Monthly Archives: September 2013

The future of …

Last week, I was an invited speaker at the Southern BioProducts and Renewable Energy Conference in Tunica MS. My topic was the Past, Present and Future of Solar Technologies. The organizers found me through my participation in ASES (which I’ve talked about previously) and because I’ve been a member of the board member of the Ky Solar Energy Society for the past 3 years. I was honored to provide a brief overview of solar technologies and some of my personal experiences to the folks there. A great small conference and a great set of people trying to make a better world.

Now, I’m not a leading expert on the current solar research going on in academia [by far], but I have been following the solar industry for 10+ years, and have invested much of my own time, energy and money into becoming educated in the technologies and their applications. We’re purchased multiple solar systems for our home (1 PV system, and two thermal systems installed). I’m an engineer, so I can’t help myself from learning how it works, why, the economics, etc. So I’ve become a solar energy advocate. And yes, I have some biases… because I believe our future depends upon transitioning off of our addiction to fossil fuels and becoming a sustainable civilization, rather than one that dies out after destroying its environment via natural resource extraction (too many examples of that in human history!).

Next week (Sept 30th) the United Nation’s IPCC releases to the public the final draft of its latest (5th assessment) report. I’m no expert on climate change or global warming either. Nor is Mary Anne (she’s an environmental scientist, rather than a climatologist). But as is my usual behavior I have spent time reading and trying to understand the prior 2007 IPCC report (ok, actually I just read the synthesis report, which in itself is >100 pages; the three Working Group reports are challenging academic tomes to read), and I’ll be trying to read and fully understand this latest update too. The new report is just from Working Group I (the other groups and the AR5 summary report are not due out until 2014), which covers the physical science basis for their findings. A condensed version for policymakers has been released in advance.

Given the media’s coverage so far and build-up already underway, I fear for what happens next. Our media-driven society seems to believe the opinion of a random person-on-the-street is just as ‘right’ and actually more important, than the hundreds of career professional experts working in the field from 39 different countries. Let’s please take the time to become educated on the topic, and actual READ the report (even if just the condensed version), rather than listening to just the ‘public opinion’ spewed out so far. I’m at least “95% certain” of certain other biases that are in play here…  – Jack

What’s Next?

Yes, it is a big deal! Microsoft is acquiring the Nokia handset business for $7.2 Billion. I have lots of reactions to this. Some minor and obscure, and others not so.

First, Microsoft (MSFT) is clearly committed now to a hardware strategy! WOW! Think about its 35+ year history of software and just OMG. Ok, sure it has nearly always sold MSFT branded mice and other minor add-on hardware for PCs. And earlier this year they introduced the SURFACE tablet in an effort to create a greater market interest for Windows8. But now MSFT is solidly entering the mobile device market, not just as a software platform provider but selling and marketing a full range of handsets and smartphones. I hope MSFT knows they have a lot to learn!

Ok, some of you are asking who is Nokia (NOK)?, and why is their handset business worth such a fortune? Well, until Apple (AAPL) entered the mobile phone business not so long ago (it was only 2007), Nokia was the #1 high-end handset vendor globally with 35% market share. They never had the same impact here in the US as they had in Europe and elsewhere. But when I was a director within Lucent’s Mobile Applications business (2001-2004), it was the Nokia handsets that had the features we wanted to use with our experimental and demo applications. Of course, Nokia didn’t make CDMA handsets, only GSM and early 3G/UMTS devices at the time, so it didn’t always work out for us (being Lucent, i.e. direct competitor with Nokia’s network equipment). Instead, we often ended up trying to use HP devices (with clucky PCMCIA cards – remember those?). Does anyone even remember HP making mobile devices? Noooo, me either…

So Nokia had a great device platform for its time. Often running neck and neck with that other innovative handset company – RIM, better known for their Blackberry – the first smart-ish phone; and similar to Apple, with a highly proprietary architecture. What RIM missed (very very sorely, now) was the move to allow mass creation of 3rd party applications (which I advocated for as early as 2002 – someday I’ll pull out my presentation from the 3GSM World Congress in Nice that year, and the following year as well). Nokia and RIM tried this, but too late. Both these handsets businesses are now on serious down swings. It will be interesting if MSFT can do something to save it; and save itself too, given that highly successful and powerful handheld devices have seriously limited the future of the PC… (Aside: I don’t think Google has learned very much, as yet, from its own acquisition of a handset business on a serious down swing…)

Then perhaps, of even more interest to some of you (i.e. ALU employees/retirees/shareholders etc.), is what will Nokia do with its cash windfall? That is, after they pay off the debt to Siemens…?