Lest you think that electronic snooping is something new...
On this day in 1952 the British Broadcasting Company -- known affectionately as the Beeb -- demonstrated the first public test drive of TV detector vans. Why? Because everyone in the UK was required to pay a TV licence fee to be able to access the programming available from the BBC: if you didn't pay your license fee, you not only weren't allowed to watch their programming, they could even take your TV, from what I recall.
But here's what's interesting...
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Why successful startups never outsource their business plan
I'm in the midst of reviewing a book on outsourcing for a big publisher, and just bumped into a line that made me grind my teeth and wail in frustration. The author is recommending that businesses consider outsourcing their business plan development because they'll "get a better business plan, faster, and at lower cost" than doing it in house.
What's so maddening is that this is absolutely wrong-headed thinking. Having gone through four startups of my own and as someone involved in dozens more, I can personally guarantee that if you outsource your business plan process, your company will be more likely to fail, not less.
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Chevron reports 98% net income increase, consumers get the shaft
The Wall Street Journal and various other outlets today are reporting that ChevronTexaco Corporation announced "roaring profits" as a result of high oil and natural-gas prices. Its fourth-quarter net income nearly doubled.
I don't see it, though. If market forces (e.g., OPEC, etc., etc.) determine the price of crude oil, and if the refining process has a fixed cost (and a scary amount of obsoleting fixed assets for Chevron, but that's another topic), how is it that an increase in the cost of crude can translate into greater profits for oil companies?
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P&G buys Gillette for $57 Billion, but how much is that in real terms?
Nimble and componentized Proctor & Gamble has apparently tendered an offer to buy Gillette for a mind-boggling $57 billion dollars in stock that's been accepted. Done deal. But I'm still trying to wrap my brain around this figure, trying to get a handle on just how big $57 billion dollars really is, and thought you'd enjoy coming on the ride...
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Apple's G5 PowerBook: Marketing in the 21st Century
A fascinating thing happened this morning. Someone happened to be looking at the source HTML to Apple Computer's PowerBook information page (which you can pop over and visit here, if you'd like) and noticed a very interesting little snippet:
<img src="http://switch.atdmt.com/action/apple_g5_powerbook" height="1" width="1">
If you don't follow the Apple market, their new G5 CPU-based laptops are eagerly awaited by the Apple community, and so far there's been no substantive information about when these systems might be released. Until now...
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Clueless Sun complains IBM isn't porting apps to Solaris 10
A small brouhaha is occurring in the business blog space with Sun Microsystems CIO Jonathan Schwartz complaining that IBM is acting in a nasty, proprietary fashion by not immediately jumping on the chance to port its WebSphere, DB2, Tivoli, Rational and MQSeries products to the new Solaris 10 operating system.
But Jonathan, you aren't looking at the big picture here. The big picture is that IBM has already aggressively embraced the open standards world -- indeed they're doing more now to promote it than Sun Microsystems is -- and their open source platform of choice is the industry standard Linux OS. Not Solaris 10, a Johnny-come-lately in the open source world.
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HP Board unimpressed with CEO Fiorina...
I can't say that I'm surprised. The Wall Street Journal today has a long piece about how the Board of Directors at Hewlett-Packard are considering an executive reorganization that would strip Chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina of some of her current responsibilities. Make no mistake, this isn't a bonus or promotion, but a demotion. Here's how WSJ phrases it:
"At its annual planning meeting between Jan. 12 and Jan. 15, HP's board discussed giving three senior executives more authority and autonomy over key operating units, according to people familiar with the matter. The board also has asked Thomas Perkins, a prominent venture capitalist and a former H-P director, to rejoin the board, these people said."
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Winston Churchill: A true hero died forty years ago today
When it all comes down to it, I don't tend to agree with the people that the media wants me to perceive as heroes. I admire the courage of a fireman who runs into a burning building, a policeman who braves gunfire to rescue children and a soldier who tries to stay true to his or her ideals while serving in the military, but they're not heroes to me, not role models for my children.
Which isn't to say that I don't have heroes and don't strive to emulate the upstanding behavior and compassion of people who lived in the past. Gandhi is one example that comes to mind, someone who had enough courage to NOT raise his fists in response to outrageous violence and situations (which takes a lot more courage than picking up a gun and shooting back).
But I don't want to remember Gandhi in this post, I want to write about the man that I believe was the true hero of World War II, a man that England and society unfairly shunned after the War, Sir Winston Churchill.
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Fixing what ails Circuit City: too darn much proprietary thinking.
I have to admit that while I love gadgets and electronics, I don't actually buy things very often. I do my bit for the mythical "trickle down" economy in other ways, though, so don't worry that I'm not helping keep those greenbacks in circulation.
Every few months I go into the local Circuit City just to walk around, talk with the salespeople about what's hot, and generally be wowed by the rate of technological advance in this hot sector. But here's a funny thing I've noticed is happening at the store...
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What dreams have you dreamt today?
Living in a college town with a university known for its sports teams -- the University of Colorado, Boulder -- is mostly a benefit. Sometimes traffic near the university can be a bit out of control, but we have a great bus system here to compensate. There are some very interesting upsides, too, however, one of which I encountered just a week or so ago when I took my family out to the local "Old Chicago" restaurant for dinner.
The entire back room was closed for a private party and as we sat and watched, lots of University of Colorado, Boulder sports staff came into the restaurant and started setting up tables, appetizers, and piles of CU hats, information folders, and more. Then a group of big, bulky, athletes came in, all looking relaxed, pleasant and ready for some free pizza.
