130 posts • joined Tuesday 11th March 2008 12:21 GMT
While condemning both their methods (hacking) and their goal (propping up a dodgy regime)
I have to commend the hackers for both their cunning and their editorial poise.
It must be scary for IT admins when they find out just how much brighter the hackers are than their network users.
As a salesman, my experience is that
starting the conversation by telling the client that you hate fluffy marketing terms like 'cloud' is the best way to get them talking.
Matching individual clients' requirements to your capabilities has always been and remains the only way to agree contracts of any size, and any product that doesn't need that doesn't need a salesman to sell it (eg. smaller scale AWS type pay as you go stuff).
I'm overtly suspicious of meetings where the client is the one who talks about transformative change and uses buzzwords themselves because my experience is that they lack the credibility internally to get hard nosed commercial and finance people to sign up for things with no clear path to deplyoment or return on investment. Real business conversations are about getting practical things done, not about transforming the world.
Re: No Shit Sherlock
The odd one, I'd say. Youtube was worth the money in extending Google's ubiquity beyond text. Lenovo did well out of iBMs laptop business too.
On the whole, though, I'm amazed shareholders tolerate this kind of thing. It wastes untold billions of their money.
The fact that
noone is rushing out with a rival product tells you all you need to know about its mass-market appeal.
I think Google will do okay on it just because enough geeks will want it that they'll just about cover costs and give their brand a boost as a high-profile innovator, but there's just not a market for this and that will soon become apparent.
I'm sure I'll eat my words when the iPatch (TM) is released next week and people queue around the block to be first to look like a high-tech scourge of the high seas.
Ignoring for a moment
the point raised repeatedly above that only morons would want inanimate objects as Facebook friends it's also an explicit violation of Facebook's terms and conditions.
If I were a Salesforce shareholder wondering how on earth they were ever going to justify the absurd premium on a company that is still loss making then this wouldn't be terribly reassuring.
It may be a simplistic view, but it seems to me that the answer to the 'when should I pass on PaaS' question is 'always'.
I see the role of SaaS for non-tech startups and non-core corporate applications where development time and focus are too expensive to waste when something can be pulled off the shelf. Lock-in is a significant worry, but the benefits can outweigh the risks provided the business won't come crashing to a halt if things go wrong.
I see the role of IaaS for companies that don't want to manage the hardware layer and for whom security and uptime are not so vital as to warrant the extra cost of a bricks and mortar or colo solution for smaller or variable workloads. This market will mature rapidly, and Amazon have shown that there's a significant appetite for it even though the long-term costs may be higher than inhouse for a lot of their growing customer base.
But I've never seen the role PaaS. It's a solution which still requires significant developer resource (including developer resource to tune the application to work with the quirks of the particular platform) but locks users tightly into an ecosystem that the provider can change at any time (as both Heroku and the Rackspace 'Cloud sites' service have both done to the chagrin of their user base).
PaaS offers all of the disadvantages of both forms of cloud while nullifying any tangible advantage. I don't see it having any long-term future. Some of the more useful proprietary features of Amazon may last for a while, but a few high profile examples of customers getting stung because they can't move away or the proprietary feature fails (as EBS appears to have done on a few occasions) will soon push things back to IaaS.
Are there any good reasons for adding more TLDs?
The only people I see benefitting are Icann themselves, for whom the revenue boost is likely to be enormous, and the myriad scammers who foul up the internet by tricking people into visiting them at goggle.com, ficebook.com and (now) anything.anythingatall.
I don't see a single redeeming feature here.
The fact that staff want something
doesn't make it a legitimate business requirement.
I'd like a high floor office in the Shard and a private corporate jet. They'd undoubtedly boost my productivity a few percent but for some reason the logistics team don't feel compelled to provide them for me within their budget.
The fact that I can visit the Shard observation deck or buy flights online from a variety of vendors has yet to move them to meet my expectations.
The catering staff won't even bring a muay thai to my back garden when its sunny!
How dare business segments make decisions based on strategic objectives rather than to validate individual staff members.
Re: When it was started, a $40 tablet was outlandishly low
'Leaving it to the market can't ensure that.'
I'm not 100% sure that's true. The 'market' is certainly overhyped by some people (and over-criticised by others), but actually I'd extend your accurate analysis that a $40 device aimed at the indian working class needs to be robust with the further point that a local tech support market is critiically required.
