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How many electronics companies from our world made it? Two: Agilent
(No. 82) and Danaher (No. 99).
Out of 100 companies.
Did they only get to "D" in the alphabet?
Pull ARM out of the mix, and companies that make expensive lattes, chocolate, soap,
beer and breakfast for little kids fared better than companies in
our world. Really? Want to change your innovation culture? Look to
Cheerios and Lucky Charms for insight and grab a Bud while you're at
The future ferments on engineering benches and in fabs that produce
things so precise, so small you need multimillion-dollar microscopes
to see them. The industry continually scrapes the physics wall in
the race to tomorrow and figures out ways to dart around Moore's Law. And
yet just a handful are considered innovative. (Insert gnashing of teeth,
renting of garments here).
Turns out, the Forbes
methodology skews heavily toward finance and doesn't
take into consideration non-public companies:
We use something called the Innovation Premium to
compile our list. It is calculated first by projecting a
company’s income (cash flows, in this case) from existing
businesses, plus anticipated growth from those businesses, and
look at the net present value (NPV) of those cash flows. We
compare the NPV of cash flows from existing businesses with a
current market capitalization: Companies with a current market
cap above the NPV of cash flows have an innovation premium built
into their stock.
Of course a true innovation index is essentially impossible
calculate because the word itself and its metrics are spongy, but
c'mon, guys, how about some serious love?
Taking nothing away from the
excellent work the executive teams and employees at ARM, Altera, Agilent and Danaher have
done over the past decade: No Intel? No TSMC? (Not to mention the
industry's crucial enablers, Synopsys, Mentor and Cadence)? No IBM?
Sigh. What are you gonna do? Ours is an industry that, like Willie Mays,
made difficult things look easy, and it gets no respect.
Read the Forbes definition again. It describes a filter to select companies where the market expects them to make money tomorrow from lines of business they do not have today.
Since, for example, Intel makes its money from chips today, and will make money from chips tomorrow, in their terms its business model is not innovating. Forbes thinks they are a one trick pony, and more to the point since they are using market data, the market thinks Intel is a one trick pony.
It has nothing at all to do with how magical the pony is. The fact that Intel needs to find a new unicorn every year and teach it to be a pony is, from Forbes' point of view, repetition of the same old business.
I once had an EDA executive tell me that talking about innovation in the EDA and semiconductor industry is like talking about putting another layer of chrome on a crescent wrench. That's what excites EE's. Not the rest of the world, so much.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.