Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cornering The Highlighter Market

A highlighter alert from an occasional contributor, Matthew:


Presumably all yellow highlighters from the lower floors have already been collected and sold on eBay to contribute to the cost save target?

And a chart from the same source


What's different times 2 indeed ...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Spending Challenge


HMT are going to be working hard over the next few weeks ... they say they're up to 18,000 suggestions for the Spending Challenge.

Whilst reluctant to suggest a Downing Street Petitions type site (much as I loved it), fearing too many votes for "Abolish tax", "Pay Ministers Nothing" or "Scrap the Department of X" ... But ...

This kind of idea volume could be dealt with through the over-used crowd sourcing with the best couple of hundred ideas being worked up by whoever wants to work on them, aided by government insiders (who would know the data that would be needed), leading to ideas that were implementation-ready far sooner than they might otherwise be. And, perhaps, a ready and able gang of volunteers who could help manage and monitor them through the delivery process.

Anyway, I submitted that idea under the label of "not really a cost save ..."

And The Punchline Is?


Flip Charts


There were 9 scenarios before this one? Doesn't look like (10) has much chance then ...

Flip Charts


I'm sure that whoever was writing this was halfway to making the 3rd bullet "Anatomy"

I looked up the "SCARF" acronym as I hadn't heard it before

Others think it stands for:

Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness

But who wants Relatedness when Reward is on offer?

The Fourth Plinth


Perhaps my favourite of the "Fourth Plinth" statues so far. Somehow seems fitting.

Has $RIMM lost the plot?

RIMM make the blackberry. On their quarterly earnings call, the CEO was asked how they could gain market share from Apple. This was the response:

Be careful about [your] implicit assumptions in your question, or shall I say your explicit assumptions in your question. Yes, I think you guys will just have to watch and see what the plans are. I think there’s a lot of implicit and explicit assumptions that maybe should be examined. Part of that is the question of how much does — how powerful is their innovation is a good question. What’s the timing of it is a good question.

That's all clear then.
(From Silicon Alley Insider)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Rare Example of Apple Reuse?

Lesson number 1,482 ... never throw away an Apple iPhone dock.


Not only do several versions from the universal dock collection above work, but so does the original iPhone dock and, even better, the dock that was designed to accommodate the iPhone and the bluetooth headset (short lived - in every sense - as it was).

My guess, then, is the iPhone 5 will go back to the dock used by the 3GS ...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Unable to verify account information

If you're getting the message "Unable to verify account information" when trying to synchronise either a new iPhone or an upgraded iPhone (having moved to iOS4) with an Exchange server (or even with a gmail account), you need to:

- go to settings

- General

- Reset (all the way at the bottom)

- Reset Network Settings

It should work then (it did for me)

Restricted No Longer Means Restricted

In a government world where transparency is the way of doing things, where:

- Senior civil servants earning more than £150,000 are named for everyone to see

- Special advisors are named and if they earn more than £58,200 their salaries are declared

- Organisation charts for the Cabinet Office and Number 10 are published

- OGC Gateway reports will be published

- Central government tender documents above £10k will be published in one place

- Full disclosure of all central government spending will be the default

- Non-personal datasets will be published in an open and standardised format (including crime, education and health data)

- Local government will be mandated to publish meeting minutes, local service and performance data

- Local councils will publish details of all items of expenditure above £500

Then I wonder whether such data and document classifications such as Protect and Restricted have become redundant?

Confidential would mean anything that was personal or perhaps security-related and it would be assumed that everything else was, by default, public. This perhaps ought to have been one of the consequences of FoI but, if not then, why not now?

If that was the case, then does the need for some government security processes, networks and facilities fall away ... and so do costs come down and the opportunities to make use of online tools (such as calendars, social networks, google services, collaboration tools like backpack and so on) become available?

Too Many Websites?

And Then There Were None?


Mr Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, said he would be scrapping three quarters of the Government's 820 websites.

Whitehall sources were reluctant to name which sites will close although one suggested that – a website run by the marketing department of the Potato Council – would be unlikely to survive the cull.

