Al Sacco interviewed RIM CEO Thorsten Heins at CIO. It's a very run-of-the-mill interview, but Heins' answer to the last question is a zinger:
Finally, I'd like to ask you for a prediction: Where will RIM be in one year from now? In July of 2013, what will I be writing about RIM and BlackBerry?
I think you will be writing that you are surprised by the performance and the user experience of the BlackBerry 10 product, that it helps you achieve your daily objectives but also have fun. By then you will see that this is a true mobile computing platform that allows BlackBerry to even explore other domains and spaces, like automotive, in cars.
It takes a certain kind of CEO to say something like that in public. Also, I sure can't wait to see how the “BlackBerry 10 product” finally helps me “achieve [my] daily objectives”.
Despite investment from three out of five PayPal co-founders, Stripe actually competes directly with PayPal […].
“Despite”? I see this fact as far more revealing. PayPal should be the biggest and most successful bank in the history of the world, but due to eBay's horrific incompetence, it's not. PayPal's founders probably still want to see their ultimate vision come to fruition. Who better to invest in than Stripe, a company with the opportunity, the will, the talent, and the resources to reach PayPal's ultimate vision?
For as long as I can remember, I've kept a text file with my large, high-level predictions for the industries and companies I'm tracking. Now I'm going to make part of it public. (I wrote these in February.)
Television Apple is going to enter the television market. Samsung will be blindsided. Vizio will become the only worthy competitor in the market. It's going to look exactly like the MP3 player market in 2001. Once again, software is the key.
Search Semantic/contextual/intelligent web searching will kill Google if Google doesn't disrupt itself. Eventually. Google search is a terrible experience for normal people. They don't know which links they can trust. Some service in the future is going to curate the top 100,000 or 1,000,000 queries into a list of great, precise results. Siri would be a great interface into that kind of system. “Siri, what camera should I buy?” would probably give better results than this. (How that curation or improvement in quality will happen is anyone's guess.)
Kindle Fire Amazon is in a tough place; the Kindle Fire has to be improved, but at a $200 price point, they've locked themselves into a very bad situation. They can't improve it substantially without increasing the price, and they can't increase the price without spoiling their target market. It is also unlikely that they can compete on quality with the iPad. Given Amazon's poor financials in recent quarters (presumably due to losses from the Fire, at least two quarters ago), it's hard to predict how far Amazon will go with the Fire. My prediction is that they will attempt to make it better but, given the imposed constraints, fail. The Fire will be forever relegated to the “cheap junk” category for Tablets. Hilariously, it's still the best non-iPad tablet you can buy.
Entertainment content It will take at least a decade before anything on the internet will come even close to “killing Hollywood”. The driving force behind Hollywood is extremely well-produced, expensive content, with a ~50% success rate. Hollywood is a network of financial underwriters tied inextricably to the content they produce. No web startup can replace this fundamental need. And I'm not sure what disruption would look like; I hope it does not include a reduction in production quality. Netflix, YouTube, and HBO are the ones to watch here. (Hulu is going to end up dead or bought; it is owned by the very interests it needs to destroy.)
Wireless data Previously unconnected devices are going to gain free wireless 3G/4G internet connectivity, similar to Whispernet. There is no reason why extremely low bandwidth wireless devices cannot have a lifetime service plan baked into the initial cost. The carriers should love this. Ebooks are just the start; imagine clocks and watches that update themselves, home energy usage monitoring devices, heart monitors, in-car traffic systems, and things we haven't even thought about yet. Three things need to happen as prerequisites: wireless radio hardware needs to get smaller (Bluetooth LE is a good case study for this), it needs to get way cheaper, and wireless network capacity needs to at least quadruple. The Kindle started this trend, and I'm kind of surprised that it hasn't become more popular.
Nokia & Windows Phone Nokia will popularize Windows Phone and Microsoft will almost certainly end up buying them. Windows Phone will eventually be successful, if moderately.
Infrastructure as a service Soon, there will be a viable competitor to Amazon's EC2 and S3. It's not entirely clear how or why, but Rackspace has managed to fail at this. Amazon has developed a huge amount of trust in AWS as a brand, and the bandwagon effect is becoming stronger. Rackspace's cloud has always felt kind of like a toy to me. Last year, an engineer working on Rackspace Cloud told me he “wouldn't use it for [his] startup's mission-critical infrastructure.” That's ridiculous.
Facebook's monetization Facebook will continue flailing around, trying to figure out how to effectively monetize on mobile. Currently, the company does not make any money off mobile users. The S-1 mentioned this as a risk briefly, but I think it is Facebook's single most important and pressing problem. I am pretty sure this will include some kind of Facebook Phone, built from the ground up to be “social.” And ads on the mobile stream. But their effectiveness hasn't yet been proven.
Zynga's independence Zynga will continue to move off the Facebook Platform and onto mobile marketplaces like the App Store and its own social gaming network. Zynga has discovered how to partially monetize mobile, and they don't need Facebook for that (quite the opposite, in fact; Facebook will slow Zynga down on mobile). The production quality of Zynga's games will improve, but they will continue to blur the line more and more between gambling and gaming (err– “play”). Before Facebook's IPO, Zynga's stock was being traded as a proxy for Facebook's. There are still residual effects of this, and I think it's a huge mistake; Zynga will become a powerful company independent of Facebook.
The Nook Barnes & Noble will continue pushing the Nook, but will ultimately fail. If the Nook were the only e-reader out there, it would actually be pretty awesome. It's a solid product. But given the competition–from Amazon's incredibly well designed Kindle and Apple's iPad–the Nook doesn't stand a chance. It's a great product. But it's niche. It will not save Barnes & Nobile.
