JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 161 : 18 August 2004


Keeping an eye on technology futures.
Business commentary - no hidden agendas.
New attitudes, no platitudes.

Contents:
Click on any item to jump directly to that item

Tom Peters' Asian observations

Tom Peters was in Japan recently, and studied the local papers to recover from jet lag. He shares some of his findings in "Staying in Bed (in Tokyo)". Here are a few highlights from his reactions to what he read in Nikkei Weekly:
  • Japan depends far more on manufacturing than the U.S. or Europe, and is in a panic about keeping a grip on traditional bases of competitive advantage.
  • Low-price strategy is now outdated. Firms gaining more market share are fueled largely by the incorporation of design and unique functions into popular products.
Other Tom Peters' messages from the East include "China! China! China!", on the subject of China's expanding economic reach. Plus a glowing report on Bangalore, India-based Infosys Technologies.

Tom's sums up his excitement: "I feel like a kid in an idea candy store when I'm out of the country, particularly when I'm in Asia. So much going on! The planet is not just the U.S.A. and the Middle East!"

Click Tom Peters in Tokyo

Click Tom Peters on China

Click Tom Peters on Bangalore, India-based Infosys

Click Subscribe to Tom Peters Times

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Microsoft patents human skin as a network medium

It seems like a joke, but it isn't. Microsoft has actually been awarded a patent to use the human body as a computer network. US Patent 6,754,472 issued to Microsoft in June 2004 is for a "method and apparatus for transmitting power and data using the human body".

Today many carry a variety of portable electronic gadgets, each with its own keypad, speaker, display, processor and power supply. The idea behind the patent is to get rid of some of these items. If these gadgets were networked, they could, for example, have just one keypad for all devices. And that keypad might even be the body, perhaps the wrist or arm.

The patent reads, "The physical resistance offered by the human body can be used in implementing a keypad or other input device, as well as estimating distances between devices and device locations. With the present invention, by varying the distance on the skin between the contacts corresponding to different keys, different signal values can be generated representing different inputs." So, you can type on your skin.

Microsoft also suggests using the body to generate power for the network. A "kinetic power converter" in a person's shoe, or wristwatch, could produce electricity in the same way that a self-winding watch extracts energy from normal movements.

People who want to use so-called personal area network (PAN) today have to link their mobile phones, pagers, PDAs and other gadgets using infra-red or radio signals like Bluetooth. Microsoft's patent points out that these have limitations - they typically use a lot of power and are prone to interference from others operating on similar frequencies. Also, people may be able to hack into them or listen in. Microsoft claims that its "intrabody network" doesn't suffer from these problems, and provides a secure transfer data between personal devices.

Actually, Microsoft is not the pioneer in this technology. The MIT Media Lab and IBM jointly developed the idea of using the human body as a personal network nearly a decade ago. The first prototype PAN was demonstrated at Comdex in 1996, showing how two people could transmit business-cards to each other via a handshake. But, little has been done since then, since most people seem satisfied with Bluetooth PANs.

Click Microsoft patents human skin

Click Economist - The human body as a computer bus

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Invensys stops company access to weblogs

The JimPinto.com Invensys weblog regularly gets about 1,000 visits per day. This is clearly a webplace where Invensys employees seem to congregate to discuss the status and future of their company.

The Invensys weblog is NOT intended to be negative. Indeed, a LOT of negative comments are edited out, and many totally negative messages are NOT weblogged. I publish only those comments which are sufficiently rational and represent (in my own opinion) the true status of Invensys.

I have invited Invensys management (many times, up to the highest levels) to be positive, and give their own positive views about their company. Apart from a few exceptions, there has been no response.

Well, the JimPinto.com Invensys weblog has finally achieved the dubious distinction of having access stopped within Invensys. One weblog on Tuesday, August 10, 2004 complained:

    "Well, I guess it has come to the point in Foxboro when it's a fact of life what the people can and cannot read on their computer screens. We have been informed that 'certain web sites' are not welcome on the company computers because of the negativity. The company is going to have a site where employees may hear the 'truth' about Invensys."
Read the complete responses by concerned employees, plus one employee's direct challenge for CEO Rick Haythornthwaite to respond. Predictably, Haythornthwaite has not responded.

