Blogs I Follow – Grouchy Old Cripple

It’s tough to stick your neck out in today’s cancel culture. It’s why I read who I read.

Denny, the author at GOC does just this. He isn’t afraid to call out the truth and say what is going on the way it should be said. If you are offended easily, don’t go there (actually please do for my entertainment). If you are PC or a SJW, you will be offended. You probably deserve it.

He is a clever writer (something I admire) and has a way with words. He breaks from stoic grammar with words that don’t exist like yannow (hope I spelled it right).

I started following him when he was pointed out by a lot of other blogs I read. I thought the name of his blog was funny as hell and so was his banter.

One of my favorites is AOTW (asshole of the week). I don’t think I’ve ever disagreed with him.

I discovered that he also suffered through working at IBM. He routinely roasts them with the truth about diversity, wokeness and other crap that is ruining a once great place. Since we worked about the same time there, albeit in different divisions, I can relate to what he says.

We texted through comments this week and he hammered them appropriately. I felt a kindred spirit. I was glad to find out I wasn’t alone and that I am glad I left when I did.

I wish him well and look forward to every next post, especially AOTW.

My Take On The Jeopardy Guest Hosts And The Replacements

It is probably the greatest game show created. It’s intellectually challenging. The others are generally tripe that targets those needing mindless entertainment or try to rip off Jeopardy.

I’ve realized that Alex Trebek was one of the best ever at this type of job and was significantly a reason for it’s success.

I recall him not liking Ken Jennings in the first couple of weeks of the 74 game winning streak. They eventually formed a bond, which I first believed was due to the huge ratings increase, but later led to their synergy around making Jeopardy great.

I, like everyone else try to beat the contestants and regularly do, with the exception of Final Jeopardy. Rarely solving this question keeps me from applying as I am about 1 for 15 in getting it right. I regularly beat everyone I play against (except my son, a bastion of knowledge), but fail in pop categories and celebrities. Those are issues I know and care little about. The combination of words, anagrams and Roman numeral addition questions stump me. Ken, Brad and James dominate there.

James Holtzhauer gave us a new way of playing, especially in how to bet. To this day, I love those who bet big. It’s not their money anyway if they don’t stay. You have to play to win and betting low is counterintuitive to winning.

Since Trebek, they have had a string of guest hosts. Some were great because they get what is the formula for success is. Others were fame seekers that had power in the Celebtard world.

THE BEST

The permanent replacements, Mayim Bialik and Mike Richards stood out as the best. They deserve the job. They were smooth, invested in the success of the show and didn’t try to be the reason people watched.

Honorable mention goes to Ken Jennings. He won the GOAT tournament and is forever ensconced in the history of the show. I knew he wouldn’t get the job due to other commitments, but he would have been a good one.

THE SECOND TIER

Bill Whitaker and Sanjay Gupta. Again, they didn’t try to be anything other than the facilitator. They were less polished than the best, but no one believed they were anything but a guest host. They wouldn’t have been good replacements though.

THE MAN WHO WANTED IT MOST, BUT COULDN’T PULL IT OFF

Aaron Rodgers wanted to be the guest host and made it clear. He tried, but is a Hall of Fame quarterback and not a TV personality. He stumbled too much, like Jeff Gordan and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in NASCAR. They were great athletes, but not good commentators. The show would have suffered under him.

AND THE REST, LOSERS, POSERS, CELEBTARDS AND SO FORTH

Dr. Oz has been on TV, but tried to be smarter than the contestants. He was arrogant as usual and not polished, despite being in front of a camera frequently. He cut off contestants and was rude to those who answered incorrectly.

Levar Burton tried too hard. He put on his TV voice and his appearance came off as a job interview rather than a host replacement. He was better than the rest below, but his fake enthusiasm was tough to take at times. He had a woke following that tried to get him hired via social media. The show would have suffered under him because he was hard to listen to in a very short period of time.

Robin Roberts was the wokest. She blatantly played favorites with female and minority contestants. A good host (and person) treats everyone the same, regardless of how they were born like Alex did. There is no justification for bias against anyone so this was inexcusable. She got the gig due to her other TV shows where she can spout her views with impunity. It was hard to watch.

Katie Couric should have been good. She answered “you got it” to every correct answer. I counted over 25 times on one show alone. She was the perky interviewer who failed as a newscaster, but her TV ability should have shown through better than it did. The ratings were poor under her and she is unlikable a lot of the time.

The same can be said for Anderson Cooper, teleprompter reader who is tedious to listen to. His ratings as a newscaster (and guest host) explain why he was so bad. Social media pilloried him. He was boring at best and clearly doesn’t have the intelligence to be a host for show requiring a 3 digit IQ.

THE WORST

Savannah Guthrie at best went through the motions. It was as if she didn’t care. She was disingenuous and dismissive when speaking to the players. She also was a “you got it” over doer. I thought she should have been way better, but didn’t seem to try. I am not a watcher of her regular program, but she was bad at the Olympics also, so I guess she’s consistent. She was the one I almost caused me not to watch the show for a couple of weeks, like Katie.

No one will be the winner because Alex is too hard to follow. He made the show great. It’s like having a famous parent and the kids rarely equal the star.

It’s a great show and has been around because of that. In a way it’s like golf, you can never beat it because you can’t know everything. Just try to beat the people you watch with and the contestants.

On a side note, I worked at IBM when Watson played. I talked to Sam Palmisano, then chairman and he said it was a marketing gimmick. The players never had a chance as the amount of computing horsepower behind the scenes was programmed to win at a certain task. Humans still are better to watch. Watson turned out to be a bust anyway.

Beware Of AI, The Robots Always Kill The Humans

2001: A Space Odyssey, Terminator, Aida of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the robots always want to take over in the end and kill the humans.

See below the meme on stupidity so I can get to the point.

Yes, this woman is an idiot. My robot vacuum is so stupid it doesn’t know where it’s going. I named it Jarvis after Ironman’s AI assistant (Paul Bettany). It is my dearest form of sarcasm. So the vacuum isn’t going to kill me, but that isn’t my point.

The AI in the wrong hands is dangerous though.

For example, what if an AI-bot creates vaccines for diseases by predicting what the next strain will be. What if the next strain is the one that causes humans to shut down all the robots. There you have the premise for how it goes with AI taking over. Kill the humans.

I could bore your with many other examples like using AI to enhance a soldiers armory. It would be controlling your actions, making you more invincible in war. If it sensed a danger that didn’t exist, it could fire up the code to kill everyone in the way and you have created a murderer out of an innocent man. Kill the humans.

Fortunately, I’ve been around AI development. That danger isn’t exactly around the corner yet.

I worked at IBM and knew that Watson was a gimmick. The Chairman told me it was. They are trying to sell it now because it’s usefulness in medicine paled in comparison to it winning Jeopardy. It was a lot of wasted money because they could to sum it up.

Some of the team have moved to Quantum Computing because Watson was a dud.

Microsoft, Google and Facebook are much different and apparently more evil. IBM is too bureaucratic to turn it into a killer robot. However, if you’ve read any of my social media rants, you know that I trust these three companies less than almost anything, except Congress and the media. I will say they are equally evil though. (Another shot for the censors to see if they are watching here). They are the ones that will kill the humans.

