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Thursday, April 09, 2015


Original Story:

I’m in a meeting with 14 people, in mid-sentence, when I feel a tap-tap-tap on my wrist. I stop talking, tilt my head, and whip my arm aggressively into view to see the source of the agitation. A second later, the small screen on my new Apple Watch beams to life with a very important message for me: Twitter has suggestions for people I should follow. A version of this happens dozens of times throughout the day—for messages, e-mails, activity achievements, tweets, and so much more. Wait a second. Isn’t the promise of the Apple Watch to help me stay in the moment, focused on the people around me and undisturbed by the mesmerizing void of my iPhone? So why do I suddenly feel so distracted?

Let’s back up. Any way you figure, the Apple Watch is an epic product release. It’s the company’s first new product category since the iPad and the first new product since the death of Steve Jobs. It was created almost entirely under the guidance of Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, and it’s the first device from Apple that was designed—hardware and software—by Jony Ive. Apple has also sunk money into new retail experiences (led by left-field hire Angela Ahrendts, the former CEO of Burberry), and positioned the device as both the latest must-have gadget and a bona fide luxury item. The watch starts at $349 and climbs above $10,000. To say it’s a major moment for the company would be an understatement. A home automation system combines technology into one easy to use system and allows you to control indoor and outdoor home functions with a touch of a button.

No one is questioning Apple’s ability to mint money with its gadgets and services (see: $178 billion in the company’s cash reserves), but the ambitions of the watch speak to Apple’s broader ambitions. With a possible entry into the auto market on the horizon, Apple’s success at getting into—and winning—a whole new category of product is kind of a big deal. Although analysts’ predictions for 2015 Apple Watch sales range from 8 million to 41 million, putting them in roughly Year One iPad range, no one even knows whether the thing is a good product.

Apple faces two huge challenges with the watch. It has to make a beautiful gadget, one that hews to the company’s history of groundbreaking design and technological innovation. For Apple, these are table stakes. But there’s more: Because it’s a brand-new product category, the company has to make a case for the very existence of not just its watch, but any watch. It has to persuade people that they need technology on their wrists. So far, the biggest question about wearables—there are already plenty of products on the market—is really: Who needs one?

Ready, set, go

The Apple Watch experience begins before you get one. It starts at an Apple Store, where you can opt to have a Apple salesperson give you a personal demonstration and set up your device. Because they aren’t at retail shops yet, I got an approximation of the experience: A company rep gave me a guided tour of the watch’s functions, set it up, and removed links from the stainless steel bracelet I chose. (Sadly, Apple didn’t make the 18-karat gold version available to reviewers.) Later, I picked up a leather loop, which I found more comfortable.

After a brief preview of the health functions during a walk through Central Park, I was off on my own, desperately hoping no one noticed the furious glances at my wrist and all the initial flicking, swiping, and scrolling that goes along with a first-time watch experience. Once alone, I could finally admire the device.

The hardware of the watch is beautiful in a surgical way. The little cube of metal and glass wouldn’t seem out of place in a futuristic lab or sci-fi movie. It is very much an Apple product: clean, sleek, remarkably solid. But as a piece of jewelry, it’s similar to other digital watches—including Casio’s iconic calculator watch, as several people pointed out to me. It also looks like other smartwatches on the market, such as Asus’s ZenWatch and Samsung’s Gear Live, in particular. (Both run Google’s Android Wear.) Like most things we adorn ourselves with, you have to love the way this looks on you. Apple’s design doesn’t compete with Rolex, Omega, or Breitling for sheer style, but the more I wore the inconspicuous thing, the more I liked it on my wrist.

The looks are just the beginning. It’s loaded with cutting-edge technology. The tiny Retina display has a new form of pressure sensitivity Apple calls Force Touch, which responds not only to where you touch the screen, but how hard you press. The watch notifies you with extremely nuanced vibrations via its Taptic Engine, which can produce strikingly realistic sensations, almost like a bell tapping on your wrist. Perhaps most important, the watch’s “digital crown” helps you navigate long menus, set options, and zoom in and out of maps and photos. And all the speedy software and motion tracking is controlled by the company’s new S1 processor, which packs in multiple components on a single chip. It’s an impressive package. After using it, I had no question that the Apple Watch is the most advanced piece of wearable technology you can buy today. You can combine smart technologies with a Control4 home automation system to help you manage energy consumption while providing entertainment.

