to afflict Albion?
200 posts • joined 11 Mar 2008
Typically what happens next is that one or several historically wholesale array builders will step out from behind the scenes and corner the market by doing commodity work more cheaply than the established players.
They're probably from China and they've probably been building white label gear in increasing volume for years.
When the value of innovation diminishes in a mature market western firms lose their hold on the market very rapidly.
Given that Donuts are in fierce competition with XYZ for the top level domain market I think your assessment is right.
Two hypotheticals I'm keen for your take on.
1) Now it looks clear that essentially negative interest rates are a policy lever for governments to use do you think it's a sustainable long term option for them? Eg could we see a situation where zero interest rate plus varying degrees of QE become the norm to deal with the business cycle?
2) if my simplification that QE essentially amounts to a negative interest rate is accurate has anyone done any work to determine what volume of printing correlates with a half point rate reduction?
I assume they've planned for this, but I still wouldn't want to be on a flight with one.
I don't trust the county to stick to the bargain for more than a few months before quietly hawking it around to friends and family of local officials.
I could tolerate a $39m sale provided I got a cast-iron legal guarantee that in the event of it being flipped for a profit I got the original value plus interest and fees. Similarly, if it were hawked out to private developers at a rate lower than market value i'd retain first refusal on repurchase of the property.
The county would likely never agree to it, and so he'd be a fool to take their appeal to his ethics at face value.
This might be a concern for Apple several steps down the road but it really isn't now.
There's an enormous market in the developing world for smart looking but low cost smartphones among people who can't afford to spend one or sometimes several months' salary on the best. Status is even more important in these markets than the west and so people who can afford the best without much trouble tend to buy it even if they don't really need it.. That suits Apple nicely and, here in India, they remain firmly unthreatened by the wave of low cost smart phones.
For Samsung, HTC etc. this is a much bigger threat. Ironically it's their range of choices and price ranges that actually disadvantage them here because where Apple marks you out as exclusive Samsung may not and so doesn't have the same cache.
It's absurd, but luxury branding always is.
That more or less reinforces his point, actually.
Whether you put Zuckerberg's success down mostly to luck or mostly to judgement he's one of a number of kids who find themselves in a position of having a corporate giant to manage with no prior track record whatsoever.
In that highly irregular situation hiring leaders who he'd be happy to be working under in the more regular scenario that he'd left Harvard to get a job seems an eminently sensible acknowledgement both of his limitations and of the kind of company he wants to build.
It's long baffled me that Facebook is as valuable as it is, but I'm consistently impressed by the anecdotal evidence of Zuckerberg's nerve under pressure and decisionmaking. Almost all of us would have sold out the moment someone offered $7bn (if not $2bn, or the numerous multi-million dollar offers that must have come privately before that). He reminds me a fair bit of Bill Gates in that I find a lot to admire in how he's got to where he is even though I'm dismayed that his product is taking over the world.
'the military command's YouTube channel'
This sentence made my day. I can only imagine what kind of budget the world's biggest military machine allocate toward sharing cat videos.
Has Putin really cocked up in the macro scheme though?
He's certainly miscalculated on this issue, and it's interesting/scary to see what will happen if he's backed even further into a corner given that Russia has the world's most lopsided military power (woefully mismatched to the US in conventional capability but able to blow the world up several times over if really left with nothing to lose).
But on the bigger one this idea that Russia were ever going to work their way to a rebalanced and open modern economy looks implausible. Like the gulf states, venezuela and the many African nations who rely on primary resources for the lions share of GDP I just don't believe it's possible. Norway has done a fabulous job, but it was wealthy and pluralist before oil became a big factor in its economy.
For those that weren't democratic before commodities became more valuable than human labour to their economy the incentives facing politicians are just too lopsided. If a hypothetical Putin had worked hard and honestly to modernise Russia and properly distribute the proceeds of the oil, gas and minerals boom then he'd have been the subject of a coup by someone more like the actual Putin who used military and organised crime muscle to cut 99% of the population out of the money. Putin is at the top because he's unusually good at playing dictator, but that wouldn't give him freedom to screw over the narrow power base he sits on top of.
There's even a name for it, I think. The commodities trap? There are some economic reasons too (unstable economic environment due to wild swings in commodities prices make normal investment high risk) but the main problem is that when a country's wealth exists regardless of the population and not because of it there's absolutely no chance of the pluralist political environment needed to sustain a modern economy.
