MediaFile

IBM knows a thing or two about shoes. Retailers, take note.

By Nicola Leske
In the fickle world of fashion, the skill to predict what will be en vogue next is invaluable to retailers around the world.
While some will argue that it takes style and expertise to predict what customers will want to wear even before they know it, IBM begs to differ.
It comes down to science, specifically IBM’s analytics software.
Take shoes for example, in particular the height of heels.
“We used IBM software to identify those who are the influencers online by searching the web for blogs about shoes,” said John Buscemi.
“We found tens of thousands and narrowed it down to those who were linked to a lot and who in turn linked to a lot of other people…if you had a map they would sit at the center of the social network,” Buscemi said.
According to that analysis, heels are coming down.
“Key trend-watching bloggers between 2008 and 2009 wrote consistently about heels from five to eight inches, but by mid 2011 they were writing about the return of the kitten heel and the perfect flat from Jimmy Choo and Louboutin,” said Trevor Davis, a consumer expert with IBM’s Global Business Services.
IBM said the data could be used by shoe manufacturers and retailers looking for insight into the kind of shoes to manufacture and sell in the coming season — and could potentially put fashion consultants out of business.
By the way, high heels have traditionally been linked to a falling economy — think high heel pumps during the Great Depression and stilettos following the dot-com bust a decade ago.
But this time the decline of the heel may not be a sign of an economic upturn but a grudging acceptance of a long road ahead best to be taken on more modest shoes.
“Usually, in an economic downturn, heels go up and stay up – as consumers turn to more flamboyant fashions as a means of fantasy and escape,” Davis said.
“This time, something different is happening — perhaps a mood of long-term austerity is evolving among consumers sparking a desire to reduce ostentation in everyday settings.”

from The Great Debate UK:

Microsoft bets on Windows 7 heaven

Matthew Bath

-Matthew Bath is technology editor at Which? The opinions expressed are his own.-

Microsoft’s Windows operating system has been frustrating and delighting computer users in almost equal measure since it was first debuted by the software giant first in 1985. Fast forward through nearly a quarter of a century of powering the majority of the world’s personal computers, and Windows is about to hit another milestone.

Windows 7 launches on October 22, worldwide, and it’s safe to say that, as a firm, Microsoft will be collectively crossing fingers and toes that shoppers flock to the new version.

A racier side to Nvidia CEO Huang

 Nvidia’s top executive isn’t your typical geek.  He likes fast computers, but he loves fast cars.

Jen-Hsun Huang , proud owner of no less than three barely street-legal supercars - red and grey Ferraris and a jet black Koenigsegg CCX — was on the brink of adding yet more horsepower to his stable after watching RTT demonstrate a Ferrari-customization program — running off Nvidia’s graphic chips, of course — onstage on Wednesday.

The unabashed racing car-lover joked that he had been enthralled by a Ferrari 458 Italia that popped up on screen during a demonstration by RTT chief executive Ludwig Fuchs. Fuchs, sharing the stage with Huang, demonstrated how Nvidia chips power his company’s customization platform, which allows would-be racers to configure a Ferrari to taste – color, interior, tires, the works – right on the showroom floor.

Oracle is SAP’s own Lord Voldemort

It’s been a while since German business software maker SAP has stated exactly how much of a market share it has.  And no matter how much journalists prod and badger SAP CEO Leo Apotheker he will not divulge that figure. Even when analysts say they believe that SAP’s main rival Oracle has been taking market share from the German company, Apotheker will not be moved to shed some light on the issue.  In several TV interviews on Wednesday, the day SAP presented its second-quarter results, and in a call with analysts, Apotheker not only declined to provide even a range, in fact he could not bring himself to call his company’s fiercest rival by name. “We have about twice as much market share as Number 2,” he said.  In the Harry Potter series the hero is the only one who calls his nemesis by name – Lord Voldemort - instead of ”he who must not be named”.  C’mon Leo, if Harry Potter can do it, so can you.

Monday media highlights

Here are some of the day’s top stories in the media industry:

Microsoft takes on Google as Office moves to Web (Reuters)
Jim Finkle reports: “Microsoft will offer for free to consumers Web-based versions of its Office suite of programs, including a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software and a note-taking program. Microsoft will also host one Internet business version of Office at its own data centers, charging companies a yet-to- be-announced fee.”

Six in 10 companies plan to skip Windows 7 (Reuters)
“Many of the more than 1,000 companies that responded to a survey by ScriptLogic Corp say they have economized by cutting back on software updates and lack the resources to deploy Microsoft’s latest offering.”

MySpace to Take Entertainment Tack (WSJ)
“In a brief interview, News Corp. Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch said MySpace needs to be refocused ‘as an entertainment portal.’ Mr. Murdoch described his vision for MySpace as a place where ‘people are looking for common interests,’” writes Julia Angwin.

from Summit Notebook:

Alphabet-shaped recovery? Try bathtub-shaped

We've all heard discussions on what letter of the alphabet the economic recovery will look like. Will it be "V" shaped -- as in, a sharp plummeting, followed by an equally sharp upswing? Or more "U" shaped -- a downturn followed by a flat period before the recovery starts? Is the lightness we're witnessing in the economy the mid-point in a more extended recovery process, mirroring the letter "W"? And heaven forbid, let's not even think we might be stuck in an "L" shaped economy, with no near or medium-term hope of improvement.

We asked the chief executives of Sybase and Symantec, our first two guests at the Reuters Global Technology Summit, what they thought the recovery graph might look like.

Sybase CEO John Chen said he remains cautious about the overall economic outlook despite talk of a "green shoots" rebound and the idea that tech spending has hit a bottom. So it's unlikely to be a V-shaped recovery or even a W-shaped recovery, Chen said. He think the economy is going through a U-shaped recovery, although it might be a year or more before we begin to climb up the right side of the "U."

Marc the software slayer’s new mission

Web-based software maker Salesforce.com has a new slogan.

The company’s brash founder, Marc Benioff, built a software business that generates more than $1 billion in annual revenue based on a slogan that makes you wonder if he is in the right business: “The end of software.” (He argued that he sells a service that customers access over the Web, not the traditional kind of software that companies install on their own computers.)

On Tuesday, Benioff rolled out a new slogan.

“It’s time to open up a new front in “The End of Software”– one that is long overdue,” Benioff said in an email to managers at the 10-year old company. “It’s time for The End of Maintenance.”

Salesforce is now going after the maintenance fees that the software industry has long charged for updates and bug fixes. With such costs ranging from 20 percent to 25 percent of the original price of the software, Benioff points out that means customers are paying for their software all over again every four or five years. For Salesforce and “software as a service” peers like NetSuite, Workday, SuccessFactors and RightNow, they don’t charge charge maintenance fees as all costs are included in subscription fees.