Friday, September 30, 2011

Australian Retail Fails! GASP!

So GASP has gotten into a ferocious spat with a customer.

According to this piece from the Herald-Sun something is rotten in Chapel Street. I would say its a bit more widespread than that, but hey.

Obviously this is all some new and unique ploy by GASP to attract customers by having loudmouthed staff insult them and responding to a perfectly well reasoned complaint letter with a grammatically challenged missive; obviously written by someone with a tenuous grasp of English who felt injudicious use of the word ‘whom’ provided gravitas to an otherwise spectacularly infantile grammatical vomit.

Chris whom served you is a qualified stylist whom has a sixth sense for fashion, and Chris’s only problem is that he is too good at what he does, and as I am sure you are aware, people whom are talented, generally do not tolerate having their time wasted, which is the reason you were provoked to leave the store.”

I wonder if ‘Chris’ wrote this about himself?

You’d think they’d be smart enough to walk away from this one, but, no. They continued to stoke the fires. I’m guessing that they’re doing this because they’re figuring any publicity is better than no publicity.

Just wait till the guys who actually pay the bills see a drop in revenue and we’ll see how many of their, gasp, “retail superstars” who possess, gasp, “unparalleled ability” actually keep their jobs.

The icing on the cake was this:

Gasp spokesman Matthew Chidgey said Chris had only been doing his job.

“Keara and the three bridesmaids came into the store and were making a mockery of the dresses,” he told Sunrise.

Mr Chidgey said the women’s behaviour had the potential to bully other customers who wanted to a buy a dress and the incident had been Ms O’Neil’s fault because she had not visited the store with a “positive approach”.

He said anyone who did not like Gasp’s clothing should not voice their opinions inside the store as “negative behaviour” would not be tolerated.

“Some people come into the store who don’t want to turn heads, who don’t want to stand out from the crowd and that’s not what we sell,” he said.

So if I get this right, young Matthew is saying that in GASP a shop assistants job is to bully the prospective customer into buying something, make sure they can’t express themselves if their opinion doesn’t follow the party line and generally act like self-absorbed, self-obsessed bullies.

Obviously prospective GASPers must have failed the bit in kindergarten when manners were taught.

Lets play Whack-a-Mole with location services

Time to take a bat to Microsoft. Ever since Balmer became the head honcho there the number of missteps made by this company have been breathtaking.

I noticed this article on BGR the other day - Developer says Microsoft lied to government about Windows Phone location tracking

The latest is their claim to the U.S House of Representatives that WinMoPho doesn’t:

“collect information to determine the approximate location of a device unless a user has expressly allowed an application to collect location information” and that “Microsoft only collects information to help determine a phone’s approximate location if (a) the user has allowed an application to access and use location data, and (b) that application actually requests the location data”.

Turns out some WinMoPho developer who initially believed that Microsoft does no wrong discovered that WinMoPho actually does rat you out to Redmond without your permission. He was able to isolate the data traffic between his handset and Microsoft servers and this was before he gave his permission to his WinMoPho to collect and send that data.


After Apple and Google having this sort of infantile upchuck fall in their laps you’d think that Microsoft would have seen it coming. They didn’t because, like everyone else, they see torrents of cash coming from location based advertising and providing geolocation data to advertisers.
Sadly their execution was about as hamfisted as we’ve come to expect.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Australian Retailers take aim at their greatest enemy...Australian Retailers and score a bullseye!

I recently came across this little entry.

Retailers are considering introducing a 'try-on fee' to deter customers from purchasing products online.
It was a call for opinions and feedback for a news site.

How about this for an opinion. “How. Fucking. Dumb. Are. Australian. Retailers.”

…and no, its not missing a question mark!

A bit of searching and I found this piece in The Australian ‘Shoppers hit with ‘try-on’ charges as retailers fight online rivals’.

I mean really. The only advantage these clowns have is that a customer can try something on and decide if they want to buy it or not, and so, instead of working that as an advantage over the evil hoards of slavering, rapacious online retailers that are laying waste to our poor, impoverished and unfairly treated retailers, they decide to give that advantage away by charging for it!

Well done. This takes biting the hand that feeds you to a whole ‘nother level.

Poor Mr. Mendels complaining that sales of his grossly overpriced True Religion jeans have dropped in Australia as people buy overseas for a still big, but far more reasonable price. My heart bleeds.

People will pay for good service and they will pay a reasonable uplift for that, but, when you screw them for every cent you can get they they will turn on you the first chance they get.

You haven’t treated your customer with respect, you have treated them as a walking bank that you can hoover cash from.

This is no way to stop people buying online, all you’re going to do is force them to do even more online shopping.

