Business

Carnival of the Capitalists

First, some catching up I need to do. As a one time host of Carnival of the Capitalists, it behooves me to link regularly as each week’s new edition comes out. Oops.

Oh well.

This week’s CotC, the February 21 edition, is at The Raw Prawn.

Last week’s, the February 14 edition, was at Weekend Pundit.

The February 7 edition was at Catallarchy.

The January 31 edition was at Ashish’s Niti.

Finally, the January 24 edition was at Business Opportunities Weblog.

Phew, all caught up!

As for next week’s edition, it will appear at Coyote Blog.

Dying Microsoft? Don’t Panic

Is Microsoft a dying company?

I’d say “dying” is a strong word for it, but my perception is of size and hubris problems enough to place them near their pinnacle of size and success before having to rethink themselves, and probably shrink, whether in a controlled, planned, voluntary way, or a more chaotic, seemingly unpredictable way.

Malone’s observations are good ones. Microsoft really is, as Ian notes, full of marketing and business smarts. My experience working in Microsoft tech support years ago was that they wanted superior customer service because they were fully aware they weren’t automatically going to stay on top forever, and it was important always to scramble as if you were still the scrappy underdog, not the IBM. Have they forgotten that? Probably not overall, but maybe in parts of the company.

All of which might matter little if they are up against sufficient powerful outside forces, accumulated perceptions, and maturation and demystification of the PC market.

I always point out the problem of creating a magnum opus and then not being able to improve on it enough to be compelling. For instance, Word 97, or even Office 97 more generally. Almost nobody would ever want or need anything more in that type of software. If they ended up on Word 2000 instead, the same applies. Microsoft ends up chasing a tiny share of people who really do need exotic new or improved features, first time or “with a new computer” purchasers, and any upgraders they can force. In that last case, they end up looking like bullies. Blam! There goes some mindshare.

Which is not to say that Office 2003 isn’t nifty, but there’s no compelling reason for most users to upgrade, and it’s a business challenge for Microsoft that they seem to have trouble facing. It’s worsened by the fact that writing an adequate word processor is a relatively easy programming challenge, so there is price pressure to boot.

I think Malone is onto something. I also think it will be a long, slow decline that could be arrested at any time, and will be in no way complete, ever. They’re not going to be the next DEC getting eaten by Compaq getting eaten inexplicably by HP in a fit of corporate rock star CEO insanity.

Article link and some of his own commentary via Ian Hamet, who also keeps us posted on the Hitchhiker’s Guide movie here, here, here, here, and probably elsewhere, but those are the recent ones.

Carnival of the Capitalists

Once again there is a Carnival of the Capitalists, this week hosted at Small Business Trends.

Of particular interest, I found there is a CIO Weblog, touting business and technology coverage of the software market. First Call was not impressed with Apple’s new Home Media Server. Frank Scavo reports on Microsoft’s efforts to pick up business from PeopleSoft’s customers. Wayne Hurlbert has advice on using viral marketing to get more e-mail newsletter subscribers or, the more modern equivalent, blog visitors.

Carnival of the Capitalists Catching Up

I have been remiss in failing to link to the editions of Carnival of the Capitalists in weeks following the one hosted here. Not such an odd thing to link, since this blog is about technology and geek stuff, but also about business to a lesser degree, this business and more generally. So it was on:

December 27
Business Opportunities Weblog

January 3
Management Craft

January 10
Odyssey of the Mind

You may find some interesting and unexpected links there, if you check them out.

Secure Downloading

There’s a great discussion, entertainly and religiously tempestuous of course, going on over Firefox and Internet Explorer. Not about the browsers, at least not at first, but about whether the Firefox download can be trusted to be secured and the file you receive and install untampered with.

I’m following the comments in the Wizbang post, in which Kevin laughs at the post by a Microsoft employee that started the debate.

If you take it in the spirit of having pointed out a potential problem with Firefox distribution, it’s worth pondering. If you take it as a silly attempt to scare folks away from Firefox, it really is amusing.

In any event, I can’t recommend Firefox highly enough. It saves hours upon hours of work and boatloads of grief associated with malware that Internet Explorer all but invites onto computers. But hey, IE can be downloaded securely, with certainty you are getting the binaries Microsoft intended.

Carnival of the Capitalists

Welcome to this week’s Carnival of the Capitalists, here at XTremeBlog. I hope you’ll be back to visit this place from time to time when there is no carnival to draw your attention. We post about everything from hardcore talk of programming, to basic tips for computer users, to stuff of possible geek interest that isn’t about computers, to discussions of products, business, and the same kinds of computer gripes any of us might have.

The hard-to-fill December 27 edition of Carnival of the Capitalists will be hosted by Dane Carlson of Business Opportunities Weblog, who did a great job on the July 26 edition. Submissions can be e-mailed to cotcmail -at- gmail -dot- com or via the gongol.com entry form.

My own entry for CotC, The Art of Buzz and Timeliness, notes the spate of posts elsewhere discussing Guy Kawasaki’s The Art Of The Start. From there it discusses one particular bit of advice cited from the book, providing a real life example of why getting a product out the door first and perfecting it later makes sense.

