Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Art Prize

This of course begs the question, "if this is the prize, how do I enter the competition?"

Sort of an odd motif for one of the world's premier modern art competitions don't you think? Not complaining, mind.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stealth Layoffs at Google?

According to Web Guild, and others, Google too has been making layoffs, but just not telling anyone.

Web Guild claims that Google has 50% more headcount than is being reported as such, with an additional 10,000 workers lumped into the "temporary" category and comprising staff that get moved around from job-to-job in order to pass muster with US employment law. Advantages to Google of taking this approach abound including that categorising people this way makes them cheaper to keep (no benefits, being not the least of them) and total actual headcount is now much easier to hide from the prying eyes of Wall Street analysts.

The first article also claims that Google has in fact already made some layoffs, primarily in the ranks of recruiters where, if this story is accurate, 500 heads have been lopped off. I can't even begin to think about what sort of a company needed 500 recruiters, but I suppose the answer is "a big one" and "a hungry one", albeit one whose appetite seems to have faded. If the other stories are true then another 500 will bite the dust sometime this week, and presumably they will be something other than recruiters ....

I don't have any insider information on whether or not this premise holds water so I guess we'll have to wait and see how things pan out, but whatever the facts of the case it's clear that on-line advertising is at best slowing down, and more likely actually contracting in real terms. It's going to be a long, hard winter in Google-land if so.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Porsche 911 Battery

At Least I Only Need The Battery To Start Mine ...

I got to spend most of the weekend wondering why one of our cars wouldn't start. Decided on Friday morning to take the Porsche to work. Jumped in, turned the key and was greeted by a very lethargic looking set of dashboard lights. Hmm, definitely not a good sign. Either my eyesight was fading rapidly or the battery was flat. Fortunately, it turned out to be the latter so tried to start the car and, apart from a succession of clicks from the starter relay, got nowhere fast. Gave up, changed cars and left.

I tried charging the battery overnight but that didn't help. Bummer, so now it's either a completely dead battery or something else has gone like the starter motor that's now shorting all the juice as soon as the key is turned. I have a battery booster so once that was charged then I added that to the arsenal to be deployed and ... nothing. Voltage gauge on the dashboard barely crept to 10 volts even before turning the key. Definitely not good news. Can the battery really be so bad as all that? Given that it's now 8 years old and at least once in its life got completely discharged when I left the key in the ignition for a few days then it felt worth changing it out on-spec to see if that was indeed the culprit.

Given the state of both the world's and my economy, buying one form Porsche wasn't a viable option! I hate to think what they would charge; in fact, I hated it so much I didn't even bother looking. I poked instead at some Porsche forums, most notably Rennlist, and got pointed to Autozone for a replacement, grand cost of $90 for the 48 DL, plus $12 refunded when you take the old one in. (Note: make sure it has the vent pipe included. It should be in an envelope stuck to the battery. You will need this bit of rubber to finish things up properly.)

Switching it was easy, if you happen to have a 13mm socket for the battery clamp and a 10 mm socket for the battery terminals themselves that is, and thankfully I did because that thought didn't cross my mind until after I got back from the parts store of course. Although the replacement unit is a bit smaller than the original (model year 2001, 996 coupe version at least) Porsche kindly has provided several holes for the single clamp fitting so low-and-behold the new one does indeed fit snugly into the retaining tray. (One other hint, remember to go and search out the radio code in advance, OK?? Removing the battery will kill power to it and the radio take this as a sign someone is trying to kidnap it. As a result it goes into a very deep sulk, mollified only by you feeding it the requisite 4 numbers provided in the original handbook documentation.)

Anyway, nailed it all back together, turned the key and voila - it started first time. Job done. Amazing that a battery can die quite that comprehensively overnight, but apparently it can. So there.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


A great new service has been announced jointly between Life magazine and Google: the Life image archives are now on-line.

In the Google image tab you just enter the search item you are interested in followed by "source:Life" into the usual address box and voila, matching images from over a century of Life's peerless collection. Fascinating stuff, and covered extremely well here.

As is often the way with the Internet, you never quite know what you might get back. I wanted to see if they had any interesting shots of Brighton's piers, so I tried "Pier". Turns out that there was a 50s actress named Pier Angeli who, based on the photos that showed up, liked standing in things and looking very happy. The exact description was:

Pier Angeli
Actress Pier Angeli, 22, clad in strapless chiffon party dress, exhulting in a downpour of rain as she stands knee-deep in a woodland pond.

