The Digital Hyper Loop

You are probably familiar with Elon Musk’s plan to build a high-speed train between Los Angeles and San Francisco.  First discussed in 2012, the hyper loop was described by Musk as a fifth mode of transportation that would be a cross between a Concorde, a rail gun and an air hockey table.  Traveling an average speed of 600mph, passengers on the California hyper loop would make the trip between LA and the Bay Area in 35 minutes.  I think we need a hyper loop for cyberspace too.

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Sci-Fi Inspired Technologies of the Late 20th Century are Coming to Life

In the 1960s and 70s humankind believed that by 2014 trips into space would be as common as traveling across the Pacific. Cartoons and movies were full of depictions of space planes that could travel into Earth orbit, dock at space stations or travel to the moon.  While we are nowhere close to the future that many imagined for 2014, there has been noticeable progress in many of the sci-fi inspired technologies depicted in various movies and TV shows.  Below are five examples of futuristic technologies that are slowly becoming a reality.

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Why Cloud Companies Don’t Like to Talk to their Customers

Most cloud computing companies try to avoid having actual phone conversations to talk with their customers.  Most cloud providers aspire to create a product that is so amazingly simple to use that customers do not need to call for technical support.   Think about it.  When was the last time you talked to someone on the phone at Google, Facebook, Twitter or Amazon?

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Control Towers for the High Tech Supply Chain

Orchestrating today’s highly outsourced, globally distributed high tech supply chains can be extremely complex.  The activities of ODMs, contract manufacturers, 3PLs, distributors and aftermarket service providers must all be synchronized to ensure the right product is in the right place at the right time.  In today’s high tech industry, companies are actually not competing with other companies, but instead their supply chains are competing with other supply chains.   A critical factor for success is real-time access to information about activities occurring within the supply chain.   For OEMs which outsource design, manufacturing, logistics, distribution or service activities, gathering information requires integration with a community of business partners.

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Teardown Specialists – Who are They?

In my last post, I raised the issue of how product teardowns are making it harder and harder for high tech device manufacturers to create sustainable differentiation in their product offerings.  Within 24 hours of every major new gadget launch, the full bill of materials, component costs and high resolution photographs are published on the Internet for anyone to see.  In this post, I will explore who these companies which perform product teardowns are and what their motivations are.  Continue reading

Open Source Hardware and the High Tech Supply Chain

The cover story of Wired Magazine this month is titled “How to Make Stuff.”  The article refers to the fast-growing Do-It-Yourself (DIY) community of hobbyists which build electronics using open source hardware designs.  I first learned of this concept about two years ago when reading Chris Anderson’s book Free.  Since Chris is the Editor-in-Chief of Wired, I was not surprised to see the topic featured on the cover. The open source hardware market is growing quickly.  Insiders predict it will reach $1B by the year 2015.  But what are the implications for proprietary hardware manufacturers (i.e. the closed source community)?

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Apple iPad2 release exemplifies the Teardown Economy

This past weekend Apple released its highly anticipated iPad2 device.  Within hours the device had sold out at both brick and mortar stores and online retail sites.  The new tablet is currently back ordered with ship dates of 4-5 weeks from now.  But the aspect of the Apple’s supply chain that I found most interesting this weekend was not the out-of-stocks, but rather than the detailed analysis of the tablet’s supplier community performed by various gadget experts around the US.   Almost as fast as the product inventories were depleted, various web sites began to release detailed “teardowns” of the iPad2High resolution photographs of the Printed Circuit Board (PCB), battery and other components were published for all to see.  A complete Bill of Materials (BOM) listing each supplier and the cost of individual components were included as well.   There was even a teardown of an Apple branded case for the iPad!  Although the hype surrounding the iPad2 is significant, Apple is not the only vendor to receive such attention.  The Motorola Xoom received similar treatment in late February.

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