In other recent posts here, Bob discusses Microsoft’s intention to drop support for Windows 2000 next year, and what a strange way that is to treat its customers. Rich gets more technical, talking about upgrading to .NET from VB6, why it’s time for his business to do that, and then how Microsoft could improve the product in the installation department. The first of Rich’s posts is worth reading just to get to read the sentence:

Time for some Nexium and a ham sandwich.

Now, on with the rest of the show…

Mad Anthony posted on a topic I had planned to address, with more similarities than differences in our thoughts. A computer science professor wrote an editorial at WSJ as to why IBM’s sale of the PC division was a bad thing. Mad Anthony thinks he is way off base. Indeed. It may be a mistake for other reasons, but the tricks he wants computers to do and thought IBM could lead in are largely, if not entirely, about software. As Steve Jobs would say (not!), what does it matter who builds the hardware.

Slacker Manager suggests learning SQL as a management tool. Too many managers leave relatively simple database inquiries to IT folks, which cuts down on managerial responsiveness. He provides links to a book and a SQL tool he highly recommends. His idea makes a great deal of sense. As do his cautions. The ability to cut to the chase and work with data as expediently and flexibly as possible is increasingly valuable and, with technology, possible.

Brian Gongol, creator of the handy CotC submission form, notes the irony of China now being the largest source of spam.

Frank Scavo at the Enterprise System Spectator points out how the real loser in Oracle’s acquisition of PeopleSoft is IBM. I wasn’t aware of this aspect of the dealings between the three companies, but it seems the magnitude of business IBM stands to lose makes Frank absolutely right.

Speaking of the tempestuous Oracle acquisition of PeopleSoft, Christine Hurt at Conglomerate notes the last-minute agreement on December 13, 2004 aborted a three-day hearing that would have explored the legitimacy of PeopleSoft’s innovative poison pill, the Customer Assurance Plan. Some commenters had predicted that Vice Chancellor Leo Strine Jr. would have held that the plan was an indefensible board action outside the Business Judgment rule. It would have been interesting to see what came of that decision.

Barry Ritholtz of The Big Picture discusses whether the RIAA is successful or not in their anti-technology copyright landgrab. In some ways, perhaps. In other ways you tend not to hear about, perhaps not so much.

Perhaps it’s just me, being geeky, but every time I hear or see someone say “IP” as an abbreviation for “intellectual property,” I automatically think “internet protocol” first. Then I adjust for context and catch back up with the conversation. At any rate, another post on what might be called a saner form of intellectual property…

At Law & Entrepreneurship News, Marjorie Stern discusses recent developments in patent portfolio building. It’s a link-laden post far more interesting than it might sound from the description. Of particular interest to me was item 4:

Symantec has made a bid to acquire Veritas and create the fourth largest software company in the world. The companies claim the merger is, “a means to remain competitive in a consolidating market.” Veritas is the market leader in data storage software, and Symantec is the market leader in security software.

The combination sounds intriguing. Symantec has done a great job managing not to be trampled by Microsoft. Here they grow and diversify by buying a superior company that is also not direct competition to Microsoft. Veritas rocks for backup software.

Arnold Kling has a post that primarily links two other posts, on the topic of pharmaceutical patents. It doesn’t really meet the criteria of substantive original material. However, it invites comment and in doing so becomes more substantive. He links the Gary Becker and Richard Posner in posts on pharmaceutical industry patents and economics, at The Becker-Posner Blog.

David Jackson at Seeking Alpha discusses the problem of click-fraud, suggesting that it is potentially more serious for small, publicly-traded Internet companies because shareholders may try to impact their financial results by clicking on pay-per-click ads. It suggests that ultimately the search and comparison shopping companies will be incentivized to stop click-fraud, but until that happens businesses – and stocks – could be impacted. I would never have thought of such a possibility, but you never know what people will do.

Is there really a secret to marketing to women online? Yvonne DiVita at Lip-sticking reveals some of those secrets. As she says:

Women are masters at giving and we’re doing more of our researching online– so we can buy online, too! We’ll buy from you…if you make friends with us.

Incidentally… Rocket surgery? I’d never heard that one, and it makes no sense. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for, and “rocket science” will do fine.

Jeff Cornwall at The Entrepreneurial Mind looks at the dramatic change in the impact that web-based marketing is having on small businesses. It seems he is becoming less skeptical.

Coyote Blog ponders whether the web demands new PR technologies, with corporate PR departments left in the dust by the web. The clipping service era is over, but hey, we have the technology. We can replace the clipping service, make it better than it was. Better, more timely, and more comprehensive.

On a similar note of technological and market change, Russell Buckley at Mobile Technology Weblog discusses media fragmentation and the state of denial still prevailing in the advertising industry. Better to take a lesson from those RIAA folks, embracing change and technology, being creative.

First Call has written a series of posts about the consumer electronics market, and the business impact that private label products will have on the key suppliers and retailers. Follow the links for the additional parts of the series when you get there.

