Posts Tagged ‘IBM’

The Chinese Moto into Chicago

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

It’s a strange experience to attend a tech conference like I did last Thursday and have no one — not the audience or the speakers — mention the biggest tech story of the year. It’s a little like attending a family reunion and having nobody comment on your Aunt Mary’s 25-year old boyfriend.

Motorola Mobility is being sold by Google to Chinese computer powerhouse, Lenovo. You remember them — the company that bought IBM’s ThinkPad division in 2005. They paid $2.9 billion and it’s for one reason: to enter the smartphone war against Apple and Samsung. It’s the largest ever deal by a Chinese tech company (although a relative bargain when you consider that Google paid $12.5 billion for Motorola — primarily for its patent portfolio which it will license to Lenovo.)

For Chicago, the sale comes weeks away from the biggest real estate move of the last year: Motorola moving more than 2,000 workers into the Merchandise Mart and becoming the biggest tech employer downtown. Lenovo says it will all move ahead with no plans for layoffs.

The reason a Chinese tech behemoth with resources pays for an American company is twofold — brand and know how. “Motorola brings a strong brand, brilliant engineering and strong relationships with carriers and retailers.” said Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing.

In a blog for Crain’s Chicago Business, John Pletz spells out the challenges: Today, it (Motorola) has just 1 percent global market share, putting it in 16th place among the top cellphone vendors, according to research firm Strategy Analytics Inc. That’s down from No. 2, with 22 percent share, in 2006, when Motorola’s Razr phone was the must-have device.

After the acquisition, Lenovo will be No. 3, with 6 percent of the smartphone market, which accounts for most of the cellphone industry’s profit, according to Strategy Analytics. Samsung is No. 1 with 32 percent of shipments, followed by Apple, with 15 percent.

Condoleezza Rice Breaches Augusta National’s Men Only Membership Rule

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

As the nation celebrated the 40th anniversary of Title IX this summer, the previously all-male Augusta National Golf Club invited the first two women to join its ranks.  The invitation to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — whose handicap is reported to be between 13 and 14 — and South Carolina financier Darla Moore came at a time when Augusta National was under considerable pressure to allow women members.  Augusta National’s chairman, Billy Payne, termed the decision “a significant and positive time in our Club’s history.”

Not surprisingly, opinion on the invitations differs.  Writing in Time, Sean Gregory says that “”If you want to give Augusta some leeway (in terms of Title IX), is it maybe 30 years too late?  Back then, Title IX had been on the books for ten years, Billie Jean King had beaten Bobby Riggs, and women were making progress on both ball fields and at the workplace.  Yes, it’s late, but at least it has happened.  Augusta National finally has female members.”  Curiously, all the discrimination hasn’t stopped women from golfing.  There are more than 26,000,000 golfers in the United States; nearly 25 percent are women.  To this day, 24 golf courses in the United States don’t allow women members; of those; four are located in metropolitan Chicago.

Lauren Stiller Rilkeen, writing in the Harvard Business Review, says  that  “The controversy surrounding the club’s long-standing refusal to admit women wasn’t about golf in general or Augusta in particular.  It was about access.  Significant business decisions are more often made by men, and the proof is in the data — which has barely moved in years.  Approximately 16 percent of corporate board seats and 15 percent of the highest-ranking executives are female, and women continue to earn less than their male peers.  People (of either gender) tend to give jobs, deals and promotions to those they know and trust — and that trust is built through connections made in clubs, at dinners, and during other social events.  When women are denied admittance to places where powerful men gather, they are therefore also denied networking opportunities.”

Some believe that threatened financial pressure caused Augusta National to invite Rice and Moore to join because some sponsors reportedly threatened to withdraw their support.  As long ago as 2003, women’s rights activist Martha Burk tried to talk corporate leaders into withdrawing their financial support for Augusta National and the Masters.  “My first reaction was, we won — and we did,” Burk said regarding Rice’s and Moore’s invitations.  “By we, I mean the women’s movement and women in the United States, particularly those in business.”