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Would you buy a book on blogging?
On one of the writing lists I'm on, there's a great discussion right now about whether there's a meaningful market for books on blogging, and there are two main categories of responses. One is "What's a blog? Isn't that just a diary? Why would someone need a book on how to write a diary?" and the other camp is represented by "maybe I'd buy a book if the author had a unique perspective on what to do with blogs, but it sure doesn't seem like a very big market."
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HP fights with Apple over the iPod, and HP ends up losing...
According to sources (Apple Insider and The Unofficial Apple Weblog), Hewlett-Packard has stopped buying iPods from Apple Computer because of a contract dispute. The analysis in the Apple community is summed up by TUAW's comment that "HP iPods accounted for only 7% of the 4.58 million iPods sold last quarter. Might this have something to do with the fact that Apple doesn’t appear to be losing any sleep over HP’s lack of [iPods in] stock…?"
Apple's in the wrong here, assuming that the reports are accurate, but HP's the company making the wrong strategic moves in this situation, not Apple. Here's why...
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Fully Integrated Marketing Campaigns and Chili's Burgers
I recently spent a pleasant Saturday attending "Blogger Boot Camp", sponsored by the forward-thinking DaVinci Institute, and at lunch, Greg Reinaker (of NewsGator), Bill French (of MyST Technology Partners), DaVinci head Thomas Frey and some additional folk who don't have blogs (imagine!) went to Chili's. Typically I skip these franchise restaurants because when you don't eat meat or chicken there's not much left on their menu, and because the quality of their food tends to be poor. But when you're with a group, you go with the flow...
By coincidence, I'd seen one or two TV advertisements from Chili's for their new "Build Your Own Big Mouth Burger" campaign, and was intrigued when I saw the campaign's blank order ticket on the table. I borrowed a pen from Tom and checked off the burger and toppings I wanted.
However, when the burger was delivered....
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HP stumbles, saddles printer division with loser PC division
Gather 'round, I have an informative story to tell you, one and all...
Once upon a time there was a great engineering kingdom whose palace was built upon a simple precept: if you want to sell great products, build them for yourself. The founders, princes named Bill and Dave from the shire of Stanford, codified this as their "next bench syndrome", and it didn't take long for them to expand beyond the confines of their cosy Palo Alto hut and into a real palace.
Many years passed and this company grew and grew, fueled by calculators, computers, and computer peripherals. It was a long and exciting journey from the first oscilloscopes that they'd built for an unknown businessman named Walt Disney...
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Movies on my "must see" list for 2005
I'm reading through a list of movies scheduled for release in 2005 and there are actually a dozen or so that sound pretty good, with stars ranging from Keanu Reeves, Tom Cruise and Orlando Bloom to Nicole Kidman and Angelina Jolie. It's going to be an exciting year in the cinema, hopefully, with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, War of the Worlds, The Chronicles of Narnia, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Star Wars III.
Here's my list...
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How Think Secret ruined Apple's surprise party
A few days ago, I shared my thoughts about Apple, Think Secret and Non-Disclosure Agreements, in which I basically said that rumor sites were cool, but rumor sites that were using known confidential information or news that was obviously shared with them in violation of non-disclosure agreements were most assuredly not cool at all.
Yesterday I finally came up with a metaphor that I believe aptly describes the situation, and explains why it's just so uncool and unethical to publish rumors that are known to come from sources violating this confidentiality...
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Breaking Canadian news: Another case of Mad Cow DiseaseBreaking news from Ottawa, Canada: a second case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), known more colorfully as "mad cow disease" has been announced by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The diseased cow was born after the Canadians tightened feed restrictions in 1997, and it's not linked to the 2003 case or the more recent case announced on January 2nd.
This is happening just as the United States was going to open up its border to allow importation of cattle from Canada (it's been closed for about 17 months now), but now maybe that doesn't sound like such a good idea after all...
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For IBM, Patents Want to be Free (are you listening, SCO?)
Congratulations to IBM CEO Sam Palmisano and his team at IBM for doing the exact opposite of what conventional logic dictates by opening up a small percentage of their massive portfolio of patents! John Kelly, their Senior VP of Technology & Intellectual Property announced that they would allow open source developers to freely use 500 of their patented software solutions. This is a meaningful and positive shift away from from the traditional and highly constraining world of patent enforcement and ownership.
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Of Apple, Think Secret and Non-Disclosure Agreements
Along with many other people, I'm on the Apple Developer Center Seed list, which means that I get to see preview and pre-release editions of future OS updates (e.g., Mac OS X 10.4, aka Tiger). But things on the list are different now that Apple has come out and sued Think Secret over pre-release leaks (learn more at MacSlash or Daring Fireball). Instead of the cheery one line "don't forget that this is confidential stuff" on the ADC Seed Update newsletter, there's now a new disclaimer in town...
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What exactly *does* HP "Invent" nowadays?
While leafing through a catalog from PC Connection, I was struck by the extreme irony of seeing an iPod in the catalog listed as "iPod + HP" with a big "HP Invent" logo adjacent. My immediate reaction was "invent? Invent what?" but the more I think about the current HP strategy, the more I move further towards a personal redefinition of invention and innovation.
First off, fair disclosure, I worked for about four years at Hewlett-Packard's Palo Alto R&D Laboratory as a research scientist back in the late 1980's. With a few other positions at HP (including technical director of the multi-million-dollar HP University Grants Program, a fascinating venue marred by poor management support) (but that's another story!) I was involved with the company for about five years plus another year or two of consulting afterwards.
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