Now, imagine if it got into the wrong hands. What could some guys who want to either take over or blow up the world do with that kind of power? Those bastards are evil. At least the robots just went bad.

And there you have it. Like many things we can create, there is always someone hanging around to put it to bad use.

10 Companies That Exist today Who Actually Collaborated With Real Nazi’s, Not Woke Nazi’s

Hat tip to The News Punch, more here.

And just think, company’s 1 and 10 are trying to be the most woke right now. I get that it’s a long time ago, but memories are long.

I once had to deal with this issue at IBM. Naturally, the PR department did it’s best to sweep it under the rug in public, but behind the scenes it was a train wreck to not get it wrong. I remember thinking that what they said in public was morally wrong and couldn’t support it.

Evil is evil

10. Coca-Cola

hitler-cocacola

Coca-Cola was a major presence in Nazi Germany, even though officials in the Reich were said to believe the stuff was too frivolous for the German character. Nevertheless, the very American nature of the product (wealth, flashy dreams, etc.) appealed too much to the German public and the stuff was kept around. It wasn’t until 1942 that the company’s presence in the nation was seriously threatened.

Coca-Cola’s hundreds of bottling plants in Germany were naturally cut off from main American support when America entered World War II. But Max Keith, the representative of the company in Germany at the time, redubbed the product “Fanta” for Reich consumption. The bottling factories and processing plant were then used to provide Germany’s citizens a key element to keep their energy up to support the war effort: A supply of sugar above what the government rationed to them. After the war, Keith, in an amazing display of company loyalty, turned over the wartime profits to the parent company when the Allied armies arrived, when surely the gigantic amount of inevitable post-war confusion and complication would have allowed him to sneak off with it.

9. Metro Goldwyn Mayer

Prior to World War II, Germany had been one of America’s most important film markets (as implied in the above entry, Germans had a bit of an obsession with a heavily romanticized vision of America), and as such, American film studios were willing to bend over backward to appease the German government. Even Warner Brothers, who developed a reputation for being the most anti-Nazi of major studios at the time, ordered that the word “Jew” be taken out from their movies and invited Nazi dignitaries to visit their studio.

But the single greatest act of Nazi support was one done by MGM after the invasion of Poland in 1939. They donated prints of eleven of their films to the German Relief Effort after the war with Poland began. These bewildering dreams of maintaining a market in Germany only died off after France and Britain’s markets threatened to die out too in response to all this collusion with their enemy.

8. Chase Manhattan Bank

The Chase Manhattan Bank’s form of colluding with the Reich was particularly heinous. Because Carlos Niedermann, Chase’s representative in Paris, had very good personal relations with the Nazis, he agreed to their requests that the bank seize the assets of at least one hundred Parisian Jews that were considered especially worth pursuing by the Reich. This doubtless helped the Gestapo capture those people. Chase Manhattan was hardly alone in this, though. In 1998, the company was part of a suit demanding reparations from J. P. Morgan and Citibank for the millions of dollars stolen. In the end, the payouts were $200 a month. The survivors and descendants had to fight to not have large amounts of the payments eaten up by wire transfer fees.

7. Dow Chemical 

It’s not too much of a stretch for many people to imagine oil companies collaborating with evil people. We are used to the mental image of oil companies being willing to prop up evil dictators to have access to petroleum and similar atrocities. Dow Chemical was one of the companies that provided an insane amount materials for the Nazis, including not only raw materials but also American technological innovations in regards to oil refinery. The contributions were so extreme that it allowed the Nazis to forgo their previous quotas to accommodate the influx. This indicates the Nazis were taken by surprise in regard to how much material they received from these American companies! No wonder they were able to achieve the massive armament build-up that they did.

6. Brown Brothers Harriman

During the early 1930s, Fritz Thyssen ran a business that he used to help finance Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. Brown Brothers Harriman was a subsidiary company that he used as a base of American operations. This collusion is of particular note because it was integral to the basis of the claim that Prescott Bush, father of ex-President George Bush and of course grandfather of ex-President George W. Bush, supported the Third Reich. He was on the board of directors for BBH and in 1942, the company’s assets were seized by the federal government. Suspicions then arose that some assets were taken as part of the Bush family fortune. These, among other reasons, came to light in 2003 as part of the presidential campaign, and make it appear that the Bush family owed their fortune to Nazi activities. It really does seem like the sort of discovery an opposing campaign team would dream about making in regards to their opponent (not that it ultimately helped much).

5. Woolworth

In 1933, 1.25% of the company’s entire inventory came from Germany, but mostly it was in the form of trinkets, like Christmas decorations. At the time, even that led to protests in America because news was coming from Germany that the Reich was beginning its public persecution of the Jews. When Woolworth conceded to public pressure and removed the offending items from its stock, it caused protests over in Germany over the abuse of their “hospitality.”

What was significant about Woolworth’s interaction with the Nazis was a horrible thing that Woolworth did, that ultimately lent legitimacy to their notorious anti-semitism. Woolworth fired all of its Jewish employees. This won them the designation “Adefa Zeichen,” an award reserved for companies that were “pure Aryan.” Most likely Woolworth doesn’t advertise their products with that seal of approval.

4. Alcoa

Alcoa is now the third largest aluminum producer in the world. Back in 1941, it was much more powerful. It had a monopoly on aluminum in addition to owning a massive amount of America’s electricity production and other minerals. Before America declared war on Germany, it sent so much of its aluminum product over to Germany that the country made upwards of sixty percent more aluminum products than America. When the US’s involvement in the war began, there was a massive aluminum production shortage in America, in no small part because of Alcoa’s monopoly. Alcoa essentially sold the Axis powers much of the material to build their war machines and a reprieve from the American war machine.

3. Ford

When Hitler pays tribute to you in his biography and keeps a portrait of you in his office, it will be hard for you to claim that you did not have some connection to him. However, Henry Ford didn’t seem particularly inclined to distance his company or himself from the Nazis anyway, since he accepted Germany’s highest honor freely and never returned the award while Hitler was alive. He was a committee member of the America First Association which advocated America to stay out of World War II. In 1998, it came out that the Third Reich was providing Ford’s factory in Cologne with 1,200 Russian slaves, as a potential form of compensation

2. General Motors

Similar to their automotive rivals, General Motors was sued by Holocaust survivors for assisting the Nazi war machine. Beginning in 1935, GM built a factory in Berlin for the purpose of building “Blitz” trucks for the Wehrmacht. Ford began building similar trucks around the same time, but GM was the number one producer of the vehicles that were vital for the quick conquests of Poland, France, and much of the Soviet Union. Albert Speer, the minister of armaments and war production, claimed that the rubber GM supplied was the key to the ability of the Germans to wage war the way they did. Inevitably when America declared war on Germany, the Reich seized GM’s German production facilities.

Although neither Ford nor General Motors ever fully conceded that they had willingly participated in the use of slave labor, they both were massive contributors to a fund started in 2000 for Holocaust survivors.