And what about women being allowed into athletics in general?  Despite the significant increase, the record of Title IX is still mixed.  On the plus side, in the four decades since Title IX was enacted, more than six times as many women compete in college sports as did in 1972.    In 1972, for example, approximately 32,000 women competed in collegiate athletics.   Just two percent of university budgets funded women’s sports; athletic scholarships for women were virtually non-existent.   Today, nearly 200,000 women participate in college sports; 48 percent have scholarships at NCAA Division I schools.  The bad news is that those numbers don’t correlate with the fact that nearly 60 percent of college students are women.  Unfortunately, access to competitive women’s sports is still unequal.  Women athletes have fewer opportunities to participate or benefit from athletic scholarships than men.  Low-income, minority and immigrant women are less likely to play sports than middle-income white women.

Is This Farewell to the BlackBerry?

Monday, February 27th, 2012

“They’re going to pry it out of my hands…”

That was President-Elect Obama protesting the idea of giving up his beloved BlackBerry. At one point, Obama suggested that retaining his BlackBerry was one way to stay connected to the real world.  “I’ve got to look for every opportunity to do that – ways that aren’t scripted, ways that aren’t controlled, ways where, you know, people aren’t just complimenting you or standing up when you enter into a room, ways of staying grounded,” he said.

Ultimately, the battle was won by the Secret Service and Obama’s legal team for fear that the device would be hacked and that a damaging national security breach could occur.

Now — five years after its manufacturer, Research in Motion (RIM), was hailed as one of the world’s leading technology companies, the Blackberry’s market share in the United States has fallen from 44 per cent in 2009 to a mere 10 per cent last year.

According to author James Surowiecki, “These days, it seems more like the SlackBerry.  The BlackBerry’s reputed addictiveness now looks like a myth; a recent study found that only a third of users planned to stick with it the next time they upgraded.  R.I.M.’s stock price is down 75 per cent in the past year, and two weeks ago the company was forced to bring in a new CEO.  The easy explanation for what happened to R.I.M. is that, like so many other companies, it got run over by Apple.  But the real problem is that the technology world changed, and R.I.M. didn’t.  The BlackBerry was designed for businesses.  Its true customers weren’t its users but the people who run corporate information-technology departments.  The BlackBerry gave them what they wanted most: reliability and security.  It was a closed system, running on its own network.  The phone’s settings couldn’t easily be tinkered with by ordinary users.  So businesses loved it, and R.I.M.’s assumption was that, once companies embraced the technology, consumers would, too”

Adoption of the BlackBerry can be compared to the latest technologies of the last century or so.  For example, the telegraph was initially used primarily by railroads, financial institutions, and big companies. Although the telephone became popular with consumers relatively quickly, it initially was a business tool.  Typewriters also were found primarily in offices.  The Internet had its origins as a means of communications by the military-industrial complex, and found an audience among academics and scientists.  The personal computer gained market dominance once IBM introduced models targeted squarely at businesses.

According to Surowiecki, “Even as the BlackBerry was at the height of its popularity, we were entering the age of what’s inelegantly called the consumerization of I.T., or simply Bring Your Own Device.  In this new era, technological diffusion started to flow the other way — from consumers to businesses.  Social media went from being an annoying fad to an unavoidable part of the way many businesses work.  Tablets, which many initially thought were just underpowered laptops, soon became common among salesmen, hospital staffs, and retailers.  So, too, with the iPhone and Androids.  They’ve always been targeted at consumers, and tend to come with stuff that I.T. departments hate, like all those extraneous apps.  Yet, because employees love them, businesses have adapted (and the iPhone and Androids have upgraded security to make themselves more business-friendly).  As a result, the iPhone and Androids now control more than half the corporate mobile market.”

The trend toward consumerization sounded a death knell for R.I.M., because the company had no idea about what consumers want. R.I.M. didn’t introduce a touch-screen phone until long after Apple; the device was a pale imitation of the iPhone.  Once seen as a ground-breaking success, the R.I.M. started to be perceived as offering too many choices and confusing model names.

“The workplace is changing, too,” Surowiecki said.  “The barrier between work and home has been eroded, and if people are going to have to be constantly connected they want at least to use their own phones.  And since workers often end up paying for their own devices, it can also help businesses cut costs.  One way or another, consumers are going to have more and more say over what technologies businesses adopt.  It’s a brave new world.  It’s just not the one that the BlackBerry was built for.”

