Saturday, March 29, 2008

Motorola: The Legend Bites Dust. For Now. Watch Out For A Phoenix Like Rebirth.

It rained cats and dogs back here in Bangalore, while I sat back and watched the saga unfold on my computer. The news started to pour in and boy did it pour!

Almost every publication worth its salt started chronicling the “death of the cell phone legend” and all the while I waited for the storm clouds to clear.

Continuing with my series on Motorola let me start where I had left off. With Moto’s executives jumping the ship and the controversies that were dogging Moto, something had to give. With Icahn, the dog with the bone (referring to his investment in Moto) always looking to take a bite whenever the opportune moment presented itself, pity and empathy were my feeling for Moto.

The last straw had to be broken for something catastrophic to happen and that was Icahn’s lawsuit. Icahn sought a court order that would force Motorola to turn over documents about its trademark cell-phone business and senior executives. Among other materials, Icahn is seeking board documents related to a potential spinoff of the cell-phone unit, the service and selection of Motorola's senior officers and materials related to the use of company aircraft by senior management, board members and their families.

Icahn’s official jumbo mumbo was: “We demanded these materials for the purposes of enabling us to investigate whether and to what extent the board of directors of Motorola failed in their duties as directors in supervising management and setting policy and direction of Motorola.”

But really, Icahn wanted to use these documents to use it as leverage in his proxy battle. He hoped that these would give more bite to his attempt to get his men nominated to Moto’s board.

Motorola resisted initially and then relented and offered him two seats on the board, but refused to even consider one of his men (Keith Meister) doubting his credentials. This enraged Icahn and like a bloodhound which had smelt blood, stuck to his guns and called for a breakup.

Adding further insult, Icahn questioned if Brown is fit to run the company, asking what “qualified” Brown to be the CEO. “He certainly -- as far as I can ascertain -- has no in-depth experience or knowledge concerning the mobile devices business, which was and is by far the major problem for Motorola,” Icahn said in a letter.

Then came the bolt fro the blue.

Motorola announced the decision to spit the company into two entities. One will be the Motorola’s legendary handset business. The other would be Motorola's broadband and mobility solutions operations. These include the profitable home networks business, which sells television set-top boxes, and enterprise mobility solutions, which supplies computing, broadband network gear, including WiMAX technology and communications equipment to companies.

The company announced that it will bring about the changes sometime in 2009.

Icahn though smirking over his victory, shot off a letter to Motorola’s board again asking them why it will take until 2009 to separate the businesses.

Mr. Brown trying to salvage some pride insisted that Motorola's decision to split had nothing to do with pressure from Mr. Icahn.

However the analysts predict that the short-term winners will be Nokia and Samsung, and maybe Sony Ericsson; who will be able to increase their market share. But in the longer term, Motorola can stage a comeback.

I still remember fondly the iconic DynaTAC released in 1984.

It makes me proud owning a Motorola Razr 2 v8, that it’s a part of history. A legend in every sense.

Today, the split is seen as a possible scenario where Motorola would be ultimately acquired by some Chinese company.

Watch out, for the Phoenix will rise from the ashes to soar into the skies which it once owned.

Only time will tell……

Keeping Track Of Inventory Can Be A Nightmare! Think Again.

I came across an article recently which highlighted a problem which most companies face, but are reluctant to address it until it balloons out of proportion. Its “Keeping Track of Inventory”.

Most of the companies in the cut throat environment spend all their energies into building their products, marketing them; and as the company starts growing in size literally, everyone is happy. As the company grows, it starts to buy equipment, expand, occupy more floor space, moving the old but still usable items into storage. Sometimes the company plans for the future expansions, and buys the necessary equipment in advance and stores them.

When the economy favors, the most of the companies go into overdrive and hire people in big numbers. Accordingly the company has to invest in the equipment these people would be using. Alternatively such companies upgrade their equipments and unlike small startups which sells/exchanges the old equipments; the big companies store them as a backup for emergencies.

When a company has no idea how much is lying unused in its storage facilities, especially IT companies, it’s a nightmare waiting to happen. Some companies have no idea how much equipment is on its office premises.

There is a popular story doing the rounds in the IT circle highlighting the inventory management woes. CFO & CIO of a major company were inspecting their warehouse. One of them pointed to a dusty old box and asked the other about its contents. They found a $2 million server that had been gathering dust for over a year.