Your explanation sounds highly plausible. To extend it, I don't know if technological change actually accelerated but it's certainly true that during war time and the military push beforehand the technological push is focused away from the economy (as are scientists and factories, while the general public at large aren't necessarily in the mood to spend their disposable income in new and exciting ways).
Taking all of the manhattan project scientists as a small but tremendously innovative group who contributed nothing to economic growth when they were solely focused on solving a highly classified problem but who came away from the war with reputations and expertise that had wide and immediate applicability and I'd expect an immediate effect on the economy.
Same for returning soldiers, factories retooled for civilian use and the enormous and rapid capitalization or recapitalization of countries on the friendly side of the allied cause and you'd have to see a sustained effect on growth.
Holiday shoppers rushing to buy Exalogic boxes?
'tis the season...
This isn't really news.
I believe Zuckerberg that lots of this was made up. Real life doesn't make a good movie and Sorkin loves making highly watchable but utterly implausible narratives.
I also believe that the reality includes some similarly sharp practices. Getting to the top takes a single-mindedness that sometimes screws people over and there are always losers both legitimate and sore in success stories of this scale.
That being said, whatever my impression of him and his product, I do admire his nerve. Turning down $12bn from Google must have been one of a large number of such offers at ever more eye-watering valuations. Almost all of us would have sold out sooner and for less and been delighted to be a millionaire/multi-millionaire/billionaire (delete depending on which offer you'd have taken) playboy without the stress of managing a dot-com bubble mega-brand.
I bought my dad a Moto G for Christmas to finally crack his smartphone phobia. It was something like £70 at the time (or maybe I used some vouchers to get it there, but definitely no more than £100).
Having used it I just don't see why 70% of the smartphone market would spend more. About 15-20% will want a camera that's better. Another 10-15% can't bear to be seen without a status symbol phone (I may be grossly underestimating on this one, of course...) and the rest will only spend more because it's rolled into a monthly fee they can afford and they remember back to when entry level smartphones really were clunky and lacking in important features.
Similarly, we've just got the wife an iPhone 5S and it's a nice phone but it's not as much better than a £70 phone as it was 3 years ago.
I think that will even get to be worrying for Apple in the medium term and in the short run Samsung must be petrified. Markets tend to commoditise when the cost of making new features exceeds the premium users are willing to pay for them and 'fitness' just doesn't look compelling enough at this point to drive innovation the way media streaming and cameras have been in prior iterations.
Agree, but if there's nothing they can buy in that works as necessary at this size then scale out and spin off could be the more likely option. It would make tech a revenue source and not just a cost centre.
Re: FB is in a position to build a homebrew switch
I'd say this kind of tech is sort of core for them in the sense that at this scale there isn't any service they can buy in that will do it better (granted that's not an orthodox definition, but I do think that tasks become non-core only when buying it in would work better than doing it yourself).
It could well be that if they get good at this stuff they think about spinning it off in an AWS way to other web scale brands. If they don't, their staff who perfect it will definitely leave and set themselves up to do this elsewhere.
'Your job is being outsourced to China...
but we'll need you to program your replacement first'.
Re: You make one one terrible mistake
Hmm, I'm certainly not claiming that human ingenuity is done or that everything is downhill from here. You're right that those sentiments are kind of a secular version of the 'end of the world is nigh' thinking and are consistently wrong.
However, another common error is to see short-term and narrow trends and project their general equivalent into the future at a similar rate. Lots of people thought that we'd be colonising mars by now and that the end of the Cold War meant a triumph of liberal democracy as well as the Dow 36000 and 'New economic paradigm' claims made during the first dot com bubble.
Similarly it's worth noting that the dramatic gains in food productivity haven't eliminated hunger but allowed the population to expand until a proportion of the much larger group are still living subsistence lifestyles or worse. The idea that human ingenuity will not only maintain current growth to support a population predicted to peak at 9 billion but also accelerate and even out the proceeds of that growth so that everyone is living a western lifestyle looks too much of a stretch to me.
They already do and have for years. By far the biggest growth market for western luxury brands is Asia and while the stuff mostly gets made there too the 'expertise' and whatever else it is that makes a bag or pair of shoes worth £10,000 flows back to the west.
Similarly architects, law firms and financial services outfits do tremendous business out there.
And on a more basic level consumer brands like Coke and Unilever as well as western music and films have been there for years.
Whether we'll ever get to Chinese NGOs fretting about the conditions in british sweatshops is another matter, but the times are certainly changing.