A fairly unregulated market has expanded mobile phone ownership in India to include people with no access to basic sanitation. Nokia, in particular, are thriving because their 5 and 10 year old designs are both dirt cheap to produce, robust and, vitally, well understood by local tech firms who have been selling, supporting and fixiing them for years.
Bringing in a bespoke, low-cost and feature rich tablet poses the danger of confusing both the target audience (though as they're kids they're likely to be able to get to grips with almost anything in a matter of minutes through trial and error) and also the support industry that can mitigate against the likelihood that it will go wrong a lot. If noone knows how to fix it, the project will go wrong even further on delivery than it has in planning.
In this case it's a (presumably) well meaning effort to circumvent the market that is likely to ensure failure.
Scamming a casino out of big money takes cojones. Being the on-the-ground frontman for the scam even more so.
If he has a mysterious accident or decides that life isn't worth it in the next year or two then I don't see anyone being too surprised.
just where could it go?
I can see how the AWS model is a capex free way to grow their business to scale, but with a few years of reliable multi-million user traffic stats I'd think they could save a pile over 5-10 years by building their own datacentres. I'd be surprised if they're not already recruiting with that in mind for the long term.
The big thing you'd need to make that possible is a pool of developers who are familiar with and enthusiastic about your software and the kinds of problems you need to solve so that you can rapidly replicate the AWS features you rely on in an inhouse setup. I wonder how they could solve that?
Oh, look, they're running a competition.
'But sneaking it out in the hope no one will notice, and then screwing up connectivity for all, just makes the whole industry look shabby.'
Nah. It makes Virgin look shabby.
Tarring everyone with the same brush actually makes it more likely to happen. If people think they're all the same as Virgin then why bother moving?
Caps and traffic shaping are inevitable in the mobile data industry because of the precarious economics of the service, but its rare things are handled this badly, so Virgin deserve all of the good PR which follows.
So let me get this straight
For the same price as a MacBook Air you get something that Apple fans will laugh at because, despite having no onboard storage, it's too heavy (among several other things) and non-Apple fans will laugh at because it locks you into an even more restrictive eco-system than Apple's.
I wonder if Google are doing this just to get a small but valuable list of morons who'll buy absolutely anything then target them with super-premium advertising.
This issue isn't unusual to computer science
The legal system and our informal cultural norms are exactly the same.
The theoretical elegance of beginning anything from a blank page is trumped by the practical utility of working with what's already there and tinkering where necessary.
Thats why we're still nominally subjects of a monarch, why non-christians frequently celebrate christmas and why company policies and procedures rarely bear any relation to the actual workings of the firm.
Why anyone would want to share their every mundane thought is beyond me
Why anyone would listen even more so.
But neither is as baffling as why anyone would think that prosecuting them is a good idea.
If someone says something that indicates they're guilty of a crime, prosecute them. If someone says something that itself may be a crime then absent very narrow and clearly defined circumstances (such as sharing legally privelaged information) we need to change the law so that it isn't.
Prejudices of all sorts are nasty and dumb, but making them illegal is the thin end of a very alarming wedge.
That Google story is amazing
Given that a lot of their value falls in decisions they could only make as a small outfit starting from scratch, the most likely scenario if Excite had bought would be them screwing it up and noone ever knowing Google existed.
Whatever anyone's thoughts on Google a world without them is hard to imagine.
So his position is that the board are culpable for failing to spot the stupidity of his stupid decision.
He's right that they're not blameless, but it doesn't make him look any better.
Re: As a non-security person
Makes sense. I assumed there must be something obvious I was unaware of.
As a non-security person
I've always wondered why password-needing systems don't all use the 'fail x times and you're locked out' method.
Obviously it would add to the moron-overhead for IT admins, but wouldn't it make the attacking system's BFP (brute force power) redundant and so easily solve for this kind of attack?
As many people have said here many times
If your UK operation is too insignificant to pay a sensible amount of corporation tax your lobbying access should be proportionally small.
Having non-UK firms siphon off UK profits to low tax countries while heavily influencing legislation to disadvantage UK companies that are already at a disadvantage because they pay tax properly is clearly unsustainable.
It's the institutional equivalent of bribing your way out of paying a fee or fine. Good for you, good for the guy who gets the money. Crap for everyone else.
