The once-venerable now severely tarnished Hewlett-Packard Co. has indicated that it will put between 25,000 and 30,000 people on the unemployment line in coming days. The company has suffered in recent years from terrible CEO hiring, confusing strategy, and decreased demand for many of its products.
I generally believe that when companies decide they want to convince institutional investors (aka Wall Street) that they are serious about turning a profit, the first knee-jerk response they have is to trim the workforce. Never mind they could save as much money by cutting salaries in the upper reaches of management, partnering with other companies to share or offload less profitable operations while preserving jobs, and in many other well-known and well-documented ways to reduce costs without destroying workers' lives and livelihoods.
Here, we have a company that has been so poorly managed that its R&D labs, once the jewel not only of the company but of the tech industry, has been reduced to near rubble, with scientists there reportedly reduced to running key systems on pirated software, takes the axe to people to try to recover from yet another series of stupid decision making by the top execs. Meanwhile, company employees and observers have suggested that cutting R&D in the past has contributed heavily to the company's current woes. In addition, the company appears to be pinning significant near-term hopes on cranking up its cloud storage server farms offering at a time when Asian suppliers are on a slash-and-burn attack that sells capacity by the rack and is clearly squeezing out American companies like Dell and HP.
If there were a way to calculate and factor into a company's earnings the human costs of layoffs so that the stock price after such a move would accurately reflect the company's value, perhaps corporations would try harder to find more creative and intelligent solutions that would end the misery of so many thousands of lives casually tossed aside by those looking down from the Mahogany Rows of American business.
Bill Hewlett & David Packard must be mourning the loss of the icon they founded and nursed so brilliantly for so many years.
Pinterest lined up another $100 million in investment today. This is starting to feel like another Dot Bomb bubble build-up as Facebook with some ad revenue well short of a valuation of $100B and now Pinterest with, as far as I can tell, no revenue to speak of. Yet FB is valued at over $100B based on their imminent IPO price and Pinterest has an apparent value of $200M based on investment prior to the most recent one.
That matter aside, I hope Pinterest uses some of this new money to build up a viable server farm. In the past week, I've been unable to reach the site three different times. Just get timeouts. I thought it was perhaps a transient, temporary problem. But my youngest daughter, who's a big Pinhead (naw, wrong way to say that…LOL) says it's not at all uncommon. If they're going to grow toward an IPO or an acquisition, they'll need to get smarter on the tech side of things.
Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson, in hot water over a fake degree claimed on his resume, used the famous SODDI defense (Some Other Dude Did It). He disclaims any knowledge of who would make such an amendment to his resume or how it would end up on the Yahoo site and in Federal financial filings.
But the same entry has appeared on previous versions of his resume; he just didn't get caught those times.
So either he is a liar or he trusts others with something as important as his public biography. In other words, he's either dishonest or incompetent. For either reason, he should leave his post. Yahoo doesn't need this at a time when its fortunes are in such decline.
Yahoo! says the misrepresentation on recently hired CEO Scott Thompson's resume that appeared to give him some tech chops he doesn't have was an "inadvertent error."
Really? You're really going with that excuse?
Tell me something. How do you accidentally put a line on a resume claiming a degree you don't have in a subject you don't know from a college you never attended but which in fact exists? Huh? How do you make that mistake exactly? Copy-and-paste from someone else's resume, maybe?
I mean, it's not good that Thompson (or someone who works for him) made this "mistake." But for Yahoo! to try to brush off such blatant dishonesty says more about the mud into which that company's once-lofty ethical culture has slid than it does about him.
My guess? This guy's a goner. Three months tops.
Salon.com today has a review of a new book that explodes the myth of the "self-made person" and in the process brings the conservative house of cards it barely supports crashing to the playing field. Maybe some of the craters will level that field if enough people pay attention.
The book, The Self-Made Myth: The Truth About How Government Helps Individuals and Businesses Succeed, is the work of Brian Miller and Mike Lapham. Using the technique of interviewing a number of well-known business leaders and weaving their stories together, the duo make the case that nobody does it entirely on their own any more, if ever they did. My favorite pull-quote:
Saying you did it all yourself and therefore don’t owe anybody anything is about as absurd (and self-centered) as saying that you raised yourself from babyhood, without any input from your parents, and therefore don’t have any further obligations to your family.
The centrality of this myth — it's the basis for almost all of the disingenuousness of the conservative socio-economic policy positions in the United States — makes this book extremely important reading.
Matt Taibi over at RollingStone.com has a piece today on how the Obama Administration's JOBS bill acts as a Trojan Horse from some truly atrocious and dangerous new deregulation intended to benefit primarily high-tech startup companies. The headline on his article is "Why Obama's JOBS Bill Couldn't Suck Worse."
Just an appetizer here before you pop over and read the whole piece (which I heartily recommend). The bill exempts companies from having to have independent accounting audits for the first five years after going public. Huh? Taibi has a nice satire on that point.