A galactic fail for Australian retail, oh, sorry, that’s their standard way of doing business...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The HP Soap Opera Continues

I saw a couple of comments from Meg Whitman on the weekend.

Oh…are HP shareholders so screwed. They are going to elevate ankle grabbing to an art form.

She was quoted as saying

“I have run a large company -- not obviously as large as HP, but I have run a very large company,” she said. “While I don’t have years of experience in an enterprise business, I bought a lot of software. I was one of the largest enterprise customers in Silicon Valley.”

One genius at Deutsche Bank responded with “That’s like saying, I’ve bought an iPhone so I can run Apple”.

I can’t say I disagree with him and I’m sure a whole lot of HP stock holders aren’t too far behind given quotes like the one above.

I hope the board of HP has started the hunt for their next temporary appointment to the role of HP CEO.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

So Leo got Sunk

HP announced that their sucked from SAP wunderkinder Leo Apotheker has been asked to go and destroy the value locked away in another company while they promote Meg Whitman who previously drove eBay towards the rocks.

HP tell us Meg Whitman has the credentials to do the job because she has been on the board for 8 months giving her a “solid understanding of our products and markets”.

Now here is what HP said about Leo when they got him to replace Mark Hurd who wanted to shorten his commute to the tennis courts to play Larry Ellison:

“Léo is a strategic thinker with a passion for technology, wide-reaching global experience and proven operational discipline – exactly what we were looking for in a CEO,” said Robert Ryan, lead independent director of the Board. “After more than two decades in the industry, he has a strong track record of driving technological innovation, building customer relationships and developing world-class teams.”

Ryan continued, “Léo has been a leader in anticipating the transformation taking place in our industry, and we believe he is uniquely positioned to help accelerate HP’s strategy. He has demonstrated success in the U.S. market and also has vast international experience – which will be a major asset as HP continues to expand globally, particularly in high-growth emerging markets. HP has the right assets and market positions, and now we have the best team to realize the company’s enormous potential.”

…we all saw how well that worked out for HP…the good thing is they are looking for some consistency in the skill set of their CEO’s

During Whitman's tenure as CEO, eBay completed the purchase of Skype for $4.1B in cash and stock in September 2005. In 2009, Skype was sold by eBay at a valuation of $2.75B.

Good start.

Now when Meg wanted to run for the Governor of California against Jerry Brown she generated this record for herself:

The fourth wealthiest woman in the state of California with a net worth of $1.3 billion in 2010, she spent more of her own money on her candidacy than any other self-funded political candidate in U.S. history, spending $144 million total of her own fortune and $178.5 million including donors.

She lost and HP want to put someone with such a record of fiscal rectitude in charge.

Good luck to all you HP shareholders I think the fun part of the ride has just begun.

Monday, September 26, 2011

RIM and the undead tablet

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about the Blackberry Playbook and I realised that we’re talking about the walking dead.

At least HP had the foresight to take their tablet out behind the woodshed and put a bullet into its head.

RIM on the other hand are just watching this thing slowly turn into the living dead while the eternal optimists deny that something as unbelievable as a zombie tablet could exist, coming up with kinds of bizarre theories as to why this couldn’t be.

Let’s look at the facts. RIM aren’t shipping a whole lot of these things to anyone. Their share price is tanking. The only people that use Blackberry’s now are those that are stuck with them and can’t wait to get to another, more flexible platform and the fanboys who just can’t bring themselves to accept that they may have backed the wrong horse.

The fanboy sites are using the most fantastic theories to suggest that this zombie tablet is actually alive and kicking, despite the manufacturer scaling back their manufacturing lines for the Deadbook.

Unless…maybe…this is some new secret manufacturing/marketing strategy where you scale back the line to lull your opposition into a false sense of security before you spend more money with the manufacturer ramping up the manufacturing line again, and rehiring the laid off staff from that line to beat the crap out of your, now, unsuspecting opposition.

Yeah. Somehow I don’t think that’s the plan no matter how many ways you count downloads of a free application as a way of estimating device sales.

The truth is, if this thing was selling RIM would be trumpeting it from way up on high. They’re not. That means its not.

Given market sentiment on RIM at the moment if the Deadbook had a sell through rate that was even approaching acceptable Mike and Jim would be telling the planet every way they can.

Unless RIM can pull off a spectacular turnaround with the Deadbook and upcoming Blackberry devices they’re on the long slow road to oblivion.

Even in emerging markets Blackberry’s are starting to slowly lose ground to iOS and Android devices based on the handsets I’m seeing people using on the street throughout the Asia Pacific region.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Just another word on Financial Analysts

Recently I’ve been working with a client in the hardware industry.

