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With Essential, 'Already a Unicorn', Andy Rubin Wants To Disrupt the Apple-Samsung 'Duopoly' (cnet.com) 86

Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that Essential, Andy Rubin's new startup, has added $300 million to its war chest as it looks to break into the highly competitive field of consumer electronics. The financing round valued Essential at $900 million to $1 billion, according to an analysis by Equidate, which runs a market for private company stock. In an interview, Rubin, who created Android, shared how the company plans to move forward: "I think when there's this duopoly with these two guys owning 40 percent of the market, this complacency sets in," Rubin said. "And that's the perfect time to start a company with this. Some people are complacent and it needs to be disrupted."
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With Essential, 'Already a Unicorn', Andy Rubin Wants To Disrupt the Apple-Samsung 'Duopoly'

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  • by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Thursday June 08, 2017 @11:31AM (#54577149)

    So what do they plan to do about it? Probably use essentially off-the-shelf designs - because there really isn't much real innovation in consumer electronics these days, and market their phone / TV / tablet / digital consumer assistant / sports watch / whatever with their brand name while using the same Chinese manufacturers as everyone elseâ¦

    • Re:Snore... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Thursday June 08, 2017 @12:23PM (#54577575)

      With a billion dollars they'll do nothing. Samsung's market cap is a quarter of a trillion dollars. Apple is at 800 billion. They'd better be really creative. If they're creative enough, Apple might buy them.

      • by aergern ( 127031 )

        And how much does Oppo (OnePlus) have? They doing fairly well and do not have the in as far as talking to American carriers and retail outlets as they are an untrusted/known Chinese company. A billion dollars is a damn good start ... they can be a distant 3rd for a release or two and still disrupt. Remember that TMO disrupted the hell out of the carrier world.

  • Not sure "releasing yet another Android phone, this time with a camera obscuring the screen" is necessary technological disruption...
    • Not sure "releasing yet another Android phone, this time with a camera obscuring the screen" is necessary technological disruption...

      How about a camer with a digital assitant that also folds a phone ino the equasion? Now that would be "game changing".

    • What about Uber, but for phones? Has anyone done that yet? *puts hand out in front of VCs and is immediately buried in cash*
  • Hype for sale (Score:4, Insightful)

    by monkeyxpress ( 4016725 ) on Thursday June 08, 2017 @11:42AM (#54577261)

    Of course the company is worth $1 billion dollars. If Andy Rubin sneezed, and three top hedge fund managers agreed that his snot could potentially cure cancer, they would be able to sell shares in his snot for $1 billion dollars. When interest rates are being supported at nominally negative rates by a central banking system beholden to the rich, the only investment that is a bad one is an investment so grounded in reality that it cannot be blown into a giant bubble.

    Money is becoming worthless to those who have it, and unobtainable to those who don't. It's a different sort of monetary system failure from Weimer/Zimbabwe, and the high inflation of the 1980s, but it is probably going to end in a big mess none the less.

  • I don't think anybody would call either Apple nor Samsung complacent...

    • I would. Apple is absolutely sitting on its hands. 200 Billion in the bank and doing NOTHING with it. They are WAY late to the VR/AR game and thier implementation so far is walled garden crap. Apple should have not let Facebook buy Oculus, that was a huge mistake.
      • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

        Apple has never been first to market, with perhaps the Macintosh being the sole exception.

        • by Rob Y. ( 110975 )

          I'd argue that the iPhone was enough of a game changer to count as being 'first to market'. Not enough so that they can claim patentability of 'a rectangular device with a touch screen that combines a cellphone and a GPS'. But enough so that they defined 'smartphone' in the public imagination before anyone else did.

          • Holy revisionist history batman. iPhone was in no way first to market. They had a good product that changed the rules, but they in no way 'invented' the smartphone, regardless of popular perception.
      • Apple's implementation of everything is walled garden crap.
        The worst thing about it it's they've been wildly successful with it showing others the way. Now we have a version of Windows 10 where you can only install programs from Microsoft's store and they'll keep trying to force that version into being the default one.
  • by chispito ( 1870390 ) on Thursday June 08, 2017 @11:54AM (#54577343)
    It's not a duopoly in the mobile phone market, it's a duopoly for the high end market, where the profit margins are. I suppose this will be good if this spurs price competition. I don't know why people pay $700 for a device they only keep for 1-2 years.
    • How is 40% of the market a "duopoly"?? That's not even a majority.

      GM, Ford, and Toyota together own 46% of the US car market. Nobody calls them a "Triopoly".

    • There is a duopoly, but it's really between Apple and Alphabet on dueling ecosystems (iOS vs. Android). Honestly, Samsung's position can easily be toppled, but Android and iOS are here to stay for now.
    • I don't know why people pay $700 for a device they only keep for 1-2 years.

