ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: APPLE FOUNDED, TURNING 40 TODAY

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY… APRIL 1, 1976

APPLE FOUNDED, TURNING 40 TODAY

Now the World’s Most Valuable Company

40 years ago, on April 1, 1976, college dropout Steve Jobs and his friends Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne incorporated Apple Computer. At the time, few could have imagined that what started in Jobs’ parents’ garage would become one of the greatest success stories in corporate history.

While remarkably successful from the start – Apple went from zero to one and a half billion dollars in revenue within eight years – there were some ups and downs in the company’s early days. It wasn’t until Steve Jobs’ second stint as CEO that Apple became what it is today: the most valuable company in the world.

With the release of the iPhone in 2007, Apple’s revenue (and profit for that matter) started to skyrocket, reaching a record $234 billion in fiscal 2015.

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ALTZAR – A PERSONAL HISTORICAL MEMORY

As a computer industry veteran of 47 years, I remember that early Apple very well. Back in 1977, I was a product line manager at IBM in charge of the “white space” – i.e., new entry-level product development and opportunities.IBM Titanic June 1983 ACR

Sensing that we might be at the doorstep of a major industry transformation, I urged the senior IBM executives to invest in new “entry systems,” as we called them back then. (That was 3 years before the term “PC” was born). They refused. They thought companies like Apple, Atari, Osborn were “just” a “hobbyist” market.

“No money in it,” someone said. And also below the dignity of the industry leader like IBM.

So I left IBM in May 1978 to start my own business – Annex Computer which later morphed into Annex Research (http://djurdjevic.com/). I also bought an Apple II but I didn’t like it. I returned it to the store and got my money back.

Soon, IBM realized it was missing the boat. So it hurriedly invested in the development of a “Personal Computer” (PC), using a “borrowed” operating system (Microsoft DOS) and other hardware it could quickly assemble from various suppliers. The first PC that premiered in 1981 was that kind of a “hybrid.” Still, it became a success and gave the whole “entry systems” industry segment its name. Which has lasted to this today.

Meanwhile, Apple was plodding along, struggling as often as succeeding. Its business actually shrank in the late 1990s.

In 1996, I suggested to the relatively new CEO (Louis Gerstner), who was brought in to save the good old IBM, that the company might be missing the boat once again by not being in the low-end market. I showed him my forecast which predicted the consumer market to grow MUCH faster than the large enterprise business (19% vs. 1% per year – see the chart).

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Like his predecessors in the late 1970s, Louis dismissed it as a “dumb idea” (see “Louis XIX of Armonk,” Aug 1996). And just like back then, IBM again missed the boat.

Today, consumer companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft are worth 3-4 times more than IBM. In fact, they are the three most valuable companies in the world, period. Bigger than Exxon or any other industrial dinosaurs. As for Big Blue, IBM is no longer even in the top 10.

So it goes… when companies stop reinventing themselves, they stagnate. And eventually perish. Like Kodak.

Happy April Fools’ Day!

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IBM Titanic June 1983 ACR

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IBM SLIDE INTO OBLIVION CONTINUES

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 7.34.09 PMWhen I closed the doors on my business, Annex Research, on June 30, 2014, I did not think I would ever return to the analyst bullpen again. But one should never say never. So here I am, writing this short blurb about IBM only 18 months later.

But don’t worry. I am not unretiring, like Michael Jordan, who retired in 1993, 1998, and 2003 only to unretire in 1995 and 2001. 🙂 I love my life outside the bullpen and I intend to stay out. So this is a one-time shot. Sort of like pinch-hitting in late innings in just one game into which I stumbled accidentally.

I glanced this evening at the IBM 4Q earnings release as I was checking the precipitous stock market declines over the last several days. I have not looked closely at IBM in probably in a year. And I noticed that IBM tumbled even more than the Dow or S&P – down almost 5% just today (Jan 20). So I pulled up the IBM chart to see how bad things were.

