TIME the big picture

How Taylor Swift Saved Apple Music

She was seeing red, now the bad blood's gone

When I awoke Sunday, I was greeted by multiple stories about Taylor Swift’s open letter to Apple and its CEO, Tim Cook. In the note, she took the company to task for its decision not to pay artists during an initial three-month free trial of Apple Music, the new streaming service Apple’s launching Tuesday.

Swift wrote:

I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.

The letter was polite and to the point. Swift felt it unfair for Apple to use artists, especially up-and-coming ones, to grow its new service without compensating them for it. The counterargument, meanwhile, holds that the free trial could bring lots of free publicity to those same lesser-heard artists. The flaw there, however, is that Apple was asking those artists to make a leap of faith in the hopes of more followers and money in the future — but many small artists live essentially paycheck to paycheck, and they can’t stomach a quarter of reduced payouts.

So in one of the most amazing changes of direction I’ve seen in my 35 years of watching Apple, Swift’s letter — and the public show of support it drummed up — got Apple to change its mind. Just hours after the note went up, Apple announced it would indeed be paying artists for their music during the free period, if at a reduced rate (other streaming services have similar practices).

You might think Swift’s Apple-shaming would be a public relations disaster for the company — and at first, this is how it was portrayed in the media. But in an ironic twist, Swift’s move was wonderful for Apple and its new music service.

Before Swift’s letter, only music and tech industry followers seemed truly aware of Apple Music’s imminent launch. To me, it was clear Apple would need to do lots of promotion to get significant numbers of users on board — die-hard Apple fans might have been good for as many as 15 million users off the bat, but not more than that. Because of Swift’s letter, millions more potential users are now aware of the service.

But Swift’s letter did something else for Apple, too.

At Fortune, fellow Apple-watcher Philip Elmer-Dewitt wrote that “the Taylor Swift effect continues to ripple across the music industry.” Elmer-Dewitt continued:

According to Billboard, two independent music umbrella groups—the digital rights organization Merlin and Martin Mills’ Beggars Group—have dropped their resistance to the new Apple Music streaming service set to begin next week. Merlin and Beggars are long-tail powerhouses. Merlin represents some 20,000 independent music labels and distributors. Beggars, which dates back to the young Rolling Stones, launched the careers of Adele, Jack White, M.I.A.

More artists who resisted putting their music on Apple Music are now changing their tune — thanks, in part, to Swift.

What Swift ultimately did is create a win-win scenario for herself, Apple, and all artists who now have a powerful outlet to showcase their musical talents. Most of Apple’s competitors have around 15 million paying customers. My firm is predicting Apple will have at least 60 million subscribers by the end of the year, as it can ride iTunes’ massive userbase and the iOS ecosystem to quickly amass a strong audience of listeners.

The result of Swift’s letter, then, is that when Apple Music service launches, it will have the richest library of available songs for potential subscribers to check out. And given Apple’s customer base, it could become the most successful streaming music service almost overnight.

Tim Bajarin is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists, covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. and has been with the company since 1981 where he has served as a consultant providing analysis to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry.

TIME the big picture

Here’s Why Fitness Trackers Are Here to Stay

Fitbit Inc. Chief Executive Officer James Park Interview
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images James Park, co-founder and chief executive officer of Fitbit Inc., speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 22, 2014.

Doctors and insurers love them

After Fitbit held an explosive IPO last week, some observers asked if the wearable health movement is sustainable, or just a flash in the pan. I’ve been studying the market for some time, and I believe most signs point to wearable health tracking having serious long-term potential. In 2014, 90 million of the devices were sold, and demand continues to be strong. The folks at eMedcert have collected some more interesting data points as well:

  • The annual smart wearable healthcare market volume will grow from $2 billion in 2014 to $41 billion in 2020, a compound annual growth rate of 65%. (CDW Healthcare)
  • Over 80% of consumers said an important benefit of wearable tech is its potential to make healthcare more convenient (PwC)
  • 68% of consumers would wear employer-provided wearables streaming anonymous data to an information pool in exchange for lower health insurance costs. (PwC)
  • The wearable band market grew by 684% on a worldwide basis in the first half of 2014 compared with the first half of 2013. (Canalys)
  • Today, 1 in 5 American’s own some type of wearable technology. (PwC)

When Fitbit, Jawbone and other health wearables came out, many viewed them as passing fads. But they struck a real chord not only with those who regularly exercise, but mainstream consumers too. In a recent New Yorker article by author and humorist David Sedaris, he chronicled his love/hate affair with his Fitbit. His tongue-in-cheek commentary chronicles his obsession with having to continue to beat his step record:

“I look back on the days I averaged only thirty thousand steps, and think, Honestly, how lazy can you get? When I hit thirty-five thousand steps a day, Fitbit sent me an e-badge, and then one for forty thousand, and forty-five thousand. Now I’m up to sixty thousand, which is twenty-five and a half miles. Walking that distance at the age of fifty-seven, with completely flat feet while lugging a heavy bag of garbage, takes close to nine hours—a big block of time, but hardly wasted.”

