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Article from SFGate.

“Three years from now, the data equivalent of every movie ever made will cross Internet networks every five minutes, according to Cisco Systems predictions. How to manage all that information is what will be driving technology mergers and acquisitions in 2012.

In a bid to transform that torrent into profits, a cash-rich industry is poised to surpass 2011’s almost $200 billion volume of announced mergers and acquisitions. Companies such as Cisco and IBM are searching for deals that will boost their capacity to provide new storage, analytics and security services to enterprise customers.

Big data, mobile and cloud technologies will lead to “bold investments and fateful decisions,” market research firm IDC said in a recent report. The volume of digital information may balloon from 2.7 zettabytes this year – the equivalent of filling 2.7 billion of Apple’s priciest iMacs to capacity – to 8 zettabytes by 2015, according to IDC.

“The speed at which technology innovation moves is such that you can’t miss a step,” said Jon Woodruff, the San Francisco co-head of technology investment banking at Goldman Sachs, the industry’s top adviser on deals last year. “Every tool has to be used for speed and nimbleness sake, and M&A is one of those significant tools.”

Abundant cash and investor pressure to jump-start sales growth will also propel deal-making. Cash levels have expanded 21 percent in the past year to $513 billion, based on holdings of the 35 companies that comprise the Morgan Stanley Technology Index.

Large companies will be leading the charge. Hewlett-Packard, Google and Microsoft led a 36 percent gain in technology deals last year, outpacing a 4.1 percent advance for all M&A worldwide.

In one of the biggest deals last year, HP agreed to buy Autonomy Corp. for $10.3 billion in a bid to build its software business and scale back on its PC manufacturing. Though viewed negatively by some investors, the move will enable Hewlett-Packard to offer database search services and other cloud-related services for business. CEO Meg Whitman said in November that the company doesn’t plan “large M&A” this year, though it may seek small software deals.

Cisco, which has made about 150 acquisitions in its history and has $44.4 billion in cash on the balance sheet, said in November that it will “continue to be aggressive in acquiring technologies.”

Bigger volume

“This year’s technology deal volume could be bigger than last year’s and 2007’s,” said Chet Bozdog, global head of technology investment banking at Bank of America.

Industry takeovers in 2007 reached $264.4 billion, the biggest year since 2000’s record high of $585.2 billion.

“Convergence between hardware, software and services will continue to add products to the same sales chains,” said Bozdog, who is based in Palo Alto.

Cloud computing, which allows companies to access information over the Internet from external data centers, and the shift from desktops to mobile devices, will continue to be “huge multiyear trends,” said Drago Rajkovic, head of technology mergers and acquisitions at JPMorgan Chase.

As part of this trend, SAP, the largest maker of business-management software, agreed to buy SuccessFactors for $3.4 billion in December to create a “cloud powerhouse,” co-CEO Bill McDermott said at the time.

Gaining patents

Google announced in August it would buy Motorola Mobility Holdings for $12.5 billion in its largest acquisition, gaining mobile patents and expanding in hardware. Microsoft purchased Skype Technologies for $8.5 billion in October, the biggest Internet takeover in more than a decade, in an effort to catch Google in online advertising and Apple in mobile software.

While Google and Microsoft paid in cash for their deals, the purchases didn’t put a dent in their funds. Microsoft’s cash and equivalents jumped 41 percent from a year earlier to $51.7 billion, based on its latest filing, while Google increased cash by 28 percent to $45.4 billion.

Apple, which has no debt and the most cash among technology companies at $97.6 billion, said Jan. 24 that it is discussing ways to spend its funds and would consider acquisitions.

“There’s more cash in technology than in any other sector and the low level of debt makes it very easy for companies in the industry to buy growth,” said JPMorgan’s Rajkovic, who is based in San Francisco.

Affordable targets

“As cash piles have increased, some potential targets have become more affordable. Shares of F5 Networks, whose software helps companies manage Internet traffic, lost 18 percent of their value in 2011 even as sales grew 31 percent. Riverbed Technology, a provider of equipment to boost networks’ speed, lost 33 percent while its revenue increased 32 percent. Shares of Acme Packet, a maker of devices that help networks transmit phone calls and video, dropped 42 percent last year while sales jumped 33 percent.

“You will see more M&A than last year, with some very strategic technology companies involved as valuations have become more reasonable,” said Larry Sonsini, who co-founded Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati, the law firm that brought Apple public in 1980.”

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By Om Mailk at GigaOM.

