Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Your ERP System will Change the World. True.

A friend of mine sent me a link to a page that manages to equate the revolutions spreading across the Middle East to the claimed revolutions included in the latest versions of an ERP system - Pronto.

Who’d a thought it.

All we have to do is hand out copies of Pronto to dictators everywhere and soon democracy will flourish. It will flourish, basically, because the dictators will be so busy pouring resources into managing and running the ERP system that they won’t have the people to stifle dissent and murder the opposition. That and the fact that the maintenance fees will bankrupt their regimes.

I know Pronto. I’ve worked at a few sites where they use it.

Its an okay piece of work. Is it able to contribute to global democracy and freedom of the oppressed? I think that’s a bit of a stretch. The fact that the piece was written by the Managing Director of Pronto may go some way towards explaining the reason why he’d want to find a way to tie a growing social revolution to his software.

The funny thing is that he also mentions something about Mercedes-Benz doing some sort of ‘lock in’ thing with mobile phones and saying that “they offered hardwired mounts that supported only certain types of mobile phone. This was not a popular offering, and showed how Mercedes had gotten it so wrong when it came to mobile phones. The company did not understand how the mobile was becoming a communications infrastructure that empowers social connectivity. Phones then evolved quickly so that people could use them to express themselves in many ways, making hard-wiring a bad idea.”

He goes on to say “I make and sell business software, and in my world, there is a similar transformation going on today and I believe that in the future it will be regarded as a very profound change. That change is similar to the revolutions in the Middle East. This isn’t hype — it is reality, and the smart companies are already actively transforming”.

Funny thing is Pronto is one of the worst offenders at this sort of thing.

I’d just like to point out to David Jackman that by refusing to free up Pronto from the Wintel centric thin client they use and move to a more open, democratic, platform independent client, like, say a browser (or ideally any browser) he is no better than the regimes that democratising technology is helping to overthrow.

He’s quite proud of the fact that Pronto is a Wintel only platform - it appears that technological democratisation, as far as Pronto is concerned is a good thing to speak of, but not actually execute. Sounds a lot like the statements made by the, now, deposed leaders of Egypt and Tunisia where they’d say - yes we are making steps towards democracy.

Since Mr. Jackman wants to tie his software to the Arab Spring it may be good for him to listen to a suggestion from the Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutolglu who said “Leaders of other countries must be aware of the fact that they will be in power as long as they satisfy the demands of the people.”

I know for a fact he has quashed discussion of Mac and browser clients for Pronto by saying, in effect, ‘the customer base doesn’t want it’, despite long discussions about running Pronto on platforms other than Wintel by that same customer base.

This whole puff piece is ego gone mad. Pronto Dimensions is the Arab Spring of enterprise software!?

I’m sure Larry Ellison will quake in his Sperry Topsiders.

Linking the updates in the new version of Pronto to the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia sounds like the blathering of a man who doesn’t hear ‘no’ often enough and cheapens the sacrifices made with blood and lives in both of those countries and continues in Libya and Syria.

His article sounds like a cheap attempt to gain marketing mileage from years of suffering that people in these countries have endured.

Mr. Jackman - let my people go!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Brisbane Board Meeting - Hooray!

The time had finally came. I flew up to Brisbane the day before the Board meeting.

I wanted to prepare. This was going to be an unhappy meeting for someone.

The day came and I got a cab over to their office. It was off Coronation Drive so the morning traffic was a struggle.

I arrived and went in. The Financial Controller was in my face almost from the moment I walked in. She wanted to know what I was going to tell the board.

I said “I’m going to give them my professional opinion on what I think is the best solution for this business”.

She was so arrogantly self-absorbed that she didn’t think for a moment that I might say something that wasn’t in agreement with her agenda.

We walked into the Boardroom and got introduced after a few minutes of pleasantries we sat down and the meeting started. The technology stuff was scheduled for the start so at least I didn’t have long to wait.

The man who started the company, I’ll call him Stavros, turned to me and said “What do you think of our new technology strategy?”

“I think its going to waste a lot of money and it won’t give you anything new or unique.”

The Financial Controller nearly burst her brain.

The Board was surprised.

“Look”, I said, “regardless of what you’ve been told, you will have to spend over $400,000 to execute this strategy and you will have no extra functionality. You’re spending that money just to replace everything with Windows machines. You won’t get anything extra to what you have now. You may have the money to throw at this, but, you can spend $400,000 on computers, or, you can spend $400,000 on something that’ll turn into profit.”

Everyone around the table thought about this for a moment.

The Financial Controller gave me the ‘look of death’. I think I was off her Christmas Card list for good.

She was about to launch into a tirade when she was cut off by Stavros. He asked me if using Windows everywhere was what all businesses did.

“A lot of business do. But its expensive. Let me explain.”

The Board nodded.

“A copy of Windows costs you around $350 for an upgrade. A copy of the Mac Operating System costs you $32.00 for an upgrade. You have about 150 computers and you will have to pay for at least one upgrade in the life of a piece of hardware. The maths is simple About $52,000 for Windows and $4,800 for the Mac OS. You’re putting $48,000 in Microsoft’s pocket for nothing really. The operating system doesn’t do anything except the computer to turn on and be ready to do something.”

Just then the Financial Controller jumped in and said, “But no one uses Mac’s in business except for graphics arts companies. We’re in a different business.”

I was about to answer when the Board member who wasn’t involved in the business said, “But the Commonwealth Bank has just gotten rid of 4000 Dell laptops and replaced them with Mac laptops. They’ve got the new branch in Queen Street and there’s lots of Apple equipment in there.”

The Financial Controller’s face turned the same colour as her lipstick…

Stavros turned to her and said that he wanted to see all her financial projections for this move to Windows including all the benefits. He asked me to have a look at them and report back to him.