Location: CA, US
Date taken: June 09, 1954

Photographer: Allan Grant

You just don't see words like "exhulting" used any more, especially when, surely, they meant to write "exulting"? (Pier's filmography here for those interested. Only one I recognise is Battle Of The Bulge, a war she has most demonstrably won on more than one front.)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sunset On The Financial Community

Literally, and in San Francisco anyway. Of course, what I really should have taken a picture of was the sun setting on a GM vehicle, but I didn't and so this is as topical as it gets.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Zeppelins Over San Francisco

No, that's not the name of a new Hollywood blockbuster, though I'd be happy to sell it to them if they so desire, but rather it's descriptive of what we saw on Saturday in the city.

We had a great weekend in San Francisco. courtesy of some friends with a downtown apartment and spare tickets to the opera. Bliss. To top it all, the weather was glorious, company sublime and the view ... well it's not often you see an airship gliding past downtown skyscrapers now is it?

The dirigible shown here was flying courtesy of a new operation based at Moffett airfield, Airship Ventures. An hour flying time costs around $495 per person, and on days like that then the views must have been nothing short of spectacular. It was unseasonably warm this last weekend with the weather being driven by an off-shore flow of warm air coming straight from the central valley. The main benefit of this pattern, at least as far as San Francisco is concerned, is that it pushes the fog bank far out to sea, resulting in crystal-clear air.

When it's snowing in the Midwest but 78 degrees & sunny in the Bay Area, it really does remind you why you pay the premium required to live here!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tesla Has It's Own Begging Bowl

Tesla is hitting up the Feds for bailout money too. Yeah, they claim it's to build new models and that tapping the Department of Energy isn't the same as milking money from the Treasury, but quite frankly that's all BS.

A) they lost bucket-loads of money on the Roadster, a model line you can be sure will never show a profit;

B) the plan to build a mid-size saloon, from scratch, for less than half the price of the Roadster, especially when combined with the pretence that Tesla will somehow defeat the combined forces of BMW, Lexus and others, is absolutely ludicrous;

C) the management has been an unmitigated disaster, lurching from one set of hands on the tiller to the next, with Musk now stepping back in to make it his personal plaything, something that's been cited before as a major reason for Teslas series of problems.

Just goes to show that Silicon Valley can still learn a thing or two from the good old boys in Corporate America. Tesla Hearts GM.

GM Adopts Nigerian Business Practices

A friend of mine forwarded to me a personalised e-mail he received from GM. Seems they are sending begging letters to their current customers pleading for access to cash that, truly-promise and hope to die, they really, really will pay back as soon as they sell off a couple of things and the world is all made better again. Promise.

"Dear XXXXX,

You made the right choice when you put your confidence in General Motors, and we appreciate your past support. I want to assure you that we are making our best vehicles ever, and we have exciting plans for the future. But we need your help now. Simply put, we need you to join us to let Congress know that a bridge loan to help U.S. automakers also helps strengthen the U.S. economy and preserve millions of American jobs.

Despite what you may be hearing, we are not asking Congress for a bailout but rather a loan that will be repaid.

The U.S. economy is at a crossroads due to the worldwide credit crisis, and all Americans are feeling the effects of the worst economic downturn in 75 years. Despite our successful efforts to restructure, reduce costs and enhance liquidity, U.S. auto sales rely on access to credit, which is all but frozen through traditional channels.

The consequences of the domestic auto industry collapsing would far exceed the $25 billion loan needed to bridge the current crisis. According to a recent study by the Center for Automotive Research:
• One in 10 American jobs depends on U.S. automakers
• Nearly 3 million jobs are at immediate risk• U.S. personal income could be reduced by $150 billion
• The tax revenue lost over 3 years would be more than $156 billion

Discussions are now underway in Washington, D.C., concerning loans to support U.S. carmakers. I am asking for your support in this vital effort by contacting your state representatives.

Please take a few minutes to go to, where we have made it easy for you to contact your U.S. senators and representatives. Just click on the "I'm a Concerned American" link under the "Mobilize Now" section, and enter your name and ZIP code to send a personalized e-mail stating your support for the U.S. automotive industry.

Let me assure you that General Motors has made dramatic improvements over the last 10 years. In fact, we are leading the industry with award-winning vehicles like the Chevrolet Malibu, Cadillac CTS, Buick Enclave, Pontiac G8, GMC Acadia, Chevy Tahoe Hybrid, Saturn AURA and more. We offer 18 models with an EPA estimated 30 MPG highway or better — more than Toyota or Honda. GM has 6 hybrids in market and 3 more by mid-2009. GM has closed the quality gap with the imports, and today we are putting our best quality vehicles on the road.

