Khosla’s Beach

Nellie Bowes writing for The New York Times about venture capitalist Vinod Khosla’s bizarre beach saga and its temporary resolution:

The Supreme Court’s action on Monday ends this peculiar saga, which has captivated Silicon Valley.

Well, it may end it. Mr. Khosla, who referred questions to Ms. Kilmer, must now apply for that permit to close the road to Martin’s Beach.

“If denied,” Ms. Kilmer said, “we will start this process over again.”

I first read about the Martin’s Beach drama a few weeks ago. As Nellie Bowles wrote in a previous article:

“Mr. Khosla says he does not even want to triumph. If I were to ever win in the Supreme Court, I’d be depressed about it,” he says. “I support the Coastal Act; I don’t want to weaken it by winning. But property rights are even more important.”

Further (emphasis added):

“Vinod is deeply principled, and therefore sometimes difficult to work with,” Jack Dorsey, the chief executive of Twitter and Square, wrote in an email. Mr. Khosla has been a mentor and adviser on both companies and is a frequent dining companion. (Mr. Dorsey also fasts until dinner.) “But that comes from a place of putting what he cares about above all else.”

The article points out that Khosla prefers “brutal honesty to hypocritical politeness”. I would summarise the story as follows:

  • Rich Principled guy buys village on the beach.
  • Rich Principled guy prevents public from accessing the beach.
  • Rich Principled guy is told he can’t prevent public from accessing the beach.
  • Rich Principled guy doesn’t like it. (…allegedly because on principle he cant even cover costs maintaining access)
  • Rich Principled guy is sued, he likes it even less.
  • Rich Principled guy sues back.
  • Legal. Legal. Legal. Law. Law. Law.
  • Rich Principled guy will go to the ends of the earth drag the entire Coastal Act down if he has to in order to get his way prove to others he is right the principle of the situation.
  • Rich Principled guy cares about his property rights the principle more than he cares about the public’s right to access a public beach (that apparently not that many people go to anyway).
  • Rich Principled guy is saying that he doesn’t really want to do it… but he can’t won’t drop it.
  • Rich Principled guy will only drop it when he finally gets his way, is proven right, everyone else is proven wrong, he can close the road to the beach, he does not spend time there, ever, is going to sell the place… principle.

Where I come from, what Mr Khosla is doing would not, honestly, be called principled. It would be called “being an [expletive]”.

Just being honest. Politely.



Uber Settles Data Breach Investigation

Kate Conger writing for The New York Times regarding Uber paying $148 million to settle a nationwide investigation into a 2016 data breach:

“Tony West, Uber’s chief legal officer, said the settlement was part of a larger effort inside Uber to remake the company’s image. He said the company had recently hired a chief privacy officer and a chief trust and security officer.”

As companies like Uber and Facebook have been rocked from one scandal to the next it is evident that security and privacy should be ingrained into company culture from day one. Playing fast and loose with these values might lead to short-term growth, but at what long-term cost?



Elon Musk Sued by S.E.C

Elon Musk, quoted in a New York Times article from Auguest this year by David Gelles, James B. Stewart, Jessica Sliver-Greenberg and Kate Kelly.

“There were times when I didn’t leave the factory for three or four days — days when I didn’t go outside,” he said. “This has really come at the expense of seeing my kids. And seeing friends.”

There seems to be a strong possibility that Elon Musk could add “…and losing my company” to that list.

Mathew Goldstein and Emily Flitter write for The New York Times that Musk is being sued the S.E.C:

“Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, was accused by federal regulators on Thursday of misleading investors with false public statements, a move that could force him out of the company’s leadership.”

Update: Elon Musk and the S.E.C have settled. Details of the settlement can be found here. Amongst other things, Musk will step down as chairman.

Facebook Breach

Mike Isaac and Sheera Frenkel writing for the The New York Times about a Facebook security breach that exposed the personal information of nearly 50 million users:

“The breach, which was discovered this week, was the largest in the company’s 14 years history.”

The Cambridge Analytica scandal, that exposed the data of 87 million of Facebook’s users, from earlier this year, was not a breach. This is.

The article ends with:

“Users who posted breaking stories about the breach from The Guardian, The Associated Press and other outlets were prompted with a notice that their posts had been taken down. So many people were posting stories, they looked like suspicious activity to the systems that Facebook uses to block abuse of its network.

