Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Apple to Introduce a Netbook?

Analyst Ezra Gottheil thinks Apple is going to introduce a netbook at next month's MacWorld expo and conference.

Gottheil argues that low-cost netbooks were gaining in popularity even before the recession sunk its teeth into consumer spending, leaving Apple vulnerable at the low end of the market.

He told InfoWorld, "It looks like netbooks are real, and getting a certain amount of traction. And this recession looks serious."

But I don't think Apple is about to jettison 10 years of successful marketing strategy and product launches to bolster a low end it hasn't cared about since Steve Jobs took back the reins in 1997.

Apple's strategy has been to make high-concept products for which people are willing to pay a premium. You could even argue that the products don't even have to be all that well-made (remember early iPods often had issues with screens, battery failures, and 'freezing').

Besides, Apple already has its highly-portable, Web-based computer ready to go. It's called the iPhone.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Video Conferencing Vendors: Make Your Move

This should be boom times for telepresence or video conferencing equipment vendors. Not since 9/11, when the double whammy of a recession and fear of travel combined to make a compelling case for virtual meetings.

Vendors did see a spike, but then video conferencing revenues tanked (see below the fold) by more than 200% between 2001 and 2006, showing that customers weren't convinced that the technology could replace face-to-face contact.

Things are different today. Despite a temporary drop, we all know that gas prices are only going to rise as OPEC cuts production and supplies dwindle. Airline prices and other travel costs remain high even while enterprises lay off workers by the tens of thousands.

Meanwhile, telepresence technology is improving by leaps and bounds, and vendors have gotten better at integrating it with productivity apps.

But vendors are still having trouble closing the deal.

My friend JS, who works for a large department at Columbia University, is doing due diligence and a feasibility study to determine whether or not to invest in a video conferencing system. There are a couple of hang-ups, of course, but the main one is her fear that equipment she recommends buying today will soon become obsolete.

This is bad news for companies like Cisco, IBM and Microsoft, who have invested quite heavily in unified communications suites that they'd like to build on for years to come. If they could talk to JS, they'd tell her that anything she buys today will be built on modern infrastructure; the only thing she's likely to have to upgrade is the end-point technology.

Their message is not coming across, perhaps because they've over-promised for so long that they've created a credibility gap that will take a lot of effort to overcome.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

SaaS Customers Hold Hammer

Software-as-a-service vendors are exceptionally reliant on retaining accounts because they incur heavy up-front costs to sign up a new customer. They often don't turn a profit on a given account for several years.

Their competitors are well aware of this, and companies like Oracle put a full-court press on customers who have SaaS agreements up for renewal, knowing that even if they don't win the customer, they're costing the SaaS vendor that much more money to hold onto their account.

On the other side of the coin, SaaS vendors increase user fees and up-sell customers on new modules in the later years of their relationships with customers in order to make up the difference.

This is where an informed customer can help themselves. SaaS consultant Phil Wainewright makes the following points:

  • Inevitably, there are bound to be some discontented customers who want to evaluate alternatives
  • There will also be contented customers who are savvy enough to drive a harder bargain when renewal time comes around
  • As a trend, customers presumably are getting more comfortable with the on-demand model and therefore may be signing shorter contracts than they did when first switching from conventional licensed software with its three to five year upgrade cycles — thus giving more frequent opportunities to renegotiate renewals.
So on the one hand, SaaS vendors have successfully entered the mainstream, and no longer have to evangelize their business model. It's understood and accepted that it works. They have convinced customers that they no longer have to put up with conventional on-premise vendors who abandon them once the license fees have been cashed.

The flip side of this turn of events is that customers are now just as comfortable switching SaaS vendors as they were with switching from on-premise to SaaS in the first place.

This state of affairs gives customers, finally, the hammer over vendors that had for too many years over-promised, under-delivered, and only bothered communicating with them when it was time to sell them a new module.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Does Apple Want an Enterprise-Friendly iPhone?

Arguably one of the most attractive features of the iPhone is the ability to pinch and drag items on the screen, but a report from ABI Research notes that "capacitive" technology is incompatible with many legacy enterprise applications.

ABI analysts conclude that this will put a significant hurdle in Apple's march to enterprise adoption.

