It’s pretty clear that something went very wrong between Apple and its bankrupt sapphire supplier GT Advanced Technologies over the past year. There are good reasons to believe that Apple’s sapphire display plan for the iPhone 6 may have been doomed from the start because it seems both Apple and GT Advanced underestimated the major difficulties. These difficulties varied from needing to have an extremely clean environment during ongoing construction, to having uninterrupted supplies of water and electricity to regulate the temperature of the molten aluminum oxide. Apple declined to help install backup power supplies, thus multiple outages occurred, ruining whole batches of sapphire.
Sapphire, the world’s third hardest mineral, was supposed to drastically reduce or eliminate scratching on the surface, thus eliminating the need for screen protectors. It would be a huge selling point for those of us that seem to find some sort of way to scratch or drop our phone throughout any given day.
The Apple-GT marriage was troubled from the start. GT had never mass-produced sapphire before the Apple deal. The New Hampshire company’s first 578-pound cylinder of sapphire, made just days before the companies signed their contract, was flawed and unusable. GT hired hundreds of workers with little oversight; some bored employees were paid overtime to sweep floors repeatedly, while others played hooky.
All of which is a major problem in its own right, but add in the fact that Apple already uses one-fourth of the world’s supply of sapphire to cover the iPhone’s camera lens and fingerprint reader alone, upping that supply to cover screens is bound to exacerbate any preexisting problems—like, say, keeping track of the sapphire in the first place.
Manufacturing wasn’t the only problem. In August, one of the former workers said, GT discovered that 500 sapphire bricks were missing. A few hours later, workers learned that a manager had sent the bricks to recycling instead of shipping. Had they not been retrieved, the misfire would have cost GT hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Whether Apple or GT is ultimately at fault here we’ll likely never know. However, it may be safe in saying that given the huge difficulties Apple encountered in producing sapphire displays in its first attempt, you probably won’t get a sapphire display on the iPhone 6s or even the iPhone 7.
Technology has been accused of making many jobs disappear, like the production line or the accounting office. And it is not done yet.
A company often resembles its communication and technology system. In the era of cloud computing that the tech industry is moving into, that seems to suggest that companies will have smaller departments, quickly analyzing data and endlessly experimenting. That means change is on the way at the many companies that will adopt cloud computing over the next few years. This might not be a good thing for Middle Managers to hear.
A corporate organizational chart from a century ago might look like a factory, with little workers at the base like parts, assembled by managers into units that interact with or fit into larger parts. Layers of white-collar jobs died in the “corporate re-engineering” boom 20 years ago, after email and networking replaced middle managers carrying plans among departments. Outsourcing and off-shoring happened once the dot-com bubble put lots of fiber optic cable under the ocean. Otherwise, you couldn’t have so many call centers in India, or manage a global supply chain.
In cloud computing, computer servers are pooled through management software. Power is dialed up or down depending on the workload, and the system is continually reconfigured, based on data about the next workload. To see how this changes a workplace, look at the structure of the biggest cloud companies around.
Two weeks ago, Amazon announced that so far in 2014, its cloud division had created 60 percent more new products than it did in all of 2013. Google also works in a data-fixated culture. Every meeting seems to be full of young engineers scrambling to amass the most compelling facts, trying to create something else they can watch customers use, then build on that. The big loser in this model may be the managers in charge of scheduling things, since it is all happening too fast.
At Amazon Web Services, which has built the world’s biggest cloud computing business, work is divided into teams of the smallest size necessary to figure out what the customer is doing with an important product. That team then quickly adapts the product to work better and looks for new insight.
Parts of this approach sound like the trendy “lean” tech start-up, ever changing to suit a new business model. It’s different at big companies, executives there say, when you are moving quickly but also have many customers and obligations.
It is not clear that any of the big companies has nailed this new style of work. Even so, they all say that their non-tech customers are badgering them to determine how they can break into smaller customer-focused teams, loosely collaborating and intent on moving information faster. The survivors will be good at collaboration, good at statistics and good at figuring out what the company needs to build next.
After two years of popping up at high-profile events sporting Google Glass, the gadget that transforms eyeglasses into spy-movie worthy technology, Google co-founder Sergey Brin sauntered bare-faced into a Silicon Valley red-carpet event on Sunday.
