Engines Of Tomorrow: How The Worlds Best Companies Are Using Their Research Labs To Win The Future

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The U.S. economy is the envy of the world, and the key to its success is technological innovation. In this fascinating and in-depth account reported from three continents, Robert Buderi turns the spotlight on corporate research and the management of innovation that is helping drive the economy's robust growth. Here are firsthand communiqués from inside the labs of a reborn IBM, resurgent GE and Lucent, research upstarts Intel and Microsoft, and other leading American firms -- as well as top European and Japanese competitors.
It was only a few years ago that competitiveness experts -- U.S. well-wishers and naysayers alike -- concluded that America had lost its business and technological edge. The nation's companies, they asserted, couldn't match the development and manufacturing efficiency of overseas rivals. Yet now the nation is humming along, riding an unparalleled wave of innovation.
Buderi tells us this turnaround has come on many fronts -- in marketing, sales, manufacturing, and the creation of start-up companies. But Engines of Tomorrow deals with a central element that has gone largely unexamined: corporate research. It's the research process that provides the technologies that spur growth. Research is behind the renaissance of IBM, the stunning growth of Lucent, and much of the steamrolling American recovery.
Focusing on the fast-moving communications-computer-electronics sector, Buderi profiles some of the world's leading thinkers on innovation, talks with top inventors, and describes the exciting technologies coming down the pike -- from information appliances to electronic security and quantum computing. In the process, he examines the vital strategic issues in which central labs play a determining role, including:
  • How IBM's eight labs around the world figure in Lou Gerstner's plans to achieve consistent double-digit growth -- and to join GE as a $100 billion concern.
  • Why Xerox's famed Palo Alto Research Center is vying to resuscitate its company's lagging fortunes by sending anthropologists into the field to study the hidden ways people really work.
  • What Hewlett-Packard will do without its original instrument business, recently spun off as Agilent Technologies. The business was central to HP Labs' MC2 philosophy of merging research expertise in measurement, computation, and communication -- and its departure removed a lot that was unique about HP.
  • How the November 1999 federal court finding that Microsoft operates a monopoly hinders the Seattle giant's acquisition plans and makes it increasingly vital for nine-year-old Microsoft Research to lead the way in innovating from within. Could this be the next great lab for the twenty-first century?

With authority and undaunted optimism about the underlying vitality of the research process, Buderi discusses these issues and reveals the future of some of the world's best and most powerful companies.
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About the author

Robert Buderi, a Fellow in MIT's Center for International Studies, is the author of two acclaimed books, Engines of Tomorrow, about corporate innovation, and The Invention That Changed the World, about a secret lab at MIT in World War II. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Jul 14, 2000
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Pages
448
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ISBN
9780743212489
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Half a world away from the calm beauty of Puget Sound, there's a lab where Bill Gates's software dreams come true. . . . So begins Guanxi, the compelling on-the-scenes tale of the allure of China today -- and of a unique partnership between the world's most famous capitalist and the world's largest communist nation that showcases what it takes to compete in the age of global innovation.

Guanxi (gwan-shee), the Chinese term for mutually beneficial relationships essential to success in the Middle Kingdom, tells the story of the juggernaut research lab that underpins Microsoft's relationship building in China. Unfurled through a gripping narrative that moves between Beijing and Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington, it follows the lab's emergence as a mecca for Chinese computer-science talent -- a place where 10,000 résumés arrive in a month, written exams are farmed out to eleven cities to screen applicants, and interns sleep on cots next to their cubicles. So far, the company has invested well over $100 million and hired more than 400 of China's best and brightest to turn the outpost into an important window on the future of computing and a training ground to uplift the state of Chinese computer science -- creating dramatic payoffs for both Microsoft and its host country that are helping the company overcome many of the challenges of China.

Guanxi traces the arc of the lab's stunning success from a memo by erstwhile Microsoft visionary Nathan Myhrvold to its early days under maverick speech recognition guru Kai-Fu Lee (since plucked away by Google for some $10 million), and to its more recent tutelage under former child prodigies Ya-Qin Zhang and Harry Shum. The two China-born stars, who both attended college in their native country by the age of thirteen, have orchestrated the Beijing lab's recent emergence as an epicenter of Microsoft's intensifying battles against Google in the search wars, Nokia in the wireless arena, and Sony in graphics and entertainment.

As pundits rail about the "China threat" to U.S. competitiveness and offer often-hackneyed arguments against outsourcing, Guanxi explores the true ramifications of China's high-tech buildup -- and the means by which it can be turned to competitive advantage, in part by "insourcing" the untapped talent in the country's top universities. Sprinkled with telling observations, compelling characters, and lively anecdotes about the brilliant successes and sometimes painful stumbles of the world's most powerful software company, Guanxi is essential reading for business leaders, entrepreneurs, and technologists around the globe.
Written with full cooperation from top management, including cofounders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, this is the inside story behind Google, the most successful and most admired technology company of our time, told by one of our best technology writers.

Few companies in history have ever been as successful and as admired as Google, the company that has transformed the Internet and become an indispensable part of our lives. How has Google done it? Veteran technology reporter Steven Levy was granted unprecedented access to the company, and in this revelatory book he takes readers inside Google headquarters—the Googleplex—to show how Google works.

