Saturday, December 22, 2007

On leaving Dell

Woke up this morning knowing my days at Dell are behind me rather than in front -- it's a curious feeling and one which will take some getting used to. My initial thoughts are that I'll miss it -- no company is perfect but I can say with all honesty that I loved working at Dell.
Looking back I've been incredibly fortunate since coming into IT in late 2000. I've had the opportunity to work at IBM and Dell, two of the most influential companies in the industry.
Things didn't start out that well. When I first entered the industry I had only a few weeks to get my feet under the desk before the March 2000 Tech Wreck -- and all of a sudden the industry was on the nose.
But I joined IBM in September 2000 -- yes, in time to pick up some tickets to the Olympics -- right around the time the company was really embracing Linux and open source.
Over the next four years I got to talk to many very smart people within IBM (particularly Academy Members like Glenn Wightwick) and hopefully even retained a few fragments of what I learned.
What I learned at Dell was very different. Dell changed my views about what a company could be -- and set my expectations permanently higher.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It's all about me

Interesting article about disruptive technologies from Henry Blodget (must confess I'd not read anything of his but followed a link from Scobliezer) -- reminded me of they way Linux was referred to as a disruptive technology five or six years ago.
It also reminded me (albeit tangentially) of a thought that occurred to me recently, which was how the old saying 'one person's trash is another's treasure' applies to gadgets too (and technology generally) -- but often neither of these two seem to recognise it unfortunately.
I make a point of reading as much as I can about what people (including bloggers and on-line forum posters) say about the company I work for, its products and services, as well as those of competitors (it's my job after all).
And one thing that never ceases to amaze me is how many times ordinary people will logically and systematically assess the potential value or market for a product, and declare it good or bad, based on whether it appeals to them personally.
I find that odd because if there's one thing that's obvious to me in reading it all of these opinions it is that, just like fingerprints and snowflakes, no two are exactly alike on any given topic. So what I find appealing about Product A may not be the same as what you do.
The PC market is an example -- what people mean when they say 'I want a PC' is becoming more and more different every day because, while we like to say PCs are a commodity (they have the same basic components after all) how we each use them is different -- and becoming more so I think.
And that effects our decision making criteria. Price is a consideration for almost every PC buyer but for some people it's number one and they'll opt for an entry level system for instance, that's currently somewhere around AUD$1000. But for others performance is number one and, while price is a factor, they'll choose to spend that $1000 on the video card or CPU alone. Neither is 'wrong' obviously, they're just different decisions made by different people for different reasons.
That sounds like common sense, but I've lost count of the number of times I've read a comment that Product A wont succeed because, for example, it has a integrated video card, or no in-built TV tuner, or a Celeron processor and 'I wouldn't buy it for that reason' -- the inference being that no-one else will either.
So, while it sounds like commonsense, I regard these opinions in much the same way people in politics regard calls to talkback radio and letters to the editor -- they're great indicators of public opinion but they're by no means the final word from the marketplace.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

As an IT journalist ...

So begins the commerical for Acer's for Gemstone consumer notebooks running on Australian FM radio at the moment. The speaker, who goes on to promote the sounds features of the model, doesn't give his name (perhaps he's a dentist with a journalism degree from the Ponds Institute) but it's not a voice I recognise. It's not the first time a company has used an actor to play a professional in an advertisement of course and I suspect audiences these days tune out messages like this (perhaps Acer and Telstra share an advertising agency :-) but it made me wonder how actual journalists feel about it.
Update: Here's an Australian IT journalist who thinks Acer's tactic here is a bit dis-honest, Dan Warne, on-line editor of Australian Personal Computer, on his personal blog and APC . Kudos to Dan (and to fellow journalist David Flynn for tracking down the source).

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Top 10 Hints for New Bloggers

This is my second blog -- started my first some time in 2003 from memory but shut it down when I changed companies a year later -- but I'm a novice of novices at this point so I was interested to read these Top 10 Hints for New Bloggers in Wired marking the 10th anniversary of the term 'weblog' which was coined by the author of the article, Jorn Barger. I suspect I've unwittingly broken almost all of them in the last few weeks (and, this being blogging, I guess not all bloggers would agree with all of them anyway) but learning is what this is about.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

RichterScales: Here Comes Another Bubble

Who needs the WGA, I think this video is more entertaining than a million years of Everybody Loves Raymond (not me). What was even more interesting was the argument it generated over the use of an unattributed photograph. I suspect this wont be the last time the point's debated.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Eee PC 'sold out'?