Given that any new laws
will principally be used to protect those who go to drinks parties with or hand over brown envelopes to the regulator I'm amazed politicians aren't all over this.
Hello regulation, bye bye expenses scandals.
'An interesting year for hardware if not the platform on which it runs'
What platform does hardware run on?
Also re: the 40% correlation being worse than chance comment, that's true for 50/50 calls (eg. The flip of a coin), but not for more complex events. Accurately predicting 2 of the last 5 sets of lottery numbers, for instance, would be a touch better than random chance.
Whether this source is impressive or not therefore relates to how improbable the events they correctly predicted are.
The Reg is good at covering technology. Like many specialist publications it gets weaker the further it moves away from that.
Arguing that corporations don't really pay taxes because taxes cause them to make decisions which have a knock-on effect elsewhere (on wages, profits or cost of goods depending on elasticities) is silly. All taxes distort the market and cause knock-on effects, but I assume you don't plan to argue that employees don't pay income tax just because some of it ends up as higher wages.
The key things here are twofold:
1) Taxes need to be raised somewhere, and most people think it's reasonable that corporations which make use of public resources (an educated populace, the police and fire services, public infrastructure) pay a share of that. The ones who think it's unreasonable rarely argue that those corporations aren't really paying taxes unless they've just finished reading an A level economics book.
2) If corporation tax is not abolished entirely (and trust me, that's not about to happen), then multinational firms which report profits in low tax regimes while doing most of their business in high tax regimes are clearly gaming the system. Tax regimes are still immature in dealing with globalisation, and they need to catch up. It's clearly unreasonable that companies which operate wholly in the UK and pay tax here are at a disadvantage to companies which do the same quantity of business here but report all of their profits in Ireland (for example).
I'm all for a sensibly competitive rate encouraging firms to set up and employ in the UK, and I'm fine with companies that make and support things abroad selling to UK consumers (though if they provide a poor service as a result then they won't sell much), but having corporate come over and cosy up to government in order to have favourable legislation written (looking at Google in particular here) while simultaneously fiddling the tax system then that's clearly not sustainable.
Re: Seems unlikely
Your hypothesis (and, as before, in the absence of empirical data it is only that) looks shaky to me. If selective pressure strongly pushed intelligence during periods of high uncertainty (either through prevalance of disease or because of politics) then there should be ample evidence.
Are the North Koreans or the Ethiopians more intelligent after several generations of political instability and cyclical famine? I've seen no evidence to support that they are.
As the commenter who replied to you points out, intelligence is an expensive trait. Brain size and weight has a calorie cost which is not insignificant. Likewise, your claim that strength, disease resistance and intelligence were ALL more important then ignores the basic role of selective pressure in propagating more useful traits at the expense of less. There is ample evidence that people are becoming weaker and more disease prone as the selective pressures on those traits fall away and I believe that, combined with an environment in which the higher calorie costs and longer adolescant development time for higher intelligence drop off, promotes brain power.
Your point about accumulated knowledge is taken, but you'll note that I already mentioned that in my initial answer. Greater literacy and knowledge don't automatically mean higher intelligence, but it's not unreasonable to hypothesise that an environment in which literacy and knowledge are more important will put selective pressure on intelligence. As for your straw man raising and then dismissal of the idea that Newton's wacky beliefs might indicate stupidity, note that bright people are as likely to have absurd beliefs as anyone else (because they're better at articulating and fleshing them out, they could in some ways be said to be more absurd - a la L Ron Hubbard). That's not something that's likely to go away as the overall body of knowledge increases.
The alternative hypothesis (and in the absence of empirical testing this is a hypothesis at best) is that as the importance of intelligence rises while the need for brute strength or hardiness to disease, hunger etc. has declined selective pressure will tend to promote intelligence.
Combine that with a reduction in the likelihood of malnourishment or disease impairing development and it seems to me that the average modern person is likely to be brighter than the average Athenian.
It's obviously hard to measure raw mental horsepower directly (and who knows what an ancient Athenian would make of rows of people sitting quietly with pencils taking tests which purport to measure IQ) but the very fact that literacy is so much higher now and that educated society is composed of more than the small percentage of society that are male and wealthy at least hints that intelligence is higher now even if cumulative improvements in science and technology undoubtedly play a role too.
the irony with the heroin analogy
Is that heroin is one of the few things that would be worth promoting on Groupon.
