Apple’s position solidified by launching new iPod

http://www.chinaview.cn 2005-02-24 08:41:58
BEIJING, Feb. 24 (Xinhuanet)

Apple Computer Inc. unveiled its new generation of mini iPods on Wednesday, cutting the price of the current “iPod mini” model.

Apple Computer Inc. released new versions of its popular iPod digital music player Wednesday, cutting prices and expanding memory capacities.

The new four-gigabyte mini iPod is priced at 199 dollars while the six-gigabyte player, with 50 percent more storage, comes with a 249 dollar price-tag.

The battery life of the second-generation mini models has also been improved. The playback time on a single charge is now 18 hours, up from 8 hours of previous models.

“We’ve done very well, but we’re not resting on our laurels,” Joswiak said. “And we’re going to continue to be very aggressive in this market.”

“We believe some will view the changes in the iPod product line as negative,” said Piper Jaffray. “Specifically, we expect to hear arguments that Apple is taking a hit to margins in reaction to competitive threats. We believe that Apple’s changes to the product line are more offensive than defensive. Apple clearly holds the leadership position on this market and we believe these changes will widen the gap between Apple and potential competitors that are trying to chip away at iPod market share.”

Apple shares rose $2.94, or 3.5 percent, to close at $88.23 in Wednesday trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market. Enditem

(Agencies)

Mayoritas vs. minoritas

Jalur Kereta Api

Sekelompok anak kecil sedang bermain di dekat dua jalur kereta api.

Jalur yg pertama adalah jalur aktif (masih sering dilewati KA), sementara jalur kedua sudah tidak aktif.

Hanya seorang anak yg bermain di jalur yg tidak aktif (tidak pernah lagi dilewati KA), sementara lainnya bermain di jalur KA yg masih aktif.

Tiba-tiba terlihat ada kereta api yg mendekat dgn kecepatan tinggi, dan kebetulan Anda berada di depan panel persimpangan yg mengatur arah KA tsb.

Apakah Anda akan memindahkan arah KA tsb ke jalur sdh tidak aktif dan menyelamatkan sebagian besar anak kecil yg sedang bermain ?

Namun hal ini berarti Anda mengorbankan seorang anak yang sedang bermain di jalur KA yg tidak aktif. Atau Anda akan membiarkan kereta tsb berada di jalur yg seharusnya?

Mari berhenti sejenak dan berpikir keputusan apa yang sebaiknya kita ambil ?

Pikirkan baik-baik jawaban anda…., dan setelah anda yakin dengan jawaban anda, baru anda teruskan membaca ke bawah.

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Sebagian besar orang akan memilih untuk memindahkan arah kereta dan hanya mengorbankan jiwa seorang anak. Anda mungkin memiliki pilihan yg sama karena dgn menyelamatkan sebagian besar anak dan hanya kehilangan seorang anak adalah sebuah keputusan yg rasional dan dpt disyahkan baik secara moral maupun emosional.

Namun sadarkah Anda bhw anak yg memilih untuk bermain di jalur KA yg sudah tidak aktif, berada di pihak yg benar karena telah memilih untuk bermain di tempat yg aman? Di samping itu, dia harus dikorbankan justru krn kecerobohan teman2nya yang bermain di tempat berbahaya.

Dilema semacam ini terjadi di sekitar kita setiap hari. Di kantor, di masyarakat, di dunia politik dan terutama dalam kehidupan demokrasi,pihak minoritas harus dikorbankan demi kepentingan mayoritas. Tidak peduli betapa bodoh dan cerobohnya pihak mayoritas tersebut.

Nyawa seorang anak yang memilih untuk tidak bermain bersama teman-temannya di jalur KA yang berbahaya telah dikesampingkan. Dan bahkan mungkin kita tidak akan menyesalkan kejadian tersebut.

Seorang teman yg men-forward cerita ini berpendapat bahwa dia tidak akan mengubah arah laju kereta karena dia percaya anak-anak yang bermain di jalur KA yang masih aktif sangat sadar bahwa jalur tersebut masih aktif.

