Slow M&A process leaves Sun eclipsed

Analysis, In the news, Uncategorized

Solar EclipseWhen I first heard the news Oracle – Sun merger, I had high hopes that given a quick transition there would be some interesting disruptive effects.

This immediately threatens IBM who for years have used less expensive, home-grown hardware to propel sales in higher margin enterprise software. Oracle not only acquires the hardware to implement an end to end solution, but it acquires a very extensive software platform with the crown jewels being Java and MySQL, a technology that has propelled many companies looking to expand online. Oracle also acquires Solaris/OpenSolaris and thus fulfills its needs to own its own flavor UNIX based operating system which will no doubt further antagonize Microsoft and more importantly leave Oracle less dependent on the excessive churn in the myriad distros of Linux. — Justin McDowell — Jabian Internal Blog

While the DOJ has approved the merger the European Union recently launched an antitrust investigation that will grind the close of this merger to a slow walk. IBM, HP, and Dell have been using a serious ground and pound game to lure customer scared that their platform/server of choice will not be supported by Oracle, and for good reason. Oracle has been known to raise licensing rates after a successful acquisition – and kill products not in it’s core strategy. Developers have been forking projects and exiting the building in droves.

I still think all is not lost. Oracle will still have Java, MySQL, Solaris/OpenSolaris, and Xen. I think the question we should be asking ourselves is what else in the “stack” does Oracle need to acquire before it could theoretically run your data center top to bottom, and have a significant desktop software footprint (i.e. OpenOffice). IBM, HP, and Dell might be winning in the short term sales but none have made the strategic investments to be a single source provider.

A notsocommon prediction: Oracle still wins, but not by as large of a margin if it could have closed this merger in July.

Attitude

Analysis, Branding, In the news, Uncategorized
Attitude

Attitude

It’s good to be back!!

Yesterday I had a very informative conversation with a client of mine with a deep marketing background. The topic centered around “Web 2.0” companies and could small to midsized, non “Web 2.0” companies, borrow some of the same concepts to grow market share and brand awareness, social networking, and focused marketing strategies leveraging social networks. What immediately came to mind was “Web 2.0” companies have attitude, and tons of it.

These companies have bold refreshing websites, take a strong position, will call out the big dogs or have an enemy in mind, and have attitude for days. They usually make it incredibly easy to connect with customers, other companies, and recruits. These companies tend to make extremely good limited feature products that are incredibly easy to use. Personally when these characteristics are exhibited, I am attracted like a moth to a flame. In these recessionary times, I actually want to patronize these people.

Here are some examples taken from some of my favorite companies right now…

Web applications today are too limited. They’re hard to use and don’t play well together. They’re also incredibly difficult to build. We want to change that. — 280North

Balsamiq Studios LLC is a fresh little software company, focused on adding flavor to your Web Office suite.
Life’s too short for bad software. Most applications have too many buttons, are ugly and boring. We focus on small problems, so that we can solve them really well.

The entire About us page at MailChimp.

Here are three examples of attitude presented in a tasteful manner that instantly separates these companies from the umpteen millions of large and small companies and firms that all seem to want to provide value, and are focused on customer service. When is the last time you heard AT&T talk about how they were focused on providing a kickass telecom network and customer service to support their myriad of consulting services. Can you even find out what consulting and data center hosting services they offer in less than 1 minute?  Thus it is no surprise that large companies and mid-sized companies that want to be large corporate titans are having a difficult time using social networks to spread the word about their brand. It’s kinda hard to get twitter followers if your boring and monolithic. Luckily there is help, but I wonder how dynamic can you really be when your’re so large and can’t shake the irresistible urge to be conservative.

Here is an example of a marketing services agency that got it right.

