TWOdW: Turbo Todd talks Steve Jobs, HP, and Google-rola

Or should that be Motorogle? Plus Turbo turns 20 in IBM years


developerWorks: Welcome to the developerWorks podcast. This week on developerWorks, I'm Scott Laningham sitting in the revised, refurbished, redesigned home studio in my closet, of course. And joined by my good friend, Todd "Turbo" Watson. Todd, how you doing?

Watson: I'm good. I'm just sitting here in my living room, so I feel inadequate now.

developerWorks: All you had to do was put a book under your laptop, right? [LAUGHTER]

Watson: I mean, this is looking pretty high tech over there. I mean, this looks like a real, like home studio.

developerWorks: It's funny, when you start dealing with video, there's so much you have to do with lighting and stuff and shadows.

Watson: I know. I had to go shave.

developerWorks: And I see you stopped right here. You didn't get all the way across. [LAUGHTER]

Well, anyway, among the many things we do on this podcast, we like to check in with Todd and just talk about news and the tech world some of it developer focused, but some of it just general tech news. Of course, all of it trickles down on its impact to software developers worldwide, and that's why we like to talk to Todd about it. But big news this week clearly starts with Steve Jobs' resignation, doesn't it?

Watson: Yes. That was kind of a big whammy there. I mean, I think many of us who have followed the tech industry expected with some of the recent illness announcements and his stepping aside for periods of time for treatment, you know, that this moment would come. I just don't think we thought it would come this soon and at such a peak in Apple's market leadership. The guy has changed the world, no question.

developerWorks: Yes.

Watson: You know, I guess the big question lingering out there is what next for Apple? I mean, Tim Cook has shown a steady hand in managing during some of Jobs' interval departures, but you know the question is, beyond the current pipeline of product and technology, what then? Because Jobs has been the visionary.

developerWorks: And of course, Tim Cook has been the acting Chief Operating Officer, right? And was key behind Apple's...

Watson: He used to work at IBM.

developerWorks: Did he really?

Watson: Yes.

developerWorks: I didn't know that. And of course, he's been key behind their enormously successful supply chain management.

Watson: Yes. In the China manufacturing and all of that, yes.

developerWorks: Right and made it hard for people, of course, to get their hands on some of those Apple innovations. And of course, that's how you stay competitive and having an edge over your counterparts. Right?

Watson: Yes.

developerWorks: But I noticed that the market took an immediate dip, but then it came back up because it must show that people have confidence that this is going to be a perpetual success story and it's not going to have much of a bump with Jobs leaving.

Watson: Yes. I blogged about it this morning, and look, I'm not expert, so I mean, I obviously have an opinion and I follow the industry. But I've got to say and one of the things I said in my post is, he really did build a cult of personality. And that's not only a personality statement, that's an organizational statement. I've had a friend who worked ... a couple of friends who worked at Apple, and it was pretty clear in my conversations with them that many decisions led through Steve Jobs...

Decisions that at an IBM or at another big company would have been further distributed down into some hierarchy because it's just too many decisions to be made. But you know, he ruled that thing with an iPod fist, I guess you could say.

developerWorks: Yes. Right. Is it Jobs or "Joebs"? I hear both.

Watson: It's Steve ... I've heard both. I think it's Steve Jobs.

developerWorks: Jobs. Jobs. And clearly, he's creating plenty of jobs for people, so, you know, it's appropriate to have that for your last name. Right? [LAUGHTER]

Other interesting news, you know, all this stuff that's going on with the new iPhone and all the speculation about that. And I saw the piece that Sprint is going to have the iPhone 5. So, clearly, they're going to be part of the burgeoning market, growing market around all that.

And it's got to be, that's got to be good news for consumers and good news for developers as well because it's just going to expand the marketplace for apps and other things they can do around that phone.

Watson: Oh. Sure. I mean, I don't know what Sprint's current market position is, I haven't looked in a while. But they've got a broad 4G roll out that kind of transcends even what AT&T and Verizon have in the market until AT&T gets their LTE technology out.

So there's a unique opportunity there in terms of bandwidth I think we haven't seen in some of the 3G roll outs. And I guess the fact that it's going to be an iPhone 5, which I haven't really seen the specs on, so I'm still waiting to kind of get a deeper dive into what the feature set is.

But yes, it's going to kind of level the playing field also at a time when Google and Android are going to be rolling out as the Motorola deal at some point will start to get integrated into Google. And then, you know, I think there's going to be a real horse race from there on out, and the two market leaders are going to be the IOS and Android.

developerWorks: Yes. What else? I mean, there's so much else to talk about. What else is on your list?

Watson: Well, I mean, in terms of our business, I mean, and impacting the overall enterprise industry ... enterprise technology in this industry, the acquisition of HP by Autonomy ... . I'm sorry. The acquisition of Autonomy by HP. Let me get that straight. [LAUGHTER]

And also, HP's announcing their divestiture of their PC business likely coming — if they can find a buyer — about six years after we divested our PC business to Lenovo, by the way. Clearly, Leo Apotheker, former CEO of SAP, the enterprise software vendor, and now CEO of HP, is making his big move. Moving towards software and a more enterprise oriented focus away from the consumer space.

I think it leaves a lot of questions about what happens with WebOS and the acquisition of Palm. Does that thing just die a slow death? You know, you saw the fire sale on the HP Touchpad, which really hadn't been moving out of the retail stores until HP made this announcement and...

developerWorks: Bam!