‘We removed the post because it looked like spam to us'”

Think about this for a moment: Facebook removed legitimate news posts from legitimate news outlets about the largest breach in its history on its own platform.

WhatsApp Founder Speaks

Parmy Olson, in an interview for Forbes, quoting Brian Acton, one of the founders of WhatsApp:

“They [Facebook] are businesspeople, they are good businesspeople. They just represent a set of business practices, principles and ethics, and policies that I don’t necessarily agree with.”

What strikes me about the quote above is that, with the exception of people – practices, principles, ethics and policies are the building blocks of a company. At the time the deal was announced, it was clear that Facebook would (eventually) pressure the WhatsApp founders on monetisation and privacy topics. It would have been incredibly naive of Acton (and founder Jan Koum) to think otherwise.

The article does not get into the reasons why Koum and Acton accepted the offer. If you discount the practices, principles, ethics and policies which drove them out. What are you left with apart from money and growth avenues?

The article says only that Zuckerberg made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.

And who amongst us would refuse $22 billion?

I am sure everyone working at WhatsApp at the time benefited beyond any reasonable expectation.

While it is interesting to read Acton’s side of the story, he does not paint the full picture. I find it hard to sympathise with him. If his ethics and motivations were so strong, surely he and Koum could have remained true to their principles while building a profitable business themselves?

Failing that, we already know Google was interested in an acquisition. Facebook was not the only deal in town. Granted, it is doubtful a Google deal would have turned out any differently. But if Google and Facebook were interested, it is likely there were other acquirers (no doubt with less billions). Maybe WhatsApp could have found a buyer more suited to both their profit and ethical motives?

It is all speculation though.

In the end, this is a question that many successful founders will need to answer for themselves: sell or build?

Whichever you do, own it.

Because that #deletefacebook tweet was weak.

Instagram Founders Leave

The news, reported by Mike Isaac at The New York Times, that Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger are leaving Instagram was inevitable.

The same can be said of the departure earlier this year of Jan Koum, founder of WhatsApp, from Facebook. Neither Instagram, nor WhatsApp, both built through the development of thoughtful and deliberate products as they were, had meaningfully embarked on enabling an effective, large scale business model at the time of purchase.

Yes, you paid a dollar a year for WhatsApp, but was that going to keep the wheels of growth turning as fast as they needed to?

Ben Thompson highlights in his excellent article, Instagram’s CEO:

“Technically speaking, Instagram was a company. In practice, though, Instagram was a product, and its business model was venture capital funding. “

As Ben points out, moving to Facebook allowed Systrom and Krieger to focus on the product and not on the building of the large scale business Instagram was going to need to become.

The WhatsApp and Instagram stories would likely have been more akin to Twitter or Snapchat’s had they refused Zuckerberg’s offers. Despite being engaging products, both Twitter and more recently Snapchat, have faced significant struggles in converting an excellent product into an excellent business. Much of the glamour has been stripped from the Twitter and Snapchat stories in recent years. Much as the glamour has been stripped from Facebook itself. The benefit afforded to Instagram and WhatsApp to remain true to the product and vision was paid for by Facebook’s success as a business. Instagram and WhatsApp did not have to deal with paying for all that growth. In essence, they could remain product darlings. To steal a phrase from from John Gruber – it is the heaviness of Facebook, that allowed Instagram (and WhatsApp) to remain light.

The minute that acquisition cheque is signed and deposited, the keys to the car are handed over. You still get to drive it on a daily basis, and have the unique responsibility of making sure it runs smooth and fast. In short, you get to enjoy the ride, without having to pay for the gas.

Reasons for the departure of Systrom and Krieger will likely emerge over the next few days and weeks. The departure was inevitable because when things get sticky, you don’t have much say if you object to where the money comes from or the manner in which it got there.


Revisiting the Pre-WWDC 2018 Thoughts

Below are the items I listed in my quickfire Pre-WWDC 2018 Thoughts along with how they shaped up through the keynote. Along with unsolicited commentary.