Akibatnya mereka akan segera lari ketika mendengar suara kereta mendekat. Jika arah laju kereta diubah ke jalur yg tidak aktif maka seorang anak yg sedang bermain di jalur tsb pasti akan tewas, krn dia tidak pernah berpikir bhw kereta akan menuju jalur tsb.

Disamping itu,alasan sebuah jalur KA dinonaktifkan kemungkinan karena jalur tersebut sudah tidak aman. Bila arah laju kereta diubah ke jalur yang tidak aktif, maka kita telah membahayakan nyawa seluruh penumpang di dalam kereta.

Dan mungkin langkah yang telah ditempuh untuk menyelamatkan sekumpulan anak dengan mengorbankan seorang anak, akan mengorbankan lagi ratusan nyawa penumpang di kereta tersebut.

Kita harus sadar bahwa hidup ini penuh dengan keputusan sulit yg hrs dibuat. Dan mungkin kita tdk akan menyadari bhw sebuah keputusan yang cepat tdk selalu menjadi keputusan yg benar.

Satu lagi yang perlu diingat…. dalam masyarakat kita sekarang ini :

Sesuatu yang benar tidak selalu disukai dan sesuatu yang disukai tidak selalu benar……

HP "dibunuh" Carly Fiorina?

End of a hatchet woman

Hewlett-Packard’s ousted CEO Carly Fiorina destroyed a great company’s creative soul and trashed its business.

By Lawrence M. Fisher

Feb. 10, 2005 | Carleton S. Fiorina’s fall from grace was dramatic, as was most of her career. But don’t cry for Carly; her way of doing business remains ascendant, and has already triumphed over that quaint set of humanistic values known as “The HP Way.”

I well remember my first meeting with Carly, who from an early date seemed destined to be one of those first-name-only stars like Cher or Madonna. Months before Hewlett-Packard named her its chief executive, the company had invited me and John Markoff, my friend and colleague at the New York Times, to spend a day with the engineers at its legendary research labs. But midway through our morning in nerd nirvana, Carly paid us a “surprise” visit.

She was, of course, charming, well-coiffed and coutured, as nearly every article at the time would mention. And as I watched her perform, amid an awkward group of guys who really were wearing short-sleeved sta-press shirts with pocket protectors, I realized I was seeing the new and old faces of Silicon Valley, up close and personal.

On one side of the hall were these unassuming but enormously bright individuals who came to work each day on Page Mill Road, in Palo Alto, Calif., not to make a killing in high tech, but for the sheer joy of inventing cool things. On the other was the perfect pitch person, singing Wall Street’s tune absolutely in key.

From early in her six-year reign, Carly’s mendacity was breathtaking, as she methodically eviscerated HP of everything the company once stood for. Is that too harsh? Recall the “invent” campaign, launched soon after she joined, where she plastered billboards and ads with the image of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard’s sainted Palo Alto garage, even as she was slashing the company’s research budget and laying off scores of real-life inventors. After all, tinkering with the outer reaches of particle physics may be cool, but it’s hardly a bottom-line contributor, not this quarter anyway.

At the same time, the truly inventive side of Hewlett-Packard, as well as its historical heritage, was being spun off as a separate company, now known as Agilent. To be fair, HP’s board initiated this thrilling bit of stupidity before hiring Carly, but she had plenty of time to stop it and did not.

HP’s test and measurement instruments, direct descendants of the audio oscillators that launched the company in 1939, were and are considered the best that money can buy. Despite increasing global competition, these products command a premium price and maintain high profit margins because they are simply higher performing, better built and more innovative than the offerings of other companies. They are, in a word, “differentiated.”

Yet Carly and the HP board chose to dump this profitable business to concentrate on commodity products like printers and PCs. Why? The answer at the time was that securities analysts accustomed to following straightforward companies such as Dell Computer really couldn’t understand a complex business like test and measurement. And, to be sure, Wall Street’s shills fell into lockstep, praising the divestiture as a brilliant strategic move that would, in that tired phrase, increase shareholder value.

