I swear I was getting through this and trying to move on. She wasn’t my favorite candidate but when you consider the alternative she looked like George Washington in a pantsuit. Like many people I had moved on from denial and anger to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ next stage in the grief pyramid called bargaining. He can’t be that bad…they can tame him…I’m going back to work, he can’t chase me there…I’ll be okay.
But noooo! A brief story in the New York Times today says Donald Trump, incipient POTUS is planning to hold a technology conference next week. It’s right here under this headline, “Trump Plans Technology Conference With Silicon Valley Executives.” The article by David Streitfeld, Maggie Haberman, and Michael D. Shear covers a lot of ground what with Trump also seeming to have cancelled the next generation of Air Force One today, which is also in the piece.
Says the article, “The list of those being invited was not immediately clear, but they could include Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Timothy D. Cook of Apple and Sundar Pichai of Google.” Sure, that’s right, Silicon Valley CEOs have nothing scheduled that far out so of course they’ll all trudge over to Trump Tower. Whatever it is, when a president asks for your time, he’s doing it in the name of all the American people so you more or less have to attend.
The one saving grace in all this might be (and we really don’t know all the details yet) the fact that these are all consumer technology mavens so far. Maybe Trump has a punch list of social media enhancements to go over or maybe he intends to build a wall between our electrons and the rest of the world. Or maybe Trump just wanted to call a fly-in for rich guys to compare private aircraft. His is bigger, you know.
Regardless, I’ll withhold judgment on Trump’s tech chops until I know if this is just show and tell for social media or if he really wants the skinny on what to expect in areas like machine learning, AI, the IoT, and a half dozen other techno-wizbangs that will rock his world soon. I’ll begin to worry when Ellison, Benioff, and Gates get summoned.
I am not one to buy a product as soon as it is introduced, not one to wait in line over night to be one of the first in my time zone, etc. But this time was different. I needed a new iPad. The iPad2 that I bought almost 5 years ago was running very slowly despite fixes like turning off a bunch of CPU hogging things that I didn’t need. I write using every device I have, sometimes I even dictate to the device. But writing on the iPad2 with its screen or virtual keypad had lost its glamour and I was intrigued about having a detachable keypad and, because I also draw and paint avidly, the pencil held a certain artistic allure.
So off I went to the mall, to my nearest Apple store on Saturday to fetch the newest iPad which I hoped would alleviate some of the discomfort I’d grown accustomed to with “the 2”.
My first observation of the mall in general was that the place looked like a ghost town. Normally full with shoppers, this time it was easy to navigate through the halls to find the store, and since I’d entered through a different portal than usual, I only got lost once.
Once at the store, all was as it should be, except the crowd inside was also miniscule. Perhaps the horde would descend after lunch but I saw no evidence of one queuing up in the food court. Was everyone avoiding malls and suddenly eating healthy?
So with minimal drama I got the device I wanted with Lele’s help, but with a surprising exception. The keyboards and pencils are on back order for an estimated 4-5 weeks and all I could buy was the thing itself, which I did in space grey. Set up is remarkably easy thanks to the backup from “the 2” that is automatically stored for me in iCloud. I did it in the store and left with a more or less fully functional device sans keyboard and pencil. Final installation of my apps happened once I was home via my own WiFi and that was achieved without drama.
The device is fine. It’s a lot bigger than “the 2” but I don’t plan to travel with it and will mostly read from it so the larger form factor is all positive for me. Due the larger screen everything is bigger. The default font is readable without glasses and the virtual keyboard is bigger, with more keys, and better, though I still lust for the new keyboard-stand combo.
I was able to order the keyboard and pencil on-line (free shipping) and that’s where I learned of the 4-5 week wait time. They will be delivered before the holidays (barely). I suspect on-line everything is what’s accounting for the small crowds at the malls and if it’s true, then the old arguments from the 1990s about brick and mortar demolition thanks to the Internet might finally be too obvious to ignore. But I digress.
The iPad Pro is a worthy successor to the first iPad, in my humble judgment. It is pretty, has huge numbers of pixels and robust sound thanks to 4 speakers and I suspect it takes great pictures and even movies which I will try as soon as the cats wake up. I saw no reason, given my limited use to spring for a cellular plan or for 128 GB—the 32 GB WiFi only model will suffice just fine. Overall I am happy but would be more so if Apple had managed to get the accessories out at the same time. The delay seems to me very un-Apple like.
