At the intersection of technology, finance and the Pacific Rim.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Dang, Those Military Guys are Getting Smarter

NY Times wrote an article on the military's use of Powerpoint. As one general said:

"Powerpoint makes us stupid."

Why? According to General McMaster:

“(Powerpoint is) dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control. Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.”

And there is one such use for powerpoint in the military:

Senior officers say the program does come in handy when the goal is not imparting information, as in briefings for reporters. The news media sessions often last 25 minutes, with 5 minutes left at the end for questions from anyone still awake. Those types of PowerPoint presentations, Dr. Hammes said, are known as “hypnotizing chickens.”

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tech Crunch reported the below. Personally, I don't think Steve Jobs would do this but they are right that the impact would be huge--like an asteroid hitting the cell phone industry--leaving a big hole in the ground. Details of ARM's financials are here:

The following is very much a rumor, but if true, it would be absolutely huge. A UK publication is reporting that Apple is considering buying ARM Holdings — aka, the company behind most of the world’s mobile phone processors. If Apple were to buy them, it would likely reshape the mobile landscape completely.

To be clear, London’s Evening Standard is only citing “gossips” within the city’s financial district. But those gossips aren’t the only ones convinced there is something to this talk: ARM’s shares went up 8.1 points today, with more than 5 million shares changing hands by midday, the paper reports. The deal, would apparently see Apple buying ARM for something in the neighborhood of 5.2 billion British pounds, or roughly $8 billion in U.S. dollars....

And if they did this, it would mean that almost all of Apple’s main competitors would likely have to find new chips to power their devices. While ARM doesn’t make the chips itself, it licenses out its technology to others who make the chips that go into Nokia, Sony, Samsung, HTC, and many, many other phones. This includes the iPhone and even the iPad, whose custom A4 chip is still based on ARM architecture. This also, obviously, includes phones that run Google’s Android software.

Friday, April 23, 2010


From the class, you may have received the impression that MSFT was poorly positioned for the next generation of technology that is now being unveiled by Apple and Google. While that is true that is not stopping the Company from performing from a financial view. In fact, MSFT yesterday announced that earnings were up 35% from a year ago. the NY Times reports:

Rising sales of Microsoft’s flagship Windows software carried the company through the first part of the year, as it matched some of its fellow technology heavyweights by reporting record sales.

Microsoft’s net income rose 35 percent, to $4.01 billion or 45 cents a share, from $2.98 billion, or 33 cents, in the period a year ago. The company, based in Redmond, Wash., reported revenue of $14.50 billion, a 6 percent rise from $13.65 billion in the quarter a year ago.

Apple also reported this week and it was also a record performance. The NY Times reported:

"The company said on Tuesday that iPhone sales surged 131 percent in the most recent quarter, to 8.75 million units, helping Apple deliver a 90 percent rise in profit and a 49 percent increase in sales."

Apple stock was up 6-7% after the announcement.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Facebook vs. Google

Facebook recently articulated its vision of the future of the internet. These are detailed by
Venture Beat here. The key part of its vision is centered on a people-centric internet, and its underpinning seems to be a social graph--where Facebook maps out the relationships of its 400MN + users, including likes and dislikes.

As Zuckerberg explained:

“The web is at a really important turning point right now. Up until recently, the default on the web has been that most things aren’t social and most things don’t use your real identity. We’re building toward a web where the default is social. Every application will be designed from the ground up to use real identity and friends.”

And Venture Beat reports:

The core of Facebook’s big f8 conference today is centered around the idea of an Open Graph, a map of people’s relationships and their connections to all objects and content on the Web. That means Facebook can not only map who you’re friends with, but it and other applications interacting with the social network can also graph the restaurants, books, movies, news articles and cities you like.

The company is positioning this Open Graph as a fundamentally different way of thinking about the Web compared to how Google has mapped it via hyperlinks over the past decade. And it’s a big trend that’s emerged from the last two weeks of major product announcements from Twitter and Facebook — namely, how do you organize this mass of real-time behavior and sharing by content type and display it in a social context?

