Sunday, October 9, 2011

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The Latest from TechCrunch

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Apple Has 1,000 Engineers Working On Chips For The Post-PC Era

Posted: 09 Oct 2011 07:31 AM PDT


As we ponder what will happen to Apple without Steve Jobs, I keep coming back to a conversation I had a few weeks ago with a veteran Silicon Valley CEO who knew Jobs. This was just after Jobs had resigned as CEO of Apple. We got to talking about why Apple is so well-positioned in the post-PC era, and this executive zeroed in on something you don’t hear too often. “Steve Jobs told me he has 1,000 engineers working on chips,” he said. “Getting low power and smaller is the key to everything.”

The number was startling when I first heard it. I knew that Apple started building its own chip design team in 2009, but figured it had to be a few hundred people at most, not 5 percent of Apple’s non-retail workforce. (Apple employs more than 50,000 people worldwide, 30,000 of them in its retail stores). Apple started designing its own chips because Intel and AMD were still stuck in the PC era. Apple needs chips that are powerful enough, but also very low power.

Battery life is one of the most important features of a mobile device. Apple’s latest A5 processor, which first appeared in the iPad 2, will now power the iPhone 4S as well. Not only is the A5 twice as fast as the A4 in the current iPhone 4, but it slightly improves the battery life with 8 hours of talk time (versus 7 hours).

Not only are Apple’s processors extremely power efficient, but Apple is also removing the hard drives from its products and replacing them with flash memory chips. It’s not just iPhones and iPads, the MacBook Air’s memory is also flash. All of Apple’s products are moving in this direction. When you combine these two fundamental changes at the silicon level, “form factor no longer becomes an issue,” explained the Silicon Valley CEO.

You can put a computer into anything. Mobile phones and tablets, certainly. TVs, perhaps. But what else? It is only limited by the imagination of Apple’s engineers and what makes sense from a product point of view.

When Jobs retired, TechCrunch writer MG Siegler cautioned against focusing too much on the next iPhone. Jobs left Apple knowing that a string of post-PC products will be introduced in the years ahead. MG wrote:

It's the longer roadmap that should really be the grand finale in the Jobs' fireworks show.

Talking to sources in recent months, there has been one common refrain: that the things Apple is working on right now are the best things the company has ever done. These are things that will "blow your mind", I've been told.

Jobs himself said when he resigned, “I believe Apple's brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it.” Now we get to see what he meant by that. Jobs rebuilt Apple from the silicon up. It is the company itself which is his greatest product. And like all of his products, everything fits together: the chips, the hardware, the software, the industrial design, the developer platform, the tightly controlled manufacturing, the marketing, the retail stores.

This machine is proving adept at making and selling mobile computers—phones and tablets. But remember also that we are just at the beginning of the post-PC era. The iPhone launched 4 years ago, the iPad only a year and a half ago. It is becoming practical to put a computer into anything. Of course, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. And if anything, Apple is very disciplined about choosing what not to do (another Steve Jobs trait). But if you believe that post-PC devices will include more than just phones and tablets, it is not such a crazy idea that one day Apple will be churning them out as well.

Company: Apple
Launch Date: January 4, 1976
IPO: October 9, 1980, NASDAQ:AAPL

Started by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne, Apple has expanded from computers to consumer electronics over the last 30 years, officially changing their name from Apple Computer, Inc. to Apple, Inc. in January 2007. Among the key offerings from Apple’s product line are: Pro line laptops (MacBook Pro) and desktops (Mac Pro), consumer line laptops (MacBook) and desktops (iMac), servers (Xserve), Apple TV, the Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server operating systems, the iPod (offered with...

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Person: Steve Jobs
Companies: Pixar, NeXT, Apple

Steve Jobs was the co-founder and CEO of Apple and formerly Pixar. Steve Jobs was born in San Francisco, California to Joanne Simpson and a Syrian father. Paul and Clara Jobs of Mountain View, California then adopted him. In 1972, Jobs graduated from Homestead High School in Cupertino, California and enrolled in Reed College in Portland, Oregon. One semester later, he had dropped out, later taking up the study of philosophy and foreign cultures. Steve Jobs had a deep-seated interest in...

