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.
November 14, 2016 Hesh Wiener
Jacob ben Wolf Kranz was, in the second half of the 18th century, the Preacher of Dubno or, in Yiddish, the Dubner Magid. Dubno is a small city in the Ukraine. Two and a half centuries later, Virginia Rometty, the Big Cheese of Big Blue, appears to have heard at least one of the Magid’s tales. Assisted by the Magid’s sagacity, Rometty has soothed the savages of the sell side, beguiled the barbarians of the buy side and inveigled that illustrious investor on the outside, the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffet.
Janet Yellen: The head of the Federal Reserve Bank
October 24, 2016 Hesh Wiener
In the 5th century BC, a Greek philosopher named Zeno invented clever, paradoxical puzzles. In the most famous, he argues that swift Achilles, racing a turtle that has been given a very modest lead, can never catch that torpid tortoise. Twenty-one centuries later, two geniuses simultaneously and independently used Zeno’s view of infinity and the infinitesimal to create calculus. It took another 500 years for Steve Jobs’s magnificent iPhone to newly define the infinite as Apple sold more than a billion devices, spawned a trillion dollar business, and inspired new forms of social and economic organization.
September 26, 2016 Hesh Wiener
The renowned philosopher Georg Hegel, whose life coincided with the Industrial Revolution, analyzed social change and the resultant conflict of old and new. His ideas galvanized Karl Marx, 50 years his junior. Two centuries after his birth, Hegel’s wisdom guided Silicon Valley’s sensational inventors.
At its best, our economy is nourished by a hearty Hegelian stew of technologies seasoned with a dash of Ninotchka. At its worst, we try to feed on an Apple duly but dully managed by former ibmocrat Tim Cook as we listen to a hoarse Yahoo.
Georg Hegel: German philosopher whose
August 15, 2016 Hesh Wiener
When Vulcan gets riled, steer clear of volcanos. Be nice. Show him some respect. Admire his metalworking skills. Celebrate his holiday, Vulcanalia, on August 23. Don’t hurt Vulcan’s feelings as Pompeii apparently did. In 79 AD, Pompeii was buried alive in ash and lava. Vulcan is obviously implicated: Vesuvius erupted on August 24, right after Vulcanalia.
IBM, which has supported a huge study of Pompeii’s destruction, should know better than to trifle with Vulcan. But Big Blue has been vexatious, deprecating the hardware business. Vulcan is surely offended; he could strike at any moment. Watch out!
July 25, 2016 Hesh Wiener
In The Winter’s Tale, Antigonus is chased offstage to his death. Shakespeare’s stage direction is, “Exit, pursued by a bear.” This instruction is part of a quirky drama that begins in tragedy but ends with joy and redemption, a story chock full of surprises. Its boggled principals apparently feel the way Britons, Europeans, and indeed the rest of us do in the wake of Brexit, the indication that Britain’s voters want to leave the European Union.
Brexit rattled the world’s financial markets. Most investors had not expected the turkeys to vote for Thanksgiving.
A fortnight after Brexit, the
June 27, 2016 Hesh Wiener
In the American West during the last quarter of the 19th century, quite a few people died with their boots on, thereby ending up in Boot Hill. These days, few people die in a saddle. Some die in gunfights. Plenty die at their desks, the way Bat Masterson did in 1921. A boneyard whose occupants expired at work wouldn’t be called Boot Hill anyway. Instead, particularly if it catered to the computer business with its many women executives, it would be named Jimmy Choo Hill.
Boot Hill: Quite a few graveyards were named Boot Hill; the one in Tombstone
May 2, 2016 Hesh Wiener
In 1964, as IBM announced the System/360, Marshall McLuhan, a professor at the University of Toronto, published a remarkable book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. He said each medium, independent of its content, is a powerful social force with characteristics that reshape the way people are interconnected.
McLuhan distilled his thesis to a single memorable phrase: the medium is the message. Like print, radio, movies, and television, computing technologies, from the punch card to the mainframe to the mobile internet, are media, too. IBM doesn’t fully understand this; consequently, it flails and struggles.
April 4, 2016 Hesh Wiener
In 1981, IBM caused a tectonic shift in computing by announcing its PC. IBM ultimately failed in the PC business, but it spawned an industry segment that still stands on the PC’s two pillars: Intel chips and Microsoft software. Thirty-five years later, however, most clients are mobile, with ARM chips and ‘nix variant software. Meanwhile, enterprise Wintel and Lintel have been enlisted by Microsoft for a fresh assault on the glass house archipelago. To avoid a debacle, IBM must reinvent its Power and mainframe platforms on the ground and in the cloud.
IBM appears vulnerable, adding to customers’
March 28, 2016 Hesh Wiener
Someday there may be a portrait of Siri, the invisible aide of Apple’s users; an image of Google’s nameless virtual servant; an illustration of Amazon Echo’s helpful Alexa; or a graphic depicting Cortana, Microsoft’s attentive assistant. By contrast, IBM’s Watson, which talked to Bob Dylan, has an icon: a Haringesque homosexual planet.
None of these characters has achieved the immortality of Nipper the terrier, its attention drawn before 1900 by the recorded voice of its master. A four-ton statue of the duped pooch still adorns the Arnoff Building in Albany, New York.
February 22, 2016 Hesh Wiener
In mid-2017, IBM chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty will turn 60. If she honors IBM’s traditions, December 31 of next year will be her last day as CEO. With time running low, Rometty is driving Big Blue to undergo dramatic change. She is making strategic acquisitions, executing significant disposals and forcing changes in the ranks of top executives. There’s no more Ms. Nice Gal, if there ever was one. For Rometty and for IBM, it is do or die . . . or, as some fear, perhaps both.
The most noteworthy moment in Rometty’s tenure came in October