3563 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009
Re: I disagree @ Spartacus
That is true. It seems increasingly common in tech stocks to have massive amounts of the voting stock, concentrated in very few hands. So for example Zuckerberg held 51% of the voting stock, with only 10% of the total stock. A mis-match that I believe isn't allowed under the London Stock Exchange listing rules. This gives him total control of the company, for only 10% of the risk - and is another good reason not to own FB stock. I know nothing about the Amazon structure.
As you say, just because a whole bunch of shareholders want something, doesn't mean they can get it. Even if each share had equal votes.
However, once you've pissed off a bunch of major shareholders they can start making life awkward. Particularly if they can force representation on the board. And in the long run the people with the majority of voting shares get to decide who's on the board, and how much they get paid.
The moral and legal obligations change when you sell shares. It's no longer your money. It's no longer your company. There are limits on what you can do.
Remember also that your personal fortune is still tied up with the company. You're a paper billionaire. Your money is mostly tied up in those preference shares. Every time you sell some, your super-votes get more and more diluted. And if you piss off your big shareholders, they'll sell, and possibly have a public hissy-fit. Then your paper billions get devalued, and that yacht (or volcano base) requires the sale of more shares, and therefore the loss of more control.
The legalities are complicated. But what it boils down to is you sold the company. Or at least a share of it. The people you sold it to want something in return. Deal with it. Or do what Michael Dell did, and buy your company back. Then you're in charge again, and can do what the hell you want.
Re: I disagree
When you sell your company to shareholders, you lose some of the right to choose how you measure success. The shareholders who now own the company get the right to tell you to make profits. In order to compensate them for the vast amounts of money you chose to take from them in exchange for selling shares.
A majority of those shareholders even have the power to sack you, or change the objectives of the company.
Re: One step closer
Why would they do that? They've only just got out of that market. As fast as their little legs could carry them. And they were pretty keen to do so, given the board began the sale to Microsoft without asking their own CEO.
Now they don't have any of the staff or infrastructure. So they'd virtually be starting from scratch. Only two companies are making reasonable profits from mobiles, Apple and Samsung.
Re: Blame the investors
The auditors I know, and my experience from my old job with a mid-sized multi-national, would disagree with you. That dinner I described happened in about 1998.
Audit is there partly to protect the shareholders. A proper audit should also challenge management to back up certain decisions, as well as to check the accounts aren't fiddled. Not all accounting questions have cut-and-dried answers. Audit must also check that the limited liability guarantee isn't being abused, and that the company is solvent. Trading insolvently is fraud. Hence profitability is an important issue.
Amazon somewhat gives the lie to constantly-repeated saying that the markets can't cope with long-term investment.
However, it's the shareholders' company. In the end they have to be rewarded for their investment. If Bezos wanted a personal plaything with which to do cool stuff, then he should have kept control of the company. But he didn't. He sold it. and probably became rather wealthy in the process. With that transaction comes the nast responsibility to other people, whose money you are now custodian of.
Not that investment in the future is a bad thing. It's important. But selling shares is the alternative to borrowing money. That's one of the reasons these tech company structures are so bad. There should be a downside to doing an IPO and getting rich. And it's the loss of total control over your pet project.
Google needs another revenue stream, or two. They still make more than 80% of their cash from online advertising (that figure's from memory though).
Now I believe they're making cash on Android, and they've invested hugely into that. And that might start them making decent money from the Play store - not just in software but also films/books/audio. But then it might not.
But the advertising market is very cyclical. And quite fickle. Maybe online advertising will fall out of fashion, given how ineffective it seems to be. And how some browser maker could just decide to kill it at a stroke. Maybe search might start working in a different way, that doesn't allow for the same level of profit for Google.
Google aren't shy of chucking huge amounts of cash after long-term bets. See Android for details. They probably blew well over $10 billion on that before it turned a profit. And it's now part of Google's core business. The question isn't whether cloud is part of Google's core business now, but whether Google management thinks it will be soon.
As a quick thought-experiment: I think smartphones are now massively over-priced. When a Motorola G or Lumia 730 is well under £150. Can there still be much room to pay £500, except for specialist customers? I don't think for much longer. Except maybe for Apple. So who's going to make the money off this market? The manufacturers will turn into commodity sellers, fighting over scraps, just like the PC market. Maybe the people who design the software, if they can get people to want theirs. But there's going to be a big market in data. Who's going to manage my photos, email, important documents, e-tickets etc? Now I might say, me. But 95% of the population aren't currently capable of it. And I know just as many young people who don't understand computers, even if they use Facebook and Skype more. That's a lot of small, but regular cash, along with some quite juicy personal data. But requires huge infrastructure and a trusted brand. I personally think Google are risking their brand by being too creepy, but they're currently still a well-loved brand with a few detractors. Like Apple.
