Archive for the ‘Apple’ tag
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson is interviewed September 6, 2012 by Rich Lyons, the Dean of the Haas School of Business at University of California Berkeley
This was the first Dean’s Speaker Series I have attended.
I have been aware of this series for years, but I assumed attendance was restricted to friends of the Dean, Rich Lyons, because of the name of the event.
I’ve met and spoken with the Dean about ten times over the years, I estimate, including when he was the Acting Dean when Dean Tom Campbell took a leave of absence to help then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger manage the finances of the State of California.
A couple of weeks ago I was looking over the Haas website and marveled at the outstanding list of upcoming individuals the Dean will be interviewing on stage. There in front of me were the magic words — the events are open to members of the Haas ‘community.’ I was pretty sure I qualified, since I am a sponsor of one of the school’s premier events, the Berkeley Startup Competition, and have been every year since 2000. I inquired and I got a seat — I was and am thrilled.
I am an AT&T customer, both for my home’s broadband Internet connection and for my wireless Apple iPhone 3GS, which I bought soon after launch. I no longer have a wired phone. I like AT&T’s service — I get great reception and few dropped calls.
My regard for AT&T went up after listening to Stephenson speak for an hour. Stephenson was Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer prior to becoming Chair and CEO, among many roles.
He started at a job he called a ‘tape monkey’ at Southwest Bell Telephone in 1982 loading 19 inch diameter magnetic tapes of billing data onto tape drives. He did this work 12 hours a day — reading a video screen for instruction on which tape to load, finding the tape in storage, loading the tape and then pressing ‘Run.’
I did this same job, though not full time and not for 12 hours a day, when I worked at Cooley LLP. Thankfully I only had to do this role about two weeks a year, when the regular tape technician, Bill Calhoun, went on vacation.
Stephenson said he figured a way to rework his tape loading job to make it much more efficient and enjoyable, though he didn’t tell us the details of what he changed.
During his introductory remarks, Rich Lyons said Stephenson worked in Mexico City as SBC’s Director of Finance.
At some point, Stephenson worked in Mexico for Carlos Slim, the iconic leader of Telmex. Stephenson did not explain how he came to work for Carlos Slim, who presumably was not an SBC employee at any point in his life.
Stephenson said Carlos Slim is ‘the most inherently brilliant individual that I’ve ever worked with.’
Stephenson was in Mexico working for Slim in 1994 when there was an economic crisis that began December 19, 1994, when the Mexican government lifted all restraints on the Mexican Peso and let its value float. The Mexican currency lost 40% of its value in one day, Stephenson recalled.
Slim had 20,000 wireless subscribers in 1994, and thanks in part to the aggressive investments Slim made in the aftermath of the economic crisis of 1994, TelMex now has over 200 million wireless subscribers and Slim has made himself reportedly the wealthiest man in the world.
Stephenson took his job as CEO in June 2007 when ATT was a $100B annual revenue company with 300,000 employees, the same month that Apple launched its first iPhone. Stephenson invested heavily when the 2008 financial crisis came.
Stephenson said that 170,000 of AT&T’s employees actively participate in its TIP — The Innovation Pipeline — system conceived by the company’s CTO, a guy so tough to hire that it took ten years for Stephenson to do so. This system allows employees to propose ideas for the company to work on developing. People vote on the ideas and the best ones that float to the top are funded and pursued. In response to a question from a student in the audience, Stephenson said that apart from advertising the program to employees the company does little to promote participation. He said participation is quite good.
Stephenson and and his public relations person Larry (last name not mentioned) said they were so excited about a couple of their ‘tattooed up’ technologists in their Palo Alto, California research lab named the ‘Foundry’ that they put photographs of them in AT&T’s Annual Report. Stephenson divulged that competitors now are ‘coming after’ these programmers trying to hire them away from AT&T.
A student from the audience asked Stephenson to discuss wireless handset subsidies. Stephenson answered at length and concluded that the current system in the United States is overwhelmingly what customers want. He said AT&T performed studies where customers were asked if they would like to finance a phone via a separate finance contract, in exchange for markedly lower rates for service. Stephenson said customers did not like this proposal.
I think the survey respondents that answered this way are short sighted.
The way things operate in the United States, where one can buy a USD $700 iPhone for $200 because of the carrier subsidies, there is a perverse incentive to upgrade your phone exactly every two years. That is because contracts generally run for two years. If you keep a phone for three years, that final year you are paying much more than is warranted for service.
People should be encouraged to save money, not spend, so I admire the relatively new system reported by Stephenson to be the norm in Europe — phones are not subsidized and rates for service are [I hope] commensurately lower. Stephenson said phone sales dropped dramatically when this policy was implemented, but I say that is just what the world needs. People keep a home phone for decades. People keep televisions, stereos and other household appliances for years. Stephenson told me one-on-one after the event that fully 90% of his company’s customers upgrade their wireless phone every 14 months. Since contracts are two years long, 90% of its customers are paying early termination fees, which decline over time. That is a waste of the world’s resources, even in this day of a vibrant resale market for used mobile phones. I’m pretty sure a lot of people just throw their old mobile phones in a drawer, to benefit nobody. I understand mobile phones improve rapidly, and I do plan to get the latest iPhone when it’s available, having skipped the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s. I just don’t approve of upgrading exceptionally frequently, which I consider 14 months to be.
