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July 17, 2011

Microsoft's Fate and DEC

by robert hashemian @ 2:42 pm
Filed under: business,computers,microsoft — Tags: , , ,

In this thought-provoking article titled, "Will Microsoft Learn DEC's Lesson?", the author makes a great comparison between the current state of affairs at Microsoft and the once mighty DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) headed by the late Ken Olsen.

I don't know how old the author is and if he remembers the glory days of DEC, but I do. Fresh out of UCONN's Engineering school, I was hired by an industrial division of General Electric as a VAX/VMS programmer. My memory is sketchy, but I think the machine at the time was a VAX 8810. It was so big and complex that it needed another computer, a PDP-11 I believe, just to boot it. So many things could go wrong that a reboot was an exercise in anxiety and patience.

I was so enamored by this minibus-sized contraption that I went beyond my programming duties and learned quite a bit of system management skills on it. So when the VAX sysadmin left for another job, I was ready to slide into his position. Looking back, as a 24 year-old, I was a bit young for the task but I did alright. I kept the systems running pretty smoothly, meanwhile undertaking a few major upgrades. Before I finished my tenure, I had the giant VAX replaced with a smaller, more modern VAX (model 4000, I believe). Through it all I remember the big budgets and the large sums of money we spent with DEC. The company was a money-making machine back then.

I certainly owe a debt of gratitude to DEC for "booting" my professional career. I may not remember any VMS commands now, but my VAX/VMS years were the stepping stones in a long career that continues today.

DEC's demise came fast, pretty much starting with Compaq's acquisition. By then, despite Compaq's statements of support, VAX/VMS was becoming irrelevant, and therefore DEC was irrelevant. Altavista.com had been DEC's last attempt at innovation outside VAX/VMS. As ingenious as it was and as popular as it became for a short span of time, the likes of Yahoo, Lycos and Infospace quickly crowded and stifled it.

Unlike DEC which was tied to only one product (VAX/VMS), Microsoft operates varying businesses and is not afraid of trying new fields. The problem is that Microsoft is too tentative and unfocused. For example, I like their .NET platform, but any developer can see that it's fragmented into many different technologies and initiatives. It's impossible to keep up with them.

They promote C# for a while, then swing to VB, then come around to C++, and then off to F# and IronRuby and IronPython. And this is just for coding languages, never mind the scattered frameworks, technologies, and platforms. I have, more than one time, considered switching my company's web infrastructure from WISA (Windows/IIS/SQL Server/ASP.NET) to LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP), and I'm a big C#/CLR fan.

Anyways, if Microsoft does fall, it certainly won't be quick like DEC and it probably won't be only because of its fanatical devotion to Windows and MS Office. Challenges abound, but Microsoft is still relevant and can prevail. But first it may need to clear house, clear its head and then get back whatever it was it once had and then lost.

July 7, 2011

Amazon fires California affiliates

by robert hashemian @ 12:35 am
Filed under: business,law,politics — Tags:

This is old news by now, but fresh on the heels of firing its Connecticut affiliates, Amazon just terminated its California affiliates program in protest over the new state law requiring it to collect sales taxes on purchases.

The law may be fair or unfair, but Amazon could have easily complied, as it does reluctantly for New York. Perhaps Amazon already wanted to get a bunch of affiliates off its books anyways and this provides a good excuse. But the company is just being childish by lashing out in this manner.

At any rate, the business impact of firing the California affiliates is most likely minimal for Amazon, or else it would have hung on to them, as it has been doing with the New York affiliates.

Amazon cuts off California affiliates - San Jose Mercury News.

June 12, 2011

Amazon.com punishes Connecticut associates

by robert hashemian @ 4:53 pm
Filed under: business,law — Tags: ,

Not to defend big-box stores but this statement from Amazon is an obvious distortion of facts. Amazon is just being whiny because it hates fair competition.

