Posts Tagged ‘Apple’

Required Tech Reading: Mary Meeker’s 2009 Web 2.0 Presentation

October 22, 2009

On Oct. 20 Morgan Stanley analyst Mary Meeker delivered her annual “Economy + Internet Trends” report. For techies, this is required reading, so I am posting an embed of the report on this blog.

Among the most important takeaways:
* The Tech Sector is a Growing Part of the Global Economy
* Ad Spending Should Grow in 2010
* Mobile Internet Usage Will be Bigger Than Most Think
* Apple Mobile Share Should Surprise on the Upside Near-Term
* Mobile Internet Outpaces Desktop Internet Adoption!
* Facebook is the Largest Share Gainer of Online Usage Over Past 3 Years

Mary Meeker’s Internet Presentation 2009

Take This Microsoft! Apple Upgrades Mac Computers

October 20, 2009

Check out the Apple scoop from my colleague Arik Hesseldahl, who received an early briefing on their slew of new products.

Preemptive Strike? Apple Upgrades Mac Computers
The Mac laptop and desktop lineups receive a significant upgrade from Apple as Microsoft prepares to introduce Windows 7

By Arik Hesseldahl

Days before archrival Microsoft is set to release the next major version of its flagship computer operating system Windows, Apple unveiled a significant upgrade to its consumer personal computer lines, including a redesigned entry-level laptop and a desktop machine sporting a huge display. The product announcement comes a day after Apple’s earnings report.

Chief among the new releases Oct. 20 is the MacBook, Apple’s $999 entry-level laptop usually aimed at students and first-time Mac buyers. The new machine still sports a polycarbonate shell but now it’s cut from a single piece of material and has rounded edges. And like the higher-end MacBook Pro, the new MacBook also boasts a long-life battery that lasts seven hours and a light-emitting-diode (LED) display.

Apple also updated its consumer desktop lines, including the iMac and the Mac Mini, and added an entry-level server built into a body similar to that of the Mac Mini. The server, for running computer networks and corporate Web sites, is aimed at small businesses and certain high-end consumers.

See the full story and video here.

Windows Mobile 6.5: Not So Hot

October 8, 2009

Check out this review and video of Microsoft’s new mobile operating system from our gadget guru Stephen H. Wildstrom

Windows Mobile 6.5: Call It ‘Windows Immobile’
Microsoft’s upgraded smartphone software shows improvement, but doesn’t even come close to challenging Apple’s iPhone

By Stephen H. Wildstrom

The last time Microsoft delivered a major upgrade to its smartphone software, Windows Mobile 6, in early 2007, Apple’s iPhone was still five months out on the horizon. You can tell how radically Apple changed expectations about smartphones if you pick up any Windows Mobile handset today. The software seems positively quaint.

On Oct. 6, Microsoft released a significant upgrade, Windows Mobile 6.5, on HTC handsets from AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Unfortunately the results fall far short of what Microsoft requires to get back into the top tier of mobile communications. And it won’t get another shot until version 7.0, a complete overhaul that should appear in late 2010.

Windows Mobile 6.5 sports a new screen design that eliminates just about all vestiges of the Windows desktop interface. In its place is a home screen inspired by Microsoft’s latest Zune media player and an iPhone-like grid of applications.

These changes help, but they don’t go far enough. The biggest problem with the design is that it has to work on a broad range of handsets. There are WinMo phones with touchscreens and physical keyboards, such as the European version of the HTC Touch pro2, which I used to test the software. There are also handsets with keyboards and no touchscreens, and those with touchscreens and no keyboards.

Read the rest of the story here.

Opening the Wireless Internet: The Importance of Carterfone

August 1, 2009

Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski has come out swinging. You have to applaud his boldness. In the FCC’s first major inquiry since Genachowski took over the agency on June 29, the FCC has launched an inquiry into AT&T Inc. and Apple Inc. over the rejection of Google’s voice application for the Apple iPhone and App store.

On Friday, the FCC sent letters to executives at Apple, Google and AT&T, which is the exclusive carrier for the iPhone in the United States, saying it was “interested in a more complete understanding of this situation.”

