Archive for December, 2014:

Twitter stock jumps on report that CEO is on way out

After reporting slowing growth and getting passed by Instagram in number of users, Twitter’s stock price jumped Tuesday on speculation that CEO Dick Costolo might be leaving the company.

CNBC.com reported Monday that Robert Peck, an analyst at investment bank SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, predicted that Costolo will leave the social network in 2015.

“We think there’s a good chance he’s not there within a year,” Peck said. He also said there are “a lot of interesting candidates” that could take over Twitter’s helm.

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

The prediction caused the company’s stock to jump 3.6% Monday, reaching $38.43 a share. On Tuesday, the stock rose to $39.25 and then dropped to $37.79 by mid-afternoon.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said he’s not surprised that interest in Twitter spiked on even speculation that Costolo might be leaving.

“I know there’s a lot of questions about his ability to run Twitter,” Kerravala said. “If the company doesn’t perform well or the company misses a couple of quarters, there will be tremendous investor pressure to oust him. If the company performs, he’s OK.”

Twitter, though it’s increasingly used for political and social protest and company branding, has suffered from slowing growth.

In October, the company reported slower growth in active monthly users than it had in the previous quarter. In the quarter ending in Septembertt September, Twitter’s monthly user base grew by 4.8%, to 284 million users around the world. In the previous quarter, however, the user base grew by 6.3%.

Earlier this month, Twitter received more unsettling news when photo-sharing site Instagram announced that its monthly user base had jumped 50%, taking its base to 300 million users.

With that leap, Instagram surpassed Twitter in number of users.

The company also shuffled several executives this year, with three different heads of product in 2014 alone. Daniel Graf, one of Twitter’s head of products this year, was demoted in November and then left the company in December, according to re/code.

“There appears to be a lot of executives leaving for other companies,” said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. “Twitter has had a tough time compared to Facebook and that’s what investors are fixated with. I think they’re feeling mounting pressure from shareholders and employees.”

Kerravala said it would help the company if Costolo leaves his top post. “Initially, it would be a good thing,” he added. “But long term, it depends on who they bring in and if the slowing growth at Twitter is leadership related or more structural.”

He added that a lot hinges on the company’s next financial report. “This upcoming earnings call in February will have a lot to do with whether [Costolo] is CEO next year at this time.”

Moorhead, though, isn’t sure that a change in leadership would help Twitter.

“I think Costolo should be given a year under close watch by the board,” he said. “The company is too young and just recently public. The cement needs to dry a while before that makes sense. That is, unless, there are some things going on that people are unaware of. For instance, if the executive team has lost confidence in Costolo, it would be time for him to go, but I just don’t think Twitter is there yet.”


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The Onion’s 9 best bits about Microsoft

Poking fun at the software giant and founder Bill Gates since 1996

Going on two decades of ridicule
The Onion, self-branded “America’s Finest News Source,” has been making fun of Microsoft — and, in particular, Bill Gates — since at least 1996, according to its online archive. Here are nine of what we’ve judged to be the best efforts.

Bill Gates To Get Half
Publication date: July 23, 1996

Sample: “Don’t touch anything until you’re sure it’s not part of my half,” Gates instructed the world’s citizenry yesterday via the several million 40-foot-high projection screens he has scattered throughout the globe. “I don’t want anyone messing up stuff in my half.”

Bill Gates Spends $56 Million On Amazon In One Night
Published: Sept. 22, 2011

Sample: “The kids were in bed, and I was thinking about how it had been a long time since I’d heard any Yes, so I bought the MP3 for ‘Leave It,'” Gates said as he opened one of the 13,846 boxes that had arrived at his house.

Microsoft patents ones and zeros
Published: March 25, 1998

Sample: “Microsoft has been using the binary system of ones and zeroes ever since its inception in 1975,” Gates told reporters. “For years, in the interest of the overall health of the computer industry, we permitted the free and unfettered use of our proprietary numeric systems. However, changing marketplace conditions and the increasingly predatory practices of certain competitors now leave us with no choice but to seek compensation for the use of our numerals.”