1.IBM

In 1933, International Business Machines began providing Germany with punchcard machines that functioned as precursors to modern computers and databases. Documents have since been uncovered that show that as late as 1941, IBM was working in tandem with the Reich to liquidate Jews from Holland. IBM employees were training SS personnel how to use their machines to record the movement, sorting, and mass execution of large numbers of undesirables, at times right in the headquarters of death camps. These machines, however, remained IBM property at all times.

In 2002, IBM was sued by five gypsies to collect reparations because their parents had been killed during the Holocaust. After four years of legal discussion, the case was dismissed due to the statute of limitations.

MY FAVORITE PR STUNT OF ALL TIME – THE WORLD’S FIRST LOW TECHNOLOGY ARTIFICAL REEF

HOW IT STARTED

This story actually began with the unplanned running aground of the Mercedes I in Palm Beach.  It desecrated the private holy grounds of the hoity toity for over a hundred days in late 1984.   They eventually towed it away and made an artificial reef making almost everyone happy.

About the same time IBM introduced the PC-AT, billed as the most powerful personal computer ever built.  It had one problem though as internally sat a 20 MB disk drive made by CMI.  It was based on stepper motor technology and it both failed at alarming rates and was as slow as cold honey.  It was that flaw which helped give birth to the drive aftermarket in the PC industry and caused one of the biggest black eye’s to the PC’s reputation.

CORE INTERNATIONAL TO THE RESCUE

A small storage company in Boca Raton – the home of the IBM PC saw the obvious problem and created a marketing campaign which recalled the IBM drive.  It then sold you a 40 MB drive made by Control Data Corporation and rebadged as CORE product for $2,595, gave you a $1000 rebate and ran an ad claiming it was going to build an artificial reef out of the CMI drives (you can buy gigabytes now for less that $100).  CORE was making over 100% profit so the perception of value is greater than reality.  The users still paid one of the highest cost per byte of storage possible.

Here is  a portion of the ad which created a sensation in the print media, as both IBM and the PC had been infallible up to this point.

PC MAGAZINE CATCHES ON

At this point Paul Sommerson, Bill Machrone, Bill Howard and other writers contacted CORE and asked for pictures of the reef being built.  The company owner confided in me that he had a contract to send the drives back to CMI for a rebate  and to not lose too many, we staged the entire event.  We took his boat, the MEGABYTE out of Jupiter (not Boca) and made it look like we were really dumping the drives into the water.  I’m sure the Nanny state EPA would have been all over us had we really done it, but the rest of the story is that we only dumped the drives in the picture (note the false bottom).  We tried hard to drop a drive on a string while posing with the box in the picture, but that was produced lame results.  I finally convinced him that we needed to actually throw some drives overboard and that one shot is now etched into PC history.  It was the last picture on the roll of film (if you remember film).  We tried fishing for sharks after the shoot to put a drive in one of their mouths for the table of contents.  We had one on, but it bit through the line and we ran out of time.

The film was immediately Fed-ex’d to NY as they were on deadline for what is known as the Fire Ax issue.  The title was “Is Your PC Safe”, but there was a fire ax coming down on a PC-AT and the picture was in both the table of contents and the article.

It should be noted that neither CORE nor PC Magazine was trying to attack IBM products.  The owner at CORE was excellent at marketing and had big balls to do this stunt.  It paid off handsomely both in dollars and visibility.  PC Magazine was at the height of their prowess as journalistic leader of the PC industry.  Kudos should be given to Bill Machrone for approving a story that would never have a chance at seeing the light of day in this day and age.  He was a visionary at the publication.  IBM did themselves in by releasing a defective product and not being nimble enough to deal with the issues.

Both parties were able to take advantage of the arrogance (some say ignorance) on IBM’s part for not ensuring quality control of their product and suppliers.  Further, the moribund IBM PR machine, having used their death grip to the throat of PC journalism to direct results they wanted (because they were the 800 lb. elephant in the room) didn’t know that the journalists were ripe for this.  They never saw this coming and were ill-equipped to deal with it.  The result was that both the reputation of the PC and IBM PR was tarnished.

THE AFTERMATH

As I mentioned earlier, the boom of peripherals was starting and this poured gasoline on that fire.  CMI went out of business after losing their contract with IBM and CORE shipped hundreds of drives while becoming famous.

I personally conducted many interviews discussing drive technology and the stunt (if I recall, the story became far better than the actual event) and the owner had to move his boat.  He had rented a slip from an IBM’er in Boca, but due to the kerfuffle he was asked to find another docking space.

IBM had a PR nightmare on its hands now.  I’m told that Lou Gerstner’s personal speech writer was called in to clean up the mess.  CORE (meaning me as I handled all of PR by this point) got years of mileage from this event.  I developed relationships with the leaders in PC journalism as they were happy to have a person to talk to rather than an army of IBM suits that outdid the White House press corps in obfuscation. We even took a drive to trade shows and put it into a fish tank with fish.  Everyone in the industry knew about it and we even had hats made up saying things like:

My drive won’t stay up, I built the PC that IBM didn’t, My Drive is bigger than your drive and others.

We gave away thousands.  In fact I think we invented the show hat give away in the mid 80’s (one time while leaving the show, we saw a drunk bum outside a convention center at with a CORE hat on).

The owner made show participants suffer through a sales pitch they didn’t care about, but the rest of us just gave them away.

EPITAPH

It is funny to me that I was hired by IBM to do PR for them 14 years later, and even did a stint in the PC division.  I wonder if they had known it was me that helped cause one of the great PR nightmares for them, would I have gotten the job?

IBM had dropped to 6th place in PC’s by then and the PC PR department was led by two nincompoops when I got there (Mike Corrado and Ray Gorman).  I always chuckled when the story came up at IBM and enjoyed the looks on their faces as they found out my part in this event.  I was never involved with anything this creative while doing PR at IBM (see the moribund part), although I used some tactics from this event to be successful, so long as I didn’t tell IBM communications “leaders” about it until after the fact.

After Being Dissapointed by Lenovo One To Many Times, What PC Did I Buy Instead?

I’ve had PC’s since before the IBM PC in 1981.  I’ve built hundreds of computers over different phases of the PC life cycle (for myself, others and at computer stores I worked at for years).  I’ve personally owned many ThinkPads since they were introduced…likely between 40-50 including my multiple work PC’s. The same is true with Microsoft. I’ve worked with DOS and Windows, Windows for Workgroups, (built and wired my first network in 1994), NT, 95, 2000, XP and you name it.  I first put up webpages since 1993 and every version of DOS or Windows made starting with 1.0 for both.   I’ve finally had it with the declination of the quality, service, especially customer service and workmanship of IBM/Lenovo and Microsoft products.

I began to desire a different machine when the smartest guys at IBM (IBM Fellow’s) and the smartest (and of course some of my favorite) IT analysts starting using Mac’s.  It told me times were a changin’.

WHEN THEY WERE GOOD

It used to be that when you went to a frequent flyer lounge at an airport, it would be a ThinkPad convention because they were so tough, now everyone is switching to an iPad which I now also love and  have.

