PC & chip sales decline in U.S. for first time in 10 years as mobile spreads

from Marketplace….

“We have one desktop and everything else is pretty small and mobile,” John said. <who owns a family business>.

He adds that his family is online a lot, but his wife surfs the web on an iPad. And his kids?

“The kids, they don’t have their own computers but they’ve inherited our old iPhones and they work fine in terms of getting onto the Internet,” he said.

The shift to mobile computing on tablets and smartphones is hitting the sales of computers and chips in the U.S., with the first significant decline in both since 2002. The worldwide economic conditions do not help.  HP, Acer, Dell, Intel and AMD have suffered.  These companies must focus now on developing markets in international territories, where there is market share to gain.

For the full report ~


Crowdfunding – an introduction

I made my first contribution to an off-Broadway stage play in development recently, on Kickstarter.  It was fun to support my colleague in his efforts, and in fact, he raised his goal within his time limit, which was even more exciting.

Crowdfunding is a means of raising capital via Internet outreach from many people (friends, family, fans and strangers) in various amounts, to reach a stated goal that those people would like to support.  The various crowdfunding platforms (The Economist reports more than 450 worldwide at this time) employ different models — some offer rewards like preview tickets or other promotional gifts, some offer inclusion in their community, while others offer a profit motive.

Crowdfunding has been around in various forms (1997 for a British music group, 2001 for an American music website — see Wikipedia on this), gaining steam beginning in 2008 and well-implemented now in 2012 using varying business models.

Crowdfunding funds artists, musicians, filmmakers, theater projects, journalists & bloggers, intellectual property of all sorts, startup companies (particularly tech), charitable organizations, and micro-financing ventures, among other examples.  Contributions and investments range from small amounts to thousands of dollars.

In April of this year (2012), President Obama signed the JOBS Act into law (“Jumpstart our Business Startup Act”), with bi-partisan support.  The Act is now under consideration by the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) on details of its implementation.  Supporters applaud its flexibility and its reach in supporting new ventures, while detractors worry about how to protect the unsophisticated (“unaccredited”) investor, and, more telling, how the Act will disrupt the regulations now in place for certain audit and reporting requirements when taking a company public.  See Wikipedia for an overview; see the Library of Congress for the text of the Act.

In this first introduction, I just want to share some resources for your exploration:

Of course this just the beginning of a new approach to funding. It will engender debate and regulation and both good and bad effects.  But we are experimenting with whole countries and worldwide populations to see what we can create with our new tools.

The excitement comes from watching the emergence of the new models of business, collaboration and life-choices enabled by our newest technologies, which change the world and our lives in new ways we never dreamed of before.  Here’s one more, one close to my heart.

Offshoring, the new economics and the American middle class – a detailed look at Apple & Asia in the New York Times

Earlier this week, on Monday, I was out to dinner with friends at one of our local Santa Monica hang-outs, a rather funky neighborhood place with good food and lots of room, and quiet.

At 7:30, in an orderly assembly, 45 Asian teenagers arrived and filled the big booths with 6 kids each, both boys and girls.  Half the large restaurant was filled with these charming kids, about 14 years old.  Their leader was a dapper Asian gentleman around 50, who quietly (nearly silently) directed them to arrange themselves in their booths, and then left them to join 3 other adults at a separate table.  The kids ordered, ate, talked among themselves.  The adults had their dinner and did not interfere with them even once.

And the restaurant was as quiet as if they were not there.  The kids had a good time and enjoyed their food.  This was clearly a celebratory outing for them all.  I realized it was the Chinese New Year (Monday, January 23rd, 2012), the first evening of the year of the dragon, and that was the celebration.

And they in no way disturbed any of the other folks in the restaurant.  No acting out, no food fights, no discipline of any kind was required.  Upon our finishing our meal and leaving, my husband approached the leader, bowed slightly and complimented him on the exemplary behavior of his young charges.  The man was delighted, came over to the other 3 of us, bowed and shook our hands, beaming and saying thank you.

Now, I tell you this story because that morning I had read, online at the New York Times, about the economics of off-shoring manufacturing and logistics in Asia, by Apple and most other consumer electronics companies.  This article seems, at first, to be an indictment against Apple and others, but in fact quite clearly explains the cost/benefit realities of the Asian vs. the American workforce — the flexibility, the speed, the low cost, and the results achieved by off-shoring, when it is well-managed by Apple or others… and the lack of appropriate skilled workers at the required levels and the lack of training for such jobs within the U.S. workforce.

I have built a company in China, so I have some experience about both its changing economy and the working life of the Chinese, as well as the challenges its government faces in feeding 1.3 billion citizens.  I have been an entrepreneur in the U.S. for 25 years, so I know something about building businesses here too.

This article filled me with both excitement about the global marketplace, and with some dread for the U.S. workforce (at least in the short term).  My optimism about our resilience and flexibility, and the opportunities seen at other end of this period of major change, remains undaunted.