Please share this information with friends and family using the link on the site.

Thank you for helping keep our economy viable."

Love the last line. You just couldn't make this stuff up. (Oh and in case you were wondering, the Centre For Automotive Research cited above is indeed funded by the car companies and the unions. Probably about the only thing they can agree on is that the best propaganda is always disguised as an independent research report.)

Frankly, I wouldn't give GM a brass farthing without first seeing them go into Chapter 11. They were losing money 12 months ago before things turned south, and now it's bleeding away so fast that they are all but dead by year-end. Even as the economy does recover, there's no way GM will have done what they need to do to get costs under control without Chapter 11 protection, a fact even Congress must see.

GM is on a death march, and giving them a drink of water now won't change anything except that they will be able to shuffle forward a few more yards before dying further down the road.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Other Shoe

So the inevitable happened: Yang "stepped down" as CEO at Yahoo. With the share price now trading at barely one-third of the cash offer made by Microsoft back in February, even the Yahoo board finally sat up and took notice. Jerry will stay in the big chair until a replacement is found when he will return to being Chief Yahoo, a no-line-management role that allows him to sit in a corner and think about stuff.

Now the fun bit starts, namely speculation about who they will sucker attract to Yahoo to take over. Obviously, all those internal to the company who could have stepped up a few months ago have already bailed so they'll have to go outside, doubtless amidst cries of "fresh blood" and "new ideas". (Yes, exactly the same logic they used to explain bringing Semel on board from Hollywood, a step you can argue led them down this treacherous path in the first place.)

Any chance the previous discussions with Microsoft, Google and AOL will re-surface? Doubt it, especially with all the market turmoil still raging at its peak. No one knows for sure what the on-line advertising spend will look like going into '09 (though it's already becoming clear that old media spending on ad placement is dropping through the floor), so therefore it's much better just to sit on the sidelines and see what happens next. After all, it's hard to see Yahoo getting more expensive any time soon!

Still seems weird, though, to see once high-flying Internet companies go from kings to clowns in such a short space of time. Back in the day (damn it, I hate Sarah Palin and her horrible folksy phrases) major companies grew large and then stayed there, continuing to dominate their spaces until either the government took them apart or they were overwhelmed by the next market or technology shift. Of course, the same basic process plays out today in the Valley but now it's on timescales that are barely credible: companies stumble and fall in a matter of weeks or months instead of the decades it used to take.

This is one hell of a "take no prisoners" kind of place.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Firing Employees - Literally

Breaking news here in Silicon Valley is that a worker, laid off from a small, fabless semiconductor firm earlier in the week, just went back and shot to death three co-workers.

We saw this happen earlier this century when the last bubble burst, and I'm very sorry to hear that we are headed into such ugly territory once again. Condolences to the families of the victims who died from a such a brutal, cowardly and utterly uneccesary act.

Laying-off employees is never easy, regardless of whether it's one, a hundred or over a thousand. Having now to think about as well which ones are likely to go postal on you certainly doesn't make things any easier on either side of the divide.

With all this in mind, Jonathan Schwartz at Sun might want to go and buy a bullet-proof vest right around now ... they just announced up to 6,000 additional jobs will be cut.

I'm not especially picking on Sun - I'll leave that to others better equipped than I - because as we've seen there are firings happening all around us. However, they do earn the tag of being serial offenders in this particular area. How the mighty can fall in but a few short years.

It's all scary stuff out there, even before fretting about lunatics with handguns stalking the office parks of Silicon Valley.

NASA's Top 50

Air & Space magazine has a "top 50" slideshow of the best images from NASA's archives. Above is just one example of what's a great collection of images from manned and unmanned flights, as well as other historical moments of note. Well worth a look.

In Silicon Valley we of course have our own NASA facility, the AMES research laboratory, along with the famed balloon shed on Moffett field that local conservationsists are currently trying to preserve. Oh, and of course that's all helped by being right next door to Google who, in exchange for landing and parking rights, allow NASA to play with their company planes, build new buildings and generally make nice with their scholarly neighbours in exchange for limited access to all those web-vertising dollars.

Seems fair.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

RED Alert

Some background here: Jim Jannard is the CEO of RED Digital Camera. He made his fortune by founding Oakley, the sunglasses-and-similar company. Jim's also into photography, so he founded another company, RED Digital Camera. According to Wikipedia, Jim likes to take pictures of his company-sponsored race cars, his dogs and his company jets. In short, our sort of bloke.

