Where I See The Sharing Economy Going

I’ve been beating up pretty harshly on Uber and in some of my past posts I’ve done something similarly to other members of the sharing economy. This is because there’s an attitude of entitlement in some of their behavior, that being said the incumbents pretty much the exact same way and have worked to institute laws to protect themselves. In some cases the laws that are preventing Uber and AirBnB from effectively entering new markets were put in place to protect customers FROM the incumbents. Which means that Uber needs to work to ensure that their drivers meet those same requirements, which I think is a good thing.

So that being said, where will these companies end up in the next few years. Now this, of course, is pure conjecture, but I think it’s somewhat informed. Based on the types of lawsuits we’re seeing from cities like Portland, countries like France and Spain, we’re likely going to see that Uber is going to have to work more with the governments before moving in. These lawsuits are expensive and too many of them will drain the startup’s coffers where it might negatively impact their ability to do business. So instead of just forcing themselves into a given city they will work with community leaders to effect change of policy. They will start to institute their own rules that will lead to inspections of the cars at random intervals, they will begin to add a great deal more of measures that the riders will be able to rate the drivers on. All of these will be analyzed using BIG DATA and will be used to help show that Uber meets the requirements of various governments.

As these companies mature they will begin to look more like incumbents and start to drive policy creation through lobbying while striving to use their data to support their lobbying efforts. They will start to work prevent other competitors moving into their spaces, leverage their monopolies to move into other spaces and generally mature as an organization. Through these missteps they will create internal policies focusing on how to manage their data and implement processes to prevent data abuse in the future. These startups will need to clearly become data stewards as they mature, because they live and breathe data.

I think it’s likely that Uber is going to begin experimenting more and more with other modes of transportation, for example they are partnering with Carpooling to help bring that service to the US for long distance ride sharing. With the amount of money that Uber has in the bank, it’s likely that they’ll look to acquire this company if the partnership is successful. I could see them getting into RV sharing and then potentially trying to compete head on with AirBnB – that last one is a bit of a stretch, but with a huge pocket full of cash they will definitely be able to take a great deal of risks to experiment in new markets once they have operations in major cities across the world. I’d be willing to guess they’ll continue to use the US as an experimental test bed and while deploying more mature offerings across the world.

In my next post I’ll dig into where I think AirBnB will go with their business.

Apple v Samsung: iJury

As most of you are aware Apple crushed Samsung in it’s suit. Every patent of Apple’s was upheld and Samsung owes Apple just a touch over $1Billion. This is going to do a great deal to chill innovation. Many other people are commenting that these patents and the idea of copying isn’t new and that Apple has stolen a great deal themselves. In one discussion with an author at the Urban Times, he seemed to argue that the theft of these ideas is more honest than copying and that Apple was a better company for doing so. Well, there’s a major flaw in that idea, the theft of an idea is essentially copying the idea, the only difference is you act as if it was always yours and that you didn’t copy someone else.

One author thinks that one billion is a small price to pay to be the second largest mobile manufacturer in the world. While I understand the thinking behind this, sure they copied a great deal from Apple and it only cost them a portion of what it could have cost. However, this is a short sighted view. The manner in which Apple has attacked Samsung isn’t going to stop and will likely intensify. The ruling in San Jose wasn’t the only ruling that came in yesterday. In Korea a judge ruled that both companies were infringing each other and banned both products from being imported to the country. The judge also found that Samsung didn’t copy and in the UK a judge also said that Samsung didn’t copy and wasn’t cool enough to be confused with an i Anything – ordering them to post it on their website.

The idea that Apple’s design for the phone’s desktop being unique is a bit absurd. They simply changed the way the buttons looked, but there had been interfaces that were extremely similar for years. I had a Sony Cliq PDA in 2001 and 2002 and some of the way that product looked was similar to the iPhone. Apple repackaged things extremely well. Judge Koh did not allow Samsung to present all the information to the jury related to prior art, which certainly didn’t help Samsung’s case (Samsung released it to the public though).

The other major issue with this case is the idea that laypeople can really understand the issues with patents. They are difficult to understand, written in legalese and intended to be so broad that they can be interpreted in many different ways. I’ve read through several patents and they quite frankly are confusing and in many cases don’t convey the information they are required to convey (how to manufacture or build whatever is patented).

For a patent to be valid it only has three conditions to meet: Novel, which means that nothing like it has been done before; Non-Obvious, which means that (originally) that an expert in the field wouldn’t see this as a natural extension of previous work; now it must be non-obvious to a layperson; the final one is the possibility of industrial application, this means that the technology must be useful in some way. Many of Apple’s patents do not meet the threshold for the first two, novel or non-obvious. Now of course people that disagree will argue that in hindsight these patents are obvious because Apple did such a god job at inventing them. I disagree primarily because many of the patents are reapplication of ideas from the computer to the smart phone.

I’m extremely worried about the future of innovation in light of this ruling. I think that there will be serious repercussions and whatever comes out of this will be terrible for consumers.

Finally check out this video discussing what Apple has invented: