Collecting More Than They Spend

MacNN: Apple has more cash on hand than the U.S. government

As pointed out by several publications, as of yesterday Apple — the world’s most valuable technology company — has more cash and marketable securities on hand than the federal government does, according to the U.S. Treasury’s own daily statement. At the end of June, the iPad and Mac maker had $76.2 billion on hand, while the government currently has $73.8 billion in operating cash balance.

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News Chaos

Clay Shirky explains why we need the news environment to be chaotic.
On the difference, or lack thereof, between the new and ad biz (emphasis added):

So long as newspapers faced little competition for advertisers or readers, this was a distinction without a difference, but as papers are being sundered by the internet, we can see how tangled the system always was. Outside a relative handful of financial publications, there is no such thing as the news business. There is only the advertising business. The remarkable thing about the newspapers’ piece of that business isn’t that they could reliably generate profits without accomplishing much in the way of innovation–that could just as easily describe the local car dealership. The remarkable thing is that over the last couple of generations, those profits supported the fractional bit of those enterprises that covered the news.

On how the news got to be bundled the way it is:

The rationale for creating such a bundle went something like this: “We will print enough content to fill the hole left after we’ve sold the advertising space. We will include content proportional to the amount and intensity of reader interest, modified somewhat by editorial judgment. Overall, the value of the bundle will be more than the sum of its parts.”

And a fun experiment to do with an oldy timey printed news paper:

Buy a newspaper. Cut it up. Throw away the ads. Sort the remaining stories into piles. Now, describe the editorial logic holding those piles together.

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The HP TouchPad is available, but not really.

HP_TouchPad_email.jpg
I just got an email from HP announcing the ability to pre-order.
Aside from the phone number at the top, there is nothing clickable, save for the tiny ‘Learn More’ link buried at the bottom.
Honestly, who calls to pre-order their computers, or phones, or anything in today’s world?
If you click on the ‘Learn More’ link, you’re taken to this page:
HP_TouchPad_product_page_a.jpg
And once you click on ‘Reserve Now’ you get this modal overlay:
HP_TouchPad_product_page_b.jpg
I chose ‘Reserve Now From HP’ and I was taken to this product page:
HP_TouchPad_product_page_c.jpg
This is what you call a complete, dead-end and the worst consumer experience you can have.
It’s very evident former Apple exec Jon Rubinstein has had a huge influence on HP’s product design. Experiences like this show where he hasn’t had influence.
I keep rooting for HP and webOS, but Im not convinced they’ll succeed.

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Business

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Stop Talkin’

Louis Gray: Tech Leaders Don’t Win By Saying They’ll Crush Somebody

Look at who is on top today in whatever category makes sense for you. Social networking. Search. Mobile OS. Tablets. Storage systems. Operating systems. Printers. You name it. You would be hard-pressed to see those companies having talked big about taking down number one when they were on their pathway to success. They probably didn’t do it at all.

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Trying To Create A Great Product

Interesting piece at the NYTimes on how GroupOn distinguishes itself from on the copycats that are cropping up in the hundreds:

Any Web site can offer a daily deal, and in the wake of Groupon’s success just about everyone is. There are hundreds of knock-offs and imitators, some of them trying to undercut the original by charging the merchant less than Groupon does. Others try to cater to specialized audiences (babies, gay people). Groupon’s closest competitor, Living Social, is backed by Amazon, the retailing giant that has a history of winning.

“We’re not at all concerned any competitor is going to come in and start writing like us,” says Mr. With. “They try but fall flat.” (Living Social declined to comment.) In other words, words will save Groupon. Many more words. Mere words.

Like all the companies that have copied the iPhone over the last 4 years, the companies copying GroupOn are copying surface qualities. To other companies, GroupOn showcases deals, when the reality is owners of GroupOn adds value beyond the ‘group coupons’ they offer.
I respect GroupOn for trying to create a great product.

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I love metaphors

Skype is not profitable. It’s really more like a moderately good post-impressionist painting than a company: it only makes money for people when it changes hands.

Andy Ihnatko

via Ben Brooks

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Business

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The Empire Strikes Back …wards*

Business Insider: Microsoft Executives In A Heated Battle Over Opening More Retail Stores

According to sources close to the company, CEO Steve Ballmer and COO Kevin Turner are both hot on the idea of matching — or even surpassing — Apple’s retail presence of over 300 stores. The stores are a big reason for Apple’s success in the last decade, as they give customers opportunities to play with products like the iPad and iPhone.

But Microsoft has only opened 8 stores in the year and a half since it launched its retail initiative, and has only announced two more, in Atlanta and Seattle, for a total of 10.

The reason: the stores are expensive to build — Microsoft wants them to be high-profile showcases like Apple stores are — and most of them aren’t making money.

