One very striking feature of much of the reporting on the ongoing financial crisis, especially in America, is the emphasis which is being placed on the performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average; I say that this is striking because if there's one thing any journalist who's been through Finance 101 should know, it is that the Dow Jones is an extremely narrow and unrepresentative collection of stocks which don't necessarily tell one very much about the state of the broader market as a whole.
It wasn't so long ago that I noted on here that Adolf Hitler continues to hold an outsized fascination for the German press: what I didn't mention then was that no mainstream publication seems to be more in the grip of this obsession than Der Spiegel, which has become so notorious for this tendency that some wags have even taken to calling it Der HitlerSpiegel. As it turns out, guess who happens to be on the cover of the latest edition of said magazine? Yes, you guessed it ...
When the New York Times announced two years ago that it was putting its editorial material behind a for-pay firewall, I must have been amongst the few who reacted with pleasure to the news, as I realized immediately that this stupid move would instantaneously mute the likes of Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman to a considerable degree, reducing the shrill cacaphony of the American commentariat and the bloggers who subsist off it by a substantial amount: not having to listen to these two ranting and raving about how Bush is Satan incarnate was worth losing even the more level-headed voices hosted by the Times. That the New York Times' management was arrogant enough to attempt to charge for something not even the mighty Wall Street Journal dared to struck me at the time (as it still does) as a blessing in disguise.
At any rate, the Times itself has now apparently woken up to the incredible shortsightedness of secluding its most popular material behind a subscription firewall for the sake of a little upfront revenue (which would easily have been dwarfed by advertising proceeds in any case), and at a stroke has thereby re-inflicted upon us the hysterical proclamations of Silly Mo Dowd and Paul "I used to be a serious thinker, but no longer" Krugman: the question now is whether the much diminished presence of these two writers caused by the two years in TimesSelect purdah can be overcome, or whether the damage is of the kind from which no recovery is possible. Based on what I've written here, you can guess what my preferred outcome is (and while we're at it, I'd love for the likes of Ann "Crazier than a Coot" Coulter to suffer a similar fate). Life is hard enough as it is without having to incessantly encounter partisan political hysterics dressed up in a mantle of New York Times respectability.
At any rate, whatever happens to the NYT's in-house shrill liberals, the paper will never regain for me the relevance it had in the pre-TimesSelect era, when the day didn't feel complete if I hadn't read the Times in a thorough manner; "TimesSelect" should be taught in business schools as a sterling example of an organization sabotaging its own future for the sake of the present.
I don't know that I'm any more interested in Samsung's "Yepp" multimedia phone than I was before I came across this Register article, but I can definitely confirm that the company was successful in getting my attention (ahem). Whether this is the sort of attention Samsung really needs is another question, though I'm sure they'll hear few complaints from the gadget-buying male demographic ...
Canon Inc. reported a 16 percent jump in quarterly profit and a record annual profit for the seventh straight year amid strong sales of its digital cameras, copiers and printers.
Canon's group net profit for the fourth quarter totaled 125.6 billion yen (US$1 billion), up from 108 billion yen the same period in 2005, the company said Monday.
Quarterly sales climbed 8.6 percent to 1.2 trillion yen (US$9.9 billion) from 1.1 trillion yen the previous year.
What I found noteworthy was the following passage.
By sector for the October-December quarter, camera sales surged nearly 17 percent on year, while sales of copying machines and other office imaging products rose about 7 percent. Laser beam printers and other computer peripherals jumped 10 percent from a year earlier.
In other words, the chief driver of Canon's profit growth is its camera department, and almost certainly the DSLR producing segment in particular. To give you an idea of how powerful a revenue generator this is, consider the following:
Canon is forecasting an eighth straight record year for 2007, projecting net profit of 495 billion yen (US$4.1 billion) on 4.45 trillion yen (US$36.5 billion) in sales.
All those enthusiasts buying "L glass" in (usually vain) hopes of someday going "full frame" adds up to quite a tidy sum. Not quite Microsoftian levels of profitability, but then again, Canon doesn't have a monopoly (thank goodness). If I were a Canon user, I'd thank my stars every day that Nikon existed to provide the only serious challenge to this behemoth of a company.
PS: To understand something about the reality behind all the "going full frame" talk so popular amongst Canon DSLR buyers, I suggest reading this blog post by Terry Chay. Most of the "full frame" talkers will never make the move, for the simple reason that the economics of semiconductor manufacturing simply won't let Canon provide full-frame cameras at a price most amateurs are willing to pay. Nikon knows what its doing by releasing the D40, even if I don't like it: the "one camera body and two cheap zoom lenses" bottom end of the market is where most of the money is, not in providing a marginally profitable camera like the 5D which only cannibalizes 1DS Mark II sales, and I'm certain Canon's 350D/400D models generate 90% or more of the profits from its DSLR operations.
Japan's malaise of the 1990s came about largely because of excessive, aimless diversification by Japanese companies into fields in which they had no particular expertise or competitive advantage. Having spent the last 15 years overcoming the problems this brought about, you'd think most Japanese CEOs would be wary of repeating the mistake by now, but clearly Fuji Photo's CEO hasn't gotten the message:
TOKYO--Japan's Fuji Photo Film Co. said Tuesday it would enter the health care market, diversifying from the dwindling photo film business to target women's insatiable desire for beauty products.
Because nothing screams "irresistable" to a woman like polluting her eyes, lungs and skin with your secondhand carcinogens ...
The most damning thing of all is that the cigarette companies had already long been aware of the health risks of their products as they were turning out such ridiculous propaganda; the millions of impressionable and insecure youngsters who were taken in by such guff are the pool from which most of today's emphysema and lung cancer sufferers are drawn.
I will never buy a "Zune" or anything which plays WMA files, and I wouldn't even use one if it were offered for free. Want to know why? Simple really - would you trust a firm which treats its customers like this?
Microsoft is an arrogant, greedy monopolist with an irresistable tendency to bully and shaft both partners and clients built into its DNA, and now that Robert Scoble has left the firm, it doesn't even have a single half-trustworthy face one can approach to call Microsoft on its bullshit. It's one thing to use Windows and Office because work requires you to, but if you voluntarily decide to embrace the technically inferior, proprietary, DRM-laden "WMA" format, you'll have only your own stupidity to blame when Microsoft decides to ream you like just like the rest of the suckers who buy into its marketing.
As for myself, I'm sick of the whole "Product Activation" rubbish, and I have zero interest in the extremely late, bloated and unstable OS X ripoff called Windows Vista: the next new machine I buy will be a Mac*, with Parallels or some other VM solution to handle whatever Windows issues may arise.
*Life is too short to futz around with Linux and its driver headaches.
The Wall Street Journal has a freely accessible article up about the new respectability afforded the Macintosh platform by the transition to a Unix-based operating system, and whether what seems like an increase in the market uptake for Macs can be translated into success in the business world. I think the article does a decent job of presenting the facts, all things considered - though it does fail to mention that one reason why Macs are being viewed more favorably again is the shift from client-based applications to the web - but in the end I think the optimism in it is misplaced; Apple will screw up this chance to make long-term inroads, for the same old reasons why it always failed to do so in the past.