Gary D's Take

Great Article from Reuters-Apple: The slaying of a tech hero

Great Article from Reuters-Apple: The slaying of a tech hero

Dec 23, 2015


By Zachary Karabell

January 25, 2013

Apple’s quarterly results this week drew a flood of reactions – almost all negative. Given how well the company did under almost any absolute measure, this is odd, though, for Wall Street, not necessarily surprising.

But the arc of Apple’s rise and temporary fall tells a more troubling story about our current inability to maintain positive momentum about any aspect of our culture. We slay our heroes with casual abandon. Then we wring our hands about the absence of positive catalysts in our world today.

Apple’s stock, already in relative free fall from an all-time high of more than $700 a share, plunged nearly 12 percent on the news. The company has now lost 35 percent of its value in four months – which represents an astonishing $235 billion. This decline alone is larger than all but three companies in the S&P 500, and larger than the gross domestic product of more than 140 countries.

That equity collapse was echoed by deeply pessimistic analysis of the company in the financial and tech media. Jim Cramer of CNBC railed against the post-Steve Jobs management under chief executive officer Tim Cook for failing to communicate a compelling vision. Others were less kind, dismissing the company as having no pipeline, no vision and little growth. “I think this is a broken company,” said noted investor Jeffrey Gundlach.

Apple matters on multiple levels: it is still (barely) the world’s largest company by market cap; it has been cited as a beacon of American innovation, led by a rare visionary, Steve Jobs, who resurrected the company he’d founded in the decade before his death; its products have been more than just hardware devices – consumers view them as a talisman, defining identities and allowing people to manifest their personal and professional lives as they chose. In the past few years, its stock price has been a proxy for that enthusiasm.

So what happened? What’s most stunning about Apple’s stunning and sudden fall is that it is unfolding in the context of still stunning actual results. Not only has the company not ceased growing, it is expanding at an astonishing clip. Its revenue in the fourth quarter of 2012 was $54.5 billion compared to $46.33 billion a year ago – which is a rise of 18 percent. Eighteen percent in a world economy that is barely growing 3 percent. It sold 47 million iPhones in the quarter compared to 37 million a year ago, and 23 million iPads compared to 15 million a year ago.

Yes, Apple earnings were flat, and stock market mavens point ominously to declining margins and shrinking earnings as telltale signs of trouble. But that isn’t a sign of shrinking market share – which has been nearly fatal for former leaders such as Blackberry and Nokia. No, Apple increased its global share of smartphone sales in a market that is hardly robust – as Samsung, Apple’s main competitor revealed as well. And issues of tight margins and spending more money to produce and market the same products are hardly Apple-specific and often given a pass by investors for companies such as Amazon or LinkedIn.

Still, Apple is not just another story of the bizarre way that Wall Street can value a company. It is that, but it’s more as well. It seems like only yesterday that Apple was being hailed as the great company of our age, with its dying founder lionized in a best-selling biography as a genius not just of our time but of any time. It seems like only yesterday because it basically was only yesterday.

And before its recent image travails, Apple’s sharp ascent was equally stunning – written off as dead by the late 1990s, it emerged as the tech innovator par excellence by the mid-2000s, invested with every virtue. Now, it is regarded as a has-been, hocking commoditized phones that any Chinese manufacturer can produce and tablets that every company in the world seems to be making, led by a CEO whose expertise is rationalizing the supply-chain. Hardly the stuff of dreams.

It’s fair to say that Apple was never as transformative a social and technological force as myth would have it. And the slaying of heroes is hardly unique to our era. But the speed of lionizing and then annihilating is enough to take your breath away. It’s the cultural equivalent of creative destruction. But unlike the economic version, it’s hard to see where the creative element creeps in.

It is true that Apple functions in a ruthlessly competitive industry that is both fickle and short-term. Phones and tablets are ever-more essential but command about the same consumer loyalty as fashion: Cool one day, tired the next – even if you are a juggernaut like Apple.

Perhaps the market and the media are simply accelerating an inevitable process. You only get to be on top for a while, before the buzz and the business move elsewhere. In that sense, Apple is just an oversized corporate ingénue, with its brief moment fading and someone else soon to take its place, before the cycle begins again.

But the cultural message embedded in tearing Apple down is more pernicious than doing the same to a fading starlet. Beneath the furor, Apple continues to do its business exceedingly well and continues to give people what they need and want. For now, it is largely media and Wall Street that are writing Apple’s obituary – not customers.

The message may prove to be correct, or it may not, but the complete lack of perspective about how hard it is to create something of worth compared to how easy it is to tear something down does not send a constructive signal or engender the better angels of our nature.

Apple was always likely to decline from its heights. But not because it failed, simply because others succeeded. In the story of Apple, and how we tell it, we have a metaphor for the story of the United States in recent years: a tendency to see the end, and then hasten it. Apple’s success was an example of what the United States can do brilliantly. The recent reaction to it shows that we can also excel at self-immolation.

