Hesh Wiener is president of Technology News of America and the original publisher of The Four Hundred. His wit and insight into the computer business have been illuminating users and frustrating vendors--who probably also learned a thing or two despite themselves--for more than three decades. Guild Companies is thrilled to have him contribute a monthly column to this newsletter, a column that we have called Mad Dog 21/21 in his honor. For those of you wondering, 20 percent alcohol is the upper limit in many states for a beverage that can still be sold as wine. Mad Dog 20/20 was a popular wine that kissed this limit, and was intended for people who were serious about getting excellent bang for their buck out of a bottle of wine. Hesh is often one step over the line, and is often a mad dog, as that title often connotes people who are passionate and boisterous about what they are thinking and saying, and more times than not are coming from a slightly different angle than the rest of us.
December 10, 2018 Hesh Wiener
IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat is for Ginni Rometty as vital and significant as Lou Gerstner’s development of IBM’s services business in the 1990s. If IBM can properly integrate Red Hat, IBM’s legacy businesses and strategic initiatives will all be reinvigorated. This is not merely desirable, but absolutely necessary. Without the Red Hat acquisition, IBM is threatened with advancing torpidity and imminent decline. For IBM right now, it is Red Hat do or die.Read more
December 3, 2018 Hesh Wiener
IBM, at times, looks like a pair of fraternal twins. One is based on long-established activities with roots in two proprietary system architectures: mainframe and Power. This part of IBM also includes the large legacy services segments. The other twin embodies IBM’s hopes and dreams — it is what the company calls strategic imperatives — it includes most software, artificial intelligence technologies such as Watson, cloud computing, and more. This year, the strategic twin became as big as the legacy twin, and, with the Red Hat acquisition, it is expected to become permanently larger.
Properly managed and effectively marketed, …Read more
November 26, 2018 Hesh Wiener
IBM got a lot of public attention in 2011 when its Watson system beat two outstanding human competitors at the widely televised quiz game Jeopardy. Since then IBM’s revenue has declined by about 25 percent and its profits have fallen even more dramatically, although intake did improve during three of the most recent four quarters. Regardless, IBM’s Watson project didn’t translate into a big boost to its financial returns, neither in new activities nor by reinvigorating legacy businesses. Seven years after the event, the company’s Jeopardy coup, however memorable, has failed to add significant value. What went wrong?
IBM …Read more
November 12, 2018 Hesh Wiener
IBM is understandably concerned that its annual revenue, likely to be about $80 billion this year, is 25 percent less than it was in 2011, when it reached nearly $107 billion. The company’s revenue increased during the first two quarters of 2018 after falling every quarter for five and a half years, but its falling fortunes have discouraged customers, employees, and investors. Apple, the largest technology company in the world, boasts revenue that is three times that of IBM. It nearly failed in 1997, but Microsoft helped it rise from its own ashes like the Phoenix.
The …Read more
August 27, 2018 Hesh Wiener
A three-minute egg cooks consistently most anywhere near sea level; boiling that egg will take longer up in the Himalayas. Water, like just about every other pure liquid, has at any particular atmospheric pressure a consistent boiling point. At sea level, water boils at 100 degrees Celsius; it can get no hotter. Similarly, IBM apparently cannot grow beyond $100 billion in annual revenue. Lately, its business vaporizes at a somewhat lower point, about $80 billion, like water on Mount Everest. Whenever the company adds revenue here it manages to lose it there.Read more
July 30, 2018 Hesh Wiener
Catalonia is an autonomous region in the northeast corner of Spain. Its people prefer the Catalan language to Spanish or Occitan. During the past two centuries, Catalonia has been beloved home to many artists and, notably, architects. In Barcelona, Catalonia’s largest city, the magnificent cathedral Sagrada Familia (Sacred Family) is finally approaching completion nearly 100 years after the death of its inspiring architect, Antoni Gaudi. Sagrada Familia is one reason Catalonia is a mainstay of Iberian culture comparable in stature and influence to the position in information technology held by IBM.
Although IBM no longer has the …Read more
June 18, 2018 Hesh Wiener
CEO Ginni Rometty is highly regarded inside and outside IBM. For instance, the Forbes ranking of female executives puts Rometty in the top ten. Moreover, gender and other qualifiers aside, Rometty is one of the world’s prominent business leaders. When she does well, the results are widely broadcast; when she slips up, however, so is criticism. In the spring of 2018, media reported big layoffs in the health related activities within IBM’s Watson collection of technologies. The buck stopped with Rometty, who was undoubtedly rattled; she will recover. Watson was wounded; the prognosis is uncertain.
The Watson problem, an …Read more
February 26, 2018 Hesh Wiener
There was a time when a typeface was made of metal and its characters, called glyphs, physically transferred ink to paper. Today, a typeface is a set of symbols that may be used to transfer ink to paper or to paint text on a screen or to inform a heads-up display. Beginning in November 2017, IBM put its corporate clout behind a signature family of typefaces called Plex. Plex will also be a signature for Ginny Rometty and IBM’s paean to Johannes Gutenberg.
Gutenberg, born about 1400, developed technology that enabled the industrial production of printed matter, including …Read more
February 19, 2018 Hesh Wiener
Proteus, said Homer in The Odyssey, was the formidable old man of the sea, capable of shapeshifting and empowered by the gift of prophecy. IBM, observed a commentator in Tully, a dozen miles north of Homer, is the venerated patriarch of information technology, infinitely adaptable and proficient at discerning what lies ahead. Both employ their ability to change their form both as a defense and as a way to achieve goals unattainable in their original shape. However, this transformative power makes it difficult for others to rely on them, for shapeshifting and constancy are in conflict. …Read more
December 11, 2017 Hesh Wiener
The Turks may have started it, shipping tulips to Vienna around 1554, but during the next century the Dutch finished it. Hollanders dominated a booming market in cultivated tulips and a bumper crop of financial instruments based on the trade. Then, in 1637, tulip prices collapsed, breaking speculators and triggering a financial tsunami. With FANG stocks – Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google – and other tech shares sky high, worriers say a comparable collapse is imminent. Now there’s even a movie, Tulip Fever, built around the old story. Will tech companies get whacked? Will IBM be among them? …Read more