The big computer company with no headquarters

William Amelio, CEO of Lenovo, shows off new MID device

Lenovo CEO William Amelio, who above is holding one of its new MID computers during a presentation at the World Economic Forum in Davos, told me that Lenovo doesn’t have a headquarters.

I think that’s brilliant. Why? Because I’ve watched at NEC and Microsoft and other big companies as people who aren’t at the headquarters get marginalized and forgotten. Worse, many times great ideas get shot down if they didn’t come from someone working at the headquarters.

Amelio told me that they see great ideas come from everyone around the world, so why would they pick one place to have their headquarters? He works out of several offices and does lots of video conferencing. They’ve arranged Lenovo around several innovation hubs/research labs.

Here’s a video I filmed of William at Davos last week where he talks about why they don’t have a headquarters and also shows off several of its new products, one of which won CNet’s “Best of Show” at CES two weeks ago.

I hope to get to follow Amelio around soon to see this interesting company.

Don’t know who Lenovo is? It’s a Chinese owned company that bought the Thinkpad line from IBM several years ago. They still make the best keyboard in the business and are sponsoring the Olympics in Beijing this year.


Shel Israel joins

A couple of days ago Shel Israel announced that he was joining — the online business and technology video network that I’m heading.

The announcement is true, and I’m excited by what Shel brings to the table. We’re working on several other shows, my goal is to have half a dozen shows by the end of the year, but that’ll depend on getting sponsors, which may be tough in this year of economic turmoil.

Anyway, Shel is the guy who co-authored Naked Conversations (our corporate blogging book — we interviewed 188 businesses about how they were using blogs) with me. Which brings to mind that photo above. Let’s clear this up. We were NOT naked. Just took our shirts off. And that photo was taken in Mike Arrington’s backyard during a TechCrunch party held in honor of our book’s launch.

Some other stories? We argued for at least a month over the book before finding a way we could work together. I still remember pacing around building 119 at Microsoft while getting chewed out by Shel for something or another. One thing I learned from that process, though, is that having people around me who didn’t agree with me made me a better person and brought a lot more value out of me than if I had yes men or women around.

I can’t wait to start work with Shel and get into a good argument with him. Only difference this time? We’ll try to do that on camera since it is pretty entertaining.

If you don’t know who Shel is he’s helped dozens of companies start up in Silicon Valley and used to own his own PR firm. Recently he consulted with tons of startups. Nine of them went onto win Demo God awards (he’s down at Demo right now covering that for Fast Company).

His show will be called “GlobalNeighborhoods TV” and it’ll be interesting to see the conversations he starts on his show and the insights he finds about the new business that’s happening. Welcome Shel!

UPDATE: I should have credited the photo to JD Lasica.

From farts to diamonds

Neil Kane talks with John Gage

At Davos last week I met some remarkable technologists. But one guy who I had never heard of before had an interesting story: his firm turns methane gas into diamonds. Hence my sensationalistic headline of turning farts to diamonds (farts contain mostly methane gas).

The guy is Neil Kane, President of Advanced Diamond Technologies, and that’s him above showing his diamond film that was deposited on a bed of silicon to Sun Microsystems’ lead researcher John Gage.

On the bus ride home from Davos to Zurich he sat next to me and told me how the process works and just how useful it is.

Turns out methane has one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. If you burn methane you’ll probably get a little soot, which is those carbon atoms showing up. But if you remove the oxygen, throw in a cocktail of a few other secret gasses, and heat it all up you can deposit those carbon items on a starter bed of diamond.

Now, why would they do that?

Well, turns out that diamond has a few interesting properties. We all know it’s the hardest substance around, right? Well, I didn’t know that if you have diamond on two surfaces that it’s among the lowest friction coefficient around, too. Translation: if you coat bearing surfaces with diamond you’ll save energy and the bearings will last a lot longer.

What else are they doing with it? Well, did you know your cell phone has several quartz crystals in it? Why? The crystals vibrate and keep the clock rates all synchronized. Diamond, he tells me, is even better than quartz for that use because it is more highly tunable and energy efficient and can be made to fit in a smaller space than quartz can.

Anyway, it’s great to hear about good old American innovation that’s happening in the midwest (the company is located near Chicago).

And if you think I’m being original with my headline here, I’m not. As they say “farts are a girl’s best friend!”

No, you’re right, that won’t go over well if I try it on Maryam. 🙂