The Apple Watch as a watch

For starters, the Apple Watch does function as a watch, one which has literally millions of different dial combinations. The timekeeping that Apple is using is so precise, it’s within 50 milliseconds of the global time standard known as Coordinated Universal Time. Apple has had some fun with this: Because every Apple Watch is perfectly in sync with the others, if you’re in a room full of Mickey Mouse faces, Mickey will tap his foot in perfect sync on every watch. It’s incredibly cool.

Apple allows you to customize the face of the watch, not only with tapping Mickey and other unique designs, but with little widgets it’s calling “Complications” (in a nod to classic horological terms). These items that dot the edges of the display can tell the temperature outside, signal your next calendar appointment, show the phases of the moon, and so on. In spite of the name, these Complications are one of the most useful parts of the watch, offering the kind of information that really does elevate the device beyond a simple timepiece.

(Actually, seeing these highly useful bits of information on the tiny screen of the watch made me realize we should have had them on the iPhone for a long time. I asked Steve Jobs in 2010 why the company hadn’t included more “glanceable” information on the iPhone and iPad, such as the widgets Apple had pioneered for the desktop. He told me they were just getting started and that “anything” was possible. Is this watch the thing I was waiting for?)

But what about the watch as a timepiece? I’ve found the experience somewhat inferior to that with a conventional wristwatch, due to one small issue. The Apple Watch activates its screen only when it thinks you’re looking at it. Sometimes a subtle twist of your wrist will do, but sometimes it takes … more. Many times while using the watch, I had to swing my wrist in an exaggerated upward motion to bring the display to life. Think about the way people normally look at their watches, then make it twice as aggressive. As a normal watch-wearer, the idea that I might look down at my wrist and not see the time was annoying.

Sometimes, even if you do the arm-swing motion, the screen doesn’t turn on. Sometimes it turns on, then off. Sometimes you tap it and nothing happens.

For all the noise Apple has made about what a remarkable time-telling device its watch is, I found it lacking for this reason alone. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t keep excellent time—it just doesn’t offer the consistency of a traditional timepiece.

In usePerhaps one of the most difficult things to wrap your head around is the way the watch extends—and often replicates—the functions of your phone. You can receive and send text messages on the device, for instance, but doing so on the small screen with your hand cocked in the appropriate position isn’t ideal if you’re working on something longer than a one-line reply. And although it connects deeply with the phone, the watch also has a completely new way of doing things. Because navigation is split between swipes of your finger, scrolling with the crown, and taps of varying pressure, it takes a while to get oriented. One of the crucial pain points I experienced was this constant, subtle battle with myself over whether to engage a notification on my watch or handle it on my phone.

The notification scheme is a little maddening at first. Apple sends a push notification every time you get a corporate e-mail, personal e-mail, direct message on Twitter, message on Facebook, and for interactions in countless other services. Each of these notifications pings the watch. For every message, there is a sound, a vibration, or both. (You can mute them.) If you’re a busy person who communicates constantly on your phone, this gets overwhelming fast. I found myself turning off notifications from entire apps, which seems to defeat the purpose of the watch in the first place. Mercifully, Apple has included a way to clear all those notifications: Just Force Touch on the list.

Eventually, I figured out that getting the watch to really work for you requires work. I pruned a list of VIP contacts in my mail app to make e-mail notifications more tolerable, I killed several app notifications that I found to be consistently interruptive, and I streamlined my list of applications to those that seemed truly vital to my day.

What’s odd is that in many ways, the watch functions a lot like a small iPhone. Though there are new ways of getting to your apps and interacting with them, much of the phone's model interface has carried over. So you end up in a lot of situations where you not only have to take action, you have to decide where to take action.

Still, as the days wore on, I did find some balance between the two devices. Checking text messages and e-mails by quickly glancing at the watch saved me some time, and it was certainly helpful when I was deeply engaged in an important activity. My 14-month-old daughter, who is completely obsessed with the iPhones in our house, didn’t seem to notice that I was getting an update on my wrist. Score!

As I mentioned, the watch also has a few fresh tricks. Within Apple’s new suite of functions, I found both hits and misses.

On the plus side is Apple’s new Activity app, which presents you with three basic sets of achievements to hit every day—and makes hitting those goals almost frictionless. One metric it watches is how many calories you’re burning every day by moving, a number that can be changed, depending on your skill level. A second is exercise, which is any period in which you’re engaged in strenuous activity that keeps your heart rate up. The third is a notification for standing, to make sure you get up on your feet at least once every hour.