That’s more sophisticated than status updates and simple media sharing. When you “like” or post a status update about a band, Facebook and Twitter want to know in a structured way that you might be referring to your favorite music group. They don’t want to scrape it from imprecise language in a status update.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

KT and Peru

Telegeography reported that KT is planning to invest in a broadband wireless network in Peru. They note:

Korea Telecom (KT), in partnership with Peruvian business group Romero, plans to invest over USD150 million to develop broadband projects in Peru, according to TelecomPaper which cites Peru's minister of transport and communications Enrique Cornejo. The initiative aims to expand the country's broadband infrastructure and make it a driver of national productivity growth, said Jorge Puga, vice-minister of communications. ‘KT is not here to compete, but to develop the opportunities offered by the Peruvian company [Grupo Romero] that already has the spectrum allocated but does not have sufficient capacity to develop the broadband infrastructure,’ Puga said. The companies will cooperate on a wireless broadband network in the 2.3GHz spectrum band. The vice-minister also announced that further spectrum tenders could be launched in the second half of this year.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Chips and Speed

The beat goes on.....Engadget reports that Samsung's latest flash memories have reached 20 nanometers--I frankly don't know how small that is but it is really really small. And remember, smaller geometries in semiconductors leads to a faster, cheaper and smaller/denser (i.e., pack more in a small package) device. They report:

Let it sink in, 20 nanometers. It wasn't that long ago when 45-nm manufacturing processes were all the rage. Now we've got Samsung following Toshiba with a sub-25nm flash memory announcement all its own. Samsung's 20-nm class 32Gb (gigabit) MLC NAND is sampling now, however, for use in embedded memory solutions and SD memory cards ranging from 4GB to 64GB. In addition to increasing densities and decreasing manufacturing costs, Samsung's 20-nm class NAND is claimed to be more reliable and 30 percent faster than the 30-nm MLC chips forming the core of its existing 8GB and higher SD cards. That translates to cheaper class 10 (20MBps read, 10MBps write) SD cards when these ship to consumers later this year -- always a good thing.

And speaking of Korea, Gigaom reports on the finding of Akamai (a content distribution company), which shows that Korea (again) has the world's fastest networks per the chart below. And the world's fastest mobile networks are in......Austria, followed by Russia, Italy and Poland.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Another Google Acquisition

Tech Crunch writes of Google's use of Aardvark, a company that they acquired a couple of months ago:

Two months ago, Google acquired promising social search startup Aardvark for around $50 million. The service allows you to ask questions and get responses almost immediately from other users who are knowledgeable about the topic at hand. Usually it takes Google many months (or longer) before it starts putting its acquisitions to work, but we’ve already come across what may be Google’s first use of Aardvark in the wild: Help support.

Visit the YouTube Help page and you’ll notice a prominent link prompting users to “give Aardvark a try!”. Click that link, and you’re taken to the Aardvark homepage. Google has put an identical message on the Help page for Google Toolbar. No, it isn’t exactly deep integration, but it’s still an interesting move by Google, which has never been known for its customer support.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Google and M&A

Google has apparently bought Plink, who has developed a "visual search engine." One application is that you can take a picture of any work of art on your cell phone and the engine will identify it. The application is built on the Android OS. Pretty amazing stuff. Google has a similar application (called Google Goggles) under development and the Plink team will work on functionally improving this capability. For details, please go here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Microsoft and Cloud Computing

I am posting the below article from Tech Crunch on the predicament that Microsoft is facing in the Office applications space after their interview with Microsoft's executive in charge of this product. That giant hissing sound is the price going out of Office. You can see the interview here. Tech Crunch reports (with my additions in bold as points of emphasis) as follows:

Microsoft is still fumbling as it tries to navigate its way out of the innovator’s dilemma. The business was built and nurtured on its lucrative suite of Office products— unfortunately, that reliance on Office is now complicating its full migration to cloud computing. Today, we spoke to Senior Vice President Chris Capossela, who acknowledged the challenge of growing profits without pay-to-install software.

Microsoft is gearing up for the launch of Office 2010 (available to businesses on May 12 and to the casual consumer in June), marking the first time the software giant will release free web versions of Office applications like Word and Excel bundled into Windows Live.

Now that consumers can get these basic applications for free, the company is hoping that pay add-on features will be enough to override the loss. Last week, the president of Microsoft’s business division, Stephen Elop, optimistically told us that while profit margins could (let’s be honest, they will) shrink, overall profits could be supported by new add-ons.

When asked how the company will maintain its profits, Capossela first response was paid software: “There’s a few things that we’re doing, number one we’re making it a lot easier for people to buy Office when they buy a new PC. We got a new Office pre-install program that many OEM partners have signed up to use….so when you go and buy a new PC in the fall let’s say you’ll have the Office skus already installed there….making it far simpler.”

In our video interview, Capossela eventually goes on mention that there will be paid services on cloud computing, although he did not articulate which services are expected to be the biggest revenue drivers. However, the fact that Capossela heavily (and immediately) highlighted the old pay-to-install Office model, underscores Microsoft’s ongoing dependence on the old cash cow and perhaps, excess optimism. Last month, Steve Ballmer said, “when it comes to cloud, we’re all in.” The company’s head may be in the cloud but one foot is on installed software.