Further, when I retired, I bought what I thought would be the ThinkPad which would last me for at least 5 years (pictured below).  It was the worst PC experience to date, see the beginning below.

In reverse order, after 1.5 years, one of the USB ports failed, the screen is falling apart (for the second time…the first in only months), the battery died in the first 6 months (they fixed that under warranty after 1 month of calls and forcing a manager intervention because customer service blamed me) other hardware and software problems which eventually got fixed over hours of calls (the final fix was always simple and could have been easily accomplished from the start).

I called the Lenovo help desk and not only did they refuse to fix most of my problems (all within the warranty period), but they were with the exception of one person, unhelpful to me and not proficient in English 95+% of the time (some were rude, but tech support is a thankless job).  Note: I like the people from other countries and think that they are hard working so I have no problems with the people, rather the policies they are forced to adhere to put them into positions they shouldn’t be forced into.  I’m clearly calling out the company, not the people here. It’s just in this case we couldn’t understand each other and they mostly were not trained or who couldn’t fix problems and just couldn’t help fix issues Lenovo created.

Here’s what my screen looks like now with use that is less than normal due to my retirement status:

pc pic

SHIPPING DISASTER

This was compounded by the fact that they originally shipped me a computer which was in for repair as I found it had someone else’s  password on it.  Tech support recognized the serial number as someone else’s machine and I had to ship back a PC so that they could ship me what I ordered which  was supposed to be new.  They at first required me to pay for the return shipping for the machine which they wrongly shipped me in the first place.  It took them 5 weeks to get me this wrong machine once I ordered it in the first place, so needless to say, this added to a dissatisfied experience.  Let me summarize it: The 1st machine I received was in for repair which they shipped to me as my new machine.  They finally agreed to pay for the shipping back to them after weeks, but I was in dis-belief by now as I had to get upper management approval 3 levels above my call to tech support to get shipping approved and the machine I ordered sent to me.  This was a 6 week timeframe that I put up with to get a ThinkPad that looks like the one above.

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE COMPANY PURCHASED FROM IBM?

So, what happened when Lenovo bought the PC Division from IBM?  Quality and customer service have apparently suffered, at least for me.   It is fair to note that Lenovo is the PC leader even though PC’s are a dying breed and are now a commodity item, but that the lead is mostly due to HP executive incompetence and Dell lack of innovation.

WORKING FOR IBM PC DIVISION, MORE THINKPAD BACKGROUND AND EXPERIENCE THAN MOST HAVE

I worked with ThinkPads at companies before IBM.  I then did communications for the IBM-PC (PSG) division back in the early 2000’s.  IBM-PCs were a rock solid product that introduced many technologies from the floppy disk, HDD on PC’s, open system motherboard, the start of an incredibly successful industry, creation of millions of jobs, Bluetooth and WiFi to the industry.  It was well accepted by industry leaders as the standard to compare against and I was proud of representing the machines.  By then, we had slipped to about 4th place, but IBM had other priorities by then.  Analysts always recognized that the IBM ThinkPad was the industry leader, albeit most of the time the expensive option.  I never had a problem educating them that it was the industry leader to be compared against.  I also learned from IDC, Gartner, Forrester and others that Dell and HP were sub-standard compared to the ThinkPad.

THE IBM TO LENOVO EMPLOYEE TRANSITION

The co-workers who went to Lenovo were mixed.  The developers were good, with the chief designer being one of if not the best, but he obviously had nothing to do with my 410S.  The Press communications team however was a joke.   Much of the management that I had worked with were handcuffed by the new ownership.   However, with the non-inventor taking over control, changes in leadership including many Dell executives,  it has appeared to make it less than the leader of rugged laptops, a position it once enjoyed.

MY LATEST PURCHASE

Since my ThinkPad failed and the screen basically fell off (I am retired and don’t travel anymore so it didn’t have the wear and tear to justify its condition), the keyboard keeps sticking, ports not working and the other problems I’ve described have forced me to buy a new PC.

Side note: I worked with Microsoft since 1981 in one form or another, as a partner, but mostly as a competitor as Microsoft was very belligerent and went out of their way to be anti-IBM  (see my joint announcement wrap up).  I’ve worked with their products since DOS 1.0 which I still have installed on an original PC at home.  They loved Lenovo when the purchase was made and the difference was an overnight sea change in their attitude of helpfulness and pricing.

So the combination of Lenovo’s product being poor, their customer service being unhelpful led me to buying a MacBook Pro (but I got much more computing power and a brand new experience in helpfulness).

But, both Lenovo and Microsoft lost me as a customer and I can’t be alone.

Here is my new computer, a 13 inch Macbook Pro:

macbook pro

It sync’s with my phone and iPad seamlessly.  I don’t have weekly Microsoft security updates or blue screen of death experiences.  It is powerful, I can read Windows files and have converted them, multimedia is a snap, graphics are beautiful and most of all it works without gyrations to make drivers, port configurations and software incompatibilities work.  I have never before been an Apple fan except when I ran an advertising department for a few years and understood artists needs for them.

When managing a store at a computer chain, my store was recognized as the retailer that lead the nation in Apple sales so I do have experience with them.  My store also was a leading promoter of the first Macintosh during the famous 1984 ad time.  In other words, I know them well, but I’ve used Wintel computers most if not all of my life until now.

Further, I called their tech support and went to an Apple store and guess what, they were friendly and helpful, and it just works.  I paid less for the software than the PC version (I just built a multimedia PC for my TV viewing so I am fully aware of company configured, or self built PC’s vs. Mac machines hardware and software.

THE TREND OF PC’S

Mobile devices are killing standard laptops at a rate far faster than laptops replacing desktops, but there is still a need for machines that do more than a tablet until they increase in input efficiency, storage capacity and business application conversion (there are tons of legacy apps still out there as the average person still interacts with COBOL 13 times a day).  This hasn’t caused me any issues with my new laptop though, it just works.

The company that is easy to work with, keeps up with the trends and produces quality equipment will be the one who has market leadership.  I have voted with my money.

The Escape Key and The Guy Who Invented Ctl-Alt-Del….and Why

I worked in the PC Group, wisely sold to Lenovo years ago.  On the 20th anniversary, they looked for interesting tidbits from those who invented the PC.

David Bradley worked down the hall from me.  He’s the guy who invented Ctl-Alt-Del.  I asked him why and he told me DOS 1.0 keep crashing, so he wrote a quick and dirty program to restart the computer quickly without having to turn it off.

Later, David was kind enough to give me a copy of his personal copy of DOS 1.0 and Visicalc, a program for which I was a giant at using.  I still have it in my original IBM-PC I picked up off the trash pile while working there.

His best line though was when they had a reunion of the PC development team and Dave said to a reporter in front of everyone that he wrote the program, but Bill Gates made it famous.

THE ESC KEY

Bob Bemer invented this key.  I never worked with Bob, but per the NY Post, it goes like this:

The key was born in 1960, when an I.B.M. programmer named Bob Bemer was trying to solve a Tower of Babel problem: computers from different manufacturers communicated in a variety of codes. Bemer invented the ESC key as way for programmers to switch from one kind of code to another. Later on, when computer codes were standardized (an effort in which Bemer played a leading role), ESC became a kind of “interrupt” button on the PC — a way to poke the computer and say, “Cut it out.”

