Monitor Group, co-founded by Michael Porter, filed for bankruptcy a couple of months ago. That bankruptcy was somewhat puzzling. Like a few financial companies, ones that are expected to know how to manage assets, went bankrupt in 2008, Monitor Group preaching other businesses on strategy and competition, sadly struggled to manage its own strategy and lost to its competitors. While certainly other factors played their roles in Monitor Group bankruptcy, there is an obvious general question – why does division of labor fails here. How much should we trust a consulting company and believe the consulting company is competent enough? In my opinion, that largely depends on how much of moral hazard is involved. If that’s true, consulting as a form of business will become very tricky until consultants take more responsibility for their actions and consequences of those actions.
Today Deloitte has acquired Monitor Group. I hope Deloitte will make better decisions based on Porter’s framework, which I still believe is good, but not as sufficient to achieve success.
My news feed today was full of news about Apple’s WWDC. And it is no surprise. However, I am getting more and more concerned about Apple’s leadership. Reading Bloomberg, I felt that Apple is focused on Google rather than making existing and new customers happy. Users and developers are just a tool to beat Google. But it should have been clear for Apple executives that their customers fill Apple’s pockets for good products, not Google. I guess, Apple clearly belongs to the group of companies that work to try to charge more. I thought this is my opinion that might be wrong.
But later I read another article on Barron’s that appeared to be more disturbing to me. According to Barron’s, Tim Cook dropped this phrase of the day in front of a crowd of loyal Apple developers:
Only Apple could make such amazing hardware, software and services.
I guess, in Apple’s opinion, no one in the audience at WWDC (those who grow Apple’s ecosystem) is capable of making software better than Apple does. Unless they are employed by Apple. Let consumers decide what is amazing and what is not. Okay, this is about the insult. The injury (kind of)? Used MacBooks flooded the market. Yesterday’s treasure is today’s trash. I wonder how much an average Apple customer spends to get comparable functionality available on other platforms.
All above is my opinion as a user of Apple products.
I am having difficulty understanding the outrage against JPMorgan. Well, I understand the story and what media is trying to say. But that is not the whole story. More importantly, if any measures are taken and they are based on incomplete information lead to unintended results, ironically, similar to JPMorgan loss, again. That is, the “monster” replicates itself over and over again.
Let me clarify my point.
- JPMorgan made bad decisions.
- JPMorgan lost the money.
- Other parties made the money – no one bothers even to suggest who made the money. I do not even mention suggesting why other parties made a good decision. But it is clear, wealth does not disappear that easy.
- The government wants to introduce more regulation based on incomplete information. Sadly enough, that regulation would apply to those who make bad decisions and those who make good decisions, but would cost almost equally for many market participants.
- If regulation is based on incomplete information, it leads to unintended results.
- Like I already said, the situation repeats.
So I do not understand why it is okay for other investors to loose money and not okay for JPMorgan and why it is okay for JPMorgan to profit and not okay for other investors.
News about the Occupy Wall Street protests and their clones are still in the media and we will continue to hear them, but I think not for too long.
The Occupy Wall Street movement likens itself to the Arab Spring, calls that it represents 99% of all population of the United States. But like it or not, this is a big stretch. I believe that the movement will fail to deliver anything for a few reasons that distinguish it from the Arab Spring.
- Demographics. For some reason, the media does not talk about this much, but I believe this is the primary reason. If you look at the median age of the population where protests took place, you will see that it mainly varies from 18 to 32 years. That is a half of the population is younger than 18-32 years old. As people get older they are getting wiser and tend to play safe.
- Wealth. Obviously, youth does not have much to loose. Especially in poor countries in the Middle East and North Africa. In the United States the median age is above 36 years. Now, take into account the number of baby-boomers in spite of all recessions and financial crises accumulated enough money to be concerned about any calamity that could evaporate all their retirement savings. If you subtract baby-boomers (and children, of course), it is roughly 50% (around 140 million people of age 18 – 50 out of a bit over 300 million people of the entire population). So 99% is an overstatement.
- Goals. Protesters in the Arab Spring countries had a clear goal. The Occupy Wall Street movement does not have a clear goal. Anger is justified, but misdirected. Any meaningful discussions about goals would break up the movement.
- Climate. The winter is around the corner. Obviously, it is colder than to the South and East of the Mediterranean Sea and it will not get warmer for a few more months.
In essence, this is mostly about getting enough support to gain a critical mass.
The situation can change rapidly if retirement savings do evaporate due to a political or economic gridlock.
There are some things that raise your eyebrows. If you hear news here and there and do not relate them, they are just news. But when you relate them, this is a different story. Like this one.
This summer-fall Apple was trying to convince the government to spend more on research and development projects saying that many great things came out of defense projects (I guess, they liked Siri). Let me say it this way. Apple asks the government to spend more money on research and development hoping to get some benefits. A few weeks later Apple, Google, and Cisco (yes, no fight there, full agreement) tries to press the government for a 1 trillion tax holiday (or roughly $3.3K per capita). What is wrong in this picture? The companies want to get benefits from the government spending on research and they do not want to pay for this. Guess, who is going to pay for this? You, taxpayer.
How about spending your own money on research? Should I mention that Apple, if it were a hedge fund, would be the largest one? Apple has more money to spend than the US government. And this is a company (along with others though) that asks the government to spend on research and $1T tax holiday???
Disclaimer: I am not one of the Occupiers.
I was about to write about something else, but when I heard the news, the other topic became less important. Sad news. Borders is going out of business.
I was a frequent visitor of the Borders bookstore in downtown Boston. A very cozy store where I bought many books. I cannot imagine downtown without the Borders store.
Putting personal feelings aside, it is a sad story not only for Borders customers. It is sad for its competitors. Obviously, there will be a loss in revenues for Amazon and other online stores since many customers browse books in bookstores before going online and placing an order. In other words, online stores benefit from bookstores without actually spending a penny there.
Borders should have reinvented itself by mixing regular book sales with online store and e-book sales. May be Borders considered that and this model did not justify expenses.
But I think this is a form of the tragedy of the commons. Bookstores have a good impact on the society. Kids like to come to bookstores, explore books and play. This is how they learn. This is how they develop curiosity to knowledge. They cannot yet browse online books. They like to touch them, explore their different forms and shapes. There is no replacement for this.
One may argue that Barnes and Noble is still around. But loosing a competitor is bad for the consumer.
Borders will be missed and its disappearance will have a noticeable impact to the society, although, not attributed directly to Borders as it will take years to notice that impact. Sad.