I glanced at the IBM 4Q earnings release as I was checking the precipitous stock market declines over the last several days. I have not looked closely at IBM in probably in a year. And I noticed that IBM tumbled even more than the Dow or S&P – down almost 5% just today (Jan 20). So I pulled up the IBM chart to see how bad things were.

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And they were pretty bad indeed. Since April 22, 2012, the IBM stock has declined 41%, from $207 to $122 per share.

Which should surprise no one on the Annex Research client list. Here’s what I said in part in that Apri 2012 report titled “BIG BLUE FEET OF CLAY:”

And we have a feeling this may be only only the start of a longer-term slide for this erstwhile bellwether stock of the Dow Jones Industrials’ index. Why the pessimism?

Three simple words: Lack of growth.

No amount of rhetoric and news-spinning by IBM’s CFO, Mark Loughridge, could reverse that fact.”

In August 2013, I updated that forecast and renewed our my call for a long-term decline of the erstwhile computer industry leader (“IBM: IN TROUBLED WATERS AGAIN“:

“Over 30 years ago, at a time when the world thought that Big Blue could walk on water (see TIME magazine cover, July 1983), we said IBM was sailing in troubled waters.  Nobody believed us, of course, least of all IBM executives.

CLOSE CALL/NEAR CRASH IN 1992-1993

And crash IBM nearly did nine years later. As the company teeter-tottered on the brink of oblivion, the Board ejected the IBM chairman and launched a rescue mission under a new “change artist” in early 1993.

We are in a similar situation now. When we said in Apr 2012 that IBM was stuck in its place with feet of clay while the marketplace around it was exploding, nobody believed us, either, least of all IBM executives.  Our media friends also remained largely mum about it. Witness the continued stock rise despite shrinking revenues (left chart).

Well, that illusion is now over.  Just like 30 years ago, the truth is slowly seeping out…”

Well, it took two-and-a-half more years for the stock market to accept this dose of reality.

Or did it? Will we see another resurrection attempt by the Big Blue faithful?

I doubt it. Even the most zealous IBM supporters must put their self-interests first. Unless they throw caution to the wind and decided they must hop aboard for one last ride on the Big Blue Titanic.

IBM Titanic June 1983 ACR

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JOHN AKERS: A NICE GUY WHO LOST HIS COMPASS

IBM Chairman John Akers

 

THE LAST OF THE “GREAT BIG BLUE MOHICANS” (“WATSONIANS”) CHECKS OUT OF THE PLANET

Early this morning, a Wall Street Journal reporter asked for a comment for his John Akers’ obituary. That was the first I had heard about the passing of the former IBM CEO.

When he was in power, Akers and I often did not see eye-to-eye. We had often locked horns (ideologically) at various analyst conferences.  I would have preferred to have done it in private. But public events were the only chances an outsider got back then to Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 10.34.30 PMtalk to the “untouchables” who occupied the Armonk throne in the Watsons’ Era.  Now, I feel saddened by Akers’ departure.  And for his RIP Requiem, I offer him this rendition of “Amazing Grace” which I played on my shaman’s flute when I retired atop Haleakala Volcano on June 30 (click here or on the photo-right to play it).

And now, here’s my reply to the Wall Street Journal reporter. Consider it my Akers Obit…

Hm… he was an (philosophical) adversary 30 years ago. But I feel sadness now. Like when experiencing the passing of an era. Or finishing a book.

Akers was the last of the “Great Big Blue Mohicans” – the “Watsonians” – products of the two Watsons Era. What followed Akers’ ouster in 1993 was a dismantling of everything the Watsons stood for. The core value at IBM became Greed, not “respect for an individual” (and his family) that the Watsons nurtured.

When Akers was sacked, I wrote what then and now may sound like an obituary (see below). Two years earlier, when we was still the emperor, I wrote a piece that basically said the emperor had no clothes.

