SWG Singapore Incubator

About 6 weeks ago I proposed to the Singapore National Research Foundation to start up and operate for an extended period of time an incubator for start up companies focused on CleanTech and optical systems.

You can learn more about this by clicking on the incubator tab above and following links on that new branch of the SWG website!

Posted in Green Perspectives, Investing, StartUp Ideas

Amazon Kindle, Apple Table, My Hope

I am on an extended trip (actually to fly around the world on United is cheaper than a round trip business class to Singapore) to Singapore, Turkey, Germany, Philadelphia, Rochester, San Diego and then San Francisco.  This trip I took Monika’s Kindle DX with me.  As I sat in the United lounge in the USA waiting for my flight, I downloaded about 10 books.  Some fiction (Neuromancer, The Magicians, Candles in the Rain, Hardy Boys for my grandson) and some non-fiction (What the Dog Saw, Salon, Slate) just to be able to try it out thoroughly.

My impression after now 10 days is that I really love it.  First of all it does not weigh anymore with 1 book or 10 books.  Duh.  But for the lean traveler that has serious meaning.  Also, I am pretty sure that I love the DX version with its larger screen than the smaller version.  I do wish it had its wireless features enabled in Singapore but I will try it in other countries as I continue to move westward back to CA.

Now all of this brings me to the now-legendary-vaporware-Apple-Tablet that may sometime be released.

I confess that I now really hope that they do.  And it should be a different object than either the iPhone or their laptop or any Macintosh flavor.  Why?

After the Kindle experience, I see the value in a product that is primarily for reading.  The device would be better with a full color display and in exchange I would give back some of the Kindle’s amazing battery life (read weeks if you are careful with the wireless).

Here is my list of what I would want –

  • greater than 10″ display, full color, high resolution
  • an iTunes like book store where magazines and books are all available by the issue or by subscription
  • ideally we could buy a library card and take out books (but this would produce too thin a revenue model, I suspect)
  • of course it should have a camera (maybe a pretty good one with some zoom and good focus and of course, video) and ability to play music and videos
  • But its real purpose is to be a general reading tool and to that end it needs color to really render magazines fully.
  • it should have communications probably with embedded WiFi and GSM so that it can always be used for things like interactive ads in magazines.  imagine a much strong link from print to purchase
  • it would have most of the iPhone sensors and maybe some others so that it can be a fun platform for games.
  • it should allow students of all ages not to have to lug around so many books that have become back breaking.
  • it would be a tablet with student’s books but also enable teachers to give an entire class test and have each test different so as to reduce cheating as well as make feedback after the test instantaneous.
  • it would allow improvements in teaching in class rooms as assignments could be tailored to each students ability and rate of learning.  lessons read could be self tested for comprehension and more details can be shared as needed individually by each student
  • it would be a better typing surface than the phone level I/O devices.  it will be more easily accommodate touch typing

Back to the main point.  Reading.  This is something that is not going to die.  And just like we want our computers for real strong interaction and explanations and writing.  And we want our phone for truly mobile simple communications, I believe we would also carry our “reader”.

For me this would be the ultimate simplification as I would travel with these 3 Apple branded devices that work together, play nicely, network out to their respective worlds and so forth.

The miracle that Jobs and company have to pull off is to really get the print folks to abandon paper and to strongly support the new platform and for that there must be a revenue model that works for everybody.

With iTunes and music, the model was crush the music stores and eliminate a level or 2 of markups.  But it ended up still hurting artists and their handlers.  That is still a work in progress.

With iPrint or whatever it will be called, I see how the New York Times and Time magazine can still be in the publishing business, still have advertising revenue, lose the need to kill so many trees and so forth.  But they all must be looking at iTunes and remember how disruptive that was and if they have really thought through their portion of the revenue shifts.

Hope that they have and that we get the 3rd leg of this platform in place.

Posted in Essays, Green Perspectives

Remarkable Reliability and Longevity

Over the last 30 years, one of the major trends is that American made cars have become more reliable and demonstrate longer lifetimes.  Much has been made about how this was done because Japanese cars were already doing this well by the mid-1970s.

I remember growing up and the typical lifetime for an American car was considered 5 years or 50,000 miles.  Today we routinely use cars well past 100,000 miles and 10 years.  In the right climates (those without salt and ice on the winter roads) cars can now last 200,000 miles and 15-20 years!  At the same time, we have lengthened the lifetime of tires and other elements of the car.

Having said all of this, a car that is used for 100,000 miles and is driven at an average speed of 50 miles per hour over that life will have been operated 2000 hours total.  Even if we use the longer 200,000 mile figure then this only rises to 4000 hours.

As I write this I am in Singapore working on starting an Incubator for start up companies that will focus on clean technology and optical systems.  To get here, of course, I flew over in Boeing 747s, the basic design of which dates back to 1969.  Probably all of those original planes have been retired but I suspect that the average 747 airframe has probably an average of 20 years service.

What kind of service?  Well such planes are probably used 16 hours per day and for a total of 250 days per year allowing for routine maintenance and repairs.  (The one I flew on had to have one engine manually started out on the tarmac after we had left the gate!)  So that means that a typical Boeing 747 is used 4000 hours per year!  And that the average 747 airframe has an average total use hours of at least 80,000 hours and that some probably have well more than 100,000 hours.

Compare that to our cars that we think are so reliable because they give relatively trouble free service for 100,000 miles or 4,000 hours.

This means that we knew very well how to make reliable machines before the Japanese began their lessons for Detriot.

Moreover these 747s see temperatures as high as 100F and as low as -80F nearly every day!  They fly through winds of 550 miles per hour, and carry passengers, freight and fuel that totals at least 500,000 lbs.  Wow.

I was glad that Boeing was capable of such great engineering as I slept crossing the international dateline last night.  And I wonder what they have in store for us as they soon launch the 787 Dreamliner – their most radical new design in 40 years since the launch of the 747.

Posted in Essays, Green Perspectives, Personal Stories