These were on my list, but have since come to reality:
Retina Displays MacBook Pro, retina display. Perhaps as early as the next MacBook Pro release. This is a huge step forward in computing, and something normal people can actually appreciate. I don't think people who work in tech understand just how shitty LCD technology is today; we've become complacent. Retina screens will be the largest leap for computing in a decade.
“People ask me to predict the future, when all I want to do is prevent it. Better yet, build it. Predicting the future is much too easy, anyway. You look at the people around you, the street you stand on, the visible air you breathe, and predict more of the same. To hell with more. I want better.”
I didn't know much about Ray Bradbury until a couple of weeks ago, after he died. The man was an artist with words. The more I learn about him, the more I am impressed by his thoughts: he was controversial, eloquent, and contrarian; and he didn't care what people thought of him.
Starting today you’ll begin to notice a simplified Twitter bird. From now on, this bird will be the universally recognizable symbol of Twitter. (Twitter is the bird, the bird is Twitter.) There’s no longer a need for text, bubbled typefaces, or a lowercase “t” to represent Twitter.
This is definitely a huge improvement. The new bird feels like it's flying.
That’s the number of months it took Palm, Inc. to go from the darling of International CES 2009 to a mere shadow of itself, a nearly anonymous division inside the HP machine without a hardware program and without the confidence of its owners. Thirty-one months is just barely longer than a typical American mobile phone contract.
Understanding exactly how Palm could drive itself into irrelevance in such a short period of time will forever be a subject of Valley lore.
Samsung's new Chromebox (which runs Google's ChromeOS) has a familiar form factor. But all small computers are built with circular openings in the bottom, right? It's a natural method of construction. How else would you build such a thing?
Shortly after returning to Apple in 1997, Steve Jobs shared his thoughts about the future of the company with attendees at the Worldwide Developers Conference. Here's part of his speech (which I transcribed), where he clearly describes “the cloud” fifteen years before it would arrive. This is the definition of vision:
Let me describe the world I live in. About 8 years ago, we had high speed networking connected to our now-obsolete NeXT hardware … and because we were using NFS, we were able to take all of our personal data–our home directories, we call them–off of our local machines, and put them on a server. And the software made that completely transparent, and because the server had a lot of ram on it, in some cases it was faster to get stuff off the server than off your local hard disk because in some cases it would be cached in the ram of the server, if it was in popular use.
But what was really remarkable was that the organization could hire a professional person to back up that server every night, and could afford to spend a little bit more on that server, so maybe it had redundant disk drives, redundant power supplies. And you know, in the last 7 years, you know how many times I have lost any personal data?
Do you know how many times i've backed up my computer?
I have computers at Apple, at NeXT, at Pixar, and at home. I walk up to any of them and log in as myself. It goes over the network, finds my home directory on the server, and it just, i've got my stuff, where ever I am. And none of that is on a local hard disk.
Now what's really interesting to me is that gigabit ethernet's coming. With gigabit ethernet, it is faster in every case to talk to the server than it is my local hard disk.
And one of the things I'm really excited about is to look at that personal computer, and take out every moving part except the keyboard and the mouse. I don't need a hard disk in my computer, if I can get to the server faster. […]
I don't care how it's done. I don't care what box is at the other end.
Now, Managing a network like this is a pain in the butt. Setting it up, getting it all to work, is really complicated. One of my hopes is that Apple can do for this new type of network – it's not so new, but for the average person it's new – with gigabit ethernet technologies and some of the new server stuff that's coming down the pipe, and some thinner hardware clients – hardware clients that are thinner, not necessarily software – that Apple could make that as plug-and-play for mere mortals as it made the user experience over a decade ago.
That's one of the things where I think there's a giant hole. And I can't communicate to you how awesome it is unless you use it. What you would decide, within a day or two, is that carrying around these non-connected computers–with tons of data and state in them–is byzantine by comparison.
Now, let me describe the world I live in. All of my files–every single file I create, work on, or save–is on Dropbox or S3. All of my email is on Google Apps. All of my music is on iTunes Match and Spotify. My computer is a big, expensive cache for the files I'm using right now. You know how many times I've lost data? Zero. You know how many times I've backed up? Zero.
Steve Jobs described what life would be like fifteen years in the future, and he was pretty damn close to what ended up actually happening. He was only wrong about two things: first, Apple wasn't part of the cloud, and in fact no computer manufacturer was; and second, the services and benefits of the cloud are provided not by a single centralized server, but by a federated group of specialized services like Dropbox, Spotify, and Gmail.
But the end result of these services, which paves the way for having stateless clients, will be the same. The MacBook Air uses older, less powerful processors, and has small amounts of super-fast storage. It's the first step in the process of converting from big byzantine computers with state in them to truly mobile cloud-connected devices that will probably look more like the iPad.
By 2008, SpaceX had launched three rockets. They all failed to make it into orbit. Shortly after the third failure, Elon Musk was interviewed by Wired Magazine's Carl Hoffman:
Wired.com: At the end of the day you're still zero for three; you have so far failed to put a rocket into orbit.
Musk: We haven't gotten into orbit, true, but we've made considerable progress. If it's an all-or-nothing proposition then we've failed. But it's not all or nothing. We must get to orbit eventually, and we will. It might take us one, two or three more tries, but we will. We will make it work.
Wired.com: How do you maintain your optimism?
Musk: Do I sound optimistic?
Wired.com: Yeah, you always do.
Musk: Optimism, pessimism, fuck that; we're going to make it happen. As God is my bloody witness, I'm hell-bent on making it work.