• 15 May 2008 at 1:52 PM
  • Internet

The Internet Suckers Another Old Media Company

This morning we were wading through the 3,000 word letter from Carl Icahn when the news flashed across our screens that CBS had agreed to buy CNET for a staggering $1.8 billion, a 45 percent premium from where the shares were trading before the news. Our first thought was that this must be a very good day for the folks over at Jana Partners, Spark Capital Sandell Asset Management Corp, the hedge funds that have been agitating for changes at CNET for months. Our next thought: how the Hell can CBS justify that kind of valuation?
“It’s like taking a street hooker to the Ritz when she’ll settle for an alley,” one internet insider told us.
That’s entertaining if not very enlightening. CNET has been a struggling brand for ages. The argument of Jana Partner’s was that CNET could be saved from oblivion if the management got serious about cutting costs and revving up its online ad revenue by using a third party like Google’s DoubleClick. CBS doesn’t seem to be seriously considering either, according to published statements.
There doesn’t seem to be much synergy between CBS and CNET. But Les Moonves sounds very excited about the deal because it gives CBS a “totally a great new distribution system.” Peter Kafka has a great summary of the conference call but nothing in it persuades us that this is anything but eyeball valuation, 1999-style.
CBS Buying CNET For $1.8 Billion; CBS Predicts $1 Billion Interactive Revenues By 2010 [Alley Insider]

  • 26 Jul 2007 at 3:00 PM
  • Microsoft

Poor Wand’ring One

shipwreck.jpg Tech mentor to the stars (of Silicon Valley) Jim Gray is still missing after drifting off in late January to release his mother’s ashes on the Farallon Islands 27-miles off the San Francisco coastline. The latest issue of Wired takes us inside the man, the myth, and not so much the model of a modern major general.
The story of the high-tech hunt and Gray’s emergence as a programming legend is fascinating and all, but what really gets us is how programming gods delve into the mortal realm to pick up chicks. Hot Scandinavian chicks. The key – Lord of the Rings, proving that once a programming geek, always a programming geek, from Wired:

In 1984, [Gray] met Carnes, an articulate Norwegian-American beauty with master’s degrees in history and education. An avid sailor and hiker, she accepted his proposal on their third date — on his boat, of course. She became an engineering manager in the Valley, and they spent their vacations sailing and reading Tolkien aloud to each other in the wilderness. When they bought the house on Telegraph Hill, they christened their nautically themed bedroom Gondor — the realm of the Ship-Kings.
Courtesy Joel Bartlett
“I fell head over heels in love,” Carnes says. “We’d both been married before, but we met our match in each other. He was intense, I was intense, and we were both raised by single parents. Jim was like a mountain man who was also a brilliant scientist.” She liked to call him Mr. Database.

Of course, it helps when “Mr. Database” has untold millions to throw around. What’s elfish for “sugar daddy?”
Inside the High-Tech Hunt for a Missing Silicon Valley Legend [Wired]

  • 30 May 2007 at 1:29 PM
  • Apple

How do you like them sometimes rotten apples?

rotten apple.jpg It’s refreshing to see, at least for anyone who prefers a little balance in the technological world order, that not everything Apple touches turns to gold, which has been the case since the iPod (although the Power Mac Cube was shelved just as the iPod was launching in 2001). The Apple TV, which is a $300 doorstep, furniture leveler or sushi platter according to Fortune’s Brent Schlender, is Apple’s very own Zune, crammed with features that are unusable because of compatibility issues and lacking common sense controls – like a volume gauge on the remote. Schlender points out that the advertising push for the Apple box in the very medium it’s trying to transform is non-existent and that Steve Jobs would rather talk about his ignorance of options dating practices than the Apple TV.
Although computing giants still pursue the holy grail of Web/TV integration, the real changes in TV have come from complimentary hardware (DVR) or the displacement of content across an already established medium (video sharing with high speed internet connections). This gives Apple a 1-1-1 record when it comes to transforming media platforms, with its overwhelming victory in shaping the way we listen to and store music, a trip back to the drawing board with a clunker of a TV set, and a push when it comes to home-computing (I don’t think OS counts as defining the home computing platform, despite what Apple enthusiasts will tell you).
The debate rages over Apple’s effect on wireless communication with the arrival of the iPhone next month. Will the device be another example of battery gobbling feature creep or compatibility turmoil, or will the iPhone finally integrate music, video and phone in a user-friendly way?
Apple (AAPL) shares are up more than 2% today, shooting past the $115 mark to a new 52-week high.
The trouble with Apple TV [Fortune via CNN]

Apparently all it takes is a mysterious departure of a CEO to make a company’s shares shoot up almost 3.5%, as VeriSign (VRSN) is surging on news of Stratton Sclavos’ resignation as CEO after 12 years. No one, aside from a secret cabal of VeriSigners knows why Sclavos bolted, but analysts speculate that the main internal squabbles regarded a lack of new talent and lackluster returns from VeriSign’s aggressive acquisition platform. Former Science Applications International Corporation CFO William Roper Jr. was appointed to succeed Sclavos.
VeriSign is restating its financials from 2001-2006 and expected to take at least a $250mm hit from dodgy options dealing, but there is no official word on whether this had anything to do with the CEO shuffle.
VeriSign’s Chief Executive Resigns Abruptly [New York Times]

astronaut.jpg Houston, we have a problem, we’re getting a “PC Load Letter” message here…
From a Reuters story:

Hewlett-Packard said on Wednesday it had won a seven-year technology contract with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration worth up to $5.6 billion.
HP, which competes with Dell and Gateway, said products to be provided to NASA under the “indefinite delivery indefinite quantity” contract include desktops personal computers, workstations and printers.

HP wins $5.6B NASA contract [Reuters via CNN]