mercredi 28 août 2013

Microsoft's Three Options For Its Next CEO

With Friday's announcement that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will retire within a year, the parlor game is on to guess who the next CEO might be.

I've covered the company for a while, and the news surprised me -- not the fact that Ballmer's stepping down, but the timing. Investors have been grumbling about Ballmer for years, and so have many employees. Over the last 15 years Microsoft has managed to miss the boat on important trends like smartphones, tablets and cloud -- despite the fact that it was standing on the dock the whole time.
So for me, the first part of the surprise came in June, when Microsoft announced a reorganization that consolidated power under Ballmer. The new structure stripped out the P&L independence of the business units, and centralized functions like marketing and finance under corporate. At the time of the reorg, Ballmer wrote about breaking down the silos that had stymied innovation. This was a reorg that depended on Ballmer himself to make it work, and apparently the board had signed off on it. It seemed to signal that Ballmer would be around for a few more years.

That's why the announcement of Ballmer's impending departure is a head scratcher. Why reorganize a company so that decisions flow through a CEO who's a short-timer? Any decision with implications that stretch beyond a single year will be inherently unstable because a new CEO could easily reverse it. And let's be honest: All of the important decisions Microsoft has to make have implications that stretch beyond a year. Strategically, Microsoft is going to be a mess until they get this CEO business sorted out.

Which brings us to the subject at hand: Whom should Microsoft pick?
A company of Microsoft's stature basically has three choices: Friend, foe or family. (Given Microsoft's unique dynamic, picking an unknown, the way Hewlett-Packard did with Mark Hurd nine years ago, is probably out of the question.) Here's how the options break down:

FRIEND: This would mean getting a former executive to return -- or picking an executive from a company in Microsoft's ecosystem -- think Nokia, Intel, HP. That's what Juniper did when it snagged Kevin Johnson from Microsoft several years back, and what Motorola did when it got Sanjay Jha from Qualcomm way back when.

The upside here? An exec from a partner company probably knows the executives within the hiring company, and knows the rivals and customers. A strong executive from a partner company may also have a decent sense of the strengths and weaknesses of the product portfolio. A former executive knows many of the players but might have benefitted from some distance.

The downside? You know how partners are. They sometimes have notions about what's wrong with the hiring company before they walk in the door. And their knowledge base might not match up well to the hiring company's needs. And a former executive might be too much of a relic to manage today's company.

FOE: Who better to run a company than an executive from a rival who beat you before? That's what Yahoo's board got when it hired Marissa Mayer from Google, where she led the development of products that turbocharged the search giant and left Yahoo in the dust. This is a tough hire to pull off -- because the best executives from a winning company can usually write their own ticket with their current employer, and are loath to leap to a loser.

Even if the hiring company manages to lure away a star, it's not always smooth sailing. Sometimes the new star CEO has a disdain for the hiring company and its customers, and break too much china in the name of remodeling. (Exhibit A: Ron Johnson at J.C. Penney.)

FAMILY: Companies prefer to elevate one of their own. That's what IBM did with Ginny Rometty, Apple with Tim Cook, Intel with Brian Krzanich, Xerox with Ursula Burns, Adobe with Shantanu Narayen, and so on. The advantages of hiring an insider? They already know the company, the executives and the board. They know and respect the culture. This works particularly well if the succession process has been well-organized and deliberate.

But you know when it doesn't work so well? When the CEO search begins by surprise, and the hiring company's best executive talent starts getting publicly compared in a high-end meat-market atmosphere. Chances are, some executives who get passed over for the CEO title will leave for other opportunities. The insider CEO is also less exciting when investors and partners think the hiring company needs some shaking up. Any insider who'd get considered for the CEO job, the thinking goes, is probably part of the problem.

Steve Ballmer with Nokia CEO Stephen Elop in 2012. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

So what should Microsoft do? Assuming Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, former Apple executive Scott Forstall, and former IBM CEO Sam Palmisano are all otherwise occupied, Microsoft is unlikely to lure away a victorious rival.