Why “escape”? Bemer could have used another word — say, “interrupt” — but he opted for “ESC,” a tiny monument to his own angst. Bemer was a worrier. In the 1970s, he began warning about the Y2K bug, explaining to Richard Nixon’s advisers the computer disaster that could occur in the year 2000. Today, with our relatively stable computers, few of us need the panic button. But Bob Frankston, a pioneering programmer, says he still uses the ESC key. “There’s something nice about having a get-me-the-hell-out-of-here key.”

I, KEYBOARD

Joseph Kay is a senior scientist at Yahoo! Research.

Why do outmoded keys, like ESC, persist? Our devices have legacies built into them. For more than a hundred years, when you wanted to write something, you sat down in front of a typewriter. But computers look different now — they’re like smartphones. It will be interesting to see whether in 10 or 15 years the whole idea of a keyboard will seem strange. We might be saying, “Remember when we used to type things?”

How would we control computers in this future-without-typing? Think of the Wii and Kinect, or even specialized input devices for games like Guitar Hero or Dance Dance Revolution. All might be bellwethers for the rest of computing. We might see a rise in all sorts of input, like voice recognition and audio control — think about Siri.

The PC is Toast, Or Maybe Just a Toaster

Gone are the glory days when the PC would rule over the vaunted Mainframe, putting power at desks without the overbearing DP department overcharging and under delivering past the due date.

What has evolved though is a commodity product that is at best a commodity like a toaster.  You can buy one anywhere to toast your productivity suite, cloud connection or corporate image.  Further, the once dominant Wintel model is being out-cooled by Apple, and outdated by tablet computing.

First, I was mildly shocked when I learned that Lenovo had a policy where you get an allowance and use what you want to, regardless of who made it.  Next comes the inevitable…..

While this isn’t really new news, in fact it’s been a theme for a while now.  But it was confirmed by the lackluster performance of HP, Dell and other manufacturers.   Even IBM, the company that really put the PC in the office of businesses is famous for dumping the low margin business to Lenovo who lucked out in marketshare due to the HP and Dell screw-ups.  This will be short lived as soon as Apple finishes mopping up in China and the real Lenovo cash cow gets malnourished.

All Things Digital confirms the facts via DRAM supply:

As a signpost on the road to the so-called Post-PC Era we’ve been hearing about for so many years, this one is pretty hard to argue with: As of this year, personal computers no longer consume the majority of the world’s memory chip supply.

And while it may not come as a terrible surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention to personal technology trends during the last few years, there’s nothing like a cold, hard number to make the point crystal clear.

Word of this tipping point came quietly in the form of a press release from the market research firm IHS (the same group formerly known as iSuppli). The moment came during the second quarter of 2012. For the first time in a generation, according to the firm’s reckoning, PCs did not consume the the majority of commodity memory chips, also known as DRAM (pronounced “DEE-ram”).

During that period, PCs accounted for the consumption of 49 percent of DRAM produced around the world, down from 50.2 percent in the first quarter of the year. The share of these chips going into PCs — both desktop and notebooks — has been hovering at or near 55 percent since early 2008, IHS says.

As shifts in market share statistics go, it at first seems insignificant until you consider the wider sweep of memory chips in the history of the modern technology industry. PCs have consumed the majority of memory chips since sometime in the 1980s. IHS couldn’t say when exactly when the first personal computers started showing up in appreciable numbers in homes and businesses.

And where are all those memory chips going? Tablets and smartphones for starters. IHS says that phones consumed more than 13 percent percent of memory chips manufactured, and it expects that figure to grow to nearly 20 percent by the end of this year. Tablets — including the iPad — consumed only 2.7 percent of the world’s memory chip supply. The remaining 35 percent, which IHS classifies as “other,” includes servers, professional workstations, and presumably specialized applications like supercomputers and embedded systems.

And given their rates of growth, IHS expects phones and tablets combined to consume about 27 percent of the world’s memory by 2013, while by that time PCs will consume less than 43 percent, making the decline, in the firm’s estimation, irreversible.

Even the much hyped Windows 8 launch doesn’t really do much.  WRAL goes on to say:

Dell executives also indicated that the company is unlikely to get a sales lift from the Oct. 26 release of Microsoft Corp.’s much-anticipated makeover of its Windows operating system. That’s because Dell focuses on selling PCs to companies, which typically take a long time before they decide to switch from one version of Windows to the next generation.

HP’s screw up came when they tried to become an IBM clone.  Dell had their own set of issues as reported by the AP:

Coming off a five-year stretch of miscalculations, HP is in such desperate need of a reboot that many investors have written off its chances of a comeback.

Consider this: Since Apple Inc. shifted the direction of computing with the release of the iPhone in June 2007, HP’s market value has plunged by 60 percent to $35 billion. During that time, HP has spent more than $40 billion on dozens of acquisitions that have largely turned out to be duds so far.

“Just think of all the value that they have destroyed,” ISI analyst Brian Marshall said. “It has been a case of just horrible management.”

Marshall traces the bungling to the reign of Carly Fiorina, who pushed through an acquisition of Compaq Computer a decade ago despite staunch resistance from many shareholders, including the heirs of HP’s co-founders. After HP ousted Fiorina in 2005, other questionable deals and investments were made by two subsequent CEOS, Mark Hurd and Leo Apotheker.

HP hired Meg Whitman 11 months ago in the latest effort to salvage what remains of one of the most hallowed names in Silicon Valley 73 years after its start in a Palo Alto, Calif., garage.

The latest reminder of HP’s ineptitude came last week when the company reported an $8.9 billion quarterly loss, the largest in the company’s history. Most of the loss stemmed from an accounting charge taken to acknowledge that HP paid far too much when it bought technology consultant Electronic Data Systems for $13 billion in 2008.

HP might have been unchallenged for the ignominious title as technology’s most troubled company if not for one its biggest rivals, Dell Inc.

Like HP, Dell missed the trends that have turned selling PCs into one of technology’s least profitable and slowest growing niches. As a result, Dell’s market value has also plummeted by 60 percent, to about $20 billion, since the iPhone’s release.

That means the combined market value of HP and Dell — the two largest PC makers in the U.S. — is less than the $63 billion in revenue Apple got from iPhones and various accessories during just the past nine months.

So now you can go to a consumer electronics store or go online and pick up a PC, a video game and a toaster, all about the same difficulty of decision.  The model is dying and a new paradigm is taking place somewhere between mobile devices and tablets with a combination likely just around the corner, but your Thinkpad is a gravestone in the near future.
It is now reported that Mobiles are the devices most turned to for online activity, banking and other internet activity.

“Cell users now treat their gadget as a body appendage,” Lee Rainie, the Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, told Mashable. “There is striking growth in the number of people who are taking advantage of the growing number of functions that these phones can perform and there isn’t much evidence yet that the pace of change is slowing down.”

The study, released yesterday by Pew Internet concludes that cellphone usage is increasing in basically every department, especially online activities. One in two people now check their email on their phone, up from 19% in 2007 and the number of Americans surfing the web on-the-go has doubled too, going from 25% in 2008 to 56% today.