Perhaps the most important thing that Fitbit and other wearables have done is bring the importance of physical activity to the forefront. Using a Fitbit or similar device makes monitoring one’s health part of a lifestyle. My Apple Watch, for instance, has a feature that reminds me to stand up and walk around once an hour. Doing so is becoming second nature to me now, while in the past I would sit and write for hours on end, never even leaving my chair unless I had to use the restroom.

Dedicated health wearable devices that monitor your steps, calories burned and more have become cheap enough — under $100 in many cases — that many more people can now afford them. Smartwatches, meanwhile, are on track to become an even more important category, as they include health-monitoring features while adding more versatility to the overall wearables market. However, it will be the health industry that makes wearables go truly mainstream.

According to Orange Healthcare, 88% of physicians want patients to monitor their health parameters at home. Health insurers, meanwhile, are making wearable health monitoring a key tenet of their plans. As one HMO executive told me, it’s much cheaper to keep a person healthy then it is to make them better once ill. By 2018, 70% of healthcare organizations worldwide will invest in consumer-facing technology, an IDC Health Insights report found. And CDW Healthcare says wearable technology could drop hospital costs by as much as 16% over the course of five years, while remote patient monitoring technologies could save the healthcare system $200 billion over the next 25 years.

Lowering health care insurance premiums and cutting hospital costs will provide the real fuel for health wearables’ fire. Obamacare has put healthcare on the front page, insuring that people, at least in the U.S., will become more health conscience. And if health wearables are prescribed or recommended by people’s doctors or health insurers, more Americans will start using them. That’s why the health wearable tracking market is here to stay.

Tim Bajarin is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists, covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc and has been with the company since 1981 where he has served as a consultant providing analysis to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry.

TIME Apple

Why It’s Too Soon To Break Up With The Apple Watch

Toronto Blue Jay player Jose Bautista Tries On Apple Watch At The Apple Store Eaton Centre Toronto
George Pimentel—WireImage A detail view of the Apple Watch while Toronto Blue Jay player Jose Bautista Tries it on at the Eaton Centre Shopping Centre on April 14, 2015 in Toronto, Canada.

Big improvements are just around the corner

Over the past few weeks, several articles about people giving up on their Apple Watch have popped up across the web. The breakup reasons range from the users not finding the device compelling or useful enough to frustration with the Watch not living up to their expectations.

While I respect these writers’ decisions to give up on their Apple Watch, I do believe it’s a shortsighted move given the newness of the device and its ultimate potential. I believe the Watch quitters were more curious consumers rather than the diehard early adopters who tend to buy new devices without fail while awaiting new features and functionality over time.

The history of consumer tech shows that new products start with a “fundamental” device with a limited feature set that appeals to a small number of early, patient buyers. The original iPod was like this. When it first came out, it had a manual scroll wheel and offered only 5-10GB of storage. But for those who wanted a portable digital media player with more storage than many other devices on the market, it struck a chord. Also in this group of early buyers were the curious adopters, some of whom wound up feeling that the iPod didn’t have enough functions to make it worth their while. Some shoppers returned their iPod within a few days or weeks, and similar “why I returned my iPod” stories arose. But for those who kept their device, they were eventually rewarded with better software — and the iPod hardware only got better over time, too.

 

The same thing happened with Apple’s original iPhone. It too had minimal functionality as well as no App Store and little storage. We saw early adopters and curious adopters buy iPhones in good numbers, but again there were many stories about why some people “broke up” with their iPhone. Now, Apple is selling iPhones in record numbers.

You can expect history to repeat itself with the Apple Watch. For its newest device, Apple is using the same strategy it did with the iPod and iPhone — the first models had limited software and functionality, but their abilities were greatly expanded through updates in the software and hardware.

The real shift in the iPod came when Apple made serious improvements to iTunes and then opened the iPod up to the Windows crowd, too. The iPod ended up defining the market for mobile digital music players and has pretty much dominated that arena for over a decade. In a similar way, the iPhone got a big lift when Apple gave outside software developers the ability to write native apps for the device. That spurred a previously unseen level of software creativity, and helped launch the age of modern smartphones.

The Apple Watch is following the same path. The device we have now has to be seen as a new mobile platform that will only get better. Apple is about to upgrade the Watch’s software package this fall, and the developer community will soon be able to create tens of thousands of native apps for the Apple Watch.

Early adopters who understand this concept are bound to be rewarded once these new apps start populating the Apple Watch. Like the original iPod and iPhone, this product that has limited functionality today will get a new set of functions that have the potential to make it even better. Given this, it’s just too early to break up with the Apple Watch.

Tim Bajarin is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists, covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. and has been with the company since 1981 where he has served as a consultant providing analysis to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry.

TIME the big picture

How Silicon Valley Is Addressing the World’s Food Crisis

healthiest foods, health food, diet, nutrition, time.com stock, onions, red onions, vegetables
Danny Kim for TIME

Investors are pouring money into the field

Correction Applied Tuesday, June 9.

