‘Tis the season to see Tom Cruise, Matt Damon, Daniel Craig, Robert Downey Jr. ‘Tis also the season to review the typeset version of my new book.
And as I juxtapose the two, I am staggered how many tech themes Hollywood could weave blockbusters around. Here’s 10 to start with:
a) The New New Thing
Think of the drama around the Apple iCloud launch – the race with Google and Amazon around cloud music, the massive data center which was kept hidden even on Google Earth till a few days prior. The iPhone 4 – the misplaced prototype and Apple’s disclosure of its 16 anechoic testing chambers each costing over $ 1 million each after its well publicized antenna issues. Can you imagine the suspense Hollywood could produce around each product launch?
b) Jobs, Bezos, Page
Justin Timberlake is itching to play someone meatier than Sean Parker. Ben Kingsley did Gandhi 15 years ago. Come on, Hollywood – so many tech titans waiting to be profiled. And like Madonna and Pele they have highly recognizable single names.
c) Conflict Minerals
if you thought Blood Diamond was heart wrenching, imagine what a movie about the current conflicts in the Congo around tantalum, tin, tungsten and other minerals indispensable for consumer electronics would be like.
c) Mongolian Grill
Imagine the high-level stakes Hollywood could vividly portray as China reduces its supplies and US and other mining firms ramp up production of neodymium, terbium, yttrium and other rare earths critical for cleantech.
e) Move over Gekko!
Wall Street has nothing on the lawyers on all sides of Google in its Android and other legal battles. Especially when you throw in a bit of Steve Jobs “willing to go thermonuclear war” about Android.
f) Shall we play a game?
Thermonuclear war is so 80s. in 2007, the whole country of Estonia was brought to its knees for several days in a cyber attack widely speculated to have originated in Russia. Web War One, and many more sophisticated attacks later there is plenty of more contemporary WarGames material.
g) The Sting II
OK, so Sony Pictures would likely not finance it, but the repeated hacks against the PS3 and LulzSec and Anonymous hacks against so many corporations would be great fodder for thrillers.
h) Silicon Empire
Come on, have we not had too many gangster TV series? How about one around the ups and downs at HP. Think about it – every human interest and gossip angle could be covered in a series.
i) The Big Bang ecosystem
Why only one nerdy show about physicists? How about a show with entrepreneurs who write Apple, Android and Blackberry apps and about their neighbors who work for Indian, E. European and Costa Rican offshore firms? Think of the “enterprise tech sucks” jokes and “but it pays for expensive vacations” repartees in all those accents. Oh, and “Blackberry sucks” jokes too:)
j) The TAF – Technologically Advanced Family
A series about a modern family with way too many iDevices, blogs, apps for everything, soccer games and birthdays all synched. mobile pays for latte, Netflix jokes. Imagine the Christmas tree episode. Imagine a road trip without the bag with the power chargers!
Note to Hollywood: My book has serious descriptions of each of these 10 themes . But if you promise you will pay for “expensive vacations” I can easily develop some interesting movie or TV scripts :)
This year, more than others, I have become even more aware of how technology innovation makes so many smile, even if only for a fleeting moment. We saw how many billions the master, Steve Jobs, touched. More so it is in many small episodes I have personally encountered.
There’s Brady Cullimore who saw me present at U. of Phoenix and has sent me a steady stream of emails about things that made him go “wow”. There’s my hair dresser, Blanca who proudly shows off The New Polymath in her store. The poor lady has little idea what’s in the book, but excitedly reports how patrons ask to borrow it. There’s Debbie Brown who told me how inspired she was by my blog on Space Shuttle flight STS-400 – a flight which fortunately never took off. There’s the executive I asked to review my next book and he emailed this week how much he enjoyed the case studies. He is one of the most innovative executives I know, and it is nice to see him go “wow”. I could go on.
So, on this day, I wish each of you all peace and joy. Most of all, I wish you plenty of “wow”. And I hope you pass that along. Whether you are a developer, a salesperson, a blogger we all have the power to make people go wow.
That is a wonderful gift to receive and to give any day of the year !