This is just one more indication of how little difference we often find between the two political parties when we scratch the surface. Kudos to Taibi, one of my favorite journalists, for scratching this one.
Yahoo is apparently poised to lay off thousands of workers and eliminate a substantial number of projects as it tries to turn its fortunes around.
I predict these moves will only hasten Yahoo's ultimate decline and absorption.
You can't cut your way to revenue growth. This move will result in hundreds, if not thousands, of talented Yahoo workers deciding they should be at least hedging their bets, working less hard, and keeping their eyes open for other opportunities. It may start a serious brain drain. At the least, it will put the company at a severe disadvantage when the economy turns around in California in 6-9 months.
Back in the 1970's, Intel used to lick its chops when an economic downturn came around. They'd use the time to snap up talented engineers from companies like Zilog and AMD and Motorola who would respond to such news with cutbacks and layoffs. Then when things turned around — as they inevitably do — Intel was sitting pretty with great new talent, and very often new products and technologies developed during the lull. They weren't Wall Street's darlings of the semiconductor business for no reason.
In high tech where things are inherently volatile, taking such drastic action as Yahoo apparently is planning is plain short-sighted. It's the new beginning of a new and final end for the once-shiny company.
I use QuickBooks Online for my personal and business bookkeeping needs and am, overall, relatively happy with it. I've used the desktop version of QB for many years but I was always hampered by their ludicrous use policy that prohibited me from having the app running on my home and office machines. So when QBO became available and stable, I switched.
The other day, I noticed they were offering merchant services. I'm a fairly satisfied PayPal merchant, so I normally ignore such things. (For example, even though I'm a self-confessed Google addict, or "Goodict", I haven't looked seriously at Google Checkout.) But since it promised some automation between credit card charges and my QBO app, I thought I'd investigate it. So I filled out their online application form and submitted it.
This morning's email brought me a response. They asked me to agree to a specific policy they have before processing my request further. Here's the content of the PDF file they sent me:
"Please acknowledge and agree that your consulting/coaching/classes/seminars/conference to be conducted on a face to face (in person) basis with the client/cardholder. Charges on services that are not conducted in person (by phone or online) will not be processed through this merchant account. Please be advised that the face to face requirement only applies to the actual service that you will be providing to your client, the credit card/payment does not have to be conducted in person. In order to proceed, you will need to agree to this policy."
Huh? Did I fall into a wormhole and end up back in the 1990's? Really? A company that wouldn't exist but for the computer and which would have been buried by the Internet but for its online service is blocking the use of its merchant accounts for virtual transactions? You must be joking.
Here's my response:
"I will not be proceeding with this application. Your policy with respect to providing online services is unnecessarily and prohibitively restrictive. I conduct many classes, seminars, workshops and one-on-one training and coaching activities online and over the phone, as do 90% of my colleagues. By enforcing this antiquated policy, you not only make it impossible for a large segment of this market to use your services, you also bring your understanding of the Internet and the 21st Century into serious question."
I am always amazed when I encounter such Ludditism, particularly when it involves people and companies who depend on the technology they are targeting with their ill-considered ideas and policies.
I must be getting cranky in my old age.
In the past two days I've received about six email marketing letters telling me that someone out there has some magic solution that will let me take something about me "to the next level." Really? I didn't realize I was in a video game where there are levels! Nobody tells me anything!
One of these emails said I could take my Web skills to the next level. Assuming there are levels (and I've looked all over my desk, in my filing cabinets, and searched the entire Internet and I'm darned if I can find anyplace that defines these levels if they exist), how can you promise to take me to the next one without knowing which one I'm on now?
Another promo told me they could help me take my spiritual awareness to a whole new level. Funny, I've been studying ( and teaching) spirituality for many years and I always viewed that path as one of steady progression, not measurable levels. Let alone getting the idea that someone outside myself could help me find a new (presumably higher) level of spirituality without knowing even how I define spirituality or what my path is.
If the best marketing idea you have is so vague that you can't describe it intelligently and articulately, how can you expect me to trust you to help me improve my skills? What are you going to do? Tell me how to promise other people to take them to the next level?
Gimme a break.
David Einhorn, president of well-known investment firm Greenlight has told an audience at an investment show that Microsoft's board should give CEO Steve Ballmer the old heave-ho. That would be a great move, though it comes a couple of years late.
Einhorn accused Ballmer of having a "Charlie Brown" style of management and said that the guy who replaced legendary founder Bill Gates is "stuck in the past. He’s allowed competitors to beat Microsoft in huge areas, including search, mobile-communications software, tablet computing and social networking. Even worse, his response to these failures has been to pour tremendous resources into efforts to develop his way out of these holes.”
Under Ballmer's leadership, "Microsoft’s online services business, which includes the Bing search engine, lost more than $700 million last quarter."