When you think of food, you probably don’t think of technology. However, technology has played a major role in the food world, whether it was taking farming from oxen-led plowing to tractor based harvesting to today’s discovery’s of natural pest controls to the controversial bioengineering of food. Technology, especially things like social networks and services like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Yelp, OpenTable and Table 8 has had a big impact on the food industry and there are thousands of food blogs covering just about any related topic one could think of.

This past week, there was a fascinating conference held at the San Francisco 49ers’ stadium called Bite Silicon Valley, organized by Octagon Culinary that discussed the intersection of food and technology. Various chefs and industry speakers on the program talked about the major issues facing the food industry and more importantly, the real concern over how, by 2050, we’ll be able to feed a planet of 9 billion people.

The conference was held in Silicon Valley because the food industry and tech industry have started to intersect and companies like Google and Yahoo have major research projects related to the future of food. Many Sand Hill Road venture capitalists have placed major bets on various food technology and services. As a couple of venture capitalists at the event told me, food-related start-ups fit into their sustainability portfolios, alongside solar, energy or electric cars because they have the potential to positively impact our world.

The goal of some of these VC investors is to connect restaurants with food providers, or to create on-demand delivery services from local farms, or ready-to-cook dinner kits. Other goals I have been told about are to invent new foods, like creating cheese, meat and egg substitutes from plants. One of the companies that venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, Bill Gates and Biz Stone have invested in is Beyond Meat. It was there giving tastings of its new plant-based Beast Burgers and beef crumbles. I tasted the Beast Burger and it’s one of the best plant-based burgers I have ever eaten. According to Tim Geistlinger, VP of research and development at the company, “the Beast Burger is not trying to be a meat substitute. It is designed to become a new type of protein-rich food product that does not use soy or have any GMO products in them but could be used as a meat substitute for the center of one’s plate.”

Beyond Meat believes there is a better way to feed the planet. Geistliner said that the “mission is to create mass-market solutions that perfectly replace animal protein with plant protein.” It is “also dedicated to improving human health, positively impacting climate change, conserving natural resources and respecting animal welfare.” This captures well the thinking of Bill Gates and other Valley tech investors who have identified with this vision.

Another company with similar goals is Impossible Foods. This company has raised $75 million from VCs so far and like Beyond Meat. Its quest is to create a plant-based meat substitute with high protein that could be used to feed people all over the world.

According to CB Insights, in 2012, VCs and others invested $350 million into food tech companies or projects, and that amount is rising about 37% every year. With all this Silicon Valley investment, especially in companies trying to create meat alternatives, it seems that this has become one of the tech world’s next holy grails.

The event included two days of tastings from local chefs and as a food event it was spectacular. But the event’s more noble purpose was to get the food and tech world talking about the serious issue of world hunger and the challenge of feeding the planet in the future.

One of the big messages that came from the conference is that there are significant environmental consequences and health issues associated with eating too much red meat, sodium or sugar and sugar substitutes, and while world hunger is a major problem, so is obesity in many places around the world. They had some great sessions about “What are we doing to enable to the planet to feed 9 billion people by 2050,” as well as sessions titled “the Challenge of Food Waste” and a “Renewed Debate about GMO’s.”

The keynote speaker at the event was Chef José Andrés, who TIME named to its 100 most influential people in 2012. Andrés has become an activist in the food industry to get folks who work in food to find ways to deal with the world hunger challenge. He has also put his money where his mouth is, investing in the World Central Kitchen. Its website states that “World Central Kitchen is hard at work ’empowering the people’ to be part of the solution – with focus on building ‘smart kitchens,’ training on clean cookstoves, creating jobs, and strengthening local business.” Andrés spends around six weeks a year devoted to these types of projects and said he came to this event to challenge Silicon Valley executives to join the food industry’s quest to deal with the massive issue of feeding a hungry world.

Andrés gets very animated and passionate when he talks about one serious problem he sees that he believes we must deal with immediately. He said that at least 3 billion people in the world still cook using stones and wood fires. The smoke from these fires causes all kinds of health issues including cancer, cataracts and asthma and impacts the women and children who do most of the cooking for the family’s daily meal. It also impacts the girls in the family who spend up to three hours a day gathering the wood or fuel for the fire, sometimes in hostile areas where many have been attacked. He has become a chief advocate for what he calls “clean cook-stoves” and has backed the use of solar stoves and less harmful fuels to be used in these villages and towns where people’s only form of cooking is fire and smoke.

I spoke with Andrés after his keynote and he told me that “he strongly believes in the power of food as a change agent” and he is devoted to making the food world a serious contributor to being a major part of providing a solution for these particular world problems. While Silicon Valley has some investments in this area, it needs to do more in the way of actual financing of new food tech companies and do extended research in this area with goals that are aligned with Andrés and others who understand the magnitude of this problem and how it will affect the worlds future. Silicon Valley is known for its exceptional problem solving skills and I certainly hope that the tech execs who heard Chef Andrés’ plea will join him and others in the food industry to help deal with this massive world problem.

