Explaining Southern California's economy

Business don't need no stinkin' philosophers!

Idealab-Outside-MDB

Matthew DeBord

Welcome to Idealab, a new business incubator founded in 1996 and located in Pasadena, Calif.

Bronwyn Fryer has a sneakily important post at the Harvard Business Review blog. It's about how completely essentially it is for business to have what she calls "idea fusers" — people who can practice synthetic thinking, figuring out how to stick seemingly disparate pieces of production, data, insight, strategy — whatever — together to yield breakout results. I have my own term for this: "free range thinking." 

When I was in grad school, we commonly called this approach "dialectical," echoing the Marxist view that history was a process of two opposing ideas conflicting — or ideas developing internal conflicts — until they produced a third option. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. The concept was actually adapted from Hegel, the study of which was to Marx what rocket science is to lawn mower repair (sorry, Karl).

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Apple vaporizes estimates for first quarter earnings

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Shereen Meraji/KPCC

The new Apple store at the Americana in Glendale.

Any questions? The consensus on Wall Street was that Apple would earn $10.14 a share and record $39 billion in sales for its first fiscal quarter, according to Bloomberg. Instead, it did $13.87 a share on $463 billion in sales. Eyes are still being put back in their sockets:

"Those numbers are just unimaginable," said Michael Obuchowski, chief investment officer at First Empire Asset Management, which has $4 billion under management, including Apple shares. "It’s still an extremely well-managed company and they are showing that the product pipeline is sufficient even now to generate growth rates that are unrivaled."

Apple is now pretty darn close to being a $400 billion company, by market capitalization. It currently has two major things going for it: it's vacuuming up more and more market share for smartphones, as these devices become much more popular and begin to define the future of mobile computing; and it's ideally positioned to thrive in the post-PC age, as consumers shift away from old-school laptops and desktops and move to ultrabooks and tablets.

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At long last, Steve Jobs gets a Grammy

Apple CEO Steve Jobs Delivers Opening Keynote At Macworld

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Steve Jobs will be awarded a special Grammy (posthumously) in February, 2012.

Maybe he should get ten. Or a special Giant Grammy that can only exist in low-earth orbit, or be used as statuary at Apple's Cupertino, Calif. campus.

This is from the New York Times' ArtsBeat blog:

Jobs, who died on Oct. 5, will be given a Trustees Award, which honors “outstanding contributions to the industry in a nonperforming capacity.” The academy’s national board of trustees decided to honor Jobs because he “helped create products and technology that transformed the way we consume music, TV, movies, and books,” the announcement said.

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences certainly made the right call here, even if the Jobs Grammy will have to awarded posthumously. 

I'm far from the first person to argue that Steve Jobs saved the music business, making it possible for there to continue to be a National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences to award posthumous Grammys. Here's Ed Nash, who runs a entertainment management firm in, yes, Nashville:

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Is Apple defying Steve Jobs with Apple TV?

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Steve Jobs delivers the keynote address at the 2011 Apple World Wide Developers Conference at the Moscone Center on June 6, 2011 in San Francisco, California.

It's looking more and more like Apple is going to enter the TV business. The Wall Street Journal recently characterized this as one of Steve Jobs' "ambitions." But was it really? From the same WSJ report:

In meetings as far back as 2010, Mr. Jobs met with a series of cable and satellite executives to discuss next-generation television services for Apple devices, according to people familiar with the matter. Among the questions Mr. Jobs asked in the series of meetings was how much of the universe of video content the providers actually had the rights to, according to a person familiar with the meetings.

Apple's own executives have wondered what the company had up its sleeve. Last year, at its "top 100" meeting for senior managers in Carmel, Calif., an attendee asked Mr. Jobs whether Apple was developing a television.

He responded that it would be a bad business to get into, noting that the margins on television are far lower than the margins Apple makes from its other devices and that consumers don't buy new televisions very frequently, according to this person.

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Apple iPad2 v. Amazon Kindle Fire: The battle royal that will define holiday gadget shopping

Amazon Introduces New Tablet At News Conference In New York

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The new Amazon tablet called the Kindle Fire is displayed on September 28, 2011 in New York City.

Back in the good old days — you know, 2009 or 2010 — there was the Apple iPad and everything else. When it came to tablets, there wasn't really a true tablet market; there was an iPad market, as my favorite tech writer, Zach Epstein of BGR.com, has pointed out. But now there's another tablet in town. Here is Forbes' Tim Worstall on how the Amazon Kindle Fire will be different from the Apple iPad, business-model-wise:

Apple makes great kit, no doubt about that, but it charges great kit prices for it too. Then it makes a further margin on selling content (music, videos, movies, books) to go onto that kit. Nothing wrong with it but it is a model that might be vulnerable. Vulnerable to someone using the Gillette tactic (“give away” the razors in order to sell more razor blades) as Amazon is. Price the Kindle Fire at just about break even point and hope to make the profits by having a larger installed base to sell the content onto.

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