In the wake of Oracle’s missed quarter I have seen the words ‘business model” bandied a few times. My reaction: we ain’t seen nothing yet. As Don Tapscott summarizes succinctly “There are two kinds of business models: those that have been disrupted by technology, and those that have yet to be”
One of my elite attributes in the next book is being “Malleable” – with business model innovation (BMI). So many technology enabled models like “freemium”,”as a service” “from bottom of pyramid” are being tried in many industries.
The story of Apple becomes even more fascinating when you look from a BMI perspective. It popularized music by the MP3 unit and is evolving us into Music by Matching with iCloud at $ 25 a year. It has moved eBooks to an agency pricing model, away from the $ 9.99 standard Amazon had established (personal opinion as an author: Variable pricing adds complexity to a consumer’s decision. Would like to see pricing settle but you have to admire Apple for challenging the Amazon stronghold around books). It positioned Smartphones away from the planned device obsolescence model carriers like because they can lock consumers into one long term contract after another with a small subsidy on a cheap new device.
Don’t extrapolate Apple to the rest of the tech industry, though. Enterprise tech vendors are BMI laggards for the most part. Amortize software maintenance over number of calls to their contact center and it may easily be $ 20,000 a call. A roaming call from staff visiting E. Europe may be at $ 4 a minute. Your storage may be fully costed at $ 2.50 a gb a month. A deskside PC visit by your outsourcer may cost you $ 500. Your printer likely needs ink which costs over $ 5,000 a gallon.
Pick any SAP, IBM, HP, EMC, ACCN, VZ, any BPO shop at random and see how many of those scenarios apply. They are ripe for BMI. Actually BMD as in Disruption.
I guess my post last night stood out while most others were busy railing on Oracle. I got a couple of messages asking why Oracle deserved my kind words.
Whether a tech vendor or a topic I tend to rely on multiple channels for my opinions – my social channels (Twitter, the Enterprise Irregulars, LinkedIn etc), the over 100 sources I scrounge each year for my innovation blog New Florence, my book research (several hundred sources in last couple of years), my consulting clients, vendor exec access and commentary, industry analysts and financial analysts. For startups and consumer tech I tend to rely more on the left side of the source list, for mature enterprise vendors, more on the right side. With vendors like Oracle, SAP, IBM, HP with vibrant customer bases I tend to rely more on the sources in the middle.
If I relied only on the left side, I would have a very negative view of Oracle. SAP, in particular, does better in social channels. Right side, till last night, had too positive a view of Oracle. The ones in the middle provide the balance. And Oracle does as well here if not better than SAP, HP and IBM. While they do not call Oracle a “bed of roses”, I get much more negative customer feedback on value from SAP or IBM investments. SAP provides much easier executive access but when you measure progress against problems they acknowledge in previous meetings, the results are often disheartening. After a while you learn to discount that channel.
It’s like my political views. I tend to vote for the candidate, not on party lines. So I am not surprised when I get “WTF?” comments.
When The New Polymath came out, I took heat for being nice to an innovation group at BP. It had nothing to do with the Gulf spill, but people would have preferred I paint BP as a villain.
With my next book, as I excerpt on my other blog, I have had a couple of people suggest I drop HP because of its turmoil this summer. Others think Boeing does not deserve the ink for its 787 program because the plane is 3 years late. Someone even suggested Corning did not deserve to be in it because Gorilla Glass will not cross $ 1 bn in revenues this year,
Guess what? They all stay in the book along with Apple, Google, Facebook and others who are faring better in popularity polls. In different ways, the less popular ones show how what I call the technology elite are coping with complex scenarios – and yes, even adversity.
Too many of us expect pristine examples. Look at the heat Oracle is taking for missing its quarter today. No one is perfect. You want proof? Read Walter Isaacson’s bio of Steve Jobs.
BTW, I wanted to profile Oracle in the book. Their integration of countless acquisitions would have made a nice example of a technology elite company, but I could not get PR signoff. And yes, if they had been in the book, a missed quarter would not have made me drop them from it.
In Florida, where I live, we know a thing or two about clouds. We see them in the horizon or on the radar and we reset lawn sprinklers from auto to manual. We think of sedating our beagle, who becomes a baby when he hears thunderclaps.