Anyway, we discussed here a while back how RED was threatening to shake up the industry with its emphasis on merging still and motion capture through the introduction of a new digital convergence device, the DSMC Scarlet & Epic camera systems. Jim's a bullish, "we will win this war" sort of chap, and it's easy to be seduced by what he says on the topic. However, I also mentioned that the big boys weren't standing still, and so was gratified to note that not long after both Canon and Nikon introduced new members of their own DSLR family that also now featured the ability to take HD video sequences.

Today, Jim revealed his counter attack. And it's no mere "sniping from behind a wall" sort of thing but rather a full-out, blitzkrieg-style frontal assault. Good stuff! Having fought his way into the professional video market, he's now heading out beyond those borders to conquer new territories.

You can look at the specifications and decide for yourself the pure technical merits at the sensor level, and there's plenty to look at! The FF35 looks very interesting, especially with 16 bit capture and a very decent resolution of 24 Mpix. Being RED, the other specification to look at though is the frame rate: from 1 to 30 fps .... which is very impressive indeed. Just imagine how fast that thing - somewhere in the lower-middle range of what's been announced - is pumping data when running at the full frame rate? Actually, you don't need to imagine, it's 1.44 Gbytes per second. Serious stuff.

However, there's another aspect to what's being announced here, and that's the complete modularisation of the camera's main components. The sensor block is of course separate from the lens but unlike a DSLR, RED's use of electronics instead of a mechanical shutter, combined with the lack of moving mirror mechanisms etc., makes this now a much more attractive proposition, more like the digital back approach applied by the likes of Hassleblad, Phase One and others.

Downsides? Price of course. The new Canon 5D Mk II is around $3,000 for a full-frame sensor, 6fps frame rates for still use and a very decent HD video capability thrown in. The FF35 RED sensor "brain" is listed at $12,000 alone, before you add the viewfinder, battery packs, control grip and the rest. And whilst we are looking for problems, I have no idea as to what the metering is like, how the autofocus operates or indeed any other the other aspects of the photgraphic capture process we take for taken for granted in current generation pro/am DSLRs. After all, even 24 Mpixels at 30 fps is pretty useless if what you are shooting remains out of focus 90% of the time. In the video world, all of this is more manageable than is often the case in the stills market, but again perhaps that's just old-world thinking. We will see when all this starts to roll-out in mid- to late-2009 and the classic camera users begin to get their hands on one.

Modularisation always comes at a price, regardless of who is producing it, and in many markets it's a price consumers are unwilling to pay. I think it's definitely the right way to go at the high-end, especially for this class of device that has to cover still and motion capture, but don't expect this particular innovation to work its way down the food chain very far. Built-in obsolescence is alive and well in the halls of Sony, Nikon and Canon, and that's where what most of us will continue to get our equipment fixes from.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More Bad News

Late today, Intel announced it was likely to come up short this quarter. By "short", they meant about $1bn. Instead of doing around $10.5bn this Q, Intel is now forecasting more like $9bn. Whilst this is still a tidy sum, it's clearly a long way off where they started out believing the Q would take them.

Why such a big change relatively late in the quarter (bearing in mind Christmas is but a few short weeks away)? The blame is being laid on manufacturers for reducing inventories and cutting future orders. This is of course a by product of the obvious signs of weak consumer spending across-the-board. In short, every element of the supply chain is bracing itself in the expectation of weak holiday sales.

Now, how much of this is driven by a true and very negative picture of the spending patterns leading up to the holidays is debatable; just as likely, companies are doing two specific things designed to protect themselves regardless of how this all plays out.

Firstly, they are of course playing safe. Better to have too few products available on the shelves, with any shortfall helping keep prices up, than to have stock left sitting on shelves that they will have to discount deeply when January rolls around

Secondly, they are ratcheting down their corporate numbers across the board, both on the spending side as well as the income side. Cutting expenses faster than any actual revenue falls means that as things do start to improve there is a real accelerating effect as to how fast those increasing sales numbers flow through as profits to the bottom line. Wall Street has already baked a lot of bad news into the stock market so there's little point in being seen as a shining star today. Much better to keep that light safe in order to glow more brightly in the future when valuations can reflect it.