Imagine the last time someone in your office borrowed something from you – a report, a file, even a ruler. Did you get it back in a timely manner? If the item was inconsequential, you probably weren’t too concerned. But if the item was vital to your work, you felt differently. Now, imagine you rely on a piece of shared equipment to do your work, and people are constantly using it and forgetting to return it.

If old equipments are given away or otherwise disposed, but not taken off the books, companies must continue to pay property taxes on them to the government. A case in point is that of a company in U.S. that paid millions of dollars in taxes on 20,000 computers it no longer possessed.

I have just one simple answer to this solution - RFID. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is an automatic identification method, relying on storing and remotely retrieving data using devices called RFID tags or transponders.

A typical RFID system has three components, tags, reader and RF unit. The RF reader sends out RF waves that are received by the RF tag within the reader's range. The tag in turn, sends information back to the reader, also in the form of RF waves. Then the RF reader transfers this information to RF unit.

Imagine, one wants to keep track of all the office equipment. All one has to do is place RFID Tags on these equipment and optimizing the tag placement for accurate reads. When an inventory check has to be done all one has to do is to walk around the office with a RFID Reader (PDT) in hand. The tags receive incoming radio frequency signals emitted by a portable data terminal (PDT) with RFID tag reader. The incoming radio signals energize the tag, causing the tag to transmit its identification data back to the PDT.

All RFID tags within range respond when interrogated by the reader, no matter where they are located. The assets in each room are recorded by location using a supported PDT. Asset status is recorded as missing, invalid, or valid so you know what is missing, misplaced, and present.

The benefits of RFID go beyond tracking capabilities. RFID tags provide more sophisticated data protection, where data stored on barcodes provide no protection from being copied. RFID tags provide greater accuracy in sustaining data. The tags store information in a long-lasting microchip, instead of barcode labels which may deteriorate over time and sometimes must be reapplied. RFID tags provide better data security because RFID tags cannot be cloned as easily as barcode labels.

RFID reduce the time you spend taking physical inventory by up to 75%. Efficiently locate and identify assets in an entire room because line-of-sight scanning is not required. You'll eliminate sore knees and backs from bending and searching.

With the complete details of the assets in hand a company will be able to quickly attend to the requests raised. Resources management comes with inventory tracking functionality.

Other Applications Of RFID:

Inventory Monitoring And Asset Visibility – Smart Shelves:

In a replenishment-based system, whenever the total inventory at a warehouse or distribution center drops below a certain level, the RFID enabled system could place an automatic order. RFID-tagged products will allow stores to track the location and count of inventories in real time. This will better monitor demand for certain products and place orders to prevent an out-of-stock situation. The high levels of inventory monitoring obtained using RFID can particularly benefit FMCG industries.

On the retailing side, RFID technology at the point-of-sale (PoS) can be used to monitor demand trends or to build a probabilistic pattern of demand. This application could be useful for apparel industry or products exhibiting high levels of dynamism in trends.

Reduced Bullwhip Effect:

Exaggeration of demand in upward direction in a supply chain network is termed as Bullwhip effect. Due to tracking limitations of conventional systems it may not be possible to get accurate information on actual sales of items; that will amplify the magnitude of the bullwhip effect. If RFID systems are used for information collection, accurate and real time information on product sale can be captured and used for decision making. This will definitely help to reduce overall bullwhip effect. Reducing bullwhip effect would benefit industries where instances of supply-demand imbalances have high costs attached to it.

Lead-Time Reduction:

Conventional systems limit tracking of items while being transported. RFID Systems gives a total visibility of product movement in the supply chain. This may help to make early decisions about inventory control in case there is any interruption in the supply. It partially or completely eliminates time and effort required for counting while loading/unloading the items. This results into reduction of total lead-time for arrival of an order. Pharmaceutical industry, perishable product industry could use RFID systems for reducing lead-times that will help to increase total useful shelf life of items.

RFID For Inventory Control Improves Sort/Pick Rate:

In a warehouse, sorting/picking activity is more time consuming and subjected to errors. For example, for issuing of items from a store, a person has to find out whether the item is available in store or not by physically moving to the location. Items issued should be kept in a particular position (bar-code upward) in a pallet for scanning/billing purposes. RFID systems ease the sorting and picking operations, as it captures real-time, accurate information about product availability in host computer database without physical movement. RFID tags are read via radio frequencies therefore it is not mandatory to place the items in a particular position to read it. This could be helpful for effective warehouse management.

Reduced Inventory Shrinkage:

As items are continuously monitored, Inventory shrinkages including thefts, misplacement of items can be avoided using RFID technology.