The Googler, who heads up the top-secret lab which developed Glass, left his pair in the car. But he has hardly given up on the product. Brin’s timing was not the best, coming as many developers and early Glass users are losing interest in the much-hyped, $1500 test version of the product: a camera, processor and stamp-sized computer screen mounted to the edge of eyeglass frames. Google itself has pushed back the Glass roll out to the mass market.
While Glass may find some specialized, even lucrative, uses in the workplace, its prospects of becoming a consumer hit in the near future are slim, many developers are saying. Plenty of larger developers remain with Glass. The nearly 100 apps on the official web site include Facebook and OpenTable, although one major player recently defected: Twitter. Also, several key Google employees instrumental to developing Glass have left the company in the last six months, including lead developer Babak Parviz, electrical engineering chief Adrian Wong, and Ossama Alami, director of developer relations.
A Glass funding conglomerate created by Google Ventures and two of Silicon Valley’s biggest venture capitalists, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Andreessen Horowitz, quietly deleted its website, routing users to the main Glass site.
Google insists it is committed to Glass, with hundreds of engineers and executives working on it, as well as new fashionista boss Ivy Ross, a former Calvin Klein executive. Tens of thousands use Glass in the pilot consumer program. Glass and wearable devices overall amount to a new technology, as smartphones once were, that will likely take time to evolve into a product that clicks with consumers.
Why do you believe that Google’s Glass hasn’t been adopted widely? Do you believe that there is a large market for these wearable technologies that could become the next emerging technology such as smart phones?
In the not-so-distant future, resources might no longer be closely linked to territories, it might be possible to visualize another person’s thoughts and predict the actions and decisions of world leaders before they act. What would this mean for our geopolitical landscape? Four main questions have emerged from participants’ of the World Economic Forum’s discussions:
Will technology be the future gold?
Resources have always been a key driver of geopolitical relations. Some emerging technologies have potential to provoke the deterritorialization of resources and thereby make most resources irrelevant as a source of geopolitical power. For example, through biosynthetic processes, many resources that are considered scarce today might be produced synthetically anywhere in the world tomorrow. Access to new technologies, along with their development and regulation, might become the new drivers of geopolitical leverage. The gap between developed and developing countries might increase; alternatively, boundaries might be completely redrawn along early adopters of technology, fast followers and those who lag behind. These differences in outcome might depend on regulation as much as on innovative capacity. What will be the most coveted resources of tomorrow and how will they reshuffle geopolitical relations? Which technologies will be scarce and most desired and which will be universally accessible? Will speed of adoption of technology translate into power gains or put citizens at unprecedented risk?
Will cultures be transcended through technology?
Technological advancement will continue to make communication an easier and richer experience. Technology will not only allow us to be constantly in contact in an increasingly realistic manner, it will also soon enhance communication beyond what traditional face-to-face interaction could ever allow. These developments might enable us to overcome most of the current barriers to inter-cultural dialogue, such as language and perception differences. Will we strive to preserve our cultural differences or will we allow for cultural convergence? Will cultures still matter? Will we develop a new globalized concept of diversity?
What about political representation?
Technology has the potential to redefine the relationships between civil society, government and business. For example, greater civil participation might be achieved through e-democracy developments. Elected officials could be held more accountable through instant dissemination of information or through the visualization of thoughts, ultimately allowing for more representative governance. This might lead to more efficient or to more deliberative decision-making processes. On the other hand, participation through technology could also lead to more inequality as only those parts of society who have access to technology might be represented. Government services may be partly automated and software might replace some tasks of politicians as we know them today. Who – or what – will we allow to control the algorithms that would have so much influence over our lives? Will technologically induced complexity and individual empowerment lead to diffusion of power or to total state control? Will the speed of innovation empower authoritarian as well as small countries while threatening big democracies?
Will we stop talking?