Re: Blame the investors
If they have positive cashflow and they're investing their money in stuff that has value, then things look different. So if I can tell my auditor that I just spent $1bn on an asset that's still worth $1bn - they aren't going to get angry with me, and do horrible things to me. What they might tell me to do is to close or sell loss-making parts of the business.
At which point standard procedure, from my experience, is that you go out for a nice dinner (which the auditors pay for) and have a polite but bitter argument about it all. Then you come back and decide that they will sign off on your books, because that bit they told you to close is expected to make a profit in future, honest guv. The auditors then go back to their office, and send you an invoice for the cost of their time checking up on you, and telling you how to run your company, and adding a charge on for the dinner, which is about twice the cost of the meal.
In our case we'd just spent several million opening a couple of new shops, and the auditor informed us that as they weren't yet making profits, they should be shut down 6 months later! Although they did have a fair point about store number 3, which never seemed to make any profits at all.
It would be interesting to see if the shareholders ever revolt though. Assuming they're allowed to. A lot of these modern tech companies have stupid share structures, where the bosses own such high percentages of the voting stock, that they can pretty much do what the hell they like. I seem to remember that Zuckerberg has 51% of the Facebook voting stock, but owns less than 10% of the company.
the $14Bn they are making selling electronics.
Yet Another Anonymous coward,
You mistake turnover for profits. Something I am beiginning so suspect that Jeff Bezos may be doing too. They don't make $14bn on sales of electronics. They buy about $14bn of electronics from other people, and sell them for hopefully a higher number. That difference is their gross profit. From which you take their costs to work out how much cash they have left to blow on winning market share in other markets.
They may have mostly killed the large book and music chains, but that doesn't mean they can massively up their prices. There are plenty of other online companies around, and as Amazon proved, it's much easier and cheaper to set up online, so they'll never be safe from competition.
So I'm sure they can outspend Rackspace, but not Google or Microsoft. Remember Google and MS have to have huge datacentres already, to do the other that makes them profits. So they are only adding to infrastructure they've already built and must maintain to survive.
Amazon make losses (or sometimes break even) every quarter, and say it's because they keep re-investing it into new bits of the company. MS and Google also invest lots of money in bits of the company and yet they make profits each quarter. MS about $5bn, Google about half that.
Which means that either of them could invest as much money as Amazon does on cloud infrastructure again, and still be making healthy profits, despite the fact they already invest as much or more than Amazon do.
One certainty is that Amazon cannot outspend them. And that's to ignore IBM, Oracle, HP and I suppose even Apple. Any of those could afford to blow a few billion a quarter on datacentres if they want to.
Re: Benefit of the Doubt
Sure, this may not be Apple's fault. But the banks are huge cloud players too. After all, what is a High Street bank? It's a huge database with some customers' money attached. And when the bank systems go titsup, they wheel out the same dishonest-non-apologies.
But obviously here Bank of America got it right, that a small number of customers really was. It'll be interesting to see if they come out with a number if they have a bigger outage though...
Benefit of the Doubt
I was going to deploy my favourite rant (not used in a while) about the weasely apologies that technology companies seem to have all adopted these days. Their cloud system goes down for a day and they apologise for the inconvenience to a "limited or small number of customers". Which you know is a big fat lie, as it was probably the majority of them.
Although limited is a great word, as it doesn't actually mean small, it's just often used that way. It really means not all, so as long as you can keep one customer's service up, only "a limited number of our customers were affected" is still true.
However, small number was about 1,000 I can accept.
Although with my cynical hat on, I might wonder if there have only been 1001 transactions so far on Apple Pay. In which case the wording would be strictly truthful, but wildly inaccurate..
Re: A .realty terrible waste of money
I wouldn't quite say meaningless. I still look down on companies that have a .co at the end of their names. Unless they genuinely are Colombian of course. We specifically wanted a .co.uk because we're a small player, trying to look bigger, in an industry full of small companies with the rather obvious .biz at the end of their names.
But I guess you're right. When everyone searches for companies on Google, they just click the first link. And despite my best efforts, never look at what they clicked on first to see where they're going. Also I've told my Mum how to get to www.bbc.co.uk, but still found her typing it into Google's search box.
Definition: The Address Bar - archaic term - What your Grandad looked at, when he wanted to avoid all his money being stolen by Nigerian fraudsters.
The only time people might notice is when being given email addresses. I'm constantly surprised by the number of decent sized companies I talk to, where people have @btconnect.com after their names.
That's .tosspot to you...
Re: A two to five year ROI?
That's not the ROI though. $50 x 50,000 = $2.5m. So that pays for your domain. Now you need some servers, some staff, an office, perhaps a call centre. Then you have to add in the cost of your capital, which you could probably get 5% sticking into corporate bonds. Or of course, you may have to borrow it, in which case it's costing you 5% + the opportunity cost of not investing it in something else.
I suspect that's one reason why it's not worth buying just one. There's a large risk of having zero registrants. Remeber .tel? Nobody else does.
However if you've registered a few tens/hundreds of these, and some pay off, then it's only one lot of infrastructure to run them. After all, the ones that fail will put almost no load on your system, as you watch your initial investment evaporate away.
