This little story hit the blogoshphere last week http://swampland.blogs.time.com/2009/09/15/warren-buffett-could-have-saved-lehma/
Archive for September, 2009
Last week’s Technology Guardian covered the launch of Palm’s pre smartphone. For reasons I’ve already mentioned in this blog, I’m not optimistic about the prospects for it. Incidentally I hope my pessimism is misplaced: it looks to be a good product, and Palm has a track record as an innovative company.
But the problem goes back to disruptive technologies, where a disruptive technology is one that can change the structure of a business sector, and make it very hard for established players. The disruptive technology here is the addition of a SIM card to a whole range of mobile devices. Palm was a brand leader in devices that worked like a stand-alone electronic Filofax. A connected electronic Filofax may be technically a similar product, but it’s perceived very differently by its users, and the brands associated with these devices are Blackberry, HTC, even Apple with the I-phone. That’s a crowded market that Palm will find hard to enter unless they can offer another new kind of product.
And the market for personal digital assistants is fickle. In the 1990s one very well respected manufacturer tried to enter the market with little success. The manufacter? Apple, with the Newton, and many of the Newton’s features were later adopted by Palm.
Last week was slightly frustrating for a series of minor mechanical failures. The frame of my glasses broke: being a bit short-sighted and slightly middle-aged, I often find it comfortable to take my glasses off while reading. Doing this repeatedly was obviously hard enough on the frame for one of the arms at the side to snap – to be repaired temporarily with sellotape but permanently by putting the existing lenses into a new frame. A valve in a loo cistern at home failed, mking it difficult to flush an doubtless wasting a lot of water. And the mouse pointer on my laptop took to marching across the screen even when I wasn’t touching the mouse.
I can’t help feeling that I ought to be able to infer something significant about technology management from this series of faults, but I can’t, so this is really just an opportunity to use this blog to make inconsequential remarks about what’s on my mind
A couple of weeks ago I had an enjoyable day trip to Liverpool, including a rather bumpy ride (it was a very windy day) across the Mersey on the ferry MV Royal Daffodil. I suppose I shouldn’t really be surprised by this sort of thing, but you can track the Royal Daffodil’s current location at http://www.shipais.com/showship.php?mmsi=235024006 – it’s just approaching Liverpool Pier Head as I’m typing this. Of course making this sort of information available to the public isn’t technically very difficult; it’s simply a matter of connecting up information that’s already held in various databases to a web server.
http://www.mersey-gateway.org/server.php?show=ConNarrative.31&chapterId=152 has some background about the ferries’ history, and also, on other pages at the same site, the origins of the road and rail tunnels under the Mersey. And it’s a long history. The monks of Birkenhead had a licence to operate ferries from the twelfth century until the dissolution of the monasteries. We returned from Birkenhead to Liverpool by train. According to http://www.mersey-gateway.org/server.php?show=ConNarrative.14 the rail tunnel was opened as long ago as 1886, and originally steam operated: it was converted to an electric railway at the start of the 20th century, when passengers were returning to the ferries, put off by the unpleasant atmosphere in the tunnels, and the train company had gone bankrupt.
As in many places, understanding the transport links helps you to understand Liverpool’s history and geography