Davos Newbies Home


Via Larry Lessig, I’ve started to play around with Amazon.com’s Search inside the book. As they get more and more of their content into this database, it will be a truly remarkable resource.


I told you Clinton was looking good.

China trade  

Some handy statistics from Marginal Revolution:

  Top categories of US imports from China, by billions of dollars:
  $8.6 Shoes
  $6.1 Toys
  $5.6 Input-output units
  $5.1 Data processing machine parts
  $3.2 VCRs
  $2.6 Wood furniture
  $2.0 Transmission equipment
  $1.7 Data storage units
  Now, consider top imports from China, as a percentage of the overall imports in the stated category:
  88% Radios
  87% Christmas and festive items
  83% Toys
  70% Leather goods
  67% Shoes
  67% Handbags
  65% Lamps and lights


There’s a wonderful front and back contrast in today’s print edition of the Financial Times. The front page lead is about the potential $15 billion IPO of Google. The back page is about today’s last-ever flight of Concorde (subscribers only, for inexplicable reasons).

That’s two great engineering achievements. One seemingly early in its ascendency, the other long since an odd heritage object. Unsurprisingly, I use Google countless times a day. It would be hard to imagine work without it, although if Google didn’t exist, I suspect we’d be getting along reasonably well with one of the alternatives. How enduring Google’s dominance will prove is far harder to judge. I’ve long been a big fan of Eric Schmidt, one of the few technology CEOs in my experience who has a broad world persepective and a healthy intellectual curiousity about matters outside Silicon Valley.

But it’s exceedingly rare for even the smartest companies to successfully handle successive waves of technological change. When I interviewed Bill Gates years ago, he noted, “To think that the same companies will be the biggest 25 years from now is mind-boggling. For [Microsoft to do that] it will take two or three miracles. One or two by me, one or two by my successors. We’ve managed three in a row [so far in our history], and three in a row is the best anyone has done. I’ve always said that technology companies should sell at lower multiples than conventional companies. Coke deserves a higher multiple than Microsoft: Coke will be the world’s most popular drink 25 years from now; nothing I sell will be around.” (Note: Microsoft’s current P/E is 31, Coca Cola’s is 25.)

Concorde, of course, was never the world’s biggest or most successful anything. But it is still, 34 years after its first flight, the most beautiful thing in the sky. It’s a clear, lovely autumn day in London today. So around 4pm, probably when I’m walking the children home from school, we’ll look up to a very familiar roar in the sky and watch Concorde for the last time.

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