Tim Bajarin is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists, covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. and has been with the company since 1981 where he has served as a consultant providing analysis to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry.

Correction: This article originally misstated the company behind the Beast Burger. It is Beyond Meat.

TIME the big picture

Here’s Why Apple Isn’t Making a Television

Apple Launches Upgraded iPod
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images The new smaller version of Apple TV is displayed at an Apple Special Event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts September 1, 2010 in San Francisco, California.

The set-top box is good enough

In Walter Issacon’s biography of Steve Jobs, he shares a conversation with Jobs about his vision for the future of TV. Jobs told Issacon that he’d “like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use . . . it would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud.” No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. “It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine,” Jobs said. “I finally cracked it.”

Jobs’ comments have led many to believe Apple was building an actual television. I personally never thought Apple was doing a TV, and instead was planning to improve its Apple TV set-top box instead.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal story, Apple was indeed working on a TV, but the project was killed over a year ago. My sources suggest any prototype TV Apple had was probably used more to explore design issues around a set-top box rather than as an effort towards a standalone Apple TV.

It would’ve been a mistake for Apple to create an actual TV. There’s cutthroat competition in the TV market, with rivals like Vizio, Samsung, LG and others all fighting for a piece of the pie. Apple would have had a tough time competing in this space, where the majority of TV’s sold are in the $500-$1250 range. The margins are thin, too. Jobs once told me one of his principles in governing Apple was that he would not create a product unless he could get at least 20 points in margin. The TV business is lucky if it can get 10 points.

There are still more reasons an Apple TV wouldn’t make sense. The average life cycle for a TV in the home is seven-10 years. The way technology advances, a TV with integrated smarts would be out of date in two to three years. Unless designed with modular components, most TVs would not be able to keep up with the technology and content distribution advancements that come into the market on a yearly basis now.

On top of that, a TV these days is just a screen for delivering content — but the definition of content is changing. It used to be that a TV only had to handle over-the-air broadcast signals. Now it has to deal with new user interfaces, web browsers, advanced intelligence and multiple forms of streaming media. My personal metaphor for understanding the future of TV is that the TV is a dumb monitor and my cable box, Apple TV, Roku or whatever is the personal computer that makes the monitor “smart.”

Apple is expected to give us an update on the Apple TV next week at the Worldwide Developers Conference. I fully expect it to be some type of advanced set-top box that sits next to any TV and delivers the experience Jobs says he “cracked.”

This isn’t to suggest a TV that has a basic operating system, Internet access and services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now and so on is worthless. Indeed, since streaming media is just software, and if these TVs can run software to deliver content, then they have value. But as technology advances quickly, the delivery method for these services and enhanced user experiences are best built in a “computer” that sits next to the TV and uses the TV as a monitor. These external TV boxes can have advanced user interfaces that use high-power chips, hardware-driven user interfaces and voice recognition chips. These elements could change the TV viewing experience and be switched out every year as technology improves.

When I look for a TV now, I mainly want one that has the highest screen resolution and the most HDMI ports I can find. This way, I can plug in an external cable box, Apple TV box and Roku as well as external game systems and any other HDMI device I may want to use. To be fair, almost all TVs now call themselves smart since they have Wi-Fi, some type of user interface and, in many cases, streaming media services already installed. But external boxes like Apple TV, Roku and others will give users smarter operating systems, richer interactive interfaces and remotes which will include voice and touch in the future.

This is why Apple decided not to make an actual TV. Although Jobs may have wanted to do one, his successor, Tim Cook, knew that this would be a mistake given TV life cycles. Cook opted instead to deliver all of the intelligence via a TV sidekick. This way, Apple can make any TV smarter, and their customer base for a new Apple TV could include anyone who already owns a television. This is the right move for Apple if they want to deliver on Jobs’ vision to crack the TV market wide open.

Tim Bajarin is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists, covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc and has been with the company since 1981 where he has served as a consultant providing analysis to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry.

TIME the big picture

Why You Should Care About Apple and Google’s Next Big Events

Apple Hosts Its Worldwide Developers Conference
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Apple CEO Tim Cook walks off stage after speaking during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference at the Moscone West center on June 2, 2014 in San Francisco, California.

New product announcements incoming

Over the next three weeks, Google and Apple will gather thousands of their respective developers together in San Francisco, Calif. to encourage them to go out and create great apps for their platforms. Spring is the optimal time to hold developer conferences, so these companies can get their partners and developers ready to introduce new products, apps and services in time for the all-important holiday buying season.

Microsoft kicked off the developer conference season with its April 28-May 1 event called Build. Its major focus was on the new version of Windows, which will be released this summer, and an updated operating system strategy that encompasses Windows’s PC’s, tablets and phones with the goal of bringing greater harmony across them. The side hit of the show was Microsoft’s Hololens project, an augmented reality headset that’s drawn much fanfare.

