Welcome to switched on thinking a podcast that explores the real world networking challenges faced by businesses of today and the future. Twice a month we deliver insightful and informative analysis of the key role that networking technology plays in driving business success and ensuring business continuity. switched on thinking is brought to you by Netgear, delivering innovative networking solutions you can count on, so you can spend more time on what matters most growing your business. Now, here's your host, acclaimed author and tech columnist, Neal C. Hughes.
Welcome back to The switched on thinking podcast. And I think we have covered so many topics in this first season. And off the top of my head, I'm thinking mobile working audio, visual, small business networks home offices of the future, and ultimately proving that connectivity is now crucial to almost every aspect of our life. And yes, although it has been an incredibly difficult year, there are so many positives that we can take away from 2020 that were buried in the doom and gloom. Now we launched this podcast with Richard younker. NEC is vice president of SMB product line management. And I thought it would be somewhat poetic to have him back on the podcast for the final episode of 2020. So let's learn more about the trends that he's observed. And what makes him not only hopeful but quite excited about the next year ahead. So massive Welcome back to the podcast. Richard, it almost feels like we've come full circle here because we launched this podcast with you. And now we finish in 2020. With you, but for anyone that missed that previous chat. Can you remind everyone listening with a little about who you are and what you do at Netgear?
Sure. Hi, everyone. My name is Richard yonker. And I run product management for Netgear for business products. And very long ago, we kicked off this podcast series, and I think, yes, 11th episodes, right. Yeah, it's been quite the right. We started this, I think, when this whole COVID thing was just happening. And yeah, I guess we learned a lot.
We really have read. since our last conversation, I did read that you met with the CEO of zoom, when they were just a startup before, obviously, they are huge. They are now where the bigger than most airlines combined. But is that right? Richard is anywhere anything you can share from that conversation?
I can those about four years ago, when Eric you want is the founder of zoom, invited us over for a chance and not go into the specifics of the chat. But I can tell you, we have a floor with a couple of rooms in San Jose, California, close to where Nick gear is. And he talks about what he did before. So he's the guy that with a few other people made WebEx, the leading video conferencing company in that time. And he sold it to Cisco, for over $3 billion. So I should have been warmed right. He did it already once. And then he said I just want to do something now that just makes customers happy. Right? That's that's his whole shtick. He wants to make customers happy. And yeah, has consistently been saying the same thing ever since he left WebEx and now started zoom. At that time, we just heard was valued at 100 million after the the next financing round as these things always go. So we asked them, yeah, what what are you gonna do? Are you gonna sell it when it's like a billion? Aha. He said, No. Because this time, I think it's going to be at least 10 billion. And we're like, Sure, of course, you know. Yeah. And it's going to be all in the cloud and independent of any device. While at that time, video conferencing was still tied to all these, you know, big screens and big cameras and all this electronics that you needed to put it together. And nobody thought it was easy to use. everyone hated it. And zoom. Yeah, we started using it after those meetings. And yeah, it's kind of easy. And then four years forward, zoom hadn't gone already public, but more than a year ago, not for the 10 billion that we thought he wouldn't make. It was worth 25 billion done. And this October, became valued at $150 billion dollars. So that's pretty amazing story. So I think in the end, he was right, his product became the most popular video solution because it's the easiest one to use. So if you'd be fine, it's better Because it has more, I don't know horsepower resolution bells and whistles. No, it's the most popular one because everyone can use it. Which literally happened, right? Everyone's using it now. It gets in school, Grandpa and Grandma, everyone that's working somewhere, has been using zoom. So yeah. So that to me is one of the learnings of this COVID thing, right? If technology makes your life better, then yeah, it's going to be more valuable. And this is a very extreme example.
And 2020 will be remembered as being a turbulent year. And obviously, we will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. But I want to try and get a little bit controversial with you today, Richard, because we've already just mentioned a couple of positives. So I'd like to explore some more positive outcomes from COVID-19 and try and end 2020 with a positive slant. So let's resurrect the david letterman top 10 things list. So that was going to go with 10 things that are better since COVID-19. Now I did ask you before we started recording today, so hopefully, you've got a few ideas, but we'll count you in. And let's start at number 10 of the 10 things better since COVID-19.
Yep. So number 10. adopt them, avoiding people has become a lot easier. Well, connecting to people as a bit more of a deliberative act, you know, you can just bump into people on a zoom meeting, you have to arrange that. So but both things I would say that's not necessarily negative.