Re: A .realty terrible waste of money
I was even more confused. I persistently read the word as reality - probably because I don't use the US term realtor. And I was trying to work out who'd pay for a .reality address. God? Stephen Hawking?
I got an email this week offering our company the prime opportunity to register yet another version of our addresses. In this case it was .xyz - which is apparently for those who don't want to be tied down by being an org, a me, a com or any of the other myriad options.
I wonder how much I'd have to pay to become registrar for .bugger-off! And how many people I could get to register with me?
Re: Recycled email accounts are fun
You just unsubscribe from the email, send a reply saying the account holder has changed or create a rule to automatically delete emails from those senders.
I'd have thought that knowingly logging into someone else's account without permission has already broken your intersting legal puzzle, by being illegal in itself.
I'm having a similar problem, having taken over a work colleagues email, now they've left. They were using it for personal, as well as work stuff. As so many people do. So I'm still forwarding on quite a few emails, and hitting unsubscribe on his instructions to everything else. Even there, certain sites won't allow you to unsubscribe without logging in with a password - so they also have to be forwarded on for him to deal with. After a month, it's down to a couple a day now. Perhaps the better answer would have been to bounce it, but we wanted the work ones, so didn't.
That's what I was thinking. Other than to post what people above had beaten me to, that percentages without some idea of actual numbers are meaningless. I've seen them in PC World, but I've never seen a customer even look at one. In my local one, they're in the unloved corner, with Surface where nobody goes.
My Mum has just got rid of her desktop. Since we got her an iPad, I don't think she sees much reason to be arsed to get off the sofa and walk to the office. I fixed something on her PC for her the other day, and it hadn't been booted for over a month, yet she gets more emails in a day than I do. In her case she's gone for a hand-me-down Macbook Air - but had one of the family not had that, a Chromebook might have suited her equally well. Something with a keyboard, that can be used on sofa or table, for typing longer emails. And in her case, the odd report.
Myself, I find the ergonomics of a desktop unbeatable. But I'm in a small minority.
Re: Another reason
Well if you don't want to go to Mars, why not send your ass?
If we gave spirit a tow to a hilltop, the solar panels might blow clear and get it working again. A small donkey ought to be able to do that easily...
Re: Fuck off
What you need is the opposite of noise cancelling headphones.
A phone (as an easily pocketable mobile computer will do). This should be set up to recognise your voice, then do the clever out of phase noise cancelling thing whenever you speak. Probably with some other sound, just to make sure. This then cancels out what you say, then flashes up the text for your review and then rebroadcasts a few seconds later (if you don't stop it).
I guess to make this even better, you could have a huge bushy moustache, so people can't get confused by your lips moving, or even lip read. Result while busy you're on a delay, like a sweary musician on the radio, and you can override if for those times when you're actually concentrating on talking.
What could possibly go wrong...?
Re: Don't start off being obnoxious
The boy who always cried wolf comes to mind.
So are you suggesting a new fairytale, called 'The Boy Who Cried Fuck'?
I'm sure it would be popular with children. Not so convinced the parents will be willing to read it as a bedtime story though...
At least now that Doctor Who and Malcolm Tucker are the same person, we have the correct actor in place to do the job properly.
Re: Fuck off
Oh bugger! Did I just prove you right?
Oy! I resemble that remark!
I like his shoes that weigh the person wearing them. Do you think it speaks your weight, or upadates an app?
At 08:00:00 you weigh 16 stone, you fat bastard.
At 08:00:02 you weigh 16 stone, you fat bastard
At 08:00:04 you weigh 16 stone, you fat bastard.
At 08:00:06 you weigh 15... Nah only kidding. You weigh 16 stone, you fat bastard. Why haven't you lost any weight yet?
at 08:00:08am you weigh 16 stone and 2oz. Have you just bought a Twix?
At 08:00:20am I am walking to work barefoot as I have thrown my shoes in the nearest bin
Re: Just too bad..
Ah, but now you could stop carrying your phone around, and start wearing a watch that tells the time and is a phone. Well I say watch, obviously Will.I.punctuate tells me to say cuff. This is down to the mobile company's 15 year contract...
Re: Bling bling
big, gold, and worn around the neck
Why thank you. I shall market this idea forthwith. The gold bling-phone that you wear. But who wants stuff weighing down their wrist? Who can be bothered to hold their arm up to their mouth to talk into it? Who wants to look like David Hasslehoff in Knight Rider?
Welcome to the new: Torq
Dear El Reg
Isn't it about time you had a report ad button, as a way to catch mis-behaving ads? There are quite a few of them, and it's bad for your reputation - and yet does no harm to the reputation of the unknown ad network that foisted them on you. Your button should push a complaint to you for action, and maybe copy in the network as well - to let them know they're pissing off potential customers. Maybe the final ad client as well?