Thousands Wait Overnight At Microsoft Stores For Second Generation Zune
Published: Dec. 17, 2007

Sample: The sleek new Zune, whose record-breaking sales have made the Zune name synonymous with “mp3 player,” was so sought-after that thousands formed long lines outside hip, minimalist Microsoft Stores across the country days before the device went on sale. In Midtown Manhattan, the hysteria reached such a fever pitch that some were willing to pay as much as $200 for a spot in line.

Microsoft Signs Justice Dept. Attorney To $350 Million Endorsement Deal
Published: Jan. 21, 1998

Sample: Klein, who will appear in Microsoft TV and print ads, joins a growing list of high-profile government personalities who have signed endorsement deals with the software giant, including solicitor general Seth Waxman, FTC chair Robert Pitofsky, and federal judge Thomas Penfield Jackson.

Microsoft Ad Campaign Crashing Nation’s Televisions
Published: Oct. 27, 2008

Sample: The Microsoft ads, which began airing earlier this week, are being blamed for generating critical system errors in more than 70 million televisions. In addition, thousands of frustrated Americans said that the ads have caused their TVs to become unresponsive, their screens to turn blue, and a small box with the message “terminal application error” to suddenly appear.

Bill Gates Finally Getting Into Radiohead’s Kid A
Published: Sept. 12, 2001

Sample: “I listened to it a few times when I first got it, but it just wasn’t grabbing me,” Gates told The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Xbox capable of controlling users
Sample from video: “TechBuzz is raving. ‘This is the future of gaming. With the Xbox One we are closer than ever to being completely piloted by a console. It’s the immersive obedience experience we’ve been waiting for.’ ”

Modern-Day John Henry Dies Trying To Out-Spreadsheet Excel 11.0
Published: Feb. 27, 2006

Sample: Peters challenged the computer after an interoffice memo announced that Excel’s powerful upgraded accounting software would render jobs in the accounts receivable division obsolete and result in sweeping layoffs. Although warned repeatedly by his colleagues in billing, Peters insisted that he could beat the software “to the bottom of a large balance sheet of bedrock-hard figures.”


 

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Why there’s no open-source standard-bearer for the network

Open-source creeps into the network from below, but no Red Hat analogues in sight.

Open-source software plays an increasingly prominent role in many areas of modern business IT – it’s in servers, databases and even the cloud. Vendors like Red Hat, Canonical and others have managed to graft open-source principles onto a profitable business model. The former company became the first open-source-centered business with $1 billion in annual revenue in 2012.

So what about the network? Why isn’t there an open-source alternative there?
Plenty of reasons, according to experts, including the difficulty of challenging established incumbents, the dangers of getting eaten alive by a large customer and the sheer scale and complexity of managing a heterodox network in an orthodox way.

THE HEAVYWEIGHTS
Obviously, the incumbents in most fields of enterprise technology are formidable enough, but networking hopefuls have to contend with a bona-fide giant of the realm in the form of Cisco – which sells between 65% and 70% of the world’s enterprise switches, 80% of the enterprise routers, and 18% of the security appliances – still good for tops in its category, according to IDC.

More than that, however, they’re actually pleasing their customers, according to 451 Research analyst Peter Christy.

“If you talk to Cisco customers, rather than viewing them as a predatory, monopolistic company they would like to get away from, they view them as the best tech vendor they deal with in terms of helping the customer succeed,” he said.

Companies have to compete with Cisco to do a better job providing a working network, which isn’t easy to do. (Not that it’s stopped some companies from trying – Brocade bought open-source networking software maker Vyatta in 2012 with that end in mind.) And that’s not to say that companies that, like Cisco, depend on branded hardware are going to have it all their own way in perpetuity.

“[Network management] is a freaking hard problem. It’s just a lot of things to try to cover, and the market moves.”

John Michelsen, CTO for CA Technologies
Neela Jacques is the executive director of the Open Daylight project, which is a collaborative group that works to create open-source networking software. He argues that some pricey proprietary hardware isn’t worth it.

“In some areas, there’s been tremendous innovation and differentiation, where you’re paying $100,000 for a box and it really is solving a problem you couldn’t solve otherwise,” he said. “But especially at the lower end of the market, there’s been very, very high margins for a long time, and the boxes haven’t really changed as much.”

