The Palm Beach Letter folks have been shaking the tree for new subscribers to Teeka Tiwari’s Mega Trends, and the latest ad is generating a bit of buzz in Gumshoedom … quite a few questions so far this week.
And I don’t blame ’em — it sounds kind of cool. And with everyone chattering about the “unveiling” of the Apple Watch today, everyone’s probably wondering what the “next big thing” is… so let’s see what Teeka Tiwari’s idea is.
The start catches your eye, and will give a big fat hint to those who have paid attention to the history of technology…
“I’ve shown the map above to dozens of the most successful investors I know…
“They were all shocked that three of the biggest breakthroughs of our time came out of this one little place…
“Apple swiped the key technologies for the first Macintosh personal computer from this building…
“Microsoft’s Word and Windows products were the direct result of work done on this property…
“And the man behind Adobe Systems, maker of the Adobe Reader and PDF, got his start in this modest set of offices.
“In this video, I’ll tell you about this obscure lab. It’s just three miles off the 280 Freeway in California.
“And according to Forbes, ‘Technology companies… have collectively realized trillions of dollars in revenues and tens of trillions in market value because of [this lab].'”
So that’s obviously a reference to Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, usually called Xerox PARC, the advanced research center started by Xerox (XRX) as a places to design the “office of the future” 45 years ago, and where the graphical interface, computer mouse, and many other now-commonplace technologies were first pioneered. Xerox, as you may have noticed, didn’t benefit very directly from those advances designed by their engineers (though they certainly benefited from some — laser printing was developed at PARC, too, along with dozens of other technologies and standards that are either core to our technological lives or were stepping stones to reaching the current standards.
PARC is still owned by Xerox, though it’s now an independent subsidiary corporation and they do a lot of contracted R&D for other companies — so is Tiwari just suggesting that we buy shares of XRX? Let’s keep digging through the spiel…
“You see, this lab is working on the next major tech breakthrough.
“It’s almost ready to go public… and only one company holds the key patent.
“We could be looking at the next Apple or Microsoft.
“The MIT Technology Review says this invention ‘could revolutionize the way electronics are made.’
“This advanced technology is at the center of an industry one major tech CEO says will be worth ‘$19 trillion by 2020.'”
That is indeed a Xerox PARC technology (though they’re not the only ones working on this kind of thing), a flexible and potentially low-cost way of making chips that are partially “printed” — which would, at least conceptually, be a big boon for the widely anticipated “Internet of Things” wave of interconnected devices… if you can make the chips flexible and out of lots of different materials, and cheap, then the number of things that can be “smart” increases substantially.
The “$19 trillion” number is the one that’s widely used for the “Internet of Things” — I think the number originally came from Cisco (CSCO) CEO John Chambers in a presentation a little over a year ago (Cisco is very focused, understandably, on the Internet of Things). The “revolutionize” quote is indeed from the MIT Technology Review in an article you can see here.
Then we get a bit more detail (and hype) from the ad…
“Current 3-D printers have one major flaw.
“They can only print a mold or replica of a solid object. A shirt, a hammer, a car door…Are you getting our free Daily Update
"reveal" emails? If not,
just click here...
“They haven’t been capable of printing objects with microchips or circuits—so-called ‘smart’ devices.
“What that means is, you can print a car door in your garage right now using a 3-D printer. But that car door isn’t actually complete…
“To add the computing equipment that’s standard in every modern car, you have to do it the old-fashioned way; install it after the door’s been made.
“There are no 3-D printers capable of manufacturing advanced electronics and embedding it inside an object.
“You see, scientists in this Pentagon-sponsored lab in California have created the most advanced 3-D printing technology to date.
“As a result, you could be printing smart devices in your own home or business very soon.”
Hmmm… the nice thing about “very soon?” It’s a phrase that sounds compelling and immediate, but it doesn’t have a specific (or legal) definition.
More from the ad:
“With this special ink, a jet is added onto the 3-D printer that can print and place microchips exactly where they’re needed.
“Those microchips can be added to any kind of surface or material. You can literally put a computer in anything…
“As it is improved, this technology will get cheaper and cheaper. More people will have access to its incredible benefits.
“The influence on intelligence, science, business, and politics will be massive.
“Literally everything you own will have a ‘smart’ device inside it.
“As I’ll show you in a moment, there’s a chance at once-in-a-lifetime profits if you’re ahead of the trend.”
Well, on this particular technology you’re well ahead of any “trend” — this is still a R&D project, and it’s not going to be in a commercial 3D printer churning out plastic gizmos with embedded microchips anytime soon, though that is the envisioned future by these engineers. Is this really an investable idea?
And then we get to the part where it becomes clear that Tiwari is probably not talking about Xerox stock… he describes how the technologies pioneered at PARC, like the mouse and even the Internet (they deserve at least partial credit for Ethernet) created titans when those products were commercialized, helping to build both Apple and Microsoft into multi-hundred-billion-dollar goliaths. Which makes you wonder about the lack of commercial vision at Xerox in the 1970s and 80s as they focused on their cash-cow copying business, but that ship has sailed (according to YCharts, XRX shares — had you bought them