Wow! Was that week chock-full of news or what? Frankly, sometimes it was hard to remember what was happening. Nevertheless, here are some good and mind-nourishing pieces for the weekend that you can actually enjoy and learn from.

  • The noise during the past week is the reason why I enjoyed reading this piece by George Dyson – Information is cheap, meaning is expensive. This will blow your mind.
  • How Instagram might be changing photography. I love the service and almost prefer photos on Instagram more than anything else. But should we be worried as Naomi Zeichner argues in The Fader?
  • Plagues of the new millennium are not about diseases of the body alone. They are about the rot of the human brain and body. This is an ironic but excellent list from McSweeney’s.
  • How to measure a company’s most elusive element: culture. Somewhat of a large corporate perspective but full of lessons nonetheless.
  • Voice wars: Apple vs. Google vs. Microsoft. This is in light of the Siri explosion.
  • Rise of the machines. Charles Schwab’s chief investment strategist Liz Ann Sonders is an excellent writer. Too bad her views are buried on the company’s terrible website. In this piece she writes about the domination of high-frequency trading and its impact on the markets.
  • Spacewar. My ex-boss David Churbuck reminded me of this piece about the early days of computer hackers. And it is by Steward Brand and that alone makes it worth reading, not to mention the historical context it gives to our modern tech industry. The passing of our industry’s seniors over the last few days makes this an appropriate piece to share.

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Article from SFGate.

“Google reported sales that beat estimates Thursday as businesses spent more on advertising to online consumers.

Third-quarter sales, excluding revenue passed on to partner sites, rose to $7.51 billion, Google said on its website. That topped the $7.23 billion average of analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Net income climbed 26 percent to $2.73 billion ($8.33 per share) from $2.17 billion ($6.72) a year earlier.

Google, despite concerns about the economy, is benefiting from growing demand for online advertising, including search-based marketing that makes up most of its sales. Search-based advertising should reach $37.7 billion this year globally, up 23 percent, while total Internet ad spending should climb 20 percent, according to media researcher MagnaGlobal.

“Search is good,” said Kerry Rice, an analyst at Needham & Co. in San Francisco who rates the stock a buy and doesn’t own shares. “Paid search is still the biggest component of online advertising, and Google’s obviously going to win the vast majority of that dollar.”

Google rose 1.9 percent to close at $558.99 on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The shares have dropped 5.9 percent this year.

Third-quarter profit, excluding some items, was $9.72 a share, exceeding the $8.76 average of analysts’ estimates.

Even with more competition from Microsoft, Google picked up market share in the United States, according to Efficient Frontier Inc., which helps companies promote products online. Google had 82 percent of spending on search advertising in the third quarter, up from 81 percent in the two previous quarters.

Microsoft, which provides search and ad services for Yahoo’s U.S. websites under a new agreement, had 18 percent, down from 19 percent in the previous two quarters, according to Efficient Frontier.”

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Article from TechCrunch.

“Vente-privee, the French flash sales juggernaut, announced in May 2011 that it had teamed up with American Express to form a joint-venture for its U.S. operations (dubbed vente-privee USA). Earlier today, the company announced the latest members of its management team, which is headed by vente-privee USA CEO Mike Steib.

The hires that I thought were most notable were those of John Saroff and Jill Szuchmacher, who both previously served in leadership roles to grow the Google TV business.

Saroff has joined vente-privee USA as VP of Digital Factory and Sales Production – he will lead the creative development and production of each sale event including photo shoots, music, trailers and online boutiques for each partner. At Google, Saroff headed TV Ads and Strategic Partnerships.

Jill Szuchmacher will be leading business development for vente-privee USA as Vice President. She previously served as Director of Business Development at Google, most recently heading up commercialization for Google TV, leading engagements with partners such as Sony, Vizio, Netflix, Twitter, and Amazon.

According to their LinkedIn profiles, they left Google around the same time, which speaks volumes about Google TV, which has seen very slow uptake since its introduction earlier this year.

Other hires include Robin Domeniconi, who joins as VP of Marketing after servering as SVP and Chief Brand Officer at Elle Group, and Nicolas Genest, a former Microsoft engineer who is making the jump from vente-privee to vente-privee USA to serve as VP of Technology.

Other new members of the company’s leadership team are Laure de Metz (formerly VP of Licensing for Marc Jacobs International) and Tim Quinn (formerly VP Investments, Integration and Measurement at American Express).

No word about the launch date of vente-privee’s dedicated US site.”