Re: National vs international
Are you sure? Turning wealth into power is harder than you think. Look at the oligarchs who have crossed Putin, for instance.
Granted wealth gives you a very comfortable life, but I see a history in which wealth follows power more than vice Versa, and being too rich while out of political favour is rarely comfortable.
National vs international
I, like lots of westerners, have a lot of sympathy for the moderate left ideal of a system of constrained capitalism with relatively modest wealth imbalances that Pinketty appears to stand for.
There are several practical problems though:
1) All but the widest-eyed idealists acknowledge that there aren't enough resources globally to give everyone a decent standard of living even if we could somehow come to a consensus that we should. Successful lefty economies (of which Scandinavia offers the last unequivocal examples standing) have small, homogenous and highly educated populations and ample natural resources and are very picky about who they let in. To my mind creating small pockets of utopia is no more moral in the wider scheme than the US attitude of letting lots of people in but not giving them much except the knowledge that others before them have carved out a good living eventually.
2) Economic power always follows real power. When wealth gets too concentrated in the hands of people without the real power to protect it either revolution or punitive taxation always changes things. Similarly, and less fortunately, when the value of labour that poor people have to offer diminishes in real terms it becomes politically untenable to have too generous a welfare state without seeing a long run economic decline that makes everyone worse off.
At the moment we're seeing the consequences of a change in the real value of labour (which, sadly, I think is permanent) and a disruption to national politics from internationalisation which is benefitting the rich and well advised and weighing upon the poor and ill-equipped in a way that isn't sustainable. That's pushing the equation so far against the poor (and pushing so many of the middle class into 'poor' territory) that radical nationalism is starting to look attractive to them again.
Steve Jobs was different at that point
Once you've had a huge success (and Apple was a huge success, before becoming a hulking failure, before becoming a humongous success) you can have a number of modest failures before falling out of favour.
When you're starting out you need to show a much clearer record of achievement (or be a tremendous showman) or your first financial failure can kill you for VCs.
re: but I wonder to what extent it scales down to mere mortal level.
From Nate's analysis and the other shortcomings I've seen so far, all look to be current barriers rather than absolute ones.
Google, because of their scale, have built this and tweaked it to fit their requirement. Other hyperscale software will do likewise because custom work pays huge dividends for this size of organisations.
Smaller organisations will wait for the community and/or commercial vendors to build toolsets that solve problems like the inability to monitor and manage memory and quite probably the lack of hardware indepedence and then this should scale down nicely. I don't think it will replace virtualisation for requirements that interact heavily with the hardware stack or need high security or customisation, but there are lots of current needs for which whole virtual machines are unnecesary.
Plus it's been a while since the last 'next big thing', and this one at least looks to be interesting.
You're not thinking like a patent lawyer. Shame on you.
The crucial second part of your patent application is to say that while the setup you lay out is one way of acheiving a good picture this shouldn't preclude any other set of paramaters from being considered under the patent.
Now that we know you can open up the methodology as a catch-all variable it only seems logical to do the same with the idea itself.
'While this methodology (or any other) relates specifically to the taking of a good picture, it does not preclude the utilisation of these steps (or any other set of steps) in the furtherance of another goal. These other goals are also covered under this patent.'
Bingo, you've successfully patented everything.
Correcting the conclusion
'Nazer said Amazon would be unlikely to try and use this patent in court yet, and it's more likely something that the company can just add to its existing portfolio to use as a weapon when it has reached peak innovation and wants to stop more agile competitors from eroding its market share.'
The problem with stupid patents isn't necessarily that many will immediately or ever be aired in court, it's that the very threat of them stifles innovation and dramatically increases the barrier of entry into technology markets so that bloated incumbents can extract profits at the expense of the public good. The need to hold a war chest of vague patents to do battle with makes it much less likely that a new Microsoft or Oracle will rise up to slay the existing monoliths and therefore much more likely that the current ones will continue to extract excessive license fees well past their natural expiry date.
Re: Getting rid of it all by 2018?
Not tax related.
From a personal financial security perspective the biggest challenge facing owners of newly successful companies is the fact that a disproportionate amount of their wealth (sometimes all) is tied up in one asset.
Selling too much in one go would invite a share price crash (shareholders don't like executives or founders selling too much of their holding at once) and selling ad hoc breaks insider trading regulations when you're still at a company, so these kinds of periodic selling of agreed numbers of shares allow divestment of personal wealth without spooking anyone.
