Dear Google and Rackspace: don't screw up Google Glass like Microsoft screwed up tablets
I worked at Microsoft in 2003-2006. Key years for its tablet PC efforts. Microsoft had something like the iPad way before Steve Jobs shipped one. But they screwed it all up.
I saw how. Bill Gates knew it was the future. But he didn't demand a really new operating system that couldn't run old apps. That's not really what screwed Microsoft's efforts, though. It was employee malaise. Lack of belief that tablets were the future of computing.
You see, back then every Microsoft employee had a big ass Dell system. Most of the programmers had huge screens. Just sat at their desks all day long. Didn't think about why people outside in the real world might want a tablet. Were too busy serving existing customers who, even years later, continue making Microsoft one of the most profitable businesses known to humans.
When I walked around campus only a very small percentage held tablet computers. There wasn't any pressure on execs to really change everything they were doing, either from above, or from employees below.
They didn't believe.
Corporate belief is a really important thing. It's the dirty work that +Larry Page
pays +Vic Gundotra
Belief? Programmers don't care about that, right? After all, if the code compiles, that's what matters. Not whether you believe it will change the world, right?
There were customers out there who knew tablets WOULD change the world. Even some employees. Heck, Microsoft and +Bill Gates
did invest in tablets. Something I thought was brave of Gates, he knew that if he didn't get to the future someone else would. It's just that he was up against too many people who didn't believe that Gates had the right impulses and there was way too much profit serving the Windows and Office brands (and the people who ran those businesses didn't believe in tablets and weren't willing to make the investments necessary to serve this new device and paradigm).
Which gets us to why I'm writing publicly to both my coworkers and to all of those at Google.
If we don't believe that wearables are the future we will continue to invest in what customers are paying us to do today.
Belief is hugely important inside a technology company. It will drive you on every decision. Don't believe in a contextual future where companies need to run with about 100x the data they run on today? Then you will never invest in the people, systems, and very real costs of datacenters that you will need to.
Don't believe that these kids of the future are going to wear a ton of stuff that has computing embedded? Then you never will build it and you'll let some very smart competitor like Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg or Tim Cook do it and reap all the rewards, even though you were the first to show the world the future.
There's a lot on Google's side of the fence that needs to happen:
1. Gotta give us a real API so that there can be real apps. Right now there isn't one.
2. We need real apps from across the Google ecosystem, like YouTube, Maps, Photos, ChromeCast, Docs and Spreadsheets, and others. Right now there aren't any.
3. We need a low price. That might even mean you need to subsidize Google Glass as a brand for four or five years. Price it at $299 or lower and these high school girls can afford a pair. $500? I think they would rather have an iPad if we really got them to tell the truth. Anything more than $500? It's dead. (UPDATE: I am hearing from Glass team members that the price will be a lot higher than what I expect. They say it will be justified by the utility that ships when the Glass ships. Lots of changes ahead, they told me).
4. You need to ship BEFORE Apple ships its iWatch. Why? My friends have seen the iWatch already and are telling me it's stunning and will blow away anything the market has seen before for the wrist. If Apple gets out first, then Apple can define the wearable market and take away all the hard work that Google has done to this point to build its wearable device. If you aren't shipping by May you are dead. Period. It's that important.
For the Rackers (what +Rackspace
employees call ourselves):
1. You need to push +OpenStack
to be even more flexible and high performance than it needed to yet. Far more flexible and high performance. Ask yourselves, can OpenStack stand up to 100x the performance needs of today? If everyone is walking around with 150 sensors on (I predict I'll be there by the end of 2014 -- I know of some shoes coming out next year that will have hundreds of sensors on them alone) can OpenStack deal with that data flow? You better be ready for an answer by May 2014 too. Even if Google Glass fails the Apple iWatch will be pushing more data to our customers than the iPhone currently does and I bet that Apple will sell many millions of those. Plus, add in the contextual efforts that baseball and others are about to undertake. If we aren't ready with new systems designed to keep up with streams of new data then our customers will go somewhere else.
2. We need to continue to be good corporate friends of +OpenStack
and its partners. We got the market to believe in that (thousands of people show up to your design summits, and CERN, Comcast, and tons of big and important companies are both using and contributing to OpenStack. Don't screw that up. But you WILL need to get everyone involved in OpenStack to understand that we are entering a new contextual age and that will require massive innovation. How does that get done without one of the many partners (many of whom are bigger and more important than Rackspace) putting a wrench in the innovation and slowing it down? Even more importantly, how does Rackspace continue to not do the same? If OpenStack disappears then the one shot to have the industry collaborating together on infrastructure disappears too. Belief is very important. Where we focus the energy is very important. The next 18 months are going to be critical to whether OpenStack is relevant to the contextual world or not.
3. Rackspace needs to believe in the future. Every business will be affected by the wearable, social, location, and sensor technologies (I call this contextual technology, because it will know your personal context) and every business will need to rebuild its infrastructure to support it. Will they need to learn Mongo DB? Yes? NodeJS? Yes. And maybe hundreds of other technologies, most of which will be open source, by the way. Will those new technologies run best on OpenStack and/or the Rackspace Open Cloud (the way they do today)? If so, we remain relevant and in business. If not, by 2024 we'll be another curiosity in the Computer History Museum.
4. Will you make Object Rocket http://www.objectrocket.com/
even faster? (We acquired this company recently, it makes high speed MongoDB possible. So popular we can't keep them in stock). Will you bet the company on making everything like Object Rocket? Hyper fast, designed for the workloads of the personal cloud, the industrial internet, contextual computing?
Do you believe? Are you dreaming about the Google Glass world and how you'll need to rebuild your business in the next decade before of it? Or are you already writing it off as "Scoble's folly?" As something overhyped and never going to be adopted?
Just listen to these high school girls. They believe and they don't even know what it does. Just listen. The belief is there.
Will you be?
Or will you sit around and let someone else build the future after you already showed everyone the way?
Speaking of which, why isn't Google using OpenStack and supporting open technologies in its own cloud like MongoDB? Why aren't our two companies working much closer together to bring the future to all of us?
I'm tired of letting the skeptics win at companies I'm involved in. I let that happen at Microsoft. Not again.