Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

The war on the rich

Posted in Business, Politicson Dec 28, 2012

It seems that there is a war on the rich.  President Obama wants to raise taxes on the rich.  Occupy Wall Street was willing to camp in their own poop in order to protest the rich.  Even the latest Batman Rises movie had an apathetic theme about the rich.  But who are these people that so many people are so ready to hate?  A couple of the names from the Forbes 400 list:

  • Bill Gates – Founded Microsoft which directly employs 94,000
  • Larry Ellison – Co-founded Oracle which employs 115,166
  • Walton Family – Family of Sam Walton who founded Walmart which employs 2.2 million
  • Michael Bloomberg – Founder of Bloomberg LP which employs 13,000
  • Jeff Bezos – Founder of which employs 69,100


Bad peelie coupon at Target

Posted in Businesson Nov 7, 2011

I was buying diapers at Target the other day, and I found a peelie coupon on the box of diapers. I peeled the coupon of the box of diapers to reveal that it said, “Save $1 off this box of diapers.” Great! I proceeded to the checkout lanes.

Upon checking out, the cashier told me that the coupon had expired in September and that they wouldn’t be giving me the discount. Dumb. Don’t put coupons on your merchandise that are going to expire before the merchandise sells.

The ethics guide for HP uses the headline test to determine if a business decision is ethical:

The Headline Test is a simple but powerful tool designed to make sure we appropriately consider the soundness and impact of our business decisions. It is named after one of the tools most commonly used by executives: “Before I make a decision, I consider how it would look in a news story.” (Source: SBC, page 8 )

According to the headline of this blog post, HP’s decision to mislead customers for months about the availability of Touchpads at firestorm prices is unethical.
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What I do at work

Posted in Business, Technicalon Oct 6, 2011

I work for Pelco by Schneider Electric, working on the firmware for IP video cameras.  While you have probably seen our products hanging from ceilings in your favorite airport or supermarket, I find it occasionally hard to brag about our products when our black camera domes looks like every other black security camera dome.

But the quality in a security camera has more to do with the images that come out of the camera than what it looks like, and today I have some photos to show that distinguish our security cameras from our competitors.   A church in Salt Lake City, Utah (I’ll let you guess which one), recently replaced one of our competitors cameras with one of our new SureVision cameras.

One of our competitors installed the camera which took this image, and they had to fine tune it because of some unique lighting conditions:

The church themselves replaced the specially tuned camera with one of our cameras to get this image:

One of the things a security camera operator would want to see is the images of people walking into the building, so they can quickly spot trouble.  Our camera uses wide dynamic range image processing to provide that image when otherwise the image of the person would be washed out.  Notice how you can see outside the window and onto the street. Wow!

Today HP announced that they would make one more batch of Touchpads:

We have decided to produce one last run of TouchPads to meet unfulfilled demand.

While my inner-optimist would like to believe that HP is making a few more Touchpads because they feel sorry for everyone who really wanted one and didn’t get one, I think it is more likely that HP had other reasons for making another batch of Touchpads:

  1. They have to make more in order to keep a backup supply to use for in-warranty replacements.  HP asserts that all Touchpads come with a 1 year warranty.
  2. By making a few more, they can continue to reap an increased level of press coverage.  HP has never seen so much press coverage until they announced the discontinuance of the Touchpad.
  3. They have contracts with customers, channels, and partners to provide a certain number of Touchpads, and they are making more to fulfill their legal requirements to those contracts.
  4. They fear a public relations backlash, possibly even legal consequences, if they don’t provide any more after using phrases like, “Coming Soon,” “Temporarily out of stock,” and “When it becomes available again.”
  5. In an effort to license or sell webOS to other device manufacturers, HP wanted a supply of Touchpads to provide to developers or engineers.

Perhaps the generalization of these speculations is this: The fire sale happened so quickly that HP ran flat out of inventory before they realized that they needed a few more.

HP is promising to sell more of their discontinued Touchpads at $100 and $150, depending on the model.  Since demand for these discounted devices is high, HP is likely to sell out no matter how many they make available.  So this is no longer about trying to make as much money as possible by selling as many devices as possible–it is now about generating a good relationship with their customers and potential customers.

There is one underlying principle which HP needs to remember: keep it fair.  To that end, here are four things HP can do to keep it fair:

  1. Limit the number of devices sold per customer.  Someone who just wanted one to use at home will feel cheated if someone else bought many just to sell on eBay for a profit.
  2. Explain the rules.  Let people know before hand what is going to happen.  If there is a limit per customer, say that before hand.  If you are going to wait until Touchpads are actually on sale again before sending out notification emails, say that before hand. If you aren’t going to allow coupons to be used, say that before hand.  If you expect your servers to get hammered to death such that only a few frequent refreshers will get through, say that before hand.
  3. Knowing something isn’t going to happen is almost as important as knowing something will happen.  Knowing that Touchpads aren’t going to be sold, or knowing that Touchpads aren’t going to be shipped to any stores is better information than nothing.
  4. Share information with everyone.  If you are shipping Touchpads to Best Buy, tell the whole world, so that more people than just the Best Buy employees will have a chance to get one.  If you know a general number of Touchpads that will be sold, post it on the main Touchpad FAQ, so that more people than just Twitter users get the full picture.  (Or at least tell everyone who to follow on Twitter).

Netflix increases rates

Posted in Businesson Jul 12, 2011

Occasionally, I’ve subscribed to Netflix for a couple of months at a time.  I’ll subscribe, catch up on a number of movies and shows which I haven’t gotten around to watching yet, and then suspend my account.  One of the attractive things about Netflix is that streaming access was included, so I could watch a show online (through my Wii) while waiting for the next DVD to arrive in the mail.

Today, however, Netflix announced that they are no longer including streaming free with their DVDs-by-mail plans.  Instead, you can pay $8/month for streaming, with no discounts for subscribing to a DVD-by-mail plan.

This effectively separates Netflix into two operations: one for streaming movies, and another for DVD rentals.  By running two completely separate operations, Netflix now competes more directly with competitors in both operations.  Netflix streaming now competes with Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and others.  Netflix DVD rentals now compete with Video Rental Stores, Blockbuster By Mail, DVD renting Kiosks, and buying cheap DVDs at Walmart.

Perhaps Netflix’s “un-bundle” effort is driven by people who hate my telephone company, Qwest, who thinks that bundling is the best thing ever.