Don’t want to give the impression that I’m critical of the Eee PC per see -- since I work for a competitor any critique may sound a little hollow –- but some elements of the attention it has been getting recently perplex me.
First was the heated response of readers to this seemingly innocuous blog by Adam Turner for the Age recently (and on which I’ve posted earlier). There was also this earlier one from Stan Beer at ITWire -- seriously, who knew there were Asus fan-boys!
The second was this week’s relatively uncritical coverage of the product's first weekend of sales in Australia, where it was broadly reportedly ‘sold-out’. Neither Asus nor Myer (at the time the sole Australian distributor) was prepared to disclose how many the retailer had to start with, so I'm a little surprised at the number of people who were prepared run the line anyway -- I would have thought its news value hung on that fact.
According to analysts IDC, Australian consumers purchased almost 850,000 notebooks in the twelve months to September -- or something like an average of 16,000 a week. In that context, selling 240 Eee PCs, as it is rumoured to have been, doesn't seem to me to be sufficient basis for declaring a hit.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

On-line Office + Integrated Mobile Broadband - Cost = Good

Been following Australian IT journalist Adam Turner recently on his quest for the on-line office (in fact I think Adam could claim credit for inspiring me to try the idea) but ran into the Internet connectivity issue all too often to make it practical -– until I got to play with a notebook with integrated broadband one weekend recently.
Personally, I’m now convinced the fortunes of these two technologies will be very closely linked –- in my experience, without mo-bro the on-line office is more trouble than it’s worth but with it … let’s just say I’m still finding it hard to go back.
In my view the integrated part of integrated mobile broadband that makes a difference too, I think if I'd had to remember a USB dongle or fiddle with a PC card antenna I probably wouldn't have bothered for long.
That said, while it’s very cool, cost has been a barrier – I’ve been stung myself by bills from Optus for 3G phone service – but Vodafone’s announcement last week of a 5GB for $39.95 makes the functionality much more affordable.
NB: In the interests of disclosure, I work for a company which sells notebooks with mobile broadband.
PS: Here's an update from the Age, Mobile data price war hots up.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

What's next?

Interesting post-election column from Gerard Henderson in the Herald today. Will be interesting to see what direction this new Government takes and what influence that has on the country as a whole -- particularly on the generation of adults who've never really known an Australia without John Howard as Prime Minister (have trouble remembering it myself).

Monday, November 26, 2007

Asus' Eee PC - the disposable computer?

Adam Turner at The Age wrote an interesting blog today about the Asus Eee PC. Since I work for a competitor I'm not going to comment on the product itself but this point caught my attention.
"Of course at these prices you'd throw it away after 12 months and buy a new one."
If that's the case I hope that Asus will soon live up to its responsibilities and offer Australians a simple, easy to use free recycling service for of those soon to be unwanted Eee PCs.
According to industry analysts IDC, though the company's share of PC sales in Australia is less than two per cent, it still managed to sell 120,000 in the last 12 months and, as yet, does not offer a recycling service to its home PC customers.
At the very least the PC manufacturer should join other brands in the Victorian Government's Byteback program.
Whether the company recognises it or not, the times has passed when a responsible manufacturer can introduce an electronic product without giving thought to the disposal of the device at the end of its life.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Vale John Howard?

I think there's an interesting lesson in last night's Federal Election victory by Labor -- and it's about issues management/competitive positioning.
As the campaign progressed, many journalists and commentators spoke of Labor's (uncharacteristically) disciplined campaign, and in particular their refusal to be baited on issues which have historically allowed the Government to marginalise them with the electorate.
It's a strategy that wasn't without it's critics -- it was derided as a 'me too' approach, and, I suspect, may have deepened existing voter cynicism regarding the apparent lack of differences between the two major parties -- but it clearly worked.
It brought to mind what I think was the best example of a similar strategy in business that I've personally seen, Microsoft's Judo-like response to the growing buzz around Linux and Open Source in 2003/4.
After several years of trying to (increasingly stridently) combat the growing support for Linux and open source, partly fueled by IBM, Microsoft neatly (and very cleverly I think from a pragmatic point of view) changed its position to one that claimed to embrace Linux and open source ... where appropriate.
Of course the devil was in the detail of that 'where appropriate' but the strategy effectively took the issue off the table for them and diffused media attention. And it made it all the more difficult for competitors to win an argument among customers and the media that MS was the enemy of interoperability.
So, my lesson from Saturday night is to know your audience, know your enemy and pick your battles, you don't need to fight them all to win -- obvious really.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dell XPS One

