Techzone 360 Week in Review

By Tony Rizzo January 18, 2014

We've certainly had a week full of interesting tech events. The first thing we'll take note of is in fact a wearable technology story - sort of. It involves Google Glass, but while this is indeed wearable tech the actual story we're concerned with is that of Cecilia Abadie - a Southern California-based lady who not too long ago was given a summons by the California highway patrol for driving while using Google Glass. There are interesting issues associated with this event that relate to technology use that go beyond wearable tech, hence our additional inclusion of the story in Techzone 360 this week. Cecilia had her day in traffic court this past Thursday - guilty as charged or not guilty?

Earlier in the week we were greeted with the news that Google and trendy home automation and thermostat maker Nest had reached an agreement for Google to acquire Nest for $3.2 billion. Now that is quite a score for Nest's founders. We doubt the company is really worth anywhere near that much, but for Google it makes a lot of sense to bring Nest into the fold while the "home automation/connected home/smart home" game is still in a relatively nascent stage of life. Nest will certainly appreciate the vast Google resources now at its disposal - which includes such benefits as having access to Google's legal resources as it looks to fight a patent battle with old school thermostat maker Honeywell.

Our own view of the new Google-Nest relationship is generally a positive one - for Google, for Nest, and for the consumers who should for the most part benefit from Nest becoming a part of Google. Our colleague Rob Enderle, on the other hand, wonders if perhaps it all means that we as consumers are now all screwed instead by the acquisition. We think it's a little over the top but it is certainly worth examining from both ends of the spectrum.

Another type of spectrum - the sort that governs broadband use - is another very interesting topic of conversation this week. First, a newly available report was released this week by the Open Technology Institute that the cost and quality of broadband connectivity. Did you know that in America we pay higher prices for slower Internet speeds than in other parts of the world? Did you know that smaller cities around the world have faster speeds than major American cities such as New York and Los Angeles? Did you know that Americans often face higher prices, slower speeds and a frequently frustrating consumer experience overall? Now you do. A number of these problems persist because of failures to act by policymakers at all levels. But there is much more to it.

That brings us right to one of the larger issues confronting Internet use and bandwidth availability - that of Net Neutrality. Early in the week the DC Circuit Court struck down the FCC rulings regarding Net Neutrality that were issued back in 2010. In doing so broadband providers can once again go back to the practice of allocating different bandwidth rates to different  companies, along with charging them for the privilege. In other words, there is no "neutrality" where everyone gets the same slice of bandwidth pie. The interesting issue here is that the rules were struck down on the notion that the FCC overstepped its bounds in issuing the rulings.

That begs the question of course: Is Net Neutrality desirable or not? The obvious response is that it depends on whether you are an end user (absolutely!), the broadband supplier (absolutely not), or the company requiring access (are you Amazon or are you a small SMB retailer - it "depends'). There are pros and cons for all of these viewpoints of course, and we've mustered a few net neutrality pros and cons of our own for your consideration.

It is worth noting in the face of this set of policy-related issues that another issue entirely was addressed on Friday. President Obama outlined, among other things, what will be a fairly broad reduction in the NSA's ability to gather, store and analyze phone data. At the same time that self-proclaimed guardian of our privacy, Ed Snowden, released some new details on the extent of what the NSA does - in this case with its Dishfire program. It goes perhaps far deeper than you might have imagined.

Early in the week we spent a bit of time speculating on whether or not IBM's Watson might make for a good Microsoft CEO. In fact there is much to be said for such a choice. In the process of thinking about as we wait for Microsoft to actually make a decision "sometime in early 2014" as Microsoft has put it, we came up with a number of benefits Watson would provide - which also happen to translate into the set or requirements any human CEO will also have to deliver on.

With that in mind we found it interesting that the news then emerged later in the week that Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg is in the running for the role. One key thing Vestberg did at Ericsson was to oversee Ericsson getting rid of its end of the Sony-Ericsson mobile device business - an interesting accomplishment given that Microsoft intends to focus squarely on devices and mobility!

We'll sign off on the week with the following on several useful new research reports. If you still think mobile security (or in truth any security - including the online-connected Internet kind) is overblown with hype, best think again. The just released Cisco 2014 Annual Security Report should be enough to convince even the most stalwart of non-believers that security is a hugely significant issue.

And last, Deloitte has delivered its annual 2014 Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions report. We've provided an overview that touches on its top eight technology predictions for the New Year, and some of them are quite interesting. Wearable tech and "phablets" are hot. No surprise there, but did you know that eVisits of the medical sort will skyrocket? The report itself is full of detail and many useful charts - it is well worth a read.

TechZone360 Senior Editor

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