We opposed this new tax law because it is unconstitutional and counterproductive. It was supported by big-box retailers, most of which are based outside Connecticut, that seek to harm the affiliate advertising programs of their competitors.

So big-box stores compete with Amazon, maybe fiercely, but that's life. And what does Amazon do in return? Like an infant, it throws a temper tantrum and takes it out on its associates.

So magnanimous of Amazon to allow the dumped associates the continued privilege of shopping at Amazon.com :)

... this development ... will not affect their ability to purchase from http://www.amazon.com.

letter from Amazon.com to Connecticut associates - Courant.com.

June 11, 2011

Amazon.com Dumps Connecticut, Too

by robert hashemian @ 3:09 pm
Filed under: business,law — Tags: , ,

Amazon has lashed out against my home state of Connecticut, cutting all their affiliates in the state, because Connecticut told Amazon to play fair. While local merchants are required to collect and pay state taxes, Amazon was happily undercutting them online, using its affiliates as mules to deliver some of those sales. The state recently closed that loophole, therefore raising the ire of Amazon who's now promptly firing all of its Connecticut affiliates as a retaliatory reaction. Blame the state all you want, but don't just become tools in the hands of a greedy corporation.

This is not the first state who has been punished by Amazon. This follows a string of affiliates from other states who have been dropped like sacks of manure because that's what Amazon generally thinks of its users and partners. Amazon figures it has milked the affiliates enough already and will continue to do so with all the residual backlinks. Why continue to pay commissions when it can keep the money for itself?

At the same time consider Amazon's hypocrisy of keeping the New York affiliates. New York has the same state tax laws as these other unfortunate states but the New York affiliates haven't been fired. Why? Money, of course. New York is just too lucrative of a market to dump so easily.

I myself was dumped by Amazon over a year ago and wasn't happy about it. So yes, I do have a grudge, but life goes on. I licked my wounds, moved on to Google Adsense and eBay and dumped Amazon in return by vowing to never shop from them again, A promise I have faithfully kept since then.

Of course I am happy to use Amazon's site for comparison shopping and product information, but never to order anything from. eBay or other sites suit me just fine, thank you very much. And when it's time to consider cloud computing services for my company, Amazon will be last in the list to consider, if at all. Why would I jeopardize my job position by going with an arrogant and untrustworthy company?

Don't let being fired from Amazon upset you. Fire them back. Stop buying from Amazon.

May 9, 2011

Google Vs. Netflix

by robert hashemian @ 9:25 pm
Filed under: business,google — Tags: , ,

youtube, google's video site, is beginning to beef up its roster of movies, adding some big productions too, like inception.

netflix shouldn't worry quite yet. youtube's list isn't as extensive and its pricing not as competitive. but when google starts to muscle in on a market, it won't be wise to ignore it either.

Google’s YouTube Adding 3,000 Rentals, Challenging Netflix - Bloomberg.

March 24, 2011

Internet Explorer 9 - Why Microsoft Must Break up

by robert hashemian @ 12:30 am
Filed under: business,web — Tags: , , ,

I saw some news today that the Firefox 4 download numbers beat those of IE 9 by a large margin. And that even with IE 9 getting rave reviews for being built from scratch and being speedy, while Firefox 4 came out of beta way too late.

Why is Firefox so popular and Google Chrome gaining market share like crazy? Barring the bad wrap IE has had for years for being sluggish and buggy, these browsers can work on a wide array of operating systems, including Windows XP. By contrast IE 9 only works on Windows Vista and 7 and I'm willing to bet that's a marketing decision and not a technological barrier.

I can just imagine how badly the IE 9 team would have wanted to make their creation available on XP, but the powers that be just vetoed that idea. Something like 40% of all Windows users are still on XP and Microsoft would like them to get off that platform. If IE 9 were to be supported on XP, it would probably see much greater adoption, yet that would be tantamount to a tacit approval of XP by Microsoft and they just couldn't have that, such conundrum.