As for why he'd continue until he's sold all of it, I think you've covered that. Microsoft is no longer his primary focus and Microsoft shares can't directly be used to fund his philanthropic projects. If the publically stated plans are to be believed neither he nor Buffett want to create large and unwieldy funds which dole out small amounts in perpetuity. They want to use large amounts on high impact projects until the money is gone.
I've never understood how that public plan tallies with his continuing to be among the world's richest men, but I assume at some point that will start to diminish.
This writing of individual reports
by different government departments for different committees is a drain on national productivity.
It would be much more cost-effective to have a single report stressing the need for greater automation, fewer teenage pregnancies and higher broadband speeds which can be wheeled out whenever a government white paper is required. 1 civil servant could be relied on to redraft the template and deliver it 6 months late as per normal public sector requirements and therefore only another 2 or 3 thousand would be needed to supervise him and provide management accountability to ensure value for taxpayers' money.
Has the definition of 'very interesting' changed while I wasn't looking
or was this an ironic use of the term?
It would be very interesting to find out...
Blinking is something the company will struggle to do at any level of capital expenditure.
Google's push into the corporate cloud space is going to be interesting. They are among the last companies most people would trust with their company data.
'Oops, we plugged the wrong cable in and have accidentally analysed all your customer data. On the plus side, they'll be getting more precisely targeted ads from now on.'
On the face of it they're planning to compete with themselves.
In reality they'll never price the cloud business in a way that erodes their traditional licensing model. It makes no business sense to do so. If they create a headline subscription fee that's low enough to draw interest then expect the caveats and additional cost factors to be even more arcane and inscrutable than their current licensing model.
Re: many of the comments above
It's worth noting that most analyses of net worth ignore the primary residence precisely to avoid skewing the figures too far in places like London.
Still, people are right that you need quite a reasonable number of millions before you can say Foxtrot Oscar to the world of work and live in any kind of luxury. It's a relatively modest aspiration compared to scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup final or punching David Cameron in the face.
Re: Public cloud barriers
I do think a convergence in software development methodology (with horizontal scaling and resilience in the software rather than the hardware layer) is inevitable and agree with the author that this poses a grave threat to the existing hardware vendors, but the step from there in which public cloud conquers all is badly flawed for all of the reasons you stated.
I do foresee a growing number of build, own and operate requirements for on-premise cloud type infrastructure outsourcing structured in much the same way as classic mainframe contracts for Sun, IBM, HP etc. look but with the difference that the infrastructure is identical to that which could be run externally.
Aside from that the public/private question on cloud is extremely similar to the wider outsourcing discussion. Outsourcing turns a complex internal risk assessment and management question into a complex external risk assessment and management question in which capex vs opex and distance, data security and the relative effectiveness of SLAs versus internal controls.
In the same way that effective outsourcing needs strong and experienced procurement and governance, tends to cost more than it looks like it will and usually only works for non-core business functions I'm sure the same will prove true in the long run for public cloud.
Why on earth do firms need to justify paying their employees well?
Programming, like stock market trading, is a job where contribution to the business is pretty easy to gauge and age is poorly correlated with productivity.
It's no surprise at all that workers who are highly productive in high profile industries get paid well, and looking at the absurd valuations that these companies fetch when they're perceived to be ahead of their peers any CEO would be doing wrong by the shareholders if they didn't throw money at talent.
I'm actually surprised there aren't more 18-21 year olds who skip university altogether and just go straight in to coding. Perhaps there are but they're not captured here.
Re: Silly Question...
Or the latest computers, TVs, cars?
When features (or much more occasionally entirely new products) come out which capture the public imagination and command a big premium that starts an innovation race where huge sums are poured in and regular iterations are put to the public to provide new features and test the continuing premium the market offers (which is essentially the monetary value of their interest in continuing innovation).
From smartphone sales figures and the increasing frequency of questions like yours I'd say the innovation race is easing off and sensible firms will be quietly ratcheting down the R and D on mobile specific features while looking for the Next Big Thing (TM) to get ahead in. They'd never say it very loudly to consumers because they still have a pipeline of new features to try and sell you across a couple more iterations of phone, but after that the work on further iterations may well slow considerably unless this fitness angle or something else captures the public imagination.
In all fairness
that's what Gartner say too. The quote talks about a 'Hybrid ERP' approach with lots of parts in the cloud but a 'smaller core of on-premise elements such as financials and manufacturing'.
