SiliconAngle reports on Eric Schmidt’s debunking of the notion that Google’s two operating systems — Android and Chrome — would be converging any time soon in light of both teams now reporting up to the same executive, Sundar Pichai. And, no, he’s not bluffing. The three big ecosystem players today each have two operating systems that are split either on optimization for keyboard and mouse or form factor.

Google’s line in the sand is not as defined as its competitors. It has recently added touch capability to Chrome (on its own hardware, no less) and supports keyboard and mouse input well enough to inspire a kid-friendly desktop. But while Chrome will probably one day support native code as HTML 5 evolves to accommodate it, Chrome OS is a statement in the belief of the power of the Web and that it is the ultimate destination for app functionality. While the temptation to infuse it with Android’s market momentum may be great, Android plus Chrome OS is essentially the Chrome browser on Android. And that’s already here. To read his whole article please visit http://www.techspressive.com/.

 

Ross has more than 16 years of experience analyzing consumer technologies. Prior to founding Reticle Research, he was executive director and principal analyst at The NPD Group, where he provided analysis on a wide range of technology topics to clients and helped to launch several research products. Before NPD, Ross founded and developed the consumer access and technology service at Jupiter Research, where he served as vice president and chief research fellow. Ross is a senior columnist for Engadget, where he has written the Witched On column since October 2004, and a columnist for ABCNews.com and Tecca, where he writes Rubin’s Roundup. Ross has appeared on ABC, The Today Show, CNN, CNBC and Fox News and is frequently quoted by media outlets such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek, San Jose Mercury News, Associated Press and other leading publications. To learn more about Reticle Research please visit http://www.reticleresearch.com/.

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We live is a pretty sad world when a group of investors can legally create a plan to destroy a person’s life work and legacy just because that person needed time away from the public market to reform their company around the changed technology market. Every part of the disclosed Blackstone plan comes down to destroying the company for profit and, at the core, their selection of Hurd (who nearly destroyed HP) emphasizes this outcome. Dell and Microsoft are unlikely to let this happen but defending against it will be costly. I’m left wondering if this is as much about financial extortion as it is about carpet bagging Dell, either way there really should be laws against this behavior. To read the full article please visit http://www.itbusinessedge.com/blogs/unfiltered-opinion/blackstones-plan-to-kill-dell-corporate-death-by-mark-hurd.html.

Rob Enderle is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward looking emerging technology advisory firm. He specializes in providing rapid perspectives and suggested tactics and strategies to a large number of clients dealing with rapidly changing global events.

Roulston Research hosted a conference call on March 22nd with Neal Yanofsky, former President – International Dunkin Brands and former President of Panera Bread, and Steve Crichlow, Founder and Principal of Compass Restaurant Consulting and Research.  Neal was responsible for the operations of 7,000 Dunkin Donuts and Baskin-Robbins locations, expanding across 50 different countries. While he was president of Panera Bread, Neal tripled Panera’s system wide sales to over 2.5 billion dollars. Steve Crichlow incorporates over 40 years of operational experience including being a multi-unit franchisee at Burger King, Popeye’s, Sonic Drive-In and most recently CiCi’s Pizza. Also a long time member of the National Restaurant Association, Steve specializes in turning around underperforming markets and the development of key operating systems within an industry.

Currently, recent trends have shown that Sonic, Taco Bell, Burger King and Popeye’s are the best performing fast food segments and will be for the rest of the year. Sonic is offering good products with deep discounts while attracting back its core customers, something that is transitioning very well. Taco Bells Cantina menu is generating lots of sales, as long as they keep the advertising behind it. The re-introduction to steak on the cantina menu and product differentiation has helped to generate sales while at the same time increasing product prices. Over the past twelve months, Burger King has had a balanced approach, offering discounted and premium items while keeping the core sandwich (Whopper) always at its center point. Re-imaging themselves has brought back a lot of customers generating there sales to be more consistent than anyone else out there.  Popeye’s has been very consistent over the last 6 quarters and have taken over the chicken market from KFC. One of the brands at risk is Wendy’s which have shown big promise but slow delivery. They have declining sales over the last 4 quarters and have discontinued there breakfast as of January. All of these companies have been trying to up-sell by training employees to do so where Wendy’s has not which is driving down check average. The cost to re-image will be greater than anyone else out there.  As for the Pizza industry, the pizza wars have been going on since the 80s and all seem to be focusing on magic price point. In order to compete, these companies need to offer discounts which they have been successful at because profit margins are so much greater in pizza when compared to burger industries. As of long term, the Pizza industry companies that will succeed will be the ones with the quality of food and experience of keeping consumer loyalty. As for Panera Bread, they have been staying true to keeping a consistent message while at the same time working on a dinner product which will help them move forward in the fast casual restaurant segment.           

Customer survey research results show consumers are very price sensitive and conscious of spending disposable income. Income taxes, gasoline prices and credit card bills are all drivers behind this. They are worried more about their own personal economy/income creating a shift in purchasing to who has the best bargain on the street, something that has even increased more since the beginning of 2013.  Loyalty is not that critical to consumers anymore and price has become more dominant over quality. As for casual dining, consumers are very unforgiving for not delivering on expectations whereas they are more forgiving for fast casual. Regulations, such as the impact of Obamacare for example have been more confusing than ever for operators. Some franchisees are still under assumption it is not going to affect them while others believe paying the fine will suffice and others plan on offering insurance but still don’t know exactly what that will cover. Penalties can range from $2,000-$3,000 depending on specific factors. Obamacare is predicted to decrease profits anywhere from 20-30 percent. Because of this, most companies are going to reduce hours, making 30 hours the new norm. Some employers plan on taking away spouses insurance coverage, while others will take away other benefits like vacation and meals. There is a lot of haziness for what is and is not to be offered at this point. If you are interested in hearing the podcast of the conference call or engaging Neal or Steve in a 1 on 1 discussion please contact info@roulstonresearch.com.