But hold on now! Computerworld's Ryan Faas has a list of ten things Apple can do to make the iPhone more attractive to business users. Faas's doesn't directly address this issue, but several of his recommendations would require Apple to make significant changes to its underlying operating system. Faas notes:

The iPhone has a lot of potential as a business device, but its ultimate success will depend on how well it responds to the real-world needs of corporate users and IT managers. To succeed, Apple will need to prove that the iPhone is more than a media player or a toy.

But maybe Apple doesn't want to become yet another enterprise device. Maybe the whole point is that the iPhone is about enjoyment and style, and making it a work tool just isn't... cool.

Really, the whole push to make Apple more enterprise-friendly comes from executives who got the iPhone as a present and are putting pressure on IT admins to make it work with Exchange so they can ditch their uncool-looking BlackBerrys.

So customers would like to see the iPhone become more enterprise-friendly. But since when has Apple shown any interest in doing what its customers want?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Amazon iPhone App and the In-Store/Online Dichotomy

Amazon launched an iPhone app that lets customers mail the online retailer a picture of an item they see in a store, according to a story published by InformationWeek. Amazon tries to match the item with something in its inventory (and other participating retailers) and then sends the results back to its customers.

While self-serving for Amazon in its current incarnation, retailers should co-opt this kind of application to help customers and keep them loyal. Maybe using barcode information instead of pictures, retailers could help customers find apparel in the right size or a different color than what they have in stock in particular location.

This would beat the customer trying to find the same product at a competing retailer or, worse, dealing with returns and customer frustration because the item they ordered online from home wasn't what they thought they were looking for.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

News Aggregation: Index Cards of the Present

Back in the early 1990s, my close friend Claude Meunier had an odd job working for French building magnate (and now telecom operator) Francis Bouygues.

Every morning at 7 AM, he got into Monsieur Bouygues' limo and handed him a stack of index cards Claude had put together over the past few hours.

Each card included a news item--ranging from serious news to the scores of important soccer matches or the amorous misadventures of a starlet.

In other words, bite-sized capsules of everything Monsieur Bouygues might need to know as he nagivated his day.

In the past we had index cards, today we have news aggregation.

News aggregation is clearly the future of journalism--not it's only future, but one of the permutations that will enjoy long-term success, if done right.

In an interesting twist to a meme that has been largely given over to automation, technology news aggregation site TechMeme--and it's political sister-site Memeorandum--is dumping its sophisticated algorithms in favor of--gasp--a human editor.

Until now, TechMeme aggregated news content using a sophisticated algorithm that many people feel does a better job of filtering news than, say, Google News.

That didn't stop some bloggers (mainly those frustrated because they weren't picked up by TechMeme's algorithm) from accusing the site of nursing a bias of some sort.

What will they think now that TechMeme's progenitor, Gabe Rivera, has decided that a human being can do a better job than the algorithm he created?

But subjective--and critical--thinking is exactly what readers need; someone who will help them cut through the noise and find the best information on the subjects they care about--at the frequency they want.

That sounds like great news--a victory for the humans against the borgs!

But before exulting too much, let's wait and see how well the new human editor does at keeping up with the volume of news.

My guess is that some automation will be needed to ensure that the editor doesn't ultimately gravitate towards the same set of sites.

Glimmers of Hope

Despite the roiling, interconnected world economy, Nokia has rolled out the N97, a new smartphone that, according to Forbes, will challenge not only its natural rival iPhone but netbook makers as well.

the real damage from the N97 could be to the emerging market for small, thin, cheap and connected laptop computers known as netbooks. After all, the Nokia N97 and even Apple's iPod Touch promise to do everything a netbook does with one key difference: You can actually slip these suckers into your pocket.

This should be hugely encouraging to anyone who either a) wants one of these 'suckers,' or b) cares to think about how this kind of competition will lower prices and improve productivity of so-called knowledge-workers.

It might seem like a stretch to imagine that the N97 is the first step out of the second big depression, but a real estate bubble isn't the only thing that cured the recession of 2001-03. It was the ongoing gains in productivity that were driven by a host of new technologies.

Back in 2007, every analyst I spoke with predicted that mobility would be one of the three biggest trends of 2008 and 2009 (virtualization and green being the other two).

It stands to reason that a more mobile workforce with better access to information will help lift our economy from the bottom-up. As our new president is fond of saying, change starts with us.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Can Free Be Enterprise Class?

One of my early mentors, Jaz-Michael King, once explained to me that all "enterprise level" means is that the product includes various pricing levels.