  1. Tucked or untucked?
    • Mostly tucked I think. but considering there were more women presenters than men on stage, I think this question will be shelved in future. Apple is making good on its promise to become more diverse.
  2. Big Siri improvements and announcements. (Will we see the new Siri chief?)
    • No Siri chief, probably too soon. Besides, he has far too much work to do!
    • Siri had some significant stage time, especially with Siri Shortcuts being demonstrated and mentioned several times through the keynote.
  3. Widespread improvements and announcements for AR, Machine Learning and photo/video features (paving the way for new iPhones coming out later this year).
    • Yes. Plenty of AR announcements on iOS. Some solid stage time spent on ML and plenty of announcements regarding Photos, photo sharing and FaceTime.
  4. Dejarik” AR demo – please! (The space chess game from Star Wars)
    • Sadly not…
  5. Increased security and encryption. As well as increased privacy controls and awareness (Trump/FBI and China proofing).
    • Security, check. Encryption, check. Privacy, double check!
    • Apple launched some shots across the Facebook and ad-tracking bows. Safari doubling down on privacy and making it increasingly difficult for ad tech to find a foothold.
    • Will be interesting to see how the App Limits and Activity Reports have an effect on apps that we waste time in.
    • I wonder what the effect will be on the Facebook apps if in-app usage lowers due to App Limits as well as the curtailing of tracking on the web? Being squeezed from two sides.
    • My guess – not much effect on the giants (likely severe on those in the middle-ground).
  6. Increased and improved Health features.
    • Many announcements here for the Apple Watch.
    • The new Workouts features look great! Especially in context of running with Target Pace, Cadence and Rolling Miles (I hope they have km too?).
    • The Competition features also look appealing for those who are holding each other accountable in their fitness goals.
  7. Will iTunes finally be split into multiple apps?
    • No… not just yet. But… Apple Books, Apple Music, Apple Podcasts… Apple Video? We are almost there if you squint at it.
  8. New apps and services to bolster the burgeoning “Apple Services” narrative.
    • Definitely a lot of focus on Apple apps such as News, Stocks and the all new Apple Books.
    • No mention of Clips though?
  9. Increased iCloud storage tiers and options (iCloud TimeMachine anyone?).
    • No and no.
    • I think iCloud Storage is likely making up a decent chunk of the revenue in the Apple’s service narrative and to increase the tier sizes and lower the price may have a negative effect on that story just as Wall Street is getting on board.
    • That being said, an iCloud based TimeMachine-like backup service would be additive, not subtractive. Is iCloud Storage not already doing this you say? I am speaking in the macOS context here, so no. Effectively it would be doing what a service like Backblaze already does.
  10. Improved/re-designed Mac App Store (not expecting Mac Pro updates just yet…)
    • Yes. Called it!
    • Will be interesting to see how this fares “second time around”. Big questions around sandboxing.
    • Certainly interesting to see Microsoft and Adobe on board. However, Lightroom is not, to my mind, one of the bigger Adobe apps. Adobe testing the water maybe?
    • Having bonafides such as Panic and BareBones in the store are a vote of confidence.
    • I believe Sketch is still missing?
  11. Apple TV news to lay foundations for whatever streaming plans Apple has.
    • Well… I don’t know the American cable market well enough to know whether Charter Spectrum is a big or small fish… but judging by the lack of crowd reaction it seemed like a very small fish. I think the number was 50 million subscribers? Which does not sound very big in comparison to the US market. It’s progress I suppose. Out of all the segments, it really felt like Apple had to wring as much as they could out this segment without much to work on.
    • Yes, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos are crowd pleasers, especially with the free upgrades (but we knew these were coming right?).
    • Apple spent an awful lot of time on what amounts to very expensive and very beautiful screensavers.
    • Out of all the segments, this section reminded me of John Gruber’s “how Apple rolls” column the most. Progress, no matter how slow it may seem in the moment, Apple keep plugging away at the features.
  12. Apple TV games announcements?
    • No. For a developer conference it seemed the Apple TV segment was devoid of any developer related news. Surely… surely this is coming? All Metal and no cigar.
  13. Incremental improvements for Apple Maps.
    • Not that I can remember. But the announcements that third party navigation apps will be available in CarPlay sure roused a cheer. (Louder than the Charter Spectrum one I think)
  14. Any mentions of this possible MacOS/iOS platform unification?
    • Yes! Big news!
  15. HomePod love? (Now that AirPlay 2 and audio-pairing just got released – what next for HomePod)
    • Well… Siri Shortcuts on HomePod, so yes.
  16. Fruits of the Workflow and Shazaam acquisitions?
    • No mention of Shazaam, maybe these integrations are coming with the iPhone announcements later this year?
    • As for Workflow, I suspect they had a hand in a lot of the Siri Shortcuts, but this is just speculation.
  17. China, China, and more China.
    • Didi mention! Claiming it.
  18. More diversity on stage.
    • Big yes! Never mind Tim and Craig running on and off stage, we had Jules cycling on stage!
  19. Everything faster and more battery efficient. (So that products later this year are as thin or thinner than ever).
    • YES!
  20. Extra points for every mention of security, privacy, machine learning, AR.
    • All of the above (but thematically, these were easy calls, so no kudos here.)