People are also starting to be less reluctant to use their phones for sensitive activities that were almost considered taboo in a recent past, like online banking. Almost one in three Americans (29%) now use their phones to check their bank account, a considerable increase from just one year ago, when only 19% did. And one in three people are using their mobile device to look for health information as well. Just two years ago that figure was as low as 17%.

Phones are also becoming a substitute for other traditional devices like photo and video cameras. 82% of people who responded to the survey use their phones to snap pictures and 44% use it to record videos

Was IBM’s Watson a Breakthrough or Very Cheap and Creative Advertising?

Update 1/8/14: Only $15 Million in sales for over $5 billion invested so far as IBM struggles to turn Watson into a business

The worst news in the above link is that companies like Google can do the the same for far less and that Watson doesn’t even work with other IBM technology.

Update: Watson is in the next publicity stunt with Wall Street as sales seem to be lagging.

As we all know, Watson appeared and won on Jeopardy last year.  It was the culmination of years of work and manpower to build a machine that could react faster and be programmed to win a game show.  It was brilliant, but more for promotion than technology sales (as evidenced so far).  There is little doubt that the promotional value was priceless to the IT industry and an easy calculation by IBM to one up the competition.

The two humans were limited to their capacity, whereas Watson was a massive computer with incredible storage and processing capability.  It was programmed specifically for the game, so while not a slam dunk, inevitability wasn’t in much doubt.

I don’t know about you, but as I get older, I forget things and computers don’t.  You can add memory, processors and build it big enough to recall more than any amount of humans.  Jeopardy had two champions,  so it wasn’t really a fair fight.  You ultimately can overpower any certain situation with billions in technology (which is what it cost to win), but throw something like emotion or nuance into a situation and computers are lost.

It was the perfect set up.  Everyone loves to root for the underdog even though the humans really fit that role.  It was accomplished by putting the biggest two winners ever on Jeopardy up against poor Watson.  The truth was that it never was going to be close given the confines of the rules of the game.  In real life, with unforeseen issues, the humans would have a fair chance.  That was never the point of Watson though.

IBM got to promote a research facility, executives, technology and almost a free ticket for three days.  Jeopardy also was a winner with dominant ratings.

I don’t want to debate the possibilities of Watson’s future contribution to technology other than stating that it is another step (and possibly direction)  in data analytics, and it increases the perception of IBM’s lead in this area (thanks to a lot of M&A and some folks that worked without getting enough credit).  It hasn’t been the breakthrough that companies have jumped on like an iPhone, yet billions of dollars have been spent on the same hardware used to build Watson since Jeopardy for traditional IT.  Time will tell.

ADVERTISING

For now, the real victory was exposure.  How much would it cost to purchase 1.5 hours of prime time advertising for a 3 day period where you basically get to change the rules of advertising to where you don’t even have to pretend that an ad agency was involved (also saving millions).  Here is the breakdown of advertising to program, but in reality the big IBM Watson Avatar is a commercial by itself every time Alex said the word Watson.

From a Mad Men point of view (advertising show for those who don’t know) this was a stroke of creative genius that began with winning a chess match against Gary Kasparov, then moving to prime time TV when new exposure was needed.  I saw people glued to their seats and talking about it the next day at a conference.  Nevertheless, it still has all the appearances of a publicity stunt. Unfortunately, it saddled IBM with a 2015 earnings projection claim that Palmisano left Gini Rometty to figure out.  With this economy, it has Sham’s chance of beating Secretariat in the Belmont Stakes to make it.

There will be claims that further technology is Watson legacy and success, but it is not what was intended by the efforts which related to making sure it beat the humans on Jeopardy.  That is supposed to come later.

CURING THE COMMON COLD

It has been suggested that Watson technology is being used to cure cancer.  I like others wish for this as I lost my mother to that disease.  Along with AIDS and the common cold, I have my doubts that we’ll really see this in our lifetime.  By then, trillions will be spent.  Like Global Warming, we could do more by helping to feed the starving and providing help and aid to millions.  This is not what Watson is about though last spring, it was the advertising win of 2010.

So the jury is out on whether it will succeed in medical or some other breakthrough.  For now, it was the promotional prime time win last year.

Is the PC Dead Or Is It Marketing Hype and Spin?

Update: Apple is more nails in the PC coffin with the new announcement of Post PC devices.

  • 362 Apple stores
  • 315 million iOS devices sold through last year, including 62 million in the last quarter
  • 585,000 apps created
  • 25 billion app downloads
  • 1080p movies and TV shows for iCloud and the new Apple TV
  • 15.4 million iPads sold in the fourth quarter of 2011
  • 200,000+ iPad apps
  • 2048 by 1536 pixels displayed on the new iPad, with 264 pixels per inch
  • 44 percent greater color saturation than the old iPad
  • 5 megapixel sensor on the new iPad camera
  • A maximum of 73 mbps downlink with 4G LTE on new iPad
  • New iPad specs: 10 hours of battery life, nine hours with 4G; 9.4 millimeters thick, 1.4 pounds
  • Same pricing as last iPad: Wi-Fi models are $499 for 16 gigabytes, $599 for 32GB, $699 for 64GB; $629, $729 and $829, if you want 4G
  • Old iPad now starts at $399 and $529

The Real Meaning in Marketing Speak

In the mid 2000’s, Sam Palmisano of IBM declared the era of the PC is over.  This was somewhat of a marketing move since IBM had just sold the PC Division to Lenovo.  What he really meant was that IBM is getting out of consumer products.  IBM also sold other consumer divisions that were not the margin kings that Software and Services were.  Disclaimer, after working either for/with/against/partnering with IBM for 31 years, I can say that a lot of what they do is incredible spin on pretty good technology.  I had better knowledge of what was going on than what was told to the outside.

PC’s are Toasters Now

This is a bit of a history lesson.  There was a time that PC’s were special and had value.  They still can be found on almost every desk or backpack at an airport, but in reality they are now (and have been for a while) a consumer product.  There gets to a point in time in every product’s life cycle that economies of scale and parts availability drive this value (and therefore the price) down when you can’t differntiate.  It is compounded by newer technologies (tablet computers and mobile devices) to where you can get them at any consumer store that sells toasters, video games and TV’s.  Any improvement is just a little bit better (except Windows which usually is worse), not an era better which was the case when they were new.

PC’s have done this to themselves over the years.  Remember when all you could get was a bulky desktop?  Technology moved on to the luggable computer to the laptop. Now you can get a wafer thin Macbook Air (for a premium price), but the technology curve will drive cost down here when every manufacturer offers it.  Margins are razor thin and there is minimal hardware differentiation on the Wintel platform.

The Effect of iPad and Mobile Phones

Ultimately, the world is driving your communications and computing device to be in your hand.  The end game of input is not a keyboard, but voice.  This addresses the need for instantaneous that we have required as we’ve shifted from email to IM and texting, and from blogging to tweeting. I envision a vision screen that is projected by your small handheld that lets you see what a huge monitor is required for now in the near future.  For more on this, see Project Blade Runner as an example of what the future could look like.