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Health 2.0: Innovators, Opportunists & Delusionals

Posted: 09 Oct 2011 06:50 AM PDT


Editor's note: This guest post was written by Dave Chase, the CEO of, a Patient Relationship Management company that was a TechCrunch Disrupt finalist. Previously he was a management consultant for Accenture's healthcare practice consulting to 25 hospitals and was the founder of Microsoft's Health business. You can follow him on Twitter @chasedave.

Last week, Health 2.0 wrapped up its largest ever event with 50 percent more attendees than their previously largest event. A number of companies launched during the conference, but like many events the most interesting activity wasn’t what happened on the main stage but the many side meetings/events that took place. The other notable item is the recasting of major corporations from within and outside of the traditional healthcare arena. This is further evidence highlighted in the Healthcare Disruption series (see links below).

One of the most intriguing quotes was by Mark Bertolini CEO Aetna who stated “We’re evolving into a HealthIT company with a health insurance component.” He stated that $12B out out of their $34B in revenue was from non-insurance revenue streams and they have done over $1.6B in acquisitions in the last year. There’s much more to come from large corporations. I had several conversations with Fortune 100 companies who are extremely serious about having a presence (or expanding their existing presence) in the healthcare industry. Most haven’t announced anything but don’t be surprised to see more in the coming months.

Broadly speaking, my takeaway from Health 2.0 was there were three categories of people leading projects and startups – Innovators, Opportunists and Delusionals. In all three cases, Tom Evslin’s quote “nothing great has ever been accomplished without irrational exuberance” captures the state of the industry. Naturally, many will wash out but some huge successes will emerge.

The most interesting, of course, are the Innovators. More on that in a moment. The Opportunists remind me of many companies in the dotcom boom. Consultants, Investment Bankers and the like chase the almighty buck as they see Healthcare as a place to make a quick buck. Unlike the dotcom boom, there’s not many quick flip opportunities in healthcare though expect to see some micro transactions that can provide a modest return for developers. It’s easy to sniff out the Opportunists as they have little background or true passion in healthcare and sprinkle in the right buzzwords like “Meaningful Use” to act like they understand the landscape.

The Delusionals were all over at Health 2.0 demo’ing “cool apps” yet sadly falling into the same trap that many startups that were rubble from the Internet bubble. They have familiar quotes from that bygone era – “we’re not worrying about revenue.” I’ve seen this movie before and know how it ends. Apparently, they didn’t read HealthTech FAIL: Lessons For Entrepreneurs From Health Startups Gone Awry.

The Innovators are where the real action is. I’ll highlight a couple examples where I spent much of my four days during the Health 2.0 event. There was a two-day Code-a-thon sponsored by Novartis. I believe Novartis publishing an API will be looked back as a seminal moment in the shift to Pharma 3.0.

I outlined the implications of this in Health 2.0 Code-a-thon: Novartis invites all comers to innovate around their API [Disclosure: Avado provided the underlying platform for the implementation of forms and services integrating with the API]. More than even the implications of the API, Novartis did a great job of signaling to the market that they are “open for business” to working with innovative individuals and startups that they can partner with to evolve their business.

As interesting as the disruptive technology is, I’m most fascinated with disruptive new healthcare delivery models. Clayton Christensen’s ground-breaking book was The Innovator’s Dilemma, however he followed that up with his co-author Jason Hwang, MD with a book entitled The Innovator’s Prescription: A Disruptive Solution for Health Care.

In that book, he highlights many of these disruptors. Earlier I highlighted a couple examples of disruptive new healthcare delivery models in MedLion: The Most Important Organization In Silicon Valley That No One Has Heard About and WhiteGlove Health's Funding Round Powered by Technology-enabled Services.