Out of 20 items listed, only 18 of which could really be said to be predictions: I score myself at 12/18. Not too shabby!

Pre-WWDC 2018 Thoughts

Just some quickfire thoughts before WWDC gets on the go. Broadly, I think (or is that hope?) some big themes will be:

  • Tucked or untucked?
  • Big Siri improvements and announcements. (Will we see the new Siri chief?)
  • Widespread improvements and announcements for AR, Machine Learning and photo/video features (paving the way for new iPhones coming out later this year).
  • Dejarik” AR demo – please! (The space chess game from Star Wars)
  • Increased security and encryption. As well as increased privacy controls and awareness (Trump/FBI and China proofing).
  • Increased and improved Health features.
  • Will iTunes finally be split into multiple apps?
  • New apps and services to bolster the burgeoning “Apple Services” narrative.
  • Increased iCloud storage tiers and options (iCloud TimeMachine anyone?).
  • Improved/re-designed Mac App Store (not expecting Mac Pro updates just yet…)
  • Apple TV news to lay foundations for whatever streaming plans Apple has.
  • Apple TV games announcements?
  • Incremental improvements for Apple Maps.
  • Any mentions of this possible MacOS/iOS platform unification?
  • HomePod love? (Now that AirPlay 2 and audio-pairing just got released – what next for HomePod)
  • Fruits of the Workflow and Shazaam acquisitions?
  • China, China, and more China.
  • More diversity on stage.
  • Everything faster and more battery efficient. (So that products later this year are as thin or thinner than ever).
  • Extra points for every mention of security, privacy, machine learning, AR.

These are all wild guesses. As always, it will be exciting to see what is coming down the Apple pipes!

Digital Subscriptions

With the recent annoucement that Bloomberg has moved behind a metered paywall, I am starting to wonder at which point these subscription businesses start to combine and consolidate?

One gets the feeling we are passing the early stage of the digital subscription era and may soon, if not already, be moving into the digital subscription consolidation era.

Currently, subscriptions fall into categories or buckets. Each category has several contenders. For example:

  • Video – Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, HBO, Disney (still to come), Showmax etc
  • Music – Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Google/YouTube Music
  • Audio – Audible (and podcasts)
  • Education – Pluralsight, Lynda, Udacity, Udemy, MOOCs, The Great Courses etc
  • News – The New York Times, Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, The Guardian (donation based)
  • News niches – For example, in tech you have subscription newsletters such as Stratechery, Above Avalon and a few others.

The challenge for the contenders is that not all categories are equal and ultimately, all subscriptions are competing for share of pocket. Some categories likely have space for a few subscriptions, while others have space for only one or two.


A cutomer could foreseeably have space for 3 or 4 video services if you can/want to bear the cost. Since the content on the different channels subscriptions is highly differentiated and typically have block-buster halo titles which are exclusive (i.e. Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, The Grand Tour etc) – there is more chance that people could justify a few video subscriptions. One could see the market settling into a pattern such as: Netflix as the de facto subscription, Amazon Prime Video in the second spot since it comes bundled with Prime and then possibly a slot or two for HBO or Disney since they have the blockbuster, must-see content. Beyond that, niches may emerge to cater to specific interests such as anime or horror films. Even as I write this however, I suspect that 3 or 4 is likely too many. Maybe it will settle at only 1 or two?

(It should be noted that the video space could be augmented by a purchase/rental model like iTunes – there are situations where someone may not want to subscribe monthly when they only want to watch one or two movies/titles once-off.)