I encourage AT&T and all carriers to offer unbundled rates for mobile service, as an option.
Rich Lyons is a good interviewer. The setting was photogenic — two handsome cushioned arm chairs on an elevated stage, with a small end table between the chairs. Lyons and Stephenson wore wireless lapel microphones. There was a backdrop behind the men that repeated the logos for UC Berkeley and the Haas School of Business, so the logos made it into every photograph of the people on stage. As a photographer, I applaud the Dean for creating such an inviting, warm and photogenic environment for his interviews. I look forward with enthusiasm to the next Dean’s Speaker Series interview, which I hope to be able to attend.
Former Haas Dean Dr. Laura D’Andrea Tyson is on the Board of Directors of AT&T, and presumably she helped Lyons recruit Stephenson to visit the Haas School. Tyson was Dean when I was a finalist in the Berkeley Business Plan Competition in 1999 with my company Hotpaper.
I took the photographs that accompany this blog post.
I used a Canon 5D Mark II camera with the following lenses: Canon 135mm soft-focus lens set to sharp, Canon 16-35mm L zoom lens. I upload pictures to this blog at maximum camera resolution at maximum image quality. Click on the photographs twice in delayed succession to see the full size images. If you would like to use these pictures, please send me a message. If the purpose is reasonable, I will allow usage. I enjoy having my pictures displayed elsewhere. I pursue photography only as a hobby, not as a profession.
Finally, I have some advice for Berkeley students reading this post — introduce yourself to the speaker.
I don’t recall seeing any students introduce themselves to Stephenson. I did see a professor and a president of a good sized company say hello, but that’s it. Stephenson spent several minutes talking with me because there was nobody waiting after me to speak with him. The room had rapidly cleared out. The interview was during the lunch hour, so perhaps the students had to be in class immediately after. It’s rare for so prominent a CEO to speak to such a small group — there were about 140 students in the room by my quick count. I’m sure Stephenson won’t be back this academic year. Make a point of meeting all such prominent speakers. In my mind, Stephenson should have been surrounded by dozens of students trying to shake his hand. Stephenson didn’t appear to be in a rush to depart, and I left before he did.
Trash Chaos iPad and iPhone children’s educational game demonstrated by Yogome.com co-founder Manolo Diaz
mexican.vc is a seed stage venture capital firm that invested in Yogome. I was at the Demo Day because I know one of the people at mexican.vc.
Yogome makes educational software for the Apple iPad device and the Apple iPhone smartphone. Yogome apps are games that educate. They are fun, beautiful and engaging. If I had an iPad I would download them.
Diaz was kind enough to demonstrate the game Trash Chaos, which requires students to sort trash they see on the ground into the proper recycling bins. As students get faster and more accurate, more trash appears, as do more recycling bins.
I put Diaz on the spot by proposing he demonstrate Trash Chaos while I captured video. The room was filled with people talking, but Diaz still put on a great demo that’s articulate and approachable. I present the full unedited demo above.
Diaz gave me a Yogome large size t-shirt to give to a lucky reader of my blog.
I haven’t given anything away on my blog before, so this is exciting.
What I’m going to do is mail the brand new shirt with the tags still attached to the first person to Tweet this blog post to at least 100 of their followers. Alert me that you have done this by leaving me a comment here with your Twitter handle. You can be anywhere in the world, and I will pay the postage to send the shirt to you. Remember, it’s a men’s size large, not a children’s shirt.
Trash Chaos was the number 10 Apple App Store app in its category of free educational software on March 16, 2012, the day I made the accompanying video.
Great job Yogome!
Here’s a pair of gadgets that will warm your heart.
Romantic partners use Pillow Talk communication rings when they’re apart from each other overnight. The goal is to make the partners feel more tightly connected to each other.
Here’s the description from the inventor’s website:
Pillow Talk is a project aiming to connect long distance lovers. Each person has a pillow for their bed and a ring sensor which they wear to sleep at night. The sensor wirelessly communicates with the other person’s pillow; when one person goes to bed, their lover’s pillow begins to glow softly to indicate their presence. Placing your head on the pillow allows you to hear the real-time heartbeat of your loved one. The result is an intimate interaction between two lovers, regardless of the distance between them.
Reading about this product brought tears to my eyes it’s so simple and sweet. I wish I had thought of this. It’s a genuinely thoughtful use of technology to improve the human condition. Here’s the promotional video. Warning: you may cry when watching this! I did.
I have a big improvement for this pair of devices:
Make the pillows talk. After all, the product is called Pillow Talk, not Pillow Heartbeat.
Since voice consumes so little bandwidth, and Skype-to-Skype calls are free and may be of unlimited duration, I suggest the pillows be outfitted with speakers and microphones that stay on all night, so the other partner can hear the other breath. If the lovebirds want to talk, they can just start talking.