This meant one more trip to Brisbane. It ended up being memorable.

I’ll tell you how this story finished soon.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Can RIM pull of a Lazarus like resurrection?

Boy Genius Report recently had a piece on RIM and whether Blackberrys with the QNX Operating System will turn their fortunes around.

I’m not going to regurgitate the article here, but, I’m not so sure.

While I have a soft spot for Blackberry and their platform I don’t think that some new, well built hardware and a new OS is going to change the tide for them. Neither is an ‘Android layer’ that lets a Blackberry run Android apps.

Here are some of the practicalities, that I think, get in the way of a resurrected RIM.

The Cool Factor.

The Blackberry isn’t cool any more. I don’t hear of executives lining up at the door to their IT department demanding a Blackberry. An iPhone or an Android phone, yes, but a Blackberry, not so much.


More and more of the functionality that required a BES is now being found as native features in a wider and wider range of handsets. So why need a BES? If you don’t need a BES what’s the compelling story for a Blackberry over something else?

Blackberry Messenger

This was an awesome tool. Its becoming replicated functionality in other handsets. iOS is looking like its going to have something like it and you can bet that Android and WinMoPho devices will have something very similar as well.

I suppose the question is “if there was no real difference in features and functionality would you buy a Blackberry if you could choose from all the other smartphones out there”?

Sadly, I don’t think I would and I’m not so sure that I’m alone in that thinking.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Good Morning Mr Husic. You mission, should you choose to accept it...

So. Ed Husic has decided to rattle the cage of the IT industry about pricing discrepancies between the US and Australia.

Congratulations Ed. You scored yourself a cheap headline by calling out the Managing Director of Apple Australia - Tony King.

Having been in the ICT industry for a long time I don’t disagree with Ed that the pricing discrepancies between the US and Australia are inexplicable but, seriously Ed, why didn’t you call out Microsoft, or maybe even Adobe - throw Lenovo in there as well.

Two of these three companies have had Australia grabbing their ankles for a long time and their mysterious pricing policies show much wilder discrepancies than Apple does.

Maybe your aides should do a little more research, because, in all honesty Ed. Going for the cheap headline is what I’ve come to expect from a politician. All sizzle and no sausage.

Maybe, Ed, you should get your staff to look at this article that was in IT News Apple by no means the worst Aussie price gouger, Mr Husic.

It gives a little more insight into the problem, with some numbers. I mean really Ed, if you want to have a really good look at some of this stuff maybe you should look at Adobe, and I don’t think anyone has had a real long hard look at Cisco and their pricing policies?

Really Ed if you wanted to become a hero to millions of consumers and even Australian business you should have a good hard look at Microsoft and Adobe. Get their pricing to look a bit more reasonable and you’d give back to Australian business millions of dollars in money spent on software.

The fact is Ed, while I wish something like this would happen, I doubt it will. The reason I doubt it is that as a politician you’re going to want to raise re-election funds. These guys make political donations and it seems to me that no politicians are left in Australia that have the sausage to match their sizzle.

This’ll be another flash in the pan where you can sit back and say “I raised the issue, but, the others wouldn’t back me up so re-elect me and I’ll maintain the rage. I spoke to Treasury. I spoke to the ACCC and they’re the ones who aren’t doing anything.”

Yeah. Right Ed. The only rage you’ll end up maintaining is if they raise the prices in the members bar.

I’d like to think you’ll prove me wrong, but, somehow I doubt it. If you were serious, I mean really serious, about this maybe you should spend some time talking to people on the ground in the ICT industry rather than using having a sit down with the MD of Apple Australia.

Talk to the guys who have to make IT work in small to medium businesses who run into daily examples of price discrimination in order to keep their businesses running efficiently.

I don’t think you’d do that Ed. There’s no headline in it for you.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Steve Jobs Resigns as Apple CEO - its iMargeddon

It was always going to happen.

Jobs was never going to stay as CEO forever.

The fact that he resigned the way he did was smart, and good for Apple.

Despite what all the ADHD afflicted Wall Street wunderkinder think, dumping shares and claiming doom and gloom because their spreadsheet models say so, this isn’t as big a problem as everyone thinks.

  1. Jobs is a long term thinker. He knew this day was coming and has been busy preparing.
  2. While the common view of Apple is that its a company built on one tent pole, and that tent pole is Steve Jobs - there’s more to the company that just him.
  3. Jobs brilliance lies in the fact that he can look at technology and distill it down to something that is accessible to the “I just want it to work” crowd.
  4. I’m willing to bet money that he’s been explaining this rationale to everyone in his inner circle.
  5. Apple’s product line for the next 2 years are already in the pipeline.
  6. Apple’s engineering mules for the next 4 years of possible products are in the pipeline.
It’ll be good for column inches to say that Apple is screwed. Everyone said that the day Bill Gates resigned Microsoft was screwed.

Different situation. Gates resigned after the rot had set in and handed the reigns over to Monkey Boy. Vista was already in the works before Bill resigned, he just left the big steaming pile for Ballmer to deal with.

This time Jobs, appears, to be leaving with Apple going from strength to strength.

  1. The iPhone 5 due ‘real soon now’.
  2. The Mac grabbing market share like Ballmer grabs futile acquisitions.
  3. A very successful patent war being fought against Samsung. The timing on this is interesting too.
The real reason I know Apple is in good stead - 5 year olds.

The other day I was in one of those Home Maker Super Centres.

The 5 year olds wanted to play with iPads and Macs. I mean all of them. They weren’t lining up top play with Windows 7 laptops or someone else’s tablet.

Want to know what tech trend to follow look at what floats the boat of a 5 year old.

I don’t really think iMargeddon is here - but if you do I’ll offer you a couple of bucks for your Apple shares.

iPhone 5 Release Date?

This crazy rumour crossed our desk late last night.