There is good news in all of this though for innovators in Silicon Valley. As we saw in 2000/2001, when sales are ramping quickly, no one pays much attention to trying to be more efficient or cutting costs. Consequently, if you are selling a process improvement/more efficient kind of value proposition, it's likely easier to garner mind-share now than it was, say, six months ago.

"It's an ill wind ..." and all that.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Here We Go Again

Having managed to get a few days at home, it's now time to leave again. This time around it's just a relatively short hop to Texas, returning Wednesday.

With all that's happening in the economy, we've decided to do about the only thing that makes sense at this stage: go on the offensive and see what we can make of this quarter. We have stuff in the pipeline to close, so we need to close it. Anyway, that's partly the reason for the up-tick in travel, that and getting some other things underway for 2009.

The next couple of months will tell the whole of Silicon Valley a lot about what the future may bring, big company or small. For those with real businesses selling actual products to Fortune 500 customers, we need to pay close attention to what the customer is telling us about their plans and priorities going forwards. For Web 2.0 plays that rely on somehow monetizing advertising dollars, that writing is already on the wall and it's far from eloquent or upbeat. Fortunately, we are in the former category rather than the latter so we have the luxury of a little time in order to see how things play out.

If some extended time on aeroplanes is what it takes, so be it. I just wish they'd find a way to stop them from being large, cylindrical disease vectors into which you get packed sardine-tight just in order to ensure the maximum exposure to everything from a light cold to leprosy.

"Catch a flight and catch the flu", would be a more accurate slogan than any the airlines currently run. And I can vouch for that one being solid, 24-carat-true.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Yup, Feel Just Like That

Apologies for not posting here for a few days but a couple of things got in the way this week.

Firstly, travelling. I was in Europe Sunday through Thursday and moving around somewhat between the UK and Switzerland. The prices hotels are charging now for Internet access have become way too extreme for all but critical connect times. Instead, I use the T-mobile overseas access (as offered by the likes of BT) which is more pay-as-you-go, but nevertheless incentivizes one to only connect briefly to deal with e-mail.

Secondly, I felt like the bloke above for most of it. I started to feel lousy Sunday night and steadily got worse until I had a fever, headache, sort throat and all those lovely symptoms of having caught something nasty. Travelling is little fun at the best of time but when you are ill, even with no more than a touch of flu, it's ten-times worse. And trust me, the sight seen looking in the mirror Wednesday morning was not pretty.

Happy to now be home (at least until Monday when I fly to Texas) and happy to be feeling a little bit better.

Some weeks, whatever it is I'm being paid doesn't seem anything like enough to offset the misery of flu in a foreign land.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Bacon Special

Two kinds of Bacon for me on Monday morning in London: the crispy kind, followed by the painterly kind. Unsurprisingly, the first sat much easier on the stomach than the second.

There's a major exhibition of Bacon's work currently running at the Tate Britain. Not sure why the powers-that-be chose there vs. the Tate Modern, but the contrast between Turner the artist, Bacon, and Turner the prize, with all three being available aunder the same roof, certainly throws up some interesting, not to say disturbing, contrasts.

Since both the Turner Prize 2008 and Francis Bacon exhibits are running in parallel, you can get an interesting dish at the ticket counter: Bacon and Turner special, priced at just 15 quid.

First then, Francis Bacon. The exhibition coves a broad sweep of Bacon's work, starting in the 1940s and closing with canvasses produced right up to his death in 1991. I won't here try and add to the glowing reviews this exhibition has garnered (here's a prime example) but I will echo all that they have said: this is a visceral experience that presents an artist - perhaps one of the last - whose art has a real, enduring impact on the viewer. Bacon's tortured, screaming figures deliver such a unified vision of bleakness and isolation that you are snapped to attention, as much by a defence mechanism against their grim depiction of mortality as by anything especially aesthetic in his works. Open, fanged jaws -- a symbol he used frequently to show primal emotions - are as powerful in his human pictures as they are in his animal works. But for me the images with the most impact are those of Pope Innocent X, a subject Bacon returned to many times, shown seated on his throne but caged within a delineated cubic space (as per the example posted above). In one depiction, vertical shutters of dark grey further bind him and his head from the mouth upwards bleeds into the back ground darkness as might "a sunset" to quote the artist. This is a "must see" exhibition and well worth making time to see a very comprehensive collection of some of Bacon's finest work.