Better to nurture the former instincts. The other will lead nowhere, and fast.

PHOTO: A customer is helped by an Apple employee while looking over the iPad mini after the device went on sale at Apple’s retail store in Palo Alto, California November 2, 2012. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Your Legacy Phone System

Your Legacy Phone System

Dec 23, 2015

Abandoning a legacy system altogether simply isn’t feasible for some businesses.

After investing thousands of dollars into equipment,from handsets to the system itself, retiring the system might be out of the question. If you are reading this , however, it has become evident that your business has outgrown its current system, your legacy system is lacking modern features that could help you gain competitive advantage, and/or your business is expanding rapidly. Obviously, simply retaining your legacy system and hoping that it will continue to meet future demand is much like an ostrich hiding its head in the sand.

Businesses that are well-served by their existing system and looking to avoid the cost of new equipment may opt for legacy system integration. Integration solutions allow an enterprise to keep its existing system and free up the capital expense for other expanding business needs. According to PC World’s Zack Stern, “Your biggest savings could come from cutting your current Analog/ISDN PRI/BRI cord—the phone ‘trunk’ into your business,” Stern says. With IP trunking in its place, you instead connect through the internet, sharing phone traffic with your Internet service. “The switch can streamline your monthly fees. But you’ll have to add hardware to make this transition. Many  systems can work with your currently installed system hardware. You’ll connect from the  phone system into  controller hardware, which in turn connects to your Internet Telephony Service Provider (ITSP). The ITSP finally taps into the public phone network, reaching anyone on any phone.”

However, integration is a poor choice for enterprises where:
*Business growth has exceeded system limits
*The business requires remote office integration
*The business requires telephony features not supported by existing system

According to TechDay, the rising costs of keeping a legacy system reliable under increasing demand—not to mention a more competitive business environment—is simply not viable for some modern businesses.

As Jon Arnold, principal at J Arnold & Associates explains it: “Businesses have never had so much choice … when making decisions around telephone systems.”


Welcome to my new pet peeve.

Welcome to my new pet peeve.

Dec 23, 2015

When I write , I try to deliver content that is useful and entertaining. I am also a business person who has a product to sell. All the “smart” marketing folks say that if you deliver useful content in your blog , it will help your business. The one thing you shouldn’t do is make your blog a sales pitch because people will get real tired of it REAL FAST.

Here is a new spin on that concept. When you comment on a post in someone else’s blog , DON’T MAKE IT A COMMERCIAL FOR YOUR BUSINESS! Especially if your comment has little or no connection to the post you are attaching it to. Here’s an example. I was reading a post on INC entitled 3 Big Ideas to Steal From Netflix . This was a great article about employee retention and talent acquisition. I scrolled down to the comments and here is what I saw:

O really? So, should we start with choosing a hosting service provider that doesn’t even spare NetFlix on Christmas Eve?
Source: NetFlix Service Outage on AWS (Amazon Web Services)
What the H*** is this nut bucket thinking? The only connection his comment had with the post was that it was about Netflix and its employee policies…NOT about where Netflix is hosted. OK this is obviously an entrepreneur who is passionate about his business. I also understand that when you are a hammer , everything looks like a nail but for pity’s sake , have a little sense.

Is the desk phone dead?

Is the desk phone dead?

Dec 23, 2015

I recently read a blog article entitled “The Phone Is Dead”. It was written by a friend of mine who I respect a lot. (Read the article here.)There is a lot of truth in what he says but I am afraid that I have to respectfully disagree with the concept. I must say that the old girl is on her last legs and fading fast but that condition is mostly caused by the industries decision to go in exactly the wrong direction. To those of us who have spent most of our lives in the phone business , watching us shoot ourselves in the foot comes as no big surprise……we do it all the time!

So what is killing the desk phone? Some might say that the cell phone is the culprit. Replacing landlines in business with cell phones sounds like the perfect idea……there are just a couple of issues to work out……. what’s the cell phone number of accounts receivable? Who’s cell phone do I call to order HBO? Cell phones are designed for one person to communicate directly with one other person. It’s a very PERSONAL communications tool. Calling someone at home is a personal ONE TO ONE kind of communication so its easy to see why cell phones are quickly replacing the HOME PHONE.It’s not designed for groups of people to share calls and collaborate. Businesses need this……you don’t need this at home. Having watched a few companies try to go “all  cellphone” and fail miserably , I can safely say that the cellphone has a strong alibi for the death of the desk phone.

Email is another thing that has been fingered in the desk phone homicide case. This is really interesting to me since I also hear that email is on its way out and being replaced by text and chat. (I wonder if its just really cool to declare things that we use all the time as being dead?) Its true that email has replaced traditional or snail mail in many cases but can it replace the telephone? Think about this shared experience everybody has had….you are emailing someone and trying to explain something. You have been going back and forth for a while trying to work out some details but you are stuck on some point. Finally one of you picks up the phone and calls the other one….the hour long impasse is resolved in a two minute conversation. We have all experienced this situation. Email is good…..but it’s not THAT GOOD!

