Archive for the 'business' Category

Question

Wednesday June 20, 2007

What do you get if you increase revenues for your company by over $5bn, boost operating profit from a loss to over $1bn a year and increase shareholder value by $30bn, all in the space of 5 years?

Answer: the sack.

The crime? You’re not Google.

Making a Buck

Thursday June 7, 2007

Great New York magazine article on where the profit comes from ‘for everyone from a drug dealer to Goldman Sachs’.

The Real Deal

Wednesday January 17, 2007

Senator Barack Obama has announced his intention to ‘form a panel to explore his possible presidential candidacy’, which is a ludicruously long-winded way of saying he’s gonna run unless some bad shit happens. Watch out for this guy. He’s the most impressive politician I’ve seen in years, with the charisma and intellect of Bill Clinton, but hopefully without the libido. What he doesn’t have, however is Clinton’s experience. Clinton had been Arkansas’ Attorney General and served two terms as governor of the state before becoming presidential candidate. On the other hand, some commentators are saying his inexperience might be kind of fresh-start the American public could be looking for. And it’s certainly true the other more experienced presidential candidates (Hilary Clinton, John McCain, John Edwards), have been tainted by their original support for the Iraq war.

Wikiseek is a very interesting new search engine. It searches Wikipedia pages, or pages ‘which are referenced from Wikipedia sites’, apparantly producing much higher quality search results than Wikipedia’s own search engine, and much less prone to spam. I’ve had a couple of spins with it and was impressed by the results, but also really impressed by the interface. To see what I mean, type in a search phrase, then on the results page refine that search by editing the search text…you’ll see ‘live’ suggestions for refinements. V cool.

Still on the subject of search engine interfaces, there’s a couple of travel sites I’ve been impressed by recently. Firstly, foundem (tip of the hat to whisht) has some nice features when searching for flights and produces satisfyingly quick results. Also with a nice interface, but currently restricted to European flights bizarrely, is Wingmap. Like most Web 2.0 ventures, their USPs are very narrow, usually restricted to a fancy widget here or there, but still pretty nice.

In the interests of balance, here’s a really shit interface for a search engine.

Anyway, it’s 1.30, way past my bedtime and tomorrow is my last day in the office before I go to Riga.

Pan’s iPhone

Saturday January 13, 2007

Chuffed to bits that Pan’s Labyrinth has been nominated for 8 (eight!) BAFTAs, which might mean it gets some renewed life at the cinema coz it’s only at two screens in London right now. The Queen was nominated for 9 BAFTAs. I just downloaded it and took a quick peak to make sure it was a decent copy but I gotta say initial impressions were not very good: Helen Mirren looks nothing like Freddie Mercury.

Much hullabaloo over Apple’s iPhone. Whatever you think of the actual product, Jobs again demonstrated his mastery of marketing, even whipping up the financial markets into a frenzy; Apple’s 8% share price rise is evidence of that. Here’s my take on the product itself:

The space is the right one. PDA meets phone meets MP3 player is obviously the way all mobile devices are heading. All the manufacturers knows this, so the race is on to deliver it

  • Looks great. Quelle surprise.
  • No support for 3G. This is a bigger deal in Europe than in the US where, AFAIK, 3G is not so prevalent.  Cringely has an interesting take on this. My take on it is that in Europe it will significantly harm its chances of success, it’s difficult to imagine people downgrading the speed of their connection just for a slicker integrated device.
  • It doesn’t support J2ME applications. Which means all the Java applications that work on other phones, and there are hundreds, won’t work on the iPhone. Again, a bigger problem in Europe than in the US.
  • Battery and Sound Quality. Several of my Nokia phones have had built-in MP3 software, but it was always a very dissatisying experience because the sound quality was always very poor and whenever I used them to play music it would suck the battery dry very quickly. It will be interesting to see if they can preserve the sound quality of the iPod whilst managing to have a decent battery life.
  • Keyboard. I’ve never used a touch-screen keyboard that was of any use for writing messages – they’re fine for navigating around screens, but as proper input devices – useless. So the iPhone is significantly flawed as a business device.

Conclusion: for the US I’ve no doubts it’ll work, but for the more mature European markets where, perhaps, user-expectations are higher and standards are more embedded (3G, J2ME) they’ll face a tougher time.

A Stupid Idea and A Man Without a Vision

Tuesday January 9, 2007

A stupid idea.  This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard of.   Chacha have raised $6m from Jeff Bezos et al for this ‘people powered’ search engine.  On every single level I don’t get this.  a) It’s not a very fun experience, b) It doesn’t work better than Google which is quicker and more powerful and c) How is it in the slightest bit scalable?  I read a convincing article from Michael Arrington recently on why we’re not in a bubble right now, but then I hear of this and I’m not so sure.  This guy, who works for them, thinks it’s all shite too.

A man without a vision.   Really, is it 1997 or 2007?  Pearls of wisom from the Gates the Great:

“The digital decade is about to happen”

“People will spend more time on the net than watching TV ”

“People want to do things with their content across multiple platforms “

All this is rather like saying in 1940, ‘I think tough times are ahead for Europe’.   This is Gates’ last keynote, but it feels like one too many.

