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New book from Yankee Group chief exec Emily Green

Posted by Scott Kirsner  January 6, 2010 09:54 AM

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In 1999, when sharp-tongued soothsayer Howard Anderson departed Yankee Group, the Boston research firm began receding into irrelevance. Anderson had sold Yankee to a publicly-traded company in 1996, and he started to focus more on early-stage investing with his new firm YankeeTek Ventures. 

Yankee wasn't much of a player in the tech forecasting field when it was sold again in 2005, to the Boston private equity firm Alta Communications. Helping to lead that acquisition was Emily Nagle Green, a former executive at Forrester Research and former CEO of Cambridge Energy Research Associates. (CERA was the firm founded by noted oil guru Daniel Yergin; Forrester was founded by George Colony, a one-time employee of Anderson's at Yankee Group.)

As CEO, Green applied the defibrillator paddles to Yankee when she arrived in 2005. She got the analysts blogging, and focused the firm on the idea of "anywhere" connectivity. Instead of looking at technology through the lenses of software, services, data center gear, or telecom switches, Green pushed Yankee to envision a world where just about all consumers, businesspeople, and devices are constantly connected -- and talk about the ways companies today are (and aren't) moving successfully toward that world.

Locally, Green has made a big imprint on the tech community, bringing fresh ideas to the board of directors at MITX, and taking a leadership role with the state's well-intentioned  Innovate MassTech initiative.


Not bad publication timing: the Consumer Electronic Show is happening in Vegas this week... Google just unveiled its first mobile phone... and Apple is expected to announce a tablet computer. 

"Anywhere" collects viewpoints from a number of Bostonians who've been thinking about the impact of pervasive connectivity, including Beth Israel CIO John Halamka; venture capitalist and 3Com founder Bob Metcalfe; Ambient Devices founder David Rose; Maven Networks founder Hilmi Ozguc; MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte; entrepreneur Vanu Bose; and Akamai CEO Paul Sagan.

I asked Green to highlight one of the counter-intuitive ideas from the book -- aside from the notion that we'll all be linked to the network through all kinds of new devices.

Green said that the old notion of a product being finished when it is sent to a customer is becoming obsolete. "Anywhere" products can evolve over time, thanks to software updates sent wirelessly. "Think about the Roku box," Green said, mentioning a set-top box that can stream movies from Netflix. "That can get smarter over time, because it has a persistent connection to the Roku people. That's a wake-up call for enterprises, which need to ask, 'How do my products continue to evolve, and what are all the new paths I have to reach the consumer through all of these devices,' whether it's the Roku box or the Chumby or a connected blood pressure monitor?"

Green's new book is a major marker that Yankee Group, founded in 1970, is now a reinvigorated player on the tech forecasting landscape.

It's interesting, I think, that neither Yankee founder Howard Anderson or George Colony, Green's old boss, provided blurbs for back of the new book. Green tells me she didn't ask either one for an endorsement, though she says Colony encouraged her to write the book. Instead, the quotes come from CEOs at Sprint, Nokia Siemens Networks, and Young & Rubicam.

Green is planning to do a book event at the Borders in Downtown Crossing later this month; the date isn't set yet, but it should appear here once it is.

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About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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