In the meantime, Invensys shareholders gave the board a rough ride at its annual meeting in London. The audience, largely individual shareholders (rather than representatives of institutions) were particularly vocal about the recent appointment of Ulf Henriksson to the new post of COO and the size of his pay packet. When he was recruited in April, Invensys paid Henriksson a "golden hello" worth more than 2m in cash plus shares. Shareholders raised the question of boardroom pay repeatedly, often provoking loud applause.

In spite of the recent BIG financing to reduce debt, Invensys stock has been dropping - it closed at 14.75p at the end of last week (June 13, 2004) with a market-cap of just 839m. On Monday, June 16 2004, Invensys announced that it has commenced a tender offer for a portion of outstanding 7-1/8% notes due 2007. Clearly it had nothing better to do with the money it recently raised. The stock ticked up just a bit in response this week, to 15.50p.

Click Stay tuned via the Invensys weblog

Click Invensys Announces Tender Offer for 71/8% Notes Due 2007

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Marketing & Sales tips - use FABs, not FUDs

Many people confuse Marketing with Marketing Communications, (usually called MARCOM) that is just part of the whole marketing function.

Marketing is the entire process of finding customers and filling their needs. It's important to have things that have been specifically requested by customers not just features that are cute, or nice.

Good marketers keep stressing the FABS features, advantages, benefits.

  • Features: Specifications, characteristics, size, shape, packaging, etc.
  • Advantages: Improvements over alternative ways of doing the same function.
  • Benefits: In consumer markets style and fashion may be benefits. But, in the business world there is only one central benefit saving money. That does not mean just product price. Benefits include features and advantages that save money over other ways of doing the same functions.
Good marketing recognizes that features and advantages that provide no benefits should not be included as "standard features". They might be included as options, at additional cost; let the customer decide whether it's an additional benefit.

Once the Marketing has been done, Sales comes into play approaching target customers and convincing them to buy the product over many other choices. Good Marketing is relatively useless without Sales drive.

Marketing may identify the type of customer Sales has to find the customer, demonstrate the products, overcome objections and book sales. And that's not easy a sale is not a sale till the customer is satisfied, pays the invoice and buys again.

Good Sales people use the FABS to sell. Not-so-good sales techniques include negative selling called FUDS:

  • Fear: Inserting false urgency e.g.: "Without this product, you'll be falling behind." "Buy now or you'll lose the discount"
  • Uncertainty: Bringing up FABS that are beyond the customers knowledge or understanding. Clouding the issues.
  • Doubt: Criticizing the competitor's FABS; giving the customer negative feelings about not buying.
Just a touch of FUDS may be in order, before losing a customer. It's fine to show product comparisons against competitive products, but it must be factual. Outright negative selling makes customers uncomfortable. Good sales people should clearly understand the difference.

If you enjoy reading this kind of business advice, you might wish to read my June 2004 article in AutomationTechies.com. It provides advice to engineers and founders of startup companies.

I'll be doing more in this series in the next months. Stay tuned...

Click AutomationTechies.com - Investing in Engineering Startups

Click Tomorrows Engineer - Leadership Lessons

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Presidential candidates' energy policies

In 2004, the two main presidential candidates have different policies on important energy issues. Sadly, the energy policies of both campaigns are shaped heavily by politics - particularly the local and regional interests of the battleground states considered close in the coming election.

At the risk of over-simplifying, here is a summary. I have not included any partisan comments:

Bush:

