I have fretted for a number of years journalists at major newspapers and magazines have become pre-occupied with consumer tech, and ignore more complex innovation that happens at GE or Boeing or Corning.
One exception is Ashlee Vance at BusinessWeek. I take time to read his stories and have exchanged thoughts with him every so often. He told me last year he was working on a book on Elon Musk, and knowing his style I knew it would not be simple hero worship.
The book is out, and while it appears flashy like much that comes out of Silicon Valley and the LA area where Musk’s companies, Tesla and SpaceX are based it explores gritty operational and other details and presents lots of gory details of the complex man that is Musk.
“He’s set about building something that has the potential to be much grander than anything Hughes or Jobs produced. Musk has taken industries like aerospace and automotive that America seemed to have given up on and recast them as something new and fantastic. At the heart of this transformation are Musk’s skills as a software maker and his ability to apply them to machines. He’s merged atoms and bits in ways that few people thought possible, and the results have been spectacular. It’s true enough that Musk has yet to have a consumer hit on the order of the iPhone or to touch more than one billion people like Facebook. For the moment, he’s still making rich people’s toys, and his budding empire could be an exploded rocket or massive Tesla recall away from collapse. On the other hand, Musk’s companies have already accomplished far more than his loudest detractors thought possible, and the promise of what’s to come has to leave hardened types feeling optimistic during their weaker moments.”
And there is plenty of humor
“A word of warning: There’s going to be a lot of “fuck” in this book. Musk adores the word, and so do most of the people in his inner circle.”
Get yourself a copy to understand this modern day Hughes, Jobs, Ford and Medici rolled in one.
General Electric Co. is developing a science-themed documentary series that will be broadcast on the National Geographic Channel this fall, a spokeswoman said.
The six-part series, called “Breakthrough,” will be announced Wednesday in New York, Catherine Franklin, a GE spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. The industrial giant, known for exploring new and unorthodox marketing strategies, is co-producing the program with National Geographic Channel, Imagine Entertainment and Asylum Entertainment.
Director Ron Howard, co-chairman of Imagine, (pictured below with Brian Grazer) will helm one of the six episodes, while others will be directed by Hollywood heavyweights including Brett Ratner and Angela Bassett. The series, which will feature GE employees, will explore science and technology topics including alternative energy and aging.
Jason Blessing, CEO of Plex, excitedly told me about an upcoming trip. He had been invited to spend time as a Distinguished Visitor on an US Navy aircraft carrier out in the Pacific. My immediate request (after telling him how jealous I was) “observe the (unclassified) technology and innovations and send me a guest post”.
He readily agreed – the US Navy asks in exchange for the visit is that DV’s pay $50 to cover the cost of chow while aboard and that they share their experiences with their communities. I am glad Jason is doing so with the New Florence community.
The Stennis, in active service for two decades, is a Nimitz class super-carrier with navy and marine F/A-18 Hornet, EA-6B Prowler, MH-60R, MH-60S, and E-2C Hawkeye planes.
Here are some of Jason’s observations
“Some systems and vehicles used in the military are not new, by design. For example, the plane that flew us out to the USS Stennis is over 50 years old and continues to persist because the platform is functional and easy to maintain. In addition, many systems on the carrier have 2 – 3 back-ups, with the older systems serving as the backup. Think about using your landline at home and how you use it when the cell phone is either dead or you can’t get a signal. The same idea applies to navigation and weapons systems aboard an aircraft carrier.
The US government can be innovative. You don’t usually think of our government as innovative, but many of the ideas that get implemented are a result of ideas from our soldiers on the front line. One such example I saw are the flight helmets used by F/A-18 Super Hornet pilots. To activate a weapons system then simply look at target thru the heads-up display in their helmet and then punch a few of buttons to select which targets to engage and what type of ordinance to use.
-When I asked an enlisted sailor what’s the worst thing about being gone, besides missing family, he said Spotify. After 30 days of not connecting to the Internet a Spotify music library deactivates.