Mr Maude said all of the sites “will be subject to a review looking at cost, usage and whether they could share resources better”. The review, which will report back in September, will aim to close 75 per cent of them, and halve the costs of the remaining websites.

No new Government websites can now be set up, the Cabinet Office said, without the permission of a new Whitehall efficiency board, chaired by Chancellor George Osborne and Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury.

Mr Maude said: “The days of 'vanity sites' are over. It is not good enough to have websites which do not deliver the high quality services which people expect and deserve. That is why we will take tough action to get rid of those which are not up to the job and do not offer good value for money and introduce strict guidelines for those that remain.”

A report from the Central Office for Information, published today, found that £94 million was spent on the construction and set up and running costs of just 46 sites. The Government also spent £32 million on staff costs for those sites in 2009-10.

The most expensive websites were which costs £11.78 per visit and which costs £2.15 per visit.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

If Nokia Loses

There used to be a site called f* Nokia is starting to look like a company that might have qualified for it's death watch clock. No, that's too extreme. But as I said in October 2009, they're in trouble - and for reasons that were all visible (if not actionable by investors) as long ago as 2003.

In October 2009 when I wrote that post, the stock was at around $14. Right now they're at $8.81.


If you look over a longer timeframe then Nokia have been largely flat since mid-2002 (unless you bought in late 2008 - but pretty much anything you bought then doesn't look so great now).


(both graphs sourced from e*trade)

My closing paragraph was

Two years from now, is it possible that Nokia's market share will be less than 20% of the global total with a single digit percentage share in smartphones? It sounds far fetched, but it's possible. Were that to happen, it strikes me that acquirers would move in - and Nokia's response would be to close down failing businesses and make significant cost reductions to fend them off. Would the Finnish government allow a foreign company to acquire all or large parts of Nokia? We will, perhaps, see. Place your bets - are you long or short Nokia?

Market share is heading down, cost cuts will have to be made and margin compression is inevitable. I think there's more downside from here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Anti-Social Restaurant Reviews

I go to a lot of restaurants. I'm lucky enough to know people in the business and they invite me to new places. But I still like to know what's new - and, quite often, where I might go, say, tonight that's new and that I might like.

The web is littered with restaurant reviews from sites such as opentable, toptable (and more). The reviews are written by people I don't know and, worse, I often don't know their background in reviewing any given restaurant.   For instance:

- do they go to a particular restaurant a lot and have never written a review but after one bad night, they've decided to unload their feelings?

- do they visit a lot of, say, french restaurants and so when they Le Poule Au Pot 10/10 I know that this is with good judgement?

- do they know a lot about the finer points of steak and so when they visit Goodman, I can trust what they say?

- are they the competition or a disgruntled former employee just dissing whoever they feel like?

The answer to those questions is that I have no idea.

As a random example, who had the experience nearest to normal from these two:

Incredibly poor service.We sat outdoors as it was a lovely day,only to be "lost" amongst the other customers.We were completely ignored, with our food orders only being taken 45 mins after arriving.They didn't have the sauvignon blanc we requested,only to bring us an alternative Chardonnay. Chardonnay isn't remotely similar to Sauvignon Blanc.After half 45 mins of trying to order wine, they finally brought out their sommelier to advise. An hour and a half after our arrival, the WRONG food order was brought to the table. Initially, the waitor [sic] excused their poor service on the chef not being happy with the quality of our food. Which proved a lie, after it transpired our order was simply not placed. V disappointed as I am a ---- ---- fan


It's not the first time I've been here and it won't be the last either. The food was fantastic and the service was as perfect as I could have hoped for. I'm one of the biggest complainers but couldn't find a single fault with this tremendous dining experience

That's two reviews submitted by people who ate there on the same day at the same service, and where both reviewers claim to be fans of the restaurant.

Of course you can look at the trends in reviews but what I really want to know is does someone I know, who I trust or at least understand, like the place or not? That's why I read newspaper reviews more than I read online reviews:

I read newspaper reviews from, say, Fay Maschler, AA Gill, Giles Coren and others not because I necessarily agree with them but because I have tuned my senses to understand what I like and dislike about their styles and tastes. I will even go to a restaurant that they review badly if I sense there's some personal vendetta, a small-minded problem over the decor or a dislike of why the menu is presented the way it is.

