Category Business

Black Swan? A Blackberry Store



I snapped this photo in Charlotte while quickly changing planes recently. Its presence caused me to do an about face as I had not previously seen a Blackberry branded retail store – nor did I ever expect to encounter such a place.

RIM was once a high flyer, but, via this informative Horace Dediu chart, has been unable to address the iPhone led smartphone disruption.

Black Swan Theory.

Brian S. Hall has been following the Smartphone wars for some time.

Kodak Files for Bankruptcy Protection


IT WAS the Apple of its era. Just like the late Steve Jobs with computers and music-players, George Eastman (pictured below behind the camera, with Thomas Edison) did not invent the camera and photographic development. But he simplified the technology. He outmaneuvered rivals. And he marketed his products in novel ways.



Yet the empire Eastman started to build at the end of the 19th century, and which dominated the 20th, did not last long into the 21st century. On January 18th Eastman Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York. The firm was laid low by the rapid shift to digital photography and away from film, where Kodak once earned 70% margins and enjoyed a 90% market share in America.



These handsome profits meant that the firm could invest huge sums in research and development. Yet ironically, extensive R&D contributed to Kodak’s undoing, since the firm ended up pioneering the very digital cameras that went on to kill its core business. The profits also allowed Kodak to be a generous and caring company for generations of employees in Rochester (New York), where it is based, and beyond. This, too, added to its troubles, since its pension obligations left it with less capital to diversify or invest in promising areas that might have saved it.

Kodak’s icons.

Apple and the American economy

The Economist:

THE macroeconomic discussions that Apple’s success prompts tend to be very curious things. Here we have a company that’s been phenomenally successful, making products people love and directly creating nearly 50,000 American jobs in doing so, criticised for not locating its manufacturing operations in America, even as Americans complain to Apple about the working conditions of those doing the manufacture abroad: life in dormitories, 12-hour shifts 6 days a week, and low pay. It isn’t enough for Apple to have changed the world with its innovative consumer electronics. It must also rebuild American manufacturing, and not just any manufacturing: the manufacturing of decades ago when reasonable hours and high wages were the norm.



The utility of Apple, however, is that it does provide a framework within which we can discuss the significant changes that have occurred across the global economy in recent decades. Contributing to that effort is a very nice and much talked about piece from the New York Times, which asks simply why it is that Apple’s manufacturing is located in Asia.

Most print newspapers will be gone in five years, The desktop PC is dead; long live the tablet.

USC Annenberg News:

Over the next three years, according to Cole, the tablet will become the primary tool for personal computing. Use of a desktop PC will dwindle to only 4-6 percent of computer users – writers, gamers, programmers, analysts, scientists, and financial planners – and laptop use will decline as well.



“The tablet is such an inviting gadget,” said Cole. “The desktop PC is a ‘lean forward’ device – a tool that sits on a desk and forces uses to come to it. The tablet has a ‘lean-back’ allure — more convenient and accessible than laptops and much more engaging to use. For the vast majority of Americans, the tablet will be the computer tool of choice by the middle of the decade, while the desktop PC fades away.


“We don’t see a negative consequence in the move to tablets,” said Cole, “but the coming dominance of tablets will create major shifts in how, when, and why Americans go online – changes even more significant than the emergence of the laptop.”

……..

“Circulation of print newspapers continues to plummet, and we believe that the only print newspapers that will survive will be at the extremes of the medium – the largest and the smallest,” said Cole. It’s likely that only four major daily newspapers will continue in print form: The New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. At the other extreme, local weekly newspapers may still survive.

“The impending death of the American print newspaper continues to raise many questions,” Cole said. “Will media organizations survive and thrive when they move exclusively to online availability? How will the changing delivery of content affect the quality and depth of journalism?”

20 Years of Gadget Reviews

Walt Mossberg:

Consumer technology has come a long way since that day. Digital gadgets—then too often designed by techies for techies—have become essential to our lives, and much easier to use, even if we still need the Geek Squad and the Genius Bar more than we should. And the pace of change has been mind-boggling.


In 1991, most consumer computers didn’t have built-in audio beyond just the ability to beep. Most lacked any way to communicate with the outside world—even via a slow, dial-up modem. The Internet wasn’t available to most people. Search engines and social networks didn’t exist.


Mobile phones were huge bricks. Digital cameras for consumers cost a fortune and took monochrome pictures. Digital music players and video recorders, e-readers and tablets were nowhere to be found.


So, this week, I decided to take a look back at some of the game-changing products that appeared in this column over the past two decades and propelled us from that primitive landscape to today’s interconnected digital world. This list of milestones is just a sampling; yours might differ. Also, since I write for average consumers, the list is weighted towards consumer products, not gadgets for geeks or corporate use.

Immelt on America going “all-in”

Chrystia Freeland:

I had breakfast this week with Jeffrey R. Immelt, the chief executive of General Electric, and the main dish on the menu was tough love. In an interview before a packed hall in Times Square, the boss of the more than a century-old $177 billion global behemoth told me that Americans can still win in the global economy — but that they need to fight harder.

“We are not trying that hard,” Immelt said. “We haven’t really tried as hard as we can to compete, educate and sell our products around the world and I think we can do better.