Perishable Inventory Control:

A perishable product has limited useful life and if it is not handled properly while transporting, it may get spoiled and its useful life reduces. If this reduced life information of items is not updated, then it may be possible that an outdated item gets delivered to a customer. In such a case, there may be an additional cost of replacement of item and also loss of goodwill of customer. Such spoilage could be reduced simultaneously with automating inventory management, by using RFID technology for product identification, while it moves through the supply chain. RFID system can track the items in real time without product movement, scanning or human involvement. Using active RFID tags it can be possible to update information on it dynamically.

Issuing Policies

RFID systems give exact count and location of items. This will help to follow a certain issuing policies for items as per the requirements. E.g.: First-in-first-out (FIFO) policy for items such as, vegetables, bread; or last-in-first-out (LIFO) for blood banks.

Thus, we see the advantages in employing RFID for effective Inventory Management.

Source: IntelliTrack, DecisionCraft

Monday, March 24, 2008

Cell Phones & Cutting Edge Technology Makes for a Heady Mix ! ! ! !

I did come across an article on unwired talking about Apple applying for a patent for a "Dual Sided Trackpad". Made me do a double take. I had to chk this one out.

I have heard about Dual sided phones like the one from Sprint. But dual sided trackpad??

As you can see from the patent file pics, the transparent trackpad can act as a normal multi-functional touch screen which emulates all the functionality of the iPhone when the phone the device is closed.

When the phone is flipped open the trackpad can act as a keypad showing the standard T9 keypad layout, or the user can draw the number he/she wants to dial, and host of other features.

Well who does not want to make hay when the sun shines? Apple will surely not miss a chance to make this technology available to its other products and there is already a possibility that Apple might incorporate this feature into its Apple Tablet. Well way to go guys.

The pace at which technology is moving is breathtaking. Apple filed a patent for the iPhone on March 03, 2006 while the “Dual sided trackpad” patent was filed on September 06, 2006.

For more detailed information one can check out the full article on unwired

Source: unwired

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Motorola Round-Up

Motorola Shedding Employees To Stem Losses

Richard Thurston of The Register reports that Motorola is poised to axe half the staff at its design facility in Birmingham, as Moto tries to turn around its beleaguered mobile devices division. All the 121 staff at the facility were told Tuesday they are at risk of redundancy. Motorola is proposing to make half of them redundant and said it may close the site.

Therefore, all employees will initially be placed at 'risk of redundancy' whilst alternative opportunities including redeployment, relocation, flexible working/home working or the opportunity of a 'service site' arrangement are investigated as part of the consultation process.

The company said it would consult employees on the proposed redundancies over the next 90 days. The cuts would likely follow soon after.

The Birmingham facility is a Design Centre, so most of the job losses will be among technical staff.

A company spokesperson said cagily that Motorola would not be invoking job losses at the company's other UK sites.

Motorola has this year already laid off 155 people at Cambridgeshire-based TTPCom, a business which it acquired two years ago.

Tinkering Goes On At Motorola……When Will It Stop?

Today on March 19th Motorola has shuffled three finance executives in its latest shake-up. Marc Rothman former controller, is now the new head of finance for the mobile devices unit taking over from Jim MacLaughlin who has left the company. Jim MacLaughlin was a 29-year veteran at Motorola. Motorola promoted Laurie Meissner and Kyle Spainhour from within the finance department to take over Rothman's previous responsibilities.

Watch this space for more updates….

Source: Chicago Tribune

The Exodus From Motorola Continues Unabated

As Teresa von Fuchs said “The revolving door keeps turning at Motorola” as the flailing handset maker announced two more senior executive changes on March 17.

Larry R. Raymond has replaced Steve Strobel as treasurer and that Stephen Nolan will oversee mobile devices in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), taking over the responsibilities from Mike Fenger.

However, a pattern has emerged regarding the appointments. Paul Liska as I had mentioned in an earlier post is a private-equity executive who was previously with Sears Roebuck as CFO. Raymond is also a private-equity executive who was also associated with Sears Roebuck. The million dollar question begs to be answered: Is it going to stop the rut?

Only time will tell. In the meantime private-equity executives have taken control of high profile positions at Motorola.

A Recap on High Profile Exits At Moto

WSJ believes that the leadership changes are part of an overall plan to swiftly transform the senior executive team at Moto.