Communication will be increasingly enhanced through live speech conversion technology, augmented reality and, potentially, the visualization of emotions. Technology might therefore significantly increase the level of predictability and understanding between diplomats – making dialogue and negotiation smoother than ever – which could ultimately lead to a qualitative progress in conflict resolution. Enhanced communication technologies could however also make traditional international diplomacy irrelevant as all necessary information could be obtained without having to engage in an exchange with our peers. Emerging technologies are also impacting the military sector; more anonymous and efficient battles or more invasive attacks, such as hacking enhanced human bodies could be the result. Thus, a duality of technological impact could disrupt and redefine the balance between hard and soft power, which in turn would shape the conduct of international relations and the importance of diplomacy. If transnational challenges continue to have a predominant role in inter-state relations how will we use technology to solve conflicts? Will dialogue become more effective or obsolete? Will diplomats choose communication and brain-computer interface technologies to improve communication or will these technologies be applied upon them without their knowledge?
NASA announced yesterday that it is renting the historic Moffett Federal Airfield, a 1,000-acre air base located 4 miles from Google’s headquarters, to Google’s Planetary Ventures subsidiary. Google likes to call its most ambitious projects “moon shots.” Now, with the company’s latest real estate expansion, it is leasing land from an agency that one could say knows a few things on that topic.
According to the announcement, Google is planning to use the site for space exploration, aviation, robotics and other emerging technologies. Google agreed to pay $1.16 billion over 60 years for the space and promised to renovate and restore historical zeppelin hangars on the premises.
The move further demonstrates Google’s ever-increasing commitment to projects outside of its main business and money-maker: search and advertising. Its list of ambitious projects is long, some of which are run by its Google X research division. Among them are efforts to create 3D sight technology, contact lenses for diabetes patients and research efforts with the goal of lengthening an average person’s life. The company has also worked on robotics, balloons to beam Internet connections across the globe and driverless cars.
Google carries the distinction of being one of the most prolific researchers among Silicon Valley’s largest companies. Most of its peers, such as Facebook, have focused on various ways to expand their business models both at home and abroad. Google, meanwhile, has sought some of the wackiest tech ideas to date.
The deal is also just the latest of Google’s land grabs in the Bay Area. The company in October cemented two large real estate deals in Sunnyvale and Redwood City, Calif. The deals made Google’s Silicon Valley turf larger than 2 million square feet, according to the Silicon Valley Business Journal.
Moffett Federal Airfield was built in the 1930s as part of the surrounding Moffett Field naval base. The field is also home to the Ames Research Center, and once was a location for NASA’s famed “Space Camp” for kids. The deal, first announced in February but cemented on Thursday, will save NASA $6.3 million a year in maintenance and operation costs.
If there is one thing that none of the world’s major tech brands would knowingly gun for, it is the same kind of non-success the Microsoft Surface tablets have met with. We are a full three rounds into the life of the Redmond hybrid tablet-type things and yet the world’s biggest consumer communities are still not entirely warming to the idea.
Some have blamed high prices, while others would say that replacing laptops with powerful tablet PCs doesn’t seem like the most logical thing to do. However, it seems that the Surface Pro’s market share pie is one that Apple would love a piece of.
Over the weekend, the tech press has been developing reports that Apple’s iPad Pro is a rumor that has substance. Headlines have tipped for a device with a screen measuring in at just over 12-inches and with a specially built keyboard case not much unlike to that of the Microsoft Surface Pro. Also, the primary target audiences of the iPad Pro are said to be corporate and educational clients, which again is pretty much the same as the Surface Pro.
Apple’s largest ever tablet will feature the highest specs in an iPad to date, a modified version of the brand’s OS X desktop system and generally all the bells and whistles you’d expect with a solid laptop…again, right on par with the Surface Pro.
However, what’s entirely unlikely to materialize with the iPad Pro is direct USB device support or any kind of expandable storage, which are of course largely ruled out of the picture for any standard iDevice. Should this be the case, it will be interesting to see how corporate crowds warm up to the iPad Pro, which even with a generous amount of storage space will still be somewhat stunted without removable storage media.
There’s really no denying the irony of the whole thing – the very thought of Apple trying to beat Microsoft at its own Surface game would have been quite laughable at one point. Still, there’s a clear and present gap in the iDevice market for something bigger and better than the iPad though ideally cheaper than the MacBook Pro – a gap the iPad Pro could stand to fill quite nicely.
Of course right now it’s all speculation for the time being as Apple is yet to utter a word on the subject. However, it will be interesting to see how Apple looks to take over a market that it seems to have a need to fill.
