Monthly Archives: October 2011

Andrew Hill

For people unable to communicate easily via BlackBerry, BlackBerry users are making a lot of noise. Faced with a third day of disruption to BlackBerry services around the world, they’re venting their outage outrage on Twitter and in the blogosphere. Many are reaching the same conclusion: this is a communications crisis for Research in Motion.

Well, no. As one of BP’s advisers commented last year when the oil company was being lambasted for its response to the Deepwater Horizon explosion: “It’s not a PR crisis; it’s a crisis.” Read more

That’s it for another year. Monday’s award of the Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel to Thomas Sargent and Christopher Sims brings to an end the 2011 Nobel season. But is there room for one more: a Nobel prize for management?

John Gapper

It is a chastened Reed Hastings who has just decided to ditch his disastrous plan to split Netflix into two businesses – Netflix and “Qwikster” – and stick with what his customers liked in the first place.

Mr Hastings is right to back down – if nothing else, his bold experiment with “disruptive innovation” has mainly disrupted his own company. Its shares have not recovered since he raised prices and announced his plan to turn his DVD rental business into Qwikster while keeping the Netflix name for video streaming.

Unlike the long semi-apology he made last month when announcing the Qwikster gambit, which included a business school-style explanation of why he was separating the rapidly growing star from the cash cow, his missive today is short and to the point:

“It is clear that for many of our members two websites would make things more difficult, so we are going to keep Netflix as one place to go for streaming and DVDs.

This means no change: one website, one account, one password … in other words, no Qwikster.”

That makes more sense than his assertion last month that:

“Another advantage of separate websites is simplicity for our members. Each website will be focused on just one thing (DVDs or streaming) and will be even easier to use.”

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Andrew Hill

Soon to be available in light blue

The shift of economic power eastwards from crisis-hit developed nations has another milestone: the publisher of Wisden – the annual “bible” of English cricket enthusiasts – is licensing production of an edition tailor-made for the Indian market.

A bit like Hermès, with its recent launch of a range of saris in India, Bloomsbury Publishing and its partner want to recast a western brand for enthusiastic Indian consumers.

The deal – with FidelisWorld FZ, a sports and entertainment management group – comes wrapped in the sort of biz-speak that would make John Wisden, the cricketer who founded the almanack in 1864, shudder. FidelisWorld, says the press statement, “aims to unify the fragmented sectors [of the Indian market for cricket information] into a consolidated whole… thereby achieving synergies and building value”. Read more

Andrew Hill

Among the eulogies to Steve Jobs’ undoubted genius was a back-handed compliment from the markets on Thursday morning: smartphone manufacturers’ shares rose in Asia, apparently on doubts about whether the US company would be able to repeat its innovative success without its founder.

Jobs left his chief executive role in August, but his premature death puts the task of dispelling those doubts firmly in the hands of his successors. It could be a mistake to assume that, because they lack Jobs’ charisma, they won’t be capable of carrying forward his legacy. Read more

On my way to visit the Occupy Wall Street protest this week, I walked along the heavily barricaded street, past the still-pockmarked masonry of the former J.P.Morgan building where Italian anarchists are thought to have detonated a bomb in 1920, killing 38 people. Then I turned right at Trinity Church and up to the camp in Zuccotti Park.

John Gapper

The death of Steve Jobs, announced tonight by Apple, was expected but still comes as a shock. There are very few business people who are truly irreplaceable but Mr Jobs was undoubtedly so.

Like many other people, I heard the news via his products – in my case through Twitter on an iPod Touch — and am writing this on a MacBook Air. Mr Jobs’ original vision of a world of personal computers came truer than even he imagined. Read more

Andrew Hill

No question, for me, about the most interesting business story of the week: the launch in India of a $35 tablet computer called the Aakash (“sky” in Hindi). For perspective, go to the tablet department of Walmart.com, where $35 will buy you – just – a snap-on case for an iPad 2.

For anyone in doubt about the political significance of the announcement, Kapil Sibal, India’s education minister, rammed it home:

The rich have access to the digital world; the poor and ordinary have been excluded. Aakash will end that digital divide.

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