They’re not a huge company, but, they’ve won business with the new Woolworths hardware stores - Masters. I’m helping them to upgrade their warehouse management and logistics systems to support the growth in business they’re projecting from Masters expansion plans.

I got pulled into a meeting with the Managing Director where he showed me this piece from the SMH.

He wanted to know what I thought. Would Woolworths pull out of the hardware market? What did it mean for him and his business?

This is the sort of idiotic dribble from a so called ‘expert’ that does no good for anyone except for turning the analyst from a spreadsheet jockey into a ‘rock star’ analyst. It’s great for his career. Not so much for anyone else.

Masters will bleed money. They’re buying property for their new stores, stocking up and expanding. Their target is 150 stores in 60 months, that’s just over 2 stores a month, every month for 5 years.

Congratulations Mr. Financial Analyst - you managed to state the obvious and you think this makes you some sort of genius?

Yes they will bleed money, at the start, and then they’ll get to the tipping point and they’ll start to make money - I’m sure some analyst will turn around and say that they forecast that would happen too…

All I told my client was “this report was put together by an analyst who is no different to the analysts that said sub-prime mortgages were a safe bet and we all saw how smart those guys really were”.

Woolworths are in business to make money and they wouldn’t get into this market lightly. Neither would their partner in this venture Lowe’s.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Great idea but it lacks a little in the execution

Recently my daughter got her first passport. Embedded in the cover was an RFID chip. I looked at it for a couple of seconds and started to wonder how far away the chip could be read.

Then I vaguely remembered that I’d seen an article about this entitled Bad guys could read RFID passports at 217 feet, maybe a lot more and I just started to think this through.

Now that they’re introducing RFID chips into credit cards and mobile phones so I started thinking about the implications of this. Sure enough I managed to find this article RFID passports raise security fears where someone has come up with a device to protect your RFID ‘enhanced’ items from being skimmed the same way that the guys in this article The RFID Hacking Underground.

This is just another example of the benefits of technology being sold to the powers that be without thinking through all the implications.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

NSA Open Sources Database

So the NSA is open sourcing a database that it has built.

While, in principle, this is a great idea, am I the only one who worries about putting my data on a database created by the agency that’s charged with carrying out electronic snooping?

NSA Submits Open Source, Secure Database to Apache

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Is the Playbook a Deadbook?

I just don’t get RIM’s Playbook…and from the sounds of things neither does anyone else.

On their latest earnings call RIM said they only shipped 200,000 units in the last quarter. They shipped 500,000 in the quarter previous to that. I’m guessing that means that some poor retailer has enough of these things sitting in a warehouse somewhere to pave an awful lot of driveways.

I’d love to see the sell through rates on this one because I’d say that this story Best Buy discounts Playbook has more to it than this story Harvey Norman reports 'fantastic' PlayBook sales.

Of course it depends on your definition of fantastic. I mean if you’ve got 100 units in your warehouse and you sell 75 then they are fantastic sales, if you’ve got 10,000 and you sell 75, well, not so much.

RIM also said that they shipped less Blackberry handsets than they forecast even though they increased the number of subscribers. If you take into account timing on contracts and the slow movement of corporates to other smartphone platforms I’d have to say that Jim Balsille and Mike Lazaridis should start worrying.

What are they going to do when slowing sales at the front end of the pipeline starts translating to reducing subscriber counts at the back end as users start moving to other smartphone platforms?

How is RIM going to turn this around, or, at some time in the future will their decomposing corporate corpse just be a footnote on some other company’s balance sheet?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Random Thoughts III

I don’t even know what to say about this one.

Perth most likely to be “digitally duped," AVG says

I do see the potential for AVG to lose some sales in WA for effectively calling Perth residents no quite as quick on the uptake as the rest of the country.

Recently blackberrycool had an entry on their site:

Tweet of the Week: How is the Playbook different that the iPad?

The answer is a pithy image that shows the superiority of the Playbook in web site rendering over the iPad.

Here’s the real difference - one sells the other doesn’t and I’m not talking about shipments, I’m talking about sell through rates.

Everything else is just fanboi noise.

LG have a ‘Pen Touch’ TV that was shown at the recent IFA show in Germany.

Why is this piece of technology potentially a huge smoking hole in the ground? Lets see. It’s Sunday afternoon and Dad wants to watch the football/soccer/basketball/NFL/Ice Hockey whatever and little ‘dinkins’ wants to colour and draw on the TV…

Or even better, all those years you spend teaching little ‘dinkins’ not to draw on furniture/walls whatever are countered with “just go and draw on the TV”.