You had that O2 campaign a few months ago that went wrong. Yet you were contracted to run the bugger for a whole week - and it made the site un-visitable. I did read a few stories in whichever browser I found the ads didn't bugger up (my iPad I think). Obviously a nice report to the ad network had no effect - why would they give a fuck, it was your reputation that got damaged? But a few grumpy and possibly pithy comments from El Reg commentards via a complaint button may have woken O2 up to the damage they were doing their own brand image. Even if not, it would have allowed a few of your denizens a chance to have a good old vent. Satisfying at least.
P.S. - I see no cleavage. I have a chap in a polo shirt, and an odd constipated expression with a cat and an O2 logo. He's apparently an O2 Guru.
Re: I can't wait for the movie to come out.
Would sir like a trilogy?
The Bored Identity
The Bored Supremacy
The Bored Ultimatum
Re: Cheap enough
Sometimes I even work on my motor vehicles in there...
Have you considered installing a bar in there, instead?
Re: "The microSD slot at the bottom is open to the elements."
From where can I get one,
Dear @Handle, dear @Handle?
From where can I get one,
Dear @Handle, from where?
From Tesco dear R-C-H, dear R-C-H, dear R-C-H,
From Tesco dear R-C-H,
Dear R-C-H. Tesco.
As The Beatles said, All You Need is Hove.
Hove Is All Around Us
Thanks for joining the discussion. I did wonder about that Symbian thing, because Nokia always seemed to want to keep selling it, and drop it down to replace S40.
Does anybody know what Nokia's Symbian pre-orders were looking like, before the burning platforms statement. Or had any inside information about what the carriers were thinking? I suppose it's hard to get that now, as everyone's wise after the event, but would the carriers have dumped Symbian at that pace anyway, given that Android was now viable on much cheaper handsets? I remember buying a Lumia 710 quite early, to replace my under-powered HTC Wildfire - but at the time you could pick up decent top-end 'Droids from the previous year for £250 and there were various low-end 'Droids at the £100 mark. They were still 'landfill Android', but it was obvious that within a year or two that would no longer be the case, as the chips got cheaper, and so it proved.
Thanks for an excellent post. I hadn't read anywhere that killing S60 was part of the Microsoft deal. I still can't decide if I think the burning platforms was the right thing to do. Nokia wanted to keep milking that for cash until they could get Windows Phone products out there. But, they also had to announce they were going Win Pho, so everyone would know or suspect that S60 was doomed. Also he had to make huge internal changes at Nokia, which needed a sense of urgency and an understanding of the threat to the company. Those S60 sales, and the S40 sales too, were already doomed. It was just a matter of time as to when the market moved on, and a race to see if Nokia could get something in place in time.
However I'm not sure I buy your argument that Nokia's experience in mobile Linux was much use to them. They were no longer the leader in mobile Linux, that was Google - who had far surpassed them. They didn't have a product ready to market using it. And given their previous failures to produce any Linux-based phones that were actually ready, why would they do better now? Could you honestly call the N800 and N900 finished?
Also remember that Amazon succeeded in the tablet market, due to their enormous existing market lead in films/music/books. That content is what sold their tablets, despite a disappointing operating system. Whereas their first attempt to get into the tougher phone market has so far failed, and came 2 years later.
Elop literally bet the company on this deal with Microsoft and arguably burned several magnitudes worth more in existing assets and investments than he recovered with the ultimate sale to Microsoft (5 billion $) while simultaneously decimating revenue. Ultimately, he bet wrong and he destroyed billions of investment and market cap.
I agree that Elop bet the company on Windows. I can't personally see any better choice. Whatever he'd done was a gamble with the company though. At the point he took over, there was no safe bet.
I think all the other choices would have failed too. The difference was that MS had a stake in saving Nokia, and had to. Had MS done their job properly, Nokia might even have succeeded. But as usual MS seem to have only committed resources to their mobile divsion half-heartedly. As with wasting their investment in Windows Mobile. Rather than going all out to catch up, and surpass the opposition. They went slowly to catch-up.
But the really sad thing is that he didn't destroy billions of value in R&D. There was no value in that R&D any more. Too much of it was half-finished. Too much had been made irrelevant by the market changing so fast. If Nokia could have brought some of their R&D to market in 2005-2010, they'd almost certainly stilll be a major player in mobile. But they didn't. The world moved on. And all that time, money and effort poured into R&D was pissed away by previous management. And it fell to Elop to dump it. What a waste.
Re: Dead horse still getting flogged
UIQ was great. I had a Sony Ericsson P800 in 2003. But it was dead by what, 2005? Sony had given up on it well before the iPhone was even rumoured. And even in its heydey, whenever I found a good app, the bugger was always for S60.
Even when the best Symbian phones by far were the P800 and P900, Symbian was still Nokia. Which is one reason why Sony Ericsson decided to dump it, and abandon smartphones.
It's also the reason that I decided that smartphones weren't worth the hassle, and went back to a dumbphone. Motorola RAZR V3 as happens, my favourite phone. Didn't get another smartphone until 2010, I'd had enough of being an early-adopter.