Absolutely, that will resonate with a lot of people, I'm sure. And number nine on the list.
Number nine, I think one of the more popular ones in bigger organisations, it is so easy to avoid your boss, right? You can work from anywhere in 70% of all jobs has been proven. And you can avoid being around bosses like Ricky Gervais, or Steve Carell play in the depending where you are the UK or US Virgin off the office.
But what about when you have to reply to their email at 11? o'clock at night? Is that a thing?
Well, they can see you're asleep or not. So I think management of time, they cannot walk into your cubicle, you know. And that's not a thing, I think. But that's a great advantage. People have become a lot better in managing their time, because other people can see what you do with your time. But that sounded like, Oh, that's a horror scenario for productivity. Well, definitely turns out, it's not right. People are more productive now than they were before COVID. Well, if they were in a job that allows them to work from home, of course, if you're working in a bakery, or in a factory, well, you know, nothing has changed, except the fact that Yeah, you have to wear a mask, for example, which is not pleasant. You would have to do that all day.
Love it. And number eight on the 10 things but Alan COVID-19 what what do you have for
Neil you wanted controversial, so there it is about Wi Fi is much like bad breath. You don't want to be around it. And it takes some courage to point out that someone has it.
That's my favourite. so far. There's a lot of talk of cyber hygiene at the moment that hits the spot straightaway, doesn't it? Yeah. And number seven,
you definitely need internet anywhere. 24 seven, don't let anyone tell you that that's not true. It's now proven. You need it. Anywhere, there is no way you can have a human life without having internet at your fingertips, whether you're asleep or not. So 24 seven, internet is just as important as electricity.
I completely agree with you on that one, I'll be completely lost with it. I always say I can do anything if you give me an internet connection. But without it. I am increasingly limited. And number six.
Yep. So coworkers can sometimes be a little bit depending on you right in the office, they would come to you constantly asking for reinforcement, confirmation validation. But that's a lot harder when we all work from home. So as a result, some of the more dependent people have become more autonomous and self helping. But I think there is a good outcome where people are able now to run their own working day without constantly asking if they're doing the right thing.
Yeah, it is quite liberating. It really is. And we're all locked in our homes right now doing just about everything from unwell. And so what's number five?
Well, we didn't make Jeff Bezos, the richest man on earth, because we all order anything online. Now, of course, you shouldn't be ordering everything from Jeff Bezos, because he is already the richest man on earth. He doesn't have to be richer. I think it's important to learn that you can really order anything you ever thought off online doesn't matter what it is. And you can order it in our countries. And you can order things on a web shop in Shanghai and have it four days later. You know, I know a lot of people have trouble with globalisation. I think there's a very good part there. Right, the fact that the internet literally connected any commerce function to any consumer in the world, that's great.
Oh, man. And now you've told me that I'm going to just increase buying more things that I want, but not necessarily me. But I think we're all guilty of that. So number four on the list, we're getting to the nitty gritty now.
Yeah, this is a gap to all those senior executives that think that frequent air travel isn't important. It used to be a bird, right? But now we can see how necessary it really was. Right? Because the economy keeps on going without all that air travel. So yeah, air travel being one of the more polluting activities one has in life. It may not be that necessary, right? still fun, of course. But the world keeps on turning without it.
Yeah, there is an increasing focus on sustainability, and questioning our own footprint, whether it be digital or physical. And there's a definite change in mindset happening there. Isn't that?
Yep, absolutely. You can say people need to earn points and burn points, just like the airlines have done to estimate their loyalty. frequent flyer miles. Nonsense. But you can now say, hey, if you fly 10,000 miles that will cost you 10,000 points. And now you have to build it up by doing 100 zoom meetings instead of driving or flying, then you get those points back.
I love that idea. That is a cracking idea. Broken, right top three time. What is your number three?
It is crazy how fast you forget about any form of commuting?
I'm curious when you do do commute. Now if you've if you've had to dive back in there, even just for a day, how alien does it feel? And I took a train recently and it felt completely
put your head in a garbage bag so that people wouldn't recognise you wasn't that bad?
It was, well actually it was it wasn't too bad because there wasn't too many people on there. So
that was that Friday before the lockdown started. That must have been a Friday the 13th I mean, how real is that? Where there was a picture of that someone took in the in the London Underground into to a completely stocked car in there. And and everyone said, Okay, this is it. Right? You can just do that anymore. And then that was the weekend when all lockdowns across the world were was all on the same weekend, I think worldwide, massive lockdown announced. And I think that that picture of all those four people in that that two car that has contributed to that decision.