As HP’s best and brightest headed for the doors, whether they jumped or were pushed, some of them were not shy about calling a reporter who had covered the company for many years. As I talked to these talented people from every level of the company, one interpretation of events emerged with remarkable consistency. Carly had no intention of sticking around Hewlett-Packard for very long, these folks said. Her real intent was to do a quick, Lee Iacocca-style turnaround, accompanied by the best autobiography money could buy, and in 2004 run for the U.S. Senate, against Barbara Boxer.

It seemed a little far-fetched, but soon the photo-op shots of Carly in the company of high-ranking Republicans began proliferating. Even as Carly’s script for HP ran into harsher realities, even as Boxer retained her seat, the story never really died. And in retrospect, it offers the only explanation that makes any sense at all of Carly’s biggest strategic move. I’m referring here to the acquisition of the Compaq Computer Corp.

Prior to launching that deal, Carly had said her intention was to pattern HP after Lou Gerstner’s version of IBM, which had successfully leveraged its low-margin hardware business to sell high-margin consulting services. To that end, she initially negotiated to acquire the consulting arm of PricewaterhouseCoopers, the global accounting firm. She punted at the last minute, and IBM ultimately acquired PwC’s jilted consultants at a substantial discount.

Undaunted, in 2002 Carly moved to acquire Compaq, which was bleeding market share to Dell and losing money at an even faster rate than HP’s PC business. Never mind that no big merger in the history of high tech had ever really worked; never mind that Compaq itself had already made two big acquisitions — Digital Equipment Corp. and Tandem Computer — that had failed to add any value; never mind that Dell rapidly seized on the inevitable uncertainty to take even more customers away from both HP and Compaq. Even the pointed opposition of founder’s son Walter Hewlett didn’t dissuade Carly and the HP board from this historic blunder.

At the time, I was on staff at a consulting firm that was retained by one of the family foundations to analyze the merger. In the process, we spoke with a number of people close to both companies and their remarks were stunning. “The collision of two garbage trucks,” was how one put it. “Doubling down on a dog,” was another take. Without naming the firm, or their specific recommendations, it was obvious to anyone who cared to look that Carly’s projections could only materialize if IBM, Dell and Sun Microsystems took a collective nap for the next five years, and every single one of her rosiest scenarios came true at once. Any resemblance to the Bush budget is entirely coincidental, I’m sure.

So why did she do it? For one reason: Wall Street loves big mergers. The investment banks collect immense fees for their roles as advisors, regardless of the ultimate soundness of the deal. And their securities analysts all write positive reports, which prompt a lot of rubes to buy shares, which generates a flood of trading commissions. Big mergers and acquisitions are almost always a net negative for the companies and communities involved, but a win-win for the bankers, lawyers and other deal makers.

A second reason is that it should have worked well enough for Carly to declare victory and move on to the political stage. Despite their dismal long-term success record, big mergers usually can “achieve synergies,” Wall Street-speak for massive layoffs, which reduce costs enough to show a big if fleeting bump in earnings per share.

There was a brief period where the credulous might have believed that this merger was working, thanks entirely to such redundancies eliminated and other corporate bloodletting. But it didn’t last, as Carol Loomis’ masterful article in last week’s Fortune magazine made all too clear. Loomis did the tough analytical work that the board should have done, published it for all to see, and in the end, HP’s recalcitrant directors had to act.

To those who will inevitably say that Carly has been singled out for harsh treatment because she is a woman, nonsense. Anne Mulcahy of Xerox, Meg Whitman of eBay and Carol Bartz of Autodesk, among others, have all shown that a Y chromosome is no prerequisite to performing the CEO’s role with quiet competetence. What these leaders share besides their gender is they don’t make promises they can’t possibly keep.