"He was wrong, but could anybody have reliably predicted it at the time?"
A huge number of Reg readers predicted it. Well extrapolated from MS EEE approach that has existed since they got bigger than a shed.
A large number of Reg readers predicted the failure of the iPhone and iPad. The triumph of netbooks. All sorts of other things. You can always find someone to say "I predicted that". But unless they're consistent about being right most of the time, why would you listen to their opinion beforehand? A stopped clock is right twice a day...
Microsoft aren't a hardware company (even though they sell quite a bit of it). Why would they want to own Nokia? It's clear their board didn't, even after Ballmer decided he did. So that blows the trojan-horse bollocks out of the water. As if anyone believed they were capable of the machiavellian plot under Ballmer anyway.
Microsoft are a software company. It's how they see themsevlves. And they therefore want to sell software. This meant that they'd never give Nokia total control or priority. As they'd always be hoping for other partners to join the Windows Phone ecosystem. But it was clearly in their own self-interest to do everything they could to help Nokia.
It was perfectly valid for Elop to believe that his connections at Microsoft should get him some leverage. Remember Microsoft were paying Nokia well over a billion dollars in marketing support as well. So it's not as if he didn't get a commitment out of them. And everyone in both companies knew if Nokia failed, that Windows Phone would fail. Which is why Microsoft just bought a failing phone company they didn't even want for $4 billion. Although I suppose that's still a better purchase than $10bn for Autonomy...
Finally, the people who argue that MS weren't a suitable partner fail to say who was. Google weren't offering free money. They were offering to buy Nokia's patents off them, i.e. buy their crown jewels for cheap. Bearing in mind the Nokia board haven't even sold those patents to Microsoft, only given them a ten year license. So Google's deal was pretty shit. And Google don't give a damn about their hardware partners. Notice how only Samsung is making any money?
So Elop's options were to go MS, or keep on trucking with Nokia's internal development, and see if he could get something out the door from all their wonderful innovation. Which presumamably meant taking a couple of layers of management out into the forest and shooting them, then finding some more management that could pick a winner from all the competing projects, push more engineering resources into actually finishing one of them - and actually shipping some product. Nokia had failed to do this for the last 5-10 years, so although I think Elop was a wuss for not trying it, I can well understand that he thought it was too much of a gamble, and decided to bet the shareholders money on something a bit safer. And his bet paid off. They got to sell their phone division to MS. That was always a likely (if by no means certain) plan B, as MS would have to buy Nokia or see their entire mobile strategy go up in flames. Rather like Nokia, they were doing well in mobile up until 2003. But then masively dropped the ball.
The most telling thing from the article for me is the bit from Nokia's ex CEO. I very much doubt that it's unprecendented in the whole of history for two outside players to come and take over another industry. He seems to be drawing the lesson from that, "well what do you do?" Whereas the lesson I'd draw is that a large industry's leading players had failed so spectacularly that two outside companies had managed to come in, and kick seven bells of crap out of the incumbents, because the incumbents were crap. If theyve been well managed, there would have been less opportunity.
Also MS were a new player as well. Those with longer memories will recall how MS were going to fail, when they entered the mobile industry in the late 90s. And how Nokia and Sony were going to cooperate over Symbian, so that Windows Mobile wouldn't do to them what MS did to IBM. And yet by 2003, MS had half the smartphone market, and Sony and Nokia had totally failed to cooperate over Symbian. As I well know, as a former Sony Ericsson P800 owner. Great phone, but the software was crippled by the fact that Sony and Nokia had made their two versions of Symbian incompatible, so whenever you found a good app you wanted, it was always for the other version.
So my conclusion from the fact that Microsoft, then RIM, then Apple, then Google then Samsung entered the mobile market and all came to dominate (to various degrees) in their turn, is that the incumbents in the industry were shit. And managed by useless tossers. As they had all the patents, and all the contacts. Where are the mobile giants of Sony, Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia now? Admittedly Sony are still going, but there seems to be a rumour every year that they're going to give up on phones, and I don't think they've turned a profit in the last 5 years. Maybe more.
Re: I think you're all missing the point here
No chance. I believe it's in Sky's Ts&Cs that you have to connect your Sky box to the internet. But it works perfectly fine without it. I rather foolishly plugged mine in, in order to be able to record stuff from my phone - and in fact use a phone/tablet as a nice remote control. And my reward was for them to update the software and make it slightly worse... But it worked perfectly well for months without.
I guess the worry is if there's ubiquitous WiFi out there, or 4G gets incredibly cheap. Then the buggers will be able to log themselves on without your permission. But while they have to connect to my WiFi router, they stay offline, and expecting connection would be an unreasonable term in the contract that would be struck down by UK and EU law.