All too often, Jacques said, networking hardware is made by a no-name ODM in China, programmed with a specific vendor’s network operating system, and marked up by a factor of five to 10.

“People have been looking at that and saying ‘wait a second – if we could just create an open-source version of that network operating system, then someone could get the exact same SKU that they’re putting into their environment,’” he added.

Christy noted that three of the four biggest clouds out there – Amazon, Facebook, and Google, with Microsoft the odd company out – build their own networking boxes. Even hardware makers like Riverbed say that commodity hardware is the wave of the future.

“Why should they buy the same thing from Cisco if they can build what they want, somewhat tweaked, by themselves, with the same outside manufacturers?” he asked.
Resources

A FREAKING HARD PROBLEM
Even so, CA Technologies CTO John Michelsen said, attempts to create a broad-based performance management framework in an open-source manner, like OpenNMS, haven’t been terribly successful because the issues faced are simply very difficult.

“It’s a freaking hard problem. It’s just a lot of things to try to cover, and the market moves,” he said.

The well-known aphorism of UNIX philosophy says to “write programs that do one thing and do it well” – a problematic stance for broad-based network management and performance optimization systems, which are, almost by definition, heavily multi-functional.

Michelsen said that his company’s application performance management product is designed to monitor eight separate aspects of the network.

“It’s very hard to bring an integrated set of very deep-science things in several different areas. Each of these different types of monitoring are their own science project,” he said.

SWALLOWED UP
Despite the philosophical and logistical problems, open-source technology is still a major part of the network – it’s just in there at a very low level, according to 451’s Christy.

Big companies that buy a service from smaller ones impose tough contractual terms around code escrow – meaning that the vendor will have to provide a copy of their offering’s source code for legal safe-keeping, so that the bigger firm will be able to continue to function if the smaller one goes out of business.

Open source obviates a lot of those headaches, in principle. It also offers companies in the same industry a way to collaborate on development without fear of being accused of collusion.

But it also means that open source tends to get swallowed up by big companies in the network space, one way or another. Key early adopters of open-source networking technology have had so much in-house technological expertise that it becomes difficult to offer them a paid service offering – they can simply do that themselves.

“The biggest users always self-support – it’s not a commercial opportunity,” said Christy.

That same open-source code, freely viewed and tinkered with by companies full of top programming talent, helps fuel the aforementioned shift in the direction of commodity hardware.

BIG KIDS ONLY
But, obviously, not every company has Facebook or Google’s battalions of elite developers. It’s because of this that the hands-off, managed service option remains popular.

“In the case of networking, for most customers, there’s a greater motivation to let the vendor sit in the middle and integrate patches and be responsible for the operation of the network as a whole, than it is for, say, the typical use of Linux,” Christy said.

Jacques argues that open-source’s low-level presence on the network is strong, and could eventually diversify to the point at which smaller customers are more attracted to it.

“Open-source is a key underpinning of network management technology, but absent a “core platform,” there’s little chance of open-source making it to the app layer.

“[L]ook at what happened with Linux, for example. It took Linux being credible for running servers … for people to look and turn it into something to run cars and phones and home security systems and all that,” he said. “I think you’ll see the exact same thing in networking, because you can’t have an open-source app that sits on a proprietary platform.”


 

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6 ways to nail the job interview

Learn what IT hiring managers say are the most common interviewing mistakes and how you can avoid making them. (And if you’re a millennial, pay particular attention.)

When Doug Mitchell took over as CEO of direct-sales company Argenta Field Solutions in 2011, he noticed something surprising. He noticed that most Gen-Y candidates, though tech savvy and digitally plugged-in, didn’t seem to have a clue about how to dress for, prepare for or conduct themselves in an interview, making his job and the job of his hiring managers difficult.

“One of my responsibilities is interviewing, while the final decision is made by our chief administrator or by the head of sales, I perform interviews as well as put a final stamp of approval on our hires. What I noticed was, especially with the latest crop of millennial candidates, they’re completely unprepared. They don’t understand how to dress, how to speak, how to comport themselves in a face-to-face interview,” he says. “Millennials might be ‘digital natives,’ but they could use some pointers on good, old-fashioned face-to-face interaction at times,” says Mitchell.

