buy, instead of a central heating system which reacts to the weather outside.

According to the research, the UK smart home market was worth £900 million in 2017, making it the second largest market in Europe. It has also become the fastest growing, increasing by 19% in value from 2016 and 35% by volume. There are now 336 brands offering 3,777 smart home products, while 85% of the UK’s online population now own at least one smart product, and the number owning four or more has grown from 35% last year to 44% this year. The fastest growing segment is smart speakers, though this does seem to be at the expense of other categories.

Manufacturers of smart cookers or connected mirrors might look at these statistics and worry, though GfK suggests consumers who plan to buy a smart device or appliance in the future have their sights set on a wide range of products. The smart home might have failed to deliver over the last couple of years, though the accessibility and entertainment value of smart speakers does seem to open up consumers to new purchases.

The purchase of smart home devices might not be growing across the board, but that isn’t necessarily awful for those who have their eyes on the long-game. Smart speakers are normalising the idea of the connected economy. Once the basic concept has been accepted by the mass market, the opportunity to sell becomes significantly easier as value is more readily realised and accessible.

Philips might preach about the benefits of a smart central heating system, but the frivolous purchases were needed to normalise the segment first. The smartphone ecosystem didn’t explode overnight, there were years of adoption as the touch user interface become second-nature, the same could be said here. Frivolous purchasing is needed before the connected bug can spread throughout the home.

Smart speakers starting to drive next era of digital

Years usually pass before the world realises a technology breakthrough actually happened and it catches on; the voice user interface might just have arrived at that watershed moment.

The fantastic breakthrough of touchscreen mobile phones is often attributed to Apple, though if you go back to 1992 IBM unveiled a phone called Simon which featured the first touchscreen. Apple didn’t invent the concept of touch screens, it simply innovated, making the iPhone a genuine smartphone as opposed to a PDA. This might seem like an odd introduction, but the same trend is emerging in the smart speaker world.

Amazon and Google did not invent the concept of the voice user interface, they simply used their brands to effect change and offer a product which was dutifully adopted by the masses which call themselves fans. In releasing their own smart speakers, the two internet giants did what other companies couldn’t; they normalised the voice user interface.

According to Nielsen’s MediaTech Trender survey, the smart speaker has penetrated the mass market and is normalising the concept of the smart home, as well as the idea of your voice being the control function. Across the US, 40% of homes now own at least one smart home device, with 24% owning a smart speaker, up from 22% in the previous quarter. Of those who currently own a smart home device, 65% plan to purchase more. Looking at the speakers themselves, usage is up, the average user interacts with the device for 72 minutes on the weekend and 65 minutes during the week, while 81% of users report using voice-command searches for real-time information, such as weather and traffic conditions, during a typical week. The more normal it becomes to use your voice in the home, the more acceptable it becomes elsewhere in the world.

Another interesting statistic from the report are the services synced to the speakers. Music streaming services are unsurprisingly the most popular, 53%, while the second most popular is shopping apps at 52%. With the user seemingly becoming accustomed to ordering goods through the smart speaker, there are a horde of new opportunities emerging, from grocery shopping to on-demand purchases linked to advertisements.

Finally, the most device synced to the smart speakers is the smartphone. This might seems like a very obvious statement, though only 32% of the respondents have linked their smartphone to the device. This is a small percentage of what is possible, though the potential to learn more about these individuals who have synced their devices is quite exciting. The virtual assistant is no-longer limited to the users home and can start to learn about habits in the big, wide world. This offers a much more in-depth opportunity to create valuable, personalised services.

As it stands, the smart speaker is little more than an entertainment product. 90% of users listen to music on the devices, 81% search for real-time information such as the weather, 68% listen to the news and 68% use it for alarms or timers. However, these devices are introducing new concepts and features which are gradually becoming accepted and normalised by the user. The voice user interface is an incredibly important one.