The USP of physical addiction would keep customers coming back long after the deal ended.
Re: Can apple buy Foxconn or some other manufacturer?
The positive with building your own stuff is that a vertically integrated supply chain reduces the risk of sudden price hikes or supply shortages. That's why Samsung do it.
The negative is that it ties you to a particular production strategy (as others have said, the upfront costs of technology mass-production facilities are phenomenal, so you can't change your mind halfway) and so if you get it wrong it weighs on the reliability and cost-efficiency of your end product. That's why Apple (and most producers of most electronics) don't.
The question of whether outsourcing your low-margin production and focussing on high margin design and distribution is a good strategy (because it supports a higher margin and more flexible business) or a bad one (because it makes your business more vulnerable to the long term plans of the people who make stuff for you) is in some ways a question about the entire western strategy of outsourcing low value jobs.
That will make Apple's long-term success or not against HTC (used to make mobile stuff for other people but now mostly a consumer brand) and Samsung (ditto but bigger) particularly interesting.
This won't be related to the lawsuit
It's classic game theory.
When Apple were Samsung's biggest customer Samsung had to keep prices ultra-competitive to maintain that.
As soon as Apple (very sensibly) decided that relying on their biggest rival to make phone parts was a scary situation to be in it became only a matter of time until all of the business shifted elsewhere.
Now that Apple will clearly move away when they can regardless of cost considerations the 20% hike is Samsung milking as much profit as possible out of a now temporary relationship without pushing prices so high that their reputation suffers. Pushing up the cost of their key rival is a fringe benefit.
I'm surprised it's this high
People, even bright people, don't think much about areas outside their expertise.
If you asked a trivial question about the influence of case law on judicial outcomes, or the way anaesthetic works, you'd find less than 100% accuracy from the relatively smart lot who spend too much time here.
General knowledge isn't that useful in getting ahead, so people who gather it tend to do so more as a hobby than anything else.
No. If Facebook were a mature stock with limited growth prospects then the prospects for investors and employees would be even bleaker than they are.
The current stock price is based on a p/e ratio of 178. That's a little over 10 times the ratio of a mature stock and means that explosive revenue growrh is built into the stock price for many years to come. If they fail to acheive that the stock will collapse (see Groupon's performance for reference).
Your conflation of user base size with company size is the classic dot com mistake. The monetisation of its user base is the vital step that they'd barely begun at IPO and its their success or failure in growing revenue which will determine the long-term stable value of the stock. If employees think the current market expectation of dramatic growth is unrealisable then their stock options won't tie them to the company or encourage the long hours a company needs to support this kind of growth.
Pushing all out to get a value at IPO that can never be reached again is not good for a company's long term prospects.
The low stock market valuation will cause Facebook significant problems if it persists. Talented employees hang around and put in 80+ hour working weeks pre-IPO in the expectation that they're going to get rich. At some stage post-IPO a company reaches a tipping point after which prospective employees no longer see the prospect of getting super-rich and so demand higher wages and steadier hours in exchange for the more limited upside.
Ordinarily that comes quite a long way post-IPO because the steadily increasing share price from a successful launch means that share options get increasingly valuable. That creates a virtuous cycle where a core of key employees will pull together to work super-hard without draining the company's current cash pool. When the tipping point is reached companies suddenly have to take on a lot more staff and create a more complex management and oversight structure to make up for the fact that the powerful incentive of imminent wealth is no longer driving employee behaviour. Meanwhile key staff start to leave in droves and often go to or start up competitors trying to steal market share.
Throwing more share options at that may work for a limited time, but without profitable growth employees know that an increasing number of shares will each be worth less rather than more by the time they vest. That's where Facebook's particular problem is. The launch is perceived (rightly in my opinion) to have been a confidence trick on share buyers, and they'll be wary to bid the price up any time soon without concrete evidence of sustainable growth.
Essentially, by getting an unreasonable initial price at IPO Facebook has made it much harder to sustain the interest of either employees or shareholders without a stellar improvement in its performance (which is tough to acheive when your best employees are making other plans).
Is that failure? Certainly for Facebook as an entity. Some of the early investors will have made a big cash pile, but it's possible that by setting the price lower and getting the boost they'd have been able to sell more over a longer period and make a better return.