While they were still students at Stanford, Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin revolutionized Internet search. They followed this brilliant innovation with another, as two of Google’s earliest employees found a way to do what no one else had: make billions of dollars from Internet advertising. With this cash cow, Google was able to expand dramatically and take on other transformative projects: more efficient data centers, open-source cell phones, free Internet video (YouTube), cloud computing, digitizing books, and much more.

The key to Google’s success in all these businesses, Levy reveals, is its engineering mind-set and adoption of such Internet values as speed, openness, experimentation, and risk taking. After its unapologetically elitist approach to hiring, Google pampers its engineers—free food and dry cleaning, on-site doctors and masseuses—and gives them all the resources they need to succeed. Even today, with a workforce of more than 23,000, Larry Page signs off on every hire.

But has Google lost its innovative edge? With its newest initiative, social networking, Google is chasing a successful competitor for the first time. Some employees are leaving the company for smaller, nimbler start-ups. Can the company that famously decided not to be evil still compete?

No other book has ever turned Google inside out as Levy does with In the Plex.
The Office of Naval Research, known widely as ONR, was formed in 1946 largely to support the pursuit of basic science to help ensure future U.S. naval dominance—and as such, it set the model for the subsequently created National Science Foundation. But everything changed after the Cold War. The U.S. entered a period of greater fiscal constraints and the concept of warfare shifted from conventional land and sea battles and super-power conflicts to an era of asymmetric warfare, where the country might be engaged in many smaller fights in unconventional arenas.

Naval Innovation is a narrative account of ONR’s efforts to respond to this transformation amidst increasing pressure to focus on programs directly relevant to the Navy, but without sacrificing the “seed corn” of fundamental science the organization helped pioneer. Told through the eyes of the admirals leading ONR and the department heads who oversee key programs, the book follows the organization as it responds to the fall of the Soviet Union, the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in 2000, and subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These events are inspiring an array of innovations, for land and sea. Consider unmanned undersea vehicles that can patrol strategic coastlines for months on end, novel types of landing craft that can travel up to 2,500 nautical miles without refueling, and precision shipborne “rail guns” whose GPS-guided shells can hit targets from hundreds of miles off. Other efforts include advanced electronics designed to swap out scores of antennas on ships for two solid-state apertures, greatly increasing speed and stealth and speed; virtual training methods that spare the environment by avoid the need to fire tons of live shells, and new ways to protect Marines from improvised explosive devices. All these programs, some pursued in conventional manner and some set up as “skunk works” designed to spur out-of-the-box thinking, are part of an ongoing evolution that seeks to connect scientific investment more directly to the warfighter without forsaking the Navy’s longer-term future.

Naval Innovation is a narrative history, and a story of organizational change, centered around the struggles of management and key personnel to adapt to shifting priorities while holding on to their historic core mission of supporting longer-term research. As such, it holds great lessons and insights for how the U.S. government should fund and maintain military R&D in a new era of “small ball” conflicts—and how the country must prepare for the future of warfare.
Half a world away from the calm beauty of Puget Sound, there's a lab where Bill Gates's software dreams come true. . . . So begins Guanxi, the compelling on-the-scenes tale of the allure of China today -- and of a unique partnership between the world's most famous capitalist and the world's largest communist nation that showcases what it takes to compete in the age of global innovation.

Guanxi (gwan-shee), the Chinese term for mutually beneficial relationships essential to success in the Middle Kingdom, tells the story of the juggernaut research lab that underpins Microsoft's relationship building in China. Unfurled through a gripping narrative that moves between Beijing and Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington, it follows the lab's emergence as a mecca for Chinese computer-science talent -- a place where 10,000 résumés arrive in a month, written exams are farmed out to eleven cities to screen applicants, and interns sleep on cots next to their cubicles. So far, the company has invested well over $100 million and hired more than 400 of China's best and brightest to turn the outpost into an important window on the future of computing and a training ground to uplift the state of Chinese computer science -- creating dramatic payoffs for both Microsoft and its host country that are helping the company overcome many of the challenges of China.

Guanxi traces the arc of the lab's stunning success from a memo by erstwhile Microsoft visionary Nathan Myhrvold to its early days under maverick speech recognition guru Kai-Fu Lee (since plucked away by Google for some $10 million), and to its more recent tutelage under former child prodigies Ya-Qin Zhang and Harry Shum. The two China-born stars, who both attended college in their native country by the age of thirteen, have orchestrated the Beijing lab's recent emergence as an epicenter of Microsoft's intensifying battles against Google in the search wars, Nokia in the wireless arena, and Sony in graphics and entertainment.

As pundits rail about the "China threat" to U.S. competitiveness and offer often-hackneyed arguments against outsourcing, Guanxi explores the true ramifications of China's high-tech buildup -- and the means by which it can be turned to competitive advantage, in part by "insourcing" the untapped talent in the country's top universities. Sprinkled with telling observations, compelling characters, and lively anecdotes about the brilliant successes and sometimes painful stumbles of the world's most powerful software company, Guanxi is essential reading for business leaders, entrepreneurs, and technologists around the globe.
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