The future of the wireless Web may be at stake. As Erick Schonfeld noted in a good TechCrunch post, there are two different Internets: the open landline Internet and the controlled wireless Internet. In the letter, the FCC’s acting Chief of its Wireless Telecommunications Bureau said that the inquiry was being made in conjunction with the FCC’s “ongoing proceedings regarding wireless open access and handset exclusivity.” In those inquiries, companies, including Skype, have asked the FCC to issue a declaratory ruling that the FCC’s so-called Carterfone rules apply to the wireless Internet.

In November of 2007, I wrote about Carterfone and the law professor, Columbia’s Tim Wu, who is trying to get the FCC to follow its landmark precedent requiring that communications networks remain open to any device or application. Wu is the professor who helped inspire Google to form its wireless strategy and petition the FCC to get it to force new wireless spectrum to follow rules of openness.

In February 2007, Wu published a paper in the International Journal of Communication proposing that the FCC apply the industry’s “Carterfone” rules to wireless.

It’s a fascinating case that carries huge implications for today. For decades, AT&T had prohibited consumers from attaching anything but its own phones to its network. In 1968, AT&T tried to bar the use of a “Carterfone”, which linked a mobile radio to a telephone.

But the FCC labeled AT&T’s move “unduly discriminatory” and allowed consumers the right to install devices of their choice. That decision enabled the creation of the fax machine and the Internet modem. Wu wrote: “The same rule for the wireless networks could…stimulate the development of new applications and free equipment designers to make the best phones possible.”

Now it looks AT&T could be getting embroiled in another historic shift. And history, and perhaps popular opinion, do not seem to be on their side once again. Decades ago Carterfone changed the future of communications. Today, Google Voice could stand for another watershed moment.

New Sheriff in Town: Exclusive with Obama Trustbuster Christine Varney

August 1, 2009

Check out my BusinessWeek story, based on the first extensive interview with the Obama Administration’s new head of antitrust enforcement, Christine A. Varney. Techies haven’t quite come to grips with the fact that there are new sheriffs in town. Big changes are coming with the way this and other industries are regulated, as you can see with the reaction to the Microsoft-Yahoo search deal and the FCC action on Apple. Read on.

The Antitrust Cop and the Tech Industry
Christine Varney aims to reinvigorate antitrust policy without stifling U.S. business, but Google and Intel could be among her targets

By Spencer E. Ante

Christine A. Varney, the nation’s top antitrust cop, is trying to pull off a delicate balancing act. She wants to reinvigorate antitrust policy after the laissez-faire years of the Bush Administration. Yet she also wants to avoid interfering with companies that compete vigorously but fairly. “This job is making sure the competitive marketplace is free from obstacles and barriers,” says Varney, whose official title is Assistant Attorney General at the Justice Dept. “We are thinking a lot about where bottlenecks might be in certain industries. If we can break through them it would be good for consumers.”

In her first extensive interview since taking office in April, Varney described an antitrust philosophy that is clearly more aggressive than in the recent past yet also less ideological than many businesspeople may expect. Varney says her goal is to bring antitrust law back to its historical center, not simply to go after giants because of their size. “We are not anti-big in any way, shape, or form,” says Varney, a former Federal Trade Commissioner who spent the past 12 years representing corporations as a partner at the Washington law firm Hogan & Hartson. “But with enormous success comes responsibility.”

Varney says the Justice Dept. will be taking a look at a range of industries including transportation and technology. Antitrust officials have also opened inquiries in agriculture, financial services, telecom, and health care, say sources familiar with the Justice Dept.’s activities.

Check out the rest of the story here.

What Arthur Rock Looked for in Entrepreneurs

July 14, 2009

Here’s a story published recently in Investor’s Business Daily about legendary investor Arthur Rock. One of the pioneers of the venture capital industry, Rock famously put together the deals to found Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel, two of the most important startups in the history of Silicon Valley. Rock later invested in Apple, capping off his incredibly successful career. The investment landed him on the cover of Time magazine, a story that I discuss at length in my book. In fact, Rock was a student of Georges Doriot at Harvard Business School.

Rock and Doriot actually had many things in common. They were both investment bankers who became successful venture capitalists. They both understood the importance of technology. And they both believed that people, more than ideas or markets, were the most important ingredient of success in a business venture. Doriot’s famous saying was, “I’ll take an Grade A individual with a B idea over a Grade B individual with an A idea.”

