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Tag: Silicon Valley

Mobile is eating the world: 2016

Monday, 12 December, 2016 0 Comments

“As we pass 2.5 billion smartphones on earth and head towards 5 billion , and mobile moves from creation to deployment, the questions change,” say Benedict Evans of Andreessen Horowitz, the venture capital firm behind lots of successful Silicon Valley startups. He assesses the state of the smartphone, machine learning and GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon) in his annual presentation.


Ireland, Apple and the three-comma club

Thursday, 1 September, 2016 0 Comments

Definition via the Silicon Valley Dictionary: “Three commas to imply a billion dollars as $1,000,000,000 has 3 commas. To be in the three commas club is to be a billionaire.” In the wild, as it were, the term was spotted last month in the Wall Street Journal in an article by Veronica Dagher titled “The Rich Get Richer as Billionaires Increase in Number.” Here’s the usage: “For most billionaires, however, it takes more than an inheritance to join the so-called three-comma club.”

The three-comma club and the meaning of membership made a memorable appearance in the HBO series Silicon Valley, Season Two, Episode Seven:

And now, Ireland and its three-comma Apple tax windfall. Most countries don’t tax non-residents so there’s a constant enticement for states like Panama to offer a low-tax environment and attract the world’s richest people. Similarly, Ireland lures the world’s biggest corporations by having lower taxes than other EU countries and Switzerland tempts wealthy people with a negotiated annual tax payment. So, unless there’s a global wealth tax collected by a world government, rich bastards will keep getting richer. After all, the rich can afford the best financial advisors and thus earn a higher return on investment than non-rich people. But life’s not fair, so taxation utopianism remains an illusion. For Ireland, this means back to basics.

“The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities.” — Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations


Glossolalia: Decacorns

Tuesday, 17 May, 2016 3 Comments

It’s the week of Pentecost, which is associated (Biblically) with “speaking in tongues,” a phenomenon linguists call glossolalia. So, in honour of all things lexical, we’re devoting this week’s posts to language. Yesterday, it was Singlish; today, it’s the turn of Valley vocabulary. The vocabulary of Silicon Valley, that is. In that vale of code, people speak of “dogfooding,” which means “using your own product or service internally as a way to validate its quality and capabilities.” According to digital lore, the word was coined in 1988 by David Cutler, who led the development of Windows NT, the basis of the modern Windows personal computer operating system.

Dogfooding is one of the many geeky terms in Valley Speak: Deciphering the Jargon of Silicon Valley by the husband-and-wife team of Rochelle Kopp and Steven Ganz. They had the very clever idea of funding the book via the crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter, and 149 backers pledged $5,545 to help make their dream come true. By Valley standards, $5,545 a modest sum, but like those mighty oaks that from little acorns grow, many a unicorn started small. A unicorn, by the way, is a startup with a valuation of a billion dollars, but such is the torrid pace of the Valley that the unicorn is now giving way to the fabled “decacorn,” which has a $10 billion valuation. All this jargon is the by-product of technology, marketing and management guff and, along with reading Valley Speak, an entertaining way of keeping up with it is to watch HBO’s satire, Silicon Valley.


The digital dividends and divides of 2016

Friday, 15 January, 2016 0 Comments

The internet. What’s it good for? Lots. It can help boost trade, improve economies, distribute knowledge and create jobs for the marginalized. Who says? The World Bank says. That’s why it called the document it released yesterday “World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends.” The key word there is “dividends”. But we don’t live in a perfect world so the report notes that “better educated, well connected, and more capable have received most of the benefits — circumscribing the gains from the digital revolution.” Not everyone has collected those digital dividends, in other words.

Still, it’s quite a leap to portray the the report as an indictment of the internet, but that’s exactly what the Guardian did in a story hilariously titled “Silicon Valley tech firms exacerbating income inequality, World Bank warns.” This is so comical that one can imagine Evgeny Morozov writing it. Instead, Danny Yadron “in San Francisco” is responsible. Anyway, back to the World Bank report. It presents a picture of a divided world in which 60 percent of people are still offline, four billion don’t have internet access, some two billion do not use a mobile phone and and almost half a billion live outside areas with a mobile signal. And what happens when the internet impacts?

“Many advanced economies face increasingly polarized labor markets and rising inequality — in part because technology augments higher skills while replacing routine jobs, forcing many workers to compete for low-paying jobs. Public sector investments in digital technologies, in the absence of accountable institutions, amplify the voice of elites, which can result in policy capture and greater state control. And because the economics of the internet favor natural monopolies, the absence of a competitive business environment can result in more concentrated markets, benefiting incumbent firms.”

To counter this, the World Bank recommends that governments lower barriers to internet adoption with rules that encourage competition and innovation, and investing in “analog complements,” such as basic education. Quote: “Many poor lack the basic literacy and numeracy skills needed to use the internet. In Mali and Uganda, about three-quarters of third-grade children cannot read. In Afghanistan and Niger, 7 of 10 adults are illiterate.” Those divides need to be closed before those dividends become real.

Note: Those tech companies castigated by the Guardian are committed to bringing internet access to the four corners of the world. Google’s Project Loon is set to float over Indonesia and Facebook’s Internet.org will offer mobile web access to people in India and Egypt. And both are experimenting with providing internet access using solar-powered, high-altitude drones. Yes, we need to ensure that these companies don’t become synonymous with the internet, but neither should we resort to paranoia about their innovations. Those digital dividends depend on closing those divides.


Marc Andreessen, with footnotes

Monday, 20 October, 2014 0 Comments

There’s a nice bit of footnote CSS behind this New York interview with Marc Andreessen, “The tall, bald, spring-loaded venture capitalist, who invented the first mainstream internet browser, co-founded Netscape, then made a fortune as an early investor in Twitter and Facebook…”

Mouse over “Foxconn 15” and out at the side pops “In January, Foxconn was reportedly in talks with several states about building a plant in the United States.” Behind the scenes, the magic is created by the following:

CSS NY

And the result is:

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Andreessen comes across as a hard-headed libertarian, very much in synch with the Valley ethos, but critical enough and informed enough to know how the world works. Typical of the Q&A exchanges with Kevin Roose:

And yet we have more internal inequality in San Francisco than we do in Rwanda.

So then move to Rwanda and see how that works out for you. I think you just answered your own question.


DE$IGN and $TYLE and NERD$

Tuesday, 25 March, 2014 1 Comment

Thus spoke Google: “That’s why we’re so excited about wearables — they understand the context of the world around you, and you can interact with them simply and efficiently, with just a glance or a spoken word.” Along with monitoring our health and fitness, wearables will give us real-time information, and for those programmers who wish to create wearable experiences for their existing apps to see how they appear on round and square devices, Google began offering its Android Wear Developer Preview last week.

But is the hoodie-wearing brigade well placed to offer consumers stuff to wear? Of course not. Just look at how Jan Koum, the newly-minted billionaire CEO of WhatsApp, dresses. But while they might be inelegant in appearance, the nerds are very clever and that’s why Google yesterday announced a partnership with the Italian eyeglass frame-maker Luxottica, which owns the Ray-Ban and Oakley sunglasses lines. Remember what Patti Smith said? “My sunglasses are like my guitar.”

Note: Apple has stolen Angela Ahrendts from Burburry, to be the company’s new head of retail. She’s got a distinct sense of fashion and lots of experience running a company with lots of style. And the interview there was conducted by Joseph Rosenfeld, who styles himself as “Silicon Valley’s must trusted Brand Strategist for high-profile individuals.” Instead of hoodies, his (male) clients might be nudged towards wearing leggings.