Google’s I/O developer conference will start later this week, drawing about 5,000 developers from around the world to get an update on Android. Android is the top smartphone operating system, used by over 100 hardware vendors selling products in almost every country on the planet. We should expect Google to give us an update on the next version of Android and, more importantly, how it plans to make the Android world less fragmented.

Google will likely also update the world on its strategy around wearables, a market that’s changed dramatically since the Apple Watch launched. Developers will also get news about Google’s virtual reality headset, shown last year as a cardboard prototype. News about Google’s smart home and Android TV setups should be delivered as well. One thing we will not see at Google I/O is an update on Google Glass, as the project is now in hibernation with an unclear future.

Two weeks later, Apple will begin its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), which will be held from June 8-12. At WWDC, Apple developers will get an update on the next versions of OS X and iOS, the operating system used in iPhones and iPads. Both of these operating systems should soon get a major upgrade with many new features. Apple is always tight-lipped about what it will announce in the way of new OS updates, but you can expect to see a greater level of consistency between OS X and iOS. We also expect iOS to add support for things like Force Touch, a standout feature of the Apple Watch.

This particular WWDC should be very interesting, as many believe Apple will use it to finally update developers on its TV strategy. Before his death, late Apple CEO Steve Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson that he’d “like to create an integrated television set. It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.” This comment was made a year before his death, and has caused great interest and speculation — speculation that might finally be put to rest.

Developers will also be highly interested to hear any updates on Apple Watch and developer tools for it. Many researchers are now forecasting even stronger Apple Watch sales than they predicted before the launch, with Morgan Stanley now suggesting Apple will sell 36 million units in the first year, compared to the 21-22 million number that was floating around before the launch. High demand for the Apple Watch means creating innovative native apps for the device could be a huge opportunity for developers in the coming year.

Even though developers’ conferences are billed as industry events, what comes out of them will impact everyone that has a smartphone or tablet. New features, user interface enhancements and expanded services will give users of these devices more functionality and capabilities and make their products smarter.

Tim Bajarin is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists, covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc and has been with the company since 1981 where he has served as a consultant providing analysis to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry.

 

TIME the big picture

How Maker Faires Are Inspiring Young ‘Makers’ All Over the World

JAPAN-ROBOT-ENTERTAINMENT
YOSHIKAZU TSUNO—AFP/Getty Images A boy plays a keyboard to control robot guitarist "Mach", a member of a robot rock band "Z-Machines", during the two day art and technology event "Maker Faire Tokyo" at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo on November 3, 2013.

Young children and their parents flock to Maker's Faires to get hands-on tech time

One of the truly bright lights in tech education is the Maker Faire. The granddaddy of the Maker Faires celebrated its tenth anniversary this weekend at the San Mateo, California Events Center, drawing around 150,000 kids and their parents who went to explore the world of making things.

The show itself has a strong STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) emphasis, and all types of tech-related projects were being showcased at the event. The founder of the Maker Faire, Dale Dougherty, says the goal of the show is to create a world of makers. In fact, the vision of the maker movement is to inspire people to become makers instead of just consumers of things. Maker Media, the folks behind the Maker Faire, sponsored more than 130 events all over the world in 2014. Its executives say they will sponsor more than 200 events this year, with the addition of Maker Faire’s school program, which means more events at high schools around the country.

While en route to the event, I spoke with Demaris Brooks-Immel and her son Sam, who were also on their way to the Maker Faire. She told me that Sam looks forward to the Maker Faire every year, and he asked that next year they spend two whole days at the show. Demaris said that her son is a tinkerer at heart, and his school in San Jose — Booksin Elementary — has a special Create and Innovate program that highlights various maker projects during the school year.

One of the first things you will notice when attending a Maker Faire is the awe in the eyes of the kids who attend as they excitedly go from one booth to another checking out the various projects or demos on hand. There were dozens of areas where kids could sit down and help with building robots, make motor driven cars or even learn how to solder inside a special tent where skilled adults introduced kids to using soldering tools for use in all types of electronics projects.

One of the sponsors of the show is Atmel, which makes micro controllers that populate most of the Arduino boards used in various maker projects. Arduino makes various electronics kits letting users build a wide array of electronic devices, such as mini robots, drones and other products. At the Atmel booth, I spoke with Amtel Senior Manager Bob Martin and asked him why the company is so committed to the Maker Movement. He told me that once the Arduino community started using their micro controllers in their boards, he convinced top management to “put significant resources behind this movement and to support projects that will make life easier for people.”

Intel is another big sponsor of Maker Faire. Its CEO, Brian Krzanich, is a huge supporter of the Maker Faire, and Intel’s large booth had many hands-on demos and projects for kids to work with to learn more about the micro processors that have driven the tech revolution.

Another important group at the show was LittleBits Education. Its goal is to fuel students’ creativity; they have 6,000 educators, 1,500 schools and 375 universities in 70 countries helping kids develop design skills, creative confidence and technology fluency with LittleBits. Facebook and Google also had booths at the show, showing they too are committed to tech education.