Yeah, I completely agree. I remember in March, I was in a tech conference in Chicago with St. Patrick's Day, I had one of the last flights going out before the US had completely locked down. And I was on the north pier completely on my own and saw someone in a facemask in the distance and I've been thinking a facemask that that's a bit odd, isn't it? So much has changed in that time?
Well, O'Hare Airport is done attractive, right? When it's empty. It's funny. It doesn't feel crowded. And suddenly that's a good feeling. Yeah.
Okay, here we go, then just counting down. So the number two better things. But the thing since COVID.
Yeah, something that you found out about yourself and your co workers. It is a myth that you can work and take care of a five year old at the same time. Like nobody cares, right? If you have a kid hanging around when you're working. It used to be new, and now everyone's fine, right? And then if these kids scroll over the keyboard, it's okay. Because you're, you're used to it. So it's one less taboo. It's not a problem. You have to learn they they're in the same room. And if you mute because your kid is there, it gives you a second excuse. Because the usual when you're not paying attention, and people say hey, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, what's what what do you say about this topic? It's like, Oh, I'm sorry, I was on mute. Now you can say I was on mute because my kid was crying arm, you know, use that as an excuse. So it's become much more natural. Which means that I think when we go back to the office, it will also be normal to take your kids into the office.
Yeah, there's been so many examples of that hasn't been with live news reports going beamed around the world and the child walks in the background and the zoom meeting and it was a time where they would panic, but now it's almost accepted, isn't it? It almost makes you look more humane and authentic as a person. I
think we should do a top down lock down YouTube hits and I think the one would that news person was BBC, right? Yeah, I can't read on Twitter. That was hilarious. Also, because you recognise it anything. Okay. I'm not the only one here. That's great. I like that.
And finally, what is the number one thing that has been better since COVID-19? Here in 2020?
Definitely that the fact that we need Wi Fi in every room, also on what used to be called the laundry room. It needs it, top to bottom basement To the attic, you need Wi Fi everywhere?
Absolutely. I think that's something that we all increasingly rely on that and that we don't just put up with dead spots now do we, whether it be in that laundry room, whether it be in the garden, you just expect that seamless wireless connectivity throughout the entire home, don't we?
Yeah, yeah, my coworkers height and all kinds of corners of the places where they live, and would be including the garage, sitting outdoors, because there's simply no space. I've seen it come up in commercials where people walk through a home with their laptop, they need a quiet place to do their call. And then there's someone in every room, so they end up sitting on top of the washer with, you know, holding up the laptop. But that's a normal thing. And now everyone understand you better make sure there's Wi Fi everywhere. And if you're in a climate that is not as hellish as the UK or the Netherlands, you can have Wi Fi outside. I've seen people work sitting in a summer chair next to the pool, right? And then I need to suppress my jealous feelings done. But it is normal. But it does mean you need to have Wi Fi in the yard. Okay. Well, luckily, we sell that. So definitely, the discovery of 2020 years, the Wi Fi penetration needs to be 100%.
And what I love about that short list there is I think we've all read about the horror stories of 2020 the challenges and how it's affected businesses, etc. What I think is incredibly cool is how resilient people have been and how they've embraced technology to overcome those challenges. But I'm curious if we begin to look at life in 2021. How do you think the challenges will evolve? And what will differ next year now we've we're armed with these these these new technologies that that we just we've embraced, haven't we this year?
Yeah, I think, first of all, we don't want 2021 to be as long as 2020 technically be a much shorter year, that should include things like vaccination, and getting out of the house again, and being able to move around and seeing your friends or your co workers. Apart from that, I think there needs to be a boost to productivity in different ways, right? So we've done the whole serial zoom meeting every day. Yeah, but what we essentially did there is copy office life into a virtual environment, what we haven't done yet is gone to somewhere where we adapted more than just mimicking office meetings. As we all know, there there, there are mugs, coffee marks you can buy that says, also this meeting could have been an email, it's still like that, right? Also, zoom meetings could have been an email. So I think a whole new thing that needs to be done as well working together with the people that know about this in HR and management consulting, is to find different tools to collaborate that are not necessarily me talking to a camera. And you know, you could think of more collaboration software, I've seen companies like Monday, Salesforce that have taken some steps, definitely gets better. But I think that we need a little bit more creativity there. So while we served for a year now, in COVID, Hill, sitting behind our computers Now is the time that Silicon Valley companies step up and make this a better experience, right? Where you have things that where you combine working on a project together by physically working on it together, right. And that could be augmented reality, or whatever, 3d. You know, I'll leave that up to the whiz kids to figure that out. But I think it's definitely time for death. Because at this point, working another hour on zoom, that's fine. Another day is fine a month. That's fine. But a year of just zoom meetings. Maybe that's just a little bit too much.