It’s hard to argue with the case made by Christensen and Hwang that in order to slay the healthcare cost beast that is bankrupting local, state and federal government, disruptive innovation has to happen. One of the most respected economists in the world, Laura Tyson, stated “We don’t have a debt problem, we have a healthcare problem.” The newly formed group, the Healthcare Delivery Innovators Alliance (HDIA), was founded with the purpose of identifying and advancing standards for new healthcare delivery systems that can demonstrate that they can dramatically lower costs while improving the health outcomes and consumer experience.

Having played a role with the IAB (the industry association for the Internet ad market) in the aftermath of the dotcom bust, I was asked to share how that experience can be instructive for accelerating the growth of disruptive innovators in healthcare delivery. Also presenting and participating in the first in-person meeting of the HDIA was the Innovator’s Prescription co-auther Jason Hwang. [Disclosure: Avado has joined HDIA as a founding member of the alliance.]

I was pleased to find out that the founders of the HDIA have a similar plan to the “Prescription” that I outlined in the embedded presentation below. As with the turnaround of the Internet Ad industry, proof, standards and education are critical to accelerating the growth of these exciting new models. The Alliance is inviting organizations to join their movement. While welcoming any organization that is sincerely driving innovation, the HDIA is particularly interested in employers who share the interest in reversing healthcare’s hyperinflation.

Naturally, if employers (who pay for the majority of healthcare) signal to the market that they are going to buy from healthcare delivery models that are really making a difference, it will accelerate the growth of these models. The reality is that any disruptive innovator has nothing to lose while incumbents are primarily focused on preserving current revenue streams. With those revenue streams in healthcare adding up to almost 20% of the economy, rest assured the incumbents will use FUD and every other tactic in the book to protect that ocean of revenue.

As with any group that brings change, the Innovators are going through the 3 Stages of Truth articulated by Arthur Schopenhauer – first it is ridiculed, second is violently opposed and finally it is accepted as fact. Organizations such as MedLion, WhiteGlove, Qliance and others are in the second phase as they have proven their models work and it threatens status quo. The HDIA’s purpose is to get it to the final stage of truth.

View HDIA Introductory Presentation and Getting healthcare innovators their fair share on Slideshare or view the embedded slideshow below.

The following is the Healthcare Disruption series referenced above:

Healthcare Disruption: Pharma 3.0 Will Drive Shift from Life Science to HealthTech Investing
Healthcare Disruption: Providers Will Use HealthTech to Differentiate and Produce Better Outcomes (Part II)
Healthcare Disruption: Providers Are Making Newspaper Industry Mistakes (Part III)

eBay VP Steve Yankovich: En Route To $4B In Gross Mobile Sales (TCTV)

Posted: 09 Oct 2011 03:37 AM PDT

ebay m

Last week, I moderated a panel at the Planet Of The Apps conference in London, which included Steve Yankovich, head of eBay’s mobile business operations and development.

I caught up with Steve after our panel to talk more about eBay’s strides in introducing mobile commerce to a mainstream audience.

Yankovich tells me eBay is on its way to process around $4 billion in mobile sales (= gross merchandise volume, not revenue) in 2011, double the number it logged last year.

The company’s mobile apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, WP7 and whatnot have been downloaded over 50 million times, and its Marketplace app alone has seen about 20 million downloads.

Furthermore, three purchases are made through eBay’s mobile applications every second.

Approximately half of eBay's mobile purchases came from outside the United States (mostly from English-speaking countries like the UK, Australia and Canada but also Germany and France).

More stats (for September 2011, as relayed by eBay PR):

- More than 117,000 car parts and accessories are sold through eBay's core iPhone apps every week
- 2,600 vehicles are purchased through eBay's core iPhone apps every week
- 13 pieces of clothing, shoes or accessories are sold every minute through eBay's mobile apps

And it’s not just buyers using eBay’s apps, Yankovich points out. In fact, as of September 2011, eBay sellers are listing over 700,000 new items through their mobile applications on a weekly basis.