Today’s Microsoft is no longer competing in 1995’s software market. The company still has to deal with piracy, but more significantly, it has a viable threat in Google Docs. Microsoft has been very successful in locking down the largest companies as enterprise clients, like Starbucks and GlaxoSmithKline— of the 10,000 largest companies Microsoft serves 70%. But the company is struggling in gaining traction among the smaller potatoes, the start-ups which have been attracted to Google Docs relatively simple and cheap model. Google Docs has become less simple over time, but many entrepreneurs still see it as the easiest and cheapest way to service their companies.

The consumer is clamoring for more simplicity but Microsoft’s business model seems to be moving towards more complexity. Because Microsoft can no longer expect to sell as many Office products in the store, it has to rely on a multitude of paid services and options (Exchange Online, Sharepoint, etc.) creating layers of complexity.

All that said, Microsoft is moving in the right direction and trying to embrace cloud computing. Personally, I’m excited to use Office 2010 online as a consumer and blogger, with all its rich features— but then again, I won’t be paying for it.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Technology: It Never Stops

The NY Times reported today that HP is working on new semiconductor technology which may challenge Flash Memory and other devices within 3 years. Some key points (quoting):

Hewlett-Packard scientists on Thursday are to report advances in the design of a new class of diminutive switches capable of replacing transistors as computer chips shrink closer to the atomic scale. The devices, known as memristors, or memory resistors, were conceived in 1971 by Leon O. Chua, an electrical engineer at the University of California, Berkeley, but they were not put into effect until 2008 at the H.P. lab here.

The most advanced transistor technology today is based on minimum feature sizes of 30 to 40 nanometers — by contrast a biological virus is typically about 100 nanometers — and Dr. Williams said that H.P. now has working 3-nanometer memristors that can switch on and off in about a nanosecond, or a billionth of a second. He said the company could have a competitor to flash memory in three years that would have a capacity of 20 gigabytes a square centimeter.“We believe that that is at least a factor of two better storage than flash memory will be able to have in that time frame,” he said.

The H.P. technology is based on the ability to use an electrical current to move atoms within an ultrathin film of titanium dioxide. After the location of an atom has been shifted, even by as little as a nanometer, the result can be read as a change in the resistance of the material. That change persists even after the current is switched off, making it possible to build an extremely low-power device. The new material offers an approach that is radically different from a promising type of storage called “phase-change memory” being pursued by I.B.M., Intel and other companies. In a phase-change memory, heat is used to shift a glassy material from an amorphous to a crystalline state and back. The switching speed of these systems is slower and requires more power, the H.P. scientists say.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

John Doerr

John Doerr is a legendary venture capitalist, having financed companies such as Google, Amazon, Netscape and many others. He wrote recently in TechCrunch on the Next Big Thing--he thinks it is the iPad and what it represents for the future of computing. Some key bullet points from him:

On Saturday (April 3) the iPad arrived. We believe it will rule the world.

I’ve touched it, held it, and caressed it. It feels gorgeous. It feels like touching the future.

It is not a big iPod. But it IS a very big deal.

Twice in the last 15 years we’ve witnessed 100,000 flowers blooming. Flowers of applications for the Web, and then for the iPhone. Both were paradigm shifts in how we interact.

Here comes the third shift: interacting fluidly on full and fast screens with vast information stored locally. And that will start a third renaissance of software.

Bill Joy says the key to more performance is lower power. Over the next decade he sees 3 times better batteries, and 10 times lower power chips. So we should be able to run, for the same price, 30 times as much application.

And as for storage, there’s no reason that can’t be 30x also. Or, about a terabyte of local, faster, solid state storage. (A terabyte is several hundred movies)

What’s important is the new ways tablet computers will be used. They won’t just be reactive, responding to commands. They’ll also be proactive.

They will be much more than personal computers. They’ll be interpersonal surfaces and services. Working seamlessly, unobtrusively, and comfortably in the spaces between us, between you and me and others.

Thursday, April 01, 2010


There are a few critics that can influence the market. One such critic is Walt Mossberg, whose endorsements (or lack of it) can either get a product off to a good start or put a dent into the launch effort. Here is what he had to say about the i-Pad, which launches tomorrow. The full article is here.

For the past week or so, I have been testing a sleek, light, silver-and-black tablet computer called an iPad. After spending hours and hours with it, I believe this beautiful new touch-screen device from Apple has the potential to change portable computing profoundly, and to challenge the primacy of the laptop. It could even help, eventually, to propel the finger-driven, multitouch user interface ahead of the mouse-driven interface that has prevailed for decades.