Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Economic Downturn



There's a saying that 'when America sneezes the world catches a cold'...or something of that sort. The question today with the rise of The East and the strengthening of the European Union is whether or not it still matters (that much) when the U.S. experiences a slowdown? This cartoon says it best.



from The Economist.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Microsoft Office Pricing



I predict that Microsoft will give away or charge under $100 to corporate users of their Office application by YE 2009. Perhaps it will be a downgraded version. Maybe they'll release the full-blown one. I don't know.

As Mac/OS X and Linux increase their market share (inevitable looking at worldwide numbers), Microsoft will be compelled to use their office application to tie users to their ecosystem.

Don't forget they have their success riding on users sticking with Windows. Why? Think of their development platform, .Net, which only runs on Windows. What about SQL Server, Windows Server, Dynamics, Silverlight, Sharepoint, Exchange etc. The reason these are more compelling than competitor products in that they are tightly tied to one another. Office and XP/Vista are the glue. It won't work on anything else. So as other operating systems become more compelling, free/open like Linux or just plain better like OS X and OpenOffice is free and collaboration is getting better and better (and free) on the Internet - who would pay $488 CAN for an office license?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

MacWorld Expo 2008 Keynote Address



Every year, the grand master of all that is Mac, or 'i' - I'm not sure anymore - gets up on stage on January 15th and announces everything that Apple has in store (pun) for the coming year. It's pretty exciting for Mac fanatics (of which I am not one...not at all).

You can find a blow-by-blow account of his Keynote here.

OK, I'm impressed - mostly. Good apps for my iPod Touch - e-mail, google maps, stock ticker, notes - why are these great? Notes will sync with my Mac. E-mail will download e-mails from my accounts and give me a better-than-Web interface in which to compose + will display PDFs, Word, and Excel files. Google Maps is very useful - I use it (in pain) on my Blackberry to find stores, my kids' friends' addresses etc. - frequently enough. But they're charging $20 (come on guys!). Probably to keep iPhone users happy who pay more more more for the phone + $100/month for the service. True that I'm restricted to locations with Wi-Fi only buuut I'll accept that as I'm paying $1,200 less per year...after year...after year.

But here's what I was expecting. Apple TV now offers movies at HD quality with Dolby 5.1. They will sell like there's no tomorrow. At least 50% of Mac owners will buy one and many, many PC owners - those who have iPods and iTunes will buy. You can watch a rental on your Apple TV, sync with your MacBook and iPod and keep watching from where you left off. On any device. Brilliance in usability. Apple makes technology work the way it's supposed to. Amazing.

Finally there's the MacBook Air. Brand new product - not a re-hash of an old one. It's a wedge shape going from .76" to .16". That is amazingly thin! It is so thin Intel had to redesign the physical aspects of their Core 2 Duo to fit the machine's form-factor. I'm impressed. At first blush, though, I don't like the black keyboard. No Ethernet port (802.11n [54Mbps Wi-Fi] though) or optical drive but for ultra-portables that standard fare and acceptable. 3bls, 13.3" display, 5 hours with wireless antenna turned on, 80GB HD, multi-touch trackpad (that will get more and more, uh, traction as time goes on) all @$1,800. Really cool. It's pricey but well in-line with competing PC-based laptops. There is a however here. They are targeting a much smaller market with this laptop. It costs more, closer to the price of a MacBook Pro but has a slower processor, lower memory expansion capability, slower hard drive, 'slower' video card. It makes sense for execs but I think they missed by leaving out the Ethernet port (even if you can buy a usb-Ethernet adapter it will be slower).

That aside, this is what I admire Apple for - they deliver real innovation into the public's hands and they boost their profit margins significantly as they're doing it. Great company!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Literature and Media


Atonement

When my wife asked me what I thought of the book I said, "really good book with an unsatisfying ending". The plot was interesting and well-executed although not the typical kind of book I would read. If I were to sum up the story without recounting it I would have to say it is about the consequences (positive and negative) of the kind of rash actions we all commit. The author takes us to outcomes that would not normally take place but that are believable nonetheless, especially in a country so recently free of war and yet on its way to another. As for the unsatisfying ending? Any of us who have lived long enough are well acquainted with unsatisfying endings. Sometimes it's nice to escape this reality when indulging in a piece of fiction.

Syriana

After having recently watched Rescue Dawn which had an unsatisfying beginning, middle and ending and Letters from Iwo Jima which was a beautifully done movie but quite depressing - worth it nonetheless - Syriana was refreshing. An intelligent set of plots that interweave throughout the film, coming to a satisfying though not particularly cheerful climax. It leaves you with no regrets however and, as my wife put it, it tackles some tough issues (the kind where too many directors would resort to demonizing to bring the point home) in a very mature, complex way. The world is complex and as much as we'd like to simplify it down to one full of angels and demons the truth is we all have a little of both in us.

On the non-fiction side I've been listening to a couple of audiobooks:

  • Execution by Larry Bossidy and Ram Caharam, highly recommended business read on managerial/organizational effectiveness. The authors read large portions of the books themselves. Both read and listened to - you'll need to do both if you want to review their recommendations. I find this double-whammy most effective with books where I want to make use of the content.

  • The Six Sigma Way by Peter S Pande. Excellent overview of Six Sigma. Both read and listened to. Abridged.

  • The Eight Habit by Stephen Covey. If you liked The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People you'll like this one. As Stephen has matured so has his viewpoint deepened. He reads the entire book himself.

  • Managing in the Next Society by Peter Drucker. Very interesting read. He has some unique perspectives of what the new millennium holds in store for us in terms of businesses and careers.
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