Akers: A Nice Guy Who Lost His Compass (Jan 1993)

If they merely try to replace John Akers with another executive whom they feel is more competent to do the same job which Akers had held, our advice to the …
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Akers: The Last Emperor (June 1991

John Akers‘ “public flogging” of his senior management certainly brought about a myriad of reactions — both within, and outside IBM. Some were quite favorable; …
Akers took it in stride. He was a gentleman. He understood that it was nothing personal. I was just doing my job to uncover the things IBM was trying to cover up. By contrast, some of his lieutenants, like the then heir apparent George Conrades, were upset with me. But not Akers. Unlike Gerstner whom I also took down a notch in 1996 (see Louis XIX”). I was told there is still a hole in the ceiling of the Old Armonk corner office where he blew up after reading it. 🙂
RIP, John Akers!

And now, I can return to my creative “non-retirement.” How creative? Check out this post I put out yesterday… 🙂

“BOLERO” BY ALTZAR IN HAWAII (AUGUST 23, 2014)

FAREWELL TO ANNEX (2): MAGICAL HALEAKALA SUNSET CEREMONY

Annex Research sunset moment 6-30-14

Monday, June 30, 2014, was the last day in the life of Annex. A 36-year old part of my body and soul transitioned into the Spirit world at sunset last evening. Elizabeth and I went up to the top Haleakala (volcano) to say our final farewells with a sunset ceremony, after having already done the Water/Earth Ceremony at Waimoku Falls the day before).

MAGICAL HALEAKALA ANNEX FAREWELL SUNSET CEREMONY

Sunsets don’t get better than that.  The Annex Farewell sunset the Spirit laid on for us last evening was nothing short of magical. We have now lived in Maui for over five years, but this was the first time the weather at the top of this volcano was clear enough for us to experience a real sunset. And what an experience it was!

For those of you who may not be aware, Haleakala in Hawaiian means “Home of the Sun.” This volcano is the Heart Chakra of planet Earth as well as her Fire (element) Vortex. So it was a perfect place for the final farewell to Annex (after having already done the Water/Earth Ceremony at Waimoku Falls the day before).

It was quite cold at that elevation (10,000 ft). There was a steady strong wind was blowing from the northeast. The noise of the wind precluded any acceptable sound quality of the live videos we have made. But that’s where the studio editing comes in. Later.

In time, I will edit and publish the videos of the ceremony Elizabeth and I did atop Haleakala (volcano) summit (elev. 10,o00 ft).  It included my playing “Amazing Grace” to Father Sun and the Spirit on my Hawaiian bamboo flute. And, at Elizabeth’s suggestion, we also toasted the Sun, the Spirit and all of you with a drink of “champagne” we brought from home (it was actually Martinelli’s sparkling cider bubbly).

So for now, these still shots of the ceremony taken from my videos will have to suffice…

Annex Farewell Haleakala 1  Annex Farewell Haleakala 2

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Annex Research sunset moment 6-30-14

 

 

 

FAREWELL TO ANNEX (1): RHAPSODY & EULOGY (ECSTASY & AGONY)

Annex farewell rainbow

Today, June 30, 2014, will be the last day in the life of Annex. A 36-year old part of my body and soul will transition into the Spirit world at sunset this evening. Elizabeth and I hope to be atop Haleakala (volcano) to say our final farewells with a sunset ceremony.

The Annex farewell will be both a rhapsody (ecstasy) and a eulogy (agony). Like life itself.

“No pain, no gain,” goes and old saw. But that’s only half the glass… the empty half. The other half, the full half, contains joy, elation, gratitude, compassion… the many uplifting emotions I experienced during Annex’s cohabitation in my body for over 36 years.

In the end, we learn that there are no “positive” or “negative” experiences. Only lessons. We learn as much from our mistakes as we do from successes. So thank you, Annex, for that lesson, too.

Who is this Annex?