 Well, the Cypriots tried imposing a tax on deposits to get EU loans.  That got them bank runs, irate Russians, and Angela (the “Red Queen”) complaining about ungrateful trading partners.

Despite a lot of Russian oligarch cash sitting in Cypriot banks, Russia was not willing to pony up either without some quid to go with the pro quo.

And we’ve got some 60 trillion cubic feet of unproven natural gas reserves in Cypriot waters that would make for a nice start.

To put this number in perspective, it’s about 40% of European supplies.

Even if that 60 trillion unproven is discounted to proven, Cyprus could be pretty long natural gas at a time when it’s pretty short hard currency (if you still consider the euro “hard”).

Cyprus is some years away from lifting and exporting gas (either as LNG or via pipelines).  We’re talking 8-10 years. Then there’s also the matter of conflicting claims with Turkey, which rudely dispatched a few warships back in 2011 to halt drilling. 

But, Russia is into the eastern Med for the long haul now that the Barents projects are back-burnered. And, they are starting to base some warships in the eastern Med to keep an eye on their investments, err, “national interests”. 

There’s already a few things to watch. Our friends at Gazprom have a deal pending with Israel for access to the Leviathan field adjoining Cyprus’s field.  In consideration for financial support of the Tamar LNG Project (a US-Israel project we might add), Gazprom will take 1 billion cubic feet/day for Asian and Med markets.

So, we have Russian Kynda warships guarding US-Israel investments, so the 5th Fleet doesn’t have to.  Works for us.

Now, if the Cypriots can work a deal, maybe all of this will just settle down a bit.

Then, again, Angela may not be happy about this whole Russian thing. To read the whole blog posting please visit http://www.azuolasriskadvisors.com/index.html.

 

Stephen Maloney is a partner at Azuolas Risk Advisors with over 30 years experience in the US and EU modeling risk and valuation in energy, FX, and other commodities. Stephen has led energy M&A teams for Fortune 100 firms over 15 years. He also routinely advises executive and credit committees concerning high risk ventures and capital investments. His clients include companies, hedge funds, and financial institutions actively marketing or trading physical and financial commodities and derivatives.

Last year Starbucks loyalty program membership grew 86%. CEO Howard Schultz attributed the growth of the program to the integration of the company’s mobile, web, card, and loyalty program strategies. The company was the first national retailer to bring together its own mobile technology payment with a loyalty program and recently they announced that they would allow members to earn rewards from buying its bagged coffee in grocery stores. Dick Seesel believes this is a great idea stating, “Starbucks has always been at the leading edge of brand management, starting with the original concept of coffee as a premium drink (not a commodity) in an atmosphere conducive to socialization. Their loyalty program (unlike so many others) is not all about offering a discount at point of sale, but more focused on repeat visits by consumers committed to their product. Extending the reach of the program into grocery outlets — where their brand has plenty of competition for shelf space — is a powerful message to other marketers.” To read Dick’s full commentary please visit his blog at http://retailinginfocus.wordpress.com/.

Richard Seesel is the Manager and owner of Retailing In Focus, LLC. He was most recently a Senior Vice President and Divisional Merchandise Manager at Kohl’s Department Stores. Dick is proud to have helped Kohl’s grow from 18 stores to a national retail powerhouse, during an era of change and consolidation throughout the retail industry.

Oracle shares fell the most since 2011 today as the company reported sales and profit that missed analyst’s estimates. The primary reason for the miss is that corporate customers have been transitioning to Internet-based cloud systems, which has hurt Oracle’s servers, databases and related programs. The shift in corporate computing habits caused Oracle’s sales of hardware and new software tools to fall more than expected. Lenley Hensarling believes, “Traditionally architected servers are impacted significantly by new computing models, i.e. the cloud. This is driven in part by move to leverage lower cost compute cycles in new clustered models. Oracle is holding their own against Workday, but continues to struggle against Salesforce where John Wookey is now running development – he was Larry’s lieutenant and head of Oracle apps development during the start of the apps run and consolidation of the industry at Oracle. Anthony Lye is now at DigitasLbi, an ad agency, part of Publicis and the largest digital agency. He is driving their “product” focus and acquisitions. Anthony had been driving Oracle’s fight against Salesforce where a number of execs from the Siebel area have since moved. Remember that in the areas other than hardware this was a very small miss. Most of the trends in software will drive new sales to Oracle, and there is pent up demand as the economy recovers.”

Lenley Hensarling has 25 years of experience leading product development and engineering teams for organizations such as Oracle, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, and Novell. In various roles at these companies, he was responsible for helping to define and deliver world-class products to global markets. While at Oracle, Lenley was responsible for the JD Edwards ERP product suite as well as business intelligence applications for CRM, manufacturing, and human resources. Mr. Hensarling brings direct and relevant experiences managing global teams in Argentina, Canada, India, and the US. Lenley will be participating in our Big Data Roundtable on Wednesday April 3rd at 1:30 PM ET in New York. If you would like to attend or dial-in to the event please contact info@roulstonresearch.com.

Titan Machinery (NASDAQ:TITN, $29.03) was presented at our San Francisco idea forum on October 10, 2012. The presenter has closed his position after a 40% gain, citing hard to predict short-term trends in ag prices, the key driver for equipment sales, and the government’s decision not to renew the accelerated depreciation tax break.