Yeah, absolutely. And I'm curious, I expect that you've been chatting with clients all over the world, and they've all got very similar problems now. So based on all those conversations that you've had, how do you see businesses evolving and how they work next year?
Yeah, I think that they all got over it right. And it's like the the five phases of mourning when you lose a loved one suddenly, right? There's denial, there's anger, there's despair, there's, you know, all kinds of emotions, you go through that you go to the bottom and then you get out of this, this dip by starting to explore options. I think that's that's how they call it. And I think with businesses, it's exactly the same. Once we were through the worst of this first lockdown, and, um, you know, found out hey, we're still alive. Then you start to explore options, you start to adapt. And now when we see a second or third waves in some countries, it's just not as bad. Just because we're used to it already. We know what to do. We don't panic anymore. And we Try to make the best out of it. And that that being adaptive that darwinistic thing that's important that will drive a lot of the stuff we'll do next year, it will be because of what we learned in a darwinistic way about the the crisis of 20. So you can say, yeah, is that a good thing? Well, yeah, most, of course, the criminals learn the same thing. You know, burglaries were down a lot, because well, everyone's home. 24 seven, what are you going to do? Ring the door? Sorry, excuse me, sir, can I just burn your house? That's not a thing. Right? Now, the criminals got smarter and digital, you need to protect yourself. For example, you're not just one business one with one address, right? One office, you're now spread over as many homes as your employees have. So you need to secure all of that. And it's very easy with all the spam and under links that people send you over WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, whatever, right? They get to you easily. It's easier to find people online and to to do some social engineering, and lure them into doing stuff. We do this internally at Netgear. We have tests for that. And the first ones were very obvious, you get really the dumbest email in the world, you think, yeah, I probably should click on that link. And then it gets a little smarter and more sneaky. And it says, then, you know, I've seen examples, click here just to update your employee number and your bank account for your salary payments, you know, things like that, where it's rewarding, if you will do that. Yeah. And that five times in a row, and then they send you a link that looks like coming from your bank, but it's not from your bank. Those things have exploded during Colvin. So yeah, I think we need to weaponize our customers and make sure they can protect themselves against the whore that now comes from every corner of the internet.
And 2020, of course, will be remembered as the year where everyone was forced to change their habits, within weeks and months on it almost embrace the digital transformation of everything. So one other thing that I wanted to try and do with you today is explore the 10 things that excite you or maybe even most looking forward to in 2021. So I won't go through it one by one. But do you have a list of items there that particularly excite you about 2021?