Actually, a better question would be “what” rather than “who.”Bob 1981

For those who may not be familiar with my business and entrepreneurial side, Annex is the name of the company I founded on May 15, 1978, after I left IBM. The company was named after my firstborn daughter (see Annex’s 33rd birthday story, May 2011).  So today, Annex is a little over 36 years old. Add to it my 8 years with IBM, and you can see that my business and entrepreneurial education has lasted over 44 years so far.

Annex used to be a big part of my life when I was younger. So many wonderful experiences. So many friends made all around the world. So many countries visited. So many mistakes made (and some corrected). So many successes enjoyed (and some lamented).

Now, well… Annex is now it is a fond memory. I will be neither happy nor sorry when the curtain drops on its earthly life at sunset tonight. Only grateful.

Five words come to mind as my final farewell message: “Thanks for the ride, Annex.” Without Annex’s funding, many other rewarding parts of my life would not have been possible.

But now it’s time to move on. No regrets of lamentations. What’s done is done.

Two Farewell Ceremonies

For those of you who don’t necessarily know that I am also a thrice-ordained shaman, musiciaWaimoku Falls 6-29-14n, music video and filmmaker and many other things that seem to have nothing to do with business, I should point out that the Spirit has guided me to do two farewell ceremonies. Elizabeth and I went on a four-mile pilgrimage yesterday at the majestic 400-foot Waimoku Falls (Maui, Hawaii). That’s where we did a Water and Earth farewell ceremony.

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And this evening, I have been guided to go up to the 10,000-foot Haleakala volcano, on whose slopes our home also lies, and do a sunset Fire and Air ceremony.

So you see, as with all earthly sentient or inanimate beings, Annex has also consisted of the four basic elements. Each needs to be honored in the end.

As for the fifth elementAnnex farewell rainbow 6-30-14 – Ether – that part has already happened. A little over an hour ago.

The Spirit have already given me their Annex farewell gift. This morning, a little after 8 AM, right out of clear skies, suddenly a cloud formed that started to sprinkle the Spirit’s blessing on Annex, me and all those who have been touched by Annex over the last 36 years. That blessing came in the form of this magnificent rainbow (right).

Just to show you how our Spirit guides work with a shaman, it is almost always through non-verbal interactions. It is not telepathy. It is multidimensional communication. As one of my Spirit guides told me three years ago, “compared to this, telepathy is like using an old crank telephone.”

You see, we have had several very dry days around here. In fact, at the very moment this beautiful rainbow suddenly popped up, I was running sprinklers down in the gulch to water some shrubs and flowers we planted last weekend. So there was no doubt in my mind or soul that the beautiful rainbow was a way my Spirit guides joined me from the Ether element in our farewell ceremonies today.

(For those Doubting Thomases among you, which you are free to remain if you so choose, there have been many, many previous occasions on which similar things have occurred. If you click on this video link, you can actually SEE and HEAR what the Spirit had to say about it. And you can also READ a transcript of that channeling if you wish).

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The above video is my today’s farewell message to all of you.

Thank you for your trust and support over these many years. Do not shed any tears over Annex’s transitioning. It has been a great ride and a privilege to share some of it with you.

CLICK HERE or on the image below to visit the ORIGINAL ANNEX WEB SITE

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For Posterity: Annex in 1978

1978_2 ANNEX_78 (Annex at its first business show)

ADIOS!

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Magical Rainbow

PS: Except for that brief misting around 8 AM, the rest of the day was sunny and dry. In fact, the seasonal Namaka Creek, which runs through the bottom of the Rainbow Shower (name of our property) gulch, dried up for the first time this morning. Which is why I was running the sprinklers down there at the time the magical Annex farewell rainbow showed up.  And I don’t think it lasted more than two minutes. Just enough time for me to FEEL (!) it was coming, grab the camera, and run to the lanai from where to take the picture.

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Here’s now the first of the two videos about our Annex Farewell Ceremonies….

