About Jean-Louis Gassée

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Posts by Jean-Louis Gassée:

eBooks and Smartphones

Update: see a presentation of the Kindle2 here.

Another look at an old, but not aging, topic: eBooks. There is visible agitation ahead of Amazon’s expected announcement, probably as you read this note Monday February 9th.  Jeff Bezos is set to announce a new version of the Kindle eBook reader, let’s call it Kindle 2.0. [Since I first drafted this column, bloggers obliged with more details.  February 9th announcement, ships Feb 24th, price $359 (?!).  See here]. By “coincidence”, Google announces a neat eBook reader Web application (as opposed to a native one, to code running on the device) for Android and iPhone.  See it here, it’s almost perfect on the iPhone, with an option to place a neat dedicated icon on the Home screen.  I write almost perfect because, unlike Google Reader, another Google Web app, the top of the book reading app screen seems to be fighting with the always present top of the iPhone screen. FINR (Fixed In Next Revision). More

What Would Google Do?

This is the title of a new book by Jeff Jarvis, (his blog here) one that triggered a really good (I’m not always in love with the magazine’s writings) Business Week story.  Focusing on Detroit, the book and the story propose a revolution in automotive design: openness.  Don’t design everything yourself, open your engineering processes, let customers and suppliers participate in the design effort.  Google is used as the example of open design.  Look at how they open themselves to user input by launching a product, say Gmail, as an open beta.  Three opens in one sentence…  As a result, Google benefits from early customer feedback and uses suggestions and bug reports to improve subsequent revisions. More

What to invest in now?

So, awright, we have a real new president. Some in the kommentariat found his Inaugural Address “average”.  Others, such as the NYT’s editors, gave it carefully weighted yet eloquent praise.  I enjoyed the sobriety, the quality of the language, not too everyday, not too clerical or esoteric.  Above all, I like the call to collective responsibility and Obama’s view we don’t need to choose between our security and our principles.  In other words, no torture.  The Statue of Liberty can uncover her eyes, wipe her tears of shame.  And maybe join the crowd and cry for joy a little.

Back to work.
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Healthcare

Last week’s dismissal of Healthcare as one of the subjects to watch in 2009 was met with strong retorts. Difficult, confusing, fraught with ideology, demagoguery, logomachies, it doesn’t matter, readers write back.  This is the most important topic of all, without health, nothing else counts, look at how much of the GDP gets into healthcare. More

Things to watch in 2009

No predictions, no forecast, that’s above my pay grade, just sifting through this coming year’s most interesting trends.  The Chinese curse, May you live in interesting times, being upon us, we might as well try and make the best of this New Year. More

Energetic Feedback

Last week’s column got me the most energetic feedback – so far. Some dislike what they call my negativism, my being a non-believer in a bright future for new energies, others think I’m wrong to call the electric car an out-of-reach dream.  Look at ethanol, a green replacement for Foreign Oil, look at the Tesla, right in my Silicon Valley backyard.  Add a few ad hominem barbs and the picture is complete.
This is understandable.  The general topic of new energies, of our dependence on foreign oil, of lowering CO2 emissions, of replacing today’s gas-guzzling vehicles with electric ones is loaded with strong emotions.  One doesn’t have to be a climate scientist to worry about the effects of dumping ever-increasing amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.  Some of us criticize China for burning more coal than the US, Europe and Japan combined in its 541 coal-fired power plants.  Sure, but how do we convince the Chinese they shouldn’t aspire to the same level of electric power consumption as ours?  And India and Indonesia…  Add oil prices rising to $145 a barrel before falling below $40.  Both climate and economic ruin threaten us. More

Energy: Dreams and Realities

More good news this week: On January 20th, 2009, reality will re-enter the White House. As a Silicon Valley type, by reality I mean technology, science, you know, facts.  We’re happy to see a real scientist as our next Energy Secretary, for example.  Obama just appointed a Physics Nobel Prize winner, Steve Chu, to the post.  Before running the Lawrence Livermore Labs, as he does today, the gentleman used to be a Stanford University professor.  This is reassuring. More

The Web of Objects

For more than two decades, we’ve seen a succession of attempts to “connect everything”. One of the real fathers of the Internet, not Al Gore but Vint Cerf, once graced the cover of a geek magazine wearing a t-shirt with the now famous slogan: IP on Everything.
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He was and is right.  The destiny of every meaningful object in our lives is to have sensors, actuators some time, and always an IP stack for wired or wireless communication. Destiny is the operative word here, because we haven’t made as much progress as we hoped.  In 1986, Mike Markkula, one of Apple’s early backers and leaders, started Echelon.  The idea was to make chips so small and inexpensive they’d be everywhere, even inside a light bulb socket.  Thus, using the electric wires as the network, the Echelon chip would monitor the lamp and report the condition (healthy or soon to fail) of its filament, for example.  Same idea for industrial or home furnaces, security systems, meter reading and the like.  Here and there, we see experiments but no broad use, not in the sense of personal computers, WiFi, cell phones or GPS units. More

What’s good for General Motors…

Fair or not, we Silicon Valley types maintain a low opinion of ‘Washington’, as in Congress and the Executive, the Federal Government.  The Bush years haven’t helped with a long list of offenses against liberties, science, fiscal prudence and just plain decency.  And, just when we thought we’d hit bottom, we reach a new nadir.  I’m referring to the shameful spectacle of our solons, civil (self-) servants and Detroit executives all haggling over the why, how much, when and how of the US auto industry bailout. More

The (All Too) Convenient Invisible Hand

Remember Adam Smith, the man who coined The Market’s Invisible Hand phrase, the author of The Wealth of Nations? He gave rise or, rather, a voice to a philosophy of laissez-faire, of as little government intervention as possible.  In his view, the forces in presence, buyers and sellers, producers and consumers would always end up in balance benefiting everyone.  Prices too high? Competitors see an opportunity, customers go elsewhere, prices come down.  Consumers consume less?  Prices come down, demand restarts.  That, in an admittedly simplistic rendition, is what became known as the Invisible Hand keeping things in balance.  But there was/is another idea behind this: Government is inherently dangerous, once it acquires power, it won’t let go, it will oppress the very people its was supposed to serve.  America’s Founding Fathers remembered Pilgrims and their flight from an oppressive king.  And, in the 20th century, Friedrich von Hayek wrote the Road to Serfdom, describing and predicting (the book was written between 1940 and 1943) the ills of centrally planned economies. More