Archives For Links

RIM’s BlackBerrys Losing Shelf Space, Mindshare Among Carriers – AllThingsD

When do we call it? RIM is dead. Apple is the most valuable company in the world. Android is the best-selling smart phone OS world-wide. Microsoft cannot afford to lose.

Now, what happened with RIM is sad. It’s a good company; they did a great job. Ok, let’s not be overly generous; their phone OS, like Nokia’s, has always been awful. Yes, people loved their Blackberry’s. But people didn’t know any better. RIM’s mistake? They saw an opportunity (to enter the consumer space in a big way) and they took it.

They made a lot of money.

But it wasn’t the heart of the company. Their core competence was with the Blackberry service and with enterprise. They just faked it in the consumer space. RIM rode the wave for a little while then got destroyed by the big boys.

They made a lot of money.

Now they are sinking fast and likely the wake will take them all the way down (leaving nothing or at least much less than what would have been left had they stuck to their market). Sometimes things happen that way.

Merkel Wants to Keep Greece in the Euro Zone – SPIEGEL ONLINE

Merkel thinks she’s all in: she’s going to keep the EU together (by bailing out the financial system) and kick the can down the road till 2013 (after the Bundestag German elections). The problem? She’s really only half in.

How long will the Greek people accept the current situation? (The current situation: austerity, an economy shrinking, pain and humiliation.) They WILL NOT inflict this on themselves for the decades needed for Greece to get back on track. As we have commented before, austerity is not a solution.

Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital | Rolling Stone

Taibbi on Romney – you know this is going to be a fun read.

And this is where we get to the hypocrisy at the heart of Mitt Romney. Everyone knows that he is fantastically rich, having scored great success, the legend goes, as a “turnaround specialist,” a shrewd financial operator who revived moribund companies as a high-priced consultant for a storied Wall Street private equity firm. But what most voters don’t know is the way Mitt Romney actually made his fortune: by borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back.

The Catholic church in America: Earthly concerns | The Economist

I think the future of the catholic church – particularly in america – is one of the most interesting questions of the next decade. They’ve made a clear decision to focus on more religious (almost evangelical) versus casually religious parishioners. I don’t know if that will be a good long-term choice. I also don’t know if it’s the morally right thing to do since those parishioners in particular – one could argue – have the most need for a religious community. The politicization of some parishes is also a problem. Don’t make me be a Republican to be a Catholic.

The human microbiome: Me, myself, us | The Economist

Extraordinarily interesting article in the Economist on the effects of micro-organisms in the gut and elsewhere on the human body. Particularly intriguing in regards to: obesity, autism, genetic disorders. Almost has the ring of too good to be true (stem cells anyone?), but still, plausible..and testable.

The link with diabetes was noticed in morbidly obese people who had opted for a procedure known as Roux-en-Y, which short-circuits the small intestine and thus reduces the amount of food the body can absorb. Such people are almost always diabetic. As a treatment for obesity, Roux-en-Y is effective. As a treatment for diabetes, it is extraordinary. In 80% of cases the condition vanishes within days.

Perhaps the most striking claim, however, for links between the microbiome and human health has to do with the brain. It has been known for a long time that people with autism generally have intestinal problems as well, and that these are often coupled with abnormal microbiomes. In particular, their guts are rich in species of Clostridia. This may be crucial to their condition.

The limits of light – The Economist

It’s remarkable how fast we are entering the “no-pixel” age. Pixels just won’t have meaning in a decade.

Startups’ New Creed: Patent First, Prototype Later

The Schox method revolves around teaching startups to view intellectual property as a weapon. How might a rival get around those patents? What features might they think of? Schox often asks engineers who haven’t even built their first prototype to conceptualize unusual extensions of the technology, so that these ideas can be protected just in case. It’s well worth the trouble. Schox says the going rate for a hot patent now is about $1 million.

With the new patent law coming into effect in 2013 (first to file replaces first to invent), patenting first will become even more important. It will be hard for the independent inventor – even for most universities who outsource their patent filings – to submit the number of patents they really should be submitting. In my experience most technology commercialization offices still want a viable path to license in a few years to even consider paying for a patent application. But now, you really should be patenting everything.

For the first time since 1998 more money leaves China than enters it

MAINLAND China can now boast over 1m wealthy citizens (qianwan fuweng) each with over 10m yuan ($1.6m), says the latest edition of the “Hurun Report”, which keeps track of China’s capitalist high-roaders. But the mainland seems to be having trouble keeping them. According to the report, published on July 31st, more than 16% of China’s rich have already emigrated, or handed in immigration papers for another country, while 44% intend to do so soon.

But only 28% of those asked expressed great confidence in the prospects over the next two years, down from 54% in last year’s report.

Perhaps those rich Chinese aren’t just investing. If this is a sign of future (bad) trends in China, it could mean trouble for the world economy. It could also mean a big impact here in the US and elsewhere; the Chinese tend to be fierce competitors (and these are some of the best and brightest).

