Daily Archives: September 1, 2009

Vonage Shares Overreact to AppStore News

We already know that it doesn’t take much impetus to move Vonage;s stock. We learned last week that the company’s shares suffer from the market equivalent of bipolar disorder, going sharply up and then down for no discernible reason.

Vonage stock was up to its old tricks after hours tonight, shooting up 15 percent. Again, the stock seems to require only the slightest provocation to launch into hyperactivity.

The rationale for tonight’s move was news that Apple had approved Vonage’s mobile VoIP application for the AppStore, where it will be available for download to the iPhone and iPod Touch. Vonage says it is conducting a beta test and that general availability of the application will be announced at a later date.

Apparently that’s a good enough reason to buy for some investors, even though other evidence suggests that Vonage remains between a rock and a hard place competitively, regardless of whether it has an application that runs on Apple’s wildly popular mobile devices.

Widespread Gmail Outage Frustrates Google Users

Google would like businesses and other organizations to adopt its Google Apps.

To be successful in that effort, Google will have to do a better job of keeping its online services, well, online. As reported by nearly everybody, Gmail was down and out for a considerable time today, affecting a majority of the service’s users.

The widespread outage, occurring on a day when outages also hit Dell and others, represented a setback for Google in its efforts to persuade the world that web-based application services can be relied upon to be available when they’re needed most — which, for some applications, is all the time.

Today’s service failure marks the third time this year Gmail has gone missing. It also had notable outages in February and May. Some Gmail and Google Apps subscribers vented their frustrations online — though not on Gmail, because it wasn’t running at the time.

Even though I am a Gmail user, I was not affected the by outage. That’s because I have set up my Gmail account to work on an archaic POP server with an email client. Yes, I am pathetically and unfashionably behind the times, but at least my email kept working.

Dell Website Back Online After Outage

According to a report at TechCrunch, Dell’s website was down for a significant length of time today.

Quoting from TechCrunch:

At least for the past half hour (since 5 PM EST), Dell.com has been suffering from a serious outage. Just for your reference, the company saw sales of $12.76 billion last quarter, and that was down 22% from $16.43 billion a year ago. Rest assured every minute of downtime is costing the computer manufacturer serious money.

Update: site is back up as from 5:40 PM EST

Given that Dell does so much of its business online, the company owes its stakeholders, and especially its customers, an explanation as to what went wrong and what Dell is doing to prevent a recurrence of the problem.

Spurned by Cisco, Dell Puts Together a Converged Data-Center Strategy

Once upon a time — not long ago, actually — Dell thought it was poised to become Cisco Systems’ indispensable data-center ally.

As Del understood the world back then, Cisco would provide the data-center network infrastructure and Dell would provide the data-center servers. The companies both had storage and virtualization partnerships, and they could serve those needs as required, too.

Some within Dell even entertained the possibility that Cisco, which was considering a converged data-center strategy, would opt to OEM servers from Dell. Few within Dell imagined that Cisco would go from being partner to competitor.

But that’s what happened. Dell has been reeling since then, trying to determine how best to answer the data-center threat posed by Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS) and the countering thrusts from HP and IBM.

Perhaps belatedly, Dell has found its answer. While it retains a reseller relationship with Cisco, Dell’s newly expanded OEM relationship with Brocade Communications Systems will take precedence for Dell commercially and strategically. Dell will put its own label on the data and storage switches it will OEM from Brocade — it previously resold Brocade’s storage-networking gear — and it will share revenue with Brocade. The two companies also have committed to work together on the development of new data-center products and technologies, including virtualization solutions.

In some ways, Dell is making a virtue of a necessity, as suggested by Timothy Prickett Morgan at The Register. Dell cannot afford to buy Brocade or another major networking vendor. In a sense, Dell is like an NFL team with several personnel holes to fill and a limited budget with which to do it.

Still, the number-two PC purveyor is counting on the enterprise for future prosperity. When Cisco, followed determinedly by HP and IBM, made its unilateral move for data-center hegemony with UCS, Dell needed a rejoinder. Standing pat wasn’t an option.

Like IBM, Dell will position itself as a solution provider and master integrator, bringing together its own servers with networking gear from Brocade and others, offering an alternative to Brocade when customers are insistent about having one. It will have storage options, too, though it might make an acquisition or two in that space to address mid-market enterprise requirements.

The trouble with the strategy, especially in the largest enterprise accounts, is that Dell lacks IBM’s professional-services panache. IBM is bigger and better at being a services-driven trusted partner.

HP has chosen a different path, opting for a direct, head-to-head competitive showdown with Cisco. Like Cisco, HP will provide a complete, mostly in-house, end-to-end solution for the converged data center. HP already owned its ProCurve Networking business, having dithered and procrastinated when it had an opportunity to spin it off or sell it to Francisco Partners a few years ago.

That decision, or failure to make a decision, might yet pay dividends, though HP will have to fill gaps in its core networking portfolio, with strategic partnerships or acquisitions, if it wishes to challenge Cisco’s full networking breadth and depth right across the board.

Dell is at the table now, too. It doesn’t have as many poker chips as HP or Cisco, but it’s playing the hand it’s been dealt. Unfortunately for Dell, Cisco dealt that hand when it chose to go its own way in fashioning the UCS platform.

Rumor Madness: Why Cisco Unlikely to Acquire Symantec

One crazy rumor that hit my radar screen today involves a mooted Cisco acquisition of Symantec.

I can see why Cisco would consider additional security acquisitions to complement its Unified Computing System (UCS) strategy, but Symantec isn’t the most logical target.

