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Showing posts from 2014

The rise and fall of the full stack developer

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This post was also published on TechCrunch.It seems as though everyone in tech today is infatuated with the full-stack developer. Full stack may have been possible in the Web 2.0 era, but a new generation of startups is emerging, pushing the limits of virtually all areas of software. From machine intelligence to predictive push computing to data analytics to mobile/wearable and more, it’s becoming virtually impossible for a single developer to program across the modern full stack.When I first started programming computers as a kid in the pre-mobile, pre-web late 1970s/early 1980s, a single person typically wrote a complete software program from start to finish, and there weren’t many other layers of software between the programmer and the hardware. Using assembly language was the norm for programmers trying to squeeze more performance and space out of machines with 8-bit processors and very limited memory.Programming applications quickly evolved into a team sport with the advent of c…

Why are PC sales up and tablet sales down?

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This post was also published on TechCrunch.When iPads first came out, they were hailed as the undoing of the PC. Finally, a cheap and reliable computing device for the average user instead of the complicated, quirky PC. After a few years of strong growth for iOS and Android tablets and a corresponding decrease in PC sales, the inverse is suddenly true: PC sales are up and tablet sales are “crashing.” What happened?The tablet slowdown shouldn’t be a surprise given that tablets have hardly improved beyond relatively superficial changes in size, screen resolution, and processor speed. The initial market for tablets is now saturated: grandparents and kids have them, people bought them as Sonos controllers and such, and numerous households have them around for reading. People that want tablets have them, and there’s just no need to upgrade because they more than adequately perform their assigned tasks.Businesses and consumers alike are again purchasing PCs, and Mac sales are on the rise y…

BMW vs. Tesla: a real live innovator’s dilemma

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This post was also published on TechCrunch.Jill Lepore genereated quite a fracas in Silicon Valley with her New Yorker article that questions disruptive innovation and posits that large incumbent companies often survive and subsume disruptive technology with small incremental gains. Fortunately, we have a live Petri dish: BMW’s new electric i3 is an ongoing case study of a legacy manufacturer facing an innovator’s dilemma in the face of Tesla, a very aggressive new competitor with next-generation technology.Elon Musk has defined the standard for a future mass-produced electric car – it must cost around $40,000, have a range of 200 miles, and be comparable to a BMW 3 series. In order to achieve that audacious goal, Tesla is embarking on a plan to build a “Gigafactory” capable of producing batteries at an efficient and lower cost that would make such a dream car feasible. Investors are betting that Tesla will be able to dominate the electric car market when it achieves scale, continuin…

Google's push past search

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This post was also published on TechCrunch.As a recent analysis indicated, Google’s traditional search is not working on mobile as well as it did on the desktop web. Sifting through organic search results on a mobile device is a sub-optimal experience, especially when compared to the push notifications and personalized streams of cards that have made mobile apps from Facebook, Twitter and Tinder so habit-forming and successful.Google is getting well ahead of its mobile organic search problem, especially on Android where it has full control of the end-to-end mobile experience. Google has strung together push notifications, a stream of predictive answers and an answer box in an attempt to answer a search query three times before showing organic search results.Answer Attempt No. 1 – Notify you that something important is happening before you even askGoogle’s primary push play is its much-maligned Google Now, which is increasingly becoming more functional and relevant, especially for Andr…

The resurgent, post-Windows Microsoft

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This post was also published on TechCrunch.Microsoft had become an oft-ignored, behemoth to the North, despite $77 billion in revenue, $57 billion in gross profits and $21 billion in net income. It seemed that the mobile revolution had passed it by. Although Steve Ballmer was already making many of the right moves, it took new CEO Satya Nadella to fully accept that Microsoft had to move beyond Windows into a new future of apps and cloud services.The future of Microsoft is in selling its software, such as Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and ERP, and Microsoft servers in the Azure cloud to business customers on whatever platform they like. Each of these products is arguably best-of-breed and cloud-based, and has a large customer base. Microsoft indeed has the ability to pivot, and pivot hard, as it did when it switched from pushing MSN to competing with Netscape in the Internet space. And Microsoft is once again not encumbered by antitrust restrictions from aggressively pu…

Why can't a startup build a self-driving car?

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This post was also published on TechCrunch.On a 10- to 20-year horizon, large-scale technological innovation is going to center around machine intelligence, robotics and sensors. Each of these fields requires gargantuan amounts of capital and a lot of patience, a combination well beyond the scope of even the most progressive venture capital firm.As Google has demonstrated with its self-driving car, the combination of machine intelligence, robotics and sensors can already perform better than a human at a complex task such as driving a car, something that 10 years ago was unthinkable to most people.No doubt, Tesla has built an amazing car and after much trial and tribulation, brought it to market. However, General Motors had already shipped a production electric car years before. Tesla took advantage of the innovator’s dilemma, where legacy car companies are virtually incapable of embracing electric-only cars and integrating modern electronics.Tesla’s roadmap includes “autopilot” and e…

Mobile contacts are now the real social network

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This post was also published on TechCrunch.Facebook’s surprising acquisition of WhatsApp signals that it has realized that users’ true social network is the contact list on their smartphones. Mobile contacts are usually limited to people a user knows well and actually communicates with, a veritable treasure trove when compared to the copious list of Facebook friends that many users have accumulated over the years.Adding someone to your phone is more intimate than friending them on Facebook. And messaging someone through their phone number is much more intimate than a Facebook message, something that Mark Zuckerberg himself says is akin to informal e-mail. Facebook had the opportunity to own the social graph for new apps with Facebook Platform, which spawned multiple successful companies such as Pinterest that used the “follow all my Facebook friends” feature to build their own social networks.Threatened by the emerging networks, Facebook decided to clamp down on new “competitive” soc…

Why the big picture matters on mobile

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This post was also published in VentureBeat.Chances are you’ve checked out Instagram, Tinder, Whisper or Snapchat within the last hour. Or maybe the last five minutes. They are some of the most popular and addicting consumer mobile apps today. And they have a remarkably consistent user interface: a big picture with an accompanying line of text.Research indicates that reading is actually quite difficult for the human brain, which from the start evolved to capture and process mountains of information visually. The narrowing of information delivery instigated by text messaging and Twitter has trained users to communicate efficiently with fewer words. The paucity of text has allowed imagery to take over on the mobile form factor, as evidenced by the most popular new apps.The attention-focusing layout of a big picture with accompanying line of text originated with the newspaper front page. Above the fold layouts were used for big events such as wars, royal weddings, and big sporting event…