TIBCO disappoints

Dennis has a quick analysis of TIBCO’s earnings. I think that the Irregulars could do a bang up job at analyzing most of the big companies earnings from a perspective not easily achieved by the analysts, who for their part have a strong hand because they are actually interfacing with the companies in many ways as well.

Niel also raised the issue recently of doing a Crossfire-like point/counterpoint approach to topics like this, which I think is a super idea (especially for a podcast!).

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The Chocolate Affair is Over

While I am sad to report that I am giving up Chocolate, I am pleased to report that I am now into the Pearl.

The LG is a really sweet phone but I just couldn’t avoid the fact that I really need a Blackberry, and RIM finally came out with a BB that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to carry around, the Pearl.

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So far I am really pleased with this device, including the build quality (which I have always thought RIM was weak on) and the features. It is disappointing that RIM is not committed to the Mac community, they still don’t offer a OSX version of their sync software, however PocketMac does have a product that is free (licensed by RIM) for Mac users. I have a beta version of their 4.0 software that does support the Pearl, and is also integrated with Mac’s iSync software (very cool).

The one thing that could be improved, and it’s probably not a RIM issue, is in-vehicle bluetooth integration. I can pair up the phone with my car, but I wasn’t able to transfer the address book to the vehicle meaning I can’t look up a number and dial from the steering wheel. Minor issue, but when you spend a lot of time in your car these things become important.

Lastly, RIM moved away from “the wheel” in favor of a joystick (which you can see in the image above). This is surprisingly effective as a pointing device and as a side benefit it is much easier than the wheel for left-handed people like myself.

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SOA, Web Services, SaaS…

I spoke on a panel at SaaScon today and in thinking over the comments I achieved clarity on a couple of points:

1) When someone says “SaaS” it can mean a lot of things depending on their perspective. There is the delivery model as represented by multi-tenant hosted, SOA as in architecture, web services as the more generic variant of SOA, and IT’s shared services idea.

2) If all we end up doing is rewriting existing apps in SOA I will be profoundly disappointed. However, in many of these discussions that is exactly the subtext, how new web services apps will displace legacy client/server. At some point we need to get beyond this and imagine a scenario where new innovative apps will be built that disrupt the status quo, and in reality they are very unlikely to come from the incumbent vendors.

3) Incumbents do have a built in advantage, the markets for major enterprise apps have been saturated and solidified.

4) Let’s think about how we grow markets by bringing new customer groups into the tent rather than just redefining where the seams are drawn.

5) In my mind the most exciting aspect of SaaS is the economic model that a light touch selling process enables. If anything, this is the critical enabler because it enables companies to target smaller niche markets and higher risk applications. Large vendors like Oracle and SAP can’t target micromarkets because their economic infrastructure demands that they go after large markets to feed the machine, and large markets or collections of moderately sized markets mean that they develop to the lowest common denominator. I spent a lot of years watching this unfold, in order to expand the addressable market you end up making a lot of compromises in the product roadmap…

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Counter-Terrorism: Not Flying the Unfriendly Skies

Instead of blaming security, the major carriers might want to look in the mirror to see the real problem. Who the hell wants to get on a flight when you are faced with 1) surly flight attendants, 2) crappy food bag of pretzels, 3) old airplanes, 4) no entertainment, 5) no network, and lastly 6) it’s ridiculously expensive. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention in-flight air quality that ends up making you sick.

Flying is a miserable experience on any major U.S. carrier, no wonder business travelers are staying at the office and using video conferencing and video chat. If carriers want more people to fly they might consider doing something other than making you pay more for service that is increasingly worse.

Counter-Terrorism: Not Flying the Unfriendly Skies:

But the increase in air transportation security has had an impact. Fewer people are flying. The airlines don’t like to discuss this, but customer satisfaction, and travel, surveys show that people, especially business flyers (the most lucrative kind of passengers) are flying less.

Momentum Conference This Week

IBDN is hosting the Momentum Conference this week, Sept 27-28 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. They are offering a discount on the registration for bloggers, $625, which is a $170 savings by booking through this link.

The Momentum Growth Conference honors the industry leaders dominating the next stage of the growth cycle—who’s who of private companies with real customers, revenue, partnerships—and the vision to make it to the next level. Experience the kind of business advice you thought you could only get from high-priced consultants with no real-world experience.

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Day 1

I started my new job today; it reminded me of when I showed up for my first day at SAP a long time ago, everything from figuring out the best commute route to how the voicemail system works. The one thing that is different this time around is that I really do know what I need to get done here, as opposed to my role then which wasn’t well defined and had a “make it up as you go along” quality.

On a related note, I want to thank everyone who commented on my “last day at SAP” post, I was really taken aback by the comments and it made me feel very good. I also greatly appreciate the emails and phone calls offering support and help in my new gig, which I will no doubt be taking advantage of.

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User Experience, Socialtext 2.0, and Web Services

Socialtext released version 2.0 of their enterprise wiki today, and it’s not just a thinly veiled attempt to climb higher up on the 2.0 bandwagon, it really is an extensively updated release of their flagship product.

As many of you know, I have been associated with Socialtext for a long time now, first as a wiki enthusiast, then as Ross’ friend, later adding on the investor title while still retaining the friend one. The biggest complaint that people familiar with wikis have about Socialtext is that the “UI sucks”. This was, in my opinion, a very unfair and misleading complaint for a couple of reasons, the first being that it’s not enough to say the UI sucks and leave it at that, you have to expand on it even if just minimally in order to effect some meaningful change in the product roadmap.