My friends always roll their eyes when get into Microsoft-bashing.
With stories like this, though, I don’t even have to try.
*I stole the title for this post from one of the juicy comments on the original story.

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Oil Execs, Lining Their Pockets

Declaring 2010 “the best year in safety performance in our company’s history,” Transocean Ltd., owner of the Gulf of Mexico oil rig that exploded, killing 11 workers, has awarded its top executives hefty bonuses and raises, according to a recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

That includes a $200,000 salary increase for Transocean president and chief executive officer Steven L. Newman, whose base salary will increase from $900,000 to $1.1 million, according to the SEC report. Newman’s bonus was $374,062, the report states.

What a bunch of bullshit. I shouldn’t be surprised, though. Business as usual.

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Business

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Imagination At Work

From the NYTimes:

General Electric, the nation’s largest corporation, had a very good year in 2010.

The company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States.

Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.

That may be hard to fathom for the millions of American business owners and households now preparing their own returns, but low taxes are nothing new for G.E. The company has been cutting the percentage of its American profits paid to the Internal Revenue Service for years, resulting in a far lower rate than at most multinational companies.

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Blame It On The iPhone

DealBook: How the iPhone Led to the Sale of T-Mobile USA

Until Apple introduced its highly popular touchscreen device in 2007, which went on to become the world’s leading smartphone, Deutsche Telekom had been generating decent sales from its American operation, with growth in some years surpassing that achieved in Germany.

But after the iPhone went on sale, sold exclusively at first by AT&T in the United States, T-Mobile USA began to lose its most lucrative customers, those on fixed monthly plans, who defected to its larger American rivals — AT&T and Verizon Wireless, which began selling the iPhone in February.

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Paying For the News, Like Water

So we’ve all heard by now that the New York Times has begun the rollout of their paywall, starting with those Canadians, because we can’t trust them.
I agree with the responses of Koi Vihn and John Gruber – I think the choices and process for this new paywall defy logic and are way too confusing for the average user.
I’ve heard people say ‘hell no’ to paying for news access on websites. Some of these people are also the ones against advertising or use Adblock in their browser. I’m not against paying for the news, in whatever form it comes in, as long as it’s reasonable and provides real value.
We all gotten very used to most things being free on the web for many years now, but not everything has to live under advertising-subsidized-free-model. There’s room for other business models.
If you asked someone 30 years ago if they’d be willing to pay for bottled water, they’d laugh. I see the same thing happening now with pay model for web news.
Paying for news and water shouldn’t concern us. What should concern is us is when the only way to get quality news (and water) is to pay for it.

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Sure, that’s all it takes

GigaOm: Why Google Still Needs to Buy a Groupon Clone

Google is launching — or at least beta-testing — a Groupon-style discount program for small businesses known as Google Offers, something that was first reported by Mashable and then confirmed by Google in an email to Search Engine Land. The program appears to be identical to those run by Groupon or one of the dozen smaller group-buying startups, in that it allows merchants to offer a discount that only gets triggered if enough people sign up for the deal. But does Google have what it takes to build up that kind of service on its own? Probably not. Which is why the company should still think about buying a Groupon clone.

Sure, that’s all it takes. Whatever market you’re in, if you don’t have a product to use against the competition, just buy one.

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Kickstarter: Disrupting With People

Kickstarter is blowing doors on monetization strategies this year and challenging traditional consumer and auction paradigms. News dropped today of Scott Wilson breaking Kickstarter’s funding record by raising over $275,000 for his iPod Nano watch enclosure. And he raised that money in one week. One.
I first learned of Kickstarter from a post by Craig Mod where he broke down how he was able to fund the printing and publishing of his book, Art Space: Tokyo. It’s a must-read for anyone in any type of media who wants to stay relevant.
Forget that. You need to understand the success of Kickstarter of you’re a human being who works in order to obtain money to live. Period.
The hook for me, what makes Kickstarter so powerful is the human element. Call it social networking, call it viral, call it crowdsoucing. I call it human.
The Economist did an interview with one of the founders, Perry Chen. The whole interview is great, but this bit stood out for me:

Just like eBay or Etsy, you are obligated to do what you say you’re going to do–fulfil the limited edition, or create the event or experience that you promised to create–in exchange for someone opening their wallet and backing your project. The interesting thing is that these projects are funded by dozens, hundreds and in some cases thousands of people, but it is never completely anonymous. Within those backers are friends, long-time fans, family members, classmates, people in the gardening club with you. So there’s already a social fabric that’s brought into Kickstarter. The accountability is strengthened because those people are there.

People.
Just keep people in mind when you’re starting a new business plan. If you keep the focus on people and not on “how we’re going to beat the competition”, you’re already putting yourself in a better position for success.

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Business

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