On October 23 2001 Apple announced the original iPod and released it to market on November 10 the same year.

Could Apple be planning to announce the iPhone 5 in September and release it to market on the 10th birthday of the announcement of the iPod?

Who the hell knows but we may as well add to the rumour fog swirling around the next incarnation of the iPhone.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dilbert Loves WinMoPho

It turns out that Dilbert’s creator, Scott Adams, loves his WinMoPho, or at least acording to the spin on the story from another blog site.

Normally I’d leave this sort of drivel alone, but, it kind of makes me think of the bleats you’d get from Apple fanbois, back in the day when you had to defend your choice of Apple gear.

Here’s the paragraph that got my attention, “
Scott Adams after accepting the challenge from Brandon Watson on using Windows Phone just published his results. In short, Windows Phone emerged as Winner. He actually compared Windows Phone on Samsung Focus on AT&T, iPhone 3Gs on AT&T and HTC Evo 3D on Sprint. Even though he didn’t use every single feature of all these devices, he just used the way he wants and found Windows Phone as the winner.”

Now most people when they hear the word winner they think of gold medal on the top step of the podium I was so good you barely deserve to live in my shadow type winner.

Here’s what Scott Adams said in his blog post “However, the intangible coolness factor is impossible to ignore. Even the names Microsoft and Windows feel dated. And the home screen of the Windows phone is great from a usability standpoint, but lacks sizzle. I’d be lying if I said that didn’t matter to me.”

This doesn’t sound like a clear winner to me.

In fact Scott Adams has hit on the real issue. WinMoPho’s just aren’t cool.

Its like you’re being given a choice between three cars. One is a high performance machine that, for every hour of driving needs an hour of tuning but is cool and lets face it, kinda fun. The second is a high performance machine that’s been built by an engineer without a lot of thought for ergonomics or fuel economy. The third is your father’s Volvo.


So then you find ways to justify the Volvo as being the new up and coming thing.

It’ll be there. It’ll have market share, but, its not going to set anyone’s world alight.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It's nice to hear someone in retail say it!

This little piece just came through my inbox.

Aussie retail’s digital disgrace

Even if they get their online strategies right there’s still one little problem.


Australian retailers just don’t get it.

Retail staff are just a lowest common denominator factor in their thinking - ‘the less we pay for them the more money we make’.

People are getting sick of the shitful service received from these low cost drones so that now its a case of - ‘the less we pay for them the less money we make’.

Even Amazon who is online only gives better customer service than most Australian ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers.

Man up. You screwed up and missed the boat.

Stand up to your shareholders, tell ‘em you screwed up, but be damned sure to have a surefire strategy that’ll work, either that or tell ‘em you screwed up and quit.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Apple Double Play.

I just finished reading an article in PC Magazine that really got me thinking.

The piece was entitled ‘The Apple Product That Really Worries PC Vendors’.

It really got me thinking, especially in light of the fact that the Commonwealth Bank recently decided to arm their staff with MacBook Air laptops.

The interesting this about this was the following:

Branch visitors were free to use iMac, iPad, iPod and Asus touchscreen devices to browse foreign exchange rates, products, and to make appointments with CBA specialists – much like how Apple customers arranged to visit the vendor’s ‘Genius bar’.
The bank also planned to replace internal Dell desktops with MacBook Air notebooks nationwide, allowing employees to choose to operate on either Mac OS or Windows platforms.

Wow! I really mean WOW!

Think about this in terms of the the information from Canalys that I mentioned in this post ‘Wintel Market Share Slips’.

The Commonwealth Bank, the guys who hung on to OS/2 for years past its expiry date are doing a widespread deployment of Apple MacBook Air laptops. This is astounding news.

Here’s the really amazing potential - lets assume that they replace all 4000 Dell laptops with the MacBook Air. Here’s the really interesting maths:

4000 copies of Windows 7 Entreprise, even at the best possible price couldn’t be less that $175 a copy, lets call it $150 just to keep the calculations simple. Lion is $31.99.

That means a saving on OS upgrade costs of $472,040.

Half a Million Dollars saving on an Operating System upgrade!

Where would you want the half million, on your bottom line or on Microsoft’s?

Careful of your answer, your shareholders are watching.

The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated…kinda

One of the corporate butt coverers at HP, Jon Zilber, posted on the HP Palm blog that the planet was wrong.

WebOS isn’t dead. Its very much alive and kicking, just in some strange undead form and no one has been smart enough to see it.

He says “Far from burying webOS, our goal is to ensure the platform's evolution as a robust operating system for an increasingly mobile and connected world.

I’m kind of curious to see exactly how this is going to happen.

Let’s try to imagine the conversation.

HP: WebOS has a huge future. We’ll cut you an amazing licensing deal on it. You can develop phones and tablets using it and compete against Android and iOS.

Prospective Licensee: Didn’t you guys try that?

HP: Yes.

Prospective Licensee: And how did that work out for you?

HP: It was a great experience. That’s why we’re here talking to you. We want to share the opportunities with you specifically and the rest of the industry for anyone with the vision to see the possibilities.

Prospective Licensee: So if it was such a great experience why did you stop making phones and tablets? I mean with a sell-through rate of around 10% on the tablet I’m not seeing an advantage here.

HP: It’s based on strategic initiatives.

Prospective Licensee (very confused): Huh?

HP: Leo has seen the future and its software.

Prospective Licensee (even more confused): Okay? But didn’t he say not that long ago that hardware was important?

HP (ignoring comment): So for us to leverage his strategic decision to strategically reposition HP as a software vendor by making this key acquisition for $10 billion of a cloud offering vendor that has astounding upside potential we need to exit future non-core businesses now before they become a drag on future potential earnings.

Prospective Licensee: What?

HP: Look. Everyone knows software is going to drive the industry so we’ve gotten out of the business of building tablets and phones.