You can see the video interview below – apologies for having to switch cameras in the middle of it.

Also read: Connecting The Dots On eBay’s Local Shopping Strategy

Company: eBay
Launch Date: January 9, 1995

Founded in 1995 in San Jose, CA, eBay connects millions of buyers and sellers globally in the world’s largest online marketplace, utilizing PayPal to ensure secure transactions. The company also operates specialized marketplaces such as StubHub, the world’s largest ticket marketplace, and eBay Classifieds sites, which together have a presence in more than 1,000 cities around the world. eBay items can be sold either via a silent auction, in which users input the maximum price they are willing to...

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Experienced valley technical executive, application architect, product visionary and inventor.

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Weekly Wrist Watch Round Up

Posted: 08 Oct 2011 04:44 PM PDT


Those looking for a high-end made timepiece with looks and practicality should check out Breitling’s 2011 version of their Colt watches. They have fancy high-accuracy Swiss quartz movements accurate to within a few seconds per a year. Mechanical watches by comparison are accurate to within a few seconds per day.

Special made as a limited edition for the Japanese market to celebrate their F1 races, Hublot has produced the F1 King Power Suzuka watch all teched-out and done up in the colors of the Japanese flag.

Remember slide-rules? It is OK, neither do we – though this watch does. Fortis produces a limited edition B-47 Calculator watch which reminds us of how much we need digital calculation in our lives.

Very few mechanical watches have complications that indicate the temperature. Ball watches is among the few that do and they have released two retro looking Trainmaster watch models in honor of the men who invented the Celsius or Fahrenheit scales.

Typically modern watch brand MB&F takes a step and imagines what it would have been like to produce a futuristic timepiece 100 years ago. The result in the lovely and intriguing almost steampunk Legacy Machine No. 1 watch.

Certainly an oddity, but still fun – this Itay Noy X-Ray watch from Israel plays with the idea of having a see-through dial that isn’t really see though.

Ah yes, over engineering at its finest. About $80,000 and a lot of gumption will get you this De GRISONOGO Otturatore watch that uses a very complex mechanism for mechanically cycling through its various dial functions.

We want one of these. You can enter to win a brand new Seiko Sportura Kinetic Diver watch here.

Click to view slideshow.

(Founder Stories) Birchbox: Selling Subscriptions To Surprise Beauty Samples For $10 A Month

Posted: 08 Oct 2011 02:51 PM PDT

BB Sequence 2

Hayley Barna and Katia Beauchamp are co-founders of Birchbox and stopped by our studio to tape Founder Stories with Chris Dixon.

Beauchamp tells Dixon that “Birchbox is a new subscription retail model” where customers fill out profiles and receive curated beauty products in the mail. The monthly fee is $10. If a customer is completely satisfied with a sample she can purchase a retail sized item through Brichbox’s online magazine.

The idea for Bichbox sprung from real-life experience. Barna’s friend was a beauty editor and asked Barna to test top products that she had curated for her. Wanting to recreate the experience for others, Barna says they launched “a subscription model” and “put some editorial content around it.”

Beauchamp adds, “every woman wishes that she had a friend that lived in New York and had access to this editor’s closet so that was kind of the customer side of the inspiration.” On the business side the thought was, “what industries haven’t really had their technical renaissance yet?”

With an idea and industry in hand, they began testing the concept.

In the video below, Barna tells Dixon they initially tested with 200 customers and eight brands over two months. They wanted to see if brands would be “excited about the fact that what we can give them ROI data” on their sampling efforts, data that had traditionally been lacking. And on the customer side, they wanted to see if customers would pay for samples if samples were delivered in an attractive presentation.

In both cases the answer came back yes. Birchbox now claims more than 45,000 paid subscribers and is growing. Last August the New York City-based startup raised $10.5 million series A from Accel, First Round and others.

Make sure to hear more of Barna’s and Beauchamp’s story by checking out both videos.

