I swear I was getting through this and trying to move on. She wasn’t my favorite candidate but when you consider the alternative she looked like George Washington in a pantsuit. Like many people I had moved on from denial and anger to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ next stage in the grief pyramid called bargaining. He can’t be that bad…they can tame him…I’m going back to work, he can’t chase me there…I’ll be okay.
But noooo! A brief story in the New York Times today says Donald Trump, incipient POTUS is planning to hold a technology conference next week. It’s right here under this headline, “Trump Plans Technology Conference With Silicon Valley Executives.” The article by David Streitfeld, Maggie Haberman, and Michael D. Shear covers a lot of ground what with Trump also seeming to have cancelled the next generation of Air Force One today, which is also in the piece.
Says the article, “The list of those being invited was not immediately clear, but they could include Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Timothy D. Cook of Apple and Sundar Pichai of Google.” Sure, that’s right, Silicon Valley CEOs have nothing scheduled that far out so of course they’ll all trudge over to Trump Tower. Whatever it is, when a president asks for your time, he’s doing it in the name of all the American people so you more or less have to attend.
The one saving grace in all this might be (and we really don’t know all the details yet) the fact that these are all consumer technology mavens so far. Maybe Trump has a punch list of social media enhancements to go over or maybe he intends to build a wall between our electrons and the rest of the world. Or maybe Trump just wanted to call a fly-in for rich guys to compare private aircraft. His is bigger, you know.
Regardless, I’ll withhold judgment on Trump’s tech chops until I know if this is just show and tell for social media or if he really wants the skinny on what to expect in areas like machine learning, AI, the IoT, and a half dozen other techno-wizbangs that will rock his world soon. I’ll begin to worry when Ellison, Benioff, and Gates get summoned.
NOTE: This has been edited to correct the spelling for Safra Catz’ name and to remove a ‘not’ that completely misled my meaning.
I was going to write a post about Larry Ellison leaving Oracle after he announced his retirement on Thursday but it is probably pre-mature. Ellison will become the executive chairman while Safra Catz and Mark Hurd run the shop as co-CEO’s and I have a lot of doubts.
It’s not that Safra and Mark are competent executives because each has held down significant positions for a long time. Recall Hurd was CEO of HP a while ago and Catz has had significant responsibilities at Oracle. But two things strike me. First Larry isn’t going anywhere. If he said he was going sailing or going to live on the island he bought in the Hawaiian Islands that would be a good indication for retirement. But as executive chairman, Ellison will still be heavily involved in the day-to-day operations so I am not sure what if any difference this will mean.
Second, I am leery of two riders on the same horse, which is what you have with co-CEOs. It’s not a good idea — heck sometimes one CEO is too many. By keeping Catz and Hurd in the same relative positions they were in when Larry was CEO we run the risk of losing steam, credibility, innovation, and creativity.
I see this situation as an analog to Microsoft. When Bill Gates retired, Steve Ballmer was waiting in the wings. He was one of the original team and he was a continuation of Gates possibly without Gates’ smarts. In the event, Ballmer stayed the course, rewriting Windows every few years and living off the cash cows and that was exactly what Microsoft didn’t need.
The list of markets that Microsoft plays in but does not lead as a result of a drowsy decade of following Ballmer’s script include cloud computing, phones and tablets, and CRM. We’ll see about the Internet of Things (IoT). I fear that something similar could happen to Oracle. The company has bought a lot of other companies recently and knitting them together is a big job that has to be done but I am not sure that constitutes a vision of where business computing should go and I am not sure the new team has that vision.
Perhaps the vision exists in some of the people who came into the company from the acquisitions, an iffy proposition to be sure. Very often when a company gets bought, the founders and lead talent make enough money to leave. They work through a transition period and then depart for some beach to contemplate their next moves. Some stay. Anthony Lye was a great case in point. He came with the Siebel acquisition and turned Oracle’s CRM group into a real money maker. But he’s gone along with many others.