The first three months of 2008 have marked major management changes at Moto. In addition to the CFO change and today’s changes, Ed Zander announced his resignation late last year and Greg Brown took over as CEO in January. Zander’s exit announcement was quickly followed by news that Padmasree Warrior, a top tech mind at Moto who is largely credited for the company’s Razr success, had left for Cisco.

An Old Nemesis…….Plotting Motorola’s Downfall?

As I had posted earlier, Carl Icahn who has increased his stake in Motorola to 6% is now campaigning ferverently to place 4 of his nominees on the 12 member board of Motorola.

Icahn was snubbed in his earlier attempt to get on to the board by Zander. Now Motorola supposedly at its weakest, is trying to fend of Icahn who is in turn favoring break up of Motorola.

However, industry’s analysts point out that no matter what Motorola does to fend him off, the conditions favor Icahn. But still, Icahn has to win over some of the major stakeholders like Thrivent Asset Management LLC in Minneapolis, which controls 1 million shares; in order to have his way.

Will this soap opera come to an end on May 5, when the voting takes place?

Time only will tell……..

Motorola Getting Itself Mired In Political Controversy

In one of the earlier posts I had talked about Motorola getting embroiled in a political controversy in Malaysia.

Motorola on 19th March denied reports it was involved in a kickback scheme in exchange for a large government contract in Malaysia. The company and key government officials are strongly disputing the accusations, which have been brought by political opponents who have seized the opportunistic moment as the elections are on the threshold.

Motorola tried to defend its pullout from Malaysia saying that it was a strategic business response as the company was under heavy pressure to relocate its operations, possibly to China thereby cutting costs.

Motorola spokeswoman Jennifer Erickson denied the allegations.

"Our commitment to transparency and strict code of conduct define the way we act and do business," Erickson said. "As a responsible corporate citizen, Motorola abides by the laws and regulations of each country in which we operate. This includes competing fairly and openly to provide the best possible solutions for our customers who seek world class communications systems."

Malaysia since 1972 has been a major site for Motorola’s operations employing around 4,000 people.

Motorola Malaysia communications and public affairs manager Tham Mei Ling has reportedly said that Motorola was "fully committed" to Malaysia.

What twists and turns this controversy is going to take….only time will tell.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Concept Phone for Motorola

Came across an interesting piece of story that is been circulated around, it’s about a concept phone for Motorola designed by a Frenchman Lysandre Follet. Now whether Motorola had commissioned Follet to design a concept phone, it’s not yet clear, but here’s the dig on the concept phone.

It’s been nicknamed the “Brick” by some publications for obvious reasons, it’s quite broad. It supposedly has a multimedia player, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi. At least there are indications that the designer wants all these features on the phone.

Now here’s where it gets wacky. It has a stereo camera. When decoded into plain simple lingo, it has two cameras side by side. It’s got dual flash to boot! One each for the two cameras. This will come in handy while taking 3-d panoramic shots. Apparently, one camera can be used for recording videos and the other for taking pictures at the same time ! ! ! Wow.

This concept was first posted on Coroflot.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Nokia Morph: Nanaotechnology in full flow

Nokia Research Center and the University of Cambridge unveiled on February 25th, a joint nanotechnology concept titled “Morph” which will be on view from February 24 to May 12, 2008, at The Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Morph is being touted as a futuristic shape changing, self cleaning, transparent electronics and self charging (through harvesting) mobile phone. The interface of the phone as shown in the video reminds me of the futuristic computer interface in the movie Minority Report.

The technology behind the Morph concept is Nanotechnology.

The video gives us a graphical demonstration of the Morph’s capabilities. I have refrained from giving an insight into Morph’s capability to preserve the shock and awe element. The video is self explanatory and describes all the features of the concept phone.

The phone can be stretched into any shape as desired by the user and it still retains the touch interface. Wow….However, this technology will not be available any time soon. For the individual concepts or ‘elements of morph’ to be incorporated in to our everyday usable mobile phones, might take around 7 years. Expect the cost of such phones to be astronomical.

How feasible is this technology….only time will tell.

Source: Nokia

Motorola promises a fine showing at CTIA Wireless

In an earlier post I had lamented about Motorola’s poor showing at the World Mobile Congress. Well it seems Motorola is finally pulling up its socks. A sneak preview of Motorola’s upcoming phone line up was posted on YouTube.

Apparently Motorola was planning to make big announcements at CTIA Wireless scheduled from April 1-3 instead. It seems that Motorola was reluctant to unveil its line-up of phones at the Mobile World Congress. They wanted to get away from the din and chaos of the Mobile World Congress and chose a quieter venue to announce their phone line-up.

