Monday, April 20, 2015

LinkedIn acquires and hopes to "create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce"

Early MOOCs and Internet-based classes focused on traditional university courses, but there has been a shift of emphasis toward vocational traning and lifelong learning. has focused on vocational training and lifelong learning since its begining in 1995. They have developed over 2,900 video courses in English, German, French, Spanish, and Japanese and have 4 million subscribers in 150 countries.

LindedIn has 350 million users who are looking for career advancement and job opportunities. (It's currently the 14th most visited Web site on the Internet).

LinkedIn has acquired and one can imagine the combined company pointing users to specific courses that would help them move up in their current positions or find better jobs.

That seems to be the basic idea and they say they want to do it on an ambitious global scale. Ryan Roslansky, Head of Content at LinkedIn, says the vision of the merged company is to "create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce" and their goal is to "lift and transform the global ecomomy."

(That sounds like something you might hear in a VC pitch in the comedy TV series "Silicon Valley," but let's suspend judgement).

They hope to create an "economic graph" -- compling databases with profiles of every member of the global workforce (what they have studied and what their skills are) and the available jobs and skills required to obtain those jobs at every every company in the world. Those databases plus an inventory of courses offered by every higher education organization and university will let people find the training they need to get a specific job and let employers find the people who are qualified to do a particular job.

My first reaction is that establishing standards and definitions that would enable them to come close to that vision across a variety of industries, cultures and languages is impossible, but they might be able to create economic graphs for specific industries and countries.

I worked as a consultant to Hyundai some time ago, and the Human Resources department had a system for tracking employee skills, job skill requirements and available training classes. There are also human resources software packages like Trackstar for such systems. Perhaps LinkedIn will take a bottom-up approach, replicating this sort of system industry by industry.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post asking if there was a place for and other online training companies in the MOOC discussion. It's become clear that the answer is "yes" and with this acquisition, LinkedIn will be a prominent player and competitor to companies like Udacity and Coursera. To the extent that company hiring practices and societal certification change, they will also be an alternative to universities for students whose promary goal is getting a good job.

Here is a video of LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner describing the Economic Graph and their vision for the next ten years:

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Microsoft at 40

Microsoft was founded in April 1975, when the personal computing hobby was just beginning, and the Economist has an article on the company evolution to "middle age."

Microsoft began with development tools -- a BASIC interpreter and Pascal and Fortran compilers -- but soon moved on to Windows and later Office. Under Bill Gates, and later Steve Balmer, the company strategy was to "strengthen Windows, to make it ever more crushingly dominant." That strategy worked well during the desktop/laptop/on-premises server era, but it constrained Microsoft -- keeping them from purusing new opportunities on the Internet and mobile devices.

Current CEO Satya Nadella, shown below with Gates and Balmer, has a different strategy -- "just build stuff that people like."

That has led to the porting of Office to other operating systems and the Internet, support of open source and emphasis on their Internet platform, Azure.

The article constrasts Microsoft's middle age slump with Apple (founded in April 1976), which has passed them in profit:

and now accounts for a much larger percent of the US technology sector than Microsoft:

The Economist article is on Microsoft, but the fall from dominance of IBM, as illustrated in the above graph, is even more striking. IBM totally dominated the (smaller) technology market until a disruptive startup, Microsoft, led the revolution that toppled them.

Friday, April 10, 2015

50th anniversary of "Moore's Law"

In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore wrote an article called "Cramming more components onto integrated circuits."

In the article he said

The complexity for minimum component costs has increased at a rate of roughly a factor of two per year. Certainly over the short term this rate can be expected to continue, if not to increase. Over the longer term, the rate of increase is a bit more uncertain, although there is no reason to believe it will not remain nearly constant for at least 10 years. That means by 1975, the number of components per integrated circuit for minimum cost will be 65,000.
Note that he is not talking about what would be the largest theoretically possible chips, but about what would be cost effective.

Moore's prediction was based upon extrapolation of the history of the integrated circuits up to that time:

Note that he is predicting exponential growth -- growth at a constant percentage rate.

He does not use the term "Moore's Law" in the article, but the term/meme caught on and we are still using it to describe exponential growth of all things techie -- storage and memory density and speed, communication speed, etc.

Moore's projection held up well beyond 10 years. In this plot of the number of transistors on commercial CPU chips through 2011, the line represents doubling every two years:

The accuracy of his projection is all the more remarkable when you realize that the prediction was made six years before Intel's first CPU chip, the 4004, which had 2,300 transistors.

At some point, density increases will level off, but that point has not yet been reached. Apple's 8X system on a chip that is inside your iPad Air has 3 billion transistors.

The first electromechanical compputers used electromagnetic relays as switching elements. Folloiwing genertions moved to vacuumn tubes, transistors and today's integrated circuits. When Moore's law finaly hits the wall, will we move to another switching technology and continue improvement?

You can check out some cool Moore's Law infographics here.

Update 4/18/2015

A Re/code article says Moore's law is 50, but may not reach 60. The article quotes Intel executive Tracy Smith as saying they expect to be making chips with 5 nanometer features (about twice the size of a strand of DNA) around 2022, but that will be the end of the line.

The article goes on to speculate on what technology might come next -- the red question mark in the above figure -- but makes no predicitions. It also includes the following video (1m 53s) of Gordon Moore reflecting back on his 1965 article and the term "Moore's law," coined by semiconductor pioneer Carver Mead.