Some recommendations, then, for restaurant review sites:

1) Have a profile for each reviewer that says what other places they have reviewed and what their top and bottom scored restaurants are together with how many visits they've made (opentable doesn't have this, toptable does).

2) Encourage people to leave reviews attached to that profile (rough analysis on toptable suggests that anonymous reviews, contrary to what you might think, are no less positive than named ones).

4) Allow me to build a list of favourite reviewers and track where they're eating so that I might try new places based on reviewers I've come to respect

5) Allow me to connect my social network (linkedin, facebook, and any others) and then prioritise reviews based on people in my network so that I can see what people I know think

On the basis of these ideas, toptable seems to be leading the way but can do even more to cement its position.

Update: (19.6.10) A friend let me know about this site, TasteRater, after I posted this blog. It claims to do what I've said above so I'm going to give it a try and then report back here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pelican Crossings


Earlier today I watched a series of people randomly stab the crossing button, despite it already being lit and them being oblivious to the fact that this is just a game local councils play (I'm convinced the button isn't actually connected to anything except the "wait" light), at a Pelican Crossing.

Seeing this, I wondered idly if there was a way to deploy finger print technology here. Not for identifying people, but for differentiating them from each other. The crossing could easily know what the flow rate of cars was and then compare it to the flow rate of people (ie the number of people who've pressed the button since the last time the lights were red). A single person would wait longest, lots of people would wait less time. Knowing that there was some impact of pressing the button might reduce the people who dart across the road, dodging traffic and so reduce the risk of accidents.

I can see all kinds of opportunity for social interaction here: "hey buddy, could you press the button too, I need to cross the road quickly". Just wondering.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Authenticating to Government

I was hunting for some slides from a presentation I gave a while ago. I didn't find the ones I wanted but I thought these slides on authentication (and a little content info) at the end were interesting (as a throwback). It struck me that many of the issues identified here - lack of crosstrust, persistent use of userid/password, insufficient integration with private sector authentication methods - are still with us and that government(s) could do with another go round at resolving them once and for all.

Have You Been Goldman'd - Part 2

The US Government's pursuit of Goldman Sachs for allegedly mis-selling Collateralised Debt Obligations (or perhaps for taking both sides of a trade to the advantage of itself and just one of its clients). I wrote a little about the background to this a month ago. Goldman Sachs were certainly not first in to the Global Financial Crisis (shouldn't that be written all in caps?) but they were almost certainly first out - via a little Federal money and a rejigging of their banking status, some money from Warren Buffet and the benefit of money on loan at a rate of virtually zero that could be invested at leverage ratios that, whilst not as high as in the go go years, were certainly greater than one.

Goldman were but one player in a long list as I said in the first post on this topic:

The chain of people involved in this crisis is long and distinguished - involving everyone from individual home owners, to local banks, to big syndicating banks, to international buyers, global insurance sellers, regulators in each and every country, rating agencies, the media and others, including you and me

I thought i'd explore what was going on in the market in the years leading up to the crisis. I combed several sources and found many US federal sources and some private sector ones that had copious amounts of data. Here is some of what I found.

Here are two graphs showing, first, how vast the mortgage market has become over the last 50 years and, second, how dramatic growth in the volume of refinancing appears to be a leading indicator in increasing foreclosure rates some 3 years later, just as interest rate adjustments kicked in and increased borrowing costs:

US Mortgage debt outstanding, 1952-2008, Home Mortgages only


Data sourced from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Figures in actual US$, not discounted for inflation.

Mortgage Originations (Purchase and Refinance) versus Foreclosure (Entering and Already In Foreclosure)


Source: Mortgage Bankers Association of America, Washington, DC

Those home loans were turned into asset backed securities - and the growth in this graph inevitably maps closely with the growth in origination and refinancing in the previous graph. The fall off maps, in the same way, with the huge growth in loans either in or entering foreclosure.