Past episodes of Founder Stories featuring leaders including Soraya Darabi and Lauren Leto here.

Company: BirchBox
Funding: $11.9M

BirchBox is a monthly subscription service that delivers beauty product samples to users on a monthly basis. The site offers relevant editorial content and a e-commerce site.

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Chris Dixon currently works as the CEO and Co-founder of Hunch. He is also a contributing writer for TechCrunch. He previously was the CEO and Co-founder of SiteAdvisor, which was acquired by McAfee. Chris is a personal investor in early-stage technology companies, including Skype, TrialPay, DocVerse, Invite Media, Gerson Lehrman Group, ScanScout, OMGPOP, BillShrink, Oddcast, Panjiva, Knewton, and a handful of other startups that are still in stealth mode. In addition to his personal investments, Chris is also a...

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You’ve Got To Admit It’s Getting Better

Posted: 08 Oct 2011 10:11 AM PDT


“I hate almost all software. It’s unnecessary and complicated at almost every layer … you don’t understand how fucked the whole thing is,” rants Ryan Dahl, the much- (and rightly-) lauded creator of Node.js. “It really, truly, is all crap. And it's so much worse than anybody realizes,” agrees Zack Morris, who goes on to add, “The industry has backed itself into a corner and can't even see that the way forward requires thinking outside the box.”

Investors and managers may not realize it, but the coders who do their work are in a collective state of angry ferment. Complaints about the state of modern software engineering multiply everywhere I look. Scrum, the state-of-the-art project-management methodology, is under attack: “I can only hope that when Scrum goes down it doesn't take the whole Agile movement with it,” says Robert Martin, complaining about elitism and the rise of meaningless ‘Scrum Master’ certifications. Pawel Brodzinski disparages software certifications from a different angle: “It seems certification evaluates people independently and is objective. Unfortunately it's also pretty much useless.”

Even test-driven development — the notion that a development team’s automated tests are even more important than the actual software they write, and should be written first — is being criticized. Once this belief seemed almost sacrosanct (although in my experience most of the industry paid it only lip service.) Now, though, Pieter Hintjens argues, “The more you test software, the worse it will be.” Peter Sargeant agrees: “The whole concept of Test-Driven Development is hocus, and embracing it as your philosophy, criminal.”

None of the above are wrong. Morris’s exegesis of the problematic process of iOS app development is spot on: beneath the slick exterior of Apple’s XCode environment and Objective-C language lie squirming Lovecraftian horrors from the 1980s like preprocessor macros, forests of cryptic compile/link flags and paths, scheme/project/target confusion, etc etc etc. Android development is better in some ways, but its recommended Eclipse environment is ugly, clunky and sometimes only barely comprehensible. Certifications seem to me (with some exceptions) mostly to be red flags that warn: “This person thinks that merely learning a new toolset is a significant feat that deserves recognition.” Test strategies need to be customized for the problem, not the other way around.

But I’m struck by how the anger and frustration cited above is so out-of-sync with my own experience. I’ve been writing code for money for twenty years, with a six-year interregnum from 2003 to 2009, because I got a book deal and spent that time writing novels full-time. When I got back into programming two years ago, I was struck by how much better things had gotten. Ham-handed languages like Perl and C++ have been largely replaced by elegant Ruby and Python, at least among startups. StackOverflow solves many problems before they even begin to grate. Instead of futzing around with server configurations and dealing with trainwrecks like J2EE, anyone can easily deploy and run code on the App Engine or Heroku clouds — for free!

Take Java. (Please.) People have been criticizing it since its birth; witness Jamie Zawinski’s fourteen-year-old takedown of the language. But also note that he praises it for being much better than its predecessors, and that Heroku this week announced support for its most likely successor, Scala. The rants above aren’t wrong; the state of the art isn’t great; but it’s important to recognize that it’s a lot better than it used to be. Some improvements, like test-driven development and agile methodologies, need further iteration. Others simply aren’t cost-effective to deploy right now.