Setup for the health features was completely painless, and I immediately started seeing the results of being made so aware of my activity levels. I wanted to walk more, was excited when I got a brisk jog through a train station, and yes, I felt better because I was standing up during the day on a regular basis. I have no idea if this will have any lasting impact on my health, but I think Apple’s beautiful and frictionless approach to teaching people about exercise habits is a leap in the right direction.

There are rough spots, too. Apple is hoping to reinvent how we communicate with friends and family by adding three new methods of messaging, not all of which work. The first allows you to essentially “sample” your heartbeat and send it off. This seems to have limited use; once you’ve gotten your first heartbeat, the novelty wears off pretty quickly. Also, I don’t know who, besides my wife, I would use this for. It’s weirdly intimate. The second is called Sketch, which allows you to draw or tap some symbols on your watch and send them to another Apple Watch user. This seems like a great idea until you realize how little space you have to work with. I sent a lot of weird-looking faces with no deeper meaning during my testing period. I did find hyper-discreet ways of using Digital Touch, however, such as a lone question mark when there was an unanswered question between me and the sender. Was it better than a texted question mark? Well, it wiggled more.

The third new message concept is 3D, animated emojis. At first glance, that sounds pretty great, until you realize that the emojis are really more like neutered, animated GIFs from the late '90s internet. What really struck me here was deep deja vu over an earlier Apple attempt to change the way we communicate with people: Ping. Ping was a “social network for music” that the company imagined would be the way that people wanted to share what they were listening to. In fact, people wanted to use other services, in thousands of different ways, to do that—ways that were much more natural and personal than the sterile option Apple provided. That’s how I feel about these animated icons you can send. We already have emojis, and Snapchat, and Instagram, and Periscope, and GroupMe, and Twitter, and Facebook, and WeChat, and on and on. There’s something forced and inauthentic about Apple in this space; it feels like a throwaway, a “Hey, we do that, too” move.

I’m split on one feature Apple includes on the watch, something called Glances. Glances act like little cards hiding underneath your watch that can give you a glimpse of information from first- and third-party apps. Twitter will display the latest tweet in your timeline, there’s a controller for your music app, or you can see a detailed description of your next calendar appointment. In theory, these screens should be wildly useful for quick access to information. In practice, I found them to be clunky and overwhelmingly useless. What hinders many of the experiences is that the watch must pull information from the phone, leaving you with a spinning wheel that indicates data loading, rather than a quick hit of info.


Yes, all these new functions, notifications, and tapping do make the Apple Watch very distracting. In some ways, it can be more distracting than your iPhone, and checking it can feel more offensive to people around you than pulling out your phone. The watch wants and needs you now, as its insistent taps make painfully clear. And to see what the Apple Watch wants and needs, you must physically move it into view. If while you’re talking to someone, you check your regular watch, it can feel as if you’re sending a not-so-subtle “let’s wrap this up” message. With the Apple Watch, factoring in the animated wrist-whip and the length of some of the notifications you receive, it’s downright rude.

Eventually I realized that this problem wasn’t about fixing the iPhone or fixing the watch. It’s not about making notifications more subtle or less frequent, or located in a place that doesn’t require a shift in your gaze. The thing that needs fixing is our sense of when—and when not—to move ourselves out of a moment so we can look at our devices. Strangely, it comes down to common courtesy and patience, more than a magical piece of jewelry from Jony Ive and Co.

The Apple Watch can certainly make you a worse dinner guest. But it can also make you a slightly better one. The difference is whether or not you’re willing to think about what really matters vs. what seems to matter.

The watch is not life-changing. It is, however, excellent. Apple will sell millions of these devices, and many people will love and obsess over them. It is a wonderful component of a big ecosystem that the company has carefully built over many years. It is more seamless and simple than any of its counterparts in the marketplace. It is, without question, the best smartwatch in the world.

So Apple has succeeded in its first big task with its watch. It made something that lives up to the company’s reputation as an innovator and raised the bar for a whole new class of devices. Its second task—making me feel that I need this thing on my wrist every day—well, I’m not quite sure it’s there yet. It’s still another screen, another distraction, another way to disconnect, as much as it is the opposite. The Apple Watch is cool, it’s beautiful, it’s powerful, and it’s easy to use. But it’s not essential. Not yet.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015


Original Story:

Google might have avoided going to court over antitrust charges in the US, but it could still face a lawsuit in Europe. According to the Wall Street Journal, the European Commission has started asking companies that filed complaints against Google's practices for permission to publish the details in those documents. A Brussels lawyer representing one of Mountain View's competitors said: "The fact that the commission has been seeking fuller [information] from complainants, against short deadlines [of] a couple of days, shows it is in the final stages of getting a statement of objections together. It's part of the choreography you always see."