Source: Thomson Financial, Bloomberg, SIFMA

If the previous graph showed issuance, this graphs shows outstanding securities (the big section in the middle is credit card debt)


Source: Thomson Financial, Bloomberg, SIFMA

The graphs above paint a picture of an economy growing at a huge speed fuelled by debt pulled down from the equity within a house (with that equity often put into another house, so reducing the available supply and pushing up prices) and also by credit card debt (which spiked highest in the period when home loans were reducing - that is, when house prices were already falling and taking equity from the house wasn't an option, but credit cards were).

Looking at the instruments that Goldman is alleged to have used inappropriately, here are two graphs showing the same dataset for CDOs, split by currency and by purpose. There are two obvious conclusions:

1) The vast bulk of CDOs were issued in US dollars (covering US originated loans) with Europe lagging US growth by at least a year

2) If the second graph is right, then the purpose of CDOs is to arbitrage. Or perhaps speculate?

CDOs by Currency (2000-2010)


Source: SIFMA

CDOs by Purpose


Source: SIFMA

The cliff all of the issuance graphs fall off in 2006/7 coincides with the sudden leap in foreclosure rates.

The big question for those chasing down Goldman is:

If you were sitting inside a bank, a financial institution, a pension provider or a hedge fund in February 2007, would you have known that that was the time to get out? The TIME TO SELL?

Here's another graph showing asset backed security issuance in 2007, quarter by quarter


Source: SIFMA

Would that have been enough? In February 2007? To my eye, it looks like it would have been tough to see until sometime after the Q2 figures were in. Some smart people saw it earlier than that of course - they saw those foreclosure rates start to climb in 2006 and made their bets.

Did Goldman mislead? I have no idea. Doubtless they - and other Financial Institutions - will be negotiating settlements now where no fault or liability is admitted.

But every market ever traded is asymmetric. Someone always has more information than someone else - or they think they do. For every seller there has to be a buyer. For every buyer, a seller. Often there is both a buyer and a seller, sitting in the middle making the trade.

Part 3 of this blog will be on this very asymmetry.

This is the second part (of three). The first part was published here a month ago.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Distributing Government Content


In 2002, the team I worked with in UK Government (the e-Delivery team, in the Cabinet Office) pitched to HM Treasury for an allocation of funds for delivery a content management solution that would have the potential to be used all across Government. This eventually became DotP (variously short for Dot Productisation - i.e. the ability to reuse it - or Delivering On the Promise, depending on who was making it up at the time).

We suggested to HMT that we might be able to do lots of different things given the chance, many of which were not being done in UK government. Trawling through the bid document today, I alighted on this paragraph:

1) Rich Site Summary (RSS)/SOAP.This will allow content to be pushed to other parties/sites when it’s published and pulled from our content repository by commercial and partner sites and incorporated directly into their web pages. This will enable full content syndication. A partnership with intermediaries is a critical step in achieving the levels of ‘take-up’ of Government services on line expected by the modernising Government targets.

Why is this interesting?

Well, because as Simon Dickson tells us, now has a content syndication API. We didn't pull it off back in 2002, or any time after that. There were several good reasons and perhaps some less than good including a lack of obvious customers, a lack of demand from the UK citizen to present content in such a manner, a lack of funds (our bid was supported but with something like half what we had asked for, and we had a long do list). I suspect the real reason, though, was that we didn't have the faintest idea how to do it (and whilst we had alighted on RSS as a possible way, I don't think it would have worked - we couldn't figure out how someone would ask for a given piece of content and then get it back nor how we would deal with updates and how format or length changes might look if someone else presented our content). I think we always thought it was going to be a necessary capability and so I'm really impressed that the dg team have pulled it off - and I hope that they're seeing real demand for it. have published a guide for how to use the syndication capability which looks pretty straight forward - my guess is that if you're in the market for syndicating government content then you either are already technically literate enough to do it or you have people working for you who are.

