In the last six months we have seen the environment come back on the agenda with a bang. This has caused almost every major company to look at its ‘green quotient.’ Now for some businesses this simply means making themselves carbon neutral but for others it means changing the products they sell and some cases rethinking the competition. Take companies such as Cisco and Polycom who both offer pretty sophisticated video conferencing solutions. Whereas these systems were at best hokey (and horribly expensive) a few years ago, they are fast becoming usable and affordable, thus causing the airlines to take note. Now if you had said a few years ago that United Airlines biggest competitor would be a technology company people would have patted you on the back and changed the subject. Of course just about every major tech company is now looking at its product set and asking: “can we make it use less energy?” or “will this solution save the customer some energy?” This is changing the very messaging of the major tech firms and many smaller ones, putting energy up near the top of the list. The other big shift has been the shifting interests of the major VCs towards clean tech investments. John Doerr and Vinod Kholsa in particular are making big steps in this direction with huge investments in areas like bio fuels. These people are of course expecting their marketing partners to make the same shift, meaning that PR businesses that were announcing servers and embedded chip controllers a few years ago are now discussing the merits producing ethanol from corn, versus sugar cane or even trees.
Now this could all just be a passing phase and as one senior PR executive said to me yesterday, the media is already getting a little tired of writing about how company x is going green. But what does appear to be clear is that the tech market and energy market are converging. So any self respecting PR executive that is currently making a living from tech PR had better start learning about the dynamics of the energy market, because in one way or another its going to affect them quite significantly in the years ahead.
In recent weeks I’ve picked up a couple of news items that have troubled me about the long term prospects for tech in the US. The first there was an article by a New York Times columnist that shared concerns about the sudden decline of US Universities in their production of top technology talent. Whereas in the late 90s US Universities were producing most of the valuable tech resources on the planet, today it appears that honor goes to Universities in China. If this news doesn’t worry those wishing to see the US retain leadership in tech, then news that applications for H1B visas are well below current limits should create some concern. Combined these news items suggest that not only are other countries now producing the best talent but that talent is not being drawn to work in the US. In the short term that shouldn’t be a problem. How about ten years from now?