So the question is what’s next. How long will the transition of Larry all the way out of the organization take? The answer will manifest itself when Larry really does retire and more visibly when we see some new blood in the corner office driving a new vision of Oracle.
“Day-to-day adult supervision is no longer needed.” So wrote Eric Schmidt CEO of Google, one of the most successful digital economy companies ever, in a Tweet today. When he was brought in by the founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin to run things in 2001, Schmidt acquired that moniker in part because the founders were so young.
As has been typical in Internet related industries youth and a new way of looking at things has often been enough to launch iconic brands and mind-boggling wealth. Google may have been the poster child for youthful innovation but the industry is full of people from Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg who fit the mold.
So now what? Co-founder Page becomes CEO as well as president of products while co-founder Brin remains president of technology. The company is clobbering its numbers and despite a challenge from Facebook and continues to print money for its shareholders.
I do not understand why the shakeup occurred. According to Google this change will make communication channels cleaner but it’s hard to see how from outside. The trio appears to still be friends but perhaps a decade at the helm has sated Schmidt. Or possibly the two still youthful co-founders have a second act. But if that were the case, it is hard to believe they could not have acted from their previous positions as mere presidents. We may just have to watch as this company continues to evolve.
The Face of Facebook
There’s an interesting article in the September 20 issue of The New Yorker on Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook. Written by Jose Antonio Vargas it is a synopsis of a short life that includes a partial Harvard education — Zuckerberg dropped out a la Gates to run Facebook — and a whirlwind thereafter. With the movie The Social Network coming out on Friday I thought it provided a good back story to the founding and evolution of this social networking site.
The main thing that struck me is how young one is as a college sophomore. I had forgotten that, though I am sure those close to me would vouch for the fact that I have not progressed much from that point. College is like work release from childhood for most of us. We’re out in the world, more or less, but still tethered to a more or less structured life of classes, projects, friends, music, parties and the usual anxieties — Does she like me? Will I get into grad school? Find a career? Follow my dream? What is my dream?
So getting a peek at Zuckerberg as a precocious programmer and accidental entrepreneur is sobering. It is more sobering than understanding the exploits of another famous Harvard dropout, Bill Gates, who left to found Microsoft. It’s one thing to build, buy or steal an operating system that will, if it runs well, be the equivalent of computer wallpaper and quite another to build and be the front man for a social networking application.
Unarguably, both men and their inventions changed the world, but it seems that Gates had just a little bit more space-time between him and the rest of reality in which to mature as a person before taking on the persona of a public titan of industry, or whatever you might call it.
While the article is, I felt, balanced and the writer interviewed Zuckerberg for the piece, the same can’t be said for the movie coming out. The article indicated that the movie and the book on which it is based used no interviews with Zuckerberg to gather source material and it is unauthorized. Now, I know this kind of thing happens all the time, but it makes one just a bit more sympathetic for Zuckerberg.
The article (and probably the movie) tracks the ups and downs of Zuckerberg’s odyssey from baby nerd programming applications for his father’s dental practice (his mother was a stay at home mom and psychiatrist) to Harvard kid helping other students develop a site that would become the progenitor of Facebook. The article and the movie get into the lawsuits over the IP too.
That’s where I said, “Whoa horsey!” I suppose there are plenty of people out there who are conniving enough to steal an idea from a fellow college student, but how many turn it into a franchise that, if the company ever goes public, will make him one of the richest people on the planet well before his thirtieth birthday?
Facebook’s founding is murky — who had the idea and who programmed it are largely established but what about the influences each had on others as the idea got hammered out? Critical questions because they go directly to how much each should receive in a settlement. Would the product be as successful with a different constellation of characters or different relative amounts of contributions from each? Would it even have gotten off the ground?
The Face of Facebook is interesting because it brings these issues to the forefront, but it also is a tale of the very early twenty-first century when almost any idea can be commercialized and the time horizon on youth is shrinking. It’s ironic that our culture, which celebrates youth, could now be forcing kids into adulthood almost before they’re ready.