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Musings from Philippe

Sailing, Mountains, Music, and Technology

Nanotechnology and micro machines

Nanotechnology and micro machines

The shrinking image sensors have allowed us to ship 1 billion camera phones in 2007. Now the same is happening with all sorts of other sensors. The key is MEMS technology, our ability to make mechanical and electromagnetic devices ever smaller. A digital compass the size of a needle-pin. Five gyroscopes that can be fitted in the form-factor of a dime. All this represents major technology breakthroughs. There is major innovation in building the hardware and now the software that makes it all work.

We are less than a decade away from the medical lab the size of a sugar cube.

We are less than a decade away from a truly non-invasive blood glucose and heart monitor.

We are close to the the next revolution in managing our world.

Happy Holidays

2006 has been a great year of Building technology.



Continuing to bring together the greatest core team.

Inventing the future is hard work. There is no feeling like that one. It’s like magic when you start seeing the technology really working.

2006 is winding down while even more excitement is building into 2007.

Happy Holidays.

Always-On Technology

As the second disastrous hurricane makes landfall, Rita after Katrina, I can’t help but to think how always-on technology in particular wireless applied to life sciences could have helped hundreds of thousand of Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida and Texas residents. There is an immense sense of purpose in innovating and inventing a future that will radically improve everyone’s lives. This is now especially true when we see the magnitude of some of the natural disasters that so many are facing. Ultimately there is no better satisfaction than to be working on solutions that will improve and help everyone’s lives. It’s clear that our Fullpower team has now an even greater sense of purpose.

Repeat Business Success and Vision

1. Founding Fullpower and making LightSurf a Success:
We started Fullpower at the beginning of 2003 while LightSurf was doubling its size year to year. Fullpower is today where LightSurf was in 2002/2003: An industry-defining vision of huge potential. We are keeping our focus confidential, as we have learned over the years: Quietly develop the breakthrough technology, build success, and then talk about it. That’s a little different than what most companies do these days. Let me just say that Fullpower will be my fourth successful technology company, our potential is huge, and I am very excited about it.

2. Launching Fullpower after making LightSurf a success
LightSurf is a great vision because effectively we invented Camera-phones in 1997. When we founded the company before anyone, anywhere had seen them. Now they are everywhere in the world, and LightSurf has key patents, inventions, customers, and a great business. Right before our IPO, we were acquired by a great company Verisign, and I think that this will help accelerate the vision and the technology for LightSurf. It’s also yet a case where “another child leaves the nest after 7 years of hard work,” but it is nice because this is a “happy child”.

3. Founding LightSurf after making Starfish a success:
There are always emotional attachments to the team-members, the technology, the customers in any business. But when there is a successful outcome like with Borland (where the company continues independently) or Starfish (where the company is successfully acquired), it is like having children that grow up and successfully leave the family home to start their own families. It’s a “happy transition”.

4. Founding Starfish after leaving Borland:
I left Borland, then a US public company, because of a profound disagreement with the board of Directors. It was 1994 and I could see the wireless and the Internet as “the next big market opportunity.” The Board did not want to have anything to do with it. As a CEO, you must have board support. I didn’t have it—so I left abruptly to build outside of Borland what I wanted to build “inside of Borland.” We founded Starfish software and pioneered synchronization and integrations of wireless devices. This was a great business opportunity because we were innovating in a high-growth market and after 12 years—where every day I was competing with Bill Gates and Microsoft—Microsoft was not present in that market. Starfish became a great success and Motorola acquired our company in 1998 just as we were about to do an IPO.

5. What I learned at Borland:
Great company, great success. We were the only viable competitor to Microsoft. I am proud that I “built the company to last.” Borland is still around a successful public company with a leadership for professional software development tools. Note that none of the companies that were famous at the time are still around: Lotus, Software Publishing, Visicorp, Wordperfect, Netscape etc… They are all essentially gone. The challenge that I had at Borland was competition with Microsoft, which is much clearer to everyone today after one look at the faith of companies such as Netscape. All this said, Borland is the company that was my training ground for 12 years, and I learned so much. We built the company on innovation and had to compete with the toughest company in the world, Microsoft. That was the best business school in the world for a Mathematician who at the time knew nothing about business!

What do people want most from mobile content right now?

I was recently interviewed for Ericsson’s On Magazine by Xeni Jardin. The focus is mobile content:

What do people want most from mobile content right now?

There are two types of content — personally created content such as PictureMail or VideoMail, and commercial content. PictureMail and VideoMail are booming right now with providers such as Sprint in North America and DoCoMo in Japan. Brandname content is always hot — the very latest or most classical hits for ringtones, the most trusted sources of information for news and sports. And naturally, people want content that will display optimally on their handsets. These forms of content connect you to the world, but people also want content that makes a handset cooler, more personal and more about them — ringtones or wallpapers, for example.

What are some of the more unexpected sources?