There's a fantastic list of former Microsoft engineering minds who could be great visionaries -- Ray Ozzie and Steven Sinofsky come to mind. Do they want to run Microsoft? It's hard for me to imagine Ozzie wanting it at all. Sinofsky still sounds like he wants to have a big impact on the tech world, but if he were to return to Microsoft, something tells me the shakeup would be ... dramatic.
One option I mentioned on CNBC Friday sticks with me: Nokia CEO Stephen Elop. Why?
He's part friend, part family. As head of Microsoft's Business Division, he ran (and grew) the most profitable part of the company, and helped lay the groundwork for its transition to the cloud. He knows and respects Microsoft's culture.

Elop's tenure at Nokia is controversial, but face facts: He had the courage to abandon Symbian when many in Europe (wrongly) thought it could still have a bright future. He wisely ditched MeeGo when he saw that there wouldn't be enough of an ecosystem around it. He resisted the temptation to jump on the Android bandwagon when everyone else did, seeing that differentiation would be too difficult. (Today, no smartphone maker is managing to make decent profits in Android except Samsung.) Instead of all those, Elop hitched Nokia's future to Microsoft's Windows Phone software.
Today, Nokia's Lumia sales are small, but growing; it seems to stand a better chance than Research in Motion of getting a foothold in Europe and a few emerging markets and surviving long-term. And Elop has a very valuable perspective: He's Microsoft's biggest and most loyal partner in the mobile space. Nokia's engineers and product managers have been clamoring for Microsoft to ship more frequent updates to Windows Phone; Elop has felt that pain intimately.

But is Elop a good CEO?
For anyone who's been paying attention, it's clear that the bulk of Elop's thesis about Nokia has played out. Symbian didn't have much of a future. MeeGo phones? They would have depended on Intel chips, and those haven't make any significant headway differentiating themselves in the market. If Nokia had bet its future on either of those -- or worse, tried to ride many horses at once -- it might be dead already.
Bloggers wrote a year or two ago that Elop was the worst CEO out there, but based on what? The idea that Symbian would be taking over the world by now? More likely, it would be declining as fast as BlackBerry. True, he shouldn't have let the infamous "Burning Platform" memo leak out and send Symbian sales off the cliff so soon -- but it's better to make your biggest mistakes early in your tenure.
There are other reasons why Elop might not be the best choice. If his departure were to cause Nokia to stumble, that would kneecap Microsoft's mobile efforts, too. And Elop certainly wouldn't take the heat off of the Microsoft board -- critics would show a chart of Nokia's stock performance under Elop and declare him a failure right off the bat.

But whichever option Microsoft chooses, it hasn't got much time to lose. The organization needs to act faster and smarter in the cloud and mobile era -- and it's in the early stages of a reorg that consolidates power at the top. It won't be able to move at full speed until it has a permanent CEO.

See Jon Fortt's latest work on CNBC here.

Source : Jon Fortt on Linkedin

mardi 27 août 2013

Hyperloop : le projet de transport par tube à 1224 km/h

Elon Musk n’est pas un amateur. Après avoir co-fondé Paypal, SpaceX et Tesla, l’homme d’affaires d’origine sud-africaine, se lance dans le transport à haute vitesse.  Son dernier projet, l’Hyperloop est constitué de capsules de 2 mètres de diamètre pouvant accueillir 6 personnes et voyageant à la vitesse du son dans l’air (1224 km/h).
Objectif : rejoindre Los Angeles à San Francisco en 30 minutes.
Le long tube de 615 km serait placé à 6 mètres du sol. Le fonctionnement de l’hyperloop se ferait grâce à un système de tube à basse pression avec de l’air à haute pression tout autour des parois pour supprimer tout frottement. L’alimentation en énergie serait solaire.
panneaux solaires
Avec un coût d’environ 6 milliards, soit le dixième du prix d’une ligne de train à grande vitesse, l’hyperloop pourrait transporter 7,4 millions de voyageurs par an et le prix du billet aller ne serait que de 20 dollars.
tube de transport

Tube transport

Elon Musk Hyperloop
Voyez l’interview du milliardaire Elon Musk à TED en mars 2013 :

Source : Vincent Abry

Throwable 360° camera could aid search and rescue operations

Serveball is a throwable camera that can capture 360-degree footage while in the air, giving emergency responders visual coverage where the eye can’t reach.