If you have used Socialtext and don’t like the fonts/graphics/layout, well then that’s one level of user interface and quite honestly it’s easily fixed with the new themes capabilities they are offering, but if your complaint is that the UI is not well thought out from the perspective of how people in enterprises use wikis then I would say you have a valid point and also add that I don’t think anyone has really figured this out yet given the relative immaturity of wikis in an enterprise setting. One last point about Socialtext and user experience, it’s interesting to talk to people that are using the product/service about this because they almost always point to the UI but in the same breadth they talk about the features that are available here and not in other wiki products; so clearly this is a case of a product that is functionally stronger than competitive products that faces a bigger challenge of making all those features accessible.

Over the last year the team at Socialtext has focused on a great many initiatives but two in particular are near and dear to my interests. The first is thinking through how people in companies use wikis and then from the ground up designing a user experience that best accommodates them because I can tell you with absolute certainty that Wikipedia behind the firewall just doesn’t come close to what companies need in order to scale enterprise wide deployments. That work is embodied in this release, and I would encourage you to watch the screencast linked to in the post to see all of it. Impressive.

Secondly, Socialtext added SOAP and REST interfaces to enable external developers to integrate functionality in their apps as well as drive new functionality within a wiki page, thereby enabling my original investment thesis that these things will become containers for applications functions that integrate with the unstructured text in the page. Very cool and I’m excited to see what creative uses developers come up with to take advantage of this.

In my opinion Socialtext is again pushing the bar higher with this release.

Socialtext 2.0 | Socialtext Enterprise Wiki:

Two big changes come with Socialtext2.0. A fundamental redesign of the user interface, resolving the complexity that confronts new wiki users while preserving the power of a flexible enterprise tool. And Wiki Web Services, with SOAP and REST APIs to support enterprise integration and enable Open Source developers to innovate in the language of their choice and mashup wiki functionality with other applications.

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Bicycling up Ventoux to Raise Money for War Child

My fellow Irregular Thomas Otter is riding up Mount Ventoux to raise money for War Child and he needs your help to do it. I could go on about how good the cause it, blah, blah, blah… but you already know that so quit wasting time and click on the donate link to give what you can.

Vendorprisey:

So far the traditional fundraising method of bugging your mates is beating the blogsphere by a huge margin. We would like to see this change. Putting it bluntly if you think that kids who get caught in war deserve some help, then take out your credit card and click here. Blog about it too. Thanks James and Dennis! Hugh of GapingVoid has even drawn us a cartoon.

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A Brand is a Promise (and United Airlines’ Ameniti Service Sucks)

A couple of months ago I received a promotional package from United Airlines for a new service they were offering called Ameniti. I am universally skeptical of these programs, but in reading through the benefits like free companion tickets, upgrades on rental cars and hotels, and a few other things I thought this might actually be a pretty good deal for $350 a year. So I signed up.

Like all things airline related I should have read the fine print because having these benefits and actually being able to use them is something that is apparently not gone over in detail in the promo piece. I have yet to be able to get a companion air ticket and my experience calling them last week really pushed me over the edge. Here’ the conversation, from memory but largely accurate, with their call center last week about a ticket to LA.

ME: Hi, I need to book a ticket from SFO to LAX and get a companion ticket.

AMENITI REP (AR): okay, no problem, what days are you traveling.

ME: <give her dates and discuss flights>

AR: Okay, that ticket will be $1,150 for coach

ME: Are you kidding? It a shuttle flight to LA.

AR: Yes, but in order to qualify for the companion ticket this reservation has to be priced as a changeable, refundable ticket and that is $1,150.

ME: But I’m flying to LA and a refundable ticket on Southwest is like $100, which means you are still 5 times more expensive for two tickets and you are not giving me anything extra.

AR: I’m sorry sir, but that’s the fare.

ME: But I’m flying to LA…

Basically, you see what is going on here and it is definitely not a one-time thing. For my recent trip to NYC the Ameniti rate was $6,000 (roughly) and I ended up flying on JetBlue for $220 a ticket. More importantly, I loved flying on JetBlue (only flown them one time previous to this) so the next time I need to fly I’m not even bothering to call United.

The Ameniti agent tried telling me about frequent flier bonuses and so on, but big freaking deal when a few thousand miles are costing you a few thousand dollars extra. I’ve had it with miles anyway, they rarely turn into the benefit that they are promised to be and in the end almost more of a hassle.

Which brings me to my headline premise, brands are a promise from the company to the customer. United fails because they over-promise and under-deliver. I got suckered into giving them $350 for a subscription to their Ameniti service and have yet to be able to take advantage of any of the benefits. JetBlue promises me a cheap fare, and ends up delivering a cheap fare and friendly service and inflight satellite television and snacks that don’t suck.

Companies like to think that it’s the big things that trip them up, as in high fuel costs and expensive labor in the case of the major airlines, when in fact it’s the small stuff that ends up accumulating to be a major problem. Companies in trouble, like UAL, like to think that they can rebrand themselves by running new advertisements, changing colors, or coming out with new slogans, when in reality the attributes of branding have nothing to do with what the company creates to support it, but rather the behaviors and attributes of the products and services they are delivering.

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Still blogging

I have received more than a couple of emails asking me if I was quitting blogging following my last post about leaving SAP. No.

The reason for my silence since last week is simply that I’ve been in NYC and have not felt like writing. However, I do have some posts brewing in my head about enterprise 2.0 (or whatever version is in fashion now), surviving the software economy, brands and my experience with United’s Ameniti service, and a few more. Stay tuned, I’ll be back to writing tomorrow.