Watson: ...they put it on sale at many of the retailers for 99 bucks and then they started running out of the stores. And then you saw a reverse osmosis, in terms of sales as they started seeing these things on eBay for $300 and up. You know, go figure.

developerWorks: Right.

Watson: But I think it's clearly a point in time in which they're going in another direction. And you know, the Compaq acquisition is kind of way back in the review mirror seemingly as is the Palm deal.

developerWorks: Well, you hear that kind of stuff and it really does make you wonder about the future of the PC and if these other devices are really making such inroads into the space that developing for mobile is going to become just an over ... of course, a central focus of any development activity. You've got to be...

Watson: Well, yes, but I don't think ... I think we've written the death of the PC and notebook off too quickly. I think that from a usability point of view, there's a lot of bloggers out there writing great posts about mobile technologies and smart apps and iPhones and so forth. But they're writing them on netbooks and notebooks.

developerWorks: Right. Yes. So, what else is on your list? I mean, we talked about Steve Jobs. We talked about the changes at HP. You've got some personal news.

Watson: Yes! Happy anniversary to me. I had my unofficial — I'll tell you why in a minute — my unofficial 20-year anniversary at IBM a week ago Friday. I remember distinctly, because it was the same day as the Russian Putsch, or "Putch," however you pronounce it ... the attempted coup d'etat against Gorbachev. Boris Yeltsin came out at the Russian White House. He was out standing on the tanks.

And I walked into IBM like this naive greenhorn, you know, not realizing how incredibly life altering coming into this company would be. I mean, I became enamored with technology. And you know, the rest is history, as we know. But yes, I was completely terrified. I remember they told me I had to talk to people on the phone. And I was like, "what am I going to say to them?" [LAUGHTER]

developerWorks: Well, that's not a problem now.

Watson: No. It was a problem then.

developerWorks: Yes.

Watson: So, you know, and this was when we had OS/2. We were all working on PS/2 work stations. I went to an office, an actual office. Dressing in my spiffy white shirts and ties and going to physical meetings with other human beings that typically didn't involve people at other IBM locations. I mean, that right there shows you how different the world is today.

developerWorks: Oh, boy.

Watson: I mean, I don't.... Now, you and I work out of our homes. We rarely see each other in person. If we do, it's in another city. You know? It's just a different IBM, but yet you know it's the same in other ways. So, anyway. I just thought that was noteworthy. And it's been a heck of a ride. I wrote a post about it. Check it out on the blog. But it's been a pretty amazing experience, and I get to work with great people like you.

developerWorks: A hearty congratulations.

Watson: Thank you.

developerWorks: I mean, that's quite a milestone. I'm just barely halfway there myself, and I can't even believe I made it that far. I don't think I lasted on any job more than two years before this one.

Watson: Really? Wow.

developerWorks: It's not.... There's something very nice that comes with some longevity in a place.

Watson: Well, and it is getting to work with all the extraordinary people. I mean, I said that in the post and it's heartfelt. I mean, I ... you know, some people give me a hard time, I've been here that long. But I mean, first of all, technology never stays static so we're always learning. And at IBM, you get access to a lot of interesting technology and resources, we know.

And you know, it's just never a dull moment. It can be challenging, it can be trying, it can be excruciating sometimes, but it can also be a lot of fun. I think it's mostly due to the talent that we're able to work with. And now that talent is truly global, which is a whole new experience and so again it changes and evolves. So I'm glad to still be a part of it.

developerWorks: Amen. And we've got, of course, you talk about getting together out of town. We've kind of had a quiet period here this summer, but we'll be going in the fall, in late October, to Las Vegas again, to Mandalay Bay to do Information on Demand 2011, which is really where our whole LiveStream thing started. So, it's going to be nice to...

Watson: A year ago, right?

developerWorks: Yes. Come full circle and get together with the team there again.

Watson: Yes. And I was just meeting with that team yesterday and I have to say the registration numbers are already very impressive. So, I think there's still some early bird seats out there. Search on Information on Demand 2011 if you're interested because there's going to be a big crowd just as there was last year. And maybe even bigger.

But there's also going to be some pretty stellar tracks. I think they're simplifying the tracks to make it easier to kind of get your head around which area or schedule you wanted to follow. So, that's good. And of course, you and I will be there talking to a lot of the stalwarts again, which I'm very much looking forward to.

developerWorks: And of course, we always have more to talk about, but we probably ought to save it for our next one since we're running out of time here. Todd, a pleasure. And who knows? I might actually see you in this town that we both live in.

Watson: I don't go outside until the summer ends, so.

developerWorks: We don't have any plans, but we do know there's a local event coming up here pretty soon with the Austin Entrepreneurs Group that IBM is a part of and we have great speakers coming in. I think there's something end of the month coming up there, so maybe we'll run into each other there.

Watson: All right.

developerWorks: Will you be wearing that red shirt so I will recognize you?

Watson: You know? I've got a blue one and a gray one, too. [LAUGHTER]

developerWorks: Okay, man. Thanks. Have a good day.

Watson: All right.

developerWorks: Again, Todd "Turbo" Watson, IBM technology evangelist. As you heard, he's been around here a long time and seen a lot of great evolution with the company and just has a great perspective he always brings.

I'm Scott Laningham. This is the developerWorks podcast. Again, developerWorks is IBM's premier resource for software developers with tools, source and education on IBM products and open standards technology. Find as at

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ArticleTitle=TWOdW: Turbo Todd talks Steve Jobs, HP, and Google-rola