According to Apple, the company has seen almost 300 million worldwide visitors so far in its fiscal 2012…To give you some type of comparison, by July 2011, the population of the United States was estimated to be 311 million people.
There is also an interesting data point from Apple’s retail Genius Bar. According to the company, 50,000 people get serviced at a Genius Bar around the world, every single day.
That’s no joke. Stand outside an Apple store for a few minutes and you will see hordes of people, of all ages and types, looking for help.
It’s actually quite impressive that they haven’t had any major problems with customer service.
Sikhism, the world’s fifth most popular religion, emerged more than 500 years ago in Punjab, in what is now India. It was founded by Guru Nanak, a non-practicing Hindu who was against rituals and praying to idols.
It is a monotheistic faith that believes in equality and service to others.
Doing good deeds is important for you to be with God after death, says Raghunandan Johar. Sikhs believe that if you don’t live a life full of good deeds you will be reborn and repeat the circle of life and death.
At a typical gurdwara (temple), the doors open up at 6 a.m. for prayers. A formal service includes the singing of hymns and a team of leaders who have studied the faith reciting from the Guru Granth Sahib, Sikhism’s holy scriptures. That book, more than 1,400 pages long, includes writings from Sikhism’s 10 gurus as well as writers from other religions.
Most Sikh men don’t cut their hair and wear turbans and beards. Many American Sikh women dress like other Westerners or wear the salwar kameez, a traditional north Indian garment of a long shirt and loose-fitting pants.
Today may very well live in infamy as the day the cable companies died. Internet giant Google announced its new, groundbreaking Google Fiber, a broadband service that will bring breakneck 1Gbps internet speed to Kansas City — service far faster and far cheaper than that offered by traditional cable companies.
How fast is Google’s 1Gbps service? Competitor Comcast recently announced it would launch 305Mbps speed service to much of the Northeast at a cost of $299.95 per month…at 1,000 Mbps, Google Fiber cost of just $70 per month.
Google Fiber allows you to combine your cable TV and internet service into one product, for just $120 per month. Getting service to your house will require you pay a $300 service initiation fee — a fee that’s waved if you agree to keep Google Fiber service for a minimum of two years.
And the remote control for your Google Fiber TV service? It’s a Nexus 7 tablet.
If you’re looking for a lower priced internet option, Google Fiber has you covered there, too. Anyone who pays the $300 connection fee can opt to receive 5Mbps service for free for seven years. That’s an unheard of bargain — you can essentially buy seven years’ worth of internet service for just $3.57 a month.
In the first decade of the 21st century, the population of the world produced more economic output than in the first 19 centuries of the common era combined.
If people do make history, then two people make twice as much history as one. Since there are almost 7 billion people alive today, it follows that they are making seven times as much history as the 1 billion alive in 1811.
Measured in years lived, the present century, which is only ten years old, is already “longer” than the whole of the 17th century.
Over 23% of all the goods and services made since 1AD were produced from 2001 to 2010, according to an updated version of Angus Maddison’s figures.
55% of all goods and services were made in the 20th century.
Venture capitalists invested $5.8 billion in 758 deals in the first quarter of 2012.
The report shows that after a strong fourth quarter 2011, VC investment activity for the quarter fell 19 percent in terms of dollars and 15 percent in the number of deals compared to the fourth quarter of 2011 when $7.1 billion was invested in 889 deals.
Life Sciences and Clean Technology sectors saw decreases
Double-digit percentage increases in the Consumer Products and Services, and Telecommunications industries.
The Software industry received the highest level of funding for all industries
The app makes it easy to get involved and includes some innovative (and fun) ways to learn about the work of the United Nations. An interactive photo-scramble game, “Pieces of Peace,” gives users the ability to have fun while they learn by unscrambling photos taken around the world that are related to the work of the UN. The game includes ways for users to learn as they play, helping build awareness and knowledge about international issues. Integrated social media options also allow users to organically share this content with friends, brag about their photo-unscrambling prowess, and encourage them to get involved. Continue reading →
“Last Friday was my last day at the White House. As I begin my fellowship at Harvard University, I’d like to share my reflections on public service…”
So begins, Vivek’s 12-page summary of his time in the Obama administration (the full version can be found via Alex Howard’s GovFresh piece).
I’ve been a big fan of Vivek’s, since his days as the CTO of Washington, DC. When he was named the first Fed CIO, it was big news in the tech community, especially in DC.
Each and every move he made, we followed. You have to remember that during the Bush years the exciting news was that the White House press core “had a blogger” (not to mention Bush didn’t use email). Then Obama came into office full of blackberry, twitter, facebook, and web prowess.
