Is IBM gearing up to compete with Wolfram Alpha in the computational search game? Maybe. Is IBM gearing to take on the top minds on popular TV game show Jeopardy? Definitely. Check out this video from Big Blue:
Developments such as this have got me thinking about not just the computational search just over the horizon, but also the rise of qualitative search that futurist Paul Saffo mysteriously alluded to in this MemeBox interview.
The combined company will have ‘approximately 7.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe) of proved (developed and undeveloped) and probable reserves, on top of an estimated contingent resource base of approximately 19 billion boe.It will also have significant refining capacity of 433,000 barrels per day (b/d) and a strong Canadian retail brand in Suncor.'
Preempting the Inevitable Contraction of the Hydrocarbon Sector Energy analysts expect a wave of mergers as companies find it difficult to grow reserve assets through traditional exploration and development. Cash rich companies might find it easier to expand reserve totals by acquisition.
Future sucess might also be based on an ability to develop non-conventional resources like carbon-heavy 'tar sands' and deep water reserves. So for Canada's leading energy companies it was important to merge before being acquired.
According to Suncor CEO Rick George "The combined portfolio boasts the largest oil sands resource position, a strong Canadian downstream brand, solid conventional exploration and production assets, and low-cost production from Canada's east coast and internationally."
We're just a month into 2009 and it already looks like Jeff Hilford's prediction that the future will become a big media topic this year is coming true.
Hilford: The present stinks and people will turn their attention elsewhere. While many will pine for a return to the past they will be forced to look ahead. The doom and gloom of the economic meltdown and global warming combined with the incredible pace of technological change provide a fertile backdrop for projection.
Watching last night's Superbowl with a group of friends, my fractured attention was thoroughly captrured by the following GE ecomagination commercial featuring non other than a "wired" version of The Wizard of Oz's scarecrow dancing atop an electric sub-station:
From the Spot: Smart Grid technology from GE will make the way we distribute energy more efficient simply by making it more intelligent.
The ad succeeds at bridging technology with familiar non-threatening themes already loaded into our cultural consciousness. Clearly it is meant to sychronize with the Obama administration's recent and mounting rhetoric about smarter national infrastructure and influence how the latest $900 billion economic stimulus dollars will be spent.
It's also indicative of an impending shift to new industry that players like Google, IBM, Cisco and Johnson Controls (add GE = The Futuristic 5?) have been chomping at the bit for.
My respect for IBM CEO Sam Palmisano continues to rise. As myriad unimaginative lemming financial pundits continue to explain away the present economic crisis as solely a failure of consumer confidence, Palmisano is making the rounds, advocating the construction of more intelligent infrastructure. His latest audience? None other than newly elected Barack Obama.
During a rountable discussion between Obama and various corporate CEOs (including Google CEO Eric Schmidt), Palmisano presented a summary of his thoughts on the United States' economic stimulus strategy. (video here)
Palmisano: There is clearly no reason we believe to undertake projects just for the sake of activity. We need to undertake projects that actually create jobs that will make infrastructure, make our country much more competitive for the long term.
[W]e need to invest and to build a more modern and more competitive infrastructure for the future.
It may be obvious, but it's also VERY refreshing to see that such messages are piercing the static and reaching the brains that need to hear them.
Pairing with Google for its online mapping technology, New York City has (at last!) launched a state-of-the-art information center and comprehensive website to help visitors and others obtain the data they need about the city. The new platform serves up important information by category (i.e. hotels, dining, shopping, nightlife, arts, entertainment) and through Google maps seamlessly embedded into the site. (Here's NYC Mayor Bloomberg's version of the announcement)
Really a Mirror World: The result is a not only a successful city navigation platform, but also a big first step toward an official municipal mirror world through which people can interact online.
Predictions: Though it presently offers up only select slices of the NYC mirror world that exists as google maps, I expect that to change over the next few years as 1) the site integrates Google Earth, Street View and other apps, 2) the sites adopts community-related technologies and becomes an essential hub for advertising products, services, events, 3) the resolution of Google's NYC geo and info graphs increases, and 4) NYC and its citizens realize the power of a centralized, publicly owned mirror portal and demand its rapid development.
It simply makes sense that municipalities themselves should seize control of their own increasingly rich geo-info-social hubs and use them to drive value creation across a variety of domains.
The Race to Quantify Cities and Be the Prime Directory: Accordingly, I find it very likely that upon the successful Googlization of NYC many other cities will increasingly demand similar Google Worlds to boost their own commerce, public services and brand. And it's possible that Google could derive a significant amount of revenue by helping to deply these services, though they may also be glad to suffer the cost in exchange for the deluge of 1) geo-related information that would subsequently pour in as cities convert to Google as their official Directory, and 2) the additional advertising that would pour through such an official platform. -- Realizing this, my bet is that Google is gearing up to conquer the world city-by-city.
With the steadily worsening economic climate taking a toll on most large technology companies, IBM is a rare exception to the rule. Just yesterday the industry stalwart announced an impressive (especially under the circumstances) 12% rise in net Q4 profits, the bulk of which can be attributed to CEO Sam Palmisano's strategic transition to cloud computing and software-as-a-service (SaaS), both of which were initiated years before these sectors grew hot.
The New York Times attributes this to IBM's "global reach and its mix of businesses", reporting that "about 40 percent of its revenue and 60 percent of its profit come from products and services sold on a subscription basis as licenses or contracts that are renewed every year or so." This means that IBM can charge higher prices for its work while former head-to-head competitors like Intel, Sun and Seagate are caught up in hardware price wars that drive down prices - no surprise as chips and components are commoditized.