Well Motorola we are waiting and please do not let us down this time…

Is Motorola a sinking ship…….When will it finally sink?

Stu Reed, the former president of its struggling cell phone unit, is leaving the company. Reed's departure is the latest in a series of executive reshuffles at Motorola, which comes a month after Chief Executive Greg Brown took over the unit and said that he was considering options such as splitting it off from the rest of the company.

This has come close on the heels of another announcement last week that Motorola Inc.'s chief marketing officer Casey Keller has left the company.

If this wasn’t enough, Motorola finds itself embroiled in another controversy.South Korea's Fair Trade Commission has announced today that it has levied a fine of 696 million won, or $729,000, on Motorola Korea Inc. for helping three South Korean companies collude to get orders from government agencies. The three companies worked as sales agents for Motorola's trunked radio system, sold in the South Korean market, the statement said.

Well one can only wonder….what next? Is Motorola an overstuffed giant that needs to be cut down to size….Is this a valid explanation for the string of departures happening at Motorola?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Award Winning Moldable Mouse From Lite-On

The traditional mould in which manufacturer’s of computer peripherals used bring out their products, focused on one single ideology that what works for one person will work for every one else. However, with increasing competition and the constant struggle to remain on the top of heap has forced them to rethink on their strategy, focus on innovativeness and more importantly cater to individual customer’s need.

Lite-On has come up with a moldable mouse, a concept design which is made of lightweight modeling clay and covered with a nylon and polyurethane blend fabric and hence, can be kneaded into desired shapes by users.

Traditionally the mouse is made of hard plastic, and even the most ergonomically designed mouse followed the ideology mentioned above.

The salient features of the concept mouse are as follows:
  • The Moldable Mouse is made of non-toxic lightweight modeling clay, covered with nylon and polyurethane blend fabric.
  • It can be kneaded into any shape the user prefers, and the shape is self-retaining. It allows a wide variety of hand positions when holding the mouse; hence, it reduces repeated motions of the same posture, thereby minimizing the chance of common mouse-related injuries such as the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
  • The click buttons and touch-sensitive scroll pad of the mouse are stick-on parts with built-in RFID (Radio Frequency Identification Device), which can be repositioned for maximum comfort.
  • The nylon and polyurethane blend fabric covering comes in a variety of colors. The texture of the material feels similar to silk, but is much more flexible. Its softness significantly increases the comfort level of the mouse over that of the traditional plastic versions.
  • Patterns and graphics can be printed on the fabric to make the Moldable Mouse more visually appealing.
  • The base of the mouse, made of 100% recyclable PC/ABS plastic blend, houses the PCB (Printed Circuit Board), laser optics and batteries.
  • Reducing plastic usage to a minimum by using mostly non-toxic clay and fabric, the Moldable Mouse is also an ecologically responsible product.
The Moldable Mouse from Lite-On had won the Red Dot Award for the Design Concept 2007.

Source: Red Dot

Friday, March 7, 2008

Motorola’s cup of woes is still overflowing….Is Carl Icahn the person who can stem the tide?

For the fourth-quarter, Motorola reported an 83.9% drop in earnings to $100 million, or 4 cents per share, compared to last year’s $623 million, or 25 cents per share.

Then, Motorola announced that it is exploring a restructuring which could include the sale of its mobile phone business.

In order to stem the losses, CEO Greg Brown took over the mobile handset division from Stu Reed. He also replaced acting CFO Tom Meredith with Paul Liska.

Motorola unveiled some unimpressive models at the World Mobile Congress. No surprises there.

Still, Motorola shares were down 38 % in 2008.

If this wasn’t enough, Motorola is getting itself embroiled in a political controversy.

Bill Ray from The Register reported that when Motorola threatened to abandon Malaysia, causing 10,000 job losses, the outgoing Malaysian Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon wrote to the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi asking that a £150m contract for upgrading the country’s police radios be awarded to Motorola. In return Motorola would agree to invest £55m in the country. In the view of impending elections, this letter caused a political furore in Malaysia when it was leaked to the media.

Carl Icahn, now has increased his share to 6.3%. He is looking to muscle his way into the Board of Directors by nominating people from his trusted circle. Motorola’s shares temporarily shot up.

Though proving to be an eternal thorn in Motorola’s side, somehow one gets the feeling that Carl Icahn is the only person who might be able to guide Motorola out of the mess it has fallen into.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

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