By the by, I note that NHS Choices has a similar syndication capability. Well done to all those working on these two sites:

At the end of that quote from Gordon Brown in the captured picture above it says DG now has 25 million visits a month. Hopefully, given the new administration's approach to data transparency, they won't mind me publishing this graph:

201006122310.jpg These are the figures for ukonline and in the month when we switched from one to the other, May 2004. Six years ago, then, ukonline was seeing perhaps 500-600,000 unique users a month and 700-900,000 visits.

72 months later, volume is up around 40 fold. 25 million visits a month!

That's really quite stunning. At the time the resistance to the continued idea of a single (central) government website was strong, everyone (including me) had an opinion that they wanted to share on how it should work that was often different from the chosen direction - and almost everyone hated the distinct orange colour palette that was chosen (it grew on me in a surprisingly short time I believe).

At the time, another site that we hosted on the same infrastructure,, was seeing well over a million visits a month. We often wondered how quickly would overtake dh.

I have fond memories of our vision slide that laid out what we wanted to accomplish. Here's a version from early 2002:


"tag and grab" - it has a nice ring to it. Perhaps nicer than "syndication API"! The keen eyed will see the 3rd iteration of the home page in that slide.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

We was bored. We decided to have a go at changing an industry.

From my friend, John Caswell, at Group Partners ... a guest post:

Masters of Disruption

The problem though was that the industry didn't quite exist. Even so we observed a gap in it. We, and Clients, realized that we had a problem in how to think about how to think - about any problem. In a phrase, we were too close to it to see, external agencies were too biased by the way they thought about it to care and we didn't know what it was in the first place. Of course back then we didn’t know this.

Business is actually set up to fail.
It’s designed that way. 'Divisions', 'Departments' and 'Units'. Surely they should be 'Completes', 'Wholes' and 'Unifieds'. As a direct result business breeds separate smaller business pieces, silos as they are known, that have their own language, religion and faith. It cannot possibly add up to a single minded stated goal. How could it. We aim to break all that.

What are business folk doing if they aren't thinking about what makes business business?

What makes business work is knowing, as much as you can, the 24 modules of 4D™. The logic of 4D™ is simple yet beguiling. In order to achieve a cohesive set of actions, know what to stop doing, start doing – you need to have a framework. Sustain a vision and agreed strategy across an aligned leadership team – you need to structure that. All these would seem a daily refinement if only there was a blueprint. Knowing all the barriers, knowing the customers, developing winning solutions, building clear and compelling positions, engaging with everyone around the right processes and systems, knowing how to make these choices. This seems a natural aim. It so seldom is. That’s what 4D™ does.

To me there is little else required in business than to get this stuff right. But. It never fails to shock us. Very few if any of our 2500 assignments has seen much fluidity or confidence in more than half of these modules. Let alone their integration into a coherent set of plans. It also surprises me greatly that often good enough is good enough. In the 21st Century it isn't. The aim seems so low. By raising peoples sights and ambitions it’s possible to do so much more. People prove that all around us every day. So why is business conditioned to not think – or conditioned to think that it’s always going to be the same.

Humans are classic. When they see something new or different they fall into two camps. Attack. Wonder. Like Blackbirds pecking a Canary to death - or like David Attenborough.

Painfully Simple.

Those that attack see our work as over complex, impenetrable, hard work. Unless we can get them to think for longer than one minute and explain how simple it actually is then they remain pained with the threat of the unknown. Peck away. Once they overcome their fear, like a first time bungee jumper, then they are it’s biggest fans. Field trip.

The wonderers are intrigued from minute one. While they may never fully get it they are entrapped for a lifetime by the idea of visualized knowledge, eco-system dynamics and creative logic. Guess who become the best ambassadors for Group Partners in the longer run?

It's quite hard to tell a simple story about what we do as a business. It's a practice. It has a big production element. It exploits the two inventions - Structured Visual Thinking™ (the philosophy) and 4D™ (the application and method). We say that this is designed to help our clients avoid solving the wrong problem really well. It does.

We work with big and small partners. They bring us in. We want to remain neutral to any outcome.

Simply put it's about making better decisions and doing so creatively. Big and messy word that - creativity. For me in this market creativity is the application of one's mind to solving problems in a different but more valuable way than the norm. Going beyond the humdrum, same, ordinary to find the innovative, unique and extraordinary. To me that's what's required so we just apply it to everything we do. Simples.

