Top 10 Highlights from FiReGlobal: Michael Dell, Lee Hartwell, Irwin Jacobs, and More

10/16/09Follow @gthuang

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Dell’s future business. Interestingly, he thinks netbooks are topping out at 12 to 15 percent of the market, because of their small screen size. And in response to a question from Tricia Duryee of mocoNews, he said Dell will start selling Android smartphones in the U.S. next year. (It already sells smartphones in China.) This raises interesting questions about how much computing people will want to do on their phones versus laptops and netbooks—more on this below.

5. Nobel Laureates have problems too. Lee Hartwell, president and director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, lamented about the severe difficulties in getting early diagnostics for cancer and other diseases into clinical use. The problem, Hartwell said, is that there’s “no good business model” for getting new diagnostics through the FDA approval process. The technology for analyzing proteins associated with diseases is coming along, he said, but the financing for clinical trials is not. (This is an issue that Lee Hood’s new startup, Integrated Diagnostics, will face.)

4. Social technologies can help in policymaking. A panel of mobile experts and civic leaders, led by Chetan Sharma, proposed a way to improve public discourse and communication with governments by using text messaging, social media, and cloud-based data storage to get more citizens involved. A simple example would be to embed public opinion surveys in parking meters, so that you receive a parking discount by texting your vote on an issue (like what to do with the Seattle viaduct). The broader topic overlaps a bit with two local startups, Survey Analytics (IdeaScale) and Wetpaint. (One thorny point: the panel recommended “saving” journalists by having them “do analysis, investigative work for think tanks, and policy making.” Which goes to show that non-journalists do not understand journalists.)

3. The sky’s the limit for mobile. Irwin Jacobs, the co-founder and former chairman and CEO of Qualcomm, said in a chat with the UW’s Ed Lazowska that he foresees mobile devices being used increasingly for video—people will store video clips on their phone itself—and for education—kids will read textbooks and get access to lectures on these devices. At the same time, Jacobs said, there will still be a large market for a bigger device (with a 10-inch screen, say) that stays connected to the network and needs more battery power. He thinks the iPhone broke through some major barriers, in terms of the user interface, and now we’ll see a lot more competition in mobile applications.

2. Facebook and the iPhone are up there with PCs and the Internet. Not sure I agree with this one, but Rob Glaser of RealNetworks listed his top five tech platforms of the modern era, in terms of economic opportunities: the IBM personal computer, the Windows operating system, the Internet, Facebook, and the iPhone/iPod Touch. (Twitter did not make his list yet.) Glaser argued that these two recent phenomena belong because they create huge strategic and commercial opportunities, reach more than 50 million users each (300 million for Facebook), and are general-purpose.

1. Social media is good for stalking Rob Glaser. John Cook of TechFlash said he’s learned all kinds of things about Glaser by following his tweets (e.g., he’s a fan of Pearl Jam, baseball, and Scrabble). But more importantly, Glaser said social media has become crucial for entrepreneurs, for managing your brand, and for effecting change in society. He pointed to last fall’s U.S. Presidential election, and how Barack Obama “out-organized” the Clintons—no small feat—by using social media to rally his supporters. (If only social media could work that way with Congress.)

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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