JCL Blog

Facebook is the Paris Hilton of Tech

Smart phones, tablets, TVs, app stores, Twitter, and Facebook (and the movie) sure seem to get the bulk of media attention.  HP now has over $114 billion in revenues, the largest part generated selling to the enterprise, but their consumer products get all of the coverage.  IBM has 400,000 employees and also generates nearly $100 billion in revenues – rarely ever mentioned – because it is focused on the enterprise.  Microsoft, well Microsoft just never gets mentioned.  See my post the other day on the Pew Study.  If Larry Ellison wasn’t pulling stunts with the Americas Cup or Mark Hurd, no one would ever cover Oracle in the media.

Real work is being done hardening networks against cyber terrorism, lowering total cost of computing, developing and enforcing enterprise standards, safeguarding large amounts of sensitive data, and developing industry specific solutions.  This work is done with rarely a mention in the press.  My explanation:  enterprise computing is complicated, hard to understand or explain, and most of all it is boring.  To Journalists, Facebook is Paris Hilton.  Write about either of them and your web site gets hits.  Write about lowering energy consumption in data centers and you might as well be covering anything having to do with sub Saharan Africa’s problems.

We really have not had big coverage of business tech issues since Y2K – over a decade ago.  Could it be that we are due for a surge in enterprise coverage?  It may make sense to think for a minute about events that could cause this to happen and how it might impact the technology industry.

Here are three things that could bring enterprise computing closer to the center of technology media coverage:

  1. A Big Security Event:  Let’s hope it never happens, but if a big section of the power grid goes down, or all of the credit cards become inoperable, or a cyber attack crashes the stock market, the media will start to pay attention.
  2. Follow the Jobs:  If big tech starts hiring again and makes a dent in the unemployment rate it will be a big story.  Unfortunately, this probably is a result of the changes we would like to see instead of the cause. 
  3. Someone Connects the Dots: Google and Facebook are largely considered consumer businesses.  They are however, big enterprise operations in their own right however.  The media could latch onto the fact that Google’s network of data centers, gigantic databases, and all of the infrastructure required to run its business is cool and worth paying attention to.

What would change and why should we care?

  1. The Money Follows the Media:  A lot has been written lately about how the VC business is changing.  The story is that the investment exits are not there and new tech start ups don’t need as much money to start.  It is true that someone building for the Apple App store does not need to raise much if any venture capital, and may never go public.  Venture capital is needed just as much now as ever before.  The VCs do seem to follow the media, so if the media goes enterprise, maybe the VCs will too.  Thomas Friedman would sure be happy if we started funding green tech instead of another Twitter clone.
  2. Exports Up:  Technology innovation is something we can do well and we can export.  Enterprise computing is harder to knock off than a movie or an iPhone. If we build more capacity in our big business computing services – we could export it.  Companies like IBM, HP, Microsoft, Oracle, and others are already doing this in a big way – so we know how to do it.  And the balance of trade needs attention.
  3. Do Our Part:  If this were to happen, all of us could be proud of our contribution to the worldwide economic recovery.  Instead of presenting a military face to the world, or fancy financial engineering – which deploys just as much of a scorched earth approach as the military, we could be helping companies and governments around the world increase their productivity.  And they would pay us for it!  Good for us and for them. 

I hope someone figures out how to make enterprise computing interesting enough to get some media attention.  Could do us all some good.