Anita Campbell at Small Business Trends talks about “Anti-Trending and Other Trends for 2005.” She says:

Futurist Watts Wacker recently gave me an exclusive interview in which he outlined the 4 major trends that will heat up in 2005 and beyond, and the 6 trends influencing small business. Normally you have to pay to listen to Watts, but at Small Business Trends you can read what he says for free.

While we’re on the topic of predictions, Roger Nusbaum, of Random Roger’s Big Picture, questions the value of stock market predictions and then offers his thoughts on 2005.

Photon Courier talks about stock trades by Board of Directors members as a market indicator. Not to be confused with illegal insider trading.

An unlikely IPO concerns Byrne’s MarketView this week. Byrne says:

“It’s one thing for Goldman to explain that they’ve gone from 50,000-share blocks every month to 500,000-share blocks every week, ergo they need capital or they’ll be swamped; it’s another issue entirely for Lazard to meekly explain that they’ve replaced their Rolodexes with Palm Pilots and could they please have nearly a billion dollars to smooth the transition?” In this post, I complain about the Lazard IPO — and not just because I’m a traditionalist who hates to see a great partnership go public.

Capital Chronicle compares finding bargains while shopping for champagne in France to shopping for value in equity markets. Just know a bargain when you see it.

Continuing on the convergence of alcohol and markets, Adam Crouch at The Raw Prawn tells a tale of vodka arbitrage in two different forms. It’s all about smuggling legal goods to evade tariffs, plus saving money by creatively turning lower end into higher end product.

Roth & Company, which incidentally is an example of superb use of a business-connected blog, discusses year-end tax planning issues connected with at-risk basis and related party loans.

Steve Verdon, writing at Outside the Beltway, analyzes the interrelationship between tax and savings rates.

I had considered chasing down and linking some of the posts that have been out there recently on the topic of social security. For instance, Viking Pundit posted on it here and here and, before the other two, the one that made me think about it as an in-CotC roundup possibility, here.

Well, Scrivener.net helped me out with an extensive post that asks the urgent question: Is the Social Security Trust Fund worth less than zero?

Why would anyone get that idea? It has everything to do with the fact that the only place the government is allowed to “invest” to build the “fund” is in its own securities. Financing deficit spending now, which will have to be covered somehow later. Well, I’ll stop and let you read the entry, not my take on the topic.

Speaking of government spending and antics, Interested-Participant points to the oddity of Cleveland, Ohio’s mayor creating a “sustainability programs manager” to educate city employees on environmental sustainability.

Lancelot Finn of Towards a Good Samaritan World has a different, interesting way of looking at the trade deficit. As he says:

One way to look at the trade deficit is as a “hard currency services export industry.” Dollars are useful to foreigners as a unit of account, a medium of exchange, and a store of value. So foreigners are happy to send us goods in exchange for dollars. Since demand for hard currency is likely to keep growing, the trade deficit may be (for better or worse) more sustainable than is usual assumed.

Paul Noonan at The Electric Commentary writes about publicly financed stadium deals, and why he believes many economists argue unfairly against them. It’s an interesting switch from the usual opposition to such deals.

How much attention do I pay to sports? I wasn’t even aware there was an NHL lockout. The Meatriarchy has been paying attention though, and writes about the current labor dispute, “and the feeble attempts by sports media types to paint the players as paragons of the free market.”

I could use some coffee by this point in compiling CotC for posting in the wee hours. I guess a coffee market post will have to do, even if it concerns Starbucks. I find their coffee almost undrinkable, so I get to avoid the silly size designations, and people finding a personality in coffee, shades of You’ve Got Mail with Meg Ryan.

Over at Catallarchy, Micha Ghertner is on the case of “fair trade coffee” from Starbucks. Mmmm… coffee. That’s better.

James Joyner writes at Outside the Beltway regarding the economics of home ownership, with some links to others on the topic, and commenters contributions. Is there a housing bubble? That question is always of great interest to me, and my thinking tends toward “probably,” yet it hasn’t shown signs of slowing down soon. Will the Fed’s latest moves change that? Guess we’ll find out, but for now it’s always fun to speculate and hypothesize this way and that.

In a rather unusual entry, SMB Trendwire has submitted an audio post (the included link goes to a text post introducing the audio). In it, Dr. Jeff Cornwall discusses his work with entrepreneurs and what he calls the “Five Myths of Entrepreneurism.”

Speaking of Guy Kawasaki reviews, one has been entered this week. Steve Rucinski at Small Business CEO speaks from experience at a failed business when he recommends the book and its advice, especially praising how it is organized.

Wayne Hurlbert, at the always interesting Blog Business World, believes that entrepreneurship should be embraced by bloggers, and that starting a small or micro-business should be among our goals. Sounds reasonable to me. He adds some advice for motivating yourself in that direction.

Finally, I thought I’d add a shout out to various posts that talk about the concept of, opinions about, and issues surrounding minimum wage or living wage laws and proposals. It seems to have been up there with social security problems and reform as a popular topic of late. So here are:
Dustbury
Gut Rumbles
LoboWalk
And BusinessPundit, which was the first one I saw mentioning it.

There you have it, another week’s Carnival of the Capitalists. Hope you enjoyed it, and will visit XTremeBlog again. Don’t miss next week’s edition at Business Opportunities Weblog.