Innovation, the US and China

If you haven’t read the excellent How U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work in the New York Times, you should do so now. The story describes a seismic shift in technology that many haven’t noticed until only recently.

A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”

Similar stories could be told about almost any electronics company — and outsourcing has also become common in hundreds of industries, including accounting, legal services, banking, auto manufacturing and pharmaceuticals.

Charles Duhigg and Keith Brasaher- How U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work

It’s also worth reading Why China Wins after you’ve read the first article for additional context:

Go to the lobby of the Sheraton Four Points in Shenzhen — or a dozen hotels like it. Table-after-table is a white guy from middle America trying to make his company competitive again sitting with a Chinese factory head or “fixer” who can get them into the right factories. It’s not unlike wandering into Cuppa Cafe in Palo Alto and seeing table-after-table of VC sitting with hopeful entrepreneurs.

It shocks me that people always assume the Chinese can only make inferior products when Apple– the gold standard of well-made products– is made in China. Sure, China can make shitty products for cheap. But it can also make the world’s best products. Again, like Silicon Valley can produce a bloated, uninteresting startup like Color and a nimble startup like Instagram that millions love. The startup machinery doesn’t make a company great or bad. It just makes whatever is put into it, more efficiently than any other place. Ditto China and manufacturing.

Sarah Lacy – Why China Wins

If you haven’t tossed all of your old assumptions about quality, innovation, China and the future already, you should do so now. If you want to be prepared for the future, you can’t carry old expectations as baggage.

Apple, Flash and the Web

this whole saga is much more about Apple’s ability to control its own destiny than it is about revenge, cynicism, or pride. Apple nearly died in the 1990s. It was so far gone that it took money from Microsoft and had to pray that second-class ports of Internet Explorer would keep the Mac relevant in an increasingly online world.

Apple is not going to let anything like that happen again.

Matt Drance – Cocoa, Flash, and Safari

Matt’s article Cocoa, Flash, and Safari, provides insight into the current battle pitting Apple against Adobe on the iPhone and iPad. I highly recommend you take two minutes to read the piece to gain an understanding of the present and future of the platform and the business behind it.

Great Podcasts

It’s been a couple of years since I wrote about my favorite podcasts, but a recent discussion with Jonathan has nudged me to document my current recommendations.

My Top Five Six

(in no order…)

Radiolab

Radiolab focuses on a single “Big IDea” per episode, using the medium of sound to the fullest extent possible. It is indescribable, so I will simply say that if you subscribe to nothing else on this list, you must experience Radiolab.

The International Spy Museum’s Spycast

How can you beat a show hosted by a man with over three decades of experience in espionage made up of interviews with “ex-spies, intelligence experts, and espionage scholars.” It is a truly fascinating glimpse into the shadows.

This American Life

Most people reading this have likely been listening to This American Life for a while, but just in case you haven’t experienced what is quite possibly one of the best shows to ever ride the radio waves, I list it here.

The History of Rome

Being the history geek that I am, I love this series, which traces “the history of the Roman Empire, beginning with Aeneas’s arrival in Italy and ending (someday) with the exile of Romulus Augustulus, last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire.”

In Our Time

This BBC podcast covers an amazing array of topics under the banner of discussing “the history of ideas”. Isaac Newton, the samurai, genetics and the philosophy behind Communism are a small sampling of the topics you can hear each week.

The Moth

The Moth is a series of storytelling events held in several cities around the US, from which they take some of the funniest and most poignant to place on the podcast.

More Awesome Podcasts

You should get these too. They may not be in my top five, but the fact that I listen to them still speaks highly of their value – I’m pretty brutal about cutting out shows that aren’t amazing.

The Engines of Our Ingenuity

John Lienhard’s stories and perspective on the history of our technology and its impact on culture are inviting and informative. It’s a nice short podcast, every episode of which teaches me something.

NPR: Sports with Frank Deford

While I like to watch some sports (football and boxing for the most part), Frank Deford can hook me no matter which sport or aspect of the business of sports he decides to talk about. He is an amazing story-teller who truly cares about the subject and the people who play.

On the Media

Yet another NPR show that fills my iPod. If you care in the least about how the media works nd its impact on those of us who consume it, you need to listen to the show. On the Media ‘explores how the media “sausage” is made, casts an incisive eye on fluctuations in the marketplace of ideas, and examines threats to the freedom of information and expression in America and abroad. For one hour a week, the show tries to lift the veil from the process of “making media,” especially news media, because it’s through that lens that we literally see the world and the world sees us.’

The ATX Web Show

While this is a bit of a niche, Dave Rupert and friends put together a great show highlighting the Web design and development community here in town. It’s a great way to keep up with the future.

60 Second Psych & 60 Second Science

Exactly as their names imply, each of these podcasts come in bite-sized chunks, ready to make you smarter and help you understand how things truly work in the world at large and the world in our brain.

12 Byzantine Rulers

Lars Brownworth’s love of the subject is clear from the first minute and will quickly attract anyone interested in history. As noted on the site, Mr. Brownworth’s “passion for Byzantine history has taken him on travels from the furthest reaches of the Byzantine Empire right into Constantinople, (present day Istanbul) the very heart of Byzantium. He has traveled and studied Byzantine history extensively and produced this lecture series giving us an overview of Byzantine history as seen through 12 of its greatest rulers.”

Norman Centuries

Another great history podcast from Lars Brownworth, starts with the humble beginnings of the Normans traces the path of the Normans over the two centuries that they “launched a series of extraordinary conquests, transforming Anglo-Saxon England into Great Britain, setting up a powerful Crusader state in Antioch, and turning Palermo into the dazzling cultural and economic capital of the western Mediterranean”.

What am I Missing

What are your favorite podcasts?

Secure Passwords and Your iPhone

1Password Icon1Password, an amazingly useful password manager for the Mac has just released a beta version which provides the ability to auto-fill and submit your passwords on the iPhone. This is a massive improvement for anyone who uses even slightly secure passwords, but gets frustrated when inputting them via the on-screen keyboard.

The info is stored using 448-bit Blowfish encryption on the iPhone itself, and requires that you input a master password on the phone, so there isn’t any communication with external devices. So, now you have the ability to use secure passwords sans frustration, for all of your accounts, knowing that your passwords will stay secure.

If you don’t have a Mac, I’m afraid you are out of luck. But, if you do have a Mac, you need to download 1Password, it is a great program, that makes my life much much easier every day – seriously. The addition of the iPhone autofill bookmarklet has now made the program invaluable.

Mmmm….iPhone

Images snagged from Apple
Images snagged from Apple
Just announced at Macworld: The Apple iPhone

iPhone combines three products — a revolutionary mobile phone, a widescreen iPod with touch controls, and a breakthrough Internet communications device with desktop-class email, web browsing, maps, and searching — into one small and lightweight handheld device. iPhone also introduces an entirely new user interface based on a large multi-touch display and pioneering new software, letting you control everything with just your fingers.

This is the ultimate device: beautiful phone with a ton of major feature and usability enhancements, iPod, PDA (running OS X), digital camera with Wifi, and Bluetooth in addition to the cell connections.

Coming in June, though sadly, only to Cingular. This is the first time I’ve ever been seriously tempted to leave Sprint for cell service.