Operator No. 9: April 23, 2001

There's nothing like tax time to get investors to face the fact that the whole dot-com phenomenon was one big pyramid scheme.

Its All Yours

Theres nothing like tax time to get investors to face the fact that the whole dot-com phenomenon was one big pyramid scheme. But just when you thought things couldnt get worse, along comes Kozmo.com. The home delivery service shut down two weeks ago, after reportedly burning through $280 million in cash. But, five days after shutting down its server, DVD and video rental customers found a message on the site saying, "All past-due rentals will accrue late fees" and "Any rental item you do not return by April 16, 2001, will be deemed a purchase and your credit card will be charged the full retail value of the item." Dont bother calling Kozmo customer service. The recorded message says if you have a dispute over charge-card fees, "call your credit-card company and dispute the charge with them."

Set! Connect!

TCP/IP!! Hike! Hike! The 2001 National Football League Draft kicked off this weekend, and the folks at television network ESPN added a new twist. For the first time, broadcasters can link up with team "war rooms" from 27 of the 32 NFL squads across the U.S. via broadband video, with technology supplied by Polycom. In previous drafts, ESPN was only able to connect with six or seven teams, incurring expensive satellite licensing fees. The XFL — tactful organization that it is — plans to use the technology so fans can check out cheerleader locker rooms before and after the games. And that explains why I pass on football and tune in to billiards instead.

With My Naked Eye

Equality is coming to Naked Broadcasting Network. Naked News, the wildly popular Web site at www.nakednews.com that features female newscasters delivering the headlines while shedding their clothes, says it will soon add its first male newscaster. Naked, based in Toronto, says it interviewed more than 200 applicants for the job, and has selected Lucas Tyler, a 33-year-old former investment adviser. You see just how bad the tech stock carnage has been. A Naked News spokeswoman says Tyler was selected not necessarily for his journalistic abilities, but because he has that certain "je ne sais quoi" about him. No comment.

Wireless Web Wanderings a Wipeout

A March survey by venture capital firm ComVentures found that most tech executives are not using their wireless devices — personal digital assistants and cell phones — to browse the Web or retrieve e-mail. Instead, theyre using their cell phones to place phone calls — a shocker! — and their PDAs to retrieve calendar and address information. "While many communications executives are pushing the idea of accessing the World Wide Web wirelessly, the reality is that it is too slow, and even the execs that promote it dont do it," notes Michael Rolnick, a partner at ComVentures, which invests in communications companies. "Accessing the Internet on a cell phone is like trying to pound a nail in with a screwdriver. You can do it, but it is slow and painful."

Phat City

Commerce One knows whats "phat." Phat butterfly, that is. "Phat butterfly" was the code-name for its deal to buy Exterprise, before it went public, according to Kevin Schick, vice president of marketing at Commerce One. Its a reference to the "fat butterfly" model of exchanges, in which big wings of buyers and sellers come together at a central point, where everything turns to green — the color of money. The way the business-to-business industry has played out, the body has been too fat and the wings too thin for almost any exchange to get off the ground. Commerce One officials feel they got what they wanted — a phat honey to make Commerce Ones software crib nice and homey for new business. Time will tell. By the way, the life expectancy of an adult winged butterfly — for most species — is a week or two.

Blue Skies Ahead?

Chalk it up to the rumor that wont die: IBM is again said to be stalking Informix, talk that keeps the database companys stock moving. In case youre wondering, Informix was trading at roughly $7 per share last week — up from $5 per share April 3.

0 9 4

Number of days — as of April 23 — that President George W. Bush has been in office and without a technology adviser.


Theres one good thing about Covisints new CEO, Kevin English. The new head of the auto industry exchange is a car lover. At his debut press conference, English revealed he owns six cars, including two Saabs for his kids, a Mercedes-Benz wagon used by his wife and a Porsche 911, which he drives. The family also has a couple "German vintage" antiques, he said. Covisint should hope they arent just old Volkswagen Bugs.

Pass the Paxil

Just in time: The Food and Drug Administration last week approved Paxil, an antidepressant produced by GlaxoSmithKline, for treating general anxiety disorder. That may be very good news over at Cisco Systems, whose sales for the quarter ending April 30 are expected to be about $4.75 billion — 30 percent lower than the previous three months. I wonder what Cisco CEO John Chambers, who likened the revenue drop-off to a "100-year flood," is doing to drown his miseries.

No Place Like @Home

Back in May 1999, before the Internet was a grim place to dwell, @Home Network merged with Excite in a deal initially valued at $6.7 billion. Now, [email protected], which calls itself the leader in broadband, is considering selling any media operation that doesnt directly support the big-pipes strategy. In the crosshairs are e-card site Blue Mountain Arts; MatchLogic, which provides marketing services; and photo site Webshots. One more may go as well: Excite. "Its too soon to say which assets in particular we are potentially going to divest," [email protected] representative Alison Bowman said. "Theres no acquisition looming, but weve told the Street, based on our near-term funding requirements, [divesting assets] is something were planning on doing."

Sorry, We Have No Lattes

Its not just dot-com customers who are feeling the pinch. On top of falling profits, dropping stock prices and mounting layoffs, customer schmooze-fests are getting axed by traditional computer companies concerned over the declining economy. Computer makers Dell Computer and Compaq Computer have both canceled their major customer conferences this year. Dell pulled the plug on its third annual DirectConnect conference, and rival PC maker Compaq said it was pushing back the Innovate Forum, held every two years in Houston, until next year. Guess Ill just have to make do with last years T-shirts.