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by Martin Zwilling, Forbes Contributing Editor

A startup begins with a great idea, but all too often, that’s where it ends. Ideas have to be implemented well to get the desired results. Good implementation requires a plan, and a good plan and good operational decisions come from good people. That’s why investors invest in entrepreneurs, rather than ideas.

People and operational excellence have to converge in every business, large or small. Microsoft found this out last year when their market capitalization, once at $560 billion in the year 2000, had fallen to $219 billion, allowing them to be passed by Apple at $222 billion, who grew from $15.6 billion during the same period. Both had access to the same technology, people, and market.

So what could have happened here? I found a good summary of the relevant keys to business operational excellence in a new book by Faisal Hoque, called “The Power of Convergence.” His focus is on repeatable practices to maximize business opportunities in large companies, but I’m convinced that these apply equally well to startups:

  • Clearly define your value chain. Your value chain consists of customers, partners, vendors, internal systems, and your own team. Make sure you understand this chain, as well as market dynamics, to drive operational innovations and every decision. Apple has been able to innovate at an amazing pace to define and meet new market opportunities.
  • Visualize abnormal or suboptimal performance. Recognizing and understanding deviations enables a startup or any business to take corrective action quickly. This requires executives and a team that understands the parameters, and is focused on customers, quality, and continuous improvement.
  • Facilitate the power of your team. Startups need to empower their people to take action in the absence of orders. That doesn’t mean abdication in setting corporate policies, which provide parameters to ensure that individuals have to ability to act collectively in the company’s best interest. Steve Jobs has a committed team.
  • Communicate effectively with the team and customers. Communication is a challenge in any organization, but it’s a particular challenge when you’re working in a startup, where customers, products, processes, and the team are new. Most founders forget that communication becomes exponentially more difficult as the business grows.
  • Measure value flow and performance. Measuring performance may seem self-evident, but many entrepreneurs mistake this task as a point-in-time or a one-time event. In operationally excellent startups, performance measurement is an ongoing effort throughout the process chain, not just at the outcome.
  • Define response mechanisms. Anticipating and planning for worst-case scenarios, and having a Plan-B, will enable the quick-response and pivots required to put a startup back on track. Metrics are required for ensuring the return to a known good baseline.
  • Maximize technology architecture and standards. Continuous innovation to maintain your competitive advantage does not mean that you can ignore current architectures and standards. These must always be leveraged produce optimal intended product outcomes.

What every business needs is a convergence of business and technology elements to optimize return and competitive positioning. All too often, entrepreneurs posit a new technology or idea, without understanding that a successful business is a never-ending process of adapting and improving all the elements in a business – especially business model, processes, and people, as well as technology.

Apple, with Steve Jobs, has demonstrated a rare convergence of technology, market understanding, business process, and people. Are you focused on all the right execution principles in your startup to do the same?

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Article from SFGate.

“Twitter use is growing, with more than 100 million monthly active users around the world and 50 million who log on every day, the San Francisco microblogging service said Thursday.

Chief executive officer Dick Costolo said the number of active users increased 82 percent since the beginning of this year, putting the company on pace to add as many active users by the end of 2011 as the combined 26 million that Twitter added from 2006 to 2009.

The increasing audience size is key to the company’s future because Twitter is now convinced advertising is “the horse they are going to ride” to generate revenue, said analyst Debra Aho Williamson, principal social media analyst for the research firm

“These are all positive trends,” Williamson said. “2011 has been a good year for Twitter in terms of getting more usage, not just awareness.”

Costolo revealed the new data during an informal “state of the union” briefing with reporters Thursday. Williamson was also prebriefed by Costolo on Wednesday.

Twitter has previously said it had more than 200 million registered accounts worldwide. But Twitter watchers had long questioned how many were multiple accounts registered by the same person and how many accounts were actually active.

So Twitter is now focusing attention on its active users, not just the overall base. Facebook uses the same strategy, touting its 750 million users who log on at least once a month.

The number of active users “can be a successful measure of the exchange of information that’s going on there,” Williamson said.

Many press releases

Still, Williamson said many of Twitter accounts are used by “corporations pumping out press releases, using it as a distribution service.” And she notes that media companies like CNN and The Chronicle have multiple Twitter accounts to distribute news headlines and story links.

“While it sounds relatively good that half of active users log in every day, I wonder what percentage of those active users are just entities putting stuff out and not people actively engaging,” she said.

According to Twitter, the data shows:

— An average 230 million tweets per day, up 110 percent from January.

— More than 5 billion tweets per month

— A 105 percent increase in the number of users who log on each day.

— More than 400 million monthly unique visitors to Twitter.com, up 70 percent from January.