Yeah, there's a wall. Basically, it's our list of things to do, right? Yeah. After the initial shocker. Yeah, we basically need to upgrade every home in the world to be an office and make sure people have business, great networking, so they can access the internet safely, they can protect their bandwidth when you know, it gets our gaming online. And those are some basic things that are still not building whole networking, that's still a business II thing. And our challenge is to not only get those into your home, but also make them easy to use. And that's really two different things. Because many of these technologies exist already. But if you would manage these, it would look like the cockpit of the Boeing 747. Right, when too many buttons, too many lights, you don't know where to start. This all needs to be brought back under the root and it needs to be automatic. And a couple of things are, well as mentioned security, you could also say separation of internet traffic, my business traffic, my wife's business traffic needs to be separated from the gaming traffic and the social media of the guests. There's obvious but how do you do that speed and controlling bandwidth we talked about the coverage of Wi Fi across the home is more important. And a typical one antenna router is not going to cut it anymore, you would need to go and split it over multiple access point or over mesh Wi Fi with different notes. That takes a lot of technology under the hood to make that work. You can say that networking needs to be managed because it becomes so complex that you as an employee at home, you don't have time for this anymore, nor the expertise to solve networking issues that become more complex because well runs like the networking and a business. You can say that if all of that relies on a single internet connection, and you know, internet connections are getting upgraded by the internet providers because of what popular demand is just while they're upgrading that there's a lot of outage. So what do you do during that important zoom meeting, if two minutes in your internet connection stops. I'm going to whip out your phone and use the Zoom app on your phone. We've seen how horrible that looks. So maybe we should have redundancy of internet connection. So instead of one cable, you have two, and one may be your standard fibre or codecs, or DSL. And the other one may be a mobile connection, but seamlessly going through one router so that you don't even know that the internet is down, you would get a warning, but it would still work. Now, 5g is obviously being rolled out now. And that's going to be an eye opener because it's faster than most wired internet connections and is going to be affordable. We're not yet there. But we will go there, then Wi Fi six is another trend where the Wi Fi standard gets upgraded to accommodate more devices, higher speeds. But it does require some upgrade of the wireless equipment in your home. And one of the perks of both 5g and Wi Fi six is that it's faster than the standard gigabit network wire that that's in every home, right? All those Ethernet ports are supposed to be one gigabit. But now we have speeds that are higher than that. So gigabit doesn't cut it anymore needs to be replaced with what we call multi gig, that's two and a half or five gigabit per second, then going to 10 gig. And then finally, all of this, you can outsource right? If you don't want to manage it yourself, you can have someone else do it. But you don't want these people come to your house to do settings in your router or switch or access point, you would really want that to be a cloud managed environment. And I think that's one of the the biggest undertakings in the networking industry is to move all the management from the devices into the cloud. And then finally, make it easy to use. And that's going to be our job in 2021.
Wow. And it's not until you list all of those items there that you realise just how complex the average home network has become. And a lot of people say, don't have the expertise to manage that effectively. And they're going to need help and need equipment and the right technology in place. So finally, I've got to ask what can we expect from Netgear in 2021? And make everything that you've just talked about that much easier for the average home user and business user that's working from home?
Yeah, I think besides the technology, and there's many elements, as we just discussed, there is the layer of ease of use. And then the big thing that Netgear needs to add to that, and we've always been good at it is make that affordable. Because I think if you have that combination of you know, cutting edge technology that is easy to set up easy to use, and doesn't break the bank. That's been a formula for success. And we can see that since COVID. I mean, public information, look at how our company is doing now. It's been a challenge. But definitely, I think the demand for the products that we've been working on sometimes for four or five years, has been massive. And I think that's a great reward. Great, you know, for for myself for my team for everyone at Netgear to see that just those things that we've brought to market over the last half a year, have been exactly the spotlight during, you know, the realisation that you need this connectivity. And yeah, so I guess we did the right thing at the right time. But the job has not done, right, that rolling out business technology to every home in the world. I think we'll be busy for a few more years than just next year.
And the best way of finding out more information about the work that you're doing in that gear, we can just put everyone in the direction of the best place of following everything.
Yeah, net gear.com slash business and find us as net gear business, on LinkedIn, on Facebook and Instagram. We're everywhere. And there's a Netgear office in most countries in the world, where there are people that can help you if you have a specific issue you want to have resolved in business networking, we have those specialists. I can say that it's not just in in offices or home offices. It's been also in the professional audio video industry where a lot of this change is happening. And these are really the two focuses of us next year. Well, there's
so many things I've loved in our conversation today. And I think for me, personally, it's really highlighted, our demands on technology have dramatically increased in the last 12 months. And that's only going to continue that way. But one thing as a user or an end user, is that we just expect it to always work. We want that ease of use. We want it to be affordable. And I think those are some great points that you made there that it's great to hear that hey You get that at net gear. And that's what you're trying to deliver through your products and services. But more than anything, Richard an absolute pleasure to have you back on the podcast, we will have to resurrect the top 10 next year, but a big thank you for joining me on the podcast.
We will thank you very much, Neil. Pleasure again to be here.
And I hope you enjoyed this episode and indeed this first season of the switched on thinking podcast as much as I did. And yes, it has been our first season and we take serving you, our loyal audience incredibly seriously. And we want you to be a big part of helping this show, grow and evolve when we return in 2021. Contact us now let us know what you would like to hear more of in the new year. And any feedback on the podcast what you would like to see improved, and together we'll ensure we come back bigger and better than ever in the new year. But that's it for today's episode. I'll return in the new year. But before I go, just a big Happy holidays for me. Have a great time and I'll speak with you all in January.