It was not meant as a joke.

Josh Greenbaum, a terrific analyst who makes his money consulting in the world of enterprise software, notes that free software of the sort offered by Google doesn't always work properly, and that companies who rely on free software get what they pay for.

There are lots of other examples of getting what you pay for: I recently went on Facebook to actually try to conduct some business (as opposed to the unrepentant socializing I normally use Facebook for.) That happened to be one of the moments Facebook was performing like one of the kids it was originally intended to server: balky, recalcitrant, and, in the end, largely useless for the function I was trying to get it to perform. I’ve seen Gmail do some similarly amazing things, not-ready-for-primetime things, including resetting my password randomly and being plain unavailable at the very moment I need it the most.

There are several problems with that position, one of which being that I've never seen Gmail behave the way Josh describes. Earlier in his post, Josh also described a glitch involving Google Calendar that could just as easily been user error--which is what SAP would have said if the problem had occurred on its watch.

Which brings me to the next problem with Josh's argument: enterprise software vendors have done such a good job of proving that you don't, in fact, get what you pay form that SaaS vendors like Salesforce.com have been able to bust into the market with unexpected ease by exploiting the foibles of licensed software vendors, and the anger they have engendered in their customers.

No doubt that free software has its issues--but so does software that companies pay for. Customers need to ask themselves which form of troubleshooting they'd rather pay for.

Possibilities of Collaboration

If Web 2.0 technology can be used to change the way we govern our societies, then companies ignore these tools at their own peril (or rather, at the peril that their competitors will not ignore them).

Someone in this short promo on Wikinomics notes that it's the behavior rather than the tools that need to change, but that's giving short shrift to having the right tools, as anyone who has tried to implement knowledge management can attest.

Having the right Web 2.0 strategy and structure in place is, ironically, key to unleashing the full potential of this unstructured method of collaboration (and ultimately, innovation).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

SAP Gouging Developers a Little Less

Let me get this straight.

SAP is slashing the price of developer subscriptions to its NetWeaver platform by 50%, from around $2300 per year to a little over $1100.

What ever happened to free?

Sure, developers would make money from creating new applications, and they wouldn't have to pay SAP a toll--the equivalent to ensuring all SAP offices have a year's supply of toilet paper.

But the bigger picture is that SAP's flagship products would be more attractive to customers. Why doesn't SAP get that?

This is taken from SAP's own filings: note that nowhere does SAP talk about the strategic importance of gouging software developers:

As part of our ESA strategy, we are currently working to transform the SAP NetWeaver platform as a business process platform. The business process platform will include enterprise services built into our own applications and the creation of a repository of enterprise services for use by customers and partners. The business process platform is intended to allow customers and partners to develop new composite business applications more easily using enterprise services, as well as allowing our software products and technology to provide greater flexibility and added value to customers. We expect this to create increased demand for our application software products and related technology and services. In addition, the business process platform will allow us to improve our efficiency and reduce time-to-market by allowing the reuse of software components in development, and by permitting the creation of composite applications more rapidly than traditional modes of application software development. Composite applications created by software partners will complement and extend our products, allowing us to reach a larger market.

CA Pushing Simplification

CA is responding to changes it sees in the market by offering customers easier-to-manage software bundles--and easier-to-manage pricing packages as well.

On the software front, CA is rolling out enhancements to its service desk application that focus on centralizing processes rather than piling on additional task-based tools.

CA Service Desk Manager 12 unifies service desk, change management, configuration management database, application dependency mapping, knowledge management, remote support automation and reporting capabilities. The product should help customers looking to adopt best-practices and move away from ad hoc tasks to more streamlined processes.

On the pricing front, CA is moving more applications to a service-based (SaaS) model in response to customer demand, according to InfoWorld.

InformationWeek notes that CA is also focusing on simplification when it comes to mainframes.

Ironically, the virtualization hype-cycle has helped reignite interest in mainframes, as customers realize that they already own some of the best virtualization technology the world has to offer.

Unfortunately, the generation of IT administrators who introduced and then managed mainframes in the enterprise is nearing retirement age en masse. CA sees this as an opportunity:
First, CA will introduce a consistent installation stack to make it easy to get software up and running. The company will also move to a more predictable release cycle, starting with a new round of releases in May, that will also help CA do better integration testing. New products will be more automated, with more set pre-configurations. It will also enlist partners to help with installation and care and feeding of mainframes.
Is this just part one of "the new adventures of old technology?"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Yang Yahoo Departure Leaves Unanswerable Questions

Jerry Yang and the Yahoo board of directors announced that Yang will resign his post as CEO once a successor is found, but will retain his seat on the board and reclaim the honorary title of "chief yahoo."