I've no idea if they're right on the wider point they're making, but at least they seem to realise the point you're making about critical systems.
If I recall correctly
messing with the ability of exchanges to manage volume is a key strategy in high frequency trading activities.
I don't remember exactly how, but essentially putting in massive buy and sell orders that you have no intention of fulfilling is a way to identify areas of weakness that can be exploited for quick profits.
Unless I'm wrong about that, it tells me two things:
a) High frequency trading really has no benefit to the economy and so we shouldn't tolerate, much less facilitate it. The instability it creates in markets feels like it actually increases price volatility and risk rather than decreasing it. That makes it as socially useful as burglary.
b) Even if I'm wrong and there are good reasons to facilitate HFT, if a key goal of their algorithms is to find and take advantage of flaws in the system to create volatility then any improvements are likely to lead to an arms race in which they build bigger and more powerful systems to try to stay ahead (and then presumably complain again that the market isn't fast enough and that more should be invested). I see no benefit to anyone except the large banks whose competition from smaller HFT players would be limited by the spiraling cost of these systems. Meanwhile trading costs would soar to pay for the infrastructure and Main Street would see no benefits.
I'm as capitalist as they come, but I see no benefit to either market competition or allocative efficiency in the modern 'faster than the eye can see' stock markets.
After years of being conned by large suppliers
Goverrnment procurement services seem to want to get their own back by advertising 'framework' deals with a high headline amount of business and having suppliers jump through an interminable number of absurd hoops before they realise that actually there's nothing like the amount of business advertised because most government departments plan to keep buying the way they always did (and, at best, force their existing supplier to jump through the same hoops to give the appearance of using the framework).
It's sad for the taxpayer that at the same time the government is on a drive to include more SMEs and create a more competitive supplier landscape its procurement team have also discovered that there's a short term benefit to making false promises about the amount of business available to try to encourage small businesses to join frameworks and bid early deals at wafer thin margins.
When the SMEs realise it's all a huge con things will go back to business as usual with the big boys who can afford to play these games roughing it through this period and then finding stupid ways to make all their money back and more once noone wants to work with GPS.
I think the chances of 3d printing replacing industrial process for mass produced items are nil.
However there are lots of ways in which I think 3d printing could be useful now and increasingly important in a world where its availability is known at the point something is designed.
1) Small-scale design shops or individuals creating prototypes. This has been mentioned at least once above, so no need to go into detail.
2) Creating parts for items which are no longer mass-producted. I know that when my (mid-90s) car goes for repair one of the hardest and most expensive jobs the garage have is in sourcing parts that are no longer made. If CAD documents were routinely created at the point of design for new models then this would be a considerably easier problem for cars of the current era in 15 years time. I'm sure there are dozens of other situations in which spares are held expensively ad infinitum where a detailled design and 3d printer availability could replace them.
Are we living in a sci-fi B movie?
Connecting the world's foremost artificial intelligence to the internet may seem like a good idea, but don't come crying to me when your Smart Microwave (TM) starts taking over the house.
We've heard of it
A fool and his money
fit nicely into 140 characters or less
Re: Can a fail whale float?
'Whether it's a good time for investors? No-one can say.'
You just did. If your analysis is right (and it looks spot on to me) then investors who pay anything like the valuation mooted will get badly burnt.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Twitter bought by one of the existing social media brands to widen their dominance but I don't see that the revenue they'll generate independently will make them reliably profitable, let alone profitable enough to justify a multi $bn valuation.
Having a founder who is too influential is one thing
Having a founder who now spends most of their time and attention on more pressing problems is another thing again.
It's admirable that Gates wants to devote so much of his time and money solving developing world issues but if I were a Microsoft shareholder I wouldn't want him to overshadow the company while not being fully involved in it.
There's really no place to chair a company of that size part-time and it's no surprise that Microsoft look to have missed several boats under his watch when he's not really watching.
I know it's easier to predict than it is to solve
But I think everyone saw this coming. When your business has fallen off the radar and you have one shiny new gadget that will save you then for God's sake price it keenly. Noone in their right mind was going to pay the same for a Blackberry phone as they would for an iPhone/Galaxy.
Nokia and HTC will be delighted to have one less competitor for the 'plucky third place innovator' spot, but this whole episode is a real eye-opener about how deadly the technology market is for companies with poor leadership.
I was going to buy one of these.
Now I'm not.