A tour around “first church of technology” PARC (the innovative lab that started a ton in tech)

The room where the first Ethernet cable is in

You might know PARC. This is the lab that Steve Jobs walked into and was inspired to make the Mac what it is today. Inside this lab lots of things in the industry were developed:

1. Laser printers and page description language.
2. Tablet PCs (the first prototype is sitting in a display there).
3. Ethernet (first piece of ethernet is still in the wall here, and is seen in one of the interviews below).
4. Object oriented programming.
5. The modern personal computer with graphical user interface.
6. Very-large-scale-integration for semiconductors.

Among other things, which are detailed on Wikipedia.

So, when PARC says “come on over for a tour” you drop everything and go.

While there I met with several people to get a taste of what they are working on now. Visiting here is like visiting Jerusalem (home of the first church). It’s where everything seemed to start and is still filled with brilliant people. For instance, in part IV of my tour you’ll meet Richard Chow. Some of his achievements include architecting Yahoo!’s click-fraud protection system and delivering the Security and DRM components for Motorola’s first Java-based phone platform.

PART ONE: Future of Networking. See the first Ethernet cable in the wall, and learn about Content Centric Networking. Here, Teresa Lunt, Vice President and Director of the Computing Science Laboratory research organization, and Nacho Solis, researcher, tell me how networks are changing.

Anyway, let’s get started.

PART TWO: How Ethnographic research leads to new business ideas. Here we meet Victoria Bellotti who manages PARC’s Socio-Technical and Interaction Research team at PARC where she also developed PARC’s Opportunity Discovery research targeting methods and program. Victoria studies people to understand their practices, problems, and requirements for future technology, and also designs and analyzes human-centered systems — focusing on user experience.

PART THREE: Ubiquitous Computing research (and some historic networking equipment). Kurt Partridge is a researcher in PARC’s ubiquitous computing area. His research interests include context awareness, activity modeling, location modeling, wearable computing, and using users’ natural behaviors to simplify human-computer interaction. He received a Ph. D. in Computer Science from the University of Washington in 2005. Here we talk about what happens when computers are everywhere, which enables the Internet of Things.

PART FOUR: Keeping our Cloud Computing Safe. Richard Chow is interested in systems security, fraud detection, and privacy. Some of his achievements include architecting Yahoo!’s click-fraud protection system and delivering the Security and DRM components for Motorola’s first Java-based phone platform.

Here Richard talks to me about what he’s working on and how he’s developing new techniques to keep our data private and secure. Interesting conversation!

Anyway, hope you enjoyed this little tour around PARC.

By the way, recently Malcolm Gladwell wrote about PARC’s role in computing’s development. He got several things wrong, PARC’s managers say, and they wrote a rebuttal on their blog about how the lab innovates and why it plays a key role in Silicon Valley even today.


San Francisco’s real multi-billion-dollar war. Hint, it’s not Amazon vs Google. Why isn’t Techcrunch covering it?

If you read other tech blogs this morning you might get an idea that the next multi-billion-dollar war is over Google vs. Amazon.

Now that’s an interesting battle, but I believe it’s small potatoes compared to the real war that Marc Benioff started more than a decade ago: over how we all work.

See, Salesforce was the first to see weakness in Microsoft’s “install software everywhere” model and exploited that weakness to build a great San Francisco company.

But what did Salesforce do? It showed a raft of companies how to compete with Microsoft. Now it’s a full-blown movement that insiders are paying big attention to. Box.net has five million customers and is doubling every 14 months. Yammer won Techcrunch 50 and has hundreds of workers who are toiling to take enterprises away from Microsoft Sharepoint. Jive, SocialCast, SocialText, et al are on fire, too.

Come deeper into Silicon Valley and you’ll find one company that’s hiring all sorts of ex-Microsofties (I met one of Microsoft’s smartest strategists working there) among others and who today announced a new cloud app store for businesses: VMware. Don’t miss this company and what it’s doing.

GigaOm is right. VMware is the new Silicon Valley company to watch.

But don’t look at these companies one-by-one. It’s clear there’s a new movement and it’s radically changing how we work. Add in Google’s Docs and Spreadsheets, Sococo’s new virtual office, Twilio’s new phone APIs, amongst many other examples and you see this is the real San Francisco multi-billion-dollar war that hasn’t gotten good coverage in the tech press.

Why isn’t the tech press covering this San Francisco tech story?

Oh, sure, it’s Enterprise. Mike Arrington told me once he gets bored with enterprise companies. It’s not as sexy as anything Apple or Google are doing. Partly because VMware’s PR team isn’t interested in waking up the bears (Microsoft and other enterprise-focused companies) by shooting off Jason Calacanis style missives or playing PR games the way Facebook got caught doing last week. Nah, they are understated. They underpromise and don’t try to hype things up too much. That doesn’t fit how the current tech press can get onto the cover of Techmeme or Hacker News.

But don’t miss this battle. It’s way bigger than the battle over tablets or consumer app stores and will shift billions in revenue from Redmond to San Francisco.

Here I visit VMware to find out why they are buying startups like Sliderocket and Mozy, plus I get a look at their new single-sign-on cloud service management tool, Horizon, in a talk with Noah Wasmer, director of product management, advanced development. That announcement is covered more over on Building43.