As the Fortune article makes clear, Carly’s numbers didn’t work because they couldn’t work, which is of course what folks like Walter Hewlett were saying three years ago. And so a once great company is a shadow of its former self, and Fiorina is out of a job. But don’t cry for Carly. Given her way with numbers, there’s surely a spot for her in the Bush administration. Secretary of the treasury, perhaps.

salon.com

Kolom Telematika: Tragedi Telkom Speedy

Kontributor: M. Salahuddien

detikcom – Jakarta, Akhir 2004, Internet Indonesia mendapat kado pahit berupa kekacauan billing layanan ADSL Speedy, salah satu layanan ISP terbesar di Indonesia, Divisi Multimedia PT Telkom Tbk. Pertengahan Januari 2005, layanan ini kembali bermasalah dan berakibat lumpuhnya layanan selama beberapa hari. Tidak ada penjelasan memadai dan pelanggan diabaikan haknya oleh Telkom.

Kualitas layanan adalah masalah mendasar ISP nasional. Divisi Multimedia PT. Telkom adalah ISP terbesar yang banyak dikeluhkan pelanggan. Telkom terkesan tidak punya rencana bisnis dan sumber daya yang layak untuk menyelenggarakan berbagai layanan Internet.

Telkom juga dikritik dalam hal perilaku bisnis, penyelenggaraan, kualitas layanan dan sumber daya manusia. Terutama terkait dua layanan utamanya, Telkomnet Instan yang sudah tersebar di 240 kota dan Telkom Speedy (ADSL) di dua kota besar, Jakarta dan Surabaya. Telkom arogan dan tidak fair pada mitra kerja maupun pelanggannya. Karena memonopoli infrastruktur domestik dari hulu ke hilir, Telkom mempersulit ISP lain mendapatkan jaringan. Telkom melakukan dumping tarif/biaya layanan serta transfer pricing tidak wajar yang menyulitkan ISP lain untuk bersaing sehat. ISP sulit mendapat E1 untuk RAS, karena Telkomnet Instan juga memakai fasilitas yang sama. Dumping dikamuflase diskon dan transfer pricing tak berlaku sama (unequal treatment) bagi ISP/operator lain. Telkomnet Instan bisa memberi diskon hingga 40% lebih sehingga tidak fair bagi ISP lain yang punya layanan sejenis.

ISP dikenakan tarif tidak menentu dan sulit memperoleh jaringan yang layak, meskipun hanya analog line yang masih banyak digunakan di luar pulau Jawa. Penolakan pada ISP tidak tercatat secara resmi, sehingga Komite Pengawas Persaingan Usaha (KPPU) sulit membuktikan secara hukum terjadinya praktik persaingan bisnis tidak sehat yang melanggar UU walau indikasinya kuat.

ADSL diproyeksi menggantikan akses dial up. ADSL menuntut infrastruktur jaringan yang lebih baik dari dial up. Jaringan itu hanya dimiliki Telkom. Telkom menjajaki bisnis ini dengan minimalisasi resiko, mengajak ISP lain menggelar layanan dengan pola kerjasama. Saat layanan tersebut cukup mapan, Telkom masuk dan memproteksi dengan praktik diskriminasi yang menghambat layanan sejenis dari ISP lain.

Dengan cara itu, Telkom Speedy dalam waktu singkat menguasai pangsa pasar di beberapa kota besar. Namun, penetrasi ini tidak disertai sistem dan SDM yang memadai untuk menjamin kualitasnya. Kekacauan billing, penghentian layanan mendadak yang merugikan pelanggan adalah salah satu buktinya. Bukti lain, Telkom tidak mampu menunjukkan akuntabilitas, misalnya dengan memberi kompensasi kepada pelanggan.

Telkom Speedy terus menimbulkan kontroversi. Salah satunya isu pemaksaan alat tertentu pada pelanggan dengan harga tidak wajar. Perangkat ADSL Telkom diketahui belum mendapat sertifikasi dari Ditjen Postel sesuai ketentuan UU. Ini merugikan pelanggan, karena tidak ada jaminan kualitas layanan dan perangkat.