Must say I'm puzzled by some of the responses to Dell's XPS One announced today, specifically comments on some blogs saying citing 'lack of expandability' and the integrated, non-upgradable display (which I would have thought was the point of an all-in-one). Am puzzled because there is another device with a fixed display and limited upgrade options for memory, storage and optical -- it's called a notebook its actually selling quite well I believe.
Granted all-in-ones aren't as portable as notebooks but how many notebooks actually leave people's desks these days, particularly15 and 17 inch desktop replacement models, and how many mainstream consumers actually do upgrade their machine after they bring in home? Certainly the all-in-one design isn't for everybody but take a look at the phenomal growth in notebook sales in the last couple of years, not to mention exisiting AIO models like the iMac, and tell me again there's no market for a products that looks like this? Personally, I think its the best looking product Dell's produced to-date!
Disclosure: I work for the company.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Tough couple of days for some people

First Apple's PR machinery caught on tape then Apple’s Social Media Hell - Why it Needs to Repent.
NB: In the interest of disclosure, I work for a competitor.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Am I the last person to discover this?

I may be the latest person in Australia to hear about this but I discovered Plugger, a useful aggregator of Australian business news on-line, on the weekend.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sorry seems to be the hardest word -- but is it the most important?

Now, I love News Radio and its continuous news but this rambling interview with John Howard yesterday morning had me half wanting to drive the car into a power pole.
For me, it underlined just how much Howard's lost touch (duh) but also what's wrong with some media/journalism at the moment.
After describing the debate over whether the Prime Minister did-didn't-or-should-have-said 'sorry' for this week's rise in interest rates as 'fairly semantic', News Radio's Marius Benson then goes on to spend the first minute of his interview with Howard rehashing it. He then coaxes from the PM a startling admission that yes, rising house prices are good for people who own houses but not for those trying to buy them. Oh my God! Really? (predictably, this bombshell was the lead story in News Radio's 7.30am bulletin). Not content with that, Marius then lead the PM into another semantic debate over whether Howard's support for nuclear power is 'less strong' than it was before.
I find it hard to believe that with two weeks to go to the election, the sorry/not sorry question is really the most important one for the national broadcaster and the Prime Minister to be spending their time on (not to mention mine).
Yes, interest rates are an important issue for many voters and, yes, the situation of the Reserve Bank lifting them during an election campaign is unusual, but I don't think this interview is likely to have actually contributed to anyone's understanding of it. Far more worthwhile was Ross Gittin's column in the Herald Thursday, especially this point:
"The very fact that rates are being increased less than three weeks before an election is incontrovertible proof that the economy is no longer managed by the government of the day. Rather, it - like virtually all developed economies - is managed by the central bank, acting independently of the elected government."
Marius, you owe me 80 cents ... on second thought, put it towards buying a copy of the Herald :-)

Friday, November 9, 2007

Jobs Still Hosing the Canadians on MacBook Prices

Interesting article from Wired. If I was being funny I might say Canadian's should pay more for gadgets, call it a tax for Celine Dion, but what I thought was interesting with the way the journalist pulled the punch at the end, saying "one piece of speculation is that Apple generally sets their international prices once a year."
Somehow I very much doubt that's the problem.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Who do you trust?

Whether it’s our traditional distrust of authority or a symptom of the tall poppy syndrome, it appears bloggers are Australians’ least trusted information source. A September study by the local arm of Edelman PR found Australians regard bloggers as far less trusty-worthy than mainstream or Web-based media with a rating of only three per cent (interestingly, it’s silent of the subject of surveys by PR firms ;-)
2007 Edelman Stakeholder StudyTrust at the Crossroads in Australia
Am not sure if the statistic says more about Australians or Australian bloggers, and one data point does not a trend make, but it’s been a useful reminder to me that the growth user generated content (am not sure if that’s this week’s buzzword, heard a marketer call it ‘open source’ recently) is proceeding differently here than in the US (I suspect that’s true of other countries).I suspect the answer to the $75 question is that we Aussie don’t trust bloggers yet because we don’t know any -- analyst and Herald columnist Graeme Philipson wrote about the relative lack of blogging in Australia a few months ago in this column, and here’s a post from a leading Aussie blogger Ross Dawson on the subject –- though I’m not quite sure I can trust what a blogger says ;-)