What Open Is, a Brand New GE, and Google’s Art Move


What Open Really Means
It’s hard to find someone in business who won’t argue that open is good but lately “open” has progressed from buzzword to a club companies use on their competitors: we’re more open than they are. That’s left longtime industry observers like Re/code’s Walt Mossberg apoplectic. But let’s stop talking about open in religious terms and focus instead on what open can do. You want to talk open? Consider the original IBM PC, running Microsoft’s MS-DOS. Microsoft’s success was built on proprietary software, but it was also built on a platform that others could build on with minimal pain. Anyone who wanted to develop a program for MS-DOS (or its successor Windows) didn’t have to ask permission or pay a royalty for the privilege. That’s open. While such platforms certainly met the definition of proprietary, there was still plenty of room for independent developers to innovate and profit. The balancing trick remains the same: create a platform you can control but others can thrive on, too. Open means open for business.

A Brand New General Electric
We delight when we see OldCos turn into NewCos and Businessweek has a doozy of a cover story: How GE Exorcised the Ghost of Jack Welch to Become a 124-Year-Old Startup. Surveying current CEO Jeff Immelt’s work a decade in, you can see a legacy company getting more agile (and far less dependent on its financial services business, an angle Businessweek should have leaned into more). It also shed its home appliance division and is betting big on electric power generators, jet engines, locomotives, oil-refining gear, and the software that connects these Things to the Internet. More important, Immelt’s team has remade GE’s management approach: the company now seems like a place people might want to work at, a place that has a mission beyond market domination. It’s a terrific reminder that almost no business is too old, too entrenched, or has too bad a reputation to change — or make change.

A Manufacturing Rebound, Not a Boom
We get excited here when we see domestic manufacturing increasing. But let’s keep an eye on the long view and remember “things are better” and “things are great” are way different concepts (Bloomberg).

A Friday for Goodbyes
Google is pulling back on robots, Sea World will stop breeding killer whales, Apple is leaving Amazon for Google, and Boston gives up on its late-night subway experiment.

Data From Above
Ceres Imaging was named winner of Imagine H2O’s Data Challenge on Wednesday. The company flies drones above farmers’ fields to assess water levels and other factors that determine how plants grow. The resulting maps and data have helped some farmers increase yields 25 percent and reduce food and water waste.

Google’s Inadvertent Art Move
Let’s end the week with something beautiful — and a reminder that you can find beauty almost anywhere, even in the platform realities of our lives. If someone can turn Google Street View images into art (Creators Project), SnapChat can’t be far behind, right?

Photo: pilot_micha

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