Since I read books and news on the iPad, I wonder how much longer it will take for book publishers to follow the lead of the likes of the New York Times to embed video into books. Some books contain still photos and they are reproduced along with maps in eBooks. But it seems to me that if for no other reason than keeping prices up, book writers and sellers need to become more forward thinking about the multi-media aspects of this market. It would give devices like the iPad Pro something to do, something to better justify its existence, much like the spreadsheet did for the PC.
I wonder if a watch could change the world. The introduction of Apple Watch could be such a game changer but not in the way you might expect. A straight line analysis of the Watch’s importance might tell us to expect greater efficiencies in business with all the reminders it can deliver but let’s face it, reminders come at us all the time on our computers and phones.
Another device doing the same thing is not going to change the world by emulating older technology. That is the way of technology introductions though. First they do what older tools did, just better, faster, and cheaper but soon enough we all realize that old processes are not what the new device is for. Just as information is the addition of data to other data and information to produce some new insight, an accumulation of the newest technologies might offer a glimpse into the uncharted future.
I am thinking of the combination of the Watch and Apple Pay or any other payment service that uses the hardware for instant payments. That’s not enough though, I am also thinking about the European continent and specifically the self-inflicted economic malaise brought on by the euro and austerity budgets. This is complicated and I will try to be brief.
The euro is a currency without a nation, which has caused all sorts of problems. The greatest is that no user of the euro can do much to adjust naturally occurring differences from nation to nation such as GDP, inflation, productivity, and spending. This has placed a straight jacket on the member states of the European Union with some doing well, like Germany, while others suffer.
Southern European countries like Italy, Spain, Portugal, and especially Greece are having to run severely austere budgets that are crippling their economies and hurting a lot of people. For sure there is no common agreement on the root causes of the problem but my lying eyes and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman both tell me that the European experiment is going at least sideways because we can’t figure out the euro.
So what’s the Watch’s connection?
Simply this. The common currency was established to create a common trading area across Europe to facilitate exchange and trade and bring the nations closer together. It has too, though but at the price of austerity, which might be too much to bear.
But I suggest that a common currency to speed transactions by individuals and businesses is no longer needed. As the Euro has grown up, technology to effect transactions in any currency has matured to the point that today, you can pay in one currency such as the euro but still keep your wealth in another currency.
We see this all the time. You use your credit cards in any country and the back end computing apparatus does the conversions for your monthly statement. The Watch and Apple Pay can do the same thing with the result that you could pay your international debts in euros but still maintain a domestic currency.
Doing this would enable Eurozone countries to have their own currencies again and to let them float in the marketplace. Inflation is a big scary thing for many European countries like Germany and they’d want to hold it down. But countries like Greece, Italy, Spain and others could significantly benefit from having the ability to manage their own currencies again.
While it’s true that countries would be exposed to currency risk from other countries’ inflation, it would be limited to new purchases; old debts in euros would be unaffected and debtor nations would be on the hook to pay back the euros they borrowed by buying euros with their less valuable sovereign currencies. Thus a more natural control apparatus emerges.
It sounds complicated but the point is that we have the ability to reintroduce some of the benefits of national currencies while still preserving the euro and its trading area. Skeptics will say that paying for gum and a newspaper with something like Apple Pay isn’t going to solve the problem of business-to-business commerce but I disagree. Currency transformations already happen in those larger deals.
For instance, a French company buying British goods still has to convert euros to British Pounds at some point. That mechanism is alive and well. Introducing personal technology and services that enable individuals to manage their spending and conversions would provide the necessary stimulus to get many economies moving again. Of course the rub is that they’d need more hardware and software than many people currently have. But as a wise woman once told me, that would be a high-class problem.
I have been expecting this announcement for a long time but it still came as a surprise when Keith Block, vice chairman Salesforce, made an off the cuff remark in Boston at the Salesforce World Tour event last week. In February Sage and Salesforce announced that they’d work together with Sage moving some of its undisclosed ERP applications to the Salesforce Cloud. But the word didn’t seem to spread and it remained off my radar for nearly two months.
No matter. Sage has been a mainstay of the SMB market for business apps for a long time. With global reach and customers that push the envelope for what an SMB is, the company enjoyed great success in prior decades. But lately, the company’s legacy has been a drag. The apps have needed refreshing for a while with some of them still operating on flat file system back-ends rather than relational databases.
The major culprit, from my perspective, has always been the Sage resellers. The partners have built great businesses on delivering services for customizing and training for Sage products and were reluctant to change their cash cow businesses. A succession of weak CEOs didn’t help much either. Several thought they could ignore the problem of modernization or cajole partners into adapting with the backfiring result that the forward thinkers abandoned ship leaving the more conservative partners with increasing influence.
