Economist Article on US Auto Industry

A great article in the print Economist 6/14 issue about the US auto industry and its impending demise. The article is behind the fee firewall, but some pithy highlights: The GM pension fund is underfunded by $19B, which is equal to the market cap of GM. GM has 2.5 pensioners for every active employee — and downsizing only makes the situation worse. They face declining domestic share. It just doesn’t look like there is a way for them to survive this. Ford is in little better shape. They both seem like bankruptcy candidates soon, which means the pensioners will get screwed. I hope the government doesn’t step in and try to save to corporate entities, I’d rather see our tax dollars go to protecting the pensioned workers and towards retraining the current workers, rather than protecting the corporate entities.

Merchandising Software

Great article about Lowe’s and how they manage their shelfspace. Their use of software to examine buying behaviour and plan out merchandise displays is fascinating. And it is interesting to see how their use of MarketMax gets pushed out to their suppliers — what a great pull for MarketMax. Found via Anil Dash (whose website is curiously unresponsive today).

Cingular vs AT&T on spectrum alloc

Cory Doctorow points to public comments on FCC discussions about some spectrum realloc. I like his description of the Cingular and ATT positions — I think that the contrast between Cingular and AT&T is especially striking here. AT&T is saying, yeah, we’re a telco, this is gonna gore our ox, so we’ve gone out and bought a different ox. Cingular is saying, dammit, that’s our ox, where do you get off goring it?

Your Strategy is What You Ship.

Your Strategy Is What You Ship. I was reminded of this quote today, taught to me when I was a snot-nosed inexperienced consulting brat in the strategy practice of Booz-Allen & Hamilton. One of the more experienced consultants in the operations practice sneered at some inane observation I made one day and said “Your strategy is what you ship”.

Today’s strategy lesson — Microsoft’s developer tools and platform sdks. I am an MSDN subscriber and I get absolutely pounds of CDs from Microsoft and gigabytes of articles, tools, libraries, etc. It is a dizzying and confusing array of tools — and relatively pricey too. The imputed strategy here is “Microsoft only cares about enterprise developers — if you are a young, starving, novice programmer, there is no entry path to the Microsoft platform. You should go use PHP and Perl and Python and other environments that are cheap and easy to start with.” I doubt this is what any slidedeck at Microsoft says but that is sure how it feels.

Sun Whining

Sun Whining. Agree with folks like Sam. The real problem for Sun is that they have not created any reason for anyone to care if Java is bundled with desktop machines. If my brand spanking new Dell came with a Java VM, would I as a consumer care? What would make use of it that I find interesting? There is no reason for me to demand a Java VM, there is no reason for OEMs to want to bundle one. If Sun had made it compelling, it would be easy for them to end-run MSFT and get OEMs to bundle the right VM — they bundle software all the time — look at all the shovelware that comes on new machines.

I do want my machine to come with CD burning software, with DVD burning software, with picture capture software. I’d be interested in a machine that came with all the right blogging software to let me easily create blogs and photoblogs. But Java? What does it do for me as an end user?

AOL pulls rug from under

AOL pulls rug from under ‘Magic Carpet”. AOL has disbanded the Magic Carpet team. Is anyone really surprised? The history of industry consortiums that have come together with the sole purpose of countering some Microsoft initiative is not good. I remember viewing these consortiums with amusement because the members were never truly aligned on goals, they just all wanted to join in a Microsoft hate-fest, and that never leads to a viable software product. And it just wastes the time and energy of these companies.

Expensing Options

Expensing Options. Reading SNS this week, it just struck me that, rather than trying to assign some debateable value number to options and passing them thru the P&L, let’s do a simpler thing. Let’s just have companies publish quarterly a statement of ownership — who owns what shares; how many new options were granted in the quarter; how many grants expired or were cancelled; new stock issuances as a result of financing moves, etc. And then a clear state of EPS impacts of all this — I just want to know, as a stockholder, did I suffer unfair and unwise dilution during the quarter? This is something that companies could do today without solving the problem of how to value options. And it would be valuable.

Young Programmers

Where are the young programmers? Tong and I were just talking yesterday, asking ourselves “Where are all the young programmers?”. When we were starting out, it was cheap/easy to write Mac and DOS apps — programming tools were available for <$100, the machines were readily available. Nowadays if you want to target Windows, tools are more expensive, or you have to bury yourself in .Net which is an overwhelming amount of stuff to learn (and is quite expensive). The Java platform has been hijacked by IBM and turned into a corporate thing, it is also expensive (time and costwise) to embrace. So if you are a young poor geek these days, what do you cut your teeth on? Building your own blog/website is surely one answer. Cheap to get started, tools are cheap too. Game Mods are another vibrant community. Skin development for Windows, Winamp, etc. is another hotbed. What is the growth path for these developers? What are they going to do in their late 20s, in their 30s? They aren't really on a path to become .Net developers or EJB developers. What platform is going to grow up with them? They don't want to use "their father's platform". We don't know but we are fascinated by the issue. (BTW, my own programming start was an Apple II disk/hex editor. I was driven to get all the strings off my Wizardry floppy so I could solve a puzzle that was holding me up in the game.)

9/21 eastside journal

9/21 Eastside Journal. “Boeing issues more layoff notices”. Picked up from the Oregonian — “Dotcom collapse, terror attacks left puget sound economy in ruins”. Dow down 326 yesterday.

Meanwhile in another article, Harvey Pitt is quoted as saying it is “more than safe” to invest.

I guess I don’t get the boosterism of investing. There is no real good news to make me think equities are going to take off. The economy in this area at least has not bottomed out. There is no evidence for a recovery.