  • Answers to high oil prices: more supply, promote greater domestic-oil production by easing regulations and offer tax breaks.
  • Drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other hitherto off-limits areas.
  • Drill for natural gas in areas of the West, including under the Rocky Mountains.
  • Develop plans for a new generation of smaller and safer nuclear-power plants.
  • Lift the current reserve supply to 700 million barrels from 665.6 million barrels. Recently announced a new oil-exchange contract that would provide incentives to oil companies to continue filling the reservoir.
Kerry:
  • Answers to high oil prices: Push for reduced demand & alternative fuels.
  • 'Energy independence' is as important as health care and education, as pillars of the domestic-policy agenda.
  • Oppose drilling in wildlife and sensitive areas; instead, impose higher standards for auto makers.
  • Support current nuclear plants, which provide 20% of the nation's electricity, but oppose permanent storage of nuclear waste (which effectively blocks new nuclear plants.)
  • Federal mandate on utilities to produce 20% of their electricity from renewable resources by 2020, including solar, wind and geothermal sources. These produce only about 1% of electric supply today.
  • Address short-term price spikes by temporarily putting on hold plans to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
On many energy proposals, the candidates agree:
  • The need for clean-burning coal.
  • Federal mandate to require gasoline sellers to use an increasing percentage of fuel made from corn, soybeans and agricultural residues.
  • Incentives for hybrid vehicles and hydrogen fuel-cell-powered vehicles. Hydrogen can be made from coal, natural gas or electricity that comes from hydroelectric power, nuclear energy or other sources that don't require oil. Such measures would lower energy prices only in the long run.

Click WSJ: Candidates Pursue Divergent Energy Paths

Click Presidential Candidates Views On Energy

Click Read the latest commentary on American Energy Independence

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eFeedback

Paul Maurath [PRMaurath@netscape.net] points out that present-day hybrid vehicles are not based on the more advanced architecture I had suggested - totally electric drive, with the gasoline engine used primarily for charging the batteries.
    "I believe that your description of hybrids is incorrect, based on my understanding of both the Honda and Toyota systems.

    "In the Toyota system, while the electric motor drives the car by itself at low speeds, the gasoline engine does drive the wheels directly at higher speeds along with the electric motor. It doesn't just produce electricity. And there is only one electric motor in the car.

    "The Honda system differs in that at low speeds the gasoline engine continues to run and the electric motor provides 'boost' for acceleration and needed power. I'm sure you could check the websites of both companies to be sure. They have pretty good descriptions.

    "Now, I actually like your idea better. I recall reading about a hybrid of that type in Popular Mechanics several years ago. It used a small gas turbine engine, which could be tuned to run very efficiently at one speed. That engine only generated electricity for the electric motor(s) that actually drove the car. In that scenario as well, the car could be plugged in to the grid for charging overnight too.

    "Most of the time I don't drive over 50 miles a day and could use an all-electric car. But, on those days when I need to drive more, a hybrid like this would give me an on-board charging system which could dramatically extend my range. If someone could build one of these, I would buy it.

    "I think you should also mention limited availability of hybrids today. The wife of a co-worker of mine ordered a Toyota Prius last November and has not received it yet. I checked with the dealer this weekend and they said that the wait to buy a new Prius at this point is about one year. Who knows how long the line will be for the Ford SUV which they are hyping now. It is based on Toyota's technology.

    "I just checked with a local Ford dealer concerning the Escape Hybrid. Two weeks ago, I knew more than they did just by checking the web and through the promotional CD I received from Ford directly. This major Cincinnati Ford dealer told me they had been promised only 1 unit to sell this year, but they would be happy to put me on their list."

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Arthur Lipper [arthur@pobox.com] provided his own summary of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 documentary:
    "My wife and I went to see Fahrenheit 9/11, as did almost all of the audience, predisposed to agree and applaud. Those of our friends who believe in George W. Bush, and we have many, did not choose to go to see the film. Therefore, I believe the net result of the film will be increased political activity on the part of the anti-Bush attendees but almost no effect on the voting intentions of the attendees. People who go to churches tend to believe in God.

    "Of course, the most telling scene was that of the President remaining, transfixed, in the classroom reading to kids, after he had been informed of the World Trade Center attacks.

    "As has been said before, in a democracy the people get the government they deserve."

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Barbara Friedman [adfbbf@san.rr.com] commented on voting fraud:
    "As regards your comments about US election fraud, I'm sorry to say that it is a long held American tradition, and yes, computerized voting will make it much worse."

    "Throughout our history you have always had political machines that were going out to get out the vote. Look at Mayor Richard Daley in Chicago, or the history of other voting machines in big cities. Power was and is still fueled by patronage jobs although it is far less blatant than in the past. The idea was to have one of your own immigrant group (i.e. Irish etc.) be elected and then give out jobs."

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