Not every cloud brings rain, though. Last February, Chicago had “thundersnow”. Last week, Birmingham, AL had spectacular “tsunami” clouds . From my conversations with the National Hurricane Center I profiled in my last book, I learned we still have much to understand about weather systems in spite of the mountains of satellite and sensory atmospheric data we have access to.
What to make about the SAP cloud? It plonked big money to buy SuccessFactors a couple of weeks ago. Last week, at the Influencer Summit, it declared it was “all in” the cloud. SAP has announced better integration of BYD, its cloud product, with Google Apps.
It’s quite a transformation in just a few months. At Sapphire in Orlando, I asked Bill McDermott, co-CEO, about the continuing SAP commitment to Microsoft Office and other products, and he said in many of his customers, SAP and Microsoft are the two “strategic IT vendors”. At the event, SAP was still tentative about BYD. John Wookey, a prominent executive in its cloud strategy, had unexpectedly left just prior to Sapphire.
We are seeing a much more cloud-confident SAP. But is it just an aberration? The proof will come in what the field and the partner ecosystem do in the next couple of years.
I want to see SAP annoy Wall Street by showing a substantial increase in capex in its data centers and networks. Yes, like Microsoft and Amazon and Google have in the past. In the field I want to see if SAP is willing to cannibalize older products and maintenance revenue. I want to see the partner flavor evolve. Today, it is still full of old school outsourcers more comfortable with renaming their hosting services as “private clouds” and with single-tenant application management models. It would be nice to see Google resellers, Android and Apple entrepreneurs become prominent in the SAP ecosystem.
I am afraid it is the “Kelvin-Helmholtz effect” we saw in Birmingham. It is the turbulence which forms “when a fast-moving layer of fluid slides on top of a slower, thicker layer, dragging its surface”. Slow and Drag are key words when thinking about SAP’s legacy and current partners.
For now, let’s just enjoy the phenomenon and say “Wow!”
Apologies to Henry Blodget for borrowing the title of his column and making it even more provocative. He talks about poor short term forecasts from market watchers. I would say that is the equivalent of showing up on wrong bank of the right river. I am afraid many are on the wrong river with dated definitions and data.
My upcoming book has 3 chapters on how economists, analysts and regulators are straining to keep up with with the rapidly changing technology world.
Some examples from the book:
Regulators: During the Toyota sudden acceleration investigation last year, the US Department of Transportation had to bring in NASA engineers to help review the Electronic Throttle Control System. Expect much more of this as cars are more about software, sensors and satellites than solenoid. The Patent office is clearly overwhelmed. Our 911 services are only now facing up to the fact that landlines are a small part of our communications portfolio. The book has many more examples from other industries and from around the world.
Economists: As an ADB Institute report points out according to currently applied methodology for calculating trade statistics, the U.S., the country that invented the iPhone, is classified as an importer. China, which assembles the product with components from Japan and many other countries, gets most of the export credit. Economists also don’t measure technology jobs accurately. Apple creates jobs in malls, its App Store ecosystem, at Foxconn in China, in its component suppliers – these are many times what it has on its own payroll. Several of the case studies in my book – 3M, Boeing, Corning, UPS – should technically be shown as technology employers. As the CEO of UPS says “Often when I’m talking to investors I tell them that we’re about half a transportation company, half a technology company. “ Its DIADs, franchise stores, planes and data centers reek of technology.
Analysts I showcase the CFO of 3M presenting its 46 technology platforms and a senior HP executive presenting its global supply chain to financial analysts. You have to wonder how many analysts who follow each company keep up with those intricacies. While the quants on Wall Street could talk Jeff Bezos under the table, you have to wonder how many Amazon analysts could keep up with his 2010 shareholder letter which talked about “Random forests, naïve Bayesian estimators, RESTful services, gossip protocols, eventual consistency, data sharding, anti-entropy, Byzantine quorum, erasure coding, vector clocks” . Frank Scavo who I interviewed for the book distinguishes between financial and industry analysts in a recent column. But industry analysts are in many ways even more siloed and focused on their narrow market definitions and TLAs.
Getting forecasts right? Honestly, we need a much bigger change in the technology watcher arena.