Most of the companies involved in the case run shopping, travel and local websites. If that sounds like deja vu, that's because the complaints Google is facing in the EU are similar in nature to the ones filed against it stateside. European companies also accuse the tech giant of gaming search results, placing its own products such as Google Shopping or Local in more prominent positions in the list, as well as burying competitors' websites. The commission is also investigating whether Mountain View really scrapes content from its rivals' websites to use as its own.

The European Union's antitrust authority has been looking into these supposed unfair practices since 2010. Google and EC's previous chief made numerous attempts to settle over the years, but they all ended up in failure. The new boss, Margrethe Vestager, isn't one for settlements, though, and has been very vocal about her preference for court proceedings. Mountain View, by the bye, continues to deny any wrongdoing. Just last week, general counsel Kent Walker listed a number of failed products (including Google+) during an event in Berlin, which he said serves as proof that his company plays by the book.

If the commission does file charges, Google will only have three months to convince the court that it didn't do anything to violate laws in the region. It could also try to come up with settlement terms politicians and corporations in the EU will finally agree to. If it fails to do so, it might have to pay an exceptionally hefty sum, seeing as Microsoft was fined $1.35 billion for antitrust charges a few years ago.


Original Story:

IBM +0.03% has altered course many times since its foundation over one hundred years ago. Today, IBM announced a $3 Billion investment in a new business unit that the company hopes will position it to succeed in the emerging – and much hyped – area of technology known as the Internet of Things (IoT). The investment sounds bold – and the company already has many of the pieces it needs – but it’s pushing into an increasingly crowded area, where giants of both industry and technology are already scrabbling for dominance.

The company still associated in the minds of many with room-filling mainframes and a blue-suited salesforce has also dabbled – successfully – in everything from typewriters, printers, desktop computers, and hard drives to guns, point of sale devices and machines built to thrash human opponents at chess and Jeopardy. And, although the suits are less all-pervasively blue, it still builds those mainframes.

In recent years, the company has focused far more attention on selling services than servers, building a global professional services operation and divesting itself of low margin and increasingly commoditized businesses such as those responsible for desktops, printers, laptops and – most recently – mid-sized computer servers. IBM struggled, like its equally entrenched peers, to adapt to the promise (or threat) of cloud computing, but the acquisition of SoftLayer in 2013 finally gave the company a reasonably compelling cloud story. A much-hyped investment of $1 Billion in cloud (IBM, it seems, cannot do anything without first moving people and resources around so that it can announce the investment of a billion or three) has seen IBM SoftLayer aggressively opening new data centers around the world, and the big global enterprises that tend to buy IBM’s professional services now have a good fit for at least some of their tentative cloud adoption strategies. The company could really help itself here, by clarifying its position with respect to the big cloud software solutions like OpenStack and CloudStack. IBM – and SoftLayer – pronouncements in this area have been lukewarm at best, and often downright evasive.

This latest investment, by some ways of counting, is even larger. $3 Billion, over four years, to:
harmonize existing strategic activities from the Smarter Planet and Smarter Cities brands, which have had an Internet of Things element for a decade or more; put all those SoftLayer data centers to work in crunching huge volumes of data streaming in from billions of connected devices (wind turbines, jet engines, building climate monitoring systems, pacemakers, smartphones and – of course – refrigerators); promote IBM’s existing take on Platform as a Service (PaaS), Bluemix, to encourage application developers to build their applications on IBM hardware, using IBM software and IBM services; ultimately (we must, surely, assume) exploit IBM’s ongoing investment in Watson. A home automation system allows you to combine smart home technologies into one system for convenience. No longer a toy designed to show off on Jeopardy, Watson is evolving into a powerful, compelling and accessible analytics tool. It’s still too complex to deploy without significant investment of IBM’s own time and know-how, but that’s less true than it was.

What’s far from clear is the extent to which this is new money. Most of these activities were already underway, in other IBM business units. Is the new money just for printing some ‘Internet of Things Business Unit’ business cards, or is there really something substantive happening here? IBM itself has been nudging these pieces together for a while. Back in October 2014, for example, I moderated a workshop at an event in California. The workshop (for which I was not paid) was sponsored by SoftLayer, and explored the issues and opportunities associated with delivering Internet of Things-type solutions at scale. SoftLayer covered the cloud side of things, and fellow IBM acquisition Cloudant was on hand to illustrate the ways in which all these connected devices can challenge more traditional database solutions. Internet of Things was what they wanted to talk about.

