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.
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
November 6, 2017 Hesh Wiener
In the first century BC, Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, a Roman, wrote De Architectura. In it, he described the proportions of great buildings and the mathematics of the human form. During the late 1400s, Leonardo da Vinci studied the Roman’s work and drew Vitruvian Man. A century later, the architect Andrea Palladio reprised Vitruvian design principles in buildings across Veneto. Palladio’s seminal The Four Books of Architecture inspired Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and countless other structures the world over. Analogously, in computing, John von Neumann or Alan Turing reprised Vitruvius, enabling IBM to serve as information technology’s Jefferson.
Long before …Read more
October 16, 2017 Hesh Wiener
In July, IBM announced another generation of mainframes. At first, IBM will be able to sell every box it can build. This could continue for a year or more. During this sales surge, IBM’s hardware revenue should rise. So, too, will intake from mainframe systems software and middleware. IBM’s services operations should enjoy a nice lift as well. IBM’s employees may feel more secure, its shareholders more confident, its customers pleased. Even curmudgeonly commentators will produce more prose of praise than pans.
In the past, IBM has stimulated forward migration of its mainframe base by pricing bundles in attractive …Read more
June 19, 2017 Hesh Wiener
IBM has about 375,000 employees. Five years ago, the company’s payroll covered roughly 430,000 employees, some 55,000 or around 15 percent more than today’s estimates. IBM didn’t simply trim its workforce. Rather, IBM dismissed tens of thousands but also hired many others. The corporate headcount numbers reflect the net impact. Meanwhile, in every single quarter since 2012, IBM’s revenue declined compared to the year earlier period. So, to cut costs, IBM may continue to pare its payroll. Many IBM employees are worried. Yet they may be the lucky ones: They still have their jobs.
The potential for sweeping layoffs at …Read more
June 5, 2017 Hesh Wiener
King Solomon enjoys a prominent place in the Bible and Quran; in Arabic the name is Sulayman. A son of King David, Solomon was, according to scripture, the wisest and wealthiest of the Hebrew Kings. After his reign, Israel split in two, with the smaller part governed by Solomon’s son Rehoboam, the larger part by the unrelated Jeroboam. Our greatest contemporary corporate kings resemble Solomon. While none have 700 wives and 300 concubines, their lawyers, dreaming of the prenup work, may wish they had Solomon’s connubial inclinations.Read more