Promosi tidak proporsional menyangkut biaya, kualitas dan kapasitas layanan juga terjadi. ISP lain juga melakukannya, namun sebagai ISP terbesar dan pemilik jaringan, Telkom harus mempelopori edukasi pasar, bukan justru ikut melakukan penyesatan. Akibat iklan tersebut, konsumen punya persepsi salah dan harapan berlebihan, layanan ini jauh lebih baik dari dial up. Secara etis ini menurunkan preferensi layanan dial up eksisting yang masih menjadi andalan pemasukan bagi ISP lain.

Layanan ADSL umumnya adalah sharing (berbagi pakai) dengan rasio kualitas dan kapasitas tidak jauh berbeda dengan dial up, terutama untuk pelanggan personal. ADSL memungkinkan akses broadband bila kapasitas portnya hingga backbone Internasional memadai. Namun di Indonesia harga bandwidth masih mahal untuk memenuhi kualitas broadband.

Layanan ADSL baru memungkinkan reduksi biaya untuk akses domestik, bukan Internasional. Kelebihan ADSL terhadap kondisi riil di Indonesia adalah pada fitur always on (24 jam) dan penggunaan telepon pada saat bersamaan.

Akses broadband ADSL mungkin dinikmati pada layanan berbasis kuota data transfer. Pelanggan mengontrol sendiri konsumsi data sampai batas kuota. Bila lebih, ada over limit. Namun, harga satuan layanan ini pun masih mahal, namun lebih murah dibandingkan layanan sejenis yang ditawarkan oleh selular, GPRS.

Layanan ini nampak fair karena pelanggan mengendalikan sendiri penggunaan Internetnya. Namun pelanggan akan sangat bergantung pada sistem billing ISP. Karena basis perhitungan yang diakui hanyalah billing sistem ISP (dalam hal ini Telkom), sedang usage meter maupun otentikasi di sisi pelanggan tidak diakui.

Kasus inilah yang meledak akhir 2004 lalu. Kekacauan sistem billing Telkom mengakibatkan pembengkakan fantastis tagihan pelanggan. Komplikasi masalah otentikasi, pelanggan juga mendapat tagihan terhadap akses tidak sah yang sebenarnya tidak dilakukannya.

Telkom tidak boleh membebankan kesalahan kepada pelanggan. Bila terjadi akses tidak sah, sistem Telkom harus mampu mencegah. Bukan sebaliknya pelanggan membuktikan sendiri keabsahan akses. Sebaliknya ketika billing Telkom salah, catatan pemakaian (usage meter) pelanggan tidak diakui. Ini adalah sikap ambivalen dan inkonsisten.

Sistem ADSL Telkom tidak bisa dipercaya, baik oleh pelanggan maupun oleh manajemen Telkom sendiri.

Kelemahan billing Telkom, tidak punya rincian detail transaksi terpisah untuk layanan Internet. Billing Telkomnet Instan dan Speedy digabung dengan tagihan Jastel lain atau dengan tagihan telepon. Kerancuan sering terjadi, pelanggan sulit melacak komponen biaya yang tercantum sehingga khawatir ada manipulasi. komponen biaya tersembunyi.

Di tubuh Telkom sendiri juga terdapat perbedaan kepentingan antara layanan Internet terpusat Divisi Multimedia dengan layanan Divisi Regional (Divre). Divre juga punya ISP melalui kerjasama operasional dengan swasta lain. Sehingga Divisi Multimedia harus bersaing pula dengan Divre.

Skema bisnis Divisi Multimedia tidak memberikan kontribusi layak bagi Divre. Sementara sumber dayanya milik Divre. Divre kehilangan potensi bisnis dengan vendor. Implementasi layanan Divisi Multimedia lambat, tidak responsif terhadap pasar di daerah. Divre mensikapi melalui bisnis terpisah Koperasi Karyawan bekerjasama dengan swasta lain yang difasilitasi penuh.