Anyway, the appliance makers want to charge extra for it. Like the TV makers have this bizarred idea that people want to pay extra for smart TV. My Panasonic cheapy has the same panel as some of the smarties, but is missing about £5 worth of chippery that would make it smart and have put £300 on the price. Of course by only giving me 2 HDMI connections, and RCA stereo sockets that only take input (rather than output sound), they've severely limited the connectivity. So if I needed more than that I'd have been forced to buy a smart telly, but it's way cheaper to have some sort of cable switcher thingymajig.
In the case of a smart fridge, it's going to need a display screen and a way to interact (something already built into a telly), so there'll be a genuine extra cost. Or a smartphone app, in which case it'll all be managed via the manufacturers website. I wonder at what point will it be impossible to buy a dumbphone - so that manufacturers can assume that everyone has a smartphone to act as controller?
Re: sentient fridge
"Computer. If you don't open this airlock immediately, I'm going straight to you rmajor databanks with a large axe. And I'm going to give you a reprogramming you'll never forget."
A sea of troubles.
There are so many problems with the Internet of Things. And what's so funny is that for all the industry is shouting about it (and licking its lips about the coming cash bonanza), almost all of those problems are created by the IT industry itself.
Security in embedded systems is currently laughable. And doesn't seem to be improving, despite the last 20 years of computer history. That's pathetic and inexcusable. Almost no-one who's used a computer in that time hasn't had to deal with spam, incoming viruses and phishing. And coders and engineers use computers more than most.
Everyone is so greedy that there are seemingly as many compteting standards as there are industry players. It's going to be impossible to dominate IoT in the way you could conceivably dominate the operating system market, because you're talking about so many different players. Especially if you're talking about commercial as well as domsetic systems. There are now some alliances, but there seem to be hundreds of them too.
Then we come to data privacy. People are starting to notice Facebook and Google. They may continue to ignore the problem, but society can change very quickly. Politicians can suddenly take notice of a problem, if the electorate shout loudly enough, and suddenly tell all those corporate lobbyists to bugger off. Remember that Germany are increasinly influential in the EU, and their electoare are already deeply concenrned about privacy. They've just got their commissioner put in place to look at it, and there's reasonable evidence to suggest that it was anti-Google elements in the German press (Axel Springer) that helped get the current Commission President his job. The EU may suddenly start pushing for better privacy, so might the electorate. A lot of the IoT and internet companies seem to be blissfully unaware of this risk.
This wouldn't be so much of a problem, except the easiest and cheapest way to run these things is going to be via websites. Otherwise you have to have appliances designed for the control job, which then have to be flexible enough to do all sorts of things. i.e. mini PCs.
The next problem that I think is huge is one that is dear to my heart. Or pisses me off every day in my work (depending on your point of view). The hideous and stupid cheapskatery of the building industry. This is true of both the commercial and domestic lot. The industry is set up to fail, because clients never get involved enough or have their interests properly represented. The only time they do interfere, is to screw everyone over on money. So costs get cut in totally inappropriate ways. This means that there's never going to be wiring for IoT, or places to fit the sensors.
Take an example of something I saw over ten years ago. Central Locking for houses. The idea being that just like a car, you leave, press the button on your keyfob, and everything gets locked, and alarm is set. Or you get a warning if you've left a window open. This would cost almost nothing to do when building a house, but to retrofit it (and not have it look a mess) would cost thousands. The same is true of solar panels (PV or thermal). Installation usually costs more than the equipment, but when you're already building the roof, that installation cost drops to a couple of extra hours work from the guys already onsite.
That throws everything back on wireless. Can anyone think of a wireless installation they've used that's worked flawlessly? And hasn't crapped out at some vital moment? And how many times do you have to explain to people that it might be a good idea to reboot their wireless router before claiming their broadband or computer isn't working? That's one major disadvantage of wireless. As well as interference, buildings with thick internal walls that block signals. Before I've even mentioned hospitals, who're paranoid about wireless signals (although less so than they used to be). Certainly last time we looked at a wireless sensor for work, one of the main target markets was hospitals and so the idea was nixed. Just as well, as I was working up my arguments as to why it wouldn't work in this application anyway - and rather concerned about how enthusiastic people were getting about it.
The place the internet of things should take off is commercial buildings. Many of them have already got BMS systems. Which will take a variety of inputs and can be easily programmed. Many of them have also massively cut back on maintenance, and often no longer have caretakers onsite. So remote reporting is an obvious solution. And many of them suffer from the problem that vital kit is in locked rooms, that it's not always easy to find the keyholder for. Plus there's easy access to wiring ducts, and non-public facing areas to put everything. But I guess that's not cool enough for the Silicon Valley types - and there's no enticing gobs of data to attract anyone either. Also you're dealing with engineers, who're less likely to accept products that are still in beta. Wheras it would actually be a good place to build the industry, due to the ease of retro-fitting stuff.
