Sunday, June 14, 2009
El periodico de Catalunya tuvo la gentileza de reproducir el discurso que Jordi Nadal pronunció el pasado 20 de mayo en un acto para muchos curioso, anacrónico y quizás extrano, la presentación de un libro conmmerando los 450 años de un Gremio de Fabricantes en Sabadell.
Más allá del acto en si, el discurso del profesor Nadal, con cuyas obras intenté hace muchos años aprender algo de historia ... refleja a mi modesto entender una visión extrañamente lúcida de la realidad catalana. Una visión erudita y profunda que sobresale de la palabreria y la propaganda a la que estamos tristemente acostrumbados.
Esta vez, apreciado lector, no tengo nada que añadir, humildemente no creo que sea capaz de añadir nada, simplemente mi más profundo respeto y admiración al profesor Jordi Nadal.
(extraido de El periodico y adaptado por el autor para su publicación).
Jordi Nadal -
Innovation: Harder than expected
Michael Mandel in his last BW article was dealing with the failed promise of Innovation in the US. This certainly resonates with our childhood full of images of flying cars, human colonies in the Moon and Mars, almost unlimited supply of energy, etc...
In the last five years, I had the opportunity to participate in many innovation processes in Europe and witness sometimes the birth, sometimes the renewal and sometimes the fall of many organizations devoted to Innovation.
Innovation had become a buzzword, used way too many times for political reason and covering what is just a medium, sometimes bad, executed diffusion or educational process. To be completely honest with you all, very few times I have seen a well planned, well executed process trying to connect at least some of the relevant actors: research organizations, companies, users, ... Many times I have encountered either a partial link without the technology or the sophisticated demand or the companies to make it work or even worse, a buzzword in the hands of politicians wanting to promote themselves.
I am not saying that in Asia things are better, they have their own share of problems being the rigidity of their structures and hierarchies if not the most relevant, probably the best well known. However, I have seen more serious attempts of really trying.
The words of the article of Michael Mandel are nevertheless a good explanation of what happened: Harder than expected.
Obviously, not because you put people of different disciplines together something magical happens or because you connect people you are going to create a new product or just because you involve the first user that you encounter she or he is going to have the clue for the next iPod. Yes, as you may guess, these things just don't happen.
At a point and after the initial euphoria, everybody realizes that. This is, among others, the reason why so many innovation projects don't last more than 3-5 years ...
Harder than expected !!! - Yes Michael, you're right.
The problem and the opportunity lies on what this initiatives do next ...
Saturday, June 13, 2009
The future is here ... but not uniformly distributed!
Today we can read in the NYTimes a short story about TSMC, the world's lagerest foundry.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing - TSMC - is one of the success stories of the Hsinchu Science Park, the most well known and most successful Science Park in Taiwan. TSMC being the largest for-hire foundry in the world has greatly contributed to the maintenance of the Moore's law and the low price of semiconductors around.
However, we have seen this sector moving in the last years, processes of consolidation like the ones driven by AMD and Intel, together by a movement to more profitable segments like mobile devices, have changed the face of the industry, leaving a smaller space to independent foundries.
On the other side, prices went down pushed by mobile devices and the rise of netbooks.
The end result is that TSMC is taking a bold move: moving to LEDs and solar cells. This is a new growing segment with a lot of room for improvement, a perfect arena for such an efficiently and in many ways extraordinary company.
Green technologies is certainly the new and wild market where everybody wants to be, not only because of its size and opportunities but also because being politically correct, governments are investing heavily there, a boost that weights in any market entrance decision of a big conglomerate.
But this also means that at least some of the promises of the past years in this field of green-technology, will finally have the financial might to become real, and because this is a high-level technology, when translated to mid and low levels, we can expect a plethora of innovation to flourish.
Prius, Innovación y Crisis
(sobre un artículo en el NYTimes)
Este es el nuevo Prius.
Antes de que saliese al mercado Toyota tenia 80.000 de éstos vendidos sobre unas ventas totales de 400.000 el año anterior. Es decir 1/5 de todas las ventas del año anterior ya se habian cubierto antes de poder poner un sólo coche en la calle.
En Mayo Toyota vendió 110.000 nuevos Prius en Japón y tienen una lista de espera de meses.
Desde 1997, Toyota ha vendido 1.27M de Prius.
Pocas veces disponemos de pruebas tan contundentes de la ventaja competitiva que produce la innovación. Normalmente ésta viene de la mano de productos extremadamente sexys, como el iPhone, donde el valor de la innovación en el éxito del producto está mediatizado por muchos más factores.
