Robert Stephens, Marko Gargenta

CTO, Founder, Best Buy, Geek Squad; Consultant, Marakana

A Conversation With Robert Stephens
16 minutes, 7.4mb, recorded 2011-10-10
Robert Stephens

Google’s acquisition of Android Inc. in 2005 silently marked the inception of a powerful mobile software ecosystem consisting of tens of large companies and thousands of application developers. Android’s rapid ascent to become the largest smartphone operating system is largely because of the openness of this ecosystem. As Google aims to take Android beyond smartphones and tablets with its Tungsten and Andriod@Home projects, many expect Google to emerge as a leader in home automation as they foresee the development of TVs and other appliances that run on Android.

Robert Stephens, the CTO of Best Buy and Founder of Geek Squad talks to Marko Gargenta, the founder of Marakana and Program Chair at O’Reilly’s recently held Android Open Conference at San Francisco, CA. As a retailer selling everything from mobile devices to home automation systems like Control 4, Robert talks about his experience and expectation from Android and Google. Robert discusses the future of home networking and the importance of Android-like operating systems and establishment of mesh networking standards that make seamless plug and play possible within these home networks.

The discussion also focuses on how Google’s idea of openness may change, especially with the entry of Amazon into the mobile devices market. Google TV, which forms the core of the home automation systems that Google develops, will gain traction in the coming years as lessons learnt from its failure are put to use. The discussion also revolves around the emergence of NFC and how Google, with other device manufacturers, is driving its mass adoption.

Robert Stephens is the CTO of Best Buy and the Founder of Geek Squad.  As he pursued a computer science degree at the University of Minnesota, he landed a job fixing computers for the Human Factors Research Laboratory. Over a three year period, he rose to become head engineer of the lab while earning scholarships from the U.S. Navy and the FAA building flight and driving simulators. In April 1994, after three years at the University, he formed The Geek Squad with $200. In 2002, Best Buy acquired Geek Squad and opened Geek Squad precincts in all Best Buy US and Canadian stores. Now, with over 25,000 Agents, The Geek Squad is now the world’s largest technology support company offering phone, in-store, and in-home and online support. In 2010, Robert was appointed as the Chief Technology Officer for Best Buy.


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