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 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
May 1, 2017 Hesh Wiener
Geolocation is one of the most influential technologies in the mix that constitutes the mobile internet. Even when used via a physically static device, such as a desktop PC, geolocation shapes the way users’ apps interact with many information technology services. Apple and Google are the visible leaders, but Microsoft’s Bing, well aware of the importance of geolocation in server side and client side activities, is as keen as its rivals to provide vital services. IBM isn’t yet a geolocation powerhouse, but changing circumstances may soon compel it to engage with vigor.
The popular surface of geolocation technology is a …Read more
April 3, 2017 Hesh Wiener
IBM i shops seem to be pretty content with their systems. Profiles of the installed base, such as that recently published by HelpSystems, show a mix of old and new equipment with an impressive span of performance. For users, the stability of the base is sign that owners of the systems are satisfied. But for IBM, ISVs and other suppliers, an i that is not evolving is a dead duck. Suppliers to the IBM i market want the platform to become a phoenix, a fresh system rising from the ashes of aging predecessors.
In the past month, we …Read more
February 13, 2017 Hesh Wiener
For the past several mainframe generations IBM has announced new large systems about every three years. The current line of big iron, the System z13, emerged in 2015, so it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the z14 or whatever it is called reaches customers next year, in 2018. Meanwhile, this year Ginni Rometty turns 60, IBM’s traditional CEO retirement age, and, like her predecessor, she could stick around one more year as the company’s chairman.
The upshot: Rometty’s successor as CEO will enjoy the sales boost of a fresh mainframe product cycle. And if IBM is making money …Read more
January 18, 2017 Hesh Wiener
In 1993, when Lou Gerstner became the boss of IBM, it was failing under inept John Akers. A decade later Gerstner passed IBM’s leadership to Sam Palmisano. Gerstner had revived IBM’s computer business, developed a huge services operation and regained the admiration of customers.
But Palmisano was no Gerstner. The IBM he left to Ginni Rometty in 2012 was, beneath the surface, as loused up as it had been under Akers. Moreover, Rometty, who knows IBM needs to invent a new future, is saddled with underlings who often seem to be looking back rather than ahead.
IBM’s largest …Read more
December 14, 2016 Hesh Wiener
Did you ever have a run of terrible luck, when just about everything seemed to be going awry? You might be somebody who shrugs off mud spatters of misfortune. If so, you wouldn’t be Salman Rushdie, who has composed a whole world in which imps, the kind called jinns in Islamic mythology, pop up all over the place causing havoc and misery. His novel Two Years contains such a world, one that coincidentally might seem familiar to Virginia Rometty, whose spell at the helm of IBM has been marred by mayhem. Perhaps the jinns are picking on Ginni.
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