A Record Decline in Government Jobs: Implications for the Economy and America’s Workforce

It’s easy to be cynical here and say something like “good riddance”, etc. However, what we are talking about is a severe cut in infrastructure investment (people, safety, science, and so on). As Asia and other parts of the world invest, we cut the pieces that they are copying…

Total government (i.e., the sum of state, local, and federal) employment has decreased by over 580,000 jobs since the end of the recession, the largest decrease in any sector since the recovery began in July 2009. State and local governments, faced with tough choices imposed by the confluence of balanced-budget requirements, falling tax revenues, and greater demand for public services, have been forced to lay off teachers, police officers, and other workers.

3 Million Dollars?

August 1, 2012

Russian internet billionaire Yuri Milner institutes yet another Nobel alternative award – 3 M each for theoretical physics. In theory, this is awesome. But I wonder if all these monetary awards from “enthusiasts” of science will start to skew the field. (In other words, do some people have too much damn money?) How are awardees really being chosen? Sometimes there can be a tendency to pile on more and more accolades to some and ignore the important contributions of others. (Unless of course someone wants to give me an award…) But, there are probably still better ways to make money than in theoretical physics (see below).

Best and worst olympics marketing

London 2012 Olympic Marketing – Best & Worst

Zynga’s weak earnings show social gaming’s diminishing returns

Remember the days when a lot of “serious” gamers were worried that the runaway success of social gaming companies was going to lead to a world where mindless, microtransaction-pushing social games would crowd out the rest of the industry? Those concerns are looking somewhat quaint this week after market leader Zynga posted results that were much weaker than expected, sending its stock price tumbling.

I suppose one can build a good business taking advantage of the most mundane psychologies of the population, but can you grow a truly great company?

If you don’t know the story of Cow Clicker, it’s worth a read. Social games are usually where creativity goes to die (dear lord: Draw Something?). But there must be opportunities for real, creative, innovation in games with the social graph…

Cow Clicker

Cow Clicker

Christopher Nolan: escape artist

Orson Welles once said that a successful artist should know the limitations of their form, and while Nolan knows these limitations, he also knows what to place at the boundaries to give the impression that the limitations don’t exist.

Karl Rove: He’s Back, Big Time


How Microsoft Lost Its Mojo: Steve Ballmer and Corporate America’s Most Spectacular Decline

The Vanity Fair article on microsoft finally makes it online:

Amid a dynamic and ever changing marketplace, Microsoft—which declined to comment for this article—became a high-tech equivalent of a Detroit car-maker, bringing flashier models of the same old thing off of the assembly line even as its competitors upended the world. Most of its innovations have been financial debacles or of little consequence to the bottom line. And the performance showed on Wall Street; despite booming sales and profits from its flagship products, in the last decade Microsoft’s stock barely budged from around $30, while Apple’s stock is worth more than 20 times what it was 10 years ago. In December 2000, Microsoft had a market capitalization of $510 billion, making it the world’s most valuable company. As of June it is No. 3, with a market cap of $249 billion. In December 2000, Apple had a market cap of $4.8 billion and didn’t even make the list. As of this June it is No. 1 in the world, with a market cap of $541 billion.

Sixteen days later, Bill Gates handed off the C.E.O. reins to Ballmer. “I was stunned when Bill announced that he was stepping aside to become ‘chief software architect’ in January 2000, with Steve Ballmer succeeding him as C.E.O.,” recalled Paul Allen. “While Steve had long served as Bill’s top lieutenant, you got the sense through the nineties that he wasn’t necessarily being groomed for Microsoft’s top spot. I’d say that Bill viewed him as a very smart executive with less affinity for technology than for the business side—that Steve just wasn’t a ‘product guy.’ ”

Balmer is smart. But smart isn’t enough in a technology company. You need to have a technical vision as well. That Microsoft did nothing with PocketPC for ten years is inexcusable.

“If you don’t play the politics, it’s management by character assassination,” said Turkel.

At the center of the cultural problems was a management system called “stack ranking.” Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees. The system—also referred to as “the performance model,” “the bell curve,” or just “the employee review”—has, with certain variations over the years, worked like this: every unit was forced to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, then good performers, then average, then below average, then poor.

“If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, two people were going to get a great review, seven were going to get mediocre reviews, and one was going to get a terrible review,” said a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”

Supposing Microsoft had managed to hire technology’s top players into a single unit before they made their names elsewhere—Steve Jobs of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Larry Page of Google, Larry Ellison of Oracle, and Jeff Bezos of Amazon—regardless of performance, under one of the iterations of stack ranking, two of them would have to be rated as below average, with one deemed disastrous.

This stack ranking thing sounds bad, but it sounds too bad to be all true. There are quite a lot of superstars at Microsoft; it can do great things.