Now imagine if the IE group was independent from the Windows group, as in two separate companies. Then there would be no conflict of interest, no corporate policies would be violated and no one will get mad if IE 9 would work on XP. Microsoft should break itself up for its own good. It's only harming itself in its current behemoth form.

December 19, 2010

Sun Chips Noisy Bags

by robert hashemian @ 11:11 pm
Filed under: business,social — Tags:

Wouldn't call myself a fan, but I like the regular Sun chips and I sometimes get a small bag to go with my sandwich. I've been hearing about the new noisy bags for some time but until last week I had no idea what the complaints were all about.

So last week I was at the grocery store where I spotted large bags of Sun chips on the shelf with the words "100% Compostable" on them. As I reached to grab one, I suddenly understood what the fuss was all about. The bags are really loud, but unlike some other people my reaction was one of amusement and interest.

I actually like the noisy bags, and one my kids does too. In fact she mentioned that it's crazy that the company is reverting to the old bags because of a few complaints. I don't know, seems to me that Sun chips actually has a winning formula with these bags. They're not only better for the environment, but their noisiness sets them apart from the other bags. I actually bought another bag yesterday. Am I becoming a fan now?

Check out the noise from the bag here: Sun Chips Noise

August 13, 2010

Oracle Collects on Sun

by robert hashemian @ 11:15 pm
Filed under: business,google,law,technology — Tags: , , ,

Oracle SunBack when Oracle acquired Sun, you really didn't think that it was going to continue with the free open source model, did you? Of course not. This is Oracle, and Oracle is all about business. It has expensive products and even more expensive support and maintenance terms. And if someone like SAP starts to offer cheaper support, Oracle has the legal resources to sue them out of its turf very quickly.

Those lawyers are now busy suing Google over Java license violations in its Android platform. Meanwhile OpenSolaris is seeing its last days in the sun as the focus shifts to its commercial counterpart, Oracle Solaris, where there's money to be made.

It won't be long before Java, MySQL, and OpenOffice will be history too, at least in terms of their current forms. In Oracle's world if a product doesn't substantially contribute to the bottom line, it's axed. That's an unfortunate hit on innovation and open collaboration.

Oracle has a good track record of successful business ventures and profitable acquisitions. But the company is basically reliant on old legacy systems from itself and acquired companies to drive its earnings. When is the last time you heard of an innovative or exciting product coming out of Oracle? Probably in 1977 when its flagship product, Oracle Database, was conceived. And even then Oracle Database wasn't that novel. It was based on an existing IBM database product.

July 18, 2010

Apple iPhone 4 Free Cases

by robert hashemian @ 1:43 pm
Filed under: business — Tags: ,

Apple had finally enough and it addressed the antenna Death Grip issue (Antennagate) last Friday.

In response to Apple's press conference promising free cases for all iPhone 4 users, I put together a tiny survey below to poll people's sentiments on that. Non iPhone 4 owners are welcome too.

Ok, I'm also testing Google Forms here. I'll probably get no responses at all :)

June 2, 2010

BP Dividends in Jeopardy

by robert hashemian @ 11:37 pm
Filed under: business,financial — Tags: , , ,

As stated in my previous post, that 9.2% BP dividend yield was just wishful thinking. Now comes the word that lawmakers want BP to suspend any dividend payments because obviously the company has gotten one hell of a liability to deal with and paying the shareholders instead of the victims isn't going to sit well with anyone.

While BP shares rose modestly today in sympathy with the rest of the market which had a solid day, the news of the potential dividend cut will not please the investors and generally that's bad news for the stock.

More than likely BP shares will experience weakness tomorrow as a result. Right now about the only thing that can give BP a boost is sealing that oil well. Unless and until that happens the string of bad news will continue for BP.

I do wonder about one thing. If the outlook gets really nasty for BP, as in a risk of insolvency, will the British government step in with a bailout plan? Will the British public be in the mood for any more bailouts? Small chance, but a possibility nevertheless.

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