Social Media isn’t a gimmick. It isn’t a fad. It’s not going away.
Social Media presents new and exciting opportunities for brands to
better understand and connect with their customers online. At Spring
Creek Group, we help our clients monitor and analyze their brand equity
online, develop their social media marketing strategy, and build their
social media brand presence and customer engagement programs. — Spring Creek Group

Talk about a tightly focused, strong position, introductory statement that really draws you in. It really isn’t that hard to do.+10 points for this description of their team:

Our team at Spring Creek Group consists of a growing group of Project Leads, Analytics & Measurement Leads, and Engagement Leads. Our titles don’t map to traditional marketing and advertising agencies, because our services and business model are quite a bit different than typical agencies. We are organized from the ground up to focus on our clients’ needs and driving brand insights and awareness in the social media channel.

You know who else is showing tons of attitude in a very engaging ad campaign…. Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma Brewery, a subsidiary of FEMSA (NYSEFMX) and better known right now for Dos Equis. “The Most Interesting Man in the World” advertising campaign is another great example of a larger organization showing some attitude using the social networks to their advantage, and getting results for their brand. At this point who isn’t a fan of Dos Equis on Facebook? Who (unless you’ve been living under a rock) hasn’t seen those commercials on TV or YouTube.

However, to be fair, there are some large entities showing plenty of attitude in the midst of a downright brawl. Apple and Microsoft have been slugging back and forth for awhile now and their ads are indeed entertaining. In fact Microsoft has been showing a bit too much attitude because apparently Apple wanted the Laptop hunter ads to be removed. I’ll save my comments for later about what I think of Apple’s course of action on this, but it is worth noting that these two companies are definitely taking a stand and their attitude and fight are showing in their ads. I literally joked with Mikal that the “I’m a Mac” ads were a sucker punch to the head by Apple, and I was curious to see what the retaliation would be. It took a while, but eventually Microsoft came back swinging. That’s attitude, that’s where the web and popular culture is going, and people need to get on board.

What other “traditional” aka non Web 2.0 companies are showing some attitude either on their websites, or as a part of their marketing strategy?

— Justin

Test Driving Wolfram Alpha

Analysis, In the news, Uncategorized
Wolfram Alphs

Wolfram Alpha, a computation search engine

Wolfram Alpha, the computational search engine, had a soft launch on Friday. While some are calling this a Google killer, I personally think the two engines will complement each other and allow for information to be served depending on your needs. Wolfram Alpha provides me with some capabilities that Google did not, i.e. the ability to ask the engine a question and have it compute an answer (think the computer on Star Trek).

Depending on my context, these search engines can provide me with valuable different perspectives on the question: What is the population of Metro Atlanta?

Google’s answer: Links to Wikipedia and other sources which is useful if I want to cite a source in a blog or a paper.
Wolfram Alpha’s Answer: 4.565 million people, which is extremely useful when my father calls me and expects me to recite this number from memory.

It becomes even more useful when you need to compare the financial data of two or more companies, say Coca-Cola (KO) and Pepsi (PEP). Simply typing the two stock tickers brings up all sorts of useful financial data on recent trades, market caps, volatility, revenue per employee, etc. You can even download the data as a PDF.

An Executive Guide to Social Media

In the news, Uncategorized

A co-worker sent me a link to BusinessWeek’s special report on Social media.

There were two things that really stood out to me:

  1. Jakob Nielsen’s critique on Twitter & CEO’s was spot on.
  2. The Survival of the Twittest article had an interesting bit on Domino’s Pizza limiting the fall out from its “employees adding, shall we say, nonstandard ingredients to the food.

I think this is a good read. Let me know your thoughts.

– Justin McDowell

Apple’s shift into chip design

In the news, Uncategorized

The Wall Street Journal is reporting on Apple’s efforts to assemble the people and intellectual property pieces into a strategy to exploit opportunities for exclusive features and to take back control over its product release cycle.

While I can understand and appreciate Apple’s desire to limit 3rd party involvement around new and updated products, what interests me the most is Apple being in the position to control it’s popular iPhone and iPod line literally from the ground up with custom chips tailored towards multicore processing and the ability to harness the computing power of the graphics processing unit (GPU) to lend a helping hand in delivering HD quality graphics on the mobile platforms.

Smart move Apple, but I suspect there will be some growing pains particularly with scaling. The WSJ believes it will take Apple one year to release new devices with the home made chips. I say it will take at least two… Anyone wiling to play over/under?