Monday, May 31, 2010

Two million iPods sold, Apple Self-Esteem Hits Record High

Apple® today announced that iPad™ sales have topped two million in the less than 60 days since its launch on April 3. Originally available only in the US, this weekend Apple began shipping iPad in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. iPad will be available in nine more countries in July and additional countries later this year.

"We are working hard to build enough iPads for everyone“ said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We appreciate their patience."

In today's press release, Apple modestly describes itself as follows: "Apple ignited the personal computer revolution with the Apple II, then reinvented the personal computer with the Macintosh. Apple continues to lead the industry with its award-winning computers, OS X operating system, and iLife, iWork and professional applications. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store, has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and has recently introduced its magical iPad which is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices."

High self-esteem can be a wonderful thing to behold. It is very hard to argue with great sucess.

Virtual Machines for Harvard Commencement

Dear Reader: each year at the Harvard Commencement, three graduating students speak to approximately 32,000 students, faculty, parents, alumni/ae, and guests. As the first anthem concludes, a senior strides to the microphone and announces, "Salvete omnes!" What follows is one of the oldest of Harvard traditions - an oration in Latin. Although we had no similar tradition at MIT, I thought I would contribute this modest effort to the cause of improving communication between layabouts studying long-dead topics and superheroes developing exciting new technology.

Salavete omnes! VM est omnis divisa in partes tres, placitum et inventor Bob Creasy. Primary component eram hypervisor. Alter CMS , sermo monitor ratio. tertius eram RSCS , Longinquus Spooling Defero Subsystem. Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Hypervisor. Dissimilis alius IBM operating ratio VM /370, quod suus decessor CP -40 quod CP /67, postulo proprius intentio repono tutela quod relocation hardware. Creasy had seen mane in et relocation hardware could soleo suggero rectum apparatus pariter et rectum memoria. Is insight venit et him dum inrideo MBTA LXXVII bus ex Arlington ut Cambridge.

EGO propono a toast ut IBM Cambridge Scientific Center quod et suus farsighted procurator , Norm Rasmussen.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bob Creasy Invented Virtual Machines on the #77 Bus

Don Dodge reveals “How to unlock your creative genius” on his blog this week. “We are all creative but our human experience filters, and conscious mind, block out creative bursts,” writes Don. “We are much more creative while sleeping…artists, song writers, poets, comedians, and entertainers of all kinds have that amazing creative ability while they are awake.

Last week, while driving from Arlington, MA into Cambridge, I was stuck behind the #77 bus (colloquially known as the Mass. Ave. bus).

I recalled that Bob Creasy invented the concept of the virtual machine on this bus. I don’t know if he was awake or asleep at the time, but it was most likely in the morning.

Creasy had been working as a programmer on CTSS when MIT awarded the project MAC (Multics) contract to GE. In contrast, Creasy was impressed with IBM’s new S/360 product line. Creasy had, of course, spotted the most important attribute of the System/360 - that programs written for one model of S/360 would run on any other model.

Since he was disappointed with the direction of MAC, when he heard that Norm Rasmussen, Manager of IBM’s Cambridge Scientific Center, intended to build a time sharing system based on IBM’s System/360 and needed someone to lead the project, Creasy left MIT to join IBM.

Creasy had decided to build what became “CP-40” while riding the Metropolitan Transit Authority. “I launched the effort between Christmas 1964 and year’s end, after making the decision while on an MTA bus from Arlington to Cambridge. It was a Tuesday, I believe,” Creasy said in a later interview with Melinda Varian.

Creasy and a colleague, Les Comeau, spent the last week of the year excitedly brainstorming the design of CP-40, a new kind of operating system, a system that would provide not only virtual memory, but also virtual machines. They had seen that the cleanest way to protect users from one another (and to preserve compatibility as the new System/360 design evolved) was to use the System/360 Principles of Operations manual to describe the user’s interface to the Control Program. Each user would have a complete System/360 virtual machine (which at first was called a “pseudo-machine”).

The idea of a virtual machine system had been kicked around before then, but it had never really been implemented. The idea of a virtual S/360 was new, but what was really important about their concept was that nobody until then had seen how elegantly a virtual machine system could be built, with very minor hardware changes and not much software.

Rasmussen approved the project, but described it to his bosses as a research project to help the troops in Poughkeepsie (home of “Time Sharing System/360,” IBM’s official effort). Specific technical objectives were always emphasized in order to disguise the “counter-strategic” nature of the activity. But the project’s real purpose was to build a time-sharing system superior to TSS and MULTICS. Luckily for IBM, for us, and for Cloud Computing, it succeeded.

The combination of CP-40 and a single user operating system called CMS evolved into CP/CMS which was made available to IBM customers in 1967. In 1972, a revised version was released as IBM’s VM/370 product.

Feeling that his contribution to computing has yet to be fully recognized, I recently added a short biography of Creasy to the Wikipedia.

Monday, May 10, 2010

iPad parts cost at least $259, what about new iPhones?

For innovative products, price and cost may at first not be directly related, but, as Damon Runyon says, "The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that is the way to bet."

I enjoy reading how iSuppli and other firms dissemble products to determine their cost. For example, Apple's iPad tablet computer costs as little as $259.60 to build.

Materials for the iPad, which went on sale Apr. 3, include a touchscreen display that costs $95 and a $26.80 processor designed by Apple and manufactured by Samsung Electronics, according to El Segundo (Calif.)-based iSuppli. This analysis means that the components of the lowest-priced iPad, which includes 16 GB of memory, constitute 52% of its $499 retail price, on par with other Apple products including the iPhone 3GS. You can find more details on the costs in an article by Arik Hesseldahl in Business Week.

