Weekend Update, 1.24.09
The week just passed melded Inauguration week and the first week of earnings reports into one giant package filled with exuberance and resignation. Conventional wisdom says to start with the bad news and end with the good news, but that’s not how it went down.
For a start, MediaMemo notes that even though estimates for people viewing President Barack Obama’s inauguration speech hit record highs–70 million on the Web and 37.8 million on television–a Web view can’t be equated with a television viewer, so those numbers remain just estimates. One way viewership can be visualized, though, is a graph published by Google (GOOG) that shows a huge dip in searches performed while people were viewing the ceremony live. The Inauguration had a profound effect on YouTube as well. Though it was perhaps the only big Web site that didn’t offer a live stream during the events, its users made up for this by uploading videos afterward at the incredible rate of 3.52 videos per minute. To put that in context, when Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin skits were the hottest thing on the Web, users uploaded videos at the rate of 9.9 per hour. BoomTown notes that even though he might have to give up his beloved BlackBerry, the gadget-loving President did get a completely tricked out new Cadillac limo–nicknamed the “Beast”–for his day-to-day ride.
During his speech, when he was speaking of building a healthy American economy, Obama said “it will not come easy or happen overnight, and it is altogether likely that things may get worse before they get better.” This is basically the theme for the first week of earnings. As BoomTown points out, this crisis started in the financial sector, but it has ended up affecting everything, including seemingly healthy companies in the digital sector. The list gets longer every day. For the first time in 14 years, Sony (SNE) expects to report an annual loss–a staggering $1.65 billion–forcing CEO Sir Howard Stringer to plan for more drastic cutbacks than anticipated. He plans to cut 16,000 jobs and close six plants. And Ericsson? Despite reporting better-than-ever fourth-quarter financials, CEO Carl-Henric Svanberg will cut some 5,000 jobs, just in case, to maintain the company’s competitive edge. Digg plans to cut 10 percent of its workforce, but still says it’ll be profitable in 2009. BoomTown liveblogged Microsoft’s (MSFT) second-quarter earnings call and reported the fallout–for the first time in the company’s 34-year history, Microsoft will lay off a significant number–5,000 workers–the most drastic headcount reduction it’s ever seen. BoomTown also published Steve Ballmer’s full memo to the Microsoft troops about the company’s weak financial results and the layoffs to come.
Maybe the only good news in the tech market this week was about Palm, which has been resurrected by its long-anticipated new hand-held, the Pre. Palm (PALM) shares were up 157 percent this past week–to put that in context, the S&P was down 5.9 percent during the same period.
Good news for Windows PC owners, too–and it’s about time. In Personal Technology, Walt Mossberg previews Windows 7 and said that even in beta it blows Vista out of the water. In its finished form, it might even turn out to be a worthy competitor to Apple’s (AAPL) OSX Leopard. In Mossberg’s Mailbox, he answers a parent’s question about monitoring a teen’s Facebook activity. And in the Mossberg Solution, Katherine Boehret looks at some options for avoiding slow boot-up times on your computer.
More next week, when, hopefully, the atmosphere will be a little bit more upbeat.