Consider wind and solar power. They’re the future of energy generation, everyone knows that, but because we’ve already sunk trillions into fossil-fuel infrastructure, we can’t switch over to them immediately. Instead we’ll have to suffer through a bumpy, painful, decades-long transition — but at least we’re on a path to get there eventually. Similarly, functional programming, NoSQL databases, and other innovations may be the future of software, but it’s delusional to think that we can or should move to their wholesale adoption tomorrow. Today’s software is generally a mess, yes, but the important thing is that we’re moving in the right direction. Let’s remember that — and remember that until we get there, the best will remain the enemy of the good.

Image credit: Dana Robinson, Flickr (slightly repurposed)

Gillmor Gang 10.8.11 (TCTV)

Posted: 08 Oct 2011 10:00 AM PDT

Gillmore Gang test pattern

The Gillmor Gang — Doc Searls, Danny Sullivan, Robert Scoble, Kevin Marks, John Taschek, and Steve Gillmor — take the first tentative steps in the post-Jobs era. As a showman, technologist, and business leader, he was unparalleled. But as a teacher, he gave us something even more valuable than ideas, products, and opportunity. Fired, he rebuilt. Dying, he lived even larger. Gone, he connected us to the power within ourselves.

@dsearls, @dannysullivan, @scobleizer, @@kevinmarks, @jtaschek, @stevegillmor

Person: Doc Searls

In The World is Flat, Thomas L. Friedman calls Doc “one of the most respected technology writers in America.” Searches for Doc on Google tend to bring up millions of results, owing to his work as — Senior Editor of Linux Journal, the premier Linux monthly and one of the world’s leading technology magazines. Co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto, a book that was Amazon’s #1 sales & marketing bestseller for thirteen months Fellow with the Center for Information Technology and Society at...

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Widely considered a leading “search engine guru,” Danny Sullivan has been helping webmasters, marketers and everyday web users understand how search engines work for over a decade. Danny’s expertise about search engines is often sought by the media, and he has been quoted in places like The Wall St. Journal, USA Today, The Los Angeles Times, Forbes, The New Yorker and Newsweek and ABC’s Nightline. Danny began covering search engines in late 1995, when he undertook a study of how they...

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Robert Scoble is an American blogger, technical evangelist, and author. He is best known for his popular blog, Scobleizer, which came to prominence during his tenure as a technical evangelist at Microsoft. Scoble joined Microsoft in 2003, and although he often promoted Microsoft products like Tablet PCs and Windows Vista, he also frequently criticized his own employer and praised its competitors like Apple and Google. Scoble is the author of Naked Conversations, a book on how blogs are changing...

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Person: John Taschek

John Taschek is vice president of strategy at He is responsible for corporate product strategy, corporate intelligence and market influence. Taschek came to company in 2003, bringing over 20 years of technology evaluation experience. Taschek currently is also the editorial director for CloudBlog - an independent blog run as an adjunct to’s web properties. He occasionally is on Steve Gillmor’s The Gillmor Gang enterprise web video-cast. Previously, Taschek ran the testing labs at eWEEK (formerly PC Week) magazine....

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Person: Kevin Marks

Kevin Marks is a software engineer. Kevin served as an evangelist for OpenSocial and as a software engineer at Google. In June 2009 he announced his resignation. From September 2003 to January 2007 he was Principal Engineer at Technorati responsible for the spiders that make sense of the web and track millions of blogs daily. He has been inventing and innovating for over 17 years in emerging technologies where people, media and computers meet. Before joining Technorati,...

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Steve Gillmor is a technology commentator, editor, and producer in the enterprise technology space. He is Head of Technical Media Strategy at and a TechCrunch contributing editor. Gillmor previously worked with leading musical artists including Paul Butterfield, David Sanborn, and members of The Band after an early career as a record producer and filmmaker with Columbia Records’ Firesign Theatre. As personal computers emerged in video and music production tools, Gillmor started contributing to various publications, most notably Byte Magazine,...

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