Prospective Licensee: And you want me to develop software for what, exactly using WebOS?

HP: Phones and Tablets.

Prospective Licensee: I don’t understand.

HP: That’s part of our strategy. If people can’t understand exactly what we’re doing with WebOS you’ll be able to deliver a market shattering product.

Prospective Licensee: But I want to know what I’m getting into before I sign on the bottom line.

HP: Why? We didn’t when we bought Palm, we were just reacting to Apple and Google. Look everyone wants smartphones. Just sign here and you’ll make a fortune.

Prospective Licensee: I don’t think so.

HP: Trust us. We’ve got your back.

So WebOS is left to forever wander the Earth until someone finally decides that a wooden stake needs to be driven into its undead heart. I just don’t think anyone involved with HP’s Palm division will do it because it’ll be too detrimental to their career.

Better to spin a colossal screw up into a positive while polishing your CV while HP shareholders grab their ankles again.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Now that we ditched WebOS we can spend like there's no tomorrow

On the back of HP saying that they’re shutting down their WebOS business, Leo Apotheker decides that he’s going to go back to what he knows…monolithic, galactically expensive, software.

Yep there’s great fit for HP.

They’re in the hole for $1.2 billion over the Palm aquisition and now they want to shell out $10.24 billion to buy Autonomy. A 64% premium.

What is it with these guys? This is supposed to be a cash deal, no stock. Hmmm…they saw young Leo coming.

They get to cash up, big time, and Leo gets to add big software to the HP portfolio. Yet another acquisition to add business to the HP group, we can see how successful thats been in the past.

Looking forward to see how that one is going to turn out for the HP shareholders.

But you can bet that Leo will have cashed out by then and enjoying his life on some sandy beach leaving the HP shareholders to hold the bag.

I like the take that this article has on HP’s PC business. Tells me a lot about how Leo thinks.

He’s a software guy and he’s reverting to type. hardware just isn’t his thing.

I wonder if he would have made this deal if a large part of his bonuses was based on long term performance of the company after this latest cash splurge.

I really think that this isn’t going to end up being the greatest moment in HP’s history.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

R.I.P Microsoft Reader. What? I thought it died years ago?

I came across an article talking about this the other day. They claimed that the product was too ahead of its time.

This just sounds like the blatherings of a fanboi.

To be sure, over the years there have been a lot of technically brilliant products that have stumbled and failed. VHS Vs. Beta anyone?

Microsoft Reader failed because it was just created as yet another way to drive sales of Windows. There was never going to be a Kindle-like device from Redmond and that was always going to be the problem.

I mean who the hell was going to snuggle up in bed with one of those original and insanely expensive Windows Tablet PC’s (all 3+ Kgs of it) to read their favourite book, while connected to power because the battery life was so crappy?

Wake up to yourselves! That was never going to happen!

The great thing about Amazon’s solution is that I can read my books on any doohickey I’ve got - iOS, Android even WinMoPho as well as a real honest to goodness Kindle. That was never going to happen with the Microsoft Reader.

And that’s the whole problem with Microsoft, they’re a one trick pony and that trick is Windows. Everything they do is built on the credo of “sell more Windows” and that’s going to be the reason for their ultimate failure. I mean if people didn’t really want choice then every car would be a Ford.

Sometimes people just want to buy a Kindle.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Samsung isn't thrilled by Googorola

Seems like Samsung was being ‘polite’ about the Googorola hook up after all

Read the article here.

Looks like Samsung’s going to open the wallet too.

If this keeps up and companies start spending cash like there’s no tomorrow then maybe they’ll also jump start the economy.

Alas poor WebOS we knew thee not at all.

So HP has pulled up stumps, plans to sell off its bat and ball and go back to Palo Alto.

Leo Apotheker has decided that playing in this space is something that HP just can’t do. HP is also going to look at, maybe, getting rid of their PC business.

So lets get this straight, in 2001 HP bought Compaq, who were having indigestion from their acquisition of Digital. A lot of HP shareholders, including Walter Hewlett objected to the purchase and the deal just squeaked through (and there were noises about a bunch of back room deals being done to get it over the line).

Now, ten years later it looks like leaving Compaq alone would have been the smart thing to do.

HP announced that they would be looking at considering “a broad range of options that may include, among others, a full or partial separation of PSG from HP through a spin-off or other transaction”.

Good move Leo, looks like PSG was your best performing division and sold more units than your nearest competitor, Dell. Lets chalk another one up for management genius in this decision.

Rewind to 2010. HP buys Palm for $1.2 Billion. Why? Because we’ve got to get into the phone, handheld doohickey marketspace.

Today HP announces that “it will discontinue operations for webOS devices, specifically the TouchPad and webOS phones. HP will continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS software going forward.”

That sound you hear is a billion dollars being flushed down the toilet.

The fact is that margins are being squeezed in the PC business and HP doesn’t want to compete against guys like Dell, Lenovo, Acer, ASUS and Toshiba. In the tablet/phone business they just couldn’t make it work, but at least were smart enough to figure they should get out sooner rather than later.

This is telling us that when it comes to Mergers and Acquisitions that are made to gain market share or shut down competitors, it rarely ever works so what does this tell us to expect from the Googorola mutant as time goes by?

Have a look at this piece from The Register - HP chief bows to Jobsian cult.

The interesting part of the discussion is at the end of the article where it quotes Leo saying

"Due to market dynamics, significant competition, and a rapidly changing environment – and this week’s news only reiterates the speed and nature of this change – continuing to execute our current device approach in this marketplace is no longer in the best interest of HP and HP shareholders.

It's not. All those shareholders are wishing they'd bought Apple. The tablet effect is quite real, and it's affecting desktops and notebook sales at Apple too. It's driving them up.”

