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.
The recent furor over horrible (if not actually criminal) behavior at Uber has led me to wandering about the culture of our industry…in short is tech turning nasty? I’ve been in tech in one form or another for most of my career. On the whole most the tech people in it fit nicely into the stereotype of socially awkward but nice weirdos. Many of the management were a little less likable but still not horrible by any means. Although as an industry we have been traditionally a pretty homogeneous bunch in recent years we have seen some very nice growth in both ethnic and gender diversity….but there’s a “but” here.
Anyone who has read my blog will know that I’m a huge fan of Steve Jobs. He was our Da Vinci and his pointless entirely avoidable death robbed us of several decades of innovation. However pretty much anyone who met him (including myself) would testify that he was at best rude and prickly…at worse a total A-hole. Just after his death a few years back the fabulously well written biography by Walter Isaacson revealed just how gratuitously rude, arrogant and unpleasant Jobs routinely was. To a person everyone in our industry has read that book….many times in some cases. It’s a new kind of tech bible and it clearly teaches that nice guys finish last. I haven’t met that meant real A-holes in our industry…but the one thing that they all had in common was their love of quoting Jobs on almost every topic. It’s weird and disturbing and growing….and I hate it.
For all its crazy tourism, I kind of like Times Square. Back when I used to visit Manhattan every other week, I’d always stay at the Marriott Marquise and pick up half price theater tickets at the Times Square discounted tickets booth. Were I to do that next week, I’d either be inside or watching the world’s largest and most expensive video ad. It completely wraps the marquise, is the size of a football field and costs $2.5 million a month to rent. Google will be the first customer. No doubt we will be treated to the massive version of the cute ads we have come to know (not love) from Google. If that’s all we get that will be a shame. I used to visit the Comcast tower in Philadelphia quite often and the lobby area of that building is simply breathtaking. They installed a massive (and massively expensive) video wall which was about an inch thick and two stories high all around the interior of their enormous lobby. They didn’t run Comcast commercials rather than ran spectacular video sequences like sun rise from outer space, 20′s style biplane dancing acts or a trip over Niagara Falls. It was amazing and spectacular, I used to arrive early for meetings just to watch the show.
With a quarter of a million pedestrians passing the billboard and the kind of world-wide exposure that generates this is the perfect opportunity for Google to literally wow the world….we will see if they take that chance with both hands.
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.