We've always had an Expert Network™

Yes we've always had an Expert Network™
this made complete sense when setting up the business and now even more so. In the early days people didn’t get it and suggested it was a distraction. I told them to F off. We have stayed true to it although we haven’t fully leveraged it. We find people who may be able to help our clients when we uncover a need. We also go and support our partners with our tools and techniques to improve their work. It works well. We remain neutral. Weve made great friends around the world. We are working with them now.

Creativity is a really big part of Group Partners and it comes from the strangest places. When you are least expecting it. But you can practice at making it more likely. In over 2500 cases our approach has resulted in creativity of one form or another - innovation, inspiration, ingenuity, communication. Breakthroughs, epiphanies, catharsis. We like that.

12 Reasons to get over yourself around creativity and Innovation -

Fundamentally the approach forces the audience to reach into unexpected areas. Places they didn’t think they could get. Places and spaces where creativity is more likely - where they have not been before. We make sure the outcomes are creative too. We work at scale. We find massive walls and bring magic paper. People look at us strangely. We like that too.

The writing is on the wall.
Something special and hard to explain happens when a conversation is translated live onto a wall. It is part synthesis of many layers of discussion, part honoring the audience, part performance art and part warranting the vital component in something yet to be. Visually Thinking and Acuity -

Creativity is also applied to deliverables, words, stories, technology and tools and everything we do when we show up.

Our success is to take the traditional, random and often abused process of strategy, transformation or change and then drive a truck through it. Do everything differently. Remove the anesthesia of Power Point and endless droning meetings and replace it with smart, focused sessions that are enjoyable, visual and meaningful. Come out the end with something that can be used immediately. We've removed the biased lens of the solution provider, the expert, the ad agency, the consultant seeking the thousands of hours and 4 square matrices. Chucked it all out.

We've changed the dialog by asking sharper questions and we’ve extended the context so that the discussion has a chance to breathe. By really mastering the idea of structure and the effect of them on existing patterns we built frameworks of a logical nature. These frameworks bust open the status quo and stuckness in a friendly, visual and energetic way. They force teams to think openly and out loud. By doing it often we learned that our clients became more confident and more able to see for themselves where gaps lie and opportunities and decisions needed to be made.

Our frameworks are intuitive and deceptively simple. But they are great friends in ensuring we think well. They remove the idea of opinion and blather. They take no prisoners. That's quite magical.

Design is another of those bear trap (with sticking up in the air fatally poisonous toxin tipped bamboo shafts. Lots of them) words. Innovation is another, knowledge, leadership, brand. Oh don't get me on brand. Marketing is another one. All of them loaded and highly dangerous.

We mean the skills and competencies of conscious and thoughtful, experienced people crafting a new something. Obsessing until it works beautifully, behaves exceedingly well and looks fit for the task it was designed for. It may also take your breath away. We also use the term Information Design. That is our definition of the word design applied to Information and its need to be communicated to others well.

Columbo Questions

The most powerful questions of all come when they are least expected. The ‘so what’ question, the “I don’t quite get that” - “It doesn’t quite make sense can you explain that to me again?” question - all writ large on a 60 feet wall. The Columbo Questions -

And finally.

  1. We avoid making our clients do too much preparation for sessions. It encourages positions - a stance that may not be helpful. We do a lot of work behind the scenes to get ready and understand the context so that our questions cause the most effective and efficient conversations. 20 Critical Questions around Innovation -
  2. Our assignments are short, focused interventions set amidst a program of analysis and development of deliverables at each step. Because we believe the client has the key to solving the issues themselves our aim is to get them doing the bulk of the work. Not expensive external consultants.
  3. We study the concepts behind living systems, design and integrative thinking. We are avid followers of technology trends, innovation in the semantic web. We are Apple fanatics.
  4. We stopped telling clients the answer and started to enable the answer to emerge naturally by working with them. Co-creating. This builds enormous trust and integrity into any complex program of work. It binds teams, it creates a frame of reference, it enables ownership and shared intention. It’s the way to go.
  5. We've applied this to every conceivable issue and opportunity. These days mostly in Government and with the top multinational brands. We like to solve wicked problems. We like to put something back and make it sustainable, ethical and be sure it stays real for people. 7 Secrets of leadership that the consultants wont tell you
  6. We've developed deeper and more specialized frameworks to deal with specific topics such as Customer Experience and best practice architectures to ensure compliance or rigor around standards. All through the logic and philosophy of 4D™ -
  7. We didn't stop with the frameworks. The ideas and insights from them find their way into user interfaces in digital systems. They can be animated, interactive tools for ongoing change and learning, induction or further challenge. We call ourselves the Pixar of consulting.'Pixar'_Of_Consulting
  8. We are now gearing up for full training and enabling scale through partners. We've always partnered. It's an exciting time.