Devices such as the Kopin Golden-i Wireless Headset has already shown how emergency responders can take advantage of mobile tech. Now Serveball – a throwable camera that can capture 360-degree footage while in the air – could find use in search and rescue missions, giving responders visual coverage where the eye can’t reach.

The ball – which is around the size of a tennis ball – features cameras on four sides as well as an accelerometer that enables it to detect its orientation. By determining the direction each camera is pointing, the device stitches the images it takes together to provide a panoramic view of its surroundings. Because it also tracks its own spin, the footage can be corrected to provide stabilized, near-static coverage of every angle while in mid-air. The footage is transmitted to a monitor in real time through a wireless connection, meaning that those engaged in search and rescue operations could throw the camera into difficult-to-reach locations to gain a view they otherwise might not have been able to. The camera can also operate as a night vision or thermal imaging device, proving useful in low-visibility settings or where fire is a risk. Multiple Serveballs can be used together, using geolocation and sensors to stitch their footage together, creating a larger picture of the area of interest.

The video below offers a demonstration of the device:
Although it has obvious applications for emergency situations, the Serveball could also be used for military reconnaissance, film projects or environment mapping, especially when using multiple devices in tandem. Could this kind of technology be applied elsewhere?

Spotted by: Murray Orange

Source : Springwise

En Chine, les wearable devices misent sur la santé et les expériences sensorielles

wearable devices
Alors que le marché chinois s’apprête à connaître une forte croissance des wearable devices, les consommateurs chinois devraient principalement se tourner vers des fonctionalités et expériences relatives à la santé.
En 2015, le marché chinois de wearable devices atteindra une valeur de plus de 2,6 milliard de yuan, selon un récent rapport de Frost&Sullivan. Les spécialistes s’accordent à dire que les consommateurs chinois, aujourd’hui adeptes de smartphones ne vont pas tarder à s’emparer de ces objets intelligents portatifs. Mais comment adapter ses produits aux besoins et aux usages spécifiques de ce marché croissant ?  MassThinker, un cabinet de conseil chinois en créativité  donne quelques pistes intéressantes à travers les 6 tendances clés qui devraient s’imposer prochainement en Chine dans le domaine du wearable devices. La santé et le développement des capacités sensorielles devraient particulièrement se démarquer dans les années à venir.

Les multiples rôles des wearable devices

Tout d’abord, les appareils médicaux portables devraient passer d’une mode massive à une mode active, c’est-à-dire, ne plus contenter d’afficher les résultats de diagnostics mais proposer également des conseils pratiques à leurs utilisateurs. De la même manière, les objets connectés axés sur l’amélioration de la santé psychologique auront beaucoup à gagner en Chine.  En plus d’endosser le rôle du médecin de famille, les wearable devices se verront davantage attribués les tâches d’un gestionnaire personnel, qui analyse, identifie et mémorise les préférences de leurs propriétaires afin de les guider dans de diverses activités : les achats, le sport ou encore les tâches ménagères. De même, les wearable devices devront être capables de garantir la confidentialité des données collectées. Et pourquoi pas d’assurer également la sécurité physique de leur propriétaire, à l’instar d’un garde du corps qui alerte d‘un danger imminent aux alentours.

Sensoriel, social et divertissant

La quatrième tendance repérée par Mass Thinker est l’extension des capacités sensorielles. En effet, si les lunettes de Google ont enrichi l’expérience d’un point de vue visuel, les objets connectés du futur devront peut-être permettre aux mains et aux pieds d’accomplir les tâches qu’ils ne peuvent pas réaliser jusqu’à ici. Autre  piste intéressante :les technologies telles que la réalité augmentée font des wearable devices un excellent outil de divertissement. Ainsi, les utilisateurs pourront très prochainement expérimenter les jeux virtuels quand et où ils veulent. En dernier lieu, les objets connectés aideront à renforcer les liens sociaux, en permettant aux gens de communiquer avec leurs proches ou certains objets. Un autre média social en devenir donc.

Source : L'Atelier