This belief is further reinforced by IBM's intelligent use of web communications (blogs & easy to follow videos, an expertise that Google shares), its vision of planetary technology and information development (see the video below)...
With the Obama administration gearing up for action, the Fall stock market crash fading from memory, and a new year underway many economists (especially most of the folks I regularly watch on CNBC and Bloomberg) are predicting recovery to commence in the second half of 2009. Having noted the slow spread of the mortgage crisis, which some predicted several years before it ever began to look serious, I am more than a bit skeptical about their underlying assumptions and the likelihood of a near-term turn-around.
Fortunately there are some economists like Condé Nast Portfolio contributing editor John Cassidy who agree that economists may not be the best predictors of things economic. Pointing out their poor track record in 2008 (live by the Greenspan, die by the Greenspan), Cassidy now contrasts their 2009 forecasts against those of the general public and of finance professionals, revealing that the economists are far more optimistic than the rest.
He then asks the obvious question:
So who are we to believe: the experts who failed to predict the current crisis or the great American public? With due respect to my fellow dabblers in the dismal science [economics], I share Joe the Plumber’s queasy feeling. Unless something miraculous happens in the next few weeks, the new inhabitant of the Oval Office will inherit an economy flailing under the weight of record debts and rising unemployment. If a depression is defined as a deep, extended recession of a severity that nobody under the age of 75 can recall, then it is quite likely that we are already in one.
A couple of weeks ago I pointed out a new trend that was exemplified by the creation process of the Twitter application Twittority. Where big social media influence blogs like Tech Crunch, Mashable and others have the power to effect what gets created by defining a pain point. This trend was further confirmed a couple of days ago when Rachel Cunliffe's post on Mashable predicted ways in which Twitter would evolve over 2009. In pretty much the same time frame as the Twittority example (overnight), Dan Zarella designed a solution app in response to one those predictions.
Mashable was quick to recognize this effort and tout their status as a product cycle influencer the following day.
The power of web 2.0 is on full display here. The conversation aggregating nature of influence blogs is a major driver and the incipient response of hackers augurs enormous potential. This growing community of "first responders" are enabled by a developing toolkit that facilitates quick and inexpensive solutions.
There was a bit of hubbub in the socialmediasphere about Loic Le Meur's complaint that there was no way to filter Twitter posts by authority, or the number of users suscribing to a particular person's feed. Le Meur's beef was that he and other attendees of his conference had a problem - they couldn't sift through the deluge of Tweets about and from people attending their event to find the signal they were looking for. While signal clarity and information overload is a problem (which I will save for a later post) - what I found most interesting is that less than a day after complaining about the problem, an ambitious group of programmers dug in and created a basic product that addressed this problem.
This is something we will see much more frequently going forward.
TechCrunch and other sites that are leaders in authority and Zeitgeist have the ability to drive conversation, memes and ultimately influence production itself. And the collaborative tools that they make a living reporting on are empowering people to come together quickly and solve problems. This compressed market process is likely to accelerate rapidly in an economy where there are a lot of free agents (read un or under-employed folks) with time, expertise and awareness of these platforms and painpoints. By addressing a zeitgeist problem quickly you have the opportunity to garner a great deal of attention from the community, which can result in elevation of personal brands, team and give the solution you've created a chance to get quick adoption and possibly immediate financial backing.
Biological history has much to teach us about our web economy. In particular, we can glean a great deal from the well-established patterns of punctuated equilibrium (the idea that growth and death come in spurts, which is very similar to many technology and social diffusion cycles) and evo-devo biology (a new theory of life in which Darwinian evolution acts in concert with structured development to optimize organisms AND biological systems for survival).
Just as the sudden death of the dinosaurs permitted small warm-blooded mammals to vary and scale during the subsequent ice age, so too is the swift death of old media models creating the ideal conditions for nascent software and social media models. Though this sort of cycle is nothing new, it is illuminating to apply it to the current economic situation in which printed newspapers are dying, open source IT is winning marketshare, and increasingly more people are sharing their information online.
When considering the near-term future and the year ahead, we can be reasonably certain that the dire economic conditions will serve as a breeding ground for new advantageous innovations. It was no accident that we experienced a spurt of great literature during the Great Depression as brains were freed up and exposed to an extreme environment. And now it's no accident that were vacillating from commercial enterpise to "programming subculture", as Kevin Kelleher at GigaOm puts it.
A new Ceres report on company supply chain and operation efficiencies that support climate change strategies, has named IBM the #1 company for its internal practices and green innovation strategies. The RiskMetrics Group authored report analyzes climate change governance practices at 63 of the world's largest retail, pharmaceutical, technology, apparel and other consumer-facing companies.
Using a 100-point scale, the three highest scoring companies were IBM, UK-based grocery retailer Tesco and Dell, with 79, 78 and 77 points, respectively. More than half of the 63 companies scored under 50 points, with a median score of 38 points.
Beyond 'green' recognition, what does IBM see in a a Smart Planet? The big story is not the 'green' award recognition for IBM, Tesco and Dell - it's the brand association IBM is trying to build between its core practice as a hardware-software service provider and the transformation of global industries that deal with infrastructure and the transmission of information, goods, energy and water.
Consumers can change light builts, but companies like IBM and Johnson Controls can transform industry level supply chains, built environments, and national infrastructure systems. This is where we are likely to find the greatest ROI.
IBM (and others) sees an opportunity to improve industrial scale efficiencies in a near term future shaped by software, sensors and micro controllers. The vision? A Smart Planet.
For IBM the world is quickly becoming, instrumented, interconnected and intelligent. This is the driving force behind 'Big Blue' trying to enable a 'Big Green'world. Sensors and Software can lead to a greener world.