Oh and we write a lot more about all this on Twitter, Facebook and blogs and wikis and more. We can't stop. Stop.

If Nokia loses ...

From Eric Savitz at Tech Trader Daily (Part of Barron's Online)

Can Nokia (NOK) effectively compete against the Apple (AAPL) iPhone and the onslaught of phones based on Google (GOOG) Android?

Rodman & Renshaw analyst Ashok Kumar this morning wonders in a brief research note if the company is at risk of an “interminable slide.” He notes that checks find the company is is paring back orders for the September quarter due to “continued share loss.”

Kumar says that volume shipments of the company’s new flagship N8 smart phone will not start until the September quarter, which he says is “even further out that the current reset expectations.” He thinks that the latest version of the company’s Symbian operating system software could be facing opposition from independent software vendors, “as applications cannot port over from the legacy environment and have to be recompiled.”

Kumar notes that component suppliers with large exposure to Nokia’s handset business include National Semiconductor (NSM) and Texas Instruments (TXN).

Kumar concludes that developers are coalescing around Apple and Android. “If Nokia sticks with its losing strategy for much longer,” he writes, “it could risk fading into irrelevance.”

NOK today is actually up 30 cents, or 3.2%, to $9.63.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

@Vodafone_group #fail ... @O2 #success

Two years ago, when the iPhones legitimately became available in the UK, I stopped being a Vodafone customer (they didn't have the iPhone on their books back then) and moved to O2. Vodafone's people called me several times offering ever increasing amounts of money along with exotic phones to encourage me to stay with them. The bribe topped out at around £1,000 plus a phone of my choice. I turned them down.

With my iPad came a Vodafone SIM. I wanted a bit of redundancy with a different network from O2 and in the buildings where I work, Vodafone seems to get better reception so it seemed like it was worthwhile having a Vodafone data plan.

I've had my iPad since Thursday of last week and have singularly failed to get the cellular data function to work. So:

1) I called their activation line over the weekend and failed to get any response. The call just failed. Over and over.

2) On Sunday morning the line started to work (oddly about 5 mins after I'd posted about their problems on my blog). Having spelled my last name 7 times (using alpha and phonetics) I was asked what my last name was one more time. I gave up.

3) This week I've called their support lines a few times. They don't open until 9am for "i" support. None of the other lines were able to help.

4) Today I went into a Vodafone store. The instant diagnosis following a check that the SIM was activated was that it was an iPad problem. They kindly called the Apple support line whilst I was in the store and then left me to talk to them. A pleasant chap from Apple talked me through various changes and options and concluded that it probably wasn't the iPad but the only thing left to try was a full reset and restore.

5) I tried the full reset and restore. No change.

6) I went to the Apple store in town and picked up an O2 sim.

7) I put it into the iPad, connected to iTunes, downloaded the new carrier settings. 15 seconds later it was working.

8) I created the account on the iPad itself using menu options built in to the iPad and set up everything needed. Another 15 seconds.

9) I now need to figure out how to cancel my Vodafone data plan. A call to their support line tells me that I need to write to them

10) A check online (following a link from their purchase confirmation email that says "set up your account") requires me to enter my mobile number so that they can send me a text (for "Security reasons"). That, of course, neatly misses the point that the SIM doesn't work and, even if it did, it's in an iPad which doesn't receive texts.