In music, there can be only one. I doubt there are many people willing to pay for multiple music services (since the content is mostly identical – give or take a few “exclusives”), unless it was particularly niche – for example Primephonic for classical music. However, if you are a classical music fan, you may still only pay for one – the classical one! Music services do not have the same dynamics as the video subscriptions. If anything, the music subscriptions seem to be moving towards consolidation with a video service which may indicate many people do not want multiple subscriptions – they only want one for all their needs (TV bundle anyone?). For example, the Spotify/Hulu bundle as well as Apple’s coming video entry which may or may not be bundled with Apple Music. From that perspective you could see a customer having their direct Netflix subscription for video, their Amazon Prime Video because it comes with Prime and then possibly Hulu because it is bundled with Spotify. As such, a customer has access to multiple video channels subscriptions while not necessarily paying directly for 3 video subscriptions.

Audio (Audiobooks/podcasts)

Similar to music, I think subscribers will only have space for one provider in the audiobook space (that is to say – if they even listen to audiobooks!). While there is currently a surge in the podcast industry, to date, podcasts are free and advertising supported. To my knowledge, there are not (yet?) subscription-specific podcasts. (The structure of the podcast industry seems most akin to the TV industry – in that they have networks hosting a variety of content in their stable, all supported by advertising)


When it comes to education, this depends heavily on what someone’s interests or needs might be and whether that person values ongoing education. If they do value direct education, the next big question is whether they like to learn via video? In my own case, I think there will be more shifting or churn from one provider to another based on your specific work or education needs at the time. Similar to the video category (and it should be said – all these education sites are heavily focused on video), most providers are subscription based, while there is still a space for players like Udemy which sell individual courses (usually through sale pricing and 2 for 1 deals). This works nicely for my needs as I have a specific interest in programming (Pluralsight) and where I cannot find a topic on that platform, I can supplement it with a course or two from Udemy that deals with that specific topic. What is interesting to note here, is that popular teachers on Udemy are able to launch their own subscription based businesses off the back of the popularity/success on Udemy.

It should be noted – niches are very strong in this field – Udacity is heavily pushing AI and machine-learning courses. A Cloud Guru is, as the name indicates, focused specifically on Amazon Web Services (and more recently Azure). There are smaller providers that focus on an even smaller niches for JavaScript libraries such as Angular (Ultimate Angular) or React (Tyler McGinnis) for example.


Then it comes to news. If we look back on the “old model” of paper-based subscriptions, people tended to subscribe to one or two newspapers. Typically their local paper and then possibly another national or even international paper. On top of that, someone may subscribe to a handful of magazines (maybe). I get the feeling there will be a similar trend for the news bucket. While subscription numbers will likely be good for the big brand names, this is not a business model many publications will be able to follow – especially because the customer’s budget is spread between all of these services regardless of category. Keep in mind, these same people are already paying for their other existing subscriptions in other categories. I might read Bloomberg articles quite frequently, however, I would not pay $39,99 a month for their content. As such, I am not their customer and that is OK for me, and OK for them. 120 articles a year (10 free articles a month) is likely more than enough for my own reading habits. The difficulty is that news cycles are not regular, news happens as it happens and thus 10 articles a month means little as a result. Someone may end up wanting to read more than 10articles in a particular month and then that same person may not read any at articles from the publication at all for months on end depending on where else they get their news (more on this below). While these big brand news outlets typically cover all areas, over time they are going to have to specialise in order so that customers can justify the cost of the subscription – especially if they have numerous subscriptions. Customers will not want to see the same stories and content rehashed across publications. The interesting thing will be to see how these focuses and niches start to play out between the big names.

News Niches

Then you get the specialised news and commentary. These publications are usually focused on a particular niche or a particular view/commentary on a niche. It is likely, that attention will be directed by these niches towards certain of the larger big name brands. For example, a tech publisher may direct traffic to particular sources based on their own subscription or reading habits. These publications usually act as filters or editorial on the news or what someone needs to know in their particular niche. In the tech space, one can get quite far in terms of knowing what events of importance are happening by following Stratechery (subscription) and a handful of (free) websites such as Daring Fireball. This means that possible subscriptions may be based on the subscription habits of your own upstream subscriptions – for example, if Ben Thompson subscribes to publications X, Y, Z and frequently links to them – it is likely that his own readership may be moulded by his own subscriptions over time. How these moulds are set will be based on how the larger subscriptions themselves focus on or cover niches. In essence, there will be a doubling down on niches.