Gridlocked Chicago: There’s Some Disagreement

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Gridlocked Chicago:  There’s Some DisagreementChicago is # 1!  Unfortunately, this is not good news because the Windy City has been ranked by one study as having the worst traffic congestion in the nation.   The news was one finding of the Urban Mobility Report (UMR),  conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute, the United States’ largest university-affiliated transportation research agency.  Earlier TTI studies had ranked Chicago in second or third place.  Washington, D.C., and its suburbs currently occupy second place.

The study of 2009 driving conditions found that Chicago’s roadways have increasing gridlock, at virtually any hour of the day.  In addition to the normal time it takes to get from Point A to Point B by car, commuters in metropolitan Chicago and northwest Indiana spent 70 extra hours behind the wheel in 2009, according to the study.  Chicago’s earlier record was 64 hours of extra driving reported in 2008; 55 hours in 1999; and 18 hours in 1982.  The national average of time wasted stuck in traffic was a more manageable 34 hours.  The fact that Chicago is a nationwide shipping hub and has some of the nation’s heaviest truck traffic – plus two of the top bottleneck areas – also impacts congestion.  Additionally, Illinois has approximately 10.4 million registered vehicles, and a population of around 12.9 million, according to 2009 Census Bureau statistics

“In terms of the delay for each auto commuter, Chicago now tips the scales at No. 1, where in the last report, Los Angeles was locked in that spot,” said David Schrank, one of the report’s authors.  The average cost to each commuter is $1,738.  Nationally, traffic congestion cost $115 billion in 2009; additionally, consumers drove 4.8 billion additional hours and had to purchase an extra 3.9 billion gallons of gas.

Alter NOW finds that the report has its detractors:  Smart Growth America takes issue with some of the UMR’s findings.  “It assumes, for example, that everyone should be able to speed as rapidly down the highway during rush hour as they could in the middle of the night.  American taxpayers will never stand for being asked to turn over their wallets and their neighborhoods in order to build that kind of highway capacity“.

A June 30, 2010 study by IBM actually disputes the rankings, placing Los Angeles, New York and Houston as the U.S. cities with the worst traffic.  Topping the international list of cities notorious for congestion are Beijing, Mexico City, Johannesburg, Moscow and New Delhi.  Chicago doesn’t appear on IBM’s 20-city list.

Another mid-year 2010 study by Seattle-based INRIX, places Chicago in third place nationally.  “Between 5 and 6 p.m. Thursday is now the most-congested travel hour of the week in the Chicago area,” according to the INRIX National Traffic Scorecard.  “Last year, it was the 5-6 p.m. hour on Fridays.  The reason for the change?  It could be that more people are working part-time or ‘flex-time’, and Friday is a frequent day for flex-timers to take off or work from home,” said Chicago traffic expert Joe Schwieterman of DePaul University.  “Chicago doesn’t have a long-term plan to do much about congestion, we’re adding some lanes to the Tri-State, some work on I-80, but there’s not the construction in the works to relieve some of the worst bottlenecks“.

John Vivadelli: The Real Estate Perfect Storm

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Commercial real estate is currently experiencing a perfect storm, one that will utterly change the way corporations utilize their office space in the future.  This is the opinion of John Vivadelli, CEO and founder of AgilQuest Corporation and a well respected industry expert in the fields of alternative office environments; real estate metrics and cost management; and business continuity.

Prior to founding AgilQuest, Vivadelli was instrumental in developing IBM’s workplace management system in the 1990s to support the company’s transformational workforce mobility program, creating their “office of the future”.  This new workplace strategy resulted in reconfiguring the technology giant’s real estate footprint by shedding millions of square feet that saved hundreds of millions of dollars annually. AgilQuest provides the services and systems necessary for companies and governments to achieve similar results.

According to Vivadelli, this perfect storm is impacting both the supply and demand sides of commercial real estate.

John Vivadelli talks about the real estate perfect storm.  On the supply side, the United States has approximately 12.5 billion sq. ft. of commercial office space, which carry an estimated $1.2 to $1.4 billion in loans that will come due in the next two years. Many of these loans will not qualify under new reserve requirements.  While the average base vacancy rate is currently 17 percent nationally; that statistic does not include shadow space – square feet that are paid for but not occupied – which adds another 5 to 20% to the overall vacancy rate.  Additionally, with the upcoming implementation of FASB Rule 13, both owned and leased properties will have to be reported on corporations’ balance sheets.  Off-balance-sheet leasing will no longer be an option.

