Posts filed under “Corporate Management”
Last week, we discussed Google’s spreadsheet and word processor in context of a $300 PC offer from Dell; The PC — monitor included — cost more than the full version of Microsoft Office:
"A few weeks ago, I got a snail mail offer from Dell for a pretty fast
2.4Ghz machine — 17" CRT included — for the "low low price" of $300.
I was about to buy (yet another) machine for the office — when it
dawned on me that Office Professional-Small Business cost $320 — more
than the PC itself. I decided to pass. (I could have gotten Office
Basic — Word, Excel and Outlook — for $70). I suspect this process
occurs lots of times in small businesses in America.
In Google’s short history, they have continuously rolled out more
and more offerings. I suspect that 5 years from now, we will look back
to discover that a full featured Office equivalent has developed.
In the alternative, is there anyway this ends up helping Microsoft? I can’t think of any."
Today’s NYT has a similar column:
"The biggest expense in buying a new computer is not always the computer. After all, you can buy a new Dell desktop, and a good one at that, for $300 and get a monitor in the bargain.
The software to make a PC do anything useful can cost you as much as the computer. To accomplish even the most basic functions on the computer, like writing, you could pay $400 for the standard edition of Microsoft’s Office suite that includes Word for word processing, Excel for spreadsheets, Outlook for e-mail and PowerPoint for boring everyone with slideshow presentations.
You can find software that is cheaper. Yet a stripped-down student and teacher edition of Word still costs $150 and even Microsoft Works 8.0, a really basic version of Word and Excel, is $50.
There is another way to do almost everything these programs can do — some would say you can actually do more — and you can do it free. A number of smart programmers have developed word processing, spreadsheet, calendar and other software that you operate while in a Web browser.
No one is saying they are a direct substitute for Word or Excel, but they do have a distinct advantage. The programs can be used by several people at different computers to collaborate on a document."
Its not quite a "read it here first," but it does have a similar flavor.
I like the Times’ focus — not on the Google vs Microsoft aspect of this,
but rather on the variety of free web based software you can put on a
cheap PC. Its a good set of resources for those looking for a cheap 2nd
or 3rd machine.
UPDATE: June 17, 2006 9:13am
Okay, okay! When 5 emailers tell me Open Office is th way to go within minutes of this posting, I must offer up a link:
Google vs Microsoft: Now We’re Getting Serious
The Big Picture, Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Now, Free Ways to Do Desktop Work on the Web
NYTimes, June 17, 2006
Over a year ago, I noted the decaying customer service quality in a few companies: In particular, Dell got named as a significant offender. (More recently, I complained about obnoxious Dell preinstalls).
I collected a ton of emails from readers about consumer complaints (mostly from January 2005).
I should have paid closer attention. Although I did not have a position in Dell, I missed the opportunity to short it.
Since that deluge of criticism in January 2005 the stock has underperformed dramatically, down 35% from over $41 to under $27. The stock was recently downgraded to a SELL at Citigroup — see that red bar down towards the far right on big volume? That’s the downgrade. The sell rating was due in part to customer service complaints.
The XM chart shows that I am already late to this kvetch-fest — it looks like XM may already have had their Dell moment — the stock is down even more — a 50% haircut from $40 to $20. Ouch!
There’s only so much any company can cut their "basic business concept" before they start causing a problem with their consumers. That obviously happened at Dell, via the degradation of their "vaunted customer service" and it appears to be going on at XMSR.
Quite bluntly, if your business model is based on a specific concept, you screw around with that at your own risk. For Dell, it was cheap and direct sales coupled with great customer service; Saving a few pennies by outsourcing/cutting back on support, and/or switching to cheaper components (as some readers have complained about with Dell) seems to be corporate suicide.
For XM, it may be that cutting the variety of their offerings will be their Waterloo. Their raison d’etre seems to be a broad and deep variety of eclectic channels. But as Chrissy Hyndes sang so long ago: But you mess with the goods doll, honey, you gotta pay. *
Here’s the post that started the calvalcade of complaints:
"I keep getting e-mail from disgruntled XM subscribers. That their favorite channel, #51, Music Lab, has bitten the dust. I’ll print one below.
This is totally fucked up. The promise of satellite radio was to go deep, to provide something for EVERYONE! But the new regime at XM, the Infinity assholes, are turning XM into the bullshit terrestrial radio that they came from. And this makes me CRAZY!