Thursday, August 18, 2011

How do I know that the Mac is making corporate inroads?

Challenging the dominion of Windows in the corporate world is the Mac.

Buoyed by increasing marketshare and a better user experience there are cracks starting to appear in Microsoft’s corporate Berlin Wall.

Autodesk announced that AutoCAD LT will be available through the App Store at $899.

AutoCAD has been available on the Mac platform for a while now as well.

Is this the first of many to come?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

More Thoughts on Googorola

I was talking to a friend of mine in the United States last night.

He was telling me that he thinks that Googorola is going to end up as a colossal corporate folly.

His take on the whole deal is that Google rushed the deal. They rushed the deal because they didn’t have the patent pool to defend Android and they were under pressure to find some way to defend it. So they zeroed in on the grandaddy of cellular technology, the guys that invented the thing and made them an offer they couldn’t sensibly refuse.

They rushed the deal because they crapped out with the Nortel patent portfolio auction a little while ago.

If the stories that this deal was put together in the last five or six weeks are true then Google was desperately seeking patents which puts the comments by Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha from about a week ago into perspective. He was playing brinksmanship with the Gnomes of Mountain View and they blinked, paying $12.5 billion for a company that lost $85 million last quarter!

Basically he said we’re gong to look at WinMoPho and sue the pants off all the other Android vendors.

And you can bet that Carl Ichan (one of Motorola’s largest shareholders) was happily wringing his hands in the corner wondering if Hanukah had come early.

The real question is, how many patents do Motorola have that will really help Google defend Android?

Its not going to help them in their fight against Oracle and I doubt its really going to help them in their fight with Apple over UI look and feel and its questionable if its going to help them in their arguments with Microsoft.

So if these Motorola patents aren’t going to help them in these three major battles then why?

I mean Redmond is asking Samsung for $15 per Android doohickey and I doubt that is going to change and they got General Dynamics, the granddaddy weapons of death and destruction globocorp to shell out a licence fee per Android doohickey.

This tells me that there may be something to the patents they’re showing everyone to get them to agree to paying the royalty.

Could it be the fact that Motorola were suing Microsoft for patent infringement as a reaction to Microsoft suing them “In October 2010, Microsoft sued Motorola for allegedly violating nine patents with its Android smartphones. “The patents at issue relate to a range of functionality embodied in Motorola’s Android smartphone devices that are essential to the smartphone experience,” Gutierrez wrote in an Oct. 1 statement. Motorola later retaliated with an intellectual-property complaint of its own.”

This might be nothing more than posturing to negotiate a better “per doohickey” royalty fee.

I just wonder if Motorola just saw Google as desperate to wave a pile of patents at everyone and say “look at us…if you don’t play nice with us we’ll hit you with our patent portfolio”, especially after their debacle with the Nortel patents.

I also wonder if Motorola realise that their patent portfolio won’t help Google all that much which is why Google have to pay $2.5 billion if the deal DOESN’T go through. Like after they do their due diligence and find out that the patent pool of around 25,000 patents actually don’t help them all that much?

I really wonder how this is going to pan out for all concerned...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Google buys Motorola Mobile

Lawyers all over the United States woke up happy this morning on hearing the news that Google has splashed out cash, to the tune of $12.5 billion to acquire Motorola Mobile and its portfolio of around 25,000 patents.

Googorola? Motorogle?

I like Googorola personally. It sounds like something that would go on a rampage and flatten Tokyo for our matinee entertainment.

I’m guessing that Google plans to unleash their mutant matinee monster in Redmond and Cupertino hoping for a Godzilla meets Tokyo like result and with such a large patent portfolio you’ve got to start wondering how long it’ll be before their army of lawyers will end up rolling into action like London teens looking for a night of looting and pillaging.

The really interesting story here is the effect on LG, Samsung and, especially, HTC.

HTC is now between the devil and the deep blue sea. On one side their wildly successful Android based business and on the other their not so much Windows MoPho based products.

The good news for them (!?), now, is that they’re going to be competing directly against their key suppliers. Microsoft and Nokia, who have recently announced that they’re going to drop prices to buy marketshare in the US for the good of Finland, Redmond and the WinMoPho way. Googorola who have now got a hardware/software end to end experience and they control Android too. Unless it now somehow forks.

Publicly HTC, Samsung and LG aren’t going to be too vocal about this. They won’t want to piss off the Gnomes of Mountain View, but you’ve got to wonder about the long term effects on their businesses.

If the Gnomes really wanted to go for a scorched earth policy they should have bought Nokia, I mean with their share price it wouldn’t cost a whole lot, and then move the whole company to Android and leave Ballmer standing with his WinMoPho in his hand.

As for Samsung, between their problems with Apple and now facing down Googorola, Tokyo’s not all that far from Seoul after all, they’ve got some real problems especially since they’re only just starting to make serious inroads into the market place with the Galaxy S II.

LG look like they’re going to be the big losers in this one because they don’t really have major market penetration outside Korea.

I’ll talk a bit more about this over the next couple of weeks because this is a landscape mover.

I wonder if any IP Law Firms have floated? That’s where I’d be putting my money.

Monday, August 15, 2011

There's no inevitability as long as there's a willingness to think

I was back in Brisbane. My third trip, and, sadly, things weren’t improving.

The Financial Controller was still meddling in technology stuff and the IT guys were watching their jobs and their employer get flushed down the sewer by this stupid bean counter.

It was a recipe for disaster.

I actually felt sorry for the owners of the business. It was a family run operation and the board was made up of three family members, the Financial Controller and a friend of the family who was reasonably successful in his own right.

They were really clueless about technology and had trusted the Financial Controller. They got taken for a ride by someone who should have stuck to what they were good at rather than getting involved in something that they were hopelessly ill equipped to deal with.

The final straw for me was the cost of conversion moving to a complete Windows monoculture was massive.

