Technology

John Gapper

This undated handout photo released by A...This undated handout photo released by Amazon on December 1, 2013 shows an "octocopter" mini-drone that would be used to fly small packages to consumers. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed on December 1 that his company was looking to the future with plans to use mini-drones to deliver small packages. AFP PHOTO / AMAZON  --- EDITORS NOTE --- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / AMAZON " - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTSAMAZON/AFP/Getty Images

AFP/Amazon

Jeff Bezos’s plan to start delivering packages in the US by drone reminds me of a quote from The Everything Store, the Brad Stone book that recently won the FT and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year award: Read more

Andrew Hill

No one will ever find themselves in precisely the position Jeff Bezos found himself in when he launched Amazon.com in 1994, with the ambition to create an online “everything store”. Instead, most competitors will – at least for now – have to learn from Bezos’s success.

On Monday, The Everything Store, which traces Amazon’s rise, was named FT/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year for 2013, partly, in the words of one judge, because of its management lessons.

I talked to Brad Stone, the book’s author, about what those lessons might be, and he outlined four. Read more

Andrew Hill

Getty Images

A video about how IBM’s supercomputer Watson took on human contestants in the Jeopardy game show was playing in the lobby of the company HQ when I visited in September. Read more

Emma Jacobs

Steve Jobs has joined Lenovo. Well, almost.

Actually the truth is only a little less outlandish. Ashton Kutcher, the Hollywood star of Two and a Half Men, who recently played the Apple co-founder in the poorly-received biopic Jobs, is the Chinese computer group’s latest recruit: a product engineer. Read more

Ravi Mattu

Googlers: Vince Vaughn, left, and Owen Wilson in the film 'The Internship'

OK, this isn’t actually my question but one posted on Quora, the question-and-answer website. Helpfully, Sam Schillace offers an answer. And he ought to know: in 2006, he and his co-founders sold Upstartle, the maker of Writely, a word processor that worked in a web browser, to the technology company and it became the basis of Google Docs. Read more

Lucy Kellaway

Two years ago, I awarded Angela Ahrendts a prize. The chief executive of Burberry, I thought, should be honoured for her tireless services to business jargon.

And so I made her my winner for Outstanding Services to Bunkum in recognition of the most baffling paragraph ever written by a CEO in an annual report. In her statement in the 2011 report she wrote the immortal words: Read more

John Gapper

Is Twitter showing its principles, or its lack of principals?

One striking thing about the Twitter S-1 filing for its initial public offering was that it will have a single class of shares, with equal voting rights. Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn and other recent Silicon Valley entrants to the public markets, it is trusting in shareholder democracy. Read more

As the social networking industry hits its 10th anniversary, those at the top are doing well. Twitter will soon undergo an initial public offering that may value it at $15bn and Facebook has recovered from its rocky IPO last year so swiftly that the 20 per cent stake owned by Mark Zuckerberg, its founder, is now worth $24bn.

Andrew Hill

Stephen Elop, ex-Nokia, soon-to-be ex-husband

I firmly believe boards need to be less squeamish about prying into their senior executives’ private lives, particularly when divorce is looming, because the corporate consequences can be grave. Now researchers at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business have broadened the debate to suggest that shareholders should worry about chief executives’ marital disharmony, too.

Divorce, they write, could undermine CEOs’ control and influence, affect their “productivity, concentration and energy levels”, and have an impact on their attitude to risk. They cite Rupert Murdoch’s split from Wendi Deng and the divorce of Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources, from his wife. News of the first, thanks to a pre-nuptial agreement, left News Corp shares unmoved; news of the second, with no pre-nup, knocked 2.9 per cent off Continental Resources’ stock price as investors worried about the fate of Mr Hamm’s 68 per cent stake in the group. Read more

Andrew Hill

A new account of “the fall of BlackBerry” in Canada’s Globe and Mail sheds light on the torment of the country’s once-mighty technology champion with some new revelations of internal rifts and missed opportunities. Four stand out for me. Read more

John Gapper

There is more than one way to lead in the smartphone industry, and China is at work on all of them.

No longer content to copy foreign products. China is developing brands to compete with Apple and Samsung. Xiaomi is known as its answer to Apple, and Huawei and ZTE, the equipment companies, have moved into handsetsRead more

Ravi Mattu

I blame Wayne Gretzky.

Ever since the world’s greatest ice hockey player said a tearful good-bye to playing in Canada way back in 1988, his fellow Canadians have been smarting at the rules of big business.

Then, it was Gretzky’s move from snowy and quiet Edmonton to showy and glitzy Los Angeles. Now, 25 years later, the woes of BlackBerry, our one-time technological champion, have led some to wonder if national pride is again at stake. The putative bid by Toronto-based Fairfax Financial to take the company private has only added to the concern, with many analysts and investors unconvinced of the business case. Read more

John Gapper

The news that Stephen Elop is receiving a pay-off of €18.8m to move from Nokia back to Microsoft will be the last nail in the coffin of his reputation in Finland, where many people resent what happened under his leadership of the national champion.

Mr Elop’s decision, on becoming chief executive of Nokia in 2010 to bet the future of its mobile phones on Microsoft Windows software, didn’t work. He rejected the more obvious path of adopting Android for its smartphones. Instead, Nokia has struggled to turn Windows into a rival to the Google platform or Apple’s iOS.

As the Lex column notes, Mr Elop is getting the money despite Nokia’s market capitalisation having fallen from €28bn to €18bn under his leadership. That hardly suggests he deserves a big payout. Read more

The New York minicab service I used to favour communicated in code. When you rang and gave your address, the radio dispatcher would reply “five minutes” and hang up. This meant a cab would arrive at any time from one to 10 minutes later. “Seven minutes” meant 20, and “10 minutes” meant that anything, or nothing, could happen.

Andrew Hill

 

It’s time to scotch the idea that because Twitter is a new medium, it requires companies to adopt entirely novel rules of behaviour for employees. The departure of Business Insider chief technology officer Pax Dickinson and the embarrassment of Ian Katz, BBC Newsnight editor, both as a result of inappropriate tweets, illustrate the point.

These men may have been using new-fangled tools, but they made old-fashioned errors of taste, judgment and behaviour, to which old-fashioned corporate codes of conduct should apply. Read more