Waimoku Falls header

FAREWELL TO ANNEX (1):  Trek to Waimoku Falls – Water/Earth Ceremony 

(a VIDEO story at YinYangBob.com web site)

Elizabeth and I went on a four-mile pilgrimage June 29, 2014 to the majestic 400-foot Waimoku Falls (Maui, Hawaii). That’s where we did a Water and Earth farewell ceremony. It was a very hot and humid day. My shirt and jeans were soaked in sweat as if I had taken a swim in the ocean.

http://wp.me/p3R16m-11o

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FAREWELL TO ANNEX (2): MAGICAL HALEAKALA SUNSET CEREMONY

Sunsets don’t get better than that.  The Annex Farewell sunset the Spirit laid on for us last evening was nothing short of magical. We have now lived in Maui for over five years, but this was the first time the weather at the top of this volcano was clear enough for us to experience a real sunset. And what an experience it was!

For those of you who may not be aware, Haleakala in Hawaiian means “Home of the Sun.” This volcano is the Heart Chakra of planet Earth as well as her Fire (element) Vortex. So it was a perfect place for the final farewell to Annex (after having already done the Water/Earth Ceremony at Waimoku Falls the day before).

It was quite cold at that elevation (10,000 ft), especially as there a steady strong wind was blowing from the northeast. The wind precluded any acceptable sound quality of the live videos we made. But that’s where the studio editing comes in.

In time, I will edit and publish the videos of the ceremony Elizabeth and I did atop Haleakala (volcano) summit (elev. 10,o00 ft).  It included my playing “Amazing Grace” to Father Sun and the Spirit on my Hawaiian bamboo flute. And, at Elizabeth’s suggestion, we also toasted the Sun, the Spirit and all of you with a drink of “champagne” we brought from home (it was actually Martinelli’s sparkling cider bubbly).

So for now, these still shots of the ceremony taken from my videos will have to suffice…

Annex Research sunset moment 6-30-14

Annex Farewell Haleakala 1  Annex Farewell Haleakala 2

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IBM: “DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS”

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IBM: “DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS”

After more than 1,100 years, “death by a thousand cuts” was outlawed as form of capital punishment in imperial China in 1905. Yet the gruesome ritual still seems to be practiced on Wall Street today. The latest victim? Big Blue. One of Wall Street’s favorites for more than six decades, IBM seems to be now suffering a slow and tortuous “death by a thousand cuts.” Ironically, China is one of the prominent recent bleeding gashes.

Take a look at the above chart.  Each time the market has reacted to disappointing FACTS emanating from Big Blue, Wall Street tried to prop up its darling with a new infusion of blood.  Over time, however, that was not enough. The victim’s health kept deteriorating as FACTS prevailed over wishful thinking.

No surprise there. We said nearly two years ago that IBM was in trouble (see Big Blue Feet of Clay – analysis of IBM 1Q12 business results and 5-year forecast, Apr 2012). At the time, the stock was at $207.  Today, it is hovering around $181 after another deep cut inflicted by the 4Q13 results, released  after the markets closed yesterday.

After three consecutive quarters of disappointing results, now everybody can see that IBM has feet of clay, as we put it back in Apr 2012. Only worse.  Not only the IBM hardware is now shriveling up rapidly, but its once buoyant “growth markets” – China, Russia, India, Brazil… – are all shrinking.  “Growth markets” declining? A new IBM oxymoron.

And so what’s IBM’s remedy?  Same old, same old: Stock buybacks.  Can the company keep on shrinking the number of outstanding shares to keep up with its shrinking business? Maybe so for a while. But ultimately, both will lead to extinction. And Wall Street is finally waking up to this reality. IBM has been the worst-performing top IT stock in the last 6 months and the last two years (see the charts below).

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IBM: “Rare Type of Organism That Eats Itself Alive” (Wall Street Journal)

“There is a rare type of organism that eats itself alive,” Dennis Berman, a Wall Street Journal columnist, noted in the Journal’s yesterday’s edition (1-21-14). “One of them is International Business Machines Corp.” [IBM -3.28%]

Berman goes on to explain something we have been critically writing about for the last 17 years  – that stock buybacks are a sign of corporate weakness, not strength.

