Sunday, January 30, 2005

China's Lenovo - IBM PC deal

China's Lenovo announced that it was acquiring IBM's loss making PC unit on 8th December 2004.

The deal is far from complete as US Govt. is currently examining its national secutiry interests, before giving its permission to this deal. One of the key reasons is that China's Lenovo group is predominantly owned by the Chinese Government.

US Govt. has a few deals in place with IBM, and is hence worried about the involvement of Chinese Govt. in its deals. US is also worried about key hi-tech knowledge going to Chinese.

It is not clear whether the deal will be derailed because of these US concerns. IBM has a lot to gain as well from the deal, as the way the deal is structured allows IBM about 19% stake in the combined PC business of Lenovo-IBM. Lenovo has a 25% market share in the growing Chinese PC sales and with IBM's own market share, the combined market share will be at least 31% to start with.

Now, if for some reason, the IBM-Lenovo deal is scuppered by the US Govt., would any of the Indian companies Wipro or HCL be interested in stepping in acquiring the business? Wipro or HCL will not have the same stigma as a Chinese Govt. owned Lenovo, and may not attract the same regulatory worries.

Lenovo wanted to aggressively pursue a growth strategy which takes itself to North America and Europe. IBM, while a fairly well known brand, is however way behind market leaders such as Dell or HP. HP's position in PC market share was achieved post merger with Compaq. Dell is an aggressive direct-to-customer seller, eschewing all channel based sales. IBM, with a higher price tag for what is essentially a commodity couldn't sustain in such a cut-throat market. What can Lenovo hope to achieve from such a deal? For one thing, it can aggressively bring the price down and match the others. It can obtain access to good technology. It can achieve production scales by managing the production entirely out of China, while basing its sales and service operation headquartered out of USA.

Indian companies Wipro or HCL cannot simply match Lenovo at this stage in scales of production. However, the demands for PC in India will grow significantly. Today, the most significant market share is held by grey market operators put together - about 65%. HCL, Wipro and Zenith complete with HP, IBM and now Dell for the organized PC market share.

More than Wipro or HCL, would IBM be interested in a deal with either of these Indian companies?

Thursday, January 27, 2005

TV companies in the news

Videocon to buy Thomson's CPT manufacturing unit in Italy while Mirc Electronics may get to sell TVs through Wal-mart, if all goes well with the testing.

Both Videocon and Mirc (makers of Onida) are homegrown Indian companies. With the failure of BPL in managing their finances properly, it will be left to these two to handle the onslaught of the Korean Chaebols - LG and Samsung.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Bandwidth as a competitor to Microsoft

Mike via Rajesh Jain

Interesting idea about how with the increasing bandwidth availability to the end user, one needn't have a desktop at all, but a remote terminal - either completely dumb peripheral, ie., just a screen, keyboard, mouse and network connectivity or all of that with a bit of local processing power and local storage - running an OS from a remote machine, running applications from remote machines and storing data either remotely or locally or in both the places.

I use Windows XP. Over the last week, I was affected by some virus despite XP service pack 2, Norton Anti-virus with uptodate patches, a firewall, Firefox & Thunderbird (and not IE and other dirty mail clients) etc. I had to completely reinstall everything and preserve my data. Cut & paste did not work, copy or move across folders did not work. Safe mode didn't work. Even if I had a CD writer in my laptop (which I do not have) it wouldn't have helped.

Linux came to my rescue. I could boot my machine with my Linux partition, mount the windows NTFS as a drive, transfer the data over the network to another machine with a DVD write, then recover my laptop. Atleast the IBM laptops come up with a one button factory recovery module. Thereafter, I had to upgrade the system from service patches, anti-virus updates, hundreds of utilities that I use (from Murasu Anjal Pro onwards) and what not. Then restore my mail folders.

I could do most of this in a single day. Very few can.

Mike's model could work very well for such folks.

I was also thinking about another model. The problem with the current Microsoft OS is that the OS kernel, the application programs and a darn thing called registry, along with user data resides in the same disk with complete read/write access. This is how virus spreads. Trojans galore.

Instead, if the OS and application along with startup parameters (aka registry) are stored in a read-only CD which is created in a carefully maintained machine and booting is always from this CD, viruses can be controlled considerably. Any user data affected by the viruses can at best only destroy the user data. It cannot affect the OS, the applications etc. It may quite be possible to manage the integrity of the user data. At least one can have multiple backups and cleanup will be possible.

This user data could be a in the form of proper hard drive or a flash memory (which are fast going towards 1 GB in a USB), or a CD/DVD RW. Then, I can walk around with just two CDs, or one CD-R (or DVD-R) and another CD-RW/DVD-RW and use anybody's computer (if the cybercafe' wallah allows me) and convert that into my desktop temporarily.

I will boot with my CD/DVD, get my desktop environment and my set of applications, my own data and do the necessary computing and move on.

The need for the above is because in a place like India, affordable, high bandwidth is still years away.

Anil or Mukesh? Tehelka-TNS poll

The latest issue of Tehelka (subscription required) has an opinion poll conducted by TNS on who the stockbrokers trust more - Anil or Mukesh Ambani.

Contrary to my own feelings, most stockbrokers have chosen Mukesh Ambani on a whole range of questions. The gist of the poll is
  • Mukesh is more trustworthy
  • Mukesh is more competent
  • Mother Kokilaben cannot resolve the problems between the brothers
  • If the assets have to be split between the brothers, Mukesh should get more than Anil
  • Both the brothers are still professionally ethical (now, how is this possible?)
  • Anil is to be entirely blamed for the current fiasco
  • Anil is personally motivated rather than his supposed concern for professional ethics
  • Anil's company (Samajwadi party folks like Amar Singh, Amitabh Bachchan?) is bad
  • Ego, rather than money driving the rift
  • Board of directors of the RIL are clean
  • This shouldn't be happening now - too soon after father's death

I have sold my Reliance stocks completely. I have lots of worries on the manner in which Reliance Infocomm was created and even the business practices of Infocomm. The sad thing is, institutional investors and the board of directors do not seem to have any worries whatsoever in this regard. Now stockbrokers indicate they find no problems either.

Roadblock TV Program - first of its kind for India

When Doordarshan was the only television channel in India, programs like Chitrahar and Mahabharat or Ramayan attracted every television watching audience in one channel. I can also remember 'World This Week' by Prannoy Roy.

Then Cable TV happened, channels multiplied and audience fragmented.

TV channels unite as one for Tsunami cause

On 6th and 12th February, news channels and Hindi entertainment channels (respectively) are coming together to broadcast a single program, with same ads across all, to generate money for the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund.

It would be an interesting experience for the mainstream Indian television viewer. The Tamil viewer still has his Sun TV to Win TV showing local fare.