Flights to Asia for £1.46 – Time is The New Money

Friday January 5, 2007

The exact details have yet to emerge from Air Asia’s recent announcement that they’re expanding their business into the budget long-haul market, but the rumours are that the Asia-Europe flights will begin at a staggering £1.46 (one-way, plus taxes, minus comfort etc). Air Asia are second to launch, after Air Oasis who fly to HK for £75, but Air Asia will undoubtedly offer many more routes.

Cheap flights are obviously great (environmental issues aside), but the real currency now is time. The costs of flights to Asia will soon be, if they aren’t already, so inexpensive as to not be a factor for me, but what I can’t really afford is the time. So I’m happy to pay £75 one way for a flight, but if it takes me 12 hours to get there as opposed to 2 hours to a European destination, I’m unlikely to use them. If I’m going for something longer than a short-break, I can justify paying extra for the old-guard carriers like British Airways for the extra comfort and the air miles and if I’m going on for business I certainly won’t travel on a budget airline. So, as excited as I am about budget flights to Asia, I can’t actually see that I’ll use them.

BTW, shall I just kill that bird in my garden?  If bird flu is gonna spread to this country you can be certain it’ll be the bird that’s the reincarnation of Saddam Huseein who’s behind it all.

Birth of a Publishing Empire

Friday July 14, 2006

My Google Adsense application has just been approved for my Digg Does Football site, which means that I can receive money for the advertisements on my site. Every long journey starts with a single step you know.

The sheer enormity of my commitment to look after my friends 6 year old over the weekend hit home this morning when she told me what I should have in the house. Milk? Breakfast cereal?! Fruit?!!!! Christ, what am I, Sainsburys?

Saw The Wind That Shakes The Barley last night. Alone. Tears streaming down my face. Very good, despite, as with all Ken Loach films, the political messages being hammered home constantly with zero subtleness. What Loach is generally good at though, and is particularly successful at here, is getting great performances from his cast. His films always have a feeling that they’re improvised, whether they are or not I don’t know, but when it works it gives his films a fantastic authenticity.

I went to see it at a cinema that was also showing ‘Over the Hedge‘. The signs were a bit too close together though, so I asked for a ticket to ‘The Wind That Shakes the Barley Over The Hedge’, which at the time I thought was a bit long for a film title but went with it anyway. Oh how they laughed.

Digg Does Football

Tuesday July 11, 2006

I love Digg. It’s a terrifically efficient way of consuming a lot of news. It’s a social bookmarking site I spose, where users submit news stories which are voted on by fellow Diggers. Its design means you can scan a lot of news stories very quickly deciding which interests you and which doesn’t. They’ve recently expanded to include entertainment and sport, but Digg is still very tech orientated. But the concept is a perfect net application is much bigger than just Tech News. The Digg format will be the format used by all the major news aggregators in years to come (although they don’t know it yet).

Because of this, and because I want to limit the amount of times I talk about Football on this blog, I’ve setup a Football version of Digg. It’s here. Visit, contribute, vote.

The Hoff is back.

The Responsibility

Monday July 10, 2006

Re-watched a fabulous documentary over the weekend called Triumph of the Nerds. It’s the story of the genesis of the PC industry, written and presented by Robert X Cringely (who I’ve handily linked to on the left) based on his book Accidental Empires. It’s a fascinating tale of luck (Bill Gates), genius (Steve Jobs), brilliant business acumen (Bill Gates) and a little bit of craziness (Steve Jobs). One of the best things about it is the first-person accounts he’s got industry titans such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak and Paul Allen. My favourite anecdote came from Bill Gates, about his deal to sell an operating system to IBM: they sold MS-DOS to IBM for a fixed fee of $80k, no matter how many units IBM sold. They did this on the belief that because IBM were bound to set the standard for the industry, it would lead to a whole bunch of ‘clone’ companies building machines to the IBM standard who would also need operating systems. Quite brilliant I’d say. Incredibly disciplined too, to have such faith in his vision that there’d be a computer in every home and that computer would be an IBM clone (in case you don’t know about these things, pretty much every home computer that isn’t a MAC is an IBM clone). Honestly, it’s brilliant and a lot more interesting that I’m making it seem. You can get it from one of the biggest torrent sites.

Golly. My friend’s 6 year old daughter is coming to stay with me next weekend. The responsibility! My first idea for activities wasn’t well received. How about the zoo? ‘That’s really shit.’ Hmmm. Ok, how about a movie. ‘Ok, but not Pirates of the Caribbean coz I want to see that with her’. Right, some progress there. Actually I can’t think of anything else to do with a 6 year old, so I fear it’ll be Saturday night at the pub again.

In a bit of a dilemma about vacation. I was supposed to be going to Colombia with M, but predictably that isn’t looking that feasible now. I’ve got friends I could visit there, so could still go to Colombia, but am very nervous about going on my own after what happened the last time. Would love to go to Brazil too, and the Argentinian Peso is pretty good value now, so maybe Buenos Aires is a good option. Poor old me eh? Not like my mate Rich who is stuck in Australia, unable to properly watch a game of football coz it starts at 4am. Poor sod.

Microscopic photography is just ace.

Crazy, just crazy I tell ya. Shaky Kaiser says it must have been a mum joke.