Nearly three billion people are now connected to the Internet, that’s more or less 40% of humanity, it is arguably the single greatest human achievement since electrification re-defined our society a hundred years ago. Those of us who lived through the tech bubble and bust of the late 90s could be forgiven for rolling our eyes when commentators expound on the impact of the continuing online revolution but the impact is real and much more wide-ranging than you perhaps might imagine.
The first ‘online revolution’ was actually a fairly superficial exercise which tended to focus on retail transactions moving from a physical location to online, the poster child for this was pets.com which achieved notoriety by establishing an absurd valuation just before going out of business. The migration of retail online has continued apace. Almost every good or service imaginable can now be ordered online however this is an example of how much deeper and wider the internet’s impact reaches. The product or service you ordered online is still manufactured in the conventional way, it’s delivered by drivers and trucks which earn wages and use gas. The customer service person who answers your questions is likewise employed although she may be working half a world away. The company making the product will likely be thriving in good part because the new economy allows them to market more efficiently and keep in close contact with existing and new clients. Although in countries where the internet is well ensconced like the US or UK the internet is directly responsible for approaching 10% of GDP the vast majority (in excess of 75%) of the economic impact the internet causes shows up in the non-internet economy.
The new internet driven economy has been widely criticized for causing job losses in some sectors, for example when was the last time you checked in at the airport or went to the bank and actually spoke to a human being? However a more careful study reveals that for every one job lost through this process nearly three jobs are created. These jobs tend to require a better educated labor force and in many cases they can be done from anywhere in the world, so speaking globally this is a strong net positive effect. The impact of these changes isn’t just felt in larger companies where dramatic improvements in efficiency have occurred through rapid growth through information and automation made possible by the internet. Small and mid-sized business have seen similar if not greater opportunities. The panoply of tools and access the internet generates means that almost anyone almost anywhere can start a business or grow their existing business. Small companies taking advantage of what the web offers have been shown to grow and export over twice as fast as their less tech engaged peers. Although small business has benefited from these changes they still have an enormous amount of as yet unrecognized online potential. The internet allows many businesses to do things which would have been unthinkable a decade or so ago. This leveling of the playing field has led to dramatic jobs growth, indeed over 60% of the jobs created in the last decade were created by small to mid-sized businesses more than compensating for jobs lost through globalization.
Across the world the impact of the information revolution has been dramatic. Areas which have never had access to the telephone or even roads can join the rest of humanity through a generator and a cell connection. Simple things like knowing which products to take to market to garner the best price can make dramatic changes to subsistence farmers. The ability to speak to a doctor or attend a virtual classroom can help drive change and even help reduce the impact of extremist world views. We have seem many revolutions against totalitarian regimes mediated by the internet and this is only going to grow more common.
In countries with well-established internet adoption in excess of 25% of GDP growth can be explicitly linked to the web. That’s a staggering statistic but in reality it’s probably a conservative number. It’s clear that infrastructure investments made by governments or the private sector act as access and wealth multipliers. Each area impacted by the internet generates its own opportunities and challenges. For example the rapid growth of Uber has led to loud complaints from the established taxi driver interest groups yet it has generated by some reports in excess of 20,000 new driver jobs per month.
The data clearly suggests that almost the single most important thing an economy can possess is a strong internet infrastructure and widespread online adoption. It offers communication, information, entertainment and access to the wisdom and experience of humanity. It mediates and enhances commerce frequently inventing entire new business sectors. It allows companies of all sizes to compete and market more effectively increasing the pace of development and discovery. In spite of the dramatic changes the internet has made to so many business sectors we are far from finished with this dramatic process. In economies with widespread adoption there are many sectors which remain almost untouched, as these areas become changed impacted in the near future massive new opportunities for wealth creation will continue to arise. In countries where adoption is less well established we can expect them to learn from the experience of more connected countries and make even more rapid progress as they deploy. It can even bring democracy and peace. The internet revolution continues with no end in sight and the only constant is change.
I give it less than a decade before we are paying a reality provider to give us recreational experiences beyond anything we can currently imagine. Once we have access to a better than life experience on our recliners at home work may just become the way we afford credits in our enhanced experience world. It sounds like fun…and will be…unless it further divided our society into the haves who can relax in comfort in their virtual paradises and the rest who keep the lights on.