Many years back, an American friend who was visiting London from New York remarked on the odd way in which people were walking around with blocks of plastic held to their ears. “Why don’t they just use normal phones?” she asked.
First came Ben & Jerry’s. Now we have a new brand: Steve & Stephen. It sounds like a men’s hairdressing salon, but turns out to be the sign-off used by Steve Ballmer and Stephen Elop in their open letter telling the world that Steve at Microsoft has bought Stephen’s Nokia handsets.
The effect leaves me feeling slightly queasy. The ampersand usually belongs to more formal pairings – Johnson & Johnson or Dun & Bradstreet – and to see it joining two first names like that gives the new “brand” a cheeky, snappy feel. Read more
What is the Finnish for “I told you so”? That is how plenty of Finns – including a large number of ex-Nokians, swept out in successive restructurings since Stephen Elop took charge of Nokia in 2010 – will greet news that Microsoft is to buy the mobile company’s handset and services business.
It won’t make any difference to them that Nokia has an increasingly important telecoms equipment business, NSN, which guarantees a future to the rump of the company. Since the radical strategy shift of the mid-1990s, when the timber-to-tyres conglomerate refocused on its fledgling telecoms operation, Nokia has been identified with home-grown phones. But a second coming under Finnish ownership for the country’s best-known consumer brand turned out to be impossible: its future will now be dictated from Redmond not Espoo.
This outcome, or a version of it, was already in the air in early 2011 when I visited Nokia’s headquarters to look at the challenges facing Mr Elop. His decision to leap from a “burning platform”, as he called it, into the arms of Microsoft as software partner for its smartphones certainly ruled out other options, such as using Google’s Android or a home-grown operating system. But a full takeover of the phones business by the US company was not inevitable.
Four elements have conspired to make it happen. Read more
Steve Ballmer. Image by Getty.
No chief executive wants the company’s shares to jump sharply on the news that he or she is stepping down.
Pent-up relief, however, was the reaction to Steve Ballmer’s decision to retire as Microsoft chief executive within a year.
It has been a long time coming. Mr Ballmer has struggled mightily since becoming the boss in 2000 to keep Microsoft at the front of the computing and software industry, but has allowed it to be eclipsed by Google and Apple. Read more
To be chief executive of a multinational tech company, even one whose sales are declining, rarely merits the description “underdog”. Yet this is how Henry Blodget, who heads Business Insider, refers to Marissa Mayer, in her first interview since becoming chief executive of Yahoo a year ago, which features in the all-important September issue of US Vogue. Read more
Tim Armstrong, chief executive of AOL, has apologised for firing Abel Lenz, creative director at the company’s Patch, in front of 1,000 co-workers.
It comes on the heels of a leaked recording that was published by Business Insider, in which Mr Armstrong is heard dismissing Mr Lenz in strong terms followed by an awkward silence. The recording went viral. Read more
Children learn that “copycat” is a term of abuse the first time they are punished or ridiculed for trying to replicate a friend’s work – or style – at school. In business, however, imitation can be a virtue, as Rocket Internet has discovered.
Newly endowed with $400m from billionaire Len Blavatnik and Kinnevik, the Swedish investment company, Rocket should now be able to launch even more companies into cyberspace. But Rocket, known and often criticised for cloning others’ internet successes in new territories and then selling them, needs to beware the old maxim “up like a rocket, down like a stick”. Read more
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that tech entrepreneurs are the new rock stars. Andrew Mason, ousted chief executive of online deals site Groupon, may have taken the comparison to heart.
On Monday, Mr Mason, who was sacked from the company he co-founded in February, released Hardly Workin’. The album, he writes on his blog, is “of music to help people get ahead in the workplace” and “pulls some of the most important learnings from my years at the helm of one of the fastest growing businesses in history, and packages them as music”.
While Mr Mason’s effort may be post-Groupon, there is a long (and dubious) history of employees taking to song to express their love for stakeholders, customers and the company they work for. Read more
Industries are in flux. Google’s driverless cars are waiting at the intersection of internal combustion and search engines. Payment companies such as M-Pesa, Stripe and PayPal are testing the locks on banks’ safe deposit boxes. Samsung, Apple and Google’s Android have put BlackBerry and Nokia on hold. If you are the chief executive of a carmaker, financial institution or mobile phone maker and you are not yet worrying about the blurred edges of what was once a clearly demarcated border between sectors, you are lost.
Spend one-and-a-half days at a Founders Forum event and it’s impossible not to get infected by the techie-enthusiast bug. The day after last week’s big get-together I found myself beginning a Bob the Builder story with my two-year-old: “It was a busy time in Silicon Valley.”*
The Financial Times is media partner with the event, and this year sponsored two prizes. Founder of the year was won by Ilkka Paananen, chief executive and co-founder of Supercell, the Finnish gaming company behind Clash of the Clans and Hay Day, while Eben Upton, founder of Raspberry Pi, the credit card-sized microcomputer, was awarded the One to Watch prize. Read more
Everywhere one looks, Google is doing remarkable things. It could soon overtake Apple in downloads of applications; it is developing self-driving cars; people wear its kooky augmented reality Glass spectacles; it is signing renewable power deals in South Africa and Sweden.
About a year ago I was in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights, gazing down at the Golden Gate Bridge from one of Larry Ellison’s many spectacular homes. The Oracle chief executive wasn’t there – he had lent the house out for a reception. In any case, he would be the last person to apologise for enjoying the fruits of his success. But the view from technology executives’ balconies is getting stormier. After banks and bankers, could they be next to feel the sting of a populist backlash?
SAP’s striking decision to hire people with autism to programme and test its products has already generated some sceptical commentary from FT readers. But it should be welcomed, and not only by sufferers of the condition. Read more
As Larry Page, Google’s chief executive, launches a new music subscription service and the company’s share price continues to climb, it’s worth nothing what a success he has so far been in the role – despite the doubters, including myself. Read more