The writer Reinhardt Krause interviewed me for the profile and kindly included a quote from me in the story. It’s an interesting profile that tries to explain Rock’s investing philosophy. Among the most important traits Rock looked for in an entrepreneur? Intellectual honesty. Rock knew that a new business would face many challenges and that in order to succeed entrepreneurs needed to be honest about the state of their business. Or as Rock rhetorically asked: “Do they see things the way they are, and not they way they want them to be?”

View this document on Scribd

Video: New Gear from Apple and Verizon Wireless?

May 3, 2009

I normally would not send out a link to about a story published earlier this week. But since the scoop, New Gear from Apple and Verizon Wireless, continues to draw interest (it popped up again on the most read stories list of BusinessWeek this weekend), I am posting a link to the video commentary I taped for the story.

Click here to see my video commentary on the talks between Verizon Wireless and Apple over potentially distributing to new Apple Devices.

Apple and Verizon in Talks Over New Devices

April 28, 2009

This morning, USA Today wrote a story reporting that Verizon was in talks with Apple about the “possible development of an iPhone for Verizon.”

That story attracted a lot of attention but I think the reporter, whom I respect, got the story wrong.

Here’s my take on what is going on between the two companies. Verizon and Apple are talking but not so much about the existing iPhone. Rather, talks are heating up about Verizon potentially distributing two new Apple devices under development. Here’s the top of the BusinessWeek story that we published around 7pm EST:

Apple, Verizon Wireless Discuss Devices
By Spencer E. Ante and Arik Hesseldahl

Verizon Wireless is warming to the idea of an Apple partnership. Verizon Wireless is in talks with Apple to distribute two new iPhone-like devices, BusinessWeek has learned. Apple has created prototypes of the devices, and discussions reaching back a half-year have involved Apple CEO Steve Jobs, according to two people familiar with the matter.

One device is a smaller, less expensive calling device described by a person who has seen it as an “iPhone lite.” The other is a media pad that would let users listen to music, view photos, and watch high-definition videos, the person says. It would place calls over a Wi-Fi connection. One of these devices may be introduced as early as this summer, one person says.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Michael Moritz: Lessons from a Long-Ball Hitter

February 26, 2009

Yesterday, BusinessWeek published my profile/Q&A with venture capitalist Michael Moritz. The news cycle is insane these days, so I am reposting the top of the piece here as well as a link to the rest of the interview. Plus, Moritz doesn’t give many interviews, so it’s worth spreading the thoughts of perhaps Silicon Valley’s most successful investor.

Michael Moritz: Lessons from a Long-Ball Hitter
The journalist-turned-venture capitalist was early to ring the alarm bells about the weakening economy, but he remains optimistic

In 1984 a young British journalist named Michael Moritz wrote a short piece in Time magazine about the legendary venture capitalist Arthur Rock with the title “The Best Long-Ball Hitter Around.”” Today, the 54-year-old Moritz is the guy who swats investing home runs as a partner with the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Sequoia Capital. Moritz joined the firm in 1986 after leaving Time (TWX) and writing a book about Apple (AAPL), The Little Kingdom: the Private Story of Apple Computer.

The deal that made Moritz’s reputation as one of the top venture capitalists in the business came in 1999. That year he pushed Sequoia to make a $25 million co-investment with Kleiner Perkins in a little search company called Google (GOOG). When Google went public five years later in 2004, Sequoia’s $12.5 million investment was worth just over $2 billion—160 times its original bet. Before then, Moritz had put himself on the map with investments in Yahoo (YHOO), eToys, and Flextronics (FLEX), among other successful Web startups. Since the Google deal, Moritz has maintained his slugging percentage, scoring another big win with his investment in PayPal, which eBay (EBAY) bought in 2002 for $1.5 billion.

Moritz typically shuns publicity. But in early February I met him at his office on Sand Hill Road, in the last office park on the lane that serves as home to the kingpins of venture capital. A secretary ushered me into a conference room, but when Moritz showed up he invited me to sit in his office.

Efficiency, Even While Eating
Moritz wore the standard business casual uniform of the Valley: striped dress shirt and slacks, with a sport coat hanging on the wall. He has a small and simple office, with a desk and a table with a few chairs, and a window overlooking the woods. An old and weathered notebook case rested on the table. On his desk sat an Apple (AAPL) iMac computer, an Apple laptop, and a BlackBerry (RIMM), all plugged into the wall. Having visited China seven times last year, Moritz needs to recharge his batteries when he returns to the Valley.

