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Revolving Door

In contrast to Apple’s stunning success, the first calendar quarter of 2011 was a revolving door for other Silicon Valley companies and executives. There were management shifts, shakeups and ousters at Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Google, Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Microsoft. They were variously aimed at jumpstarting product momentum (AMD, Microsoft), polishing a tarnished image and placating stockholders (HP) and providing an orderly transition of power (Google).

You need a scorecard to keep up with all the comings and goings.

AMD’s board ousted chief executive Dirk Meyer in mid-January after only 18 months on the job. It then appointed Senior Vice President and CFO Thomas Seifert, as interim CEO while the search goes on for a permanent chief executive. Siefert continues as chief financial officer and says he does not want to be considered for the permanent CEO position. This is probably a smart move. AMD’s flamboyant co-founder Jerry Sanders spent 33 years as CEO (1969 to 2002), but everyone who’s followed has had a short tenure.

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It’s hard to believe but the first quarter of 2011 is now a memory and we’re well into spring. The tone for the year in high technology was set in early January: fast, bold, aggressive action and sweeping management changes.

In the first four months of the year high tech vendors moved quickly and decisively to seize opportunities in established sectors (smart phones, virtualization, back-up and disaster recovery) and emerging markets (cloud computing, tablet devices and unified storage management). As 2011 unfolds, it’s apparent that high technology vendors are willing to shift strategies and shed executives in order to stay one step ahead of or keep pace with competitors. The competition is cutthroat and unrelenting. No vendor, no matter how dominant its market share, how pristine its balance sheet or how deep its order backlog and book to bill ratio dares relax or rest on its laurels for even a nanosecond.

Recaps of some of the year’s highlights thus far are very revealing.

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Memo to Larry Ellison: The Roman Coliseum halted gladiator combats around 435 A.D. SAP has thrown in the towel and has no interest in continuing a court battle. Hewlett-Packard executives are refusing to accept service on your lawsuits and HP’s newly named chief executive Leo Apotheker is laying low, presumably dodging your increasingly vituperative verbal assaults. You’ve got no takers for the bloody, bare knuckles brawl you crave. What does that tell you?

It should signal an end to the Circus Maximus sideshow but it won’t.

No one desires this much attention or sticks their chin out spoiling for a fight like Ellison. And in an industry like high tech that’s overflowing with giant egos, that’s saying something. It’s true that Ellison’s antics always make for reams and reams of good copy. Reporters calling for comments on the latest developments don’t even bother to suppress their mirth. Enough is enough, though. The Larry Ellison Show would be more amusing if corporate customers weren’t getting caught in the crossfire.

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The sharp increase in remote and mobile workers is spurring the fast adoption of iPads in the workplace. At the same time, public cloud computing deployments among mainstream users remain slow and steady. These are some of the other survey highlights of the latest ITIC/Sunbelt Software survey on Desktop and Infrastructure deployment trends.

No Rush to the Cloud — Yet

Users on the Move: Number of Mobile workers increases

The survey results also confirm what has been widely reported: that greater numbers and percentages of users are spending more time telecommuting, traveling and generally working outside the corporate offices.

Over half – 58 percent of businesses say that up to 25 percent of their employees work remotely; another 18 percent of respondents said that between 26 to 50 percent of their workers are remote; 11 percent said that 51 to 75 percent work outside the office and seven percent of respondents said that 76 to 100 percent of their employees work remotely. It is significant that only 7 percent of the over 400 businesses polled say that none of their workers are remote or mobile.

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“When two elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled.”

— African proverb

Hewlett-Packard Co. and Oracle Corp.’s decision to settle the lawsuit over Oracle’s hiring of Mark Hurd as co-President after weeks of public wrangling is welcome news to everyone but the corporate attorneys.

But don’t expect the two vendors to just pick up and resume their former close partnership. It got very ugly, very fast. And the reverberations from Hurd’s hiring to HP’s recent appointment of Leo Apotheker, as the new CEO effective November 1, will be felt for a long time. HP’s decision to hire the German-born Apotheker, who is also the former CEO of SAP, is to put it politely a big “take that, Oracle!” Forget the surface smiles, behind the scenes Oracle and HP have their ears pinned back, teeth bared and swords sharpened as they gird for battle.

This was not the typical cross-competitive carping that vendors routinely spew to denigrate their rivals’ products and strategies. The issues between HP and Oracle are very personal and very deep. The verbal volleys Oracle CEO Larry Ellison lobbed at HP in recent weeks exposed the changing nature of this decades old alliance. It is morphing from a close, mutually beneficial collaboration to a head-on collision in several key product areas. Ellison’s words did more than just wound HP: they also opened up deep fissures in the relationship which are as big as the San Andreas Fault.

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