While most of the kids at the event were boys, there were a lot of girls there as well, and the Maker Faire had kits designed for helping girls get interested in tech and making things. One company at the event was Roominate Toys, whose line of products are designed to get girls interested in all types of tech and design projects. I am also a big fan of the Golidblox line of products for girls and have bought many for my granddaughters in the past.

After last year’s Maker Faire, I wrote a piece for TIME on why the Maker Movement is important to America’s future. The Maker Faires’ goal of helping people become makers has driven a high interest and demand for these shows. But I also mentioned a concern I had about the lack of diversity I saw at the Faire. Like last year’s show, I saw very few African American or Hispanic families at this year’s event. This is still a concern, as I know the Maker Movement and Maker Faire is very inclusive and wants everyone to participate.

After my TIME column last year, the Maker Faire’s Dougherty called me and told me that the lack of a diverse representation at the Faire is a huge concern for him. In fact, he told me that he personally sponsors a summer camp for Hispanic girls in the Santa Rosa, California area where he lives. He and others in the movement have been pushing STEM programs and trying to get more local sponsorships in areas where kids of all backgrounds could connect with the Maker Movement.

Over the last year, the issue of diversity in tech has risen to the forefront thanks to people like Cheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, and the Women in Tech Summits. And many African American and Hispanic leaders have come to Silicon Valley to speak with top leaders to make them more aware of the lack of diversity in tech companies.

I truly hope the world of tech becomes more inclusive. However, I think that it starts at the youth level, and things like the Maker Faire and the various STEM programs being employed in schools across the world needs to accelerate. Initiatives like them need stronger backing from corporations and educators who can help get more kids of all backgrounds interested in tech and equipped with the kind of skills that will be necessary to compete in the job markets of the future. Only then will the maker movement and the tech market in general really live up to their potential.

 

TIME the big picture

How a Chinese Company Became a Global PC Powerhouse

Inside Lenovo Group Ltd.'s Headquarters And Flagship Store
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images A Lenovo Group Ltd. logo is seen on a laptop computer displayed at the company's flagship store on Qianmen Street in Beijing, China, on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014.

Lenovo is the world's top PC maker 10 years after buying IBM's PC unit

One of the great business stories of the last 10 years is how Lenovo, a Chinese company, was able to take IBM’s PC unit and integrate it into its own, becoming a global technology powerhouse in the process. The story is one of the greatest case studies on how to merge massive international enterprises into a winning firm.

As part of my consulting gig for IBM back in 1984, I was asked to be part of the company’s first laptop research program. The IBM PC had been on the market for three years by then, and many of IBM’s customers were clamoring for a more portable version of that PC. During a two-year period I often traveled between Austin, where the laptop was being designed, and Boca Raton, IBM’s PC headquarters, to work with the teams as they tested various models. Eventually, they came up with what was IBM’s first clamshell-style PC that found success on the marketplace.

Over the next five years, IBM’s laptop designs took advantage of newer screens, processors and battery chemistry. Their laptop morphed into what has become the very popular ThinkPad brand. For most of the 1990’s and early 2000’s, IBM had a strong PC business; the ThinkPad was the anchor of their portable line. But by 2004, IBM’s business had changed, and it was looking to get out of the PC hardware business. So on May 1, 2005, IBM sold its PC business to Lenovo — and over the last 10 years, Lenovo has become the #1 PC player in the world.

Since I was close to IBM and had been on their mobile advisory board at the time, myself and about eight other analysts were invited to go to Beijing to meet with Lenovo’s management team, speak with its executives and hear its vision for what had been IBM’s PC products. At first, I was highly pessimistic about the success of this venture. Here was a Chinese company that was going to take over IBM’s famous PC business and try and make itself into a strong global brand. At the very least, I figured the culture clash would be a major issue. Plus, almost all of the IBM employees being sent to Lenovo in the deal were Big Blue lifers, and I suspected the top talent would choose to stick with the company they knew.

It turns out that Lenovo was able to coax most of IBM’s top PC execs to join the new venture. They helped assure IBM’s corporate customers as well as any consumers who bought their products that everything would be business as usual, and that Lenovo would honor all past warranties and service their needs well into the future. An initial hiccup came when some in the U.S. government were reluctant to give a Chinese company access to government data or contracts, but within a year the deal began to smooth out.

Lenovo’s success has to be credited to the hard work of the Chinese and American teams. The merging of these two business cultures alone is quite a feat.

One thing I didn’t expect is that the Chinese leadership took a hands-off approach to the U.S.-run PC company, fully trusting their leadership to keep the business moving forward. That was one of the assurances us analysts got during our trip to Beijing, but I wasn’t sure that would hold true. But Lenovo’s Chinese management put a great deal of trust in Steve Ward, the architect of the deal from IBM’s side.