More significantly, IBM faces stiff competition as it tries to stake a claim to the Internet of Things. Other technology companies also recognize the opportunity. Google GOOGL +1.19% spent more in a day to buy Nest than IBM is spending in four years on its new unit. Google then spent more, throwing half a billion dollars at Dropcam to add connected cameras to Nest’s bevy of connected thermostats and smoke detectors. Chip maker Intel INTC +0.32% sees the Internet of Things (unsurprisingly) as a way to sell an awful lot more chips, both to go into all those new devices but also to power the servers they are pretty dumb without. Intel’s developer event last year (disclaimer: Intel covered my costs to attend) pushed the Internet of Things at every turn, with Intel chips under the hood and Intel – increasingly – explicitly and prominently associated with co-developing fashionable connected devices of various kinds. And then there’s Apple AAPL -0.14%. We would be unwise to forget the waves that next month’s Apple Watch will unleash, almost regardless of whether this first generation device takes the world by storm or not.

But the biggest opportunity – and the biggest threat to IBM’s ambition – doesn’t lie in the traditional technology sector at all. Industrial behemoths from America’s General Electric GE -0.08% (GE), to Europe’s Siemens , to Japan’s Hitachi (disclaimer: Hitachi covered my costs for a recent visit to Japan, to learn more about their take on this market) all see this opportunity too. All are scrambling to make their industrial equipment smarter, and their management processes better able to ingest, analyze and act upon the data that machines, parts, production lines and even entire supply chains are able to report at or near real-time.

The Internet of Things offers a compelling raison d’être for all of the investment in cloudy data centers, global networks, big data analytics, and power-sipping chips. It lets us join the pieces together, and moves us beyond rather esoteric and isolated debates about the ‘best’ cloud or the fastest analytics engine. As real use cases become embedded, we might even escape the pointless industry press releases about incremental updates to platforms no one was really that interested in. There’s an awful lot of hype around the Internet of Things, and still little acceptance that anyone really needs an Internet-connected fridge.

Today’s announcement makes IBM’s inter-connected bets in this space a little more explicit. The real challenge is to deliver on the press releases, and to offer a set of solutions compelling enough to lure customers away from the growing range of powerful alternatives.

Monday, April 06, 2015


Original Story:

Google’s mission to organize the world’s information is now targeting your physical mailbox.

The company is currently working on a project that will allow Gmail users to more easily receive bills in their email inbox instead of their mailbox. Called Pony Express, the service also is designed to let people pay their bills within Gmail, rather than having to go to a telecom or utility company’s website to complete a payment.

Those details are outlined in a lengthy document viewed by Re/code. The new service is scheduled to start in the fourth quarter, according to the document. It’s not clear whether Pony Express is a code name or one that’ll be used if it comes to market. A Google spokeswoman declined to comment.

Such a service fits Google’s ongoing desire to bring all of the world’s information online, most notably its Google Books project, which has so far digitized well over 30 million volumes.

With Pony Express, Google could suck in the type of financial data that would allow it to expand into new businesses. Credit card bills and payment history would be a gateway into industries such as personal finance or lending. And the data could be used to refine how advertisements are targeted to individuals on Google, YouTube and partnering sites, though such a move would likely stoke privacy concerns. It’s not clear whether Google would generate any revenue directly from the Pony Express service.

The document features a step-by-step walk-through of how people can sign up. A Gmail user provides personal information such as their name, address and partial and full Social Security number to a third-party company that vets their identity. Users might also have to provide information such as a full credit card number or telephone service account number to get started, too.

According to the documents, it appears Google is partnering with third-party vendors that print and mail out bills on behalf of service providers such as insurance companies, telecom companies and utilities. It’s not clear whether Google is also working directly with the service providers, too.

Once a user is authenticated, he or she can start receiving bills or other mail in Gmail or the Inbox app (Google’s new email app). E-billing is not a new thing as pretty much all major financial, telecom and utility companies allow for paperless billing. But Google could play up the fact it can organize a Gmail user’s bills automatically in a special Pony Express folder.

The most useful part of the service could be the payments feature. The service appears to let people choose to pay a bill right from within Pony Express, using a link with a bank account or a debit card.