Kara Swisher, who broke the news, published the full text of Yang's email to Yahoo employees, in which Yang said, "since taking on the ceo role, i have had an ongoing dialogue with the board about succession timing."

So all this time, he was plotting his own departure? Oh, and Yang and the board talked about timing, but not about who would replace him?

In his most recent turn as CEO, Yang presided over the continued decline of the Yahoo brand while engaging in the kind of destructive behavior that, were Yahoo a person, would have friends recommending some form of therapy.

In the past year alone, Yahoo rejected the advances of Microsoft, spurned the hand of would-be savior Carl Icahn, and then engaged in a failed dalliance with Google.

Yahoo will now have to answer two questions: who next and, most importantly, what next?

Om Malik thinks Yahoo should get back to basics:

Hopefully they will bring on a no-nonsense, [HP CEO] Mark Hurd-style executive who can stabilize and revive the company by making it leaner, simpler and have it focus on its core competencies.

Rob Hof at BusinessWeek says that president Sue Decker shouldn't hold her breath, even if she wasn't too involved in the Microsoft fiasco:

But she also has been Yang’s chief lieutenant throughout a period in which Yahoo has been unable to inspire confidence among investors or many employees, who remain divided about her leadership. If she were chosen, investors no doubt would assume there will be little change in Yahoo’s direction—especially with Yang still on the board.
Erik Sherman at BNET notes that anyone taking the CEO role is walking into a no-win situation, given that the board isn't admitting it's done anything wrong, and that Yang remains on the board as well.

How will anything change? If the board is sure that it has been right, that the Microsoft and Google deals falling apart were just unfortunate circumstances, then who would it let a new CEO go in another direction? And what person, capable of running the company, would want to walk into a situation where his or her hands might be tied? Unless the egos on the board are willing to admit that they have badly erred and need to change course, there is no reason to think that anything will change for the better over the next few months.
Fred Vogelstein at Wired makes the point that Yahoo failed to make smart business decisions because it was more concerned with religious questions. "According to those who know him, Yang still won't use any device remotely associated with Microsoft technology. And so it is no surprise to anyone that he figured out a way to scuttle that deal."

There is also rampant speculation that Yang's departure will bring Microsoft back a'courtin', but Henry Boldget at Silicon Alley Insider opines that if this happens at all, it will only occur once a successor is in place.

This may seem like vapid speculation, but given that Yang will continue to hold sway over the Yahoo board, a Microsoft acquisition may be the only thing that could change the culture at Yahoo.

What any new CEO--or acquirer, for that matter--will have to address first and foremost is, what does Yahoo do better than anyone else? What purpose does it serve?

As someone who in 2001 used Yahoo for everything from email to gaming to news, and who now uses it exclusively as a junk mail folder, I couldn't say.

Monday, November 17, 2008


If this is news to you, you're in the wrong business.
instead of having to toggle to a separate window, downloaded to a desktop, users can strike up a real-time conversation with someone else right from an application they're already using—say, Hotmail.
It turns out customers want all that interweb stuff to be integrated together with itself. Or something.

Adobe Getting AIR Time

Very useful piece by Stephen Shankland at CNET on Adobe AIR and competing rich Internet applications.

Adobe is trying to remain a force both on the desktop (thanks to the ubiquity of the PDF standard) and in the browser (thanks to Flash), and is hoping AIR can be the tie that binds.

But it's difficult being all things to all people. As Shankland notes,

there's a risk to choosing a hybrid strategy: gains in flexibility often come at the expense of specialization, and specialized applications often work better. Sun Microsystems tried for years to get Java to catch on as a cross-platform runtime, but 13 years after its launch, it has yet to catch on with mainstream computing applications.

Of course, Adobe isn't the only company offering ways to pair the cloud and the desktop; Google Gears and Microsoft Silverlight are two notable competitors.

Of the two, though, Google is probably the biggest threat to Adobe. Microsoft's recent SaaSy announcements notwithstanding, Google has offered customers a lot of cloud-based apps to choose from, and Gears allows developers to tie them to the desktop to some extent.