I recently spoke with Peter Hortensius, who is Lenovo’s Chief Technology Officer and a Senior Vice President who joined Lenovo as part of the executive team that came from IBM. He told me that Lenovo’s dedicated focus on delivering innovative products and being willing to branch out in new areas is key to its growth. Last year, Lenovo bought Motorola and IBM’s server business, adding new breadth to its product offerings. Although relatively new to the smartphone wars, over the last five years they have become the #3 smartphone vendor in China and #4 globally. They are also the #1 PC vendor in the world, with an extremely strong position in China in both business and consumer PC’s. According to Hortensius, “Lenovo is committed to creating great hardware based products, plus a rich ecosystem that will be a driving force for their future.” He pointed out that software plays a major role too, and that Lenovo plans to continue to innovate in hardware and software to help differentiate itself from the competition.

I’ve had a front-row seat for Lenovo’s evolution, letting me see up close how it used the integration of the IBM PC business to become one of the major tech companies in the world. They consistently get high customer ratings, and now with Motorola and the new server business, it seems poised to grow exponentially. When I asked Hortensius what the company would look like in another 10 years, he said Lenovo, under the leadership of Chairman and CEO Yang Yuanqing, the company will grow in all of the categories they compete in now, and did not rule out the idea that over time the company could broaden its product portfolio still further. From my experience, Lenovo is an extremely focused company that is highly disciplined, with a powerful leadership team that seems to all be on the same page. Ten years ago, none of us could foresee how Lenovo acquiring the IBM PC business would turn out. Now we know.

 

TIME the big picture

How Intel and Boeing Are Helping These Kids Learn STEM Skills

Intel STEM
Ken Brown A first grade class at Waggoner Elementary School in Tempe, Ariz. after completing the first-ever Intel volunteer-founded STEM and Supply Chain Outreach program.

An entire region of Arizona has made STEM education a core economic development tenant

As a tech analyst, one of the areas I’m highly interested in is STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. I have written columns in TIME about why the San Francisco 49ers and Chevron are willing to spend millions of dollars getting kids up to speed on STEM. Their central goal is to help kids prepare for a world where technology has become pervasive, one where there will be a need for millions of STEM-educated students to work for and run all types of companies around the world.

I was recently told about an entire region in Arizona that has made education — and especially STEM education — a core tenet of its economic development strategy. A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of going to Phoenix and attending what was called the PHX East Valley THRIVE Economic Diversity Summit. It was sponsored by what is known as the PHX East Valley Partnership, which encompasses Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, Queen Creek, Apache Junction, Gilbert and Scottsdale.

This partnership was created in 1982 as a 501(c)(6) nonpartisan coalition of civic, business, educational and political leaders dedicated to the economic development and promotion of the East Valley of Greater Phoenix. The group advocates for improvements in areas such as economic development, education, transportation and infrastructure, arts, healthcare, and other important areas.

The PHX East Valley Partnership is led by the energetic Roc Arnett, who serves as its president and CEO and is quite a visionary when it comes to leading this group of cities and helping them expand their overall economic fortunes. In my many discussions with Mr. Arnett during the event, he kept coming back to the importance that education plays in his region and how he, along with the mayors of the six cities involved, are highly dedicated to making education and STEM-related programs a fundamental emphasis of many of the companies in this area.

According to Gilbert, Arizona Mayor John Lewis: “[The] presence of firms like Intel, Orbital, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Banner MD Anderson in the Phoenix East Valley, coupled with an emerging pipeline of technologies and a specialized workforce from state universities, solidify the region’s competitiveness for rapidly growing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) occupations. Our communities are working together with the world class companies and educational institutions in our region to ensure the most educated workforce is ready for our future.”

The first company involved in the partnership I met with was Boeing. Its facility in Mesa, Arizona produces the Apache helicopter and supports other Boeing-related projects around the world. Boeing’s STEM-related program is called “Engineering is Elementary.” According to Boeing officials, Engineering is Elementary is a professional development program for pre-K, kindergarten, elementary and middle school teachers, initially developed by the Museum of Science in Boston. It’s designed to foster students’ understanding of engineering and technology, with a goal of boosting students’ problem-solving abilities in STEM. The program, supported by Boeing grants to the Mesa School District since 2012, has impacted 530 teachers and 16,875 students in 66 Mesa schools.

“Boeing has a strategic community focus to increase teacher effectiveness in math and science and to attract more students into STEM-related careers,” said Mary Baldwin, Arizona community investor for Boeing Global Corporate Citizenship. “Engineering is Elementary provides teachers and students a greater understanding of engineering, and it accomplishes that in a fun, interactive way. Our goal is to interest students in engineering at an early age and increase the number of scientists and engineers for Arizona’s future workforce.”

I also met with Intel officials at the company’s Chandler, Arizona facility to hear about their STEM efforts. Intel invests $100 million worldwide in various educational programs, many which are STEM-related. According to Jason Bagley, Government Affairs Manager for Intel’s Southwestern U.S. region, Intel’s educational charter is “to grow engineers, but it is also about helping society become more tech literate in terms of the types of issues that people need to deal with around climate change, healthcare, and understanding how to interact with all forms of digital information.”

Intel’s Chandler STEM program is unique in that its STEM focus includes helping kids understand supply chains.
Intel Employees Cheryl Dalsin and Ken Brown founded the volunteer-based program and piloted this STEM and Supply Chain Outreach out of the Chandler facility with the intent of explaining STEM through microchip technology concepts, including “sand to silicon,” wafers and photolithography. Students build simulated silicon wafers using cookies, frosting and sprinkles.