Finally. Unless this thing is rocking a HUGE slab of Gorilla Glass I can easily see LCD panels aplenty suffering from “the damage that only kids can do that engineers can never recreate in a lab”.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Blackberry to offer price cuts on the Deadbook

According to this report Jim Balsille said that Blackberry is planning to reduce the price of the Deadbook to get those sales numbers moving.

Might I suggest $99.

It seemed to work for HP.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ribbons are for Knots

The first Windows 8 Beta is due any time now and its going to expand the use of ribbons along with the magical tiles.

The ribbon looks like it going to infect Windows Explorer based on telemetry data collected from users.

The only thing that the geniuses of Redmond have forgotten is the only people that let Windows send telemetry back to the hive mind are the non-power users who don’t find the ribbon a pain and don’t use the more complex functions available in the OS.

Most power users break the connection to the Redmond hive the first chance they get. So even though the telemetry tells them what people want, maybe they’re listening to the wrong kind of people?

Windows 8 ribbon entangles Microsoft

On the upside they do say that they’re going to fix the download time estimates so they are a closer reflection of reality - I suppose this gives Microsoft a lot of latitude because they could make it just wildly inaccurate and it would be an improvement on the galactically idiotic estimates it currently gives.

Microsoft unveils file-move changes in Windows 8

There’s potential in Windows 8, but, there’s also that sense of quiet desperation.

If they don’t smack this one out of the park, I think Microsoft may have a real problem on their hands.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

.xxx Open For Business Soon

Armageddon is upon us.

The day of the .xxx TLD is upon us.

I never got the whole foaming-at-the-mouth-its-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it argument about what should be a storm in a teacup.

I also never got the fact that the conservative religious right teamed up with those “evil perverted purveyors of smut and pornography that eats away at the very fabric of our society and corrupts young impressionable minds” to stop ICANN from agreeing to the creation of this TLD.

I would have thought that the religious right would have been all for setting up a cyberspace Patpong.

That way they could rail and rage against the “evil perverted…you know the rest” while those same “evil perverted…blah, blah, blah” could practice their purveying of smut and pornography, consumption of societal fabric and corrupting of young minds in the same said cyberspace Patpong.

You know that something just ain’t right when you can get someone like Larry Flynt and anyone on the Religious Right to agree on ANYTHING relating to pornography.

Now I know that the world is going to spin off its axis!

The Team Televangelist argument is that those young impressionable minds will be able to find, with a four character Google search, smut and pornography that will turn them into sex fuelled deviants while Team Flynt worries that with a simple internet filter their entire industry will disappear into a cloud of rapidly disappearing electrons.

Lets face it. This is about money. Pure and simple.

Team Flynt worries about impacts on their silicon and gymnastics powered revenue streams while Team Televangelist will find it harder to extract ‘donations’ via their 1-800 hotline to salvation for their crusade against those evil purveyors because blocking access to young, impressionable minds will become much easier.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Googorola like Godzilla just keeps coming back!

Hot on the heels of the analysis by Bloomberg on the Googorola patent mutant monster Eric Schmidt has said that the acquisition was about more than just patents.

Wow. Amazing.

Schmidt and was quoted as saying “We did it for more that just patents. We actually believe that the Motorola team has some amazing products coming.”

Back in 2002 Carly Fiorina said:

With Compaq, we become No. 1 in Windows, No. 1 in Linux and No. 1 in UNIX. This new strength and our market presence make us a much more attractive partner. And with our combined market position in servers, we will be able to engage the software community in building the applications that will drive demand for Itanium systems
Compaq is the leading provider of storage systems in the world on a revenue basis. With Compaq, we become the No. 1 player in storage, and the leader in the fastest growing segment of the storage market - storage area networks.
With Compaq, we double our service and support capacity in the area of mission-critical infrastructure design, outsourcing and support. And while support is frequently considered the boring part of the services business, it produces mid-teens operating margins quarter after quarter. It's like the supplies business - more is better.
More verbose that Schmidt but basically the same sentiment its not just about the PC business.

Mark Hurd, said about the Palm acquisition “We didn’t buy Palm to be in the smartphone business. And I tell people that, but it doesn’t seem to resonate well. We bought it for the IP. The WebOS is one of the two ground-up pieces of software that is built as a Web operating environment…We have tens of millions of HP small form factor Web-connected devices…Now imagine that being a Web-connected environment where now you can get a common look and feel and a common set of services laid against that environment.”

According to Hurd it wasn’t about Palm’s gizmo business.