While the Financial Controller was busy explaining to everyone that there were huge benefits from using Windows. George and his crew were seeing budgetary estimates rise quickly.

The root problem was the demand to go to a Windows monoculture. Had they stayed with the mixed environment they had, upgraded their Windows XP devices to Windows 7 as well as spend some money on addressing the few shortfalls they had in the environment they would be spending around $55,000.

Taking everything out and replacing it with Windows from start to finish was going to cost the company in excess of $425,000 - and here’s the thing - after spending all this money they’d have exactly the same capabilities that they had with their old environment.

That’s right. No net change in capabilities or functionality. A lot of money gets spent and nothing changes.

Now there’s a real strategy for success.

I was invited to a board meeting by the Financial Controller to provide my opinions regarding the migration.

This was going to be an interesting board meeting.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Retailer Logic

Not that long ago I was looking at the Sydney Morning Herald before boarding a flight to Brisbane to spend another week watching a company flush itself down the toilet when I ran across this piece.

Lingerie chain may cut jobs as trading hits 20-year low

Bras N Things say that “the mounting burdens of higher wages, restrictive industrial relations policies and competition from online shopping could force it to cut staff”.

You’ll notice that the only reason that Bras N Things are in trouble is because of the three great evils - higher wages, industrial relations and online shopping.

I also noticed in the article that the company shelved its IPO earlier this year.

As I remember it when you’re going for an IPO you generally pump up the size of the business by opening lots of new stores to get the top line revenue up - in the case of retail that means getting into high traffic shopping centres (with stupidly high rents), carrying all the stock that your potential customers may want and having stores, lots and lots of stores. In fact, earlier this year they opened their 200th store.

Hell, they even trumpeted their online presence in this piece.

So let me get this straight, in an economic environment where everyone has been complaining about the retail environment Bras N Things have been growing at a rate of 50 stores a year. The Global Financial Crisis hit us in what 2008 and things have been in the crapper ever since? Dollar plummeted against the US back in whenever it was to around 67c and they opened 50 stores a year.

Now that they’ve grown and grown, making the business look good for people wanting to invest their hard earned in a float they discover “Whoops. Retail isn’t doing so good and our results don’t look so good”.

Maybe we need to wait for a better time to float, make our mountains of money and do a Myer to the investors.

Now since it can’t possibly be the fact that the business has been on a growth trajectory that isn’t supported by economic conditions it must be that the economy ate their homework, probably helped by the internet.

Wake up to yourselves! You’ve got your hand on the tiller, you’re responsible for the mess you’ve got yourselves into. If you didn’t realise what was happening then you shouldn’t be running the company and if you did and you got yourselves into this situation, you shouldn’t be running the company.

It really is that simple.

Friday, August 12, 2011

IBM. Three little letters, one big company. They'll make you an offer you can't refuse.

There’s a lot to admire about IBM, but, they do show they they can always learn from the experts.

In the article there’s a reference to how IBM successfully borrowed business strategy from The Godfather.

In this now-famous story told by prominent tech attorney Gary Reback (and broken in Forbes no less!), Reback talks of how when he was a lawyer for Sun Microsystems in the 1980s IBM came in and claimed Sun infringed seven of its patents. Sun stood up to the IBM team and provided evidence the company did not infringe all seven patents, but perhaps only one.
Then, according to Reback:
An awkward silence ensued. The blue suits did not even confer among themselves. They just sat there, stone-like. Finally, the chief suit responded. "OK," he said, "maybe you don't infringe these seven patents. But we have 10,000 U.S. patents. Do you really want us to go back to Armonk [IBM headquarters in New York] and find seven patents you do infringe? Or do you want to make this easy and just pay us $20 million?"
After a modest bit of negotiation, Sun cut IBM a check, and the blue suits went to the next company on their hit list.
Talk about making an offer you can’t refuse, and a very innovative application of new perspectives on business negotiation tactics.

This could be a new subject for MBA programmes. Advanced Business Negotiation by Tony Soprano

Innovation. Gotta love it.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Beam Me Up Ballmer!

Just following on from my piece the other day about Ballmer’s infatuation with a Star Trek interface for Windows.

I came across this article on BGR.COM - Microsoft adding speech recognition tech to Windows 8.

Looks like Redmond has become the launch pad for the Starship Enterprise.

Live long and be baffled!

Vodafone's Australian 4G Network?

Last night I was talking to a friend who was telling me about a frustrating conversation he had with Vodafone’s telephone “we want to book an appointment for a sales rep” team.

They rang up and told him that Vodafone had completed their rollout of their 850MHz network and now there was no difference between their network and Telstra’s.

Sadly for the ill trained headset jockey on the other end of the line, he keeps up to date with this stuff. So he explained to her that Vodafone hadn’t completed the rollout of their network and it wasn’t due for completion until late 2011 or early 2012 according to Vodafone’s own announcements.

After she argued with him about this for a while she finally acknowledged that this was the case and she was aware of this fact.

Now he told her that since Telstra was commencing the rollout of their 4G LTE network in late August that it would make sense to wait and see what network performance would be before making a decision about looking at carriers. His business is a big consumer of mobile data and demand for higher speeds with reliability is growing.

Without waiting to take a breath the Vodafone operator came back and said “Telstra doesn’t have a 4G network and will not be launching one before the end of August.”

Obviously Vodafone spends a lot of time training their staff and keeping them up to date with the reality of their competitors network offerings.

She was so adamant that she queried with her supervisor who was as ignorant as she was.

In the end he had to give them a couple of links to articles about Telstra’s 4G LTE rollout so they could look them up on the Internet for themselves.

The headset jockey cleared the call and he thought that was the end of that…oh no…

A few minutes later the same person called back to say that Vodafone had the same product and had it in the Australian market for months. “Its called a Femto”, she said.