Bien, el Prius no es un coche sexy, no es el iPod, ni un Z3, ni un Miata. Sin embargo es un coche innovador. Tampoco es un coche completamente revolucionario, no estamos aquí ante el coche eléctrico. Es un coche que se ha desarrollado, en parte gracias a los incentivos y a la valiente política fiscal de California, y con el que Toyota ha conseguido estar 10 años por delante del resto, según declaran sus ingenieros.
En España tenemos mercados tractores no sólo en el automóvil, también en construcción sostenible, medio ambiente, etc... Una adecuada legislación y un adecuado soporte nos permitirían desarrollar estos mercados y obtener substanciales ventajas competitiva, tenemos el ejemplo de medio ambiente en tecnologías eólica y solar.
Nada de todo esto va a solucionar los 5 millones de parados a los que nos acercamos a paso galopante (diga lo que diga Corbacho ...), la solución a la mano de obra poco cualificada que se ha generado y atraído durante estos años sólo puede venir de la construcción y de los servicios. Pero está en nuestra mano, cómo vamos a salir de esta crisis, si mejor o peor y ... los próximos 10 años, aquellos de los que hablan los ingenieros de Toyota.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Google Native Client
This mail shows Google's intentions of releasing Native Client for Chrome.
Given current Internet speeds and the relative small size of code, plus the use of caches, Native Client holds the promise to marry the best of both worlds: desktop and Internet, and put another nail in the coffin of standalone applications.
Of course, native code has all the security risks associated to native applications. However, the sandbox technology that is already in place in Chrome provides an environment safe enough for public release.
Also, this is one more step in the race between html5 and flash towards this disappearing frontier between the Internet and the standalone application.
Is Capitalism Dead?
A short commentary from Sidney Winter, one of the fathers of evolutionary economics about a subject that we see nowadays in many newspapers' headlines: Is Capitalism dead?
Winter's insights are always interesting. In this short video we can hear from somebody who spent a lifetime building models and trying to understand the inner workings of our market system, the urgent need for designing institutions that promote social welfare.
As societies grow more complex, more interconnected and phenomena scale faster, then the importance of having in place mechanisms aligned with the public interest rises.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Bernardo Hernandez - New Global Product Mk Manager @ Google
Estrategia, Competencia y Altruismo, mecanismos básicos
Una de las cosas que hago, aparte de dedicarme a la innovación, User Driven, Open, los Living Labs, etc... son modelos teóricos que intentan explicar y ahondar en las condiciones en las que esa innovación se produce. Cosas como si debe variar la gestión (Open o Closed) según la complejidad del entorno, etc...
Cuando modelas intentas mapear dos comportamientos básicos, el de búsqueda, via exploración, explotation, recombinación, collaboración, crowdsourcing, etc... pero finalmente búsqueda ... Y el de competencia, que es la dinamo que mueve el mercado. La competencia modela la intensidad de la búsqueda y por lo tanto el nivel de riesgos que se asume al afrontar la incertidumbre de la innovación (la competencia afecta a muchas más cosas y tiene muchos mecanísmos ... pero estamos hablando sólo de innovación).
Una parte del problema es que si bien sabemos algo de la búsqueda y de los mecanismos que la dirigen, sabemos poco de los mecanismos que dirigen la competencia y que hacen que unos grupos de humanos colaboren en unos casos y compitan en otros. Esto, es especialmente interesante en organizaciones difusas ya sea en estructura de red o en crowd. La mayor parte de las organizaciones "interesantes", las que estan en Open Innovation, son organizaciones difusas, donde es normalmente dificil establecer una frontera clara donde acaba una organización y empieza otra.
Bowles, Gintis, Boyd, etc... son algunos de los investigadores que nos estan ayudando a entender porque cooperamos y cuáles son los mecanismos que empujan esta colaboración. El pasado 5 de Junio Bowles publicó su último trabajo en Science -
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Innovación Abierta - Henry Chesbrough en Barcelona
Hoy Henry Chesbrough estuvo en Barcelona presentando la versión de su famoso libre Open Innovation en español. Vino de la mano de Kim Barcelona y Xavier Marcet.
En su presentación Chesbrough no sólo re-explicó el concepto de innovación abierta y su oportunidad sino que nos deleitó con diversas interpretaciones del mismo que ha ido recogiendo a lo largo de estos años y con multitud de ejemplos, algunos ya conocidos como los de P&G, otros menos conocidos como los del iPod y algunos locales como El Bulli.
También nos explicó la génesis del concepto de Open Innovation, a partir de su trabajo de investigación en Xerox.
