Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

SanDisk’s Eli sings the Blu-Ray blues


The flash memory business may be suffering its worst slump ever, but SanDisk CEO Eli Harari is carving tombstones for other businesses.

The No.1 endangered technology, Harari said at the Reuters Global Technology Summit on Tuesday, is the Blu-Ray DVD. Because the discs don’t work with smartphones, which consumers are increasingly using to watch video, Harari says their days are numbered.

He did not give a time frame for this extinction, though he did note at one point that the average period of time it takes for a new technology to render an existing technology obsolete is five to seven years.

Floppy discs, once a standard component on PCs, have been replaced by flash-based USB drives. And photographic film for cameras has become a fading memory since the advent of digital cameras.

Apple’s iPhone takes slow boat to China

In China, Apple’s iPhone commands a strange presence. Perenially “coming out”, already widely available on the black market, viewed with trepidation by local telecom players but with undisguised lust by affluent consumers.

Sanford C. Bernstein Toni Sacconaghi thinks the wildly popular device will arrive in the Middle Kingdom before the end of the year, after a long haul of negotiations with state-run telecom carriers keen to control the content to be sold over the gadget.

Facebook’s Zuckerberg talks MySpace, Twitter


Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke to the Reuters Global Technology Summit on Tuesday and while he wouldn’t touch TechCrunch’s report about financing and valuation, he did opine about a few of Facebook’s Web peers:

On the difference between Facebook and MySpace:

I think MySpace defines themselves as more of a media company and a media portal. A way to see the different content that is going on, or a way for a News Corp parent company to spread content through the network. Facebook has always been more focused on helping people build out their identity, helping people maintain their relationships and communicate really efficiently. We have talked about ourselves as a technology company a lot as opposed to a media company.

AT&T: Beer keg, please phone home


Next time a bartender draws a long, cool German brew on tap at your favorite U.S. bar, you might be sipping beer that made a mobile phone call along the way.
At the Reuters Technology Summit in New York, AT&T’s Ralph de la Vega, who heads its wireless division, described a firm that has fitted its beer with mobile devices.

“We had a customer in Germany that wanted us — and we have found a way — to track their beer kegs as they were shipped,” said de la Vega. He said the wireless devices track how cold the keg is, whether it was properly pressurized and its location.

IBM: No Sun, but there are other fish in the sea


IBM’s Chief Financial Officer Mark Loughridge didn’t have much to say about Oracle’s planned purchase of Sun Microsystems at the Reuters Global Technology Summit.

I don’t see that much has changed in this. They have been partnering for decades. It doesn’t fundamentally change the position” in the industry.

SanDisk’s Steve Jobs flashback


For Steve Jobs, the right price was just a matter of timing.

During an interview at the Reuters technology summit, the chief executive of flash memory maker SanDisk recalled an encounter years ago with the Apple chief executive, who was then working on a secret, exotic new MP3 player. It was to be called the iPod.

“We were already in music players,” said Eli Harari. “Steve wanted a one gigabyte flash memory for $100 in the year 2000, because he could get for $100 a 1.8 inch drive from Toshiba and he preferred flash.”
Jobs liked flash because it was smaller, faster and consumed less power than a disk drive — all vital for a better iPod.

Stupid picture frames


Sehat Sutardja, the CEO of chipmaker Marvell, doesn’t have much respect for digital picture frames. “It comes with a dumb processor – a really, really dumb and stupid processor,”  Marvell’s founder said while speaking at the Reuters Summit on Monday.

Sutardja is not dumb. He is an engineer who claims an impressive 154 patents. He is also co-founder of Marvell, which sells computer chips that make devices like the iPhone and BlackBerry “smart”.

Sybase CEO: Call centers may become passe’


Someone stealing your identity? Using your credit card to buy a flat screen TV…in Germany? Credit card companies often catch those shopping anomalies and quickly alert you. But Sybase CEO John Chen says that increasingly you may not get a phone call asking “are you in Germany right now?”

That’s because companies are trying to save money by using new technology. So rather than staff a room full of people to call you when they detect a problem — they will automate the process. You’ll simply get a text message.

Alphabet-shaped recovery? Try bathtub-shaped


We’ve all heard discussions on what letter of the alphabet the economic recovery will look like. Will it be “V” shaped — as in, a sharp plummeting, followed by an equally sharp upswing? Or more “U” shaped — a downturn followed by a flat period before the recovery starts? Is the lightness we’re witnessing in the economy the mid-point in a more extended recovery process, mirroring the letter “W”? And heaven forbid, let’s not even think we might be stuck in an “L” shaped economy, with no near or medium-term hope of improvement.

We asked the chief executives of Sybase and Symantec, our first two guests at the Reuters Global Technology Summit, what they thought the recovery graph might look like.

Lamenting the good ol’ days


    The sprouting of privately-held alternative trading venues has seriously mucked up the trading landscapes in the United States and elsewhere, or so says Thomas Caldwell, chairman and chief executive of Caldwell Financial.
    Caldwell, founder of a major exchange investment firm, sees a world that has quickly evolved into one of nimble, electronic players coupled with more and more trading venues with the proliferation of alternative trading systems, or ATSs.
    (They’re also called electronic communications networks (ECNs) in the United States and multilateral trading facilities (MTFs) in Europe).
    These new venues, which can include the ominously-named dark pools, or alternative venues, where they can secretly match buy and sell orders, leads to, among other things, “deeply flawed” pricing for market participants, in Caldwell’s view.
    The idea of bank-backed stock trading venues is also suspect, says Caldwell.
    “Publicly-owned exchanges, open and visible trading, an auction market environment,” he said during the Reuters Exchanges and Trading Summit in New York.
    “These are centerpieces if you really want an economy to grow and you want to encourage entrepreneurs with access to capital. The more we get into gamesmanship and side products and all this other stuff it depletes from this.”
    (Posted by Jennifer Kwan)