This first pilot activity inspired Cheryl Dalsin, who is a technical program manager in Intel’s supply chain group, to incorporate concepts from her professional field of supply chain into the program. She developed hands-on activities that simulate real-world supply chain principles – source, make, deliver, reuse/recycle – as well as manufacturing challenges and STEM principles. Younger students began by making lemonade – they learned what makes a good supplier, and what happens when a supplier can’t deliver on time, or at all. They go on to build LEGO cars using a bill of materials and design constraints. They use wild cards describing good or bad scenarios that add an element of the unknown that every supply chain professional must learn to handle. The program has grown to reach more than 10,000 students in five U.S. states, three Asian countries, and is under development in Ireland.

I love the way many tech companies are backing STEM, seeing it as critical for their future. But a regional focus on education and especially STEM, like the one that is organized and promoted by the PHX East Valley Partnership, should become a model for many cities and municipalities in the U.S. to make sure we have enough STEM-educated students to meet the forthcoming demands of all types of companies around the world in the near future.

TIME the big picture

All Your Modern Technology Is Thanks to This 50-Year-Old Law

Moore's Law
TEK IMAGE/SPL—Getty Images/Brand X Microprocessor chip in circuit board

What Moore's Law really means for the tech world

I first heard about Moore’s Law during my first visit to Intel in the early 1980s. It was the first time I got to meet then-CEO Gordon Moore, who was already a legend in Silicon Valley even though it was the early days of the personal computing revolution. As a new industry analyst assigned to cover PCs for Creative Strategies, Intel invited myself and a few journalists to learn about its newest chip, the Intel 80286, designed for use in next-generation IBM PCs and eventually used in PC clones.

Moore first made his now-famous computing observation in an article for Electronics Magazine published April 19, 1965. At its heart, Moore’s Law (so dubbed by Caltech professor Carver Mead) is the idea that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit would double approximately every two years. Translated from tech-speak, that means every generation of computer processor would tend to get smaller and faster, and in some cases draw less power. Moore’s Law has been the heartbeat of the tech world ever since, with almost every tech product from laptops to smartphones to smartwatches following the rule.

Moore’s Law has proven to be an important guiding light for the tech industry. It sits at the center of innovative design, as companies that create a product tend to use Moore’s Law to guide their vision of the future. I have often heard companies in the design stage of their next version of a product quote Moore’s Law in their efforts to double the performance or add new features in the next iteration of their product.

This is the goal of all semiconductor engineers as they strive, at the very least, to double the performance of every next-generation processor they work on. Accordingly, the folks at Intel came up with some fun facts as comparisons to Moore’s Law:

  • If fuel efficiency improved at the same rate as Moore’s Law, you could drive a car for your entire life on a single tank of gas.
  • The space program to land on the moon cost $25 billion. If prices fell at the rate of Moore’s Law today, that program would cost as much as a small private plane.
  • Compared to Intel’s first microprocessor, the Intel 4004, today’s 14nm process delivers 3,500 times the performance at 90,000 times the efficiency and at 1/60,000th the cost.

But the rules of physics suggest Moore’s Law must have a stop. At an event at Intel’s Oregon office last summer, I asked Intel Senior Fellow and Director of Process Architecture and Integration Mark Bohr — one of the smartest semiconductor engineers I’ve ever met — if he thought Moore’s Law would continue well into the future.

“Through the decades, many experts have predicted the end of Moore’s Law,” Bohr said. “So far, all have been proven wrong. I am confident we can continue Moore’s Law for another decade. That’s been true for many years – we generally have pretty clear visibility about 10 years into the future. There are certainly physical limitations and it’s true that no exponential continues forever. But instead of hitting a wall, I believe Moore’s Law will evolve and adjust. Engineers at Intel and in our industry have been remarkably inventive over the years in finding ways around scaling ‘limits.'”

I asked the same question of Intel Chairman Andy Bryant. He said he could easily see the doubling continue with Intel’s 10nm process, which will be their next move forward (Intel’s current chips use a 14nm process; this number gets smaller with every new generation of processors). He also argued the doubling will apply to Intel’s next 7nm and 4nm chips over the next 10-12 year period. Bryant pointed out that Intel’s engineers keep pushing Moore’s Law, and each time it seems to be at its limit, his company’s brightest engineers find ways to extend it. Semiconductor engineers are also experimenting with new materials such as gallium arsenide, silicon carbon and graphene, among other materials, that have conductive properties which could eventually supplant silicon and could be used to expand Moore’s Law as well.

Today, Gordon Moore is 86, retired and lives in Hawaii. It’s really great to have one of the real pioneers of the digital age still with us and to be able to celebrate the 50th anniversary of a rule that has served our tech world faithfully for half a decade.

Tim Bajarin is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists, covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc and has been with the company since 1981 where he has served as a consultant providing analysis to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry.

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