      That's less than a dollar a day. Hardly seems like much if you use it a lot. If you don't, you might as well get a dumbphone which works out to a couple bucks a year.

      • I don't know why people pay $700 for a device they only keep for 1-2 years.

        That's less than a dollar a day. Hardly seems like much if you use it a lot. If you don't, you might as well get a dumbphone which works out to a couple bucks a year.

        That's the kind of thinking that gets people suckered into buying expensive cars because of the financing options. The fact is, a phone that costs half or even one quarter as much does all of the same essential things, and usually does them nearly as well.

        • Maybe a cheaper phone would work just as well. Maybe they're using the latest features. Keep in mind the OP's argument is not that there are cheaper phones that should be used instead. It was that $700 is too much for an item with a 2 year lifespan. That certainly doesn't seem unreasonable to me.

          You have a strange nonsequetor with the car analogy -- amortizing a cost to determine if its appropriate doesn't seem related at all to "suckering someone with financing options".

  • I guess HTC, LT and Microsoft haven't figured out how to pick up the remaining 60% of the cellphone market.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Make the whole thing user-programmable, and you will win.

    • Make the whole thing user-programmable, and you will win.

      Sorry, but consumers are too damn lazy to make the effort to do anything with whatever "user-programmable" would translate to be.

      They barely care enough to learn everything their phones do by default.

    • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

      Like every Android phone already is? So some things make require an unlocked/rootable phone, but they already exist.

  • by kfh227 ( 1219898 ) on Thursday June 08, 2017 @12:02PM (#54577401)
    Take any business concept and there are duopolies. What happens is that two large companies take about 90% of the market share and the other 10% is split among a bunch of other smaller companies. Target/Walmart -> smaller versions like your corner store that sells movies, food and random electronics like USB chargers Lowes/Home Depot -> smaller versions exist all over the place and some are regional iOS/Android -> BB10, Windows and maybe a few others Even airlines are slowly consolidating. That's what happens when there are to many players. Consolidation happens till you have 1 or 2 major players and a few outliers. This guy is an idiot if he thinks that he can displace Samsung. He'll just get like 0.1% of the Android market if he is lucky.
    • Take any business concept and there are duopolies. What happens is that two large companies take about 90% of the market share and the other 10% is split among a bunch of other smaller companies. Target/Walmart -> smaller versions like your corner store that sells movies, food and random electronics like USB chargers Lowes/Home Depot -> smaller versions exist all over the place and some are regional iOS/Android -> BB10, Windows and maybe a few others Even airlines are slowly consolidating. That's what happens when there are to many players. Consolidation happens till you have 1 or 2 major players and a few outliers. This guy is an idiot if he thinks that he can displace Samsung. He'll just get like 0.1% of the Android market if he is lucky.

      You've pointed out that industries are ultimately collapse into one or two mega-corps these days. This doesn't mean it's a good thing for consumers or small business. Amazon is destroying the shopping mall, and providing 10% of the jobs previously available. How long before straight-to-streaming contracts allow Netflix to destroy the concept of a movie theater, and that entire related job market?

      Government doesn't like a monopoly, but they welcome a duopoly, which is a rather fucked mentality. There rea

      • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

        No one said it was a good thing, only that it happens. And exactly how many competitors must a government require before it has done its job? Why stop at 2 (if duopolies are also too bad)? Why not 3 or a 100 or a gazillion?

        • by epine ( 68316 )

          Why stop at 2 (if duopolies are also too bad)? Why not 3 or a 100 or a gazillion?

          Just a tip if you're stymied: if you start with your shoe, your ass is on the other side of your knee.

          Just another tip if you're still stymied: your kneecap is a hard bump roughly halfway up your leg.

          Okay, one last tip if you're almost beyond salvation: I wouldn't spend a lot of time feeling around inside your socks or your pockets to locate your kneecap.

          Why not 3 or a 100 or a gazillion?

          Because you won't locate your kneecap fu

    • Agreed. The only sure thing about entering a duopoly controlled market is that you'll be getting hit from more than one side. It's the same problem independent parties have in a two-party system: they'll mostly just eat market share from one of the sides, rather than carving out their own sizable niche, and their best ideas will eventually be co-opted by the bigger players, marginalizing them or putting them out of business.

    • by e r ( 2847683 )
      What if his strategy is just to hang on until one of the two big players slips up?

      Apple's products are stagnating-- if they don't do something then consumers will probably lose interest because owning an iWhatever will no longer be a status symbol or even be something with any utility.

      Samsung's recent tribulations over their batteries are also a crack in the armor-- the CEO's of Samsung's competitors should take a pay cut for failing to take advantage of that situation and displace Samsung's flagship ph
  • "Essential" is not a good name for a company. Could he have named his company "You have to have it"? Or, "All others are garbage"?
  • Essential's phone OS is supposed to be open source, right? So far, so good. But it also seems to be based around a variety of gimmicks, such as its doofy camera stripe (the feature I guess being that the screen stretches up a bit higher) and its internet-of-things integration.