When reporters interview people over lunch, they often can’t find enough time to eat. But Moritz was extremely efficient, downing a fruit plate and Cobb salad, even while picking out the eggs and bacon to set them to the side of the plate. As we discussed the history of Sequoia Capital, the state of Silicon Valley, and the future of investing, Moritz would stab a fork into a group of berries, stick them into his mouth, and gaze off into the distance, before offering up some quip or bit of insight.

Moritz’s presence belies his firm’s reputation for toughness. While Sequoia has made many bold bets over its 36-year history, it has also gained a reputation in some quarters for walking away from portfolio companies that fail to perform. As one head of an investment firm that invests in venture firms put it: “They take the portfolio out back and shoot it. They stop funding companies quickly if they are not working.” Moritz calls the criticism “unfounded” and says there are several instances when Sequoia and its startups “soldiered forward together when times were very bleak.”

Pivotal PowerPoint Presentation
Sequoia’s hard-nosed nature was accidentally put on display last year when Moritz’s firm put together a PowerPoint presentation detailing the coming economic downturn in stark terms. The 56-slide presentation advised companies to cut costs and become cash-flow-positive more quickly in order to avoid falling into a death spiral. Although the presentation leaked out on the Web, Moritz swears the leak was not intentional. “A couple of the CEOs asked us to send them the presentation to help them convince their management teams that this was the deal,” says Moritz. “It was not a cynical attempt to spread the Sequoia name.”

Even though Sequoia was early to ring the alarm bells about the weakening economy, Moritz says he remains optimistic. He is particularly excited about two recent investments he led. One was in digital camcorder maker Pure Digital Technologies, which he claims is the world’s leading maker of digital camcorders, having shipped 1.5 million units last year. He is also bullish about another investment in Green Dot, which he says is a leader in prepaid credit cards. And contrary to word on the street, Moritz says Sequoia still invests in young seed-stage companies from time to time.

The day I met him, in fact, he said he was talking to a 20-year-old about investing $500,000 in an embryonic idea. (He wouldn’t discuss the venture in detail.) “It’s as easy for me to be excited today by the unknown 23-year-olds as I was in the past,” he says. “Those sorts of encounters lift your spirits in imagining what is possible.”

Here’s an edited version of my interview with Moritz:

Can great companies be built in bad times?
Some of that is true. In bitter and cold times only the brave are going to venture out into the cold and the lily-livered posers are going to stay tucked into their bed clothes. It makes life easier for us. The people we are meeting are the genuine article as opposed to the pretenders. The only people who venture out are on a mission, which is what you need.

Click here to read the rest of the interview.

SEC Opens Inquiry Into Apple and Steve Jobs

January 21, 2009

This morning, Bloomberg reported that the Securities & Exchange Commission is reviewing disclosures about Apple Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs’s health problems to ensure investors weren’t misled.

Later today, the Wall Street Journal followed up with a story reporting that the SEC “has opened an inquiry into Apple Inc.’s disclosures about Chief Executive Steve Jobs’s health.”

I am not surprised that the SEC has opened an inquiry, if it has. Last week, I wrote a story questioning the actions of the Apple board with respect to this issue, based on interview with corporate governance experts. Many experts said that Jobs and the Apple board, of which Jobs is a member, have not been forthcoming enough about the health of Jobs and the company’s succession plan.

I reiterated these thoughts on an interview with Fox News in which I criticized the actions of the Apple board. I thought it seemed a bit dodgy that Apple and Jobs could have changed their view of his health problems so drastically within one week. In my blog, I questioned the first letter that Jobs wrote. “The letter should have been much more measured in its presentation and tone, indicating that the cause of Jobs’s health problems was not totally clear,” I wrote.

Then again, it’s entirely possible that the board did nothing wrong, as Stanford law professor Joe Grundfest noted. If board members believed Jobs was going to be fine, they may not have seen a big need to be more forthcoming about his health or future, he notes. “One of the hallmarks of a complex medical condition is a diagnosis can change over time,” Grundfest says. “If the board has told the truth, then they’ve handled it best as they could.”

These are the issues the SEC will be looking into. What did the board know before the first letter was written? And what did they learn after it was written?

Admittedly, this is a very difficult situation for Apple. And I hope the company is cleared of any wrongdoing. But this is an inquiry that needs to happen in order to protect the shareholders of Apple and any other company that may find itself in a similar situation.