Let’s consider the valuation first. As security players go, Symantec is a big one. Cisco traditionally has eschewed large acquisitions, instead favoring smaller purchases of companies and technologies that can be seamlessly integrated into the Cisco operational machine and quickly monetized in the field.

Symantec would be a bear of an acquisition for Cisco to integrate and assimilate. If Cisco’s past comportment in these matters is an indication of future behavior, it will steer clear of potential disruptions and drawbacks associated with an unwieldy acquisition.

Seeking to refute that argument, some will point to Cisco’s sizeable acquisition of Scientific Atlanta. That was an exception to the rule, and an interesting one at that.

Cisco thought it essential to enter the set-top box market, where there weren’t many pure-play leaders, and none located in Silicon Valley. By process of elimination, Scientific Atlanta was the only strategic option that made sense under the circumstances. One alternative for Cisco involved buying all or part of Motorola. That would have been an act of corporate masochism.

Symantec, even after its misadventures and missteps in recent years, has a market valuation of more than $12 billion. McAfee, which has been getting the better of Symantec lately in the enterprise space and has been aggressively pushing a comprehensive security vision for cloud computing, is valued at just more than $6 billion. I’m not saying Cisco would go into its bank vault for either company, but McAfee would be easier to digest if Cisco determined that it had to make the move.

While Cisco would have product overlaps with McAfee or Symantec, the latter has significant parts of its business — such as Veritas’ storage management — that Cisco would be inclined to perceive as more liability, or irrelevance, than asset.

At some point, Symantec might cease to be an independent company. Network security appears destined for distributed integration into the cloud-computing fabric and into enterprise infrastructure. That said, I don’t see Cisco as Symantec’s buyer.

CEOs Need to Give Written Words More Thought

Have you ever noticed that many technology CEOs can’t write to save their lives? Not all of them, of course. Some are adept at written communication, but they seem to constitute the minority.

Even though I shouldn’t be, I am constantly surprised at how inexpertly CEOs compose and edit missives to their troops. Maybe they have no time for written communication, maybe they don’t think it’s important, maybe they’re juggling too many thoughts and responsibilities, and maybe some of them suffer from attention-deficit disorder. Whatever the reason or reasons, many of them are just not very good when it comes to putting words down on paper or on LCDs.

The latest email memorandum from Yahoo’s Carol Bartz is a prime example. Here it is:

I’ve had one! All the work, all the explaining, all the opinions!

I wanted to crawl into a hole and eat chocolate (and of course my knee boo-boo made me feel even sorrier for myself). Making the search decision and driving this much change for us was hard, but it is done.

So I am out of the hole, ready to attack the future. We are Yahoo! 581 MILLION PEOPLE came to us last month. Our audience increased 1.9% month-over-month, faster than the overall Internet population (1.2%).

Our job is to keep growing that audience with a great homepage, great media properties, great communications products and a great search experience. Match that with a compelling advertiser program and voila! We are the largest media property on the Internet.

So get out of the sugar low–we have work to do. Stop staring at our navels, stop arguing with each other. Stop debate, debate, debate, and let’s focus on the competition.

Let’s focus on a great Yahoo! Our average user is just trying to get through the day…looking to find out what’s going on in the big world and their own world. They want their Internet site to be great, and to work. They don’t care about how or about deals. They care that we are a trusted dependable site.

That is our simple mission. Focus on it!!!

It is enough to make one weep.

Thankfully, it doesn’t contain spelling errors, but nearly everything else about it is a prose disaster. Look at the prolific use of exclamation marks! Consider the juvenile narcissism: She spends the first three paragraphs focusing exclusively on her experiences and feelings rather than trying to communicate and identify with her readers. Then there’s that opening. Just what does that mean? Why begin a piece of written communication with something so tersely enigmatic?

The tone is condescending, snarky. It contains plenty of stick and precious little carrot. It is bullying and hectoring, but it isn’t remotely motivational. The message comes across as psychic therapy for Bartz, but I’m not sure what purpose it was meant to serve beyond that. In writing and sending it, what did she hope to achieve?

She contradicts herself, too. She implores her minions to focus on the competition, and then, in the very next sentence and paragraph, she commands them to focus on “a great Yahoo.” Finally, in an exceedingly patronizing way, she hauls the “average Yahoo user” into the frame. She portrays this archetypal user as one step above a knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing rube who’s just been received in Darwin’s waiting room.

Of course, the customer should be the focus. The people who visit Yahoo’s site should always be front and center in the company’s considerations. From what Bartz has written, though, I wonder whether she has sufficient regard for those customers to serve them well. She seems to think they are beneath her.

Look, CEOs out there, I can’t offer you bombproof advice on many matters, but I can tell you one thing with absolute confidence: Think before you write. Give it the time it deserves.

Because of your stature, your audience will actually read what you send them. What you write will have consequences, ramifications. Before you start typing, think carefully about what you want to say, how you want to say it, and what result you’d like to achieve. Choose your words carefully, with respect for the attention and time of your readers. Try a bit of empathy. It won’t hurt.

Finally, when you’ve finished composing the message, proofread it to ensure that the content, tone, and structure are right. Refrain from invoking exclamation marks unless you have exceptional cause to employ them. Indiscriminate use of them can make you look, well, a tad unhinged.

To summarize, it’s important to show respect — respect for the written word, respect for thought and articulation, respect for clear communication. Most of all, it’s important to show respect for your audience.

What’s the old saying? Ahh, yes, I remember: To get respect, you have to be willing to give it.