September 07, 2012

Wozniak says area riding high-tech wave

By: Stephen Williams

Source: Daily Gazette

MALTA — Smartphones and digital assistants will continue to become more interactive with humans, Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak said Thursday.

“You’ll carry your best friend around in your pocket, who will know your heart and soul better than you do,” the technology guru said during a wide-ranging panel discussion at the GlobalFoundries computer chip plant. “We’re talking way in the future, decades.”

Wozniak, who has been in the Capital Region the past two days, appeared before about 600 people in the cafeteria of the rapidly expanding, start-of-the-art computer chip plant.

An industry evolution driven by changing consumer products will keep the demand for semiconductor chips like those made by GlobalFoundries high for a long time, he said.

Wozniak and other members of the panel that also included fiber optics co-inventor Peter Schultz said the region’s evolution is just starting, and the Capital Region needs more of something Silicon Valley has — a culture that tolerates risk-taking and accepts failure as part of a successful career.

“I think you learn the most, even in elementary school, from failure,” Wozniak said.

As visitors, both men said they were impressed by what they’d seen, including a tour of the University at Albany’s College of Nanoscale Sciences and Engineering, a $14 billion facility where scientists and researchers from academia and industry work together on advanced technology.

“This is going to turn around the economy of this region, there’s no question in my mind,” said Schultz, who now lives on Lake Champlain and said his previous “drive-through” impression of Albany was “abandoned textile mills.”

“In the last two days, I have just been amazed,” he said.

“There’s something really big going on here in Tech Valley,” agreed Wozniak, a native of San Jose in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley.

The Capital Region now has some presence from nearly all the big technology industry companies, between those working at or supporting the nanocollege or GlobalFoundries’ $6.9 billion plant.

“The vision is here, the opportunity is here, and we just need to take advantage of it,” said John Cavalier, retired president of MapInfo in East Greenbush, another panel member.

Guests, including some of the region’s business and academic leaders, were also cautioned not to be complacent.

“You get some sense of people patting themselves on the back that they’ve done it,” Schultz said. “This is just the beginning. It’s not time to pat yourself on the back.”

Daniel Pickett III, CEO of mission-critical computer networking system provider nfrastructure, said the growth now happening wouldn’t have occurred without government support, citing the world-class research program at UAlbany.

“I think sometimes for capital, government needs to get involved,” Pickett said.

GlobalFoundries is receiving nearly $1.4 billion in cash and tax credits as part of a 2006 incentive deal to locate in New York state, a deal whose size has sometimes been criticized.

Wozniak said “tax-forgiveness programs” for large companies may be necessary to attract them.

“In time, they will be followed by small companies that will be tax-paying,” he said.