Will the iPad price trend resemble the iPhone? Back in 2007, early iPhone adopters paid $600 for a phone. Two months later, Apple dropped the price to $400. Then, in June 2009, it introduced a better version, with twice the storage, for $200, one-third the original’s price. Now as we anxiously anticipate a new iPhone, we all wonder what the price will be.

Back to the iPad, will the cost drop significantly? Probably so. And when it does, we should follow the advice of DAMON DARLIN, “Applause, Please, for Early Adopters,” as related in the NYTimes.

“WHY would anyone rush to buy a product knowing full well that it would be cheaper — and probably better — in a matter of months?

”What is truly remarkable about this surge in consumption is that early adopters — those who simply have to own a new gadget right away — cheerfully exhibited what might seem to be irrational behavior. These ardent consumers will stand in long lines, if that’s what it takes, to get an overpriced gadget ahead of everyone else they know.” In my own case, I want to thank my former student, Rick Genter, the first person to show me an iPad.

If you are an entrepreneur contemplating product development in the iPad/iPhone arena, or represent a large volume purchaser of similar products, it would be very helpful to have direct access to the reports from iSuppli. “Unfortunately iSuppli does not allow for public posting of our report pricing,” says Debra Jaramilla, Manager, Marketing. “However, please do direct them (you) to or 310.524.4007 for more questions.”

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Len Kleinrock, Gordon Moore, and Michael Rabin Receiving Dan David Award

Three great pioneers of the information age are being honored today, receiving the international Dan David Prize, endowed by the Dan David Foundation and headquartered at Tel Aviv University. The prize includes a $1 million award, which these three honourees will share.

"I am humbled and tremendously thankful to be receiving this great honor," said Kleinrock of the prestigious award, which annually recognizes individuals whose achievements have had an outstanding scientific, technological, cultural or social impact on the world. Previous winners have included Tony Blair, Yo-Yo Ma, Zubin Mehta, Al Gore and Tom Stoppard.

The Dan David Prize recognizes and encourages innovative and interdisciplinary research that cuts across traditional boundaries and paradigms. It aims to foster universal values of excellence, creativity, justice, democracy and progress and to promote the scientific, technological and humanistic achievements that advance and improve our world.

"To be able to also donate a portion of my Dan David Prize to worthy doctoral students pursuing research in my field of networking is a delight. The field of networks is continually expanding, and the opportunities to make an important contribution to the field are manifold. I look forward to being able to provide guidance in these students' research," said Kleinrock, who plans to recommend a recipient and will consider students from UCLA.

I know Len is attending the award ceremony, he sent me a note from there this morning. Len is sometimes called “the father of the internet” (though not by himself). Click here to read his bio on the Dan David site.

Gordon E. Moore’s prediction in 1965, widely known as "Moore's Law", stated that the number of transistors on a chip will double about every two years. Moore's Law has become the guiding principle for the semiconductor industry to deliver ever-more-powerful chips while decreasing the cost of electronics. I have read that there are two billion transistors on Intel’s latest Itanium Chip, but I didn’t actually count them myself; Moore bio here.

Michael Rabin has distinguished himself with his groundbreaking work on ways to improve privacy and create unbreakable ways to encrypt data, bio here.

This year’s honourees in other fields are:

Giorgio Napolitano, President of the Republic of Italy, known for his dedication to the cause of Parliamentary democracy and his contribution to the rapprochement between the Italian Left and European Socialism.

Margaret Atwood, a prolific Canadian writer who has produced more than forty volumes of poetry, fiction, children's books, political essays, and cultural criticism. Her work enabled, for the first time, the emergence of a defined Canadian identity.

Amitav Ghosh, is an lndian-Bengali novelist whose work offers a panoramic treatment of twentieth-century history from a postcolonial perspective.

The awards ceremony is taking place about the time I post this blog. Congratulations to all of these awardees and may the wind be always at their back.

Addendum: You can view a video of the actual awards ceremony here; it is quite an elegant show and clearly a moving experience for the honorees.  If you are only interested in the technology awards , fast forward to about 1:21 where Len tells you how the variable capacitor in his crystal radio lured him into a lifetime of invention.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Build your own cloud, why not?

Three huge global banks are about to announce the formation of an IT buying consortium intending to not only drive down their costs but also giving them the option of creating their own highly secure global cloud infrastructure and network.

"Commonwealth Bank of Australia has teamed with Bank of America and Deutsche Bank to create a global technology buyer's consortium that will strip away billions of dollars in back-office computing costs by combining the purchasing power of the three institutions,” according to the Australian Financial Review.

"To be launched on May 17, the formation of the bank-owned purchasing syndicate poses a formidable challenge to technology heavyweights including Microsoft, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Oracle which, for the last 20 years, have reaped huge profits collecting the equivalent of annual rent for their products."

Reflecting back on my time at IBM CHQ, I can envision a whole flock of market planners assuming that customers would buy their cloud services from IBM, and that these services would be rolled out in a manner that increased IBM revenues by stressing new cloud services over displacement of existing software and equipment. Offering cloud services that would reduce IBM’s revenues would be highly unpopular. Most likely, planners at Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and Oracle had similar thoughts.

Reducing expenses is clearly more attractive to the customers than to their current vendors. "We've got 50 per cent to 80 per cent of all what we spend a year tied up in infrastructure and that infrastructure isn't conferring any strategic advantage, it's just a cost of doing business," says Michael Harte, CIO of Commonwealth Bank..

“Just goes to show: whenever we think that this business is all grown up, and that all the drama is past, and that things are quieting down, something unexpected happens and the competitive balance gets turned upside down. It's just hard to imagine that when the executives at Oracle or HP or IBM looked out at the world to assess where the next wave of competition would come from, that they decided it would come from three very large and very impatient global customers,” writes Bob Evans in Information Week.

“This one's going to be very fun to watch.”