I'd say it's hard to predict. There are many reasons for the industry to fail to take off. But the fact that so many people have smartphones and tablets means that the control issue is a lot easier. So my feeling is that it's ten years away, as it has been for the last twenty or thirty years. But it only takes a few surprising products to go mainstream, to suddenly kickstart a whole industry - where the technology has been available for a while, but not been properly made to work. Sorry, that's a lot of text to eventually say "I don't know"?
I used to be an ex-pat. Now living back home in dear old Blighty. Does that make me an ex-ex-pat?
Or just Pat?
Re: @I ain't Spartacus to buy a failing company
Our tellies in the 70s had rounded tops. I think we had one totally square one in the early 80s. My Mum put a vase of flowers on it.
But then I didn't see a set-anything-box until the mid-80s, when people started getting video recorders. There was very little cable TV in the UK before the 90s, and satellite was the late 80s.
I suppose a lot of the 60s TVs had a flat top, as they came in in cabinets with doors.
I don't know. I've been trying to get to 2500 global downvotes on El Reg for like 8 months. It's harder than you'd think. Currently, it's a race to see what milestone is fit first: 15K upvotes, or 2.5K downvotes.
I'm impressed you're so popular on here. An up-down ratio of 6:1 isn't bad at all, for someone who occasionally states heavily unpopular opinions. As well as admitting to having a good old troll sometimes... I must confess I'm tempted to downvote you a few times, just to help you reach your milestone.
I think you'll struggle to maintain the hate though. This site is getting friendlier. A couple of years ago I had a discussion about up/down votes and was impressed that the saintly TeeCee was loved by 9 times as many commentards as hated him. While my ratio was a less loveable 6:1, and almost immediately headed down to 5:1.
And yet a quick check now has me at 9,800:1,193 - a surprisingly cuddly 8:1. I don't think I post much differently. Although my somewhat anti-Google and pro-WinPho stances are probably less unfashionable than they were a couple of years ago. But I've replaced that unpopularity by suggesting that perhaps not all bankers should be hung, drawn and quartered on Dominic Connor articles.
Perhaps I am a troll after all? I am a troll, fol-de-rol... To me, a troll is someone who deliberately sets out to annoy people, for no apparent reason. And that's how I've always seen it, and I try not to feed them.
They are quite hard to tell apart from the loudmouths with massively strong opinions, but low on debating skills. I usually have plenty of patience to discuss with these people. Do they really believe the positions they take, or are just being annoying? I'm not sure they always know themselves. Or it differs, but they've got so used to being isolated due to their lack of communication skills, that they get used to it.
I wouldn't regard myself as a troll. I often disagree with the 'mood of the thread' if such a thing can be divined. But I only do that if I actually do disagree, try to put and argument and stay polite. I'm very rarely worse than mildly sarcastic - even if provoked. So I'd call myself a debater.
I guess it always comes down to definitions. It's the hacker/cracker thing all over again. Some people seem to think there's a sort of noble art of trolling. A game, where getting responses is winning, but the posts aren't offensive in themselves. That all seems a bit pointless to me. And verging on acting like an arse. Doesn't seem much different to posting something offensive to get a reaction really. The same ends, just not making quite so many rude noises.
Oh dear. I'm reminded of the trolling and smack-talk in Eve Online, when I used to play. Some of that was truly tragic.
But people just couldn't ignore it for some weird reason. Even though it was in the system local chat, which you didn't even have any reason to look at. You just needed the list of ships in system, next to it.
Apparently care bears cry tears over ebil piwates. And this makes the ebil piwates (who I feel sure will have considered themselves to be l33t) feel good, or something.
I guess we then have to argue what you mean by troll.
There's the kind of people who are actively trying to get down-votes and negative responses as some sort of weird validation of their existence. I suppose you could argue that's low self-esteem, but I think in a lot of cases it is because they feel that they've successfully pushed people's buttons and got their sadistic pleasure out of pissing them off. It's not a notion I can really understand. I also get the imporession it makes some of them feel that they're showing their superior intelect, and the sheeple's failure to agree with them is yet more proof of their stupidity.
That was certainly my feeling from my days of being a forum Mod. Much more interactive than here, we had to justify our ban to the luser in question, and enter into some sort of correspondence with them, to make the buggers feel better. Or to try and reform their behaviour or something.
I'm glad to say the word sheeple wasn't in common currency back when I was modding. Otherwise I think I'd have banned everyone who used it.
As for Machiavellian, very few of the trolls I've encountered have struck me as being bright enough for that.
Also we need to factor in alcohol. Anyone who's run a forum knows that things get more 'interesting' and feisty once the pubs have shut on a Friday/Saturday night. Well I suppose it's better than getting into fights in carparks...
Re: Trolling for suckers
Why it almost makes me nostalgic for the old days of people telling US posters that they were late for WWII, only to be answered that "if it wasn't for us you'd be speaking German now".
An argument I haven't seen for years and years. And was obvious bollocks anyway, because even invasion, occupation and SS torture wouldn't get the British to be any good at foreign languages. Not when we can shout, "Oi Fritz! Zwei beers please!"
