Sun Microsystems has canceled two upcoming chip projects. While the Gemini and UltraSparc V chips weren't nearly as high-profile or hotly anticipated as, say, Intel's Itanium, it's still an embarassment for Sun. Sun execs have been touting the company's upcoming "Rock" processor, but coming on the failure of Sun's technically whizzy but commercially unsuccessful MAJC chip architecture, the canceled chips raise the question of whether Sun can still be a player in microprocessors. After continued losses and layoffs, will Sun simply admit that it can't do it all -- hardware, software, and microprocessors? Or will it soldier on with its costly vision of providing everything in computing from the silicon on up?
India is going through a consumer-centric face lift. The old shopping areas are being replaced by gleaming, air-conditioned malls which look and feel like good old American malls. Most of the brands are local, though there is a smattering of European brands like Benetton. You have Levi's, Adidas and Nike. I found some really interesting products from Arrow, an old U.S. shirtmaker. Wrangler and Lee Jeans are pretty big here. Tommy Hilfiger will be here in two weeks. What about global luxury brands? Louis Vuitton, Bulgari and Hugo Boss have opened stores in high-end hotels. Apparently, Louis Vuitton rings up an average sale of around $1,200. There is a retail boom going on here!
Apple Computer and Apple Corps (one of the greatest company names of all time) have been at it again. The Beatles' record label contends that Apple's iTunes Music Store violates a field-of-use agreement; Apple Corps' lawyers read the agreement as saying that Apple Computer can only use the "Apple" mark on computer products, not music-related ones. The two have butted heads before over Apple's use of the name on music-synthesizing equipment, but settled. Now they're headed into a possible court battle again. An amusing side note: the British judge owns an iPod.
It's been two days since I've returned to hot and dusty India. I've been fighting jet lag and watching lots of bad television shows -- a 20-year-old Cheers rerun, Karen Sisco and more. Here are some observations:
Is the IPO window open or closed? And if it is open, how wide? The latest first-quarter data from Thomson Venture Economics and the National Venture Capital Association shows 13 venture-backed companies raised $2.72 billion through initial public offerings. The value of the Q1 offerings beats out all of the IPOs in 2003 combined. Another 50 venture-backed companies are in registration to go public this year. So it seems safe to say that the IPO window is legitimately open -- not so wide that you could drive any company through it, but wide enough for a select group of very solid startups to make their debut. The most encouraging sign of a sustainable IPO market for VC-backed companies is that it is happening even without Google gracing the public market with its presence. We'll keep watching, especially for the aftermarket performance of the class of 2004.
I tend to have little patience for business books where the message is that you can be more successful by studying some seemingly unrelated discipline. You know, books about how you should lead your company like a jazz musician or a basketball coach or a race car driver. That's not to say that I think you can't apply outside learning to your business life (I once wrote the race-car version for a business magazine). It's just that to make a whole book out of that usualy requires the author to stretch the metaphor past the breaking point.
The Way of Go by Troy Anderson is no exception, in that I have better things to do than sit down and read the advance reader's proof of it I received. But I did get some useful stuff from skimming the pages. In Business 2.0's December issue, I wrote a piece about Casio Computer in which CEO Kazuo Kashio told me he's a big fan of Go, the Japanese board game. Although I've lived in Japan, I never got into Go. A friend of mine once told me to "Say no to No" (the Japanese dramatic form) and I applied that to Go too. But after hearing Kashio was into it, I bought some Go books and started playing at a cafe in San Francisco. A guy at the cafe "teaches" me by kicking my ass every time. In the last game I lost something like 200 to 2. "Schools" is the more appropriate term for what he does to me.
Having played a little Go, I can appreciate what I found when I flipped randomly to page 46. It's about how neither of the players decides the outcome in a go game, how that applies in business too. It's really true when you think about companies acting in a complex environment of the economy, competitors, etc. Anderson goes on to apply the Go metaphor to Toyota, NASA, and MacGyver. When it comes out (I think sometime in 2004), read it and let me know what that's all about.
Jeff Clarke, whose tireless, bleary-eyed work in the controversial merger of HP and Compaq earned him the nickname "Raccoon," has been named CFO at troubled software giant Computer Associates. Looks like there's no end in sight for those dark circles.
Clarke, who had been CFO at Compaq, was considered a rising star at HP in the wake of the merger. But he made no secret of the fact that he wanted HP CFO Bob Wayman’s job. When it became clear Wayman wasn’t going anywhere, Clarke left. In addition, Clarke's political standing at HP couldn't have been helped by dating one of HP's top flacks.
With his reputation for bluntness, Clarke should be good for CA. He won the respect of many Wall Street analysts after after he was thrust into the role of CFO during a terrible time for Compaq, and refused to sugarcoat the computer-maker's problems. That experience will be essential as Computer Associates looks to put a $1 billion accounting scandal behind it. (CA’s CFO was forced out in October.) Shares of Computer Associates rose 3.5 percent following the announcement.
In other HP merger news, the cover of this week’s Barron'strumpeted the success of HP’s merger with Compaq, and argued HP’s shares are undervalued.