It is a long article, and worth reading every word.  The world has indeed flattened, and the realities of that change begin with this information.


IdeaMensch’s 33 Entrepreneurs making the world better

I wanted to share IdeaMensch’s post profiling 33 entrepreneurs who have started businesses, initiatives, not-for-profits and projects that are focused on making the world a better place to live… for the recipients and for the givers.

Particularly interesting is the range of folks presented — from all countries, both genders, all ages, with a focus on not just technology (although most use the current technologies) but on support to local issues, foreign countries, animals and children.

An inspiring and welcome review.


Technology, Free Agency, Y2K, the Great Recession and today’s workforce

Long time comin’

The current state of the US workforce has not only been changed in the last three years, since the beginning of the Great Recession.  These changes had been coming for 30 years, beginning with the arrival of the first personal computer in 1981.

When the PC arrived on the scene, the beginning of the shift from repetitive labor to machine labor began in earnest.  Remember Steve Jobs’ first line about Apple in 1981?  He called his new machine “the computer for the rest of us.”  That shift to computing for the rest of us, as it evolved over time, has changed all the ways that we work, communicate and conduct our commerce.



Moving ahead nearly 20 years, from 1981 to 1998, we had a little-remembered experience called Y2K.  This was a worldwide alarm that the large computers that ran the business of the world would suffer from a significant glitch, and possibly a breakdown, as we moved into the year 2000. Inside computers, data for dates for the year were at that time set in two digits (xx and not 19xx) and we were moving from 1998 and1999 towards 2000. The Y2K crisis was averted, not because the threat wasn’t real, but because techies the world over were mobilized for the fix.

What was significant about this?  This successful fix brought to the world’s attention the existence of a competent talent pool for technology in countries outside of the U.S. and Europe.  This was the beginning of outsourcing and offshoring, which today, more than 10 years later, has significant impact on the economies of many countries, particularly the U.S.


The rise of the Internet, the Information Worker, and Free Agency

Around that time (at the turn of the century), we saw the rapid adoption of the Internet and the industries that sprang from that platform, which in fact began in the mid-1990’s and continues to this day, 2011.  This ubiquitous adoption of technology has changed our ways of communicating and purchasing and working.

During the same time, we were seeing American industry shift away from Manufacturing (which was more and more produced by machines and offshore workers) to the Information and Services industries.  There was much talk about entering the Information Age and needing to become “information workers.”

Also in the mid-1990’s we saw the rise of Free Agency in European sports, which moved quickly to the U.S., and from sports to the American workforce.   This notion of workers (particularly Information Workers) functioning as Free Agents eroded America’s long-held ideas about job security.  And that eroded any notion of job loyalty.  Generational shifts contributed to this movement.


Economic upheavals too

As we moved forward towards 2008, the industrialized world created its Great Recession (after enduring the dot.com bust in 2000 and the post 9/11/01 downturn).  These economic upheavals combined with our competing global market to create great pressure on organizations and the workforce to drive increased productivity and lowered costs.  This productivity would be found by machine, by offshoring, and by putting pressure on the existing workforce to produce more for less, to work longer hours for the same (or lower) pay, and using fewer workers to support these efforts.

If we look beyond the greed of bankers, the incompetence of politicians, and the other places where we might point our fingers, we can see that the current state of the U.S. workforce has been long in coming.


Tactics to consider for the future

It helps to look the larger picture when assessing the condition of the U.S. labor force, and our own personal positions in our careers.

There are some steps that we can take to meet the demands of the current workforce, and protect ourselves against future changes.

  •  Educate yourself about the changes that are predicted by economists and labor watchers.
  •  Adapt your skills and offerings to meet these changes.
  • Control your personal finances and avoiding debt.

If just starting out in your career and finding it difficult to get work but easier to train or educate yourself, then train in three separate industries to a basic competence.  This will allow you to change fields as the world changes and the markets shift.  Look to fields where economics and demographics indicate there will be a demand for your training (e.g., nursing or medicine rather than history, business rather than philosophy, or technology/computer skills rather than the arts, and so on).

If you are a service provider or a consultant, adapt your offerings and your pricing to meet the paying threshold available from your client base in this new economy.  Find a way to offer your services in a way they can be consumed with ease.  This does not mean lowering your prices, so much as repackaging your services and the way you exchange value.

If you are a product company, determine the surest way to reduce your cost of goods and to expand your markets.

If you are a technology company, build as much technology as possible with products available “off the shelf,” or “off the internet” before you accept any outside capital.  Also, use the Internet skillfully to reach your audience (and distribute to them) in the least expensive way possible.

Personally and professionally, live within your means, and avoid debt except for an investment in your new skills training, or in meeting the growth demands of your business.  Become savvy in the best ways to manage your finances and lower any debt you consider.

It is important to be sensitive to how the world is changing, and to fit your life experience, talents and work opportunities to the changes that will continue on from today into the future.