Grabbing all of the money you can from the 10% of your shares that you typically sell at IPO isn't always the best way to maximise your return, because the other 90% become much harder to shift later, and being demonised as a confidence trickster has got to be much less fun than being lauded as a captain of industry however wealthy you are.
I'm amazed anyone bought this
Other web 2.0 stocks look overvalued because of the mindless herd, but their business model is plausible.
Facebook and Linkedin are overpriced, but they're otherwise sensible businesses.
Groupon was a scam from beginning to end. There's no sustainable business model and so they're not a going concern. That means any p/e ratio above 2 or 3 is overvaluing them (let alone a billion dollar valuation when they're making a loss).
Any of the potential investors for whom that was too complicated should at least have done a little research into publically available concerns about Groupon's major shareholder:
I have some sympathy for non-tech people who invested in Facebook (not too much, but some) but anyone who put their money into Groupon was essentially putting their money into a pyramid scheme with publically available information to show it was a pyramid scheme and a clear indication that the IPO was the break point at which the important people would stop trying to pretend it was a business.
Nokia's strategy is weird
First they tie themselves to a new Microsoft o/s that very few people have high hopes for and so which will minimise the addressable market even if the phone is great.
Then they sign an extremely restrictive exclusivity deal with the people in the UK who want you to pay through the nose for a new network that few people want or need.
If this is their plan for recovering mass market appeal and turning themselves around then I wouldnt fancy owning shares.
Why don't they refuse to sell a handset to anyone whose name doesn't begin with V to give it a sense of exclusivity?
I think technology lock-in will keep Microsoft on top for a while yet
IT people don't like windows (usually) but know how to use it.
Non-IT people don't really know anything else exists, and would grind to a halt without it.
That's why microsoft continue to be so valuable despite screwing so much up. Once you're the only platform most people know how to use it takes years of substandard delivery before you get shifted out.
Ignoring questions of whether mass insider selling will kill Facebook, marvel at the thought that 4 years work by a senior exec (but not a founder) for an already established company is deemed worth half a billion in stock on top of whatever salary she earnt.
Unless she shits gold bars I have to think that any definition of the phrase ''right place at the right time' should come with a picture of Sheryl Sandberg grinning from ear to ear on her new super-yacht.
Didn't you have an article about someone hacking the weather forecasting services not long back?
Maybe they're smarter than we think and they reverse-engineered it to change the weather.
The coalition forces have done some nasty things and the US, in particular, continues to incarcerate for long periods in poor conditions without trial.
But that's a weird benchmark for saying it's okay. Especially for someone who's been through it.
It's wrong when anyone does it. It isn't right when weird militia groups do it just because western governments do it too.
is the smartphone market really getting more competitive?
Apple are about as strong as they always were and windows mobile might be good enough to get a few percent more market share than earlier versions (though it could just as easily sink without trace).
On the other hand RIM have imploded which leaves android and ios as the only serious games in town. Meanwhile htc are struggling so badly I might not replace my trusty desire s with a new model even though I love Sense and Samsung have really become the defacto Android smartphone.
That looks like less competition to me.
I wish the world would disintermediate the need for dickheads
In the meantime expect to see these kinds of predictions from Benioff with increasing frequency as his own company fails to justify its valuation and he tries to keep the analysts from noticing.
This survey could be about anything
Data network? Far too expensive and complicated. We'd love it to be cheaper or to have a 'payments holiday'
Legal counsel? Far too expensive and complicated...
'Insert business cost here'? Far too expensive and complicated...
Look at what people do, not what they say. If they stop buying SAP expect these problems to be fixed in a heartbeat.
it's an amusing irony
That the absurd valuations and wafer thin profits of these dot com firms mean that the accounting charge on share options remuneration when they go public makes profits look even worse than they did before.
Which pushes down share prices as the sheep wake up and cut their losses, which forces the firm to throw ever more stock options at employees whose 'wealth' has just halved.
Which will suppress earnings per share further and continue the cycle.
No wonder they don't have time to build a mobile strategy.
Re: Caveat emptor only applies to a degree
I don't disagree with the sentiment, but the point is that seperately from whether someone is stupid or not to buy something, it's either been positioned legally or it hasn't. PLCs aren't entities that investors can see and feel, and so they rely on the probity of the details filed in deciding how to invest.