PC’s are already under fire from Tablet computing and smartphones.  While at some point you still need a PC for complicated input/output such as the dreaded Powerpoint and the more mundane payroll/HR applications, they soon will be adapted to tablets as we easily morphed from immobile desktops to laptops.

Many analysts have shown that more phones and tablets are sold than PC’s.  More texts are sent than emails and we certainly have more tweets than blogs.

The Cloud

Powering a lot of this of course is the overhyped Cloud model.  While conceptually it has been around for a long time (we have called it client/server and other names), it is a software delivery model that will make the end device irrelevant.  Perhaps you could get your email on your toaster or refrigerator.  You could make phone calls by dialing in the air at some point.  The issue is that we are driving the connecting device smaller, cheaper and more powerful (and less relevant) so that we can get what we want, when we want it and wherever we want it.

Lenovo and HP

Companies are jumping out of this market as evidenced by IBM and HP willing to sell their PC businesses worth billions in revenue, mostly because of low single digit profit margin.  They realize that there isn’t much money to be made anymore, again putting them in the toaster category. Similar components by most, similar operating systems, market driving memory and storage costs and overhead to sell.  HP is now particularly vulnerable as companies negotiating long term contracts will throw HP out  as a viable vendor not knowing what their future will be either in terms of ownership or viability.  HP has completely lost their way starting with the purchase of Compaq years ago, then dumping their tablet, announcing the sale of their PC division and switching CEO’s like underwear.

The Apple Factor

Everyone eventually builds a better mousetrap.  The Mac has been around for a long time, but the entry way to the door to Apple changed with the iPad/iPhone.  A new processor, operating system visibility, technology paradigm, profit potential and the coolness factor make Apple a different model than the PC.  Prior to that, Mac’s were a niche player in the creative, advertising and education world.  This has changed partly because the OS is better, Windows is not a great platform and Mac’s are headed in the direction of iPads.

So Is the PC Dead?

Ultimately yes, but not this year or in the near future.  I’ve seen models of computers called bricks the size of your phone that you can drop in a kiosk and work anywhere.  You can even use them like an iPhone if needed, but until the voice input issue is resolved, keyboard input is an inhibitor.

No one thought we’d ever see the end of typewriters, faxing or even the 360, but technology advances at an increasing rate economically speaking.  What will be interesting is which social mores we’ll break like talking to ourselves (on a cellphone) in public (or worse in a bathroom or driving).

Is the iPad the next endgame?  Likely also not.  Companies are trying to out do themselves and we’ll wind up like the Jetson’s one day.

Microsoft Facing A Critical Time In Their Business Direction, (or I wouldn’t want to be in Microsoft Communicaitons right now)

There are times in any business that you need to re-invent yourself.  Even if you are selling nuts and bolts, a bigger fish like Lowes or Home Depot can wreck your sales and pricing.  Nothing changes faster these days than the IT industry.

Microsoft is facing the situation that IBM has faced at least 3 times now.  The last one was a do or die decision to not break up the company and I credit one Lou Gerstner for such a great move.  Nevertheless, he reformed and reshaped the company from a hardware (mainframe) company to more of a services and software organization. Microsoft unfortunately didn’t invent everything it sells and is faced with a fork in the road on success or pack mediocrity.  I for one would not want to have to face the upcoming issues as a communications professional that Microsoft will face.

ORIGINS OF THE CASH COW’S

Microsoft got it’s start by buying an operating system and taking the Software PC business away from IBM.  Next, they “stole” the Windows idea from Apple, here is a bit of history from MG Siegler….

For nearly 25 years now, the story has lingered that Microsoft stole the idea of Windows from Apple (AAPL) while working to develop software for the Lisa and Macintosh operating systems. The stories you hear generally seem to be a mixture of truth, urban legend, and fanboy fabrications at this point — but the fact is that Apple did sue Microsoft in 1988 for copyright infringement on the matter. After four years worth of arguments, Apple lost. They also lost the subsequent appeal (and they even tried to take it to the U.S. Supreme Court, but that was denied). But they didn’t lose because Windows wasn’t thought to be similar to Apple’s operating systems. They lost because the judge ruled that you couldn’t protect the concept of a graphical user interface or the desktop metaphor idea. And more specifically, Apple ran into problems because of a decision that then-CEO John Sculley made in 1985 to sign an agreement licensing certain parts of Apple’s GUI to Bill Gates for use in what would become Windows 1.0 (presumably without realizing exactly what he was doing).

Siegler proves my point of re-inventing themselves here:

But now that idea is waning. Or rather, everyone is starting to recognize that the idea will be waning in the years to come. Make no mistake, Microsoft still makes a lot of money from Windows — and I do mean a lot. But Windows is not the future. By that I mean that the desktop metaphor GUI is slowly but surely being replaced by a rise of mobile and touchable devices. In other words, Microsoft needs a new idea.

The problem is that Microsoft hasn’t proven themselves to be capable of coming up with or executing such an idea on their own. Dozens of failed projects ranging from the original tablet PCs to SPOT watches to the Kin have been left in their wake. The fact that tablet computers are now exploding in popularity thanks to Apple’s iPad suggests that Microsoft, for whatever reason, has a hard time launching new, successful ideas on their own. Windows Mobile is another example of this. They were there early, much earlier than their main rivals. And now they’re getting trounced.

Instead, it may be time to piggyback off an idea again. To create a new inception, as it were. Lure someone in, take their idea — and take it to the next level. Microsoft has nothing if not a huge amount of resources. If they pick the right idea to take, they can once again transform the world — but they need that right idea.

BALLMER IS NO GERSTNER

I’ll go on record to say that Ballmer is no Lou Gerstner.  A company needs a visionary like a Gerstner or maybe in this case, a Steve Jobs.  Sam Diaz speculates his demise and that he might not even make it to CES to make the keynote.

Here is Diaz’s Ballmer scorecard:

  • Mobile: Clearly, the KIN was a flop. And, isn’t it kind of funny that references to the mobile landscape are always centered around iPhone, Android and BlackBerry. When was the last time you heard someone get excited about the forthcoming arrival of Windows Phone 7 and talk about how it will rock the mobile landscape? OK, putting Microsoft shareholders and employees aside, when was the last time you heard anyone else talk highly of Windows Phone 7?
  • Tablet: Well, Ballmer killed the Courier. Or someone at Microsoft did – but surely not without Ballmer’s permission. OK, so they killed a tablet PC project. Big deal. Isn’t that better than launching a loser (like they did with KIN)? But it wasn’t so much that they killed it as much as it was the extra line in the company’s official statement that declared “no plans to build such a device right now.” It seems that tablets are all the buzz right now, sparked largely by Apple’s iPad. And Microsoft has no plans for one?
  • Software/OS: Regardless of what you think about Google, the cloud and even the Mac, you cannot ignore the fact that Geese that lay Golden Eggs at Microsoft – Windows OS and Office – are getting old. There’s fresh competition from all over – and this isn’t just the Mac vs. PC sort of competition. There’s excitement around the launch of tablets running Google’s Chrome or Android OS. Clearly, Apple is gaining some ground from its switch campaign. And companies are being given real options for productivity software from online providers.

