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  • Dec 01, 2018

    Holiday Shopping and Digital Voice Assistants Trend Upwards | #185


    Black Friday and Cyber Monday reported record breaking online sales while brick-and-mortar businesses saw slight slumps; but an unexpected victor emerged as eBay reported the strongest two days in their history. Mike Etchart waxes poetic about the glory days of eBay in the early 2000s and what a revelation it was to be able to find rare items previously only found through exhaustive garage saling and swap meeting. Alas, all good things fade, and as rose to prominence, eBay’s success waned; and what wondrous, unexpected avenues Amazon would follow in the age of digital voice assistants. The Washington Post Tech Columnist, Geoffrey Fowler, recently wrote an article detailing his experience with the ‘big three’ of smart speakers – Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri. While each assistant has their quirks, pitfalls, and triumphs, one speaker stands above all. Geoffrey describes how Amazon was able to claim the top spot from competitors that, at first glance, should have had an upper hand in the space. Then, ERN Production Assistant, Cody Castleberry, details his experience out among the throngs of Black Friday (or rather, Black Thursday) shoppers. The decline of brick-and-mortar sales is apparent, as less intensive crowds are gathered in checkout lines year by year. We close the show with a few Cyber Monday statistics that may be surprising, and a discussion about the convenience of sharing your information contrasting the price of admission for a private, more exclusive Apple ecosystem. Learn more about holiday shopping trends and your favorite digital voice assistants.


    ·[00:00:00] Remembering Glory Days of eBay
    ·[00:06:01] Digital Voice Assistants and Tribes
    ·[00:12:30] Amazon Alexa: The Good, Bad, and Ugly
    ·[00:19:51] Amazon vs. Google vs. Apple
    ·[00:28:25] Online Holiday Shopping Shift Continues
    ·[00:35:51] Info Inclusive vs. Privately Exclusive


    [00:00:00] Remembering Glory Days of eBay
    With Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the rear view we take a look at the statistics. Mike Etchart fills us in on a record $7.9 billion in sales for Cyber Monday, and reports that among the winners on Black Friday/Thursday was eBay. This brings him back to the glory days of the fledgling online auction site. As an early adopter, Mike was blown away by the ease with which he could find rare collectors items, like left-handed guitars. From 1999 to around 2006, eBay was the go-to online destination for collectors and those that wished to clear out their garage. Revisit the heyday of eBay with Mike.


    [00:06:01] Digital Voice Assistants and Tribes
    What’s it like living with three smart speakers? The Washington Post Tech Columnist, Geoffrey Fowler, has lived with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri on his living room table for quite some time now; saying “good night” to his trusty computerized assistants no longer feels out of place. While Samsung and Microsoft have made efforts in the forms of Bixby and Cortana respectively, they have fallen by the wayside as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, and to a lesser extent, Apple’s Siri have a big lead. Will we see this market’s diversity shrink even further, or will Siri be able to regain some mindshare? Find out why Geoffrey thinks Apple has fallen behind.


    [00:12:30] Amazon Alexa: The Good, Bad, and Ugly
    When it comes to Amazon Alexa’s ecosystem, there is a lot to love. The Washington Post’s Geoffrey Fowler describes how Amazon Alexa was able to succeed in the smart speaker category, achieving communicability with over 20,000 smart home devices, and integration in hundreds. You can potentially control your entire house, order everything you need, and provide nice background music for get-togethers all at the command of your voice via Amazon Alexa, but it isn’t all sunshine and roses. Geoffrey explains how a limited ability to interpret speech, and an apparent need to trap you into their ‘Amazon Universe’ leave a bad taste in his mouth. Learn more about this leading in-home digital assistant.


    [00:19:51] Amazon vs. Google vs. Apple
    Are you okay with Amazon Alexa recording your conversations? Tech Columnist for The Washington Post, Geoffrey Fowler, shares the story of a family whose conversations were recorded and sent to a person on their contact list. Is Amazon playing it a little loose when it comes to privacy, and what does their competition look like? Perhaps the second biggest player in the smart speaker space right now is Google Assistant. Traditionally, Google has been very good at developing A.I. and it shines through with their assistant’s ability to carry a natural conversation. Google is also making efforts to match Amazon Alexa feature by feature, but they aren’t quite there yet. As the newcomer in this space, Google Assistant only works well with 10,000 devices. Google is also plagued by the same privacy concerns that Amazon is, due to their need to collect personal information for advertising. For those of us that want a truly private experience, the Apple HomePod may be the answer. Geoffrey shares that Apple’s entry into this market is beautiful, sounds great, and integrates very well into your home – if you live in an all Apple universe. It’s true, Siri and Apple go to great lengths to NOT collect your information, but all of that additional privacy and security mean other companies have a difficult time joining the ecosystem. Consequently, Apple HomePod is only compatible with a couple hundred devices – compare this to Amazon Alexa’s 20,000. Find out which smart speaker Geoffrey recommends overall.


    [00:28:25] Online Holiday Shopping Shift Continues
    With Black Friday comes massive crowds, tramplings, and a herd mentality, or does it? Pop Tech Production Assistant, Cody Castleberry, was out in throngs on Thanksgiving evening and reports that it really wasn’t so bad this year. As brick-and-mortar sales decline and online sales skyrocket, the stampedes and crowds at big-box retailers have calmed a fair amount. Maybe there is hope that one day soon Walmart employees can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with their families again. While he wasn’t able to do much shopping this year, Cody did pick up a Roku Ultra during the Black Friday sales for 50% off! Mike admits that while he is a fan of Apple TV, that Roku also has something special. We discuss Roku’s clever move to position themselves as a leader in integrated smart TV interfaces. Also, tune in for some surprising holiday shopping stats.


    [00:35:51] Info Inclusive vs. Privately Exclusive
    Is it more important to have privacy or free/inexpensive services? Mike uses Amazon a lot, but he does not want to empower them anymore and their security and privacy issues scare him. Pop Tech Production Assistant, Cody Castleberry, sheds a younger perspective on the situation; perhaps years of navigating through ads has desensitized him, but he does not feel threatened by the current data collection policies of Amazon and Google. Cody points out that a lack of privacy is the trade-off for free content, but for those that are willing to pay, there is always the premium world of the Apple ecosystem. Which do you prefer?


    Explore More with Helpful Links:

    ·Special Guest: Geoffrey Fowler | Tech Columnist, The Washington Post

    ·Special Guest: Cody Castleberry | Production Assistant, Entertainment Right Now / Popular Technology Radio

    ·Website: eBay

    ·Website: Amazon

    ·Website: Amazon Echo

    ·Website: Amazon Alexa

    ·Website: Google Home

    ·Website: Google Assistant 

    ·Website: Apple HomePod

    ·Website: Siri

    ·Website: Apple



    This episode was produced by Entertainment Right Now (ERN). If you found value in this episode, and you’d like to hear more, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes and be sure to subscribe to our podcast so you don’t miss a beat. Your feedback helps us to reach more enthusiasts around the world! If you have a question you’d like us to answer, please leave a comment below or e-mail us at



    Host: Mike Etchart
    Producer: Cody Castleberry
    Production Asst.: Joanne Bolden
    Audio Engineer: Cody Castleberry
    Copy Editor: Cody Castleberry
    Special Guest: Geoffrey Fowler
    Special Guest: Cody Castleberry

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