A conversation with SAP’s Shai Agassi

The audio from my interview yesterday with Shai Agassi, one of seven people on SAP’s executive board, is now up on Podtech. Shai has a unique view of the world of business (SAP is used by most of the world’s biggest businesses) and we talk about the trends he’s seeing, along with a little bit about what SAP announced today at its TechEd developer confab.

It’s about six minutes long, so won’t take you a lot of time to get through.

New Nano from Apple

Apple just announced a new Nano, along with new exclusive games developed for it by Electronic Arts. $4.99 each download. So, now we see Apple has learned that casual gaming is a very profitable way to sell games (Xbox 360’s casual games have been selling like hotcakes).

I also heard on CNBC (Jim Goldman was sending text messages to the hosts from inside the Apple event) that Apple is releasing a new video device that’ll let you watch downloaded videos on your TV, I don’t know enough about that yet to comment, but it sounds interesting! Hmmm, see, Apple does get that there’s a new market now that HDTV screens are coming into the home. Oh, did you miss that Best Buy profits were way up last quarter? Almost wholly on the back of increased large/flat screen TV sales.

Good luck getting through to Engadget and other Apple-watching sites. I got through to Engadget’s minute-by-minute report, but only after trying several times.

UPDATE: I’m sitting in front of Hitachi Data Systems in Santa Clara. Listening to CNBC. Watching MacRumors Live. What a wacky way to get the news.

They just announced movies. And both TV shows and movies are now encoded at 640×480. The movies are selling for $9.99 to $14.99. I still don’t get why I wouldn’t just rent movies from NetFlix, especially since DVDs are better quality? I guess this is useful for travelers, and for people who have kids so they can load a laptop up with lots of Disney stuff and keep the kids busy in the back seat of the car.

iTunes 7 is shipping today.

Dunn apologizes and steps down from HP board

I just arrived at Oakland Airport and my phone was filling up with email saying that HP had announced a decision. On first look this is a good first step, but I wonder if this board will be able to do anything for months? After all, the leaker is still on the board. So is Patricia. I can’t imagine that those two will see eye-to-eye on much. Anyway, at least we can get on with other things.

For instance, I’m judging the Made-in-Express contest entries this morning. Some really interesting things there. I’ll decline commenting until the winners are announced.

UPDATE: my readers are reacting VERY negatively to this news. I’m going to absorb a bit more about what was just announced and think through my reaction beyond what I post above. Zoli, for instance, calls this “lame half steps.”

UPDATE 2: I missed that the guy who leaked stuff, George Keyworth, has resigned from the board as well. More reaction on TechMeme.

HP has a major ethical problem, day 7

I tried to get away from the HP thing, but it is still getting worse for HP. Now Congress is involved.

I saw this quote in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Despite the furor over pretexting, investors have largely ignored the scandal. HP shares rose 27 cents Monday to close at $36.36 on the New York Stock Exchange, near the top end of its 52-week range of $25.53 to $36.73.

A friend who is a stock trader told me that the market might actually be predicting that a new board is coming — and is raising the price in advance of such an event. A new board would mean better leadership for HP, which would increase growth and everything that shareholders love. But, it’s a weird signal to send, most people will see the increase in share price as evidence that the shareholders aren’t willing to do anything about this board. The problem is, what if this board stays in place? Is there any chance that this board will be able to heal the rifts, get through the bad PR, and start doing anything close to what a board is supposed to do? Plus, with Congress getting involved this will be a distraction for top management at HP, even those who aren’t on the board. Will shareholders continue their excitement if this drags on for weeks, or months? Yeah, the PR will go away, we all have short memories and there’ll be stuff that’s more fun to talk about soon (Steve Jobs, please save us from this story!)

This quote, in the San Jose Mercury News, though, captures the mood of most of the people I talk with about this:

“Whatever else happens, it’s a sad day for HP, and a sad day for Silicon Valley,” said venture capitalist Venky Ganesan, managing director of Globespan Capital Partners in Palo Alto. Hewlett-Packard “stood for what we all feel proud about in Silicon Valley. It was an icon about two guys in a garage who had very idealistic notions: non-hierarchical, collaborative, meritocratic. It was about doing the right thing.”

Update: The Los Angeles Times writes more about shareholders’ reticence to punish this board and also says that if CEO Mark Hurd gets tainted by the stench coming out of the board that HP could pay a “catastrophic” price.

Michael Dell reaches out to gamers (HDTV is where it’s at)

Over at the Direct2Dell blog there’s a video of Michael Dell who spoke with gamers at the Austin Game Conference. It’ll be interesting to watch the Apple announcements tomorrow. Apple has been gunning for Dell’s marketshare. But, the interview is interesting cause Michael explained some of Dell’s hopes for Vista and PC-based gaming and also explains what’s happening in the high-end of the consumer world.

I think Michael Dell is still missing the huge trend inside homes that’s hitting now: large-screen HDTV. He’s focusing too much on PC-based gaming and not enough on what happens to entertainment priorities when a new large-screen TV shows up.

More and more people are going to buy large-screen TVs for their homes (you only need to hang out at Best Buy and see where all the action is to realize that these things are selling like hotcakes). When the buying decision happens to put one of these suckers in your home, everything about your media usage changes.

Most people aren’t going to buy a new PC just to play games. Now, don’t take me wrong. PC gaming is still very important. It’s just not going to be where the industry sees massive growth. That’s going to come from the war between Xbox 360 and Sony’s Play Station 3. Why? HDTV.

Me and my friends are noticing that we are already budgeting out our discretionary spending for the next year. I’m far more likely to buy a new HD Tivo, like seen on TechMeme today, or a new Playstation or Xbox than I am to buy a new PC that can play the latest games. The unknown variable in that mix is Windows Vista. But, even there, my first Windows Vista purchase will be a HD media center, not a gaming machine (and that’s despite having a 12-year-old who loves playing video games. The Xbox is just a better place for families to game together than a PC.

Dell remains particularly clueless about HDTV. Look at its website. Quick, find me the words “HDTV.” I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple jumps into the HD world left alone by Dell tomorrow.

My HD media center will sit upstairs. Have a massive hard drive on it. And will be shared to my HDTV screen downstairs via the Xbox 360 (this is one of the coolest features of the 360, by the way). That’ll let me watch PC-based videos (I want to subscribe to ZeFrank and watch him, along with other videobloggers, on my 60-inch screen downstairs), and also get a great game experience with the Xbox. Plus my photos, my music, all will be stored on the huge hard drive upstairs and displayed through the Xbox 360’s extender capabilities. Where in this scenario is room for a killer gaming PC? I don’t see it.

Why? Cause the Xbox is gonna do the heavy game lifting and the Vista machine upstairs just needs a decent enough video card to display Vista’s glass interface, not to give me a great game framerate.

Translation: I don’t think Dell’s strategy of focusing on PC gaming is that exciting. Dell, please focus on HDTV, that requires you to put HDTV front and center on your Website — you have a couple of laptops that are better for HDTV than Apple’s offerings but you don’t even point that out. What does that demonstrate to me? That Dell is clueless about HDTV and the real trends that are going to hit the livingroom over the next 36 months.

If you don’t focus on HDTV, Apple will come in and take the home away from you. And Steve Jobs has a big stick in his hand: Disney content.

When Michael Dell starts really showing some leadership in the HDTV world wake me up. Thanks! Until then I’m saving up for the new HD Tivo.