On then to the Turner Prize exhibit. Oh ... dear. For me, the only reason to see the Turner Prize exhibits is to be annoyed, perplexed or dumbfounded by it all. Emmin's bed, Hirst's cow - they all have been there, forcing their way into the modern art world and launching big $ careers, so you have a certain level of expectation going into this thing that you'll see boundaries being pushed once again. Well, forget it. All safe-and-sound this year. Some architectural installations that look like something you'd find in a DIY store showing how to use perspex and stainless steel hand rails; a minor installation comprising a couple of check-out tills and associated ephemera; two audio-visual presentations that were utterly unmemorable, and you've about done it all. Conclusions? Retro AV is in - the Tate had several 16 mm film projectors showing stuff for these pieces, but Lord alone knows where people are getting the equipment from to shoot and show this stuff - and trying to shock is out. Dull, dull, dull, dull, dull,

Brit art has become bland art. Wait another year and we'll see what comes up next, but meanwhile go and see Bacon for what a true master can produce over a lifetime of delivering and refining an artistic vision.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

He Did It! Cue "We Are The Champions"

At the last corner on the final lap of the ultimate 2008 F1 Grand Prix season, Lewis Hamilton gained back the one place he needed in order to clinch the world driver's championship. Just as he lost by one point last year, so he duly won the most coveted prize in motor racing by one point also in this.

After a somewhat dodgy start, things were going swimmingly well, with Hamilton in a solid 4th place and holding station, right up until the last 6 laps that is, when it rained again....

Five of the front runners pitted to switch to wet tyres with Hamilton joining in. However, one car - Glock's - stayed out on dry rubber meaning Lewis was now running 5th. Two laps before the end, Kubica, a back marker at that stage but on a charge (for some reason), pushed past Vettel and was sitting right behind Hamilton. Lewis sensibly let him past but in the process slipped wide and Vettel pounced. Hamilton was now 6th and was about to repeat the misery of losing it all in the final race once again. The whole UK held its breath, but by now it was clear he wasn't going to be able to get Vettel back before the end of the race. Unbelievable. After 17.98 races, Hamilton was going to lose again by reason of total race victories in the year; the points tally with Massa, now taking a comfortable win up ahead, was even.

We Brits are good at defeat. We far prefer winning, of course, but given our relative size and importance on the world stage these days, coming second is still quite respectable (See what I mean? If proof were ever needed....) But just then, with the pack comprising places 4 through 6 approaching the final straight, a glimmer of hope. Glock, who had stayed on dry-weather tyres as everyone switched to wets, had finally reached the limits of what he could achieve and had slowed dramatically as he lost more and more grip in the increasing rain. While Massa was crossing the finish line to take first place, and Ferrari were wildly celebrating his winning the world driver's title to boot, he was actually in the process of losing it.

Hamilton passed Glock and crossed the line to finish 5th, just enough to clinch the crown in only his second year as a Formula 1 driver.

An unbelievable and fairy tale ending to an unbelievable and ... well you get the picture. This has been the most exciting season I can remember for many a long year and for once, just once, we can celebrate a new world championship at the end of it all.

I'm off to the pub ... so good job I'm on a layover in London before heading to Geneva! That beer is about to taste pretty damn good. Congratulations to Ron Dennis and all the team at McLaren. Despite everything, you did it.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Time For Sun-set?

Sun Microsystems just announced a loss of almost $1.7 billion, news that took another 13% off their battered stock price, already down over 70% this year before now falling further. Even with something north of $3 billion in the bank, the meltdown on Wall Street may well have hammered the last nail into the coffin they've been building themselves year-in, year-out for the past two decades.

The company has tried pretty much everything it can think of: going into software, sticking it all in open source, switching to non-proprietary hardware, buying a tape back-up company (yup, they did that), burning sheep entrails, etc. Nothing has systematically halted the slide from Sun's heyday when they were out there decimating DEC's business, ultimately leading to the death of the the entire company. But now it's their turn. Apart from some cosmetic re-branding - going to the JAVA ticker symbol was supposed to fool who exactly? - nothing is stopping this particular high-tech Titanic from sailing full-tilt into their own, home-hewn iceberg.

What would I do differently? No idea, but at least it would be different. You can't help feeling that Scott McNealy's hand is still on the tiller and really nothing has changed since he handed the captaincy over to the one that FSJ (aka Dan Lyons) dubbed "My Little Pony". And when I say nothing has changed, that seems to include the way Sun executives get compensated even while the company sinks lower and lower.
Think Wall Street has been greedy of late? Try hazarding a guess at what Jonathan Schwartz got paid in FY 2008 for delivering such impressive negative shareholder value. Eleven ... million ... dollars, and no that's not all stock based either. Nice.