Every geek in the nation was rooting for some gear to get into the White House. We wanted cell phones, laptops (Macbooks!), modern websites, social media, podcasts, etc.
In the midst of this Bush/Obama collision arrived Vivek, fresh off amazingly innovative programs in DC: real-time tracking of city projects, GIS for municipal services, and co-location of engineers in schools.
Then he hit the Federal bureaucracy.
On the first day “they handed me a stack of documents with $27 billion worth of technology projects…years behind schedule…millions over budget.”
“Those documents were what passed for real-time updates on the performance of IT projects. My neighbor’s ten-year-old could look up the latest stats of his favorite baseball player on his phone on the school bus, but I couldn’t get an update on how we were spending billions of taxpayer dollars while at my desk in the White House.”
That stack of documents became his fighting spirit. No IT professional could claim any cred if they worked off binders and printouts.
“…from a small, nondescript office in downtown Washington, we spent many long nights fueled by coffee, thinking big about how we could transform our Government through technology.”
“I was ready to embark on a technology revolution…that would crack down on wasteful spending; increase the efficiency and effectiveness of government; enable an open, transparent, and participatory democracy; advance the cybersecurity posture of the nation; and most importantly, improve delivery of citizen services.”
Yeah, he was on fire.
The first big step was to bring that same real-time tracking pioneered in DC to the Federal Government, which is a lot like going from a tricycle to a spaceship.
“The Federal Government is the largest purchaser of IT on the planet, with over $80 billion spent on over 12,000 systems every year…to shine a light on (that spending) we launched the federal IT Dashboard in June 2009.”
“The Dashboard is a website where people can monitor every IT project..as easily as they can monitor their personal investment portfolios. If a project is over budget, or behind schedule, the Dashboard tells you so – and shows a picture of the person in charge.”
You gotta love the picture of the person in charge. Imagine having your face next to a project that is $100 million over budget. In quick order they “saved $3 billion and cut the time to deliver projects in half.”
And then to show that good ideas have legs, they “open-sourced the IT Dashboard and released all of our training materials. Within hours, 38 states and multiple countries reached out to express interest in adopting it to improve transparency and accountability. It’s already been downloaded more than 2,500 times across the world.”
Within months we went from a President who doesn’t have email to open source code!
My favorite section from the piece is not the numbers and projects but the personal anecdotes that Vivek shares. It’s part of what, in my opinion, makes him such a great leader (and great person).
“I was born in New Delhi, India, and lived in Tanzania until I was eleven. I came to America in 1985…I couldn’t speak English when I first arrived. I recall my first days at school in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and seeing a couple of African American kids around my age. They reminded me of my friends in Tanzania, so I walked up to them and starting speaking in Swahili. I was promptly met by strange looks, so I started speaking even louder to make sure they understood me. I suspect they thought I was making fun of them because the next thing I knew, I was being beaten up. Not the warm welcome I was expecting.”
But back to the tech: we get to the biggest project of his tenure, cloud computing.
“With the economy facing the worst recession since the Great Depression, one program – Cash for Clunkers – provided rebates to people who traded in older cars for new, more fuel-efficient ones. But just three days after its launch, the system for processing these rebates collapsed.”
“One hot DC August night during the height of this mess, I emerged at 4 a.m. from the Department of Transportation after 14 straight hours working…to keep servers online and the site operational.
“When I was Director of Infrastructure Technology in Arlington County, I knew down to the street address where each of our data center facilities was located and what was in them. Yet when I asked how many data centers the Federal Government had, nobody could give me the answer.
“It took agencies eight months to produce an initial inventory of their data centers. All told, the number of Federal data centers has more than quadrupled since 1998, from 432 to more than 2000. Yet on average, they are only 27 percent utilized.
“That’s why the Federal Government is actively shutting down 800 data centers by 2015.”
As of now the Federal Government is moving full speed into the cloud.
Which, of course, brings up the security concerns. As more of our critical systems go online we face an increasing risk of cataclysm.
“From power plants to stock exchanges, hospitals to banks, our Nation’s critical infrastructure systems are increasingly wired and, as a result, increasingly vulnerable to cyber-attacks.”
Finally, the last of Vivek’s projects, transparency.
“In this approach we also need to be mindful, however, that security is used too often as an excuse to justify the Government operating in a closed, secretive, and opaque manner.
“We almost have an IT cartel that’s made up of a few companies that benefit from government spending because they understand the procurement process better than anyone else, not because they provide better technology.
His response was to re-create the Apps for Democracy program but in a bigger, more permanent way.
