Sunday, June 29, 2008

Gates and Ballmer

I was actually an employee at Microsoft the day that Bill Gates announced that he would be shifting to part-time at Microsoft to work full-time at his foundation: "Starting two years from now, I will shift, work full-time at the Foundation, part-time at Microsoft as Chairman and as a senior technical adviser." That was just over two years ago, June 15, 2006. I actually attended the employee "town hall meeting" at which Bill and Steve Ballmer discussed the announcement. That was certainly an interesting experience, both from a business and corporate culture perspective. I had only been an employee for exactly one month at that point. You can read the press release and the transcript of the the press conference. It was certainly a surprise and somewhat of a shock, but as an investor and a technologist the decision really didn't bother me much at all. I have always had mixed feelings about Bill's technical role and whether he really was as "essential" to the technical development of products as a lot of people imagined or whether his real brilliance was in how to look at markets and figure out the right angle of attack to enter and dominate those markets. Even then, his "brilliance" was not always as dazzling as one might hope, as we have seen with Microsoft's forays into online services and even Vista. On the other hand, I have always been deeply impressed by Steve Ballmer's dogged persistence, his "we just keep coming and coming and coming" attitude and competitive spirit that has in fact helped Microsoft  achieve a higher level of success than any other company might have done with similar technical capabilities. I attended a bunch of company events at which he spoke and never once came away with an impression other than that he was really sharp, really on top of the market and customer needs, and a really great corporate leader.

Although it may appear to be "bad" news that Bill will be "gone", the truth is that Bill will still be working part-time at Microsoft and, as the press release stated, "after July 2008 Gates would continue to serve as the company's chairman and an advisor on key development projects." That is a key distinction from this misguided view that Gates is "leaving" Microsoft and will no longer be helping to shape the technical and product directions of the company. Bill will still be participating in helping to shape "key development projects."

I have great faith in the technical and product abilities of Craig Mundie and Ray Ozzie. In fact, the truth is that neither of these two technical leaders really needs Bill at all. But the two of them plus Bill part-time is a very awesome technical leadership team.

I really do have great faith in Steve Ballmer's ability to run the business and oversee the overall marketing direction of the company. Sure, there have been some stumbles, notably with Vista and Yahoo, but the truth is that you can't be as big and successful as Microsoft without taking big risks, and the nature of big risks is that sometimes they do not work out as well as planned. A Microsoft without risk-taking would not be a Microsoft.

I wish Bill luck on his charitable ventures and remain confident that Microsoft is in good hands with Steve Ballmer, Craig Mundie, and Ray Ozzie. We can all look forward to a Microsoft that "keeps coming and coming and coming."

-- Jack Krupansky

Friday, June 20, 2008

Life vs. blogging

There is so much that I would like to blog about now that I have finally moved back to New York City, but I am too busy enjoying "The City", as well as trying to put in enough billable hours of work, to have much spare time for blogging. I still have a long list of loose ends to tie up after the move (e.g., address changes), and do not seem to have even a single extra "moment" in any day. I suppose I could blog about all of the things that are preventing me from blogging, but then I would fall even further behind. Right now I am off to walk around midtown Manhattan and Central Park.

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Picking an electricity supplier for New York City

This morning I signed up with Energetix to supply my electricity that is delivered by ConEdison here in New York City. Energetix is what is known as an Energy Service Company (ESCO). They buy electricity on the wholesale market and resell it to consumers and businesses. The delivery and billing is still handled by Con Edison, but each ESCO has its own plans, policies, and energy sources. I signed up for their 100% Clean Energy Option which is based on 60% "low impact" hydro energy and 40% wind energy.

I selected them by simply starting at the top of the list of "green power" suppliers supplied by Con Edison and calling each one until I actually managed to get through to a "real person" in a reasonably short period of time. I had been thinking of going with 100% wind as I had when I lived in Colorado, but the combination of hydro and wind is good enough. I had a 100% renewable plan out in the state of Washington.

I have no idea how the price will work out compared to other options. I did pick the market rate as opposed to a fixed price contract, which could be a really bad deal in the summer months, but leaves me free to switch to another supplier at any time over the next year without a cancellation penalty. In theory, green power may be a penny higher per kilowatt hour or a couple of bucks a month. We'll see.

I also get a $25 reward check as a new customer. That check is supposed to arrive in 8 to 10 weeks.

One concern I have is that if electricity demand is high for traditional fossil-fuel electricity this summer, traders and speculators may artificially bid in the green market to resell to non-green customers. In other words, my cost will not necessarily be based on the costs of the ultimate producer of the electricity. Sure, that is how a "market" works, but it seems awfully unfair for non-consumers of electricity to be using the market strictly for financial profit rather than adding value to either consumers or producers.

-- Jack Krupansky