Just like the touch interface opened up new opportunities to make money, the voice interface will do the same. But this is a while down the road, mass adoption of both new devices and the normalisation of new concepts need to take place first. New ideas open the mind up to even more new ideas, including services and products, as well as blurring the lines of what would be considered intrusive or unacceptable. The smart speaker is playing a critical role here.

Trump takes next step in Chinese trade war

The United States Trade Representative will place a second round of tariffs on roughly $200 billion of imports from China, effective September 24, though it looks like Apple is passing through unscathed for the moment.

The 10% tariffs will be introduced on September 24, rising to 25% on January 1. Should China take retaliatory action, President Trump has promised to move onto phase three of the strategy, placing tariffs on an additional $267 billion of imports. While these tariffs are thought to spread to consumer goods, it seems some tech companies will escape any financial burdens, at least for the moment.

“After a thorough study, the USTR concluded that China is engaged in numerous unfair policies and practices relating to United States technology and intellectual property – such as forcing United States companies to transfer technology to Chinese counterparts,” said Trump. “These practices plainly constitute a grave threat to the long-term health and prosperity of the United States economy.”

While the White House has attempted to shield the consumer from the negative impacts of the tariff strategy, it was only going to be a matter of time. Not only would the domino effect of the initial tariffs eventually spread through various ecosystems, the US only imports so much from China. Two rounds of tariffs worth $250 billion was bound to hit the consumer pocket before too long. That said, certain products feature on the 300-list of exempt products.

You can see the full list of products on the tariff list here. It is of course incredibly wide ranging, it’s 192 pages long, though the consumer’s back pocket will almost certainly be hit. Seafood features heavily to start, and fans of frogs legs will also suffer. Vegetables are there, as is vinegar. Suitcases, golf bags, baseball mitts, bible paper, carpets, hats and car seats will also be included.

Looking at the technology industry, smart watches, wireless headphones and smart speakers are believed to be on an exempt list, though this is only from the US side. US heavyweights such as Apple might be largely free of collateral damage for the moment, though China will hit back before too long.

Trump might be looking to protect industries and consumers which will largely be in his support camp, though this is not to say Beijing won’t look to inflict damage here. In response to the tariffs imposed in June, China hit back against the farmers, and while iLifers might have been protected thus far it would certainly be a big scalp to claim. Considering the reliance Apple has on China, this would certainly be an effective move.

So far the consumer may not be that concerned about the escalating trade war, as the short-term benefits are a PR win for Trump. Presidential speeches can focus on driving more jobs back onto US shores and the bank accounts are bulging thanks to the tariffs. But this round of tariffs will certainly make life more expensive day to day.

In excluding certain products from tariffs, the Trump administration has simply pointed towards products which it believes could cause political damage. With such an open goal, we imagine the Chinese government will take an incredibly long run up at the consumer technology industry. Look out Apple, Beijing might be eying you up.

Google suppliers prepped for Christmas assault on speaker market

Google has been preparing its suppliers for the launch of a smart speaker equipped with a display screen as it targets Amazon’s dominance in the build up to Christmas.

According to Nikkei Asian Review, the new device will continue to promote the voice user interface, though touch could be an option, and will expand the entertainment options and functionality. Aside from YouTube now being a relevant platform, the door is now opened to mapping features, as well as eCommerce.

“Google targets to ship some 3 million units for the first batch of the new model of smart speaker that comes with a screen. It’s an aggressive plan,” one source stated.

Google currently sits in second place in the smart speaker market, though it is catching Amazon, which has seen its dominance slightly erode over the last three months. While this is encouraging for Google, it should also be noted the entry of mainstream brands will also erode this market share and present a much sterner challenge, as consumers find comfort in the familiar.

Demand is clearly booming across the world, Google and Amazon did an excellent job in normalising the product over the last 12 months, though which will be the dominant virtual assistant is still an open question. This is where the real cash will be made, and the introduction of speakers certainly creates numerous opportunities to make money.