This is my analysis and you should look for confirmation but my point is that we have arrived at a time when Sage is getting off the dime by getting onto the Salesforce1 Platform and with it joining the ecosystem. This is great news but it also has its own issues for competitiveness.
Although Salesforce CEO and co-founder Marc Benioff long ago disavowed any interest in building an ERP product, the availability of the platform has been more than inducement enough to get others to do so. Companies like FinancialForce, Intact, and Kenandy and others all have products on the AppExchange that will compete in one way or another with anything that Sage brings to the party. Also, there’s no shortage of non-Salesforce oriented ERP in the cloud happy to do battle with NetSuite being the 800-pound gorilla.
But Sage still has a big user community around the world, products that reach smaller users than those that other ERP/accounting vendors target, not to mention a partner base that can still deliver so it will be Sage’s relationships, I think, that either make or break this move. Also, being able to show up with the world’s number one CRM in tow and a slew of modern business apps to boot, should make a powerful combination. Just ask the other ERP players.
It is still unclear which Sage products will be converted or which ones first. I hope that the company will see this as an opportunity to move everything so that for the first time, the product lines that grew by acquisition, will have a common platform.
This is a big test both for Salesforce and for Sage. For Salesforce it’s a great way to grow share and gain influence in more parts of the world. For Sage, it represents a chance at redemption and a new start as a more integrated software company with deep expertise in the back office and multiple verticals such as real estate.
In my mind this doesn’t leave much room for a Sage CRM product though. They had three CRM solutions at one point including ACT! And SalesLogix that they sold off. Sage is now left with a cloud product that by all accounts is good but Sage has always been a company by and for accountants and front office automation was never something the company put its back into. I can name other vendors that were in the same situation but who for multiple reasons became CRM oriented enough to talk the talk, so can you.
Sage Summit happens this summer and it should offer some very interesting keynotes. Will a Salesforce executive attend to welcome the company to the cloud? To be continued.
NOTE: This has been edited to correct the spelling for Safra Catz’ name and to remove a ‘not’ that completely misled my meaning.
I was going to write a post about Larry Ellison leaving Oracle after he announced his retirement on Thursday but it is probably pre-mature. Ellison will become the executive chairman while Safra Catz and Mark Hurd run the shop as co-CEO’s and I have a lot of doubts.
It’s not that Safra and Mark are competent executives because each has held down significant positions for a long time. Recall Hurd was CEO of HP a while ago and Catz has had significant responsibilities at Oracle. But two things strike me. First Larry isn’t going anywhere. If he said he was going sailing or going to live on the island he bought in the Hawaiian Islands that would be a good indication for retirement. But as executive chairman, Ellison will still be heavily involved in the day-to-day operations so I am not sure what if any difference this will mean.
Second, I am leery of two riders on the same horse, which is what you have with co-CEOs. It’s not a good idea — heck sometimes one CEO is too many. By keeping Catz and Hurd in the same relative positions they were in when Larry was CEO we run the risk of losing steam, credibility, innovation, and creativity.
I see this situation as an analog to Microsoft. When Bill Gates retired, Steve Ballmer was waiting in the wings. He was one of the original team and he was a continuation of Gates possibly without Gates’ smarts. In the event, Ballmer stayed the course, rewriting Windows every few years and living off the cash cows and that was exactly what Microsoft didn’t need.
The list of markets that Microsoft plays in but does not lead as a result of a drowsy decade of following Ballmer’s script include cloud computing, phones and tablets, and CRM. We’ll see about the Internet of Things (IoT). I fear that something similar could happen to Oracle. The company has bought a lot of other companies recently and knitting them together is a big job that has to be done but I am not sure that constitutes a vision of where business computing should go and I am not sure the new team has that vision.
Perhaps the vision exists in some of the people who came into the company from the acquisitions, an iffy proposition to be sure. Very often when a company gets bought, the founders and lead talent make enough money to leave. They work through a transition period and then depart for some beach to contemplate their next moves. Some stay. Anthony Lye was a great case in point. He came with the Siebel acquisition and turned Oracle’s CRM group into a real money maker. But he’s gone along with many others.
So the question is what’s next. How long will the transition of Larry all the way out of the organization take? The answer will manifest itself when Larry really does retire and more visibly when we see some new blood in the corner office driving a new vision of Oracle.