So all three of these acquisitions aren’t about the most obvious. Sure HP bought Palm for their patents on an OS that no one uses rather than as a quick way to get into a hot and expanding market segment that they totally missed while they bathed in the glow of becoming the No.1 PC maker.

Schmidt went on to say “We’re excited to have the product line, to use the Motorola brand, the product architecture, the engineers. These guys invented the RAZR. We know them well because they’re Google Apps users.”

So let me get this straight. It’s not about the patents really its about the production facilities, the engineering brilliance and the name Motorola?

While the RAZR was a very lust worthy piece of equipment all Motorola did with it was churn out variant after variant of the same handset. After a few years Motorola was yawn worthy, greeted with a resounding “What? Another razory thing? Where’s the Nokia?”

So either Motorola was acquired for their patents which is starting to look more and more like not such a great idea. Or. They bought Motorola to get into the handset business and compete against their customers. Also not a great idea.

This is looking more and more like another glorious corporate exercise in hubris and overreaching that’s going to come home to roost some time in the future.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Happy Birthday to Tux

So Linux turned 20 the other week.

A lot of people would say ‘so what’, but, Tux is the little penguin that could.

Look in just about any data centre and you’ll find it there, running some device or another. Quietly just chugging away doing its job without any fanfare and without any of the attendent ‘fuss and bother’ that goes with Windows infrastructures.

I guess that’s the problem.

Linux is so competent at what it does in the data centre that no one really pays any attention to it.

It’s kind of like walking into a noisy bar full of loud-mouthed wannabes telling everyone how good they are, how they can do it better than everyone else and how they’re the best and biggest in the world and over in the corner having a quiet drink is a 10th Dan Black Belt.

He doesn’t need to tell anyone anything - he KNOWS he’s the best in the room. The thing is everyone else knows it too, they just can’t let anyone else know that so they beat their chests even louder like a troupe of highland gorillas - or monkeys bouncing around on a stage.

I know that Linux hasn’t made huge inroads onto the desktop, but, its there, having carved out little niches and happily owning that space.

When you’re watching Happy Feet 2 in Novemburr just remember the little penguin that could had a lot to do with bringing those little penguins to the screen.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Random Thoughts II

The PC is Dead! IBM says so.

I’ve been wondering, now that the tablet has become a mainstay in computing what’s the future for the PC as we know it?

IBM’s CTO says the PC has seen it day.

I wonder of this is really the case though? Will people really want to walk away from the box on the desk?

I’m not so sure this will come to pass as easily as some people might think.

Will Samsung buy webOS from HP.

This is an interesting rumour. Samsung are obviously not happy about the creation of Googorola. Add the lawsuits that are coming at them from Apple that have effectively halted sales of the Galaxy S II and the Galaxy Tab in different parts of the world - this may not be so far fetched.

Samsung said to be considering webOS acquisition from HP

Its not out of the realms of possibility.

A Torch, a torch, my kingdom for a torch!

Lately I’ve noticed a bit of a furore (tizz in a teacup really) about the fact that the latest version of the WinMoPho operating system, Mango, doesn’t have a native API to turn on the LED to use as a torch.

No real LED torch apps for Windows Phone 7 Mango

I dunno, it strikes me as a bit absurd that with everything else out there that may be interesting to talk about, the lack of an ability to turn your phone into a torch rates, nay demands, column inches.

White Light: Brings a LED Flashlight to non-HTC users running Mango

I never thought not being able to turn a complex piece of communications technology into an axe simple tool would cause such consternation.

Nokia makes Minority Report a sort of Reality

NFC technology scares me. Its not the tech so much, rather its the lack of consideration of the practical implications.

In the rush to be the first to bring NFC to market to grab “mindshare” security invariably gets overlooked.

Nokia: "From now on, all our products will have an NFC chip inside"

There’s lots of evidence that RFID chips can be skimmed from a distance. NFC chips are really just low power RFID chips that Nokia are so considerately putting into all of their doodads.

Makes feel feel all nice and safe knowing that Nokia, the company that so spectacularly gave away the mobile phone market due to blind arrogance has decided that they’re on top of all of this NFC/RFID security stuff.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Its Finally Finished…almost

I stumbled across an article on the Time online website recently entitled It Just Doesn’t Work: Why New Tech Products Are Increasingly Unsatisfying. It struck a chord with me because I’ve seen so much of technology delivered to market that was so obviously ‘half-baked’.

In the drive to get ‘mindshare’ products are being released to market in ever more rapid cycles. The tech just doesn’t have enough time to get fully baked.

The thing is the tech companies know that most ‘early adopters’ (read: unknowing beta testers) will find ways to justify the quirky behaviour of their shiny new toy even though most people would call it a piece of shit and return the unfinished mess to the manufacturer vowing never to buy another one of their products. Ever.