Pony Express also allows users to share a bill with another Gmail user, with the added option of automating the process, a feature that appears to be catered to roommates who typically split utilities. Another feature pulls up customer service contact information for a given service provider. Then there’s one that appears to show the capability to take a photo of a piece of mail to have it archived in digital form in Pony Express.

Google would not be the first company to attempt to help people organize and pay bills from a centralized location. A startup called Manilla, backed by Hearst, offered a service like this for several years before shutting down last year. An app called Check also allows people to view and pay for their bills through the app. Intuit bought Check last year for $360 million. Google’s potential advantage? The millions of people who already use its email services.

Thursday, April 02, 2015


Original Story:

MOUNTAIN VIEW -- One of Wall Street's most powerful women will become one of Silicon Valley's most powerful women when Ruth Porat joins Google this spring as its chief financial officer.

The Internet search giant on Tuesday announced the hiring of the 57-year-old Porat, a longtime Morgan Stanley banker who became its chief financial officer in 2010. She will become Google's highest-ranking female executive when she starts her new job on May 26.

Porat described the post as a kind of Silicon Valley homecoming. She grew up in Palo Alto, studied economics at Stanford University and was later a top banker dealing with technology firms.

"I'm delighted to be returning to my California roots and joining Google," she said in a statement.

Porat has been the public face of Morgan Stanley and been referred to in reports as the most senior woman -- or most powerful -- on Wall Street. Key positions she has held at the firm include vice chairman of investment banking and co-head of technology investment banking. She was the lead banker on financing rounds for tech companies including Amazon, eBay, Netscape and Priceline. An employment lawyer regularly negotiates employment agreements and severance packages for high level managers and executives.

"We're tremendously fortunate to have found such a creative, experienced and operationally strong executive," said Google CEO Larry Page in a written statement. "I look forward to learning from Ruth as we continue to innovate in our core -- from search and ads, to Android, Chrome and YouTube -- as well as invest in a thoughtful, disciplined way in our next generation of big bets."

Porat will be the only woman among Google's five top executives, though the company also has three women in senior leadership roles: Susan Wojcicki, who heads YouTube; Lorraine Twohill, the marketing chief; and Rachel Whetstone, senior vice president of communications and policy. Other women who were part of Google's senior leadership team have gone on to high-profile executive positions elsewhere, such as Marissa Mayer, now Yahoo's CEO; and Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer at Facebook.

Google announced just two weeks ago in a regulatory filing that its current CFO, Patrick Pichette would be retiring. Pichette, who joined Google in 2008, wrote a widely shared post on Google+ explaining his decision to step down to spend more time with his family.

Google shareholders are likely to welcome Porat's experience in "dealing with complex global operating environments and regulatory challenges," said Peter Stabler, an analyst at Wells Fargo Securities, in a written note Tuesday, but whether she signals any big changes in Google's philosophy remains unclear. An employment lawyer is following this story closely.

Pichette had arrived seven years ago during a recession and became known for trimming costs, from unsuccessful business ventures to the hours at the campus cafeterias. In more recent boom years, however, he's been a staunch defender of the company's cutting-edge risks on a wide assortment of research that reflect Google's experimental approach but can make investors nervous.

Other tech companies have lured executives from Wall Street, including Twitter, which appointed Anthony Noto as its CFO last year. Noto hails from Goldman Sachs.

Porat declined interviews Tuesday but her rise through the Wall Street ranks was profiled in a 2010 book, "How Remarkable Women Lead: The Breakthrough Model for Work and Life," written by authors Joanna Barsh, Susie Cranston and Geoffrey Lewis, who work for management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.

The book described her working parents as an inspiration.

Her father, Dan Porat, 93, was an electronic engineer at Stanford's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory from 1962 to 1988. Her mother, Frieda Porat, was a psychologist and teacher who wrote books about organizational management. She died in 2012.

Ruth Porat describes herself on her Twitter profile as a breast cancer survivor and proud Stanford alumnus.

She is also vice chairwoman of the Board of Trustees at Stanford. She has advanced degrees from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the London School of Economics.

After studying economics at Stanford, she took a job at the U.S. Department of Justice in the early 1980s. But she was also fascinated with mergers and acquisitions, which drew her to Morgan Stanley in 1987, according to the book.

Revealing her challenges, and successes, as a woman on Wall Street, Porat told the authors that "biases are deep" and it's important to find the right boss.

"One of the biggest problems women have is they work really hard and put their heads down and assume hard work gets noticed," she said. "And hard work for the wrong boss does not get noticed. Hard work for the wrong boss results in one thing -- that boss looks terrific and you get stuck."