    So who is their market? A, uh "phone enthusiast" would be giving up all of their Android or ios apps to move over to this, right? So that group won't be pouncing on it. "Phone gaming" is a huge market, but I'm not sure if that dri

    • by AvitarX ( 172628 )

      I don't see how a phone could possibly disrupt the market for $700.

      That's not trying to break into the whole phone market, it's trying to break into the high-end (and therefore profitable) part of the market.

      The problem with that though is that reputation means more, making it a lot harder to break into.

    • This will 99% crash. Andy Rubin's previous creation, Android, succeded because it arrived early not because it had anything magical. Microsoft dumped tons of cash on Windows Phone and failed, what can this man do that Microsoft can't?
      • by Rob Y. ( 110975 )

        Run all Android apps... And not be Microsoft.

        However much he tries to dress it up, this new OS is Android. And stock Android at that. Which is a good thing. He's essentially using hype to get the media to help him go after the same chunk of the market that Google was targeting with its Pixels. If he can deliver competitive devices at quantity and at a price that undercuts Samsung, maybe he can break in. And if he supports his phones with upgrades and patches for as long as Apple supports theirs, peopl

  • Create something small with a battery life longer then a day...
  • Nope. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Thursday June 08, 2017 @12:10PM (#54577465)

    If he wanted to do something disruptive then he would have made a phone with a removable battery or one that actually lasts for a week. What we really have here is just another Android phone.

  • by Artem Tashkinov ( 764309 ) on Thursday June 08, 2017 @12:14PM (#54577493)

    I don't see a third player here: Essential runs slightly modified Android.

    Microsoft and Blackberry could be a third player but both exited the smartphone market. I, for one, dream of a third OS which is not based on the Linux kernel and Java (so Samsung Tizen doesn't count in my world). QNX sounds like an excellent idea - too bad Blackberry couldn't quite figure it out.

    • we had webOS, and it was good. but sadly it could not handle the iOS and android onslaught. (or we can blame HP, which is always fun -- and usually correct.)

  • Although I applaud what he's trying to do, realistically, his company will be bought out and dismantled by one or the other. He and a few others will get big payouts and that'll be the end of it. If Samsung or Apple doesn't do it, maybe Microsoft will buy them out and ruin them.

    To answer someone else's observation, that this is an android/ios issue not a Samsung/apple issue, it really isn't. This is not a philosophical war, it's an economic one. Samsung and Apple are the strongest players, and that tran

    • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

      They aren't doing anything that requires buying them to duplicate. They aren't designing their own hardware. They haven't written their own OS. Apple or Samsung could duplicate their phone in a single product cycle, if they wanted to.

      • I'm not trying to imply that they have technology that samsung or apple might actually want. I'm saying it might be worth buying them out to eliminate them as a player. And maybe to acqhire new talent.

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      Although I applaud what he's trying to do, realistically, his company will be bought out and dismantled by one or the other. He and a few others will get big payouts and that'll be the end of it. If Samsung or Apple doesn't do it, maybe Microsoft will buy them out and ruin them.

      In order for that happen, the phone has to be special. There's got to be something that consumers want in it that neither Apple or Samsung are providing, and I don't see what that could be.

      To disrupt requires consumers to suddenly fl

  • Nobody believes this is going to happen.

    Look, I've made a lot in high tech startups, this one doesn't pass the sniff test.

  • You actually disrupt things by doing something, not by promising to do something.
    You don't even have to be the first to do something to disrupt, so innovation isn't required. Look at the iPod, it was by no means the first digital music player, but it sure changed the game. Look at Tesla. SpaceX. Google Search. Google Maps. eBay. These are HARD things to do, and they put a lot of work into launching something that drew a lot of interest.

    Promises are easy, delivering something is not so easy. I am not

  • Their phone is overpriced. Doesn't matter how sleek it is. If anyone has a shot at disrupting Samsung it's OnePlus. I think one of the biggest reasons Samsung has done so well is that they basically throw every existing technology/feature on their phones as well as anything new they can come up with that somebody, somewhere might like. It's apparently what people want (which kind of makes sense), and a pogo connector isn't going to disrupt that if doesn't come with the other 30 things that people expect the
  • I was personally really interested in what Andy Rubin, is doing with Essential. The Essential phone seems like a nice design and I like the Titanium concept. I have been a Motorola fan since the original Droid, but Google and then Lenovo pretty much ruined that, since I have no trust in Google or a Chinese company like Lenovo. I don't see any truly trustworthy unlocked quality built off the shelf options on the current market and I'm hopeful the Essential phone will fill that gap.

    I'm not much of a mobile ge

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