Launch of Note 9 and smart speaker will test power of Samsung’s brand

Samsung has decided to test the loyalty of its fanbase with the launch of its latest smartphone, which is has priced at an eye-watering $1000, while also entering the smart speaker battle with Galaxy Home.

Over the last 12 months, the marketing strategy has changed at Samsung. There has been a notable shift from marketing devices through product-orientated messaging, towards brand-related advertising. This is why Apple has been successful over the years, it has created a legion of iLifers who stick with Apple because they align themselves to the brand, not the products. Now it seems Samsung is testing out how loyal its fan-base is by launched an extortionately expensive device.

Pricing will start at $1,000 for 128 GB version of the device and $1,250 for the 512 GB version. This is a ridiculous amount of storage, while there are also a number of new features. The S Pen is Bluetooth enabled to act as a remote control for the camera and other features, the Note 9’s 4,000mAh battery is largest ever on a flagship Galaxy phone, the camera now includes AI, Dolby speakers are introduced and also features Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor.

It sounds like a good device, but is it worth $1,000? What is actually different from the Note 8?

Its ever so slightly bigger, though ppi (pixels per inch) is ever so slightly down. The camera is exactly the same aside from introduction of dual aperture and AI which supposedly makes pictures better. The memory is substantially larger. The battery is now 4,000 mAh as instead of 3,300 mAh. It is faster thanks to Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon chip. It has been upgraded for Enhanced 4×4 MIMO, not just the bog-standard 4×4 MIMO. And finally, it now has an Intelligent iris scanner, not just a bog standard iris scanner.

We get the impression executives looked at the price of the iPhone X and decided they wanted to do that as well. The upgraded features are all well and good, but that is all they are; upgrades. Again, another flagship has been launched with nothing really new on it. At this price, it will genuinely test out the success of Samsung’s brand advertising campaigns over the last couple of months. Has it done enough to convince fans the brand is attractive enough to part with $1,000?

Another interesting aspect of this launch is the entry into the smart speaker space. This seems like a logical move for an electronics manufacturer who have experience in a broad portfolio of different entertainment products, though Samsung certainly took its time to get here.

What is worth noting is this does seem like a product designed for the fast followers and main-stream adopters of society. The early adopters of smart speakers would have been drawn to the intelligence aspect, the virtual assistants, though Samsung’s device does appear to be designed for those who are after a product for the home first and foremost, with the bonus being intelligence. It’s a strange looking device, but Samsung does have the pedigree in the electronics world and also the Galaxy brand to lean on.

This will be another test for the success of the brand advertising campaigns for Samsung, as the device will be entering into a crowded market. Google and Amazon already have a dominant lead, while Apple has been hoovering up a minor share of the market with its HomePod. As more mainstream brands with a greater focus on audio appear, competition will start to become rife. To secure a solid position, Samsung will have to lean heavily on the power of the Galaxy brand and also the power of its virtual assistant.

This is where Samsung will be going head-to-head with the likes of Google and Amazon. For those who are interested in the intelligence aspect of smart speakers, beyond simplistic functions such as volume control, Bixby will have to prove it is at least as good as Echo and the Google Assistant. With more third-parties set to launch with the option of choosing a personal assistant, the success of Bixby could be a deciding factor when purchasing.

With a flagship device offering little more than a sleeker design and feature upgrades, and a smart speaker entering into an increasingly crowded market, Samsung is relying heavily on the power of its brand and the loyalty of customers. This could be a very interesting or difficult time for the business; only time will tell whether Samsung’s efforts to create an Apple-like following have been successful.

Google, Alibaba and Apple erode Amazon’s smart speaker dominance

Research firm Strategy Analytics has published its latest numbers on the global smart speaker market and they reveal rapid growth and diversification.

Amazon, of course, was the first mover in this market with its Alexa-driven speakers sold aggressively through its own dominant retail channel. As you can see from the table below it pretty much owned the smart speaker market a year ago, but the situation is very different today. With Google, Alibaba and Apple among the tech giants to have made their move in that time.