This is all a long-winded way of saying, as much as niche and digital subscriptions are unbundling the news/media bundle – this unbundling is inevitably leading to a re-bundling a little farther down the line.

The Duplex Demo

Google CEO Sundar Pichai demonstrated an impressive and somewhat creepy version of a new feature coming to Google Assistant at Google I/O. Google Duplex, as the feature is called, is able to make a phone call and book an appointment at a hair salon and a table at a restaurant on behalf of the user.

  • The impressive part of this demonstration was how real the Google Assistant sounded as well as how well it handled the call.
  • The creepy part of this was that the person on the receiving end of the phone call did not seem to notice that the caller was not a real person. (Had I answered that phone, I would not have thought it was a computer on the other side).

This has raised several questions over the possible use and deployment of this technology. As is often the case, despite Sundar Pichai saying that Google wants to “get this right” in terms of the user experience for both customers and businesses – the demonstration displayed little attempt to address what many in the tech press feel should be required from this technology. Namely, transparency.

In Google’s defence, they have said as much on the accompanying blog post announcing the technology. Yaniv Leviathan and Yossi Matias writing at the Google AI Blog:

“The Google Duplex technology is built to sound natural, to make the conversation experience comfortable. It’s important to us that users and businesses have a good experience with this service, and transparency is a key part of that. We want to be clear about the intent of the call so businesses understand the context. We’ll be experimenting with the right approach over the coming months. “

Looking at this situation it is easy to see both Google and the tech press’s positions on the demonstration – particularly, what Google means by transparency is that the receiver understands the intent of the call. What the press means by transparency is that the receiver knows who/what is making the call.

“The Google Duplex technology is built to sound natural”

Some commenters (myself included) feel that the Google Assistant should identify itself. Especially because it sounds natural and real. However, I sympathise with Google here because in order for a conversation to sound natural, the person on the receiving end needed to feel comfortable. Had the person been told they were speaking to Google Assistant or a robot, the conversation may have gone a lot differently and not demoed well. (Turing Test anyone?)

As for whether these kinds of assistants should even sound like humans at all, again, this would not have demoed well for Google because, it is likely that the person would have hung up the phone. Again, I sympathise with Google here because, from personal experience, when I get called by automated systems, I hang up immediately. The reality is that this is a demo and Google is demonstrating the prowess of their technology to both consumers and to competitors. What is being demonstrated is:

  1. Look how natural it sounds!
  2. Look how well the assistant handles the call and the intricacies of it!
  3. Look how far we have come!

Google are aware of the impact such technology would have – the use cases are rather compelling:

  • As a business, I would certainly appreciate having to answer less calls during holiday periods and customers will appreciate having more up to date information.
  • As a customer, yes, I can see the benefit of an assistant making a call on my behalf when I am in a rush as being useful.

What Google completely missed in the demo however, is that much of the subsequent negative commentary around the demonstration could be (at least somewhat) addressed by being more specific in terms of what is being experimented with. For example, would it not have made a difference to the tone of the subsequent reporting had Sundar Pichai said something along the lines of:

“We understand this technology sounds like a real person and has progressed to the point at which it raises several questions in terms of usage. Some of the topics we are considering in our experiments are how to announce to the receiver of the call who is calling? Which voice should the assistant speak with in order to put the person on the on the receiving end at ease? And since this technology makes it possible to make many calls without humans making the actual calls, what large scale use cases are we going to enable so that customers are not spammed? We will be experimenting with this technology in the coming weeks.”

I do not work in PR, so I have no idea whether a statement such as the above would work. However, it does attempt to address the possible concerns raised by the use of this technology. Tech companies are going to be running into these situations more frequently as technology increasingly moves into more personal and ‘real’ interactions. The tech press have their scopes locked in on these companies and their announcements. Executives should be able to effectively address the issues around their technologies before, during and after release in order to ensure success. Effective communication on these topics is important as these companies come under ever more scrutiny.

Parting thought:

If Google Assistant can make the calls on behalf of the customer, can the business/customer not use the Google Assistant in the same way to answer them?

If so, why is a call even necessary if there is an Assistant on both sides?