Buying a high-risk firm that would need absurd revenue growth in order to meet your valuation is most peoples' idea of stupid (and that's where I agree with you).
Buying a high-risk firm that would neeed absurd revenue growth when the firm and its hangers-on are withholding important information that they're legally obliged to provide means you have a case.
Obviously the article here confirms that they did eventually file those details (under pressure from the SEC), and the lemmings still bought, which strengthens your 'people who bought it were stupid' point, but it's important to note that when a stock sale fails to meet basic legal requirements it's not just a case of caveat emptor (otherwise moral hazard would crowd any sensible investors out of the market, and it would collapse).
Caveat emptor only applies to a degree
This was always a speculative stock and people should have no complaints about getting burnt per se, but if an IPOing firm or its army of corporate hangers-on have fudged the disclosure requirements then they're selling you something materially different than advertised.
If you buy a porsche and a morris minor gets delivered then saying 'caveat emptor' doesn't magically absolve the seller of responsibility.
That being said, the case for showing that following proper disclosure requirements would have stemmed the herd of lemmings from hurling themselves of a financial cliff isn't clear, so remedies may be small.
It's even easier if you're an ex-politician or civil servant setting up a QUANGO or lobbying agency.
You scratch my back I'll make sure your tiny salary doesn't stop you buying a small island in the Bahamas (like Jamaica) to retire on.
Wouldn't it be wonderful
If he'd fraudulently manipulated the data to win grant money for his research into the increasing incidence of fraudulent manipulation of data to win grant money.
Re: Deal breaker
As I said above, ignoring Apple's dominance makes any further analysis invalid.
Statements like 'Android is by far the dominant platform' and 'catering for the minority of Apple users is no more relevant than...' prove my point that you're out of touch with the market.
Your dislike for Apple will not make it go away. I'm not a big fan of closed systems either, but while the demographic with the most disposable income and the least interest in value (my opinion only) keep buying Apple en mass the advertisors will keep spending money targeting them. If Google really think that forcing Apple users to discover that there are okay alternatives to Google maps is a good idea long term then I think they'll be making a serious mistake.
Because so many people here seem to confuse what they want to happen with what will happen, there's a good reason not to want Google to get out of IOS development too. It will force a standards war which will either lead to Android or IOS getting more dominant. Whichever one wins will have less reason to innovate thereafter. Dominance is always bad news for us.
Re: Deal breaker
I say Apple leads there now, and so do the stats. Android may have an overall bigger market share, but that's spread across lots of phones from lots of vendors each of whom make much less profit per unit than Apple (which is the prime indication of market power, and gives Apple lots of room to manouvre if Samsung continue to make headway as the leading alternative).
I've never seen the attraction of spending so much on a phone myself, and my 4 year old HTC Hero works just fine, but ignoring the fact that Apple are the elephant in this market will render invalid any further analysis you undertake.
My point here is simply that Android isn't Google's endgame here. Being the ubiquitous portal for (and gatherer of) information of all kinds and using that to consolidate their absurdly profitable ad machine is.
An analogy to Google refusing to serve maps to IOS customers would be Oracle refusing to serve its software on anything except Sun gear. In the narrow context of boosting the hardware business it would have a small positive effect, but the wider consequence to its prime revenue generator would be disastrous.
Re: Deal breaker
Depends on the background numbers.
If Android is a core profit making product for Google, then you're absolutely right.
If, as I suspect, it's really just another means to grab information and feed out ads then taking the high road and releasing a killer app for IOS 6 may have the effect of stopping Apple dead in its tracks, making further development seem absurd because people who've been bitten once won't want to switch from Google maps again and can be spun as Google putting people before self-interest (or some crap like that).
In the background, their proven dominance in Maps would give them a platform for grabbing all kinds of user data from a rival platform and using it to feed the ads that are their overwhelming source of profit.
My sense is that Android is never going to trump IOS as the luxury segment's phone of choice because this is Apple's core business and not Google's. If Google play snottily and refuse to release an app then they'll push some people to Android phones, but most Apple users will discover that Nokia/Bing/whatever aren't that bad an alternative and the furore will die off with Google's core business in a weaker position.
Companies should be precious about their core business that makes them money, not about peripheral businesses that are really just ways to support the core business.