— 55 percent are mobile users.

Twitter now has more than 50 percent of National Football League players, 75 percent of National Basketball Association players, 82 percent of members of Congress, 85 percent of U.S. senators, 87 percent of Billboard Top 100 musicians, 93 percent of Food Network chefs and all of the Nielsen top 50 TV shows.

But there’s one potentially negative statistic that sticks out – a huge portion of active users, 40 percent, have not tweeted in the past month.

“If you think of it as a social network, then 40 out of every 100 aren’t even being very social,” Williamson said.

Still, the overall numbers should be large enough to entice advertisers.

Maybe it’s not as big as Facebook, but “if you look at it from an advertising perspective, an audience is an audience,” Williamson said. “Twitter is really proving itself in terms of getting people engaged with the advertising.”

Ad revenue projections

Twitter hasn’t been successful generating revenue by licensing access to its extensive stream of tweets. Microsoft on Wednesday renewed a deal to license Twitter’s data “fire hose,” but Google has not.

Williamson said the company is continuing to learn from its Promoted Tweets advertising platform and has other programs in the pipeline, including a self-service advertising system.

Twitter is still a privately held company, but eMarketer has projected the firm will have $150 million in advertising revenue this year and $250 million next year. Williamson said she is examining how the newest data may change those projections.

“Twitter had a good year and they clearly have a lot of things planned throughout the rest of the year and in 2012,” Williamson said. “They’re hoping the growth trends will continue.””

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Article from DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) is following the lead of rival International Business Machine Corp. (IBM) in possibly shedding its personal-computer business and focusing more on higher-margin operations like analytic software–but the transition is not likely to be easy.
H-P is significantly farther behind in the software market than IBM was when the Armonk, N.Y., company sold its computer business to Lenovo Group Ltd. (LNVGY, 0992.HK) in 2005. And since then, the value of PC assets has declined, meaning the world’s biggest computer maker may not get the cash boost needed to catch up with the software leaders ahead of it.

For IBM, its move last decade has worked out well. While other tech companies have seen volatility from their consumer exposure, IBM has posted consistent results, even during the depths of the recession. The company last month boosted it outlook for the year, helping send shares to an all-time high.

“IBM is the best-positioned of the big tech companies by far,” Gleacher analyst Brian Marshall said. “The majority of revenue comes from high-margin, annuity-type revenue streams such as software and services. … IBM has a phenomenal business model, and H-P is trying to follow in those footsteps.”

H-P is taking a big step Thursday by agreeing to buy U.K. data-analytics firm Autonomy Corp. (AUTNY AU.LN) for more than $10 billion. Analytics software, a fast-growing area, helps companies sift through massive amounts of information to solve business problems or make predictions.

“It’s the beginning of the transformation of H-P today,” Chief Executive Leo Apotheker said.

IBM has focused on analytic software for a while. Among the company’s dozens of acquisitions over the past five years, IBM has spent $14 billion on 24 analytics-related purchases. IBM expects the market for analytics to be over $200 billion by 2015, of which it sees getting about $16 billion.

Transitioning out of one big business and into another takes time and money. Since 2001, IBM has bought more than 127 companies for a combined total of $33 billion. Those earlier acquisitions helped to give IBM a strong software business–second only to Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)–when it sold the PC operations.

As a result, in IBM’s recently reported quarter, the company had software revenue of $6.2 billion, 23% of its total revenue. In comparison, H-P Thursday reported quarterly software revenue of $780 million, 2.5% of its total revenue.

IBM decided to get out of the PC market because the company viewed it as a commoditized industry where companies can only compete on price. Chief Executive Sam Palmisano said last year during an interview with the Wall Street Journal that he wouldn’t be able to give away IBM’s PC business today.

“We got a reasonable valuation for the company, and today I’d have to pay them to take it,” he said. “And the reason being is that the technology shifted, and we wanted to get out before it was obvious to everyone.”

During the same interview, he also criticized H-P, saying he’s not worried about a company that no longer invests in innovation. About 6% of IBM’s 2010 revenue went to research and development, compared to only about 2% at H-P.

H-P has said in recent months that it’s increasing its research spending.

Meanwhile, Mark Dean–one of the creators of the first IBM PC–said in a blog post last week that the PC age is essentially over, going the way of the typewriter and incandescent lightbulb.

“While many in the tech industry questioned IBM’s decision to exit the business at the time, it’s now clear that our company was in the vanguard of the post-PC era,” said Dean, who currently serves as chief technology officer of IBM Middle East and Africa.

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