Weekend news roundup: Facebook IPO – is Zuckerberg ready for this?

14 May 2012

With the week that’s in it – Friday’s IPO that could value Facebook at over US$100bn – we look at some of the top analyses on Zuckerberg the man and Facebook the company. Also get ready for the revolutionary impact of 3D printing and how cars needed to be connected before they can self-drive.

Is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg really ready for this?

The New York Times wrote a compelling profile of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg ahead of the company’s IPO this week.

It is probably one of the most comprehensive profiles of the 28-year-old enigma whose youth baffles many but whose nous and judgement marks him as perhaps one of the best and most instinctive tech CEOs to rank alongside Apple’s Steve Jobs and Microsoft’s Bill Gates.

The New York Times wrote: “If all goes well, Facebook will go public on Friday in an IPO that could value it at nearly US$100bn.
“One hundred billion dollars – for a company that, eight years ago, didn’t even exist.

“No one has more riding on this than Mark Elliot Zuckerberg, hero-villain of The Social Network, destroyer of worlds, devourer of time and, for better and worse, the latest in a line of revolutionaries stretching back to Gutenberg who have upended the way we communicate and think.

“The outlines of the Zuckerberg story thus far – the boyhood in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., the Harvard wars over ‘thefacebook,’ the relentless rise in Silicon Valley – are by now well known. But Facebook’s IPO will begin a new chapter – indeed, a new volume – in one of the great business narratives of our time. It will also make Mr Zuckerberg almost impossibly rich. In an instant, his stake could be worth upward of US$18.7bn.

“Mind-boggling figures aside, the question on many minds is this: Is Mr Zuckerberg really ready for this?”

The cultural phenomenon that is Facebook

Silicon Valley’s local newspaper The San Jose Mercury News also analysed the upcoming Facebook IPO, not from the perspective of Mark Zuckerberg but from the perspective of the impact Facebook has had on the world as we know it.

“In its ability to shape the way hundreds of millions of people around the world communicate, debate, make buying decisions, entertain and inform themselves, Facebook may well be the biggest technological advance since the advent of broadcast television.”

The paper noted Facebook was by no means the first social network, nor the first to grow to massive size.

“But it has taken off like few companies of any kind due both to Zuckerberg’s laserlike focus on the product and to a number of technological shifts, including the increased speed of broadband internet connections and the lowered cost of storing data online.

“And Facebook’s success has blazed trails for other social media companies to follow.”

3D printing on the road to Utopia

The Observer‘s John Naughton wrote an insightful piece about 3D printers and how soon everyone of us will potentially be able to design and develop our own products – think everything from that spare part you need to fix your dishwasher to collecting Faberge eggs.

“What comes irresistibly to mind the first time one sees a 3D printer in action is Arthur C Clarke’s famous observation that ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’. You’re sitting there watching the machine busily going about its business and then, suddenly, there’s a complex, fully functional object with moving parts – for example, the roller bearings that are an essential component in every thing that runs on wheels. And then you realise that this is not a technology for making toys and garden gnomes, but something that could transform manufacturing.

“Why? Because up until now, manufacturing has been dominated by economies of scale. The upfront costs of ‘tooling up’ to manufacture anything – whether it’s roller bearings or automobiles – using conventional materials and assembly methods are huge, so you have to stamp out many thousands of identical products in order to get the price of each one down to a reasonable level. But with 3D printing, the tooling-up costs are much less – essentially consisting of the costs of building the computer model of the product.”

Vroom, vroom – the connected car is coming

According to The Telegraph, Intel is investing in ‘connected cars’, which are the logical precursor to the self-driving models that Google is championing.

By next year, the car will be the third most-connected place in which people spend time, says Intel’s Staci Palmer. “And by 2016,” she claims, “how connected a car is will be a critical buying decision”.

That’s why Intel has invested US$100m over the next three to five years to act as a catalyst for innovation and to build relationships with manufacturers. Palmer says today’s one-year-olds already expect technology to offer the functionality of iPads.

“Imagine what sort of user experience they will demand when they reach driving age,” she said. Indeed, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that self-driving cars could mean that those one-year-olds may never end up taking their driving tests.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years