Es realmente interesante cuando ideas que provienen del mundo de la investigación logran obtener este grado de difusión y cambiar las forma en que las empresas y las entidades públicas gestionan el proceso de innovación, algo que acaba afectando a miles de empresas y a millones de personas.
En este aspecto, Open Innovation, más allá del progreso que introduce en la gestión de los procesos de innovación, tiene un aspecto altamente positivo porque nos habla de un mundo global y abierto en el que todos podemos aprender de todos. Este es el resultado de la aventura intelectual de Chesbrough que empezo a finales de la década de los noventa. Gracias Henry!!
BW - The failed promise of Innovation
On June 3, Business Week published a really interesting article of Michael Mandel with a provocative argument: we have lived through an innovation shortfall during the last decade, specially in the US, and this is the main culprit of the problems that we face today.
The long and detailed article walks the reader through a decade long series of unachieved promises, pointing out that it has been the gap between expectations and unfulfilled promises what caused the actual financial problems, finally managing to bring down the whole economy.
Data from studies like The Atlantic Century, a benchmark exercise of the degree of innovation of the 40 most innovative countries, where the US shows the least progress of the 40 nations in innovation competitiveness and innovation capacity through the decade (1999-2009) further sustains the arguments providing some concrete evidence.
The article however, convays an optimistic message by proposing that innovations are there, but delayed. And even if they had flourised in the IT sector, in order to be systemic encompassing several technologies and producing a significant impact in our lives, they must flourish in several sectors and combine.
Even if it seems difficult to agree that was an innovation shortfall and not an inadequate regulation of the financial system together with an overly optimistic appreciation of risk what caused the actual downturn, we all probably agree that the article has a point.
In fact we know that innovation is not linear, but has a characteristic S shape that can be rapidly and easily appreciated in technological innovation.
We also know that systemic innovation depends on the diffusion and adoption of technologies in a wide community to flourish.
Although the adoption process is now much faster than before, the lenght of the S shapes depends mostly on the translation of high level knowledge onto low-med level knowledge. This translation depend mostly in the percieve capacity of value transformation in a 3-5 year period range, which rules out many technologies where transformation is not so straighforward.
This is for example, a significant difference between Asian's and American's innovation system and probably accounts for part of the shortfall. Companies simply focused too much in innovations where value could be obtained faster. In the time of fast growing Internet and Financial companies this will rule out many sectors and effectively postpone or delay many innovations being a clear disadvantage.
A second reason that can explain this perception of shortfall is that in times of big changes, old companies agonize while new ones, even if being there, are still not recognized as their successors. This is perceived with clarity in the early stage of disrupting technologies, even if the sales of traditional lamps is low, leds still don't take a significant portion of market share.
Finally, systemic innovation, depending on a wide diffusion and adoption of the technologies that are going to constitute its building blocks, can take a significant amount of time to appear.
However, even if the US innovation system has significant problems when dealing with a) long term innovatons, b) systemic innovations and c) multi-stakeholder innovations and this 3 areas should be addressed by the administration if America wants to maintain its lead, it seems bizarre to portray the decade of Internet as an innovation shortfall.
Having said that, it is true that there is no better time for addressing the problems than the one where the need to do so appears more compeling, and this time is now. Let's therefore salute the contribution of Mandel maybe not for its capacity of explaining what has happened but for its ability in pointing out fast and future problems that could stagnate our innovative capacity and by doing so prevent growth.
--- Written after listening to the podcast
The podcast provides a better explanation than the article. Mandel did look at companies that really tried hard beyond the 3-5 year boundary and his thesis is not that the innovation shortfall is responsible for the actual crises, but that without this shortfall this crises wouldn't have existed, thesis on which we all can probably agree.We will live in a different world.
Mandel doesn't find anything fundamentally wrong in the way innovations were pursued, just that they were harder to achieve than expected. This dissonance between what we anticipate and reality has always been there, but now is probably amplified by the advent of Internet.
If that is true, the next ten years we all will have a flood of innovations.
Friday, June 05, 2009
Apple cambia el modelo de negocio con iPhone OS 3.0
Apple va a permitir pagos realizados desde las aplicaciones de iPhone/iPod en OS 3.0.
Parece una noticia sencilla y simple, pero tiene la potencialidad de cambiar radicalmente el modelo de negocio de los proveedores de aplicaciones.
Pudiendo realizar cobros por contenido, upgrades, hints,merchandising, etc... desde la propia aplicación los desarrolladores ya noestarán sometidos a la tiranía de tener que hacer caja con la venta del software y proporcionar upgrades de manera regular.
