Posts Tagged ‘Rob Hof’

Shout-Out to Departing BusinessWeek Colleagues

December 5, 2009

The most difficult part of Bloomberg’s acquisition of BusinessWeek has been seeing so many hugely talented colleagues and friends leave the operation. Five close coworkers of mine, most of whom I’ve been working with over the last nine years in the technology cluster, are no longer working for the tech team. Left coaster Rob Hof, Chicago correspondent Roger Crockett, and my three NY homies Steve Baker, Steve Hamm and Heather Green. Damn, that is a gaping hole you all have left!

Steve Baker Way BAck When
[Steve Baker On the Streets of El Paso]

It has been a pleasure and honor to work with all of you. Thanks for everything you’ve taught me over the years, and thanks for your camaraderie. I know we’re all going to keep in touch but the office will feel pretty empty without you all–especially the Mother Ship in NY. Best of luck in all of your new ventures and I’ll see ya on the 43rd floor, Playwright, University Cafe, etc. I have no doubt you will all go on to do different and interesting things, and I am eager to see each of you ramble down those new paths.

Virtual Rob Hof
[Real Rob Hof Posing with Virtual Rob Hof]

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What do Authors and Readers Think About the Google Book Settlement?

April 30, 2009

I am still mulling over this Google Book settlement deal.

Yesteday, a few readers on BusinessWeek TechBeat blog posted some comments in response to Rob Hof’s post. Admittedly, it is a very small sample (only four people) but most of the readers are in favor of the settlement.

Steve writes that it “seems to me like a no-brainer. So Google can profit from something they did. If the agreement says other companies can also scan books and profit from those scans, more power to them. No need for Justice to get their panties so much in a bunch.”

Chuck Gaffney says Google should of course get authors’ consent to license books but he compares publishers to the hidebound music industry and says they “are trying too hard to be conservative in fears of losing their already very, very deep pockets.”

I do think Google Books is sort of like a public service, which may one day turn into a profit stream for Google, but that still doesn’t mean Google should be given exclusive right over these orphan books that are out of print. That is a key issue that needs to be clarified. Other entities need to be able to access these texts at no cost.

Google argues that it has structured the deal so that it’s not exclusive to the company—that is, other groups could choose to scan books as well. But we need an independent arbiter to confirm and codify that principle. I know Google does no evil but let’s just get a judge to corroborate that before signing on.

Check out the other posts here.

How Do You Spell (Temporary) Relief? Google’s Q3 Earnings

October 17, 2008

Did you hear that giant exhaling sound? The technology industry just let out a huge sigh of relief after Google beat profit expectations in its Q3 earnings announcement.

My colleague Rob Hof notes in his Tech Beat blog post:

“Net revenues of $4.04 billion were dead-on with analysts’ estimates, and profits before special items was $4.92 a share, handily beating expectations. The big reason: It reined in expenses, hiring fewer people and actually cutting capital expenses from a year ago.

Analysts had forecast $4.80 in earnings per share, minus special items such as stock option expenses, on net revenues of $4.05 billion after payments to partners that run Google ads on their sites. However, many analysts were informally assuming Google might come in slightly below their stated estimates and have been reducing estimates and price targets in recent weeks. A year ago, Google earned $3.92 a share.”

On the conference call, Google execs were very reluctant to make any forward-looking statements about the state of the economy or how it would impact Google. My sense is that NO ONE KNOWS exactly how the recession is going to impact online advertising. So there’s no sense in speculating, especially when the answer is probably negative.

That means we’ll just to wait and see fourth quarter results before making any definitive judgments. The good news is that so far Google is showing an ability to grow during a slowing economy. That’s why the stock is now up 10% in after-hours trading to $387. But of course, the economy has gotten much weaker since the end of the third quarter, and the full impact of the financial crisis has yet to be felt in the broader economy.

So it’s too premature to say the worst is over. But the tech industry did dodge a hail of bullets today. If Google has missed profit expectations, the Nasdaq would get crushed tomorrow. Now, Google earnings may provide some additional momentum for this afternoon’s last-hour rally.

