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Thursday, 29 November 2012

The funniest EU joke since the Nobel Peace Prize

In a speech in London yesterday on the future of Europe, Tony B. Liar let us know that the EU is undergoing its gravest crisis since its formation after the second world war. He even said that some EU countries are undergoing an existential crisis. Maybe, but they have been through worse.

And would that leaving the EU would be "hugely destructive of Britain's interests", and he argued that "our country faces a real and present danger in edging towards the exit".

Leaving aside the last time the same politician warned us against imminent danger, Mr Blair is telling us that outside the EU, Britain (GDP per capita: $35,494) faces an uncertain economic future, much like Norway  (GDP per capita: $61,882) and Switzerland  (GDP per capita: $49,151).  Indeed, without our annual contribution of €15 billion a year, the country would be an industrial and financial wasteland.

What Mr Blair is really saying is that if UK tax payers decide to take back their own fishery and farming policies, plus a host of other measures, he has absolutely no chance of being crowned the El Presidente de la UniĆ³n Europea, an idea that has fascinated his wife Slotgob ever since she was put in her place by our own head of state.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Autonomy: a law unto itself

I like to think I know more than a little about tech companies.  Its not my business area, but it is in my background. And Autonomy has always been a bit of a mystery to me.

I have a simple view on tech companies. Who buys their products and/or services, and how much do they pay?  technology is driven by innovation, so the profit margins will be pretty good, at least until somebody else figures out how to match or surpass your product and then you become a commodity supplier and then disappear.  Remember Sperry Univac, Amdahl, Ashton Tate or Loitus?  Neither do I.

But Autonomy always seemed to be valued way above what I would expect for a one trick pony (fancy searching) with a few related but low value acquisitions (archiving, document retrieval), and to be frank, although I heard a lot about Autonomy businesses, I don't remember hearing many people telling me how much they were paying for Autonomy products and services, and to justify a $10 billion price tag, even with a supposed 55% annual revenue growth, you need a lot of sales.

Which is what makes the following blog post from a year ago by Alan Pelz-Sharpe, a man from whom we may be hearing a lot more, about his misgivings about the acquisition of Autonomy by HP, and statements by the former (although current at the time) boss of HP, Leo Apotheker:

Leo Apotheker wildly stated that Autonomy had "a strong cloud based solution set" and Autonomy claims that over 400 software companies are building applications using Autonomy IDOL.  Well first off I am not sure what this strong cloud based solution set consists of...is it the archiving solution from Zantaz that Autonomy acquired? Surely not as that would contribute a tiny fraction toward this valuation. As for the 400 software companies building applications on IDOL, in effect embedding (OEM) IDOL, we just can't find them.  What we can find is a lots of people using basic document filtering widgets (KeyView) and some using the old Verity K2 search engine, but hundreds of software firms using IDOL? They are nowhere to be seen, at least by me, and I watch pretty closely.

Plus we have some pretty dodgy accounting with, according to HP, intra-group licenses reported as sales and loss-making hardware sales booked as software sales to massage sales growth figures, or to use HP's words:

"... HP now believes that Autonomy was substantially overvalued at the time of its acquisition due to the misstatement of Autonomy’s financial performance, including its revenue, core growth rate and gross margins, and the misrepresentation of its business mix.
Although HP’s investigation is ongoing, examples of the accounting improprieties and misrepresentations include:

  • The mischaracterization of revenue from negative-margin, low-end hardware sales with little or no associated software content as “IDOL product,” and the improper inclusion of such revenue as “license revenue” for purposes of the organic and IDOL growth calculations.
  • This negative-margin, low-end hardware is estimated to have comprised 10-15% of Autonomy’s revenue.
  • The use of licensing transactions with value-added resellers to inappropriately accelerate revenue recognition, or worse, create revenue where no end-user customer existed at the time of sale. 

This appears to have been a willful effort on behalf of certain former Autonomy employees to inflate the underlying financial metrics of the company in order to mislead investors and potential buyers."

Saturday, 3 November 2012

MacShane says

"I want to thank the people of Rotherham for allowing me to serve as their MP and the Labour Party for allowing me over the years to fight for the causes I believe in."

"I love the House of Commons and I hope by resigning I can serve by showing that MPs must take responsibility for their mistakes and accept the consequences of being in breach of the House rules."

Well how about showing us how much you love the rest of us by paying back the stolen money?