Its been an axiom of the tech industry that you never buy a product from Microsoft until it gets to Version 3 because the earlier ones just suck.

The article quotes a leaked email from HP’s Jon Rubenstein talking about the, now freshly buried, TouchPad. The part that interested me was:

Today we bring the HP TouchPad and webOS 3.0 to the world.  The HP team has achieved something extraordinary – especially when you consider that it’s been just one year since our work on the TouchPad began in earnest.  Today also marks the start of a new era for HP as our vision for connected mobility begins to take form - an ecosystem of services, applications and devices connected seamlessly by webOS.
 If you’ve seen the recent TouchPad reviews you know that the industry understands HP’s vision and sees the same potential in webOS as we do.  David Pogue from the New York Times says “there are signs of greatness here.” (I’ve included links to David’s review and others below.) You’ve also seen that reviewers rightly note things we need to improve about the webOS experience. The good news is that most of the issues they cite are already known to us and will be addressed in short order by over-the-air software and app catalog updates.  We still have work to do to make webOS the platform we know it can be, but remember…’s a marathon, not a sprint.

People don’t want to wait for ‘the next update’ they want it to work out of the box to the level of their expectations.

The TouchPad didn’t, neither did RIM’s Playbook or Vista or so many other technological balls ups.

Rubenstein also quotes some of the first reviews for Mac OS X in his e-mail:

"...overall the software is sluggish" 
"...there are no quality apps to use, so it won’t last" 
"'s just not making sense...."
 It’s hard to believe these statements described MacOS X - a platform that would go on to change the landscape of Silicon Valley in ways that no one could have imagined.

Great pick up Jon!

That was 10 years ago.

Ten years ago people would accept stuff that won’t get out of the starting gate today.

You bet the farm on the expectation that people would patiently wait until you got it right while providing HP with another revenue stream. You lost.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

…and would you like fries with that?

Everyone who isn’t in IT support thinks their IT support sucks! Everyone in IT support thinks that their users suck!

They’re both right.

A while back I came across a piece by Leon Gettler entitled “Help Desks and Techno-Stress” that looked at the divide between IT support staff and users. I also came across a piece called The unspoken truth about why your IT sucks which is another side to the same argument.

While I don’t disagree with either of these arguments in principle I think that the answer to the problems described in these pieces can be distilled down to the fact that, the expectation gap from either side of the tech support question is where everything falls down.

Users expect retail service and tech support staff deliver professional services - one type of service is based on the customer is always right while the other is based on professional recommendations. They are different.

Go into McDonald’s and ask for a burger and the first thing they’ll ask is “and would you like fries with that?”

If you ask your tax agent to cook the books so that you pay no tax he’ll say “No. I can’t do that”.

Both answers represent good customer service!

You may not like the answer from your tax agent but its the right answer and that’s the difference between retail service and professional service and a tech support desk is providing professional services. In many cases they are protecting users from themselves.

How often have corporate 1st level support staff heard “if you guys can’t do this then we should be able to go somewhere else to get this done”. That’s retail service expectation. In this case the problem is that the “other” support guy doesn’t know the corporate environment, what are the restrictions, policies and constraints and will create even bigger problems that will have to come back to the corporate support desk to fix.

ICT environments are becoming more and more complex, users are demanding platforms other than Windows, they want to have a choice of mobile handsets and they are more tech-savvy. This increases the workload on the ICT team exponentially and they are having to support an ever expanding list of technology.

There is a cost associated with this expansion - a big one - so your support team needs to find a way to manage this expectation. They only have one weapon in their arsenal and that is to toe the line and keep telling you the honest truth about what’s right and what isn’t.

That means that sometimes they’re going to have to tell you that you can’t have what you want.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Will Apple Snatch Defeat from the Jaws of Victory?

Since the return of Steve Jobs to Apple they’ve just gone from strength to strength with a few missteps along the way.

MacBook Pro
MacBook Air
Apple Stores
the upcoming iCloud that we hope launches better than MobileMe
the App Store

That’s a lot of winners.

Now Apple is making inroads into the corporate market, the potential to become a massively dominant player is within their grasp.

Will they ‘screw the pooch’? Sad to say that a very possible scenario.

If you look at the recent launch of Final Cut Pro X you’d have to say that was pretty comprehensively screwed up. Apple managed to piss off a vast majority of editors with that one. I know they’re saying just wait for the updates and all will be good, but people don’t want to wait for the updates. They want it to be good when they get it.