“…we threw open DC’s warehouse of public data so that everyone – constituents, policymakers, and businesses – could meet in a new digital public square. We started with 200 live data feeds – everything from government contracts to crime statistics to economic development. And to spur citizens to turn this data into applications that the government didn’t have the resources to create on its own, we launched the “Apps for Democracy” contest, offering prizes for the best applications based on the data we released.
“We ran Data.gov like a lean start-up. On day one, we launched with a Minimum Viable Product with only 47 datasets. Two years later, there are 389,907 datasets covering every government mission area, from health care to public safety.
“Data.gov has spawned a global movement – 21 nations, 29 states, 11 cities, and several international organizations have established open data platforms.
In many ways Vivek is not a traditional White House appointee. His projects were big but not flashy. They tackled the hardest problems big IT faces (spending, cloud, security, and openness) and did so in a lasting way. Each of these projects are now fundamental elements of the Federal Government, which is an awesome legacy.
Americans may not know his name or even understand his work, but in Vivek’s own words: “We saved billions in taxpayer dollars; we adopted game changing technologies; we strengthened the cybersecurity posture of the nation while making it more open, transparent, and participatory.”
A truly successful CIO.
Good luck to you, Vivek, in your new position:
“…my work at Harvard, focusing on how we can use information technology to solve our nation’s and the world’s most pressing problems.
Definitely a good situation to be in, but with so much money to be made the powerhouses, like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy, want in. In response Amazon is making an agressive move with what I call, warehousing.
The official title of this program is Fulfillment by Amazon, which I think is a cagey way of understating their moves. They don’t want to alert the competition. The program involves Amazon building huge warehouses to store and ship goods. At first it was just to sell their own goods but it has since expanded to every seller.
Now anyone can list their products on the site and send them to an Amazon warehouse. The retailer will hold them until they sell then quickly package and ship.
It’s working really well. It makes selling even more easier, which is hard because I think Amazon has the best/easiest model for selling goods on the web. It just invites more and more to join and continually expands Amazon’s offerings. This increases the fees they get for each sale and corners the market (eating Ebay‘s lunch). It’s working so well that big box retailer, Target, is selling on Amazon, in essence forcing others to partner with Amazon rather than compete.
On a side note, is gives Amazon a small risk. In good times they ship and sell, while working hard to be an efficient warehouse that keep costs down on packaging and shipping. In bad times they could be left with large staffs, full warehouses, and bleeding money. Definitely, something to think about.
That risk requires Amazon to be agressive and keep on selling, which is exactly where they need to be (hungry). Which is exactly what I look for in a company to invest in.
Amazon’s Web Service
Now lets switch to another focus, the cloud. A popular topic these days and everyone is making a play. But all the plays are for cloud applications. Not Amazon, they are building real estate that the applications will run on. The program is called Amazon Web Service (AWS).
Through investments of 100s of millions that have baffled Wall Street they have created incredible economies of scale. Like server capacity for $0.12/hour and storage for $0.12/GB. Offerings so cheap they are irresistible. It’s a play to undercut everyone on the market and it’s working. No one else on the market can compete and if they wanted to it would take years to build.
To which the common stock market analyst quips; there’s not much money in $2.99/ month hosting fees. True enough but if you add up several million of those and combine it with a rapidly growing personal website market it changes the story. Remember, in the future everyone will have their own website and they will be paying someone to host it.
I’m barely touching the surface too. Corporations, all of them, are going to need computing power. They can build it themselves (and many will) but a large majority will outsource it. A billion dollar market and Amazon will dominate that as well.
Take a look at their product listing, it’s impressive:
This is kind of like buying Manhattan Island before the settlers arrive and then renting out each acre. It’s an endless supply of money.
I saved e-books for last because the topic so popular that everything tends to get ignored. In a nutshell, Amazon made its bones as an online bookstore but that industry (paper books) is on the decline. You can buy nearly any book for a couple of dollars and that means very low fees for Amazon to profit on.
In response they created the Kindle to spark the e-book industry and got lucky. The Kindle hit at a time when, really, no one else was competing in the e-book market. Add in that, thanks to the iPhone, app stores are the key to building the market. To which Amazon responded perfectly. Their push to get every book they can on the Kindle is legendary and the fights have been fun.
Now millions of books are available on the Kindle and it is bringing in billions for them. Some reports say it is now 10% of their sales and generating $5+ billion in revenue. Great numbers but what is more important is that Amazon took its primary business, reinvented it, created a hugely profitable industry, and is dominating it.
Add up all three of these major moves and I think Amazon is well positioned for the future.
Next I will make my first attempt to gauge the P/E earnings on the stock and determine my own target price for the stock!