Six Tips to Nail an In-Person Interview
Whether you’re a millennial looking to land your first job or you’re a senior executive taking the next step in their career, there are some things you need to focus on to make a great first impression. “I focus on six general principles. While some might seem like common sense, they’re always important to remember,” says Mitchell,

Dress for the Role You Want
Dress for the job you want, not to job you have – or the job you’re applying for. You want to aim for the job that’s one level above the one you’ve applied to; that shows the interviewer, subconsciously, that you’re looking toward a future with the company, advises Mitchell.

“Yes, we’re a direct sales company. We have fairly casual uniforms for our salespeople, but if someone walks through the door in a suit and tie, or a nice blouse, pantsuit or skirt and heels, that shows me they’ve taken the extra effort to make themselves look professional. Even before they open their mouth, I can see they could potentially be in management someday, “says Mitchell.

Leave Slang and Dialect at the Door

The way you talk with your friends should be the exact opposite of how you’re talking to potential hiring managers. Keep it professional, formal and polite. “You’d think this wouldn’t need to be said, but it does, because it has happened more than once. I’ve had people come in who pass the ‘dress code’ test, but the second they throw me a ‘Yo, dawg,’ it’s over!, “Mitchell says.

Speaking with correct grammar goes a long way toward reinforcing the professional impression you’ve made by looking the part.

Bring Printed Copies of Your Resume

Yes, you’ve e-mailed your resume to the company. Your online profiles are updated and your LinkedIn profile is impeccable but even in this digital age, according to Mitchell, always bring at least two printed copies of your resume to the interview. “Don’t even try to use the ‘my printer’s out of ink’ or ‘my printer died,’ excuse. Trust me, I’ve heard that one a million times, “Mitchell says.

In fact, in one instance Mitchell recalls, a candidate followed up that excuse by still producing printed copies of her resume – she’d emailed the file to FedEx/Kinko’s and had it printed. “That helped her in two ways. First, she showed perseverance – she encountered an obstacle to a successful interview and figured out a way to overcome it, and second, she was able to use that story to show those qualities of persistence and out-of-the-box thinking in the interview, “Mitchell says.

Become an Expert on the Company

Whether the job you’re applying for is your “dream job” or another rung on the ladder of your career, make sure to educate yourself about the ins-and-outs of the company. “You need to be genuinely interested in who we are, what we do and why, because that’s going to come across to me in an interview,” says Mitchell.

Public companies can be researched via Google or other Internet searches, or through LinkedIn, Glassdoor and other sites. For more on researching prospective employers please read, Top 8 Sites for Researching Your Next Employer.

In the interview itself, Mitchell says don’t shy away from small talk, especially when it comes to the company, or if you’ve uncovered common interests shared with your interviewer. “Don’t be afraid of small talk, but make sure you’re not taking it overboard, “says Mitchell.

Using publically available information, you can usually find a common interest, even if it’s just the fact that you’re both huge fans of the company. “If you know everything there is to know about the company, what their goals are, who the competition is, what obstacles they’ve faced and overcome, that gives you a great basis for an ongoing conversation about how you can fit in,” says Mitchell.

Never Badmouth Your Previous Employers
The best employees are never negative. If you are asked why you left your previous position or were let go, sure, be honest, but don’t place blame or speak negatively about your previous, role, boss or organization. “Insightful employers are going to interpret any negativity to mean that you are the problem – especially if you cite the same reason for your last few employers,” says Mitchell.

Sometimes there is no way around it, except through it. If there’s no way around the negativity, make sure you have a solution or a scenario in which you can do better. Be able to demonstrate that you’re working to improve or resolve the situation. “As an employer, you’re always looking at your reputation to customers – you don’t want to have someone out there bad-mouthing you to potential buyers. That really hurts your brand,” says Mitchell.

Ask About the Next Steps

The interview went well. You feel great, and you just know that you nailed it but don’t get cocky. “Even if you feel you really nailed the interview and are a great potential fit for the job, don’t assume it’s a sure thing. You can ask a question like, ‘What are the next steps? When can I expect to hear from you? If I were to get this position, what would happen then?'” says Mitchell.