That’s kind of like buying a Porsche and discovering that the wheels are on a boat from Outer Mongolia so you’ll just have to wait until they arrive and THEN everything will be really good. Promise.

The truth of the matter is that Apple do not, and appear to never have, understood the corporate market. Sure they understand it better than the Gnomes of Mountain View, but they don’t get it like Microsoft do.

I talked about this some time back in this old blog entry at Anthill. Apple just don’t seem to get corporate customers, but, there is a chance that this may change with the Commonwealth Bank deploying 4000 MacBook Air laptops to replace their fleet of Dell laptops.

If they don’t screw things up at the Commonwealth and they can learn about what corporates want, they might, just might, figure out how to crack this market sector.

That being said if anyone can screw up a deal like this its Apple.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Back to the Future

Welcome to the cloud. Its going to change your world. Really.

I’ve just gone back to the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s...and no its not a bad acid flashback!

Recently I had a chance to sit down with a potential customer who wanted to drive down their technology costs by “moving our applications into the cloud, consolidate our server farm onto a smaller number of virtualised servers that we’re going to co-locate in an off-site data centre where we’ve rented rack space”.

I nodded at him when he asked “Have you done any of this sort of thing before”?

I smiled and said “Yep. The first time I did this was about 25 years ago.”

I got a smug response saying “No one was doing this 25 years ago, in fact no one was doing this 10 years ago. This is cutting edge technology.”

This is the point that I know that I’m dealing with someone from the shallow end of the gene pool who’s “drunk the kool-aid”.

Let’s get one thing straight here and now - this is 60’s technology that’s been dressed up to appeal to the new techno-hip who think everything with any technological cachet has a lower case “i” in front of its name.

Just like a filler on Rocky and Bullwinkle lets saddle up with Sherman, Mr. Peabody and the WABAC machine and travel back to the swingin’ 60’s to have a look at this wonderfully new invention called the “cloud”.

Here we are in Armonk, New York around 1964 when some charcoal suited IBM guy signs off on CP-40. By 1972 this evolves into IBM’s VM and its with us to this very day as ripping along on IBM mainframes delivering virtual machines up the wazoo to all and sundry and its been doing it for the past 39 years.

Suddenly its cost effective for companies to buy a mainframe and lease VM’s to customers on a machine that’s hosted in their data centre (usually housed in some nondescript building in an industrial park) and the terminals in the customer office all connect back to a box called a “cluster controller” that connects back to the mainframe via a line leased from your telco.

In current techno speak we’ve got blade servers in a high availability virtualised configuration co-located in a data centre with high speed tails into the telco cloud connected to a router which connects to the machines downstream from it in the enterprise.

In essence these two solutions split by nearly 40 years of technological advancements are the same.

Now let me prognosticate about what will happen in a few years.

As the business matures and costs drop, margins shrink and the guys in the business of delivering “cloud-based, virtual machine environments in co-lo data centres” will begin to let their service levels drop to protect their margin and EBIT.

Then some genius in a university somewhere will come up with some ground breaking idea on how to better share computing resources “in-house” and suddenly the “cloud” will become disappearing wisps of water vapour.

Everything will come back into the local premises and some marketing genius will come up with a new term for it (in the late 80’s it was a LAN) and a whole new generation of attention span challenged techno-literati will again “drink the kool-aid” and the roller coaster will go off onto its next trip around until someone comes up with a new version of the cloud...

This isn’t new or ground breaking as marketers and the press would like you to believe. Its a slow evolution of established centralised computing technology that’s driven by valid economic reasons that will lead to another evolutionary change in distributed computing that will change the way corporate computing is run taking it back to being locally hosted and run.

The more things change, the more they stay the same...

It’s true what they say about history and being doomed to repeat it...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Googorola - Was it good for you too?

There was an interesting piece that showed up on Bloomberg about Googorola and whether it was a good move.

Now you’ve read my opinions on Googorola here and here.

This interview is interesting because David Martin from M-Cam Inc. is basically saying that Googorola’s patents aren’t as valuable as many people think they are - including the Gnomes of Mountain View.

He also throws out a real curve ball when he talks about some patents that are held by Arthur Andersen. I don’t know how much water those patents hold, but, it makes you wonder.

Looks like there’s going to be more to come on this one.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ding Dong SCO is dead!

So the news is out.

SCO is dead! The copyrights they claimed they own that they waved around oh so many years ago - it turns out they don’t own them. Didn’t own them. Never owned them.

So these lawsuits they were slinging at IBM and others turned out to be a waste of time, money and effort.

As PJ from Groklaw states in this piece, unless they try for a ruling by the US Supreme Court its pretty much over.