On the demand side, he sees a fundamental shift downward in real estate absorption.  The nation’s unemployment rate is approximately 10 percent, with an additional seven percent who have opted out of looking for a job. Some of these jobs will never return.  Add to that the number of workers who perform their jobs remotely and stay connected to the office via PDA, cell phone and laptop, and the average actual occupancy rate between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. is between 30 and 50%.  That means over half of all office space across Corporate America is vacant on any given day.  Considering that an average of $60 is allocated per sq.ft., that adds up to $360 billion that companies are paying to landlords for office space that is empty and they don’t need.  This wastes 1.5 quads of energy and results in 40 million metric tons of unnecessary carbon released every year.  As companies recognize the scale of the problem, the real estate industry will see a profound shift in how we use space.

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Where Do You Look for Innovation? Not the U.S. Anymore

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Where do you find innovation?  Try the developing world.  Breakthrough ideas that change industries are increasingly coming from the developing world rather than the United States or Western Europe.  Part of this is due to the fact that the West is outsourcing more research and development to emerging markets.  Currently, Fortune 500 firms have 98 research-and-development facilities in China and an additional 63 in India.  IBM’s staff in emerging nations is larger than its U.S.-based workforce.

According to The Economist, “But it is also because emerging-market firms and consumers are both moving upmarket.  Huawei, a Chinese telecoms giant, applied for more international patents than any other firm did in 2008.  Chinese 20-somethings spend even more time on the internet than do their American peers.  Even more striking is the emerging world’s growing ability to make established products for dramatically lower costs:  no-frills $3,000 cars and $300 laptops may not seem as exciting as a new iPad but they promise to change far more people’s lives.”

Dubbed “frugal innovation”, this trend redesigns products and processes to eliminate unnecessary costs.  For example, Indian telecom provider Bharti Airtel has dramatically cut the cost of providing mobile phone services by creating unique partnerships with its competitors and suppliers.  The firm shares radio towers with competing firms and outsources network construction, operations and support to companies such as Ericsson and IBM.

India Still Lags in Innovation

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Much has been made in the world’s press about India’s economy buoyed by its IT sector. And a lot of it is justified.  The nation’s IT sector managed to grow some 20 percent in 2008, according to India’s National Association of Software and Services Companies, and IT firms have already extended 100,000 job offers for 2009.

india-outsourceBut all is not rosy for India.  While the country has surged in the basic and mid-level areas of coding and development, it has struggled in the area of R&D and top-end innovation.  India produces about 300,000 computer science graduates a year.  Yet it produces only about 100 computer science PhDs, a small fraction of the 1,500 – 2,000 that get awarded in the United States or China every year according to a recent article from Reuters.

“Students here are not exposed to research from an early age, faculties are not exposed to research and there’s no career path for innovation because there’s a lot of pressure to get a ‘real’ job,” said Vidya Natampally, head of strategy at the Microsoft India Research Centre.  Rival China has already pulled ahead with more than 1,100 R&D centers compared to less than 800 in India, despite lingering concerns about rule of law and intellectual property rights (IPR).  India is also losing out in the patent stakes. In 2006 – 2007, just 7,000 patents were granted in this country of 1.1 billion people, compared to nearly 160,000 in the United States.

India is cheaper than China for R&D.  But salaries in India have been rising by about 15 percent every year and may soon reach parity with China. R&D centre costs in Shanghai are currently just 10-15 percent higher than in India.

But this could be changing:  Microsoft, for example, has just opened a new facility in Bangalore staffed with about 60 full-time researchers, many of them Indians with PhDs from top universities in the United States.  The center “is at the cutting edge of Microsoft’s R&D, covering seven areas of research including mobility and cryptography.  Cisco, IBM, Intel, Nokia are among the other companies going beyond low-end coding to bring R&D to India.

Jacob Cherian is AlterNow’s India Contributor. He is a freelance business writer based in Kerala, India.  He has written about business outsourcing for Offshore Advisor.