Microsoft impressed everyone with its Olympic performance, but that hasn't translated to recurring business.

In the battle for RIA supremacy, what counts is being ubiquitous enough for developers to become so familiar with your app dev environment that it becomes the default choice. When the battle was for the desktop only, Microsoft was Adobe's biggest foe.

But as the battle switches to a hybrid browser/desktop model, Google will emerge as Adobe's biggest threat.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Software Companies Offer 0% Financing

Microsoft is the latest software company to offer enterprise customers 0% financing for Dynamics ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications.

This follows SAP's announcement a couple of weeks ago that it would offer interest-free credit for purchases of some of its applications.

That seems like a smart move given the current economy, particularly with unsettled financial markets making it harder to get credit on any terms.

But this won't help customers who can't get credit because their business simply can't afford it. Most companies extend 90-day (or longer) credit to their customers, meaning they're in a world of hurt if their customers go out of business or default. That's why they're having trouble getting credit from banks and other corporate lenders.

This also won't help convince customers who are considering SAAS as a way of reducing their capital expenditures. They've already crossed the philosophical or operational bridges necessary to take that step, and nothing short of the on-demand model is likely to get them back into the on-premise fold.

Moreover, by lowering the TCO on their applications, Microsoft and SAP risk alienating existing customers who are paying interest, and resent seeing their competition get a much better deal.

I wonder what Microsoft and SAP think they really have to gain.

Microsoft Socializes Live.com: Why?

Microsoft is attempting yet another gimmick in the hopes of invigorating Live.com. The idea is to try to get users to hang around its portal longer, and to get in the habit of using Microsoft search.

Good luck with that.

Kara Swisher notes that the new features include, "a heavy emphasis on socializing its online offerings and giving users better tools to share all sorts of information from across the Web within them."

She also notes that Microsoft specifically doesn't want people to think of it as a social network, quoting Microsoft's Brian Hall as saying, "the last thing people want to do is sign up for another social network."

Michael Arrington, however, ignores this point and proclaims it to be "a social network!"

That's fine, of course--no reason to regurgitate Microsoft spin if that's what you think it is.

But Arrington isn't trying to refute Microsoft's assertion, or even think critically at all.

In fact, he is so impressed with Microsoft's potpourri of Facebook-like information feeds and software services that he declares, "The result is an impressive personal productivity suite that makes me almost wish I wasn’t solely a Mac user."

That good, huh?

Here's the question no one seems able to answer--or even ask: why?

Just because Live has 40 million names of people who signed up for the service at one time or another, and just because it's providing all of these goodies in a Microsoft wrapper, doesn't mean people will want to use it for social purposes.

Microsoft is way too late to the social game. It's already staked out its claim as the anti-social company, and its past (lame) attempts at creating community around Live.com have driven away even the agnostic few who were willing to give it a shot.

Microsoft can't turn Live.com into a destination just because it wants to. It needs to give users a compelling and unique reason to visit its world, and it's never been able to do that without bullying or destroying its competition with the cudgel of market share.

Well, Microsoft doesn't have market share in social networks. It should be happy with its stake in Facebook and leave it at that.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Future of Humanity

Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute has published a detailed roadmap of what it would take to create a computer that behaves like a human brain--free will and all. The authors of the study take "free will" into account by substituting "sufficient noise in the simulation."

While admitting that the experiment is "fascinating," Nicholas Carr has some issues with this, and says the "Future of Humanity Institute seems to be misnamed."

I also have issues with the idea, but I think Carr misses the central flaw here, which is that free will isn't about "noise." Humans behave unpredictably because they have varying levels of morality and completely unpredictable motivations that drive them.

Let's put it this way, from a purely probabalistic point of view, a certain percentage of human being drown kittens; if you build that into a model, it will work out that a certain number of times that a robot brain is confronted with a kitten, it will drown it in the correct proportion of times.

But the fact is that some people will never drown a kitten, some people will drown a kitten only because there is no other alternative (i.e., can't afford to keep it), while others will drown kittens every chance they get.

No amount of "noise" will reflect that in a truly realistic manner.

Nokia, Sun Highlight IT Woes

It looks like tech isn't immune to the downturn after all. After Intel issued a somber warning earlier in the week, other bellwethers piled on with somber announcements of their own.