The point of all of this is that Ballmer, as the CEO of Microsoft, seems to have spent quite a bit of time riding on the successful coat tails of Bill Gates – but really hasn’t done much to elevate the company further, XBox being the exception.

My .02, he needs to go and they need new leadership to fend off Google, Oracle, Amazon and most of all Apple.  He is not the savior and they need a Gerstner.

Rob Enderle, one of the analysts I used to work with when I covered Analyst Relations for ThinkPad adds this nugget of perception:

Perception works both inside and outside the company. Recall that in the Apple turnaround, Steve Jobs started out with a company in deep trouble with products he had publicly called crap.  He started changing the perceptions surrounding the company because he knew this would give him the time he needed to rebuild it. At IBM, Louis Gerstner changed out the entire marketing department as one of his first accomplishments. He knew that if he couldn’t deal with the perception that IBM was failing, that perception would drive an unavoidable result.  In  both cases, by aggressively dealing with perceptions of unavoidable failure, both internally and externally, they bought time they needed to get  the real work done.

MINI-MICROSOFT WEIGH’S IN

One of the blogs I follow is Mini Microsoft as do many.  He’s got the biggest set of attachments that I know to write things like this:

And now Kin is killed *after* it has shipped in June 2010. You can bet Andy was involved in the development of Kin, the partnership agreements with the OEM, Verizon and most importantly the “ship it” approvals all along the way. And Microsoft discovers its a bad idea after it blows up in the broad market. Absolutely no thanks to any pro-active decision making on Andy’s part.

Now there is spin that Andy killed kin to put all the wood behind Windows Phone 7. Er, the guy was in charge for two years of Kin development. He could have made this decision far earlier.

Similarly Windows Phone 7 has two years of development under his watch. Based on his past performance, 99% chance this is also going to be a total catastrophe. It further doesn’t help that much of the Windows Phone 7 leadership team was kicked out of Windows when they screwed up Vista.

And finally, one Danger-employee’s point of view of why they became demotivated:

To the person who talked about the unprofessional behavior of the Palo Alto Kin (former Danger team), I need to respond because I was one of them.

You are correct, the remaining Danger team was not professional nor did we show off the amazing stuff we had that made Danger such a great place. But the reason for that was our collective disbelief that we were working in such a screwed up place. Yes, we took long lunches and we sat in conference rooms and went on coffee breaks and the conversations always went something like this…”Can you believe that want us to do this?” Or “Did you hear that IM was cut, YouTube was cut? The App store was cut?” “Can you believe how mismanaged this place is?” “Why is this place to dysfunctional??”

Please understand that we went from being a high functioning, extremely passionate and driven organization to a dysfunctional organization where decisions were made by politics rather than logic.

Consider this, in less than 10 years with 1/10 of the budget Microsoft had for PMX, we created a fully multitasking operating system, a powerful service to support it, 12 different device models, and obsessed and supportive fans of our product. While I will grant that we did not shake up the entire wireless world (ala iPhone) we made a really good product and were rewarded by the incredible support of our userbase and our own feelings of accomplishment. If we had had more time and resources, we would of come out with newer versions, supporting touch screens and revamping our UI. But we ran out of time and were acquired and look at the results. A phone that was a complete and total failure. We all knew (Microsoft employees included) that is was a lackluster device, lacked the features the market wanted and was buggy with performance problems on top of it all.

When we were first acquired, we were not taking long lunches and coffee breaks. We were committed to help this Pink project out and show our stuff. But when our best ideas were knocked down over and over and it began to dawn on us that we were not going to have any real affect on the product, we gave up. We began counting down to the 2 year point so we could get our retention bonuses and get out.

I am sorry you had to witness that amazing group behave so poorly. Trust me, they were (and still are) the best group of people ever assembled to fight the cellular battle. But when the leaders are all incompetent, we just wanted out.

So it is even internal that they know they need a change…..BUT HOW

Most of their products that were successful were others, what they invented except the xbox were largely irrelevant or unsuccessful.  They should have been a dominant phone player and got owned by Apple and Android.

And their big solution is this right now –

Microsoft: ‘If we don’t cannibalize our existing business, others will’

That’s not what companies do to reinvent themselves.  Take Apple, or IBM…that is what Microsoft needs to do.

I’ll give them this, they have a lot of money in the bank, but they are not positioning themselves as a dominant player for the future.

COMMUNICATIONS

In talking to the analysts and even the press from time to time, arrogant seems to be a trend.  They need to be humble and explain the situation.  Most of all, they need a product and a strategy to deal with.  I don’t envy them.

So far, they have emulated IBM in a lot of ways.  Re-Inventing themselves would be a good start.

Fixing moral would be good too….I’ll end with what Rob Enderle says:

The best way the take on these problems is for the management team to engage with employees by both listening to them and providing insight into the company’s strategic plans. Candor is critical; the goal is to get people working as a team again.  Employee surveys are generally ineffective because they aren’t trusted and the results don’t create the needed dialog.

Update: Their tablet strategy is labeled misguided and confusing.  Who would have guessed that?

Let the communications team explain this.

Back to the Future, Microsoft is IBM, circa 1980’s-early 1990’s

In 2012, my prediction has come true, although IBM is guilty of the same process of stacking reviews of people killing employee morale and innovation.

Original Article here:

History is reliving itself.

Take a dominant company with a large market share with essentially a proprietary product and have it grow to a large enough size based on a subscription or renewal/upgrade model, and you have either pre-Gerstner IBM or Microsoft today.

Peter Drucker has made very relevant descriptions of how companies reach plateaus and either change, tread water or decline. I’m not an analyst, but I can’t help notice that Microsoft is following a similar path that IBM lead in the late 80’s/early 90’s .

I have questions after hearing Vista is delayed, like how long can you miss your product introductions and keep credibility happy customers before they search for options (Linux, Workplace, name your new desktop platform here)? Um Bill, when Lou Gerstner took the reigns, people who missed deadlines had a career decision made for them as opposed to the pre-Lou years when things just went as they went. Look where that got us.

How long before external issues begat internal strife? Mini-Microsoft describes some management issues here calling for the leadership to be fired now.

How long before it affects your other products like Office? (StarOffice, OpenOffice anyone?)

Peter would be rolling in his grave right now to see this happening all over again. IBM went through this and almost didn’t survive. I’m not predicting a company death here, but if something doesn’t change, the market will change it for them as we vote with our dollars. Doesn’t anyone learn from history?

There are too many competitors out there today Microsoft, I know Steve Ballmer is firing shots across the bow at IBM, but I think that Oracle, Apple, Google and a host of others have more marketshare in mind than gathering crumbs under the Microsoft Thanksgiving table. Next time you shoot at IBM, you should look in the mirror and think if the following words mean anything to you? They do to the customers, the industry and history…..

Proprietary, Monopolistic, Bureaucratic, Schizophrenic about the competition.

Competition is good. It promotes Innovation and lower prices, oh yeah, it delivers your products on time or you get a career decision made for you.