Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Stupid Tech Stuff

I haven't ranted or raved on this blog so far this year, and I'll tell you why--most of the year, I've been too far removed from the Internet to spent the scarce time I had complaining about it. =)

I pondered a lot of stupid things in this world on my hike. When I first heard about Microsoft bidding for Yahoo, and Yahoo's shares actually rising above the price Microsoft offered, I thought Yahoo shareholders were absolutely stupid. If I owned Yahoo shares, I'd have sold in a heartbeat. Oh, sure, maybe they could extract a couple extra bucks per share out of Microsoft, but it was a risky bet with limited upside and a long way for that stock to fall if the merger didn't happen. IDIOTS! I'm not really convinced Yahoo was worth as much as they offered, but maybe. I'm generally leery about big mergers since more often than not, they don't tend to work out well.

But why Yahoo deluded themselves into holding out for a better offer? Why would Microsoft bid against itself? It's not like other companies were tripping over themselves to spend more than $40 billion bucks for the company. And even if the merger never happened, I thought it was still a brilliant opportunity to throw the folks running Yahoo into chaos. Shareholder revolts, possibility leading to the company's top executives being shown to the door. Spending their efforts fighting off shareholders and Microsoft rather than developing a better business. Perhaps make Yahoo employees feel a bit insecure in their jobs and jump ship.

No matter what, I felt Microsoft would probably come out ahead. And I spent hours wondering what was happening with that proposal, since most of the time I didn't have access to up-to-date information. It was a fascinating story to me (not to mention that I do own shares in Microsoft, so there is some of my own money on the line as well!)

Those poor idiots that actually bought shares above the price Microsoft was asking--IDIOTS! If I weren't hiking, I'd probably have been inclined to short the stock. The best Yahoo could hope for was a merger, and even then anyone buying at those prices was going to come out a loser.

And what about all those people at Bear Stearns who put all their retirement savings into their company stock? Did they learn NOTHING from Enron? It's bad enough to lose your job, which will happen to a great deal of folks at Bear Stearns if it hasn't already, but to lose your entire retirement savings as well? When I worked at Intel, I did have the option to put my 401(k) into an Intel stock fund, but I wouldn't touch that one with a ten foot pole. Actually, I might have put some of my savings into it if I thought the stock was undervalued, but I felt it was trading at wildly insane prices and was a terrible investment, but I know a lot of co-workers who had a great deal of money invested in Intel. In fact, if you'd like to see how Intel's stock did since that time, check out this link. It shows a ten-year history of the stock. I worked at Intel from September 1999 until December of 2001. That large anomaly you see in 2000? Yeah, I was there for that, and listened to many of my co-workers talk about plunging their 401(k) into
Intel stock.

Now I'm not an expert on stock market analysis, but here's the thing--you don't have to be to know that those stock prices were utterly INSANE. I hoped the insanity would last long enough for some of my stock options to vest and still be in the money, but that turned out not to be the case. On the plus side, however, I never had to figure out how to account for stock options on my taxes. =) (On another note, I did lose plenty of money in the stock market during the dot-com bust, but Intel has lost 2/3rds of its value in the last eight years. My losses, however, didn't come anywhere near that level, and are up significantly since hitting hit bottom.)

Bear Stearns doesn't really have to do with tech, but the employees who put their life savings into that stock and the whole Yahoo refusing to be bought--I spent many an hour on the trail amazed at such stupidity. It's not rocket science. If you have a 401(k), don't be stupid. Don't invest it in your company's stock, because when your company hits hard times, you'll likely end up unemployed or with a severe pay cut AND have your savings wiped out all in one shot. And--I don't know who was stupid enough to pay more for Yahoo shares than Microsoft was offering, but that brings stupidity to a whole new level. So little chance of making money, such an enormous chance of losing a boat load. *shaking head*

Okay.... on to today. What absurdities do I see today? Well, I passed a newspaper rack this afternoon, and on the front page in big type was the pressing news of the day: The iPhone--cheaper and faster!

Really? Is that really newsworthy? Electronics always become cheaper and faster. That's not interesting or revolutionary. I'm rather disappointed in Apple that that's their main bragging rights for the new iPhone--cheaper and faster. Hey, guess what? If you wait for another year, I'll bet it's even cheaper and faster than this year's model. Yawn. Wake me up when there's something new to report.

Actually, I'm most disappointed because the picture of the new iPhone--it looks just like the old iPhone as far as my untrained eye can see. I can't tell the difference. When I first saw a commercial for the iPhone, I was impressed. I had no interest in buying one, but I knew a really cool gadget when I saw it. It was slick, exciting, and new. I expected the "new" iPhone to be just as slick, exciting, and new. Nope, this was more of an evolutionary change than a revolutionary one. I'm so used to Apple being revolutionary, I'm kind of disappointed they only settled for evolutionary this year. I have little doubt the new phones will be huge sellers--and why not, at $200, you can get one for less than half the price they were introduced at a year ago--but I just don't see the wow factor this time around. Cheaper and faster is not front page news.

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