Partnership between Ford and Volkswagen

Ford and Volkswagen announced a partnership this week.  This deal is mostly about electric and autonomous vehicles.

Ford will indeed use Volkswagen MEB platform, which is a modular car platform for electric cars. Until now that MEB was only used by VW and car owned by the company such as Audi, Seat, and Skoda.

Volkswagen on the other side has put $2.3 billion in Argo AI, the autonomous driving company backed up by Ford. In the end, both Ford and VW will own shares of Argo AI.

Outside of electric vehicles, Ford and VW will also work together on the development of midsize pickups and vans.

This is a pretty big deal considering that Ford and VW are both in the top 5 car manufacturers in the world and that is a strong alliance on the Electric and Autonomous vehicles market.

Tesla up and down of the week

There was a lot to talk about Tesla this week.

In terms of good news, Tesla put an impressive full self-driving video on youtube, with the car driving from A to Z without any human help. This comes with another interesting news which is the launch of robot-taxi in 2020. A pretty bold statement “if you fast forward a year, maybe a year and three months, but next year for sure, we’ll have over a million robot-taxis on the road”.

Basically, Tesla will launch an equivalent of Uber and take roughly 25% of commissions. Any Tesla owner can get the app, and Tesla will deploy some cars in areas without enough people to share their cars.

On the bad news, Tesla got the worst financial quarter since a couple of years. Tesla lost $700 millions of dollars. Tesla market shares also went lower than Ford for the first time since a couple of years too, with a 14% loss.

I think that we could conclude that Tesla is in the usual place: not very good financially but a lot of nice promises!

Amazon Alexa, listening and localizing?

According to a new article from Bloomberg  Amazon Alexa team can not only listen to your private conversation but also access users’ home address.

I am not sure how either of those pieces of information is a surprise to anyone? Amazon Alexa has a microphone permanently On and is always connected to the internet. You can definitely be sure that some pieces of conversation are captured and treated. The internet connection also gives a more or less precise location. But apparently, in this case, the shipping or account address was also accessible.

The location may sound less frightening than the listening part, but it actually means that it is definitely possible to identify an individual, following him/her etc. which also contradict a previous declaration from Amazon.

Amazon is trying to explain itself in the following statement: “access to internal tools is highly controlled, and is only granted to a limited number of employees who require these tools to train and improve the service by processing an extremely small sample of interactions. Our policies strictly prohibit employee access to or use of customer data for any other reason, and we have a zero tolerance policy for abuse of our systems. We regularly audit employee access to internal tools and limit access whenever and wherever possible.”

That information is pretty hard to check, and it is doubtful that a limited number of employees would be able to manage all those data.

In the end, the decision is yours, if you care about your privacy a system like Amazon Alexa may not be the best choice. But if you are fine in having a company collecting data,  then I have to admit that it is a helpful tool. Let’s also be honest on the fact that social media, web browser, account etc are always collecting data on us. So it more depends on where you fix your own limit to it.

 

Xbox One S All Digital and how it could have been better

Recently Microsoft announced the release of their Xbox One S All-Digital, a disc-free console. The concept is to have a digital library, everything on the cloud.

A very interesting solution but it looks like the Commercial and or Marketing department could not agree on a strategy. Something that seems to happen more and more often in big companies: releasing products without any plan for it and how to make it very successful.

Here are a couple of points Microsoft could work on to make the console even more attractive.

The price

The price is definitely one of the biggest issues. I mean, just go on the Xbox shop (in Uk for that example) and you can see that the All-Digital is only £29 less expensive. Seriously? Why would someone not pay £29 more and being able to use some discs? That offers the opportunity to borrow a game from a friend or buy a very cheap second-hand copy of it. If the console is made for people with a tight budget, that thought should be take into account.

You could say that this comparison is not fair. The All-Digital comes with 3 games while the other with only one. But the 3 free games are:
Minecraft: an old game, which cost less than £17.
Sea of Thieves: a game which is free if you have the Xbox game Pass, a monthly pass to an online catalog of games.
Forza Horizon 3: a 3 years old game.

They could make an effort and at least give Forza Horizon 4 instead of the third.

But honestly, what should have been done a big discount, or free access for some time to the Xbox game pass, that catalog of games I was talking about earlier.
That console is totally made for that, an online library of games. Currently, the pass can be found for roughly £80. That is even a good way to have people being used to that and keep paying for it afterward. I am pretty sure that this is the direction Xbox want to go, and that is a perfect way to jump start it.

The size

Despite being all digital, the console has the exact same size than the one reading discs. I can totally understand in term of costs that having the same box, the same component etc. is way better than redesigning everything. But again that removes an interesting potential: making it smaller, making it more portable.

Damn, I would be happy to be able to travel with my Xbox if it was as small as my laptop or my Nintendo Switch. The success of that last console has even shown the interest for portable gaming. I know that Xbox is working on a service to be able to play anywhere but this could have been a good start for it. Sure it is nice to play on a laptop, but they are not always powerful enough, and depleting batteries.

The specs

If the idea was really to keep the price at more than £200, the hardware could have been upgraded. Or really play the fully digital and having some kind of streaming gaming.

Considering that the Xbox one S all digital, it most likely needs to be permanently connected to the internet  So why not use it to increase the specs without even changing the hardware? Xbox got the X version, which is the console with the best specs available on the market. But for that console, they kept the lower specs.

 

All of those issues do not make me really confident for the success of that console, but maybe the whole plan was just to get a small sales to boost and get rid of the spare parts to build Xbox. It is just a bit sad to think that it can be much better!

Netflix will publish its own magazine

I have to admit that when I have heard that 100 pages magazine for Netflix, my first thought was “what? why? Who needs that?”.

Well, apparently the magazine is mostly for the Emmy Awards and a way to promote everything they do. You may not even be able to have some versions that are fully dedicated for that, but some other version could be available on their Portal on a quarterly basis.

But the strangest thing (no pun attended) is probably that this idea of a magazine does not sound too bad after all. On second thought, it could be interesting to get interviews with the actors, directors, knowing why a program has been selected or created.

One of my early comment about what Netflix could improve was really their relationship with their customers. Lack of information, lack of communication (except their newsletter) while they could really be more open, mostly now that the war will start with other streaming companies. People do like bloopers, they do like behind the scene and they do like to be invited to participate.

So in the end, I am actually hoping that Netflix will even go a step further and not keeping it only for awards show. Prize are good but what you need, Netflix, is customers, please do not forget about that.