Dan and I had the opportunity to chat with Silicon Valley icon Tim Bajarin over the summer and the result was a thoughtful Q&A. We discussed a wide array of topics ranging from Hawaii's Broadband initiative in Hawaii to tech trends in the Valley.
A native of San Jose, California, he is known as a concise, futuristic analyst, credited with predicting the desktop publishing revolution three years before it hit the market, and identifying multimedia as a major trend in written reports as early as 1986. He also has a long history with Hawaii, beginning in the 1960s when he spent summers here as a youngster with relatives. In the past 15 years he's been a frequent visitor, serving as a link between Hawaii and the Valley.
He serves on multiple conference advisory boards and is a frequent featured speaker at computer conferences worldwide. He also serves on technology advisory councils for IBM/Lenovo, Toshiba, Panasonic Solutions Company, Hewlett Packard and Dell.
Q: Do you think that Hawaii, because of our unique geography, would benefit even more than other states from a focus on wireless infrastructure and government services provided via mobile applications?
A: Not necessarily. I don’t think the geography makes Hawaii “special” in that regard. People want to be connected wherever they are. The same holds true on the Mainland. The main thing is that end users get a screen that will connect them to apps and content that will help citizens and make government work better.
Q: What do you think of the governor’s broadband initiative in terms of strategy and goals. Do you believe its achievable in the time-frame he proposed (statewide access to affordable ultra high-speed Internet by 2018?
There is no question that Hawaii needs a solid, high speed broadband connectivity in this state. That said, on the mainland we’re much more concerned about wireless. The hassle of getting permits, land rights, etc makes laying pipes a really difficult and lengthy process. I don’t disagree with the broadband initiative but the topology, in my opinion is wrong. If you’re trying to connect to the last mile you’ll have to incorporate wireless to get more of the state connected. On the mainland the penetration of cell phones is already 80-90%. With smart phones its up to 50%. In the long term, wireless is going to be a much more powerful way to connect to people.
Q: Over the years, Hawaii has made multiple attempts at creating an innovation economy. We've tried Act 221, establishing a fund of funds, setting up HTDC, etc. but our innovation economy is still relatively limited. Will Hawaii ever succeed in becoming a substantial tech hub?
I don’t believe the context of innovation in Hawaii is going to be inventing technology. The innovation must be centered on the platform, ie apps around Twitter or Facebook rather than inventing new technology. This is not a state of Hawaii issue. It’s a world wide issue. It’s really difficult to create an innovation economy from scratch. There are three or four major platforms---mobile, wireless, social networks and e-commerce. One thing Hawaii could be doing is developing around these platforms in the context of tourism. For example the tourism business should be totally intertwined with Twitter or Facebook.
Q:Do you think any of the new Android tablets will provide substantial competition for Apple
All of the dedicated services that currently exist on android Amazon device will be optimized. What we expect are new apps written for Amazon.
Q: Although the Android platform is on more devices, the total amount spent on apps and in-app purchases is dwarfed by Apple's App Store. Do you see this gap narrowing?
You’re correct. Even though the Android is on more mobile devices, Apple has sold ovcr $2 billion worth of purchases vs. only about $100 million for the Droid. I think this trend will continue. In the future people will not be buying as many Android apps and developers simply won’t be writing them.
Q: Beyond the obvious defensive patent benefits, how do you see Google's purchase of Motorola Mobility affecting their Android strategy?
We believe Google bought Motorola with the vision of creating their own version of Android for their future Motorola-powered devices. They have really taken a page from Apple. The move is going to be towards a closed eco system. Apple has been extremely successful with its own hardware, its own the OS, its own service layer, etc. The fallout from this is that the other Android OEMs such as Samsung feel as if they have stabbed in the back with the Motorola purchase. Seems very possible Microsoft may buy Nokia to keep up wih Appple, Google and Amazon in terms of having their own vertical, ecosystem.
Q:Do you see Google surpassing Microsoft in terms of valuation in the next 2-3 years?
The consensus among my colleagues and the OEMs is that Windows 8 could revitalize the PC industry. They’ve swung twice at the ball and missed but everything I’ve heard from people who are looking at the code convinces me that they finally have the architecture in place. They are just going to have to execute well. One of the reasons they went with the IA architecture is that it allowed them to re-start windows from scratch. All the old baggage is good in the sense of enterprise customers in terms of backward compatibility but it’s not good for consumer adoption. Consumers, as they go to the cloud, are less concerned about backward compatibility software. From Microsoft’s view, all they need to do is rewrite about 20 of their top apps like Word, Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint, etc optimized for an IA architecture and you’re starting all over.
Q: Do you see the Valley's role in technology innovation increasing or decreasing on the world stage?
The Valley has always had its ups and downs over the years. Currently I think we’re at the cusp of the most exciting growth period we’ve ever seen. We’re creating the next generation platforms for all devices. In fact I think it should be renamed or more accurately called “platform valley”. If you look at OS for mobile devices, platforms for social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, etc, they are all coming out of the Valley. I think the challenge will be how to get people outside the Valley to tap in to create apps for all these platforms.
Q: What will be the impact of Steve Jobs leaving Apple?
Steve Jobs has built and entire infrastructure around his vision of apple services and their entire eco system. I think people will continue to buy apple products whether or not he’s around. I think they will keep lead until 2015. Windows 8 could be a factor in this scenario. We won’t be able to ascertain this until we see how Windows 8 evolves.
Q: Is Microsoft’s challenge more in the marketing, in the fact that they are not sexy like Apple, or is it technology?
It’s the technology. The mistake they made is they kept the core of their architecture, the existing base code, of the old windows OS and just continued to build on it so that it’s more of a patchwork quilt as opposed to saying, “this has to stop”.
You don’t need that much baggage if you’re going to enter what’s now a cloud-based world. In that context, and that’s where Windows 8 on IA architecture is really significant, is that it fundamentally rewrites their opportunity for the consumer market. We’re advising our customers to look at this at Windows 8 very closely because it’s the first real break for Microsoft to drive a completely new architecture around Windows, without having to worry about the legacy.