The biggest problem with the desk phone is the new generation of VOIP phones that are based on the traditional PBX model. Phone systems traditionally come in two flavors…. PBX ( Private Branch Exchange ) and something called a key system or squared. Here’s the difference….a traditional PBX is based on the concept that you have one person who answers all the calls and transfers them to the extension of the person the call is for. Later we added Voice Mail and something called Interactive Voice Response (the press 1 for this and 2 for that thing) or IVR ( IVRs don’t really respond to your voice so this is a misnomer). Sometimes called an Auto Attendant , this really clever addition got overused by some companies in their zeal to eliminate the receptionist. This led to the creation of what came to be called “Voice Mail Hell” where you can’t ever seem to talk to a real person anywhere at anytime EVER. How many times have you have called a company ,got frustrated with the Auto Attendant and hit “0 for the operator”?

The key system is mostly found in smaller companies with five or six lines and less than 50 employees. The concept is simple , all the lines are visible on all the phones and each one can be answered on any phone. All the extensions are visible on every phone set so that anyone can see who is on the phone. ( Obviously if you have 50 lines and 200 extensions each telephone set would be the size of a Buick but for 6 lines and ten phones it works pretty well) You can then put the answered line on hold and tell the person who the call is for to “pick up line 1” or if they are out of the office or on the phone ,take a message or send them to the appropriate voicemail. You can even say “Joe is on the phone, can someone else help you?”( I know that actually talking to someone and trying to assist them is a revolutionary concept but please stay with me here.) A key system also allows you to put the phone call on hold , move to another station and pick the call back up very easily. Basically every phone is an operator console. This allows the very necessary function of answering and routing calls to be done from ANY station in the building.

Since most new VOIP phone systems are built on the PBX model…..they can’t really do key system functionality. For some small businesses that don’t have a central receptionist and everyone basically answers the phone….A PBX can be a real problem requiring a  complete change in how they answer the telephone. I have watched businesses totally revamp how the organization uses the phone…….it’s usually painful and expensive. Many times in these situations you hear the phrase “Can we just go back to what we had ?”

The main reason that, to paraphrase Mark Twain “ The reports of the death of the phone are greatly exaggerated” is the current wave of consumer demand for better customer service. Savvy businesses have recognized that what their customers want is a more personalized experience. Particularly when they have a problem with your product or service. When the cable is out or the dryer quits working, everybody really wants to push more buttons or type more information in a chat box right?……….WRONG! They want a live person ON THE PHONE to fix the problem.

So what is the answer here? Cell phones and email can’t really get the job done alone but they should play a part in your overall communications strategy. The real promise of the new technology available today is the ability to bring all the communications tools at your disposal together and leverage everything so that you have the best possible solution. Forward thinking business communications companies can do that. Carriers like AT&T or single silo equipment manufacturers and vendors can’t really do that for you. If you look at the what the REAL job of these types of companies is….it’s easy to see why they can’t deliver that total integrated solution that you really need.  Carriers sell lines and bandwidth. Manufacturers and equipment vendors sell THEIR equipment. A business communications companies job is to provide a great solution customized for each customer. They work for you. If they are smart , the only agenda they have is making the client happy.

The technology available for business communications today is amazing. Businesses have more options than ever before. The trick is finding a partner whose job is to take the best of what is available and combine it into the best solution for you.

The Power Of Buzz

Buzz Words Can Be A Powerful Tool…..But Apply With Caution!

Having spent most of my life in industries loaded with buzz words and acronyms (PRI, ISDN , VOIP , Cloud , SEO) I am still amazed at the power that these “buzzy” concepts can assert. I recently had that waking nightmare experience that we all dread. I walked into a breakfast meeting and was told , “You are giving the presentation today.” Its like the dream where you go to school and suddenly realize you are naked! Anybody who knows me would be surprised that the idea of speaking extemporaneously for ten minutes on ANYTHING would give me pause but it did…..a little.

Since I have recently been involved in some social media projects, I decided to go with that. Now sometimes when I start off talking about technology stuff, I notice that my audience will often get that eyes glazed , little drop of drool at the corner of the mouth look. NOT THIS TIME! Everybody was paying attention and at the end when it was time for questions the Q&A was longer than my allotted speaking time.

Afterward , I was asked to meet with someone at their office to talk about about how I could help them with a social media campaign…WOW!

The moral here is… is all about driving the growth of business with better and innovative methods that deliver REAL returns. Often you can use “buzz words” to gain interest and engage your clients. Remember to be careful…set the proper expectations and ALWAYS deliver the goods.