This ‘always on’ connectivity might take some getting used to, but I think such a system would for some become a must have product that they would miss terribly if it were taken away. The pull on the heart strings would be so powerful once a couple got used to ‘sleeping with their sweetie remotely’ that they wouldn’t want to give up the experience.
When I was a teenager, the father of one of my next door neighbors died without warning of a brain annurism. My mother was good friends with the mother whose husband had just died. My mother told me how much her friend told her that she missed hearing her husband snore. That story was so sad to me back then, and it still made me cry as I wrote this piece, years later. I was a teenager when this happened.
There is something so powerful about just sleeping beside your mate. It’s so intimate and irreplaceable and special.
A true pillow talk system with heartbeat, breathing and two way voice could be one Valentines ‘technology gift’ that would be loved by both men and women.
I recommend that such a product be initially built as a USB pillowcase that would plug into a power brick that plugs into the wall. Inside the brick would be a small computer running Linux plus a WiFi transceiver that would connect to the home or hotel’s WiFi connection. This way a computer would not need to be by the bed and batteries would not need to be charged. It would also keep the radio frequency part of the system away from the heads of the sleepers, probably a good thing since some people might use such a system for months or years at a time, particularly when you consider military personnel away from home for long periods of time.
If Apple starts making what I just described, they should call it iSleep! They could make an iPhone charging cord that splits off in two wires: one to the power brick and one to the pillow. An iPhone certainly has all the computing power necessary, and many people already sleep with their phones.
I have too many projects to do in life, so if you like this, build it and pay me the industry mean royalty for similar ideas. Let me know when it launches!
One more joke: This is a true peer to peer system! P2P or ‘pillow to pillow’ lol…
According to this Fox News story New Apple Technology Stops iPhones From Filming Live Events, Apple has filed a patent on technology to make it impossible to capture live video at protected live events.
The Fox News article explains the technology in a way that doesn’t make sense to me. I think what the article should have said is:
“A light emitting (LED) diode on stage at an event can blink in such a way as to alert the iPhone camera that recording is not allowed. The LED can emit invisible infrared radiation, so the audience won’t notice any difference in the event with their eyes.”
I am very suspicious of the Fox News technology explanation that says the iPhone will emit radiation that infrared sensors on stage will capture and react to. I think that’s implausible, because the iPhone would have to have a strong infrared LED in it, and over time that would diminish battery life. Also, it would mean the system would not work at long distances, such as stadium shows where the videographer might be a city block away. I don’t think LED remotes work over that distance. But a powerful infrared LED on stage could signal all the iPhones in the venue, and power usage wouldn’t be an issue because that LED could be plugged into AC power.
However it works, I applaud Apple for thinking their idea up. It’s a good and clever idea. I wish I had thought of it.
I think Apple could and should take this idea a few logical steps forward. Perhaps they have developed these plans but have not yet publicized them. I will detail my plans here, and if Apple should want to use them and they haven’t thought of them already, they can credit me and send me a new iPhone for life, as compensation.
1. Apple should not disable the capture of video. Instead it should offer to sell the user the ability to capture that event for a price, charged right there using Apple’s ‘in app’ purchase mechanism. This fee can be split with the venue and performer(s), using the same 70%/30% split people hate and love, respectively. The artists hate it and Apple loves it, I suspect. The video recorded should contain the serial number of the phone embedded into the video image in a way that is not visible to the eye but can be easily read by software. Then, if the video is posted online publicly, that user can be tracked down and charged more, perhaps even a lot more, to discourage them from doing it again. To make the serial number unremovable, it could float around the image from frame to frame, and change size and font. To take it out would take so much work as to be impractical.
2. Apple should apply this feature to all controlled access events, not just live events. Thus, this technology could be used in movie theatres to make it impossible to bootleg a movie being projected on screen. The phone could display a message offering the user the chance to buy the DVD and have it delivered the day it goes on sale, for example. It could offer the eager potential bootlegger the opportunity to ‘Like’ the movie on Facebook, building on the fan’s just demonstrated enthusiasm for the movie. Apple should resist any temptation to use the video attempt to turn the person over to the police, which it could do by having that phone call the police and use a recorded message to alert them that a Federal crime is in progress. Convicting fans is not good policy. Selling movies and related merchandise to avid fans is good policy.
3. Building on the last point, this technology could be used to prohibit video recording in airports, on nude beaches (with really bright LEDs on posts?), in bathrooms, locker rooms and even in private homes. If Apple’s technology could get incorporated into all video cameras, celebrities might worry a little less about being surreptitiously recorded in a compromising position.
While writing this post, it occurred to me that all audio recorders could incorporate similar technology, with similar benefits, as follows:
The audio feed for an event could contain an inaudible signal that the recorder could decode and act upon. The device could offer to permit recording for a fee, and the serial number of the device could be embedded inaudibly into the stream, to guard against public distribution. Or, for simpler devices like dictation recorders, the device could simply refuse to record.
This is generally how the old MacroVision anti piracy technology for VHS video tapes worked. A signal on the original didn’t disturb the picture when played back. But if you tried to record the signal to another VCR, that VCR would react to the signal and degrade the copy so much it was valueless.