As I recall from the dim-and-distant past when I read Lord of the Rings Dumbledore was asked by git-wizard David Blaine to chop down the Faraway Tree because it was singing too loudly and interrupting his evil HR manager, who was trying to organise 30% redundancies in his shockingly over-manned (over-orced?) army...
I have in the past bought music by U2 (a 'best of' album). Although it was on CD. So far I have used an Amazon voucher to purchase one song via download. I have 200 CDs worth plus rips in iTunes though.
And it turns out that I downloaded U2 onto my iPad. So I'm one of the 26-odd million that downloaded the whole thing. Well actually I'm not. Out of curiousity I looked to see if it was there, and magically it was. Without me doing anything, and despite not having synched the device with a PC in a while. And iCloud being off on the iPad, so far as I was aware. Apple must have re-enabled it at some update or another.
I suspect in that light, that the 26m downloads is therefore less impressive. I'm not angry. All Apple did was give me some free music. Admittedly they did take a few MB of my download allowance, but I'll live.
It was a properly dull album though. I listened all the way through and I think there was one song that was vaguely memorable. I suppose if you're going to give an album away for free, you may as well make it a dull but OK one, so you can sell the good stuff on the next one.
Re: Can someone tell me...
It's a bloody long way to Snappy Snaps...
Re: BRIAN COX....
Whenever I've seen any Brian Cox stuff on telly, it's been dumbed down science-lite with soaring instrumentals and lots of shots of him looking moody on mountainsides. But that's not necessarily his fault, that's just TV. So I don't watch any of his telly stuff. Sadly large chunks of the rest of the BBC's TV documentary output have gone the same way, so that Horizon is now pretty much unwatchable for example. Although there's plenty of better stuff on BBC4.
But if you listen to Brian Cox on Radio 4 (the home of civilisation), you get a much better impression. I was just listening to a podcast of 'The Infinite Monkey Cage' on my way into work this morning. Which I recomend. Scientific discussion with a mix of scientists and interested comedians - hosted by Brian Cox and Robin Ince. It turns out that Brian Cox likes to be rude about homeopathy, astrology, mediums... And chemistry...
Re: Done and done
Real World? Surely you jest. There's nothing North of that thar London but an ice-filled wasteland full of wolves, bears and savages. I've seen a documentary about it. It was called Game of Thrones I think...
Re: Money Talks
Then they should sack the Board. They have the majority of the votes, or the activists would be running the company.
It's also not true that they always leave the company screwed. Apple and MS have been hoarding money for no good reason. It's up to the board to justify why they're holding on to all of that. They couldn't. So they were made to hand some of it back to its owners. That's what shareholder means. In the UK it would probably have been via dividends.
Plus it stops the board being tempted to blow a few billion on a Whatsapp...
Re: @Spartacus (No many times its NOT really their money!)
Employees get paid. That's their reward for the work they do to build the company. It would be nice if they could have share-options, so they too can become owners. But like customers, if you don't like the offer, go elsewhere. I don't see why shareholders should have their property seized, just because someone else fancies it. Obviously tax should be properly collected i.e. simplified and enforced - so everyone pays a proper share.
Remember that many shares are owned by pension funds. You can't magically tax the fat cats without accidentally nuking the pensions of ordinary workers.
As for employees' healthcare and pension benefits, I agree. Pension funds should not even be allowed to hold shares or assets from their parent company. So if it goes bust, they don't lose all their assets as well as their contributor. And so desperate execs can't borrow from the pension fund when no one else will touch them. Before going pop, and hitting staff with the double-whammy of redundancy and lost benefits.
Re: Activist Investors & Venture Captialists
What's this stakeholder thing supposed to mean? Am I a stakeholder of The Register, just for being a reader? Do I have a right to veto how much profit they're allowed to make? Can I insist that they must invest all their cash in a better forum design, rather than spending it down the pub. Or blowing it on rockets...
Shareholders are owners. It's their property. And they should have a right to do what they like with their stuff, in compliance with the law and absent a court order. The company has legal duties towards its staff of course. And fewer towards its customers. But if the customer doesn't like it, their choice is to take their money elsewhere. Again, so long as their legal rights have been met. Executive pay has bugger-all to do with them.
Until the voters tell the politicians to change the law, giving customers representation on the board. Then watch business flee our country, and our economy suffer.
It's all very fine and dandy saying how you'd like a share of other people's property. But if you do that too arbitrarily, you're no longer running a free economy - and people will start squirrelling their money away elsewhere. There's a lot of deeply unattractive stuff goes on in the City. But the side-effects of mustering the morality police and mounting our high horses could be quite dangerous. We've got plenty to do trying to regulate our banks for now.
Yes it's sad that the Glazers got to buy Man U for a song, them load it up with debt and make a killing. But that's because everyone else undervalued it, so they got it incredibly cheap. Very hard to regulate to stop that, and I'm not even sure we have any right to complain. Other than a general feeling that someone's getting more than we are...
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