First came channel 49, Big Tracks. With the INANE tagline "Our Classic Rock". This is just the kind of b.s. unlistenable terrestrial classic rock stations use. And the station’s got no DEPTH! Just the same fucking tracks over and over again. With no surprises.
But now it’s worse. Music Lab was booted and what did we get? MORE HITS CHANNELS!!!
We’ve got XM 17, U.S. Country, Country Superstars of the 80s and 90s.
How about XM 26, Flight 26, Modern Hits 90s and Now.
Or XM 30. Hitlist. TODAY’S Hit Music.
Or 68, The Heat, RHYTHMIC HITS!
Or 91, Viva, Latin Pop Hits.
Oh, they brought back Liquid Metal, which had been banished before, but what we’ve now got is endless b.s. hits stations, replicating what is ALREADY AVAILABLE ON XM, their only saving grace being no commercials.
This is a big deal. This is like the death of free-format FM radio, but WORSE! The golden era is OVER!
And what about the people who subscribed to XM ONLY for Music Lab? People like Craig Anderton, the electronic music and instrument GURU! Who signed up for two years, EXPECTING he’d be able to listen to his kind of music. Which he could get nowhere else, which is why he subscribed to XM.
The lunatics have taken over the asylum. DO NOT SUBSCRIBE TO XM! They don’t have Howard, and the people now running the place have their heads up their ass."
Reader responses follow . . .
UPDATE: May 23, 2006 8:21am
Nice mention of this post in Wes Phillips’s Stereophile Column this week
All of XM’s Trials
Stereophile, May 21, 2006
UPDATE: May 24, 2006 5:21pm
Geesh! The stock got shellacked today on a downgrade on subscriber expectations:
XM, the nation’s largest satellite radio provider, lowered its subscriber forecast, citing unexpected weakness in demand for its satellite radio service as well as potential legal pitfalls from a recording industry lawsuit.
It now expects to reach 8.5 million subscribers by the end of 2006, lower than its previous guidance for nine million customers by year’s end. The company had 6.5 million subscribers at the end of the first quarter.
Shares tumbled on the news, losing 11%, or $1.76, to $13.75 at 4 p.m. on the Nasdaq Stock Market.
The WSJ streak of taking very interesting columns and hiding them on Saturday continues.
Yesterday, they asked: Are some CEOs reaping millions by landing stock options when they are most valuable amatter of dumb luck — or something else?
"On a summer day in 2002, shares of
Affiliated Computer Services Inc. sank to their lowest level in a year.
Oddly, that was good news for Chief Executive Jeffrey Rich.
annual grant of stock options was dated that day, entitling him to buy
stock at that price for years. Had they been dated a week later, when
the stock was 27% higher, they’d have been far less rewarding. It was
the same through much of Mr. Rich’s tenure: In a striking pattern, all
six of his stock-option grants from 1995 to 2002 were dated just before
a rise in the stock price, often at the bottom of a steep drop.
lucky? A Wall Street Journal analysis suggests the odds of this
happening by chance are extraordinarily remote — around one in 300
billion. The odds of winning the multistate Powerball lottery with a $1
ticket are one in 146 million.
Suspecting such patterns aren’t
due to chance, the Securities and Exchange Commission is examining
whether some option grants carry favorable grant dates for a different
reason: They were backdated. The SEC is understood to be looking at
about a dozen companies’ option grants with this in mind.
Journal’s analysis of grant dates and stock movements suggests the
problem may be broader. It identified several companies with wildly
improbable option-grant patterns. While this doesn’t prove chicanery,
it shows something very odd: Year after year, some companies’ top
executives received options on unusually propitious dates.
analysis bolsters recent academic work suggesting that backdating was
widespread, particularly from the start of the tech-stock boom in the
1990s through the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate reform act of 2002. If so,
it was another way some executives enriched themselves during the boom
at shareholders’ expense. And because options grants are long-lived,
some executives holding backdated grants from the late 1990s could
still profit from them today."
The chart below implies that the odds against these being random are quite high. (I guess Sarbanes Oxley didn’t root out all the corporate corruption after all).
Last week it was the mortgage resets, and this week its CEO Options. Great stories, buried on the front page — of the Saturday edition . . .
The Perfect Payday
CHARLES FORELLE and JAMES BANDLER
WSJ, March 18, 2006; Page A1
How the Journal Analyzed Stock-Option Grants
WSJ, March 18, 2006; Page A5