Nokia, whose 40% handset market share represents more shipments than the next three handset suppliers combined, took a hard look at recent demand, gulped, and predicted that fourth-quarter industry volumes will decline by about 20 million phones and that next year's shipments are likely to decline as well.

The contagion from this will spread to other sectors, as Nokia said it will cut spending on outside contractors and other professional services, according to InformationWeek.

Meanwhile Sun announced that it will cut up to 18% of its workforce, meaning more than 5,000 employees will lose their jobs. CEO Jonathan Schwartz said that the company is also making significant organizational changes, including the departure of Rich Green, Sun's top software executive.

Schwartz is putting a good public face on the changes by blaming the economy for the company's troubles, but most analysts believe the company was adrift in any case and that this shake-up was coming either way.

Sun may come out of this healthier, but like many of its peers, a lot smaller. ZDNet's Larry Dignan notes:

Sun said that its “new organizational alignment is a recognition of the comprehensive role software plays in the company’s growth strategy.” That’s where you get the Sun paradox–Sun makes most of its money from hardware. The transition is likely to be painful: Sun will have to get smaller as it transforms.
Om Malik outlines the specific changes Sun is making, but has a somewhat rosier view: "leaky oil tankers take a long time to sink, so there is enough time to patch stuff up."

The effects of the downturn aren't limited to hardware vendors. Even Google's seemingly relentless rise may be slowing; reviewing a handful of new analyst notes, Silicon Alley Insider's Henry Blodget says that while no one has turned bearish on the stock, "the tone has changed."

A short-term view is that customers will end up paying lower prices, but there's a cost. As customers cut spending and vendors react by cutting resources, R&D is the first line-item to suffer. And in the long run, that means less innovation and longer road to recovery.

And as John Maynard Keynes famously said, "in the long run we're all dead."

SAP Hires Guy Who Couldn't Get it Done at Oracle

SAP has sent a strong signal to its customers by hiring John Wookey to run its enterprise on-demand business, saying that, in effect, it will really, really integrate SAAS into its overall business plan.

Joshua Greenbaum is probably right in surmising that Wookey will start slowly, though, selectively adding applications to the cloud that complement SAP's existing on-premise software, rather than trying to create a SAAS alternative to every perpetual license product.

SAP’s large enterprise, on-demand efforts will likely start with running specific processes and services in the cloud that are both highly discrete and have a distinct value-add above and beyond the cost benefits of merely flipping on-premise functionality into the cloud a la Salesforce.com. That latter model eventually ends up in a price war, and flies in the face of SAP’s higher value market position.
But Wookey also brings Oracle's acquisition-happy culture in his baggage, and will probably try to buy--rather than build--other complementary pieces for the on-demand business.

That may not sit well with SAP's engineering-focused culture, but the fact that SAP hired Wookey may be an indication that CEO-elect Leo Apotheker is ready to break with some tradition.

On the flip side, Wookey is available because Oracle CEO Larry Ellison got tired of waiting for him to deliver the Fusion product that is to be the glue for the disparate systems Oracle has bought and dumped in its customers' laps over the past few years.

SAP is hoping that Wookey will have more success blending products this time around, but SAP customers should be wary of any product-service integration promises. Just ask Oracle customers what they think.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Falling PC Shipments Reflect Gloom and Opportunity

IDC is about to release new estimates for Q4 2008, predicting that PC shipments will fall by 1%--it had previously expected shipments to rise by 6% during the usually robust holiday period, reports the Wall Street Journal.

If those projections prove accurate, computer-makers like Dell, HP, and Lenovo are going to have to slash prices on PCs and other hardware.

Computer-makers themselves expect a lot of orders to get pushed back, and in many cases, those will turn into cancellations pure-and-simple. Because this isn't going away anytime soon.

Economist Nouriel Roubini is already talking about a recession "longer and deeper" than any we've experienced since WWII.

Even if the economy were to exit a recession by the end of 2009 the recovery could be so weak because of the impairment of the financial system and of the credit mechanism (i.e. a growth rate of 1-1.5% for a while well below the potential of 2.5-2.75%) that it may feel like a recession even if the economy is technically out of the recession.
One hedge fund manager I spoke with thinks it will go on even longer than that. "The Great Depression went on for more than 10 years, and what's going on now in the financial system is pretty similar," he told me.

But it's not all bad news for customers--anyone left standing in early 2009 should be able to command some pretty good deals on hardware.