Plainly O2 have learned much from their problems with iPhone activation of a year ago. I hope that they are ready for the new iPhone launch due any time soon. They will be keeping my business even if searching for "iPad" on their site still returns no useful results.

Vodafone, though, have demonstrated not only that they didn't have the foresight in the beginning to take on the iPhone business but now don't have the mechanics in place to deal with a later generation product launch. That's not a good sign.

Oh, and I sold my Vodafone shares.

Tweets In Space

201006031619.jpg A current campaign from HP lauds their recent networking of the International Space Station. Astronauts based there can now tweet as they float. I wonder what they'd say:

@houston another lovely day up here in space. clear skies, we can see for miles

@NASA you really spent $100bn plus on this and didn't put a shower in?

@RKA can't wait for the relief crew to get here

@houston what a great sunrise. that's the 15th we've seen in the last 24 hours. awesome.

@TajMahalTakeAway any chance you could get some more spicy food on the next shuttle? we're running low

@world man, look at those stars. can you see them from down there?

@home this zero gravity peeing sucks

@houston ummm ... houston, we have a problem

Stop! Don't Print That Page (In Colour)

Many government departments have issued an edict to stop using colour printing to aid towards saving costs (not to mention the green upside). Email footers saying "save a tree, think before you print" will now change to "black print good, no print better" (on the basis that whilst it's always referred to as printing in "black and white" the only printing done is in black).

Gartner say print costs run as follows:

Ranges are presented for four classes of printers.

1. For desktop monochrome laser printers, consumables can be expected to range from 2.5 cent to 6 cents per page, assuming a 5 percent coverage area.

2. For color laser printers, consumables can be expected to range from 5 cents to 12 cents per page, assuming a 20 percent coverage area. Color printers require four sets of supplies — cyan, yellow, magenta and black — to produce a multicolor document. Hence the 20 percent area coverage represents 5 percent of each color. On many documents, especially PowerPoint slides, area coverage often exceeds 20 percent.

3. For personal and workgroup inkjet color printers, consumables can be expected to range from 9 cents to 20 cents per page, assuming a 20 percent coverage area.

4. For workgroup, departmental and centralized monochrome printers, consumables can be expected to range from 1 cent to 2 cents per page, assuming a 5 percent coverage area.

As validation for those figures, here are figures for one printer

HP Officejet K5400 has an estimated cost per page of black ink of 1.4 cents, and color is 5.9 cents per page.

Even if these costs were pennies rather than cents ... it's going to take a lot of not printing in colour to make a dent in the budget deficit.

At 20p a page (taking the max of workgroup colour printers from Gartner)

530,000 civil servants in UK government (the ONS estimates for civil service headcount in Q3 2009 say 533,140)

10 pages per day per person ... that would be 5,300,000 pages at a cost of £1,060,000 a day.

Say 220 working days in the year and there might be as much as £233,000,000 spent each year on printing (not to mention initial purchase costs and then costs of replacement, disposal of printers and the environmental impact of building them, installing them and servicing them).

To save the £6.5bn total required, that would be 28 years of not printing. Or, alternatively, 32.5bn pages would need not to be printed at all to reach the government's initial cost save target. If we arbitrage cost of colour versus cost of black and white, then we could be looking at anywhere from 5 to 20x those amounts.

All of these numbers, except the Gartner ones and the HP cost per page are made up of course - I was just interested in what it might look like. I wonder how many pages are actually printed per day across government?

Visualising the oil spill



and shown over Iceland


From "If it was my home"


Do O2 even know that there is an ipad out there?


Wednesday, June 02, 2010


In another hi-tec office I was greeted by this sight


I couldn't fit the spider phone into the picture, but that was on the conference table next to the desk.

In these days of the constant hum of the convergence pitch ... surely those offering it to customers should practice what they preach?

I refrained from taking a picture of the tangled web of wires behind the desk.

(Note: I also removed any markers that might allow identification of the owner or the company)


I was in the offices of an apparently hi-tec company yesterday. The wall of the reception had this on it:


I've removed the logo to protect the guilty