Friksi kepentingan internal potensial merugikan konsumen di daerah. Karena mereka memperebutkan sumber daya yang sama melalui arogansi kewenangan. Konsumen sulitan memilih layanan yang lebih terjamin karena sistem di daerah menjadi tidak jelas, berpihak pada siapa, Divre atau Divisi Multimedia.

Technical support pun banyak kelemahan. Pelanggan Internet Telkom, kesulitan mengajukan keluhan. Saling lempar tanggung jawab dan minimnya product knowledge SDM Telkom. Permasalahan umumnya diselesaikan sendiri oleh pelanggan melalui vendor atau bantuan komunitas.

Asosiasi Warnet Indonesia (AWARI), sebagai salah satu kelompok pengguna Telkom Speedy terbesar akhirnya mengeluarkan statement agar anggotanya tidak menggunakan layanan Telkom Speedy. Telkom Speedy memang salah satu alternatif layanan mengimbangi ISP lain, namun diragukan kualitas dan akuntabilitasnya.

Kita berharap Telkom Speedy berbenah. Bila ini tidak dilakukan maka Ditjen Postel perlu meninjau kembali perijinan dan melakukan Uji Laik Operasi (ULO) ulang. Bila memang tidak layak, Telkom Speedy harus dibekukan agar tidak merugikan konsumen.

Penulis Kolom Telematika ini adalah anggota Presidium Asosiasi Warnet Indonesia (AWARI) dan relawan Tim Air Putih (www.airputih.or.id)

(nks)

Bankruptcy just an illness away, research shows

Medical woes cause half of personal bankruptcies, and insurance is no protection, a Harvard study shows.

By Associated Press

Published February 2, 2005

BOSTON – Costly illnesses trigger about half of personal bankruptcies, and health insurance offers no protection against ending up penniless, according to findings from a Harvard University study to be released Wednesday.

Researchers from Harvard’s law and medical schools said the findings underscore the inadequacy of many private insurance plans that offer worst-case catastrophic coverage, but little financial security for less severe illnesses.

“Unless you’re Bill Gates, you’re just one serious illness away from bankruptcy,” said Dr. David Himmelstein, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of medicine. “Most of the medically bankrupt were average Americans who happened to get sick.”

The study, to be published online today by the journal Health Affairs, distributed questionnaires to 1,771 bankruptcy filers in 2001 in California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas. That year, 1.46-million personal bankruptcies were filed in the United States.

More than 900 of those questioned underwent more detailed interviews about their financial and medical circumstances for what the authors say is the first in-depth study of medical causes of personal bankruptcies, which have risen rapidly in recent years.

Illness and medical bills were cited as the cause, at least in part, for 46.2 percent of the personal bankruptcies in the study. Himmelstein said the figure rose to 54.5 percent when three factors were counted as medical-related triggers for bankruptcies: births, deaths and pathological gambling addiction.

The study estimates medical-caused bankruptcies affect about 2-million Americans each year, counting debtors and their dependents, including 700,000 children.

Most of those seeking court protection from creditors had health insurance, with more than three-quarters reporting they had coverage at the start of the illness that triggered bankruptcy.

The study said 38 percent lost coverage at least temporarily by the time they filed for bankruptcy, with illness frequently leading to the loss of a job and insurance.

Medical expenses covering copayments, deductibles and uncovered health services averaged $13,460 for bankruptcy filers who had private insurance at the onset of illness, compared with $10,893 for those without. Those who initially had private coverage but lost it during their illness faced the highest cost, an average of $18,005.

“We need to rethink health reform,” said Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a study co-author and associate professor of medicine at Harvard. “Covering the uninsured isn’t enough. We also must upgrade and guarantee continuous coverage for those who have insurance.”

Findings indicate medical-related bankruptcies hit middle-class families hard – 56 percent of filers owned a home, and the same number had attended college.

“Families with coverage faced unaffordable copayments, deductibles and bills for uncovered items like physical therapy, psychiatric care and prescription drugs,” Himmelstein said.

The study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, did not examine how many bankruptcy filers were from dual-income families where both partners had insurance, Himmelstein said.