This point of the interview is also a great time to reiterate what you know about the company and how you feel you’d be a perfect cultural and technical fit. By talking about the company, you can subtly show the interviewer how, by landing this role, you can get them an edge and help them beat their competition.

Final Thoughts

“Some of these tips may seem like ‘common sense’ to us older folks but from where I sit — from the interviews I’ve done — it can’t hurt for Gen Y to take a few pointers from their older, wiser and more experienced peers, especially when it comes to interviewing,” says Mitchell.


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Intel plunks down billions to expand in mobile market

Intel has bought its way into the tablet market, but success seems years away in smartphones, despite billions of dollars spent.

The allure of mobile devices has led Intel to take some uncharacteristic moves that defy the company’s proud tradition of designing and manufacturing chips in-house. Intel has partnered with Chinese companies to build some smartphone and tablet chips, and is relying on third parties to manufacture those chips.

Intel bets the partnerships will accelerate its business in China, where smartphone shipments are booming. But the company wants to regain complete control over manufacturing, and on Thursday said it was investing US$1.6 billion over 15 years in a China plant for mobile chip development and manufacturing.

The expenditure on a yearly basis isn’t as huge as investments in its Israel and U.S. factories, but the goal is the same: to set up the chip maker for success in mobile devices. Most smartphones and tablets use ARM processors, and Intel wants to break that dominance.

Intel this year partnered with Chinese chip makers Rockchip and Spreadtrum—which have a big presence in the country—to design chips for low-cost mobile devices. A fallout with Rockchip led to Intel partnering with TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.) to produce an initial batch of low-cost mobile chips, which will go into smartphones and tablets starting at under $100.

During a speech earlier this week, Intel president Renee James said the company bring the manufacture of those chips in-house by 2016. The first chips from Intel’s upgraded Chengdu facilities will start rolling out in the second half of 2016.

The Chengdu plant first opened up in 2005, but will now be tuned to testing and manufacturing smaller chips for mobile and Internet-of-things devices. It’s one step in Intel’s long-term goal to reduce its reliance on TSMC.

Power-saving and performance features are etched on to mobile chips in factories that are built for a specific process technology. Depending on designs, the manufacturing of chips designed with Rockchip or Spreadtrum could well happen in Chengdu or other facilities, said Chuck Mulloy, an Intel spokesman.

Intel’s factories are dedicated to making its own chips, but it hasn’t shied away from making custom chips for a handful of customers like Panasonic and Altera in its newer factories in the U.S. The chips are large due to the size of custom logic circuitry, but Chengdu provides an opportunity to make smaller custom chips for mobile devices.

The Chengdu investment could build up Intel’s burgeoning custom chip-making business, Mulloy said.

“We can also use that foundry capability as we grow that business over time,” Mulloy said.

Manufacturing chips in China could be cheaper than in the U.S., and would be preferred by companies like Rockchip and Spreadtrum, analysts said.

Intel will be able to control costs and keep its factories busy by moving manufacturing in-house, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

“It makes sense because Intel likes to make manufacturing facilities in technically sophisticated markets, which China is,” McCarron said.

Mobile chips alone may not fill up a facility of Chengdu’s size, so Intel may make chips for mobile devices for third parties, McCarron said.

“If someone like Apple were to approach Intel and say we want this custom phone part, it’s obvious Intel will build it,” McCarron said.

Intel is also upgrading equipment in its factory to remain in the good books of the Chinese government, which is has been difficult on Western technology companies, said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

Companies like Microsoft and Qualcomm are being investigated by the Chinese government for monopolistic behavior.

“Intel’s trying to stay out of trouble,” McGregor said.

The chips made in the Chengdu factories won’t be based on the latest process manufacturing technology, McGregor said, adding that Intel wants to protect its intellectual property and won’t transfer its latest manufacturing process to China.

“There’s a lot of leaky walls there. It’s hard to keep intellectual property and patent secrets out there,” McGregor said.

If Spreadtrum or Rockchip want the latest technologies, they’d have to rely on Intel factories in the U.S., which can be more expensive. That could raise the price of chips, and ultimately of mobile devices.


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