“Amazon and Google accounted for a dominant 70% share of global smart speaker shipments in Q1 2018 although their combined share has fallen from 84% in Q4 2017 and 94% in the year ago quarter,” said David Watkins of SA. “This is partly as a result of strong growth in the Chinese market for smart speakers where both Amazon and Google are currently absent. Alibaba and Xiaomi are leading the way in China and their strength in the domestic market alone is proving enough to propel them into the global top five.”

“Further strong growth in smart speaker sales confirms our view that this new market is far more than just a flash in the pan,” said David Mercer of SA. “Today’s smart speakers are by no means the finished article but they have captured the consumer imagination and we will see rapid evolution in design, functionality and associated use cases over the coming years. We are clearly heading towards to a time in the not too distant future when voice becomes a standard mode of technology interaction alongside established approaches like keyboard, mouse and touchscreen.”

Mercer is spot on about the voice UI, although it could end up being most important in cars and wearables, rather than the living room. It’s also worth juxtaposing this market with smartphones, which amounted to 345 million units in Q1 2018. While the young smart speaker market is growing rapidly, it’s still a faction of the size of smartphones and is unlikely to ever achieve those kinds of volumes because of its relatively limited utility.

Global Smart Speaker Market by Vendor: Q1 2018 (Shipments in Millions of Units)
Vendor Q1 ’18 Shipments Q1 ’18 Market Share Q1 ’17 Shipments Q1 ’17 Market Share Growth Y/Y
Amazon 4.0 43.6% 2.0 81.8% 102%
Google 2.4 26.5% 0.3 12.4% 709%
Alibaba 0.7 7.6% 0.0 0.0% ~
Apple 0.6 6.0% 0.0 0.0% ~
Xiaomi 0.2 2.4% 0.0 0.0% ~
Others 1.3 13.9% 0.1 5.8% 806%
Totals 9.2 100.0% 2.4 100.0% 278%
Source: Strategy Analytics Smart Speaker service

Smart home is on the up but still too complicated – EY

It certainly has been a slow burner, but according to research from EY the smart home revolution is about to catch fire.

Sci-fi films have been stacked to the ceiling with intelligent, connected devices, but in reality adoption has been pretty ordinary, some might even say woeful. We have seemingly been talking about the connected revolution for years, but it’s only been in the last couple of months, thanks to some aggressive advertising campaigns from Amazon and Google, that it has started to catch-on. Smart speakers have put the smart home into the mainstream and it looks like it is only going to get better.

“Our survey shows that UK consumers are warming to a new wave of smart products and services that help redefine home living,” said Adrian Baschnonga, Lead Telecommunications Analyst at EY. “Looking ahead, smart security and energy services boast the fastest take-up rates, underlining the importance of convenience, control and efficiency as drivers of demand.”

Adoption rates are certainly heading in the right direction as the research shows 26% of households own at least one smart device (speaker, heating device, security etc.) but this figure is expected to rise to 59% by 2022. Smart heating devices look to be the most promising area, with 38% of households planning to purchase over the next five years, while 32% plan to buy some sort of smart security product, and both digital home assistants and smart lighting devices are expected to be in 31% of households.

Penetration for each of these devices are still very low right now, but it does appear users are put off by the complications of installing the hardware or managing the software. This is hardly an usual trend, it is the same before the mass adoption of every technology evident in the bell curve, but perhaps the slow start to the smart home has been down to a lack of education. The digital era is taking over, but it is only now the millennials, those who would be considered more comfortable with new technology, are starting to become the most influential purchasers in the market.

Another concern is perhaps the value proposition, although it is not addressed in the research. You have to wonder whether the price/hassle/benefit ratio is actually worth it right now. Your correspondent bought a Google smart home device for his parents at Christmas, functionality is pretty limited for the moment. This is expected as it is still early days, but considering the technology is very good at promising your world will be rocked here and now, it is a bit of a dampener.

