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Google's Waymo risks repeating Silicon Valley's most famous blunder



  Google's Waymo risks repeating Silicon Valley's most famous blunder

Everyone in Silicon Valley knows the story of Xerox inventing the modern personal computer in the 1970s and then not commercializing it effectively. One of Silicon Valley's most successful companies, the Google Alphabet, seems to repeat Xerox's failure with its self-propelled car program.

Xerox launched its Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in 1

970. By 1975, researchers had invented a personal computer with a graphical user interface that was nearly a decade ahead of their time. Unfortunately, the commercial version of this technology was not released until 1981, and proved to be an expensive flop. Two much younger companies – Apple and Microsoft – took part in many of Xerox's ideas and ended the dominant industry.

Google's self-propelled car program, created in 2009, seems to be on a similar path. In October 2015, Google was confident enough in its technology to put a blind man into one of his cars for a solo trip in Austin, Texas.

But much like Xerox 40 years earlier, Google has struggled to bring technology to the market. The project was rechristened Waymo in 2016 and Waymo was launching a commercial driverless service by the end of 2018. But the Waymo service launched in December was not driverless and barely commercial. It had a security driver in each vehicle and it has only been made available to a few hundred customers.

Today, a series of self-propelled startups make Waymo what Apple did for Xerox many years ago. Nuro is a driverless delivery start that announced on Monday that it raised $ 940 million in venture capital. Another, called Voyage, tests a self-propelled taxi service in one of the country's largest retirement communities.

These companies' self-propelled services are not as sophisticated as Waymo. Their vehicles have top speeds of 25 miles per hour. But Apple started making under-powered products, and then it gradually worked up, and finally Xerox understood. If Waymo is not strategic, companies like Nuro and Voyage can do the same with the groundbreaking self-propelled company.

Google Founder-Now Alphabet CEO-Larry Page Of course knows all about Xerox errors and is determined to avoid repeating them. "They were not focused on commercialization," side said about Xerox in a 2013 interview with Wired . Since the information is Amir Efrati, Page has pushed Waymo to commercialize since at least 2016.

But Page can draw the wrong lesson from the Xerox experience. Xerox attempted to commercialize its technology. It just didn't have a good strategy to do that. And it's not clear that Waymo does it either.

Xerox deleted a massive technology management

Early computers were too expensive to be dedicated to a single user. However, in the early 1970s, Xerox researchers realized that increasingly poorer costs would make human computing economically viable. Xerox's deep pockets freed scientists to temporarily ignore financial constraints and investigate how these future computers can work.

In 1975 PARC had produced a futuristic personal computer called Alto. It had a bitmapped display, a mouse and a graphical user interface. Xerox researchers developed a word processor with what-you-see-is-what-you-get interface. Current standard operations such as "cut", "paste" and "undo" were pioneered by PARC researchers, and Alto had powerful networking capabilities.

Also in 1975, Xerox established a new Systems Development Division to commercialize PARC's computer technology. The team prepared plans for a sophisticated Office Information Systems Architecture. Each employee would have an Alto-style workstation with support for word processing, email and other office applications. A fast network would connect the workstations to file and print servers.

This vision became a reality in 1981 with the introduction of the Xerox 8010 office system, known informally as the star. It was a technological wonder that offers opportunities far beyond that found on other computers at that time.

That was just one problem. The workstation started at $ 16,595 over $ 45,000 in $ 2019. A convenient system needed several workstations, as well as file and print servers, which could easily cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. It was not surprising that the new system did not sell well.

Apple took a lower approach

Tom Munnecke / Getty Images

When Xerox engineers developed the star, a small startup called Apple, built much less impressive personal computers. Apple launched its first product, a $ 666.66 kit computer called Apple I, in 1976. Apple II, released next year, came pre-assembled and sold for $ 1,298 ($ 5,300 in today's money). It was cheap enough that small businesses and even individuals could think of buying one.

Many computer processors terminated early "microcomputers" like Apple II playing, but they were not completely useless. A key breakthrough came in 1979 when Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston launched VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet program, on the Apple II. VisiCalc sold a hundred thousand copies and helped make Apple II an attractive choice for business customers.

Also in 1979, Apple signed a key agreement with Xerox. It gave Xerox the right to invest 1.05 million dollars in Apple ahead of Apple's anticipated original public offer. In exchange, Apple had a thorough look at the technology Xerox had seen at PARC. In a renowned series of meetings, PARC engineers demonstrated Alto's advanced capabilities to a group of Apple engineers who took great notes.

Apple's first computer with a graphical user interface, Lisa, was released in 1983 for $ 9,995 ($ 25,000 in today's dollar). As the star, it was a commercial flop. But unlike Xerox, Apple quickly learned from the first mistake. Realizing that the high price was a deal for customers, Apple Macintosh introduced in 1984. The initial price of $ 2,495 ($ 6,000 in today's dollar) was cheap enough to make it a commercial success.


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