The Horror: Google Blows the Quarter

July 17, 2008

My colleague Rob Hof just published a good post about Google’s miss. His bottom line: It’s a miss but not a huge miss. Still, investors, who expect the world from Google, are none too pleased. GOOG is down 8% in after-hours trading to $492.

Here’s a snippet from his post riffing on the conference call:

CEO Eric Schmidt says he’s “obviously very pleased with what we believe are very good results” in a normally slow quarter and in a tough economic environment.

Outgoing CFO George Reyes says paid clicks were up 19%, a sharp slowdown, which he continued to attribute to quality improvements—that is, placing fewer ads on sites with little useful content. Capital spending was at $698 million, certainly not a small number and spending that Reyes implies will continue apace.

Economist Hal Varian acknowledges weakness in a lot of sectors, but says query growth is positive in every sector, even those like autos and real estate you’d expect to be down. Revenue growth is also up from a year ago in all sectors except real estate, which he said was down only slightly. He didn’t say how much query or revenue growth was up.

Now, to some of the analysts’ questions:

Brian Pitts of BofA asks about ad coverage. Jonathan Rosenberg, senior vice-president of product management, says he sees little change in Google’s efforts to improve ad quality by showing fewer but more relevant ads on pages. But cofounder and president of products Sergey Brin says “perhaps we were a little overly aggressive in decreasing coverage in this quarter,” so that could change a bit. That certainly could help results next quarter and beyond, and may please investors always looking for scraps of visibility on Google’s outlook.

Justin Post at Merrill Lynch asks about the impact of the economy. Schmidt: “We continue to believe that we’re positioned very very well … because of a flight to quality and to performance.” Varian adds: “We have a little bit of the Wal-Mart effect: people are watching their dollars and therefore shopping more.”

Check out the full post here.

Earth to Yahoo! What Do Yahoo! Employees Think of the Micro-hoo Deal?

February 2, 2008

The silence in Sunnyvale is deafening. What do Yahoo! employees think of joining forces with Microsoft? My colleague Rob Hof wrote an excellent narrative detailing the fall of this American icon, and he quotes one employee dissing former ceo Terry Semel’s attempts to turn Yahoo! into a Hollywood-type media company. But I have heard little to nothing out of Yahoo! about the deal. I imagine the company is still reeling from this cold cock punch.

The thoughts and feelings of Yahoo! employees may be the single most important factor in making this deal a success–and that’s what worries me. Microsoft execs rightly argue that the one of the chief premises of this deal is that by combining the engineering forces of the two companies, they will be able to compete better against Google.

But what if those employees don’t want to work for Microsoft? One Silicon Valley software exec I spoke to on Friday said if he was a Yahoo! staffer he would never want to work for Microsoft. “A guy I know who helped found Yahoo! is probably crying right now,” said the exec.

One thing right coasters don’t fully appreciate about the tech industry are the historical and ongoing tensions between Microsoft and Silicon Valley. For many years, Microsoft was viewed as the Evil Empire. Why? Because the folks up in Redmond were seen as an impediment to innovation, as an obstacle to making money.

Microsoft’s power over the tech indusry was so great that throughout much of the 1980s and 1990s, Silicon Valley venture capitalists would never invest in a market that Microsoft was in, or even thinking of entering. The anti-trust case changed all that, tying up Microsoft’s hands. And then Bill Gates & Co. just got overrun by new waves of technology, i.e. the Internet.

Now, Microsoft’s hostile offer for one of the Valley’s superstars reawakens those primordial fears. We all know that many of Yahoo! brightest minds have already walked out the door over the last few years as the company stumbled. But I bet that if this deal goes through, you will see a massive stampede for the exits. Smart engineers would probably rather take equity in a startup (or work for Google) than punch the clock for Microsoft.

So Yahoo!, what do you have to say? Would you stay or go and why?

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