Gradual improvement are being made to ease the consumer into the connected experience and Google has released an update to what we think is a really useful feature. Routines is a feature on the Google Home device which allows users to customise a routine for different times of the day. For example, the ‘Good Morning’ routine can be configured to take your phone off silent, adjust lighting and heating in the house, tell the user about their day (meetings, weather, traffic conditions on the way to work) and then a pre-selected radio channel or playlist can be started. All you have to do is say ‘Hey Google, good morning’. Similar routines can be set up for the commute, getting home from work or going to bed.

The Routine feature is what we would expect from smart devices; default processes which offer benefits to the consumer without them having to do too much. It eases the consumer into the swing of things and gets them comfortable with the technology. As it stands there are too many device manufacturers or software developers which are creating a fantastic offering but leaving too much work for the consumer to do. The first steps on the way to the digital life need to be simple; the user needs help.

“Our survey findings highlight many positives that product and service providers can draw on as they formulate their smart home strategies,” said Praveen Shankar, EY’s Telecommunications Sector Leader. “However, looking ahead, they must position the customer at the heart of their approach and provide a compelling and consistent story about the value they can offer them. Customer concerns regarding installation and security should not be treated as an afterthought, and clear communications should exist before, during and after the point of sale.”

Perhaps the issue is technologists have focused too much on making this big wonderful world where everything works in sync and ticks like clockwork. The vision is big and brilliant, but maybe these companies are forgetting change is scaring for the majority. No-one likes to feel overwhelmed when treading onto unwalked paths, and maybe the industry is just asking a little bit too much of the user right now.

Facebook reportedly getting into the smart speaker game

All the other US tech giants have one, so it looks like Facebook is feeling left out and will launch some smart speakers later this year.

The news has been leaked by Digitimes, a Taiwan-based tech news site that specialises in tapping sources in the supply-chain channel to get clues about upcoming products. It reckons Facebook will launch two smart speakers with screens in the middle of this year, with the product strategy of making easier to interact with your Facebook friends, especially via video chat.

As you might expect once of them is said to be the basic model and the other the deluxe version, with all the bells and whistles. The basic one is codenamed Fiona and the better one is codenamed Aloha. Apparently Aloha will be marketed as Portal and will have clever gizmos like facial recognition, some extra social networking functions and some music licensing contracts.

If this report is accurate then it would seem to represent the latest manifestation of Facebook’s slow-motion panic attack in response to multiple competitive and existential threats. Not only is there growing evidence that Facebook users are using the service less than they used to, but there are growing concerns for it to take responsibility for all content published on Facebook, including acting as a censor.

Facebook resisted trying to get into the smartphone game, having done a good enough job with its app to render such futile gestures unnecessary. But it’s presumably worried that people will increasingly interact with the internet via smart speakers such as those offered by Amazon and, more recently, Apple.

Furthermore voice UI doesn’t really lend itself to Facebook, where the user experience is all about scrolling through posts and comments, and even less so to image-focused Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. So it’s easy to see why Facebook wants to get people using screens (other than TVs, tablets, smartphones, etc) in the living room.

But it’s hard to see how Facebook can possibly make a success of this. It’s very late to the market, has no track record in devices, and seems to be swimming against the current in trying to introduce a screen to devices defined by the voice UI. Also, because of the screen, these devices are likely to be relatively expensive, so what reason would anyone have to buy one of these instead of the alternatives?

Another report reveals Apple has had to drop its pants on margin just to get its smart speaker to market at a remotely competitive price point. And the reason the HomePod is so expensive is that Apple went all in on premium audio, but initial reviews indicate there is little to distinguish it from cheaper alternatives.

We would be happy to be proved wrong but this initiative, if it’s real, smacks of product development lead by sales and marketing rather than research and development. Products launched to defend a commercial position rather than as a genuine attempt to offer something useful usually fail, just ask Amazon, which basically wrote off its entire Fire Phone effort. Facebook is going to have to do something truly innovative to pull this off.