He was astounded. So was I. I’m certain that if Vodafone had rolled out a 4G LTE network before Telstra the whole country would have known about it.

She also told him that Vodafone had rolled out a 4G network months earlier - only after a lot of questions did she finally admit it was in Germany. Like that’s really going to help an Australian company.

Turns out this thing they had in Australia was not 4G it was a Femtocell which she claimed “tripled your speed by grabbing more signal because of its multiple radios, but its the same thing”.

In the end he hung up, sick of hearing half-truths and marketing spin as a way of getting a sales rep in the door.

If this is how Vodafone plan on getting their lost 375,000 subscribers back they may as well shut the doors and turn off the lights now.

This company is looking more and more like One-Tel everyday.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

How to give good online

Ruslan Kogan showed everyone how to build great customer relations and make the opposition look bad in one simple statement.

He admitted their online website had a bug that sold stock at lower than actual price. He also said “we could hide behind our terms and conditions to get out of having to honour these transactions. Indeed, this is what many of our competitors have done in the past. But, we believe the bug in our website was entirely our responsibility and as a result will be honouring every single purchase made this morning”.

Kogan nailed it.

How many times have you walked into a Harvey Norman store looking for an advertised special only to find a quickly typed up and photocopied notice saying that there had been an error on page such and such of the catalogue and the advertised price was incorrect?

The guy has a seriously smart approach to business and keeping the customer happy. I mean how many of his customers are going to sing his praises based on what he did?

I’m guessing it’ll be a lot.

For anyone getting into online sales, you could do worse then looking at how this guy has built his business.

Its Doom I tell you Doom!

I just had to make a few comments about the latest global economic burp that started when Standard and Poor’s dropped US the credit rating to AA+ from AAA.

Wake the fuck up!!

This is the same credit ratings agency that told everyone that sub-prime mortgages were a good investment, AIG was as solid as a rock and Lehmann Brothers, well Lehmann Brothers is a bulwark of Wall Street and we can trust them…honest…and we all know how well that went once the dominos started to fall.

Nothing’s changed. Not really.

Does anyone really think that the United States is not going to pay its bills?

Does anyone really think that the economy of Greece and the economy of the USA are in the same situation?

I mean how do you call in the receivers on a country that’s got more guns, planes, boats, aircraft carriers and nuclear weapons than anyone else? You’d have to be a pretty brave accountant to make that house call and which bankruptcy court would have jurisdiction?

This is just another case of Wall Street wunderkinder showing that their idea of long term investment strategy is “how much money can we make in the next 30 minutes?” after getting their market guidance from a ‘fair and balanced’ Fox News financial report.

The only thing this has been good for is taking attention away from News Corporation and their woes.

Rupert wouldn’t have…nahhh…that’s as preposterous as a news organisation being involved in…oh...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Now Star Trek is a Corporate Strategy. Beam me up. Please!

One of the journalists I like to follow is John Dvorak from PC Magazine.

Opinionated? Yes. Been around long enough to smell the bullshit? Absolutely.

One of the pieces that he wrote that got my interest was one entitled Microsoft’s Wacky New Direction: Star Trek!

But this got me thinking about some of the more practical problems with Microsoft’s (Ballmer's) new idea and why its doomed to failure.

Imagine if you will, for a moment, an office populated with this technology. Hundreds of cube rats in an open plan office, stacked, racked and packed to extract every single dollar of value out of the insanely high rent they’re paying per square metre, all interacting with their computer by voice and having that same computer talk back to them.

In case you have any trouble imagining that go to a loud, busy bar.

Quite apart from the technical issues who would want to work in an environment like that, not the bar, the noise, we’d all love to work in a bar, not great for productivity but fantastic for staff morale.

You know, when you’ve got a CEO talking up stuff like this that Microsoft is in deep, deep trouble and that Ballmer recognises that he’s got a great big target painted on his forehead.

Good luck Steve. I think you’re going to need it.

Monday, August 8, 2011

What do you call stupidity sent to University?

I’m paraphrasing P.J O’Rourke for the title of this blog and I want to talk about boards of directors and IT Governance standards over the next few weeks.

Now I know that most Boards are about to be mightily offended by this, but, lets face it, as the ultimate authority within corporations, the apex of the pyramid, the pinnacle of success, they are the ones responsible for the economic mess we all find ourselves in.

Now they want to stick their all-seeing, all-knowing fingers into the world of technology. They’re going to take everything they learned in creating economic chaos apply it to the technology used in their companies under the banner of governance - as soon as you hear this word uttered you will see rapturous faces as the hallelujah chorus comes up.

This isn’t a good thing. The Hallelujah Chorus is about the end of the world.

The first reason you know your screwed is when you start hearing about COBIT, ISO38500, AS8015. This alphanumeric upchuck represents the rules you’ll live your life by after the Board has finished applying them. Not to improve things in the company mind you, but to cover their butts and make sure they don’t get fitted for an orange jump suit and set up for the ‘perp walk’ from the front of the building.

Don’t buy into the bullshit, this isn’t about efficiency, effectiveness and oversight.

You see the principles espoused in these tomes of wisdom are documented, codified and formalised in this way to provide cover for the board and keep the auditors off their collective backs because their trusted lieutenants, their management team, actively avoid and sabotage at every turn everything that is defined in those ‘governance standards’ and they don’t want to, or won’t address that problem.

The dirty little secret is that COBIT, AS8015 and ISO38500 are all about getting business to own and take responsibility for their part of the technical puzzle that is information technology and telecommunications within your corporate environment.

This explosion of standards and guidelines is documented, defined and cross-referenced because common sense isn’t common.

In a future blog entry I’ll talk about why, regardless of standards and the miasmatic alphabet soup above this is doomed to failure without a wholesale change in corporate culture and the reversal of 30+ years of business practice.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Alas poor retail, we knew you well...