Having followed this case from the start, I’m glad to see its finally over, even if it took longer than I thought it ever would.

I was working for a company that used AIX when this lawsuit broke and SCO threatened all flavours of UNIX and Linux except for their own. Then I got sucked in by the breathtakingly huge set of clanking great stainless steel balls SCO displayed by trying on every crazy stunt they could think of with a straight face.

I watched as ‘journalists’ like Maureen O’Gara made crazy statements and flung vitriol at PJ like chimps fling faeces.

I’m glad this is finally over but I’ll be honest…I’m going to miss PJ’s articles about this case.

Thanks PJ for tracking this from start to finish. You did an awesome job and lots of people appreciate the effort including me.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The best Tech Industry Analyst on the Planet.

Each morning people look to their inbox to read the latest piece of financial prognostication from the merchant bank employed augury.

With bated breath they wait to see what pearls of wisdom they’ve gleaned from reading the entrails of some dead animal, or the patterns of the clouds, flights of birds or even the alignment of the planets.

The readers of these inarticulate Nostradamus like ravings then trade their hard earned on the basis of these obscure prophecies. They also pay good money to get these ‘briefings’.

I’ve met the best Tech Industry Analyst on the planet. My 5 year old.

The other day I was in JB Hi-Fiand something struck me.

As I was walking through the computers I noticed that all the kids (and a lot of the adults) were happily playing with the iPads, iMacs and MacBooks. Most of the people in the store were also rocking an iPhone.

The Windows machines - and there were a lot of them (mostly from Dell) didn’t have a soul fiddling with them. JB Hi-Fi (at least at this store) were giving over about 20 meters of shelf space to these machines and I wasn’t seeing anyone show any interest.

In fact they had an Alienware laptop on display. I mean this is a rockstar of a gaming laptop with horsepower to spare, glowing lights, backlit keyboard, awesome performance and no one was giving it the time of day.

Now I don’t know how much Dell pay JB for the shelf space, if anything, but, I also noticed that JB had all Dell stock marked down. Still no one was buying, or even remotely interested.

Here’s why I’d be worried if I were Microsoft. All the kids, and I mean ALL the kids. Wanted to play with the Apple gear. They were waiting for a turn and I’ve seen this in other places too.

I remember many years back, kids would want to line up and play with Windows machines. Yeah. I know. Somebody’s going to talk about games and gaming. The demo XBox and Playstations weren’t being used either.

The kids wanted to play with the Apple gear. I even heard some kids complaining when their parents wanted to leave the store because they wanted to keep playing with the equipment.

If so many kids want to play with Apple equipment and not Windows - in a few years, when they’re making the buying decisions I think Microsoft will be in a pack of trouble.

They’re losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the next generation of buyers.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

If we hadn't lost money we would have made a profit!

A while back I wrote a piece for Australian Anthill entitled “What an MBA should teach you”.

Since I wrote the piece I’ve had the benefit (?) of encountering more MBA’s, full to bursting with theory of management, finance, Mergers and Acquisitions and the new buzzword in these troubled economic time, Corporate Governance.

It still seems to me like the basics of the Mallard and Doillarmite Theories are still roundly ignored by these newly minted ‘Captains of Industry’ in favour of management triple speak in year end accounts that translate to “if we hadn’t lost money we would have made a profit”.

A degree and an MBA and the best they can do is “we would have made a profit if we didn’t lose money”?

If you were a shareholder of a company and found a comment like that in your annual report you’d be, rightly, looking to mount the heads of the Board of Directors on the wall of your trophy room.

Instead of trying to spin a bad result into a not so bad result by using mealy terms like “we would have made a profit if we didn’t lose money” they should man up and tell it like it is and then tell us how they plan on fixing it.

Business has become so intolerant of mistakes that an entire vocabulary has been created to make bad news seem like better news.

I recently heard that a comment that said one of the reasons Apple is so successful is that they make so many mistakes.

This is not a bad thing.

The Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Area during the Second World War was Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. Early in his career he commanded the USS Decatur and was court martialled for grounding his ship.

In the modern business world (or the modern US Navy) something like that would have been the end of his career.

In an age where the “Zero Defect Mentality” didn’t exist to the extent it does today he was able to come back from this incident and was the US signatory to the Japanese surrender aboard the USS MIssouri followed by two years as the Chief of Naval Operations.

In modern management speak Chester Nimitz started in the mail room became a middle manager, screwed the pooch on a deal, but was able to get over that and become CEO.

Usually a middle manager that screws the pooch on something basic will never make it to the CEO chair. Nimitz learned from his mistake and turned it into a brilliant career.

How many great leaders are we consigning to the trash bin?