Not unlike the Web-based desktop world, everything from the worst to the best is out there. It’s incredibly cool to be able to receive pictures of the NASA Saturn probe right on my handset. And I love the little VideoMail my 7-year-old daughter Sophie sent me from her piano lesson. It just made my day to hear her play the first measures of Debussy’s Children’s Corner. I was so proud, I shared it with everyone in my business meetings that day. We all had a big smile, and the business at hand suddenly seemed that much easier to accomplish. Sometimes, mobile content can capture bits of everyday life in such a way that they become unusual, special and emotionally powerful.

Does adding images significantly change the nature of text or verbal communication?

Bob Goldstein recently asked me whether I thought adding images significantly changes the nature of text or verbal communication, and if so, how? His perceptive question prompted a very interesting dialogue on how our business and personal lives benefit from these wonderful new communication advances. I’ve decided to make this the first entry and introduction to my new blog, technically speaking, because it captures the excitement and possibilities of the emerging visual communications ecosystem, which I personally am thrilled to be part of. This blog is where I’ll keep you posted on my ideas and observations as it all unfolds.

BG: How is the role of the phone as a communication and information device changing with the addition of visual and expanded text capabilities?
Philippe Kahn: A picture is worth a thousand words…now with full motion, VideoMail may be worth a million words when it comes to communicating. Once you try it, you have to have it!

BG: What examples can you cite of businesses successfully using cameraphones to improve their business processes?
Philippe Kahn: I see it every day; simple day-to-day communications are much improved with the ability to blend images and full motion clips with voice clips. In some ways this is a simpler and more effective way to use e-mail or voicemail when on the go and wanting a personal touch to communications, or having to express complex concepts where visuals may make a big difference.

BG: What kinds of images are being captured – are they “disposable” or worth storing and integrating into an enterprise’s information infrastructure?
Philippe Kahn: It’s important to emphasize pictures, sound and video. So it is about multimedia. That is why MMS is so important. Like any form of user created content, some of it has no future relevance and some of it does. That one that has should be saved and archived.

BG: What kind of visual information is being sent to the mobile devices? Is the data sent primarily phone to phone or from nodes on the network?
Philippe Kahn: It is both. That’s because some users are in their cubicles and others are on the go, using their handsets.

BG: What trends do you see in the adoption patterns of cameraphones in the business environment? Is adoption driven from the bottom up, with individual knowledge workers taking the initiative and innovating on their own, or from the top down, where a corporate decision-maker has a vision for innovation?
Philippe Kahn: It’s a bit like the personal computer in the early days: driven by users and later embraced by IT.

BG: How has the expansion of the mobile device capability beyond voice to text and images changed your role in relation to business clients? Are you now more of an extension of corporate information networks?
Philippe Kahn: Our business is MMS solutions and services so the richer the media the more significant our relationship.

BG: How do you see video playing in the business market?
Philippe Kahn: Video is huge. That’s because in 15 seconds you can say and show a lot, yet it is very easy to put together and share with a very large group. Once you start using it, you understand how effective video is as a communications tool.

BG: How will mobile devices evolve?
Philippe Kahn: Convergence is happening and your handset will only get better at capturing, displaying and sharing information and managing all your messaging needs on the go.

BG: What about specialty devices for specific applications and markets?
Philippe Kahn: There will always be devices that are appropriate for certain markets like insurance, real-estate, land surveillance, law enforcement. That’s also true for personal computers and PDAs. However the general-purpose multimedia handsets are going to get better, better and better.

BG: How about in terms of enhanced capabilities?
Philippe Kahn: As convergence devices, you’ll have ones that can “see in the dark”, that are ruggedized, that can hear the almost inaudible, that can scan documents or act as pocket fax machines. The possibilities are infinite.

BG: And in terms of DRM and privacy issues?
Philippe Kahn: DRM is no different here than it is with MP3 players or personal computers. Good security and DRM is essential in providing a full healthy ecosystem, that allows for business success at all levels in the food chain.

BG: What about storage on devices and on servers, and quality of display?
Philippe Kahn: Multimedia by nature consumes storage space and powerful applications have a rich server side. So the future is for smart and synergistic device to network symbiotic partnerships for useful applications. All components of these converged devices are improving rapidly. That includes device and sound as well as the camera portion and all other components. The dynamism here is very important, as the cost of upgrading a device is minimal, unlike for example, with personal computers.

BG: Final thoughts on the effect of broadband access?
Philippe Kahn: Because the powerful applications are multimedia-based and involve a cooperative handset/server relationship, the better the wireless bandwidth, the better the solutions. It also goes to show that the improvements will continue in the decades to come.

These are just some of the issues that we have been working on at LightSurf recently. Come back and see what we’re up to as I will be posting new blog entries here on a regular basis.

The interview excerpts are from the upcoming book, GOING VISUAL, by Alexis Gerard and Bob Goldstein, to be published by John Wiley in February, 2005.

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