I ran across this interesting piece on the excuses that Bricks and Mortar retailers use when they’re trying to explain why The Internet ate their homework.

Old retail’s five fallacies.

Worth reading

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Vodafail. Let my people go!

According to this piece from the Sydney Morning Herald Vodafone has themselves a big problem.

Vodafone exodus: 375k customers leave this year

Their numbers look pretty ugly for the second half of last year they booked nearly $18 million in profit. This year they’re showing a loss for the same period of just over $78 million.

That performance is nearly as good as the reception on their network.

Losing 375,000 customers in 6 months averages out to be around 203 customers a day. Where are they going?

According to this article from The Australian it looks like all of them and a whole lot of others are going to Telstra. The quality of their network is the key here and I think the differentiator is the backhaul capability of the Telstra network allowing it to better cope with data consuming smartphones and tablets.

Its been my experience that Optus and Vodafone really invested in voice carriage and projected growth in voice carriage and were caught ‘wrong-footed’ when these types of devices exploded onto the market.

That being said Telstra did their level best to screw every user of mobile data by charging, what seemed like, more per MByte than the current spot rate for gold.

This is where market segmentation really came into play. Vodafone was pitching for the low end of the market, but, these customers were also more likely to upgrade handsets to the latest gadget and roll over their contracts early.

When the iPhone hit, no one expected the explosion in the growth of mobile data consumption and when the rest of the smartphones really hit the market the wheels fell off.

Will Vodafone manage to get their act together and stop the arterial haemorrhage of paying customers? I really don’t know but if this doesn’t get fixed really quickly they could be in a lot of trouble given their capital commitments for network expansion. In fact we’ve been here once before, they were called One-Tel.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Random Thoughts

Here’s a few topics that I ran across while sitting in a hotel room in Brisbane.

Nokia results are bad, I mean flushed down the toilet, this dog won’t hunt bad.

I came across this piece on the Mobile Review website and the numbers really aren’t very pretty. I’m not so sure that moving to Windows Phone 7, or as a friend of mine calls it Windows MoPho, is going to help Nokia here.

Nokia Quarterly Results - It’s Even Worse than we Imagined

Google is doing some really smart stuff.

Google has just released an update to Android that has a whole bunch of cool features. The one I like is that you can have custom ‘ringtones’ set for incoming e-mail so you get an audible alert for the inbound items you really want to look at.

Gmail v2.3.5 for Android adds label-specific ringtones and sync priority mail only options

What does my phone contract really cost me?

Telstra has decided to be the first to market with a document that details the the actual cost of a new service. This is something that a lot of telcos have been fighting against, they say that its too hard. Strange that the first telco out of the starting gate with this information is Telstra rather than one of the ‘low cost’ carriers. It’ll be really interesting to see how cheap or not they are when everyone is using the same base for calculating the real cost of a service.

Telstra lays out the true cost of service plans

Retailers are breathtakingly, galactically, stupendously stupid when it comes to online!

Myer announced earth shattering news. They’re going to offer free shipping and this will help them to go from $5M p.a to around $50M p.a in online sales as a part of a ‘wider strategic plan’.

If it was only that simple. Retail genius at work...again.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Wintel Market Share Slips

I noticed an interesting piece today about market share.

It seems that Apple shipped 20+ million smartphones in Q2 2011 an increase of 12 million over Q2 2010. This eclipsed Nokia who shipped 16+ million smartphones in Q2 2011. Interestingly, if you look at Nokia’s results they’ve only been able to move this many by shaving their margins to the bone. If they were making their regular margins it looks like this number would have plummeted.

To make matters worse Samsung shipped in excess of 19 million smartphones for the same period.

To put some context on this Nokia has lost over half of its smartphone market share in 12 months.

The other interesting fact that came out of the article was the following assertion by industry analysts Canalys:

the share held by “Wintel”, which it defined as “any PC running any version of Windows in conjunction with any x86 architecture”, fell below 82 percent, its lowest point in more than 20 years“.

I know that falling below 82% doesn’t sound that spectacular, but, its an earth shattering statistic. Not that long ago the Wintel market share was well above 90%.

Something’s happening and its big.

Think about it. if we look back 20 years people were running Windows 3.0. The first really stable version of Windows released. Prior to that people were running DOS. Windows 3.1 and 3.11 were released in 1992 and the Windows juggernaut really took off once Windows 95 hit the market in mid-1995.

So these guys are saying that Windows market share has slipped to where it was when Windows 3 first saw the light of day. If this is actually the case then I'd be sweating it if I owned stock in Microsoft. Imagine if Coles or Woolworths suddenly saw their market share slip back to where it was 20 years ago the Daily Garbagewrapper would be screaming it was the end of the world, or maybe even worse than that!

Back in those days a Windows release was greeted with as much fanfare as a new iPhone. People would line up at midnight to be the first to buy a copy of Windows 95 from Harvey Norman.

I’m not going to have a discussion here about the pros and cons of lining up to be the first to buy anything at midnight let alone an Operating System but lets just think about this for a second, Windows market share has fallen below 82% since it became a stable operating system that could be used in the everyday corporate world.

This fact is even more surprising when you consider that each new PC shipped from everyone except Apple includes a copy of Windows.

Are people giving up on desktops for tablets, and I mean of any flavour?

Is everyone buying a Mac?

Are people going in Linux in droves?

I don’t have any answers, but, anecdotally I can say this; as I go from company to company, client to client the questions that I keep getting asked is ”How do we use Linux servers in our business and we also want to use Macs, iPads and iPhones as well as our Windows machines?“

One client asked me ”How come Apple can sell a new operating system for under $50 and Microsoft want to charge me over $400?“

Is this a taste of things to come or have the analysts screwed up their numbers?