Operator No. 9: May 7, 2001

During a news conference at company headquarters last week, Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs, dressed in his trademark black turtleneck and jeans, said he wasn't going to take any jabs at Dell Computer head Michael Dell, who's been saying some unfavorable th

Black and Blue

During a news conference at company headquarters last week, Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs, dressed in his trademark black turtleneck and jeans, said he wasnt going to take any jabs at Dell Computer head Michael Dell, whos been saying some unfavorable things about Apple lately. But when Jobs introduced the companys newest iBook notebook computer for consumers, he couldnt resist making comparisons between the new all-white, 4.9-pound, 1.3-inch-thick iBook and Dells consumer notebook -- a black-cased machine that weighs in at more than 5 pounds. "I dont think it could be more black and white," Jobs said, holding up both machines to highlight how much more bulky, chunky, clunky and less thoughtfully designed the Dell offering is. Needless to say, Jobs unjab drew a round of laughs. Apple fans will no doubt hope its Jobs who has the last laugh where it counts -- in the marketplace.

1 7 5 5 4

The number of dot-com jobs cut in April, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Thats way up from the 9,533 jobs cut in March. FYI, there were only 327 dot-com jobs cut in April 2000.

Knight Time

Knight Trading Group may be on the trading block again. Knight processes more online trades than anyone else -- it handles trades for almost all the online trading firms and is a major market maker in Nasdaq equities. If you buy a stock on, say, Charles Schwab & Co.s or E*Trade Groups Web site, chances are Knight will actually handle the transaction. Citigroup and HSBC Holdings, the big bank, are said to be bidders this time. Last November, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. were touted as likely acquisitors. Market makers such as Knight are highly profitable businesses, and give brokerages insight into where markets are headed. The Goldman Sachs Group and Merrill Lynch & Co. snapped up other leading market Spear, Leeds & Kellogg and Herzog Heine Geduld, respectively, a year ago.

Browser Boom

"What if" speculation is usually the stuff of movies and preening PowerPoint presentations, but I couldnt resist the ruminations of WebSideStory. The Web research firm figured out what the browser market would look like if AOL Time Warner ditched Microsofts Internet Explorer as the default browser for its online service and instead made Netscape Communications Navigator, which America Online owns, the default browser for its 29 million users. Rumors that AOL is testing software that lets AOL and CompuServe Interactive Services support multiple browsers -- instead of IE exclusively -- are what prompted the study, WebSideStory says. Navigator, which once commanded 90-plus percent market share in the days before Microsoft pumped up distribution and development efforts on its free browser, would gain 6 percentage points, bringing its worldwide market share to 20 percent if AOL made the switch. IEs share would fall to 80 percent. "Microsoft, of course, would still control a vast majority of the browser usage market worldwide," says Geoff Johnston, vice president of product marketing at WebSideStorys StatMarket research group. "Still, this is an intriguing development that may give hope to Netscape fans."

1 0 8

The number of days -- as of May 7 -- that President George W. Bush has been in office and without a technology adviser.

Shields Up

Apple Computers new all-white iBook, it should be noted, takes some cues from the companys PowerBook G4, a titanium-clad beauty thats made of the same stuff as spy planes, Steve Jobs observed at the PowerBooks January introduction. The new iBook, meanwhile, is made of a polycarbonated plastic for durability -- the same stuff, Jobs said last week, used to make bulletproof vests. Yes, but can the iBook stop a speeding bullet Bet you wont see that in the computer magazine product reviews.

PowerPoint Economics

Benjamin Chen, chairman and chief technology officer at AppGenesys, characterized an economic era when he explained how his company, with $50 million in venture capital, launched their Internet Infrastructure Management Platform last December. Its a somewhat complicated concept, but AppGenesys offers a virtual test facility, allowing companies to test their applications before distributing them to Web sites around the world. By pretesting, they can figure out where their applications might fail. And when they want to update a site, they can download a certified and tested copy of their environment with the upgraded application. Chen did the same thing as CTO at iXL, which pulled in contracts from Delta Air Lines, General Electric and The Virgin Group worth $50 million, $100 million and $200 million, respectively. But knowing what youre doing is no guarantee of success. "Its been hard to compete with the PowerPoint presentations," Chen said. It was the explanation Ive been waiting to hear. I nodded my head in sympathy; weve all just lived through a business expansion and stock market fueled mainly by PowerPoint presentations.

Dells Dilemma

Actually, Michael Dell may have more to worry about than what Steve Jobs is saying about his company. Dell Computer shares took a little dip last week after analysts speculated that the computer maker, which cut 1,700 jobs in February, may be gearing up for another 3,000 layoffs. Analysts at BancBoston Robertson Stephens and U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray told their investors the layoffs might be a necessary step for Dell to meet its earnings expectations, given the second quarter will most likely be the weakest of the year for PC makers. For its part, Dell said last month that it doesnt expect to make any additional cuts. Promises, promises.


Ariba Live 2001 in Las Vegas last week started not with a bang, but with loud electronic tones chiming through hotel guests rooms at 6:25 a.m., about half an hour before registration started downstairs. It was a false alarm, but one theory has it that someone at Ariba set off the early bells to roust groggy conventioneers and get them to the conference on time. Ariba sure made plenty of announcements to ensure that attendees knew what speech was starting next. Actually, brand new CEO Larry Muellers second talk of the first day was delayed about 20 minutes while attendees were verbally prodded off the showroom floor and into the main ballroom. Im wondering who really needed the wake-up call . . .

Ive Been Mugged

If youre looking for something to spruce up your desktop -- real one, not the computer one -- send me a tip and Ill send you the all-new, fabulous Op. 9 mug, which is adorned with my lovely Op. 9 logo -- the one of me in the hat. Great for coffee, water or storing M&Ms, as my personal testing has shown. You wont find this mug sold in any stores; limited quantity available. Ive got to use your tip for you to get the mug, so send now and send often to [email protected]