Stephen Hawking and me

I only met Stephen Hawking twice, both times in the same day. Hawking, who died a few hours ago, was one of the great physicists of any era. He wrote books, was the subject of a major movie about his early life, and of course survived longer than any other amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) sufferer, passing away at 76 while Lou Gehrig didn’t even make it to 40. We’re about to be awash in Hawking tributes, so I want to share with you my short experience of the man and maybe give more depth to his character than we might take away from the evening news.

Several years ago I was booked […]

Bob’s Big Picture technology predictions for 2017

2016-17I couldn’t put it off any longer so here are my technology predictions for 2017. I’ve been reading over my predictions from past years and see a fundamental change in structure over that time, going from an emphasis on products to an emphasis on companies. This goes along, I’d say, with the greater business orientation of this column. That makes sense with a maturing market and mature industries and also with the fact that a fair number of readers are here mainly as investors, something that didn’t used to be so much the case.

Of course we begin with a look at my predictions from a year ago to see how I did. Almost nobody in […]

Why SoftBank is paying $32 billion for ARM Holdings

Mr. SonSoftBank is buying ARM Holdings for $32 billion. Why would a company not presently in the semiconductor business spend 32 times sales to enter a new industry? By traditional measures it makes little sense. But for SoftBank it makes perfect sense, because here’s a company that has spent more than 30 years making high-risk bets on entering new businesses by apparently over-paying for assets. It’s the way they’ve always done it and it has nearly always worked. In this case SoftBank is paying a 43 percent premium over the recent ARM share price because that’s how much money it took to overcome the resistance of ARM management. And it’s just a guess […]

Avram Miller on the death yesterday of Intel’s Andy Grove

groveAvram Miller, who is my friend and neighbor here in rural Sonoma County, wrote a very insightful post on the passing of Andy Grove. It’s well worth reading.

My own experience with Andy Grove was limited. I knew Bob Noyce and Gordon Moore much better. But I do recall a time when Grove and I were both speakers at a PBS national meeting and sat together. He corrected my pronunciation of the word Zoboomafoo, the title of a PBS animal series for preschoolers.

Prediction #9: Intel starts to become irrelevant

2016predictionsI know I promised that my next 2016 prediction would be Apple’s big acquisition, and I will publish that prediction soon as my #10, but right now I just have to say what a perilous position Intel is in. The company truly risks becoming irrelevant, which is an odd thing to say about a huge, rich outfit that would appear from the outside to pretty much dominate its industry — an industry the company created. Intel won’t go away, I just think there is a very good chance they’ll no longer matter.

We’re approaching the end of the closed, proprietary, single source technology era. ARM processors are freely licensed, more open, and much […]