-Limited DirecTV is available aboard, including news and sports. The ships also show current run movies and the USS Stennis showed the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight on Saturday night.
-The food is actually pretty good and ships serve 4 meals a day. Cereal, milk and fresh fruit are available 24 hours a day.
-The espirit de corps is remarkable on this ship. Most young sailors are incredibly excited about the important jobs they have the role they play in national security.
-Most sailors work 16 – 18 hours a day when deployed at sea. The sacrifice they make to preserve our freedom is remarkable.
-The most junior sailors actually drive the boat. I love the irony in this. This is a job that requires a huge amount of concentration and physical effort. They also have a lot of people looking over their shoulder.
-The boat is in ship shape. Revelry happens at 6:30 every morning and then the entire ship’s population cleans from 7:30 – 8:30 AM every day.’
See other photos from Jason’s visit here and a video of a catapult launch here
As I wrote here, the quality of vendor analyst summits has improved dramatically in the last couple of years. Looking at the agenda I was sent ahead of coming to this week’s Oracle Cloud Summit I was prepared for an endless stream of Powerpoint presentations.
Instead I was impressed with the variety of perspectives – not just product centric, but executive, sales field, customer, partner as well. Day 2 was similar but focused more on HCM products – a bit of a repeat of the themes I had heard in Washington last month, but with a newer set of customer and executive voices
Thomas Kurian, President, set the tempo for day 1 with a slide a minute for 45 minutes where he summarized Oracle’s growing portfolio of –as-a-service offerings – SaaS, Paas, Iaas and DaaS. The man has a breathtaking command of Oracle products and you have to admire how efficiently he covered the portfolio. Across the two days, 20+ presenters marched through, by my estimate, over 750 slides.
CEO Mark Hurd took a different tack and presented more on state of the industry and a handful of slides with lots of white space, and instead answered several questions from the audience.
The night before as part of a reception, Oracle had several booths to show off its investments in UX. Day 2 we got to visit the applications UX lab with all kids of devices, motion analysis, eye tracking and other technology. The end result is a pleasing front end to a growing set of Oracle apps. Between the two days Oracle, also managed to showcase 20 short demos across the sessions.
Three panels hosted by Shawn Price, SVP Oracle Cloud, showcased 14 Oracle customers/partners, and 5 of Oracle’s field executives representing a breadth of industries and geographies. Many of them were available for conversations during the rest of the day. On Day 2, two HCM customers and two Oracle (internal) HR executives provided additional color
The setting – Half Moon Bay for Day 1 and Redwood Shores for Day 2 -allowed for plenty of fresh air and also pleased my FitBit. With so much to cover, it was thoughtful of Oracle to allow for enough “outside time”
Finally, given the mass of content at most of these summits, I find myself chasing the vendor for copies of slides for days afterwards. Oracle had them all on an internal portal by the afternoon of Day 1 and on a zip drive for Day 2. A minor detail, but again reflective of the logistical feat the event delivered.
I heard a few analysts bitch about information overload – clearly there was with that much content. Others complained there was not enough detail in some sessions. To me, that’s what follow up calls are for.
I for one appreciated the large investment Oracle made and for packing so much into the two days. It’s miniaturization applied to our world of content.
Buying Minecraft allowed Microsoft to deploy billions in cash parked overseas (and far from the U.S. taxman). Forbes identifies Spotify, Shazam, Soundcloud and other acquisition candidates for US companies looking to use their international cash reserves.
The single greatest instrument of change in today’s business world, and the one that is creating major uncertainties for an ever-growing universe of companies, is the advancement of mathematical algorithms and their related sophisticated software. Never before has so much artificial mental power been available to so many—power to deconstruct and predict patterns and changes in everything from consumer behavior to the maintenance requirements and operating lifetimes of industrial machinery. In combination with other technological factors—including broadband mobility, sensors, and vastly increased data-crunching capacity—algorithms are dramatically changing both the structure of the global economy and the nature of business.