“The world just plays harder than we play,” he said. “Whether it is on exports or whether it is on foreign direct investment, the rest of the world plays for keeps. And we just don’t have a similar philosophy.”



Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has her own reasons for feeling grim, but she can take some comfort from the fact that Immelt pointed to Germany, whose version of capitalism Americans are accustomed to dismissing as plodding and inflexible, as one nation that is outselling the Yanks.

“Chancellor Merkel flies from Berlin to Beijing, there’s 25 German C.E.O.’s that get off the plane right behind her. And they connect the dots. They play hard, they play to win, they play for exports,” Immelt said. “We’re not all-in the same way that the Germans are all-in.”

The Germans certainly play the world much better than we Americans.

Why the highest-paid doctors are the most vulnerable to automation

Farhad Majoo:

The Pap smear is the most effective cancer-screening test ever developed. When it was introduced in the United States in the 1940s, about 26,000 women died every of year of cervical cancer. Today, the exam—now known as the Pap test, since the modern method of preparation no longer requires smearing cells on a slide—is performed about 55 million times a year in this country, and about 120 million times annually worldwide. The effect of widespread, routine testing has been dramatic: Fewer than 5,000 American women now die each year of cervical cancer. If you account for population growth since the 1940s, the Pap test has reduced cervical cancer mortality by more than 90 percent.

The Pap test isn’t just good for women. It’s also a good business for doctors and diagnostic laboratories—maybe as much as a $500 million industry in the United States. The techs and doctors who look at Pap slides are the TSA agents of the medical world: They spend their days examining dozens of slides in search of tiny, subtle, and rare visual cues of disease. The process begins with a doctor collecting a sample of cells from a woman’s cervix. The cells are preserved in liquid, mixed with laboratory reagents, separated from blood and other biological material by centrifuge, and then deposited onto a slide. The cervical cells are examined first by cytotechnologists—specialists trained to analyze certain types of medical slides. If abnormalities are found, the Pap slides are then screened by pathologists, medical doctors who diagnose disease. Because the vast majority of Pap tests are performed on healthy women, about 90 percent of the slides seen by a typical lab are completely normal. The entire process costs about $25 to $100 per test, depending on the lab’s efficiency.

Rite Aid rolls out in-store virtual doctor visits

Lucas Mearian:

One of the nation’s leading drug store chains, Rite Aid, has begun rolling out online physician chat rooms in its stores, allowing customers to participate in virtual face-to-face consultations prior to purchases.

Rite Aid today said it worked with healthcare provider OptumHealth to introduce its NowClinic Online Care services, which are currently available at pharmacies in the Detroit area.

The NowClinic offers Rite Aid customers real-time access to medical information and resources from doctors and OptumHealth nurses. Rite Aid said it is the first to provide a virtual clinic in a retail pharmacy setting.

Currently, conversations with nurses are free and a 10-minute consultation with a doctor is $45.

Ikea Debuts Mänland

Tim Nudd:

Men hate to shop. It’s a truism that Bud Light ads have hammered into us for decades. Ikea has absorbed it, too, and come up with a novel solution in its Australian stores. It’s launched a special in-store area called Mänland, a kind of daycare where husbands and boyfriends can hang out with their own kind (i.e., other Cro-Magnon morons) while their wives and girlfriends shop. Judging by the video below, this makes everyone happy—particularly the guys, who don’t seem to mind the suggestion that they’re essentially imbecilic toddlers who need to be dropped off and picked up like they’re still in preschool. The area is even modeled off the actual Ikea toddler-care area—and women are given a buzzer to remind them to collect their significant other after 30 minutes of shopping. (Instead of arts and crafts, the guys play foosball and Xbox games, watch sports, and eat free hot dogs.) It’s a nice little PR gambit, and it got lots of play in the Australian media—and would surely be a hit in the U.S. too. Because really, the men aren’t needed until the assembly phase anyway.

Money Quotes, Steve Jobs-Style

Owen Linzmayer and Ryan Singe:

One of the things the world will miss most about Steve Jobs, now that he’s officially retired for a second time as Apple’s CEO, is his mouth.

Jobs is a master of hype, hyperbole and the catchy phrase — and his cocky performances, while clad always in jeans and turtleneck, were as entertaining as the products he was shucking.

Here’s a selection of some of the most entertaining things the man has said, organized by topic: innovation and design, fixing Apple, his greatest sales pitches, life’s lessons, taking the fight to the enemy and Pixar.

On Android vs. iOS

“It is worthwhile to remember that open systems don’t always win. Open versus closed is a smokescreen. Google likes to characterize Android as open and iOS as closed. We think this is disingenuous.”
— In October 2010, talking to analysts about the challenge from Google’s Android, which Apple perceived as a stab in the back by Google’s then-CEO Eric Schmidt — a member of Apple’s board of directors. Hark Oct. 18, 2010.

“Don’t be evil is a load of crap.”
— In January 2010 townhall with Apple employees, Jobs tore into Google for getting into the smartphone business, saying Google got into smartphones, and Apple didn’t get into search. Wired Jan. 30, 2010.