Saturday, August 21, 2004

TI is Revived by a Marketing Guy Chasing Technology

Every recent business article on Texas Instruments talks about the revival of the company thanks to its vision for the future of digital signal processing (DSP) chips for the cellphone. They realized that DSP chips could put amazing capabilities into a cellphone, partnered with Nokia to begin the transformation of the product, and launched themselves into the most powerful position in these chips.

Surely there was a technological brain behind this realization, someone who could see the power of a core product within TI and convince the CEO to pursue it. Surely? or Surely not? Articles in Business Week, Business 2.0, and the TI web site all credit a guy from Marketing and Sales with this revelation and the salvation of the company.

Richard Templeton entered the company through the sales department (though he did have a BS degree in EE). He rose to lead the semiconductor side of the business and leveraged the move into cellphone chips.

Where was the CTO, Chief Scientist, or Technical Director to inspire him, back him up, or put the vision in front of customers like Nokia? According to published history, there wasn't one. There seems to be no reference to such a person. Does this mean that a company does not need a CTO? Can you get a two-for by hiring a President/COO who has a technical background?

"Things that make you go hmmmm..."

Business 2.0 Article: What Works: Don't Mess With Texas Instruments

Business Week Article: A Talk with TI's Richard Templeton

TI Web Bio: Richard Templeton

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Emerging Technology Conference at MIT

Executives talk about how to get technology out of the lab and into the market. Others discuss the importance of keeping the invention pipeline filled with technologies that can be harvestd on a regular basis.

The Emerging Technology Conference at MIT

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Hurricane Charley

I have been off the net for a few days because Hurricane Charley visited my neighborhood. It tore down most of the oak trees around here - but luckily did little damage to houses and roofs. We got our power pack after 1 day and telephone/internet after 2. Other parts of Florida and Orlando were not so lucky.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

S Curve vs. Z Curve: The Battle for Competitive Advantage

R&D is all about discovering technology (through research) that can be applied to a new product profitably (through development). Ivory Tower projects aside, most companies rely upon being the first with a new idea to give them a competitive advantage. That advantage can be maintained through trade secrets, patents, and complexity of application. But eventually the competition is going to find a way to match that advantage, and if possible, surpass it. Therefore, everything that R&D and the CTO do will eventually be commoditized.

This fact is why Ford Motor Company continues to invest in R&D. If Henry Ford's ideas for a modern production line had not been copied by every other car company, Ford could still rely on them for its profit margins.

Nicholas Carr draws the Z curve to illustrate the declining advantage provided by IT. It illustrates the fate of all new technologies in providing an advantage. Nothing is new and unique forever.

Web Source: Digital Renderings: The Z Curve and IT Investment

Monday, August 02, 2004

Does T Matter?

Nicholas Carr's new book, Does IT Matter? is a great exploration into the cost/benefit of new computer and software technology. The book and the earlier Harvard Business Review article have raised a hue and cry from the IT community. The fact that open discussion on this topic is so painful to many IT vendors indicates that they fear that Carr might be onto something.

In this blog we are more interested in the universal "T" (technology) than in the specific "IT". If you read Carr's book with an eye toward its meaning for the CTO, you will see that he clearly believes that technology innovation is a much more powerful and long-term method for competitive advantage than IT. IT can eliminate a lot of friction inside of a company and between the company and its suppliers or customers - like a new engine lubricant in a race car. But, like a new super-lubricant, eventually everyone will adopt it and your company will have to look elsewhere for ways to win the competitive race. That is where you must turn to proprietary technology to create a lasting and defensible competitive advantage.

There is No "I" in "CTO"

Within the IT community the title CTO is often synonymous with CIO, or perhaps subordinate to it. On the wider stage of companies that use technology to enhance their profits and competitive position, the title CTO has a unique meaning that has little to do with the CIO.

Where the CIO deals with IT services to support the company's internal operations, and sometimes external interfaces with customers, the CTO is more often focused on the development of technologies that have a direct impact on future company products. For example, Pat Gelsinger, CTO of Intel, does not handle anything to do with Intel's IT systems - internal or external. Gelsinger is directing the research, partnerships, and PR of Intel such that they are positioned for the future intersection of computing and communications. Intel sees that in the future the line between these two domains will blur and disappear. They do not intend to allow their products to be limited to the computing side of that integration. This is even more important because their competitors (e.g. AMD and Transmeta) could move squarely into the center of the computing/communicating space and displace Intel as the primary player. Gelsinger's #1 mission is top position the company so that that does not happen.

The "T" in CTO is generic. It is not limited to information, IT, computers, networks, or the Internet. It refer to the exploration of new drug development at Novartis, the creation of new construction techniques at ABB, the invention of new power sources at GE, and the incorporation of lighter airplane composites at Boeing.

CTO = Strategic technology positioning for future competitiveness - specifically applied to new products and services.

CIO = Strategic application of IT to improve internal performance - including the information interface to the customer.