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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Crossed 70,000 Visits!

My blogs just crossed 70,000 visits this Sunday.  Sweet. 

Monday, December 29, 2008

iPhone At Walmart

Finally, the iPhone has made its appearance at Walmart - a little late to take full advantage of Christmas shopping.

What I find really hilarious is the price - after all the breathless rumors about the iPhone price getting slashed for Walmart's sake, it turns out the discount is 1%.  For the 8 GB phone, that means a $2 discount.  For the 16 GB phone, thats a $3 discount.

Hahahahaha.  Who would put up with the lines at Walmart for that discount?  I'll tell you who - people who were shopping at Walmart to begin with. 

iphone walmart

Advantage Walmart - it gets to sell the iPhone, right next to the Google-phone.  And gets bragging rights about the lowest price for an iPhone

Advantage Apple - the discount doesn't even register, and other retailers won't care enough to quarrel with Steve and co.  At the same time, this is another 2k - 3k outlets to sell the iPhone, which is great.

Advantage the Consumer? - Seems rumors of a price decrease are still around;  and the iPhone has a fat enough (and growing) profit margin to allow for a nice price drop in the near future.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Who's A Cash Cow? More Layoffs At LifeScan

Can you spell C-A-S-H C-O-W?  J&J spells it L-I-F-E-S-C-A-N.

I had covered LifeScan's last layoffs in October.  Seems there was more to come. 

Another 10% of the company, specially in the US division in Milpitas, is being shown the exit door, including the entire Business Development department.

one touch ultrasmart

LifeScan is doing well compared to the rest of the Blood Glucose Meters companies, specially in the US.  They are a $2 Billion company with manufacturing and operations in Milpitas (California),  Inverness (Scotland - at the tip of Loch Ness),  Mayaguez (Puerto Rico), and marketing and sales arms around the world.  And now, they are considered ripe for rationalization.

This makes sense, if you think of LifeScan as a cash cow.  J&J can continue to reap the profits from R&D mostly done 5 - 10 years earlier  (not talking about incremental changes to the product, of course),  as well as Business Development deals put in place as early as 10 years ago - including one that is supposed to be the product of the near future, out of Australia. 

With this in mind, only functions necessary to continue operations satisfactorily are needed; the rest can either be consolidated within J&J headquarters,  or gotten rid of altogether. 

The Business Development team has some outstanding people.  I'm sorry they need to look for new opportunities in this job environment.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ning And Glam - Cost Cutting Time

Ning and Glam Media are two companies that have a lot of funding - over $100 Million each. 

Ning is also a lean company - they have a lean staff, and everyone works really hard (even by Silicon Valley standards).  I visited their office a couple of weeks back.  They have a normal office as startups go, except for the enormous monitors each person gets.  If you work at Ning, watch Hulu at your desk, no need for a big screen tv!


And Glam has all sorts of claims of success.  CEO Samir Arora is a consummate salesman and PR guy. 

glam media

But such are the times, both of these companies, awash in capital, are cutting down on costs.

Glam is reducing everyone's salaries - 3% - 15% for the employees, 25% - 60% for Samir and some top execs and sales people.  They're replacing this with a variable bonus element.  It is a good idea... but might still lead to some top people defecting.   Glam has also started delaying payments to partners and publishers even further.  Hopefully, this doesn't drive any partners out of business, or causes them to scale down their business - because that would come back to haunt Glam.

And Ning is rumored to be readying itself for layoffs, or other cost cuts as well.  This is completely unconfirmed, but several valley folks (none of whom work at Ning) are talking about it, as is  Hope its not true, but......

Scary times, my friends.

Friday, December 19, 2008

VC Money Flowing Again

It only took a couple of months; VC money is flowing again.  We at Kosmix, of course, just got $20 Million.  And now San Francisco-based Scribd has announced a $9 Million round of funding from Charles River Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, and Kinsey Hills Group. 

I like Scribd, so I'm glad they're going to be around.  Essentially, the site lets you upload and share documents online.  I work in a remotely spread out team (Mountain View, New York, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Francisco), so Scribd is something we should be using at work too.

Former Bebo COO George Consagra (no, not the guy from Seinfeld) has joined Scribd as its president.  So they're getting serious.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Slydial Update - Love It!

I had covered Slydial on my blog earlier. This Monday, I was contacted by SHIFT Communications, who seem to be handling their PR, to let me know the app was available on the iPhone, and that I should try it. (Slydial is an app created by the guys at MobileSphere)

I tried it over the last couple of days, and I have to say, I love it! I hadn't even thought of all the uses I could put it to;

  • Calling a business associate late in the evening. I've already done this a couple of times. This way, I make sure I'm not delaying talking to partners on the east coast by another day; at the same time, I'm not calling them at a very late hour.
  • By the same token, sometimes when a long or nuanced message is needed, SMS is a bit painful... specially when you have an iPhone, as I do. Slydial is a much better alternative
  • Prank calls. I know, this isn't a very elegant use.... but....
  • Don't give this app to the folks in the Philippines! If you do, you know they're going to start using it when they want to break up with someone. A voice-mail does beat out SMS in some cases
  • Relatives, friends, associates you don't really want to talk to. Or don't have the time to talk to.

What's great is that the recipient also sees a missed call. This way, there is no reason to believe slydial was used.

The app has made its way to the front page on my iPhone!


Friday, December 5, 2008

AT&T Layoffs

I hate AT&T, just as I hate Comcast

But I hate the company, not the people (at least non-executives) who work there.  So I'm sad to hear AT&T is joining the layoff bandwagon, letting go off 4% of their workforce, or 12,000 people.

There are two factors that are leading to this:

Firstly, they are seeing their landline customers defect - that business is shrinking by 11%, while AT&T's own wireless business is growing by 14%.   Their landline business is still bigger, and needs a bigger workforce compared to the wireless business, so that feeds directly into the total workforce.

Secondly, they are seeing people stop taking add-on services, and manage their minutes on limited plans more carefully (AT&T is one of the worst companies at charging through the roof for a single extra text message, or a single extra minute on your calling plan). 


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

All Worn Out - Sneakerplay Shuts Down

Sneakerplay was a perfect example of a niche social network - it catered to people like Entourage's Turtle, who are obsessed over sneakers. 


And to think it was only one among a number of similar plays. 

Sneakerplay is shutting down now.  Its time for most of the other niche networks to fall soon.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving Bargains Fuel J&J Acquisition Spree

The Thanksgiving buying bug has bitten my favorite blue-chip, Johnson & Johnson, which is buying Mentor Corp. and Omrix Biopharmaceuticals

Omrix is going to feed right into J&J's surgical care business.... and by that I mean the serious surgical stuff. 

Mentor, on the other hand, feeds into, shall we say, the sometimes desired-but-not-required cosmetic surgery side.  It is a leader in cosmetic products, including breast implants.  J&J has traditionally not been a market leader in cosmetic surgery, but this acquisition will change that.  mentor corp

J&J's stock went down as a result of these acquisitions, but the long term prognosis is very positive.  I'm shoring up my position in the stock.