“For the past 20 years, IBM has been an avid, methodical buyer of its own stock. In 1993, it had 2.3 billion shares outstanding,” the WSJ notes. “Today it has 1.1 billion, shrinking at more than 1% per quarter over the past few years. At that pace, there will be no more publicly traded IBM shares left by 2034.”

So IBM seems to be pursuing a road to extinction.

Well known Wall Street investor Jim Chanos is starting to worry about just this problem. He is coming around to the idea that buybacks are a sign of corporate weakness, not strength, the WSJ reports.

Which is what we have been saying for the last 17 years.  At the IBM 1997 Annual Meeting, this writer questioned the then IBM CEO about the wisdom of this strategy.

IBM Titanic June 1983 ACR TIME

“As I stand here before you, I am reminded of the question I asked of one of your predecessors, John Opel, at the Boston Annual Meeting in 1983,” this writer told Gerstner in Dallas, TX on Apr 29, 1997 .  ‘Why are you mortgaging IBM’s future?’

“I never thought I’d have to ask the same question again.  But here we are, and I do… So Lou Vincent Gerstner – ‘why are you mortgaging IBM’s future?'”

[see Stock Buybacks Questioned (IBM 1997 Annual Meeting, Apr 1997)“Corporate Cabbage Patch Dolls” (Nov 1998), Analysis of stock buyback bubble (May 23, 2007)].

And here we are for the third time in 30 years, having to ask the same question. Why is IBM mortgaging its future?

Because its management lacks both imagination and courage to do anything else except engage in “financial engineering.”

Back in the 1980s, such a lack of vision by John Akers and his predecessors (Opel, Cary) almost ran Big Blue into the ground. In the early 2000s, Gerstner left the company on a similarly perilous course.

It was Sam Palmisano focus on quality over quantity to manage to reverse the trend. For a while. Because even Palmisano lacked the courage for a more radical restructuring. Like breaking up Big Blue into smaller pieces, and pursuing aggressively NEW markets (beyond the corporate dinosaurs, IBM’s favorite customers). Both of them were recommendations this writer made in 1996, and again in 2006 (see Break Up IBM! (Mar. 20, 1996) and Analysis of IBM “state of the union” (Nov 10, 2006)).

No dice. “Big Blue Feet of Clay” remained stuck in place and in its old ways. And now, we are seeing the consequences. Double digit declines in hardware and once “emerging markets.”  Shrinkage even of its biggest services business. Dim outlook. A “death by a thousand cuts.” 

It is sad to see this once proud and mighty company come to this. But IBM is suffering a fate of its own making: Extinction. It’s just a matter of time. Which is the ultimate destiny of all empires. So the universe is unfolding as it should. 

Farewell

By the way, lest I may be accused of writing more “I told you so” pieces, this will be my final commentary on IBM. Forty four years. Not a bad roller-coaster ride with Big Blue.  Thank you, IBM.  And farewell.

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IBM DROPS LIKE A ROCK

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One day after reporting disappointing third quarter results, the IBM stock dropped like a rock. As we write this, it is down nearly 13 points. Which means that more than $11 billion of the company’s value has been wiped out literally overnight.  And not just IBM’s. We said that the Big Blue rip tide would likely drag down today some of its other fellow-dinosaurs in the Dow Industrials index.  Which is down 55 points right now despite the good news of the day – the reopening of the US government – countering the IBM disappointment.

In fact, this drop makes IBM Dow’s Worst Stock Year to Date.

No surprise there (see “IBM on Top: What Can We Expect?).  IBM rose on hot Wall Street air. It got deflated when the reality of the third quarter results punctured the balloon of lofty expectations.

So Wall Street has only itself to blame.  For, it refused to accept the reality of IBM’s slow-no growth business model (see Big Blue Feet of Clay).  Over and over again.  Until now. This writer’s empathy only goes to the gullible small investors who followed the bankers’ advice.

So it goes… greed begets trouble in the end.