Growth and Conjunctions

See Jonathan's latest blog entry and its comments, for the full back story, including some interesting comments on whether SUNW can generate financial traction and bridge the digital divide at the same time.

Those who claim that we are diluting our growth by focusing on social issues imply this is an either-or proposition. One of my favorite rabbis likes to say that most of the major conflicts on our globe are caused by "either-or" statements when a "both-and" conjunction would be acceptable. Applying either-or propositions too broadly causes you to miss potential markets. Those start-ups that recognize network users as both creators and consumers of content rather than separating the world into artists (who must be paid) and audiences (who must do the paying) are defining "Web 2.0" interactions. From the number of social web site icons dotting blog postings, it seems like the both-ands may be winning.

I believe Sun can both generate growth and deliver network services to largley unserved communities because they are merely different facets of the same problem. It's about cost of acquisition, cost of operation, availability of developers (who have their own cost of acquisition and operation), and network access (which is a function of, you guessed it, cost of acquisition and operation). Good things happen when you make the technology accessible by focusing on power, space, environmentals and cost. Services get built on top of that technology platform.

This isn't purely a technological postulate. Cameron Sinclair and Kate Stohr have shown with Architecture for Humanity that you can build low-cost housing out of local materials and have it feel like home. The designs captured in Sinclair's book Design Like You Give a Damn rely on disruptions to the economic assumptions make about housing in disrupted areas.

As a homework assignment a few weeks ago, Jonathan asked a number of people "What is the one thing about Sun about which you brag?" (his participles dangled but no English teachers were invited; no harm, no foul). I've learned something about these simple-sounding questions -- either you have a killer answer that jumps right out, or you're better off shutting up. I had what I thought was a killer answer -- I brag that Sun has, and will continue to, disrupt the economics of our industry. General purpose Unix workstations in the early 80s. General purpose multiprocessing servers and scalable I/O in the 90s. Zero cost of acquisition software, including developer tools, in the naughties.

The day we run out of things to disrupt is the day I worry that we're out of story. Before then, I'm confident we'll see that the participants in the Participation Age are both those who are networked (today) and those in non-consumptive, non-networked parts of the world (today). The both-and implies growth.

Comments:

Concerning either/or mistake when both/and would do, I find that thinking in terms of possible worlds helps a lot to reduce that mistake. When one starts to integrate the absolutely vast number of possibilites available in the 10 dimensions of reality one will feel a lot less inclined to postulate necessities and inevitabilities when looking at the small fragment of the world which our perspectival thinking gives us access to.

Posted by Henry Story on September 06, 2006 at 01:58 AM EDT #

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Hal Stern's thoughts on software, services, cloud computing, security, privacy, and data management

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