¿Como va a afectar esto a la competencia con el resto de plataformas? ¿Como va afectar esto a los servicios y contenidos de las aplicaciones ? Bueno, os lo podéisimaginar, iPod-iPhone son la plataforma dominante en dispositivos móvileshigh-end, sin embargo la calidad de la oferta ha estado hasta ahora limitada por el precio del software (bajo para ser competitivo en la plataforma, pero significativo si la oferta era relevante -- un conflicto difícil de resolver).
Bueno, pues todo eso va a cambiar muy pronto y además con funcionalidades añadidas importantes que las aplicaciones van a poder aprovechar en sus desarrollos.
Technology and Strategy - Where are we heading
Time in Internet is fast, but not that fast. Applications need time to develop and we witness how they appear in waves, building one on top of the other.
This week has been a good example of this.
We have seen how MS tries to compete, one more time, with Google trying to get a piece of the huge search market.
How MS innovates with a radically new User Interface in a mainstream product : the Xbox.
Intel moving to the embedded software arena with the acquisition of WindRiver.
Google betting in a new mail system that combines instant message, with collaboration and traditional threat based mail.
Therefore we have seen companies exploring. Going out of their franchises into new ventures characterized by new markets (for them) or new products. Many of this exploration had innovation as its main lever (but the acquisition of Intel).
There is though, a common denominator. They are all platform offerings that aim to leverage on the imagination, willingness and insight of thousand of companies and developers who will provide the real meat.
Sometime ago, the Internet crafted the term the winner gets all, referring to the power law nature of web traffic. Now this is again the moto, but the moto of the platforms. Not relevant second places anymore out there !
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Project Natal - Why Xbox?
Microsoft Project Natal certainly impressed all of us because it breaks with existing conventions in the user interface, a territory that we all believe settled and stable.
But, where does it comes from? Is it the result of careful planning? In fact project Natal is the result of years of work of a recently acquired israeli start-up: 3DVSystems. Therefore, one more case of Open Innovation.
An interesting aspect is the reason why it was implemented in the Xbox. I mean, this new graphical interface could be implemented in many other devices, such as MS surface, webTV, etc...
Here, we must remember last year comments of Steve Jobs in All things Digital. He was asking everybody, where was the action? And the action is clearly not in the PC. Maybe the action is in mobile devices ... and especially in games!!
But, there is something more than the fact that games are hot now and because of that there are a lot of incentives for innovation there. User interfaces get fixed and once that happens is difficult to change.
Typical examples of these situations are the steering wheel in cars, or the disposition of keyboards, but also devices and interfaces such as the mouse and drop-down menus. Yes, in PCs (personal computers in general including Macs - this is written in Mac) there is a huge investment in the interface that is, maybe not impossible, but very difficult to move. Change is therefore difficult. A prove of that had been the difficulties of Tablet PCs, not only because of price, but because of lack of applications that could make sense of the interface.
In addition to that, one can argue that certain uses and certain demographics are reluctant to change (who wants a car driven with a joystick for example). On the contrary, other demographics and other devices embrace change, either because of the lack of a fixed UI (mobile devices) or because of their intrinsic nature (games) that favors exploration.
Maybe then, this new UI is not really about gaming, it just happens to be implemented first in games.
Correction: It seems that project Natal is not derived from the buying of 3DV but an internal development. Although 3DV acquisition provided the camera and probably some completed the IP portfolio protection.
Monday, June 01, 2009
Google entering the Market for eBooks
Google is entering the market for ebooks. This is not the first time that ebooks seem closer to become real, but after so many years of trying we all are a little bit skeptic that it could finally happen.
The Kindle and specially the new version was a big step towards the electronic book, but also the decision of some universities to promote electronic versions of textbooks, helped a lot.
Now we will witness two competing models. The one of Amazon that set the price and keeps it low (around $9.99) and the one of Google where price will be set by the publisher. The one of Amazon, promoting a separate device and the one of Google allowing any device.
Also, the strategy of Google is, as usual, open. A program will allow publishers to put books on the market, supposedly similar to AdWords. Nonetheless, for Amazon it won't be difficult to Open its eBook offer to other devices (Amazon already has a version for the iPod/iPhone) and simplify the mechanics of publishing. Therefore, we can take competition between these two giants for granted.
However, besides the Business Model, technology plays a big role, specially the reader. In that aspect too, seems that time is right. On one side we have increasing rumors of an Apple tablet and on the other, Windows 7 is poisoned towards multi-touch experiences.
Books, like music and movies are suffering a tremendous change. Once we go for digital contents, the added value of the distributor is only its on-line marketing capacity, far away from its current experience in physical distribution channels, because all the technicalities needed to put books in the market are easily solved by users themselves. In music iTunes has been the force behind Apple's success, will eBooks be the next Google search?