Thursday, August 16, 2007

Meeting Steve Jobs; Newer Technology

A long time ago, far far away...

It was after a day at MacWorld. We'd had a busy time in the booth, but this evening was to be far more special. I'd been invited to an Apple VIP party. It was to be held in a hotel somewhere near Moscone, in downtown San Francisco.

I remember walking around the room and looking at name badges. For whatever reason, I remember seeing and meeting Jonathan Ivy, design guru.

Steve Jobs walked into the room, as all oxygen in the room exited simultaneously.

We were seven feet apart.

He said: "We don't like it when you introduce accelerator cards which are faster than our computers." (At that time, I was the CEO of Newer Technology, which ultimately sold somewhere around 150K+ CPU accelerator cards for Macs.)

Well, that was a nice Howdy Do.

I had an Apple handler with me. He was as flustered as I. I certainly didn't know what to say; but the handler stepped in, saying: "Newer Technology is a big supporter of the Apple platform" or similar words to that effect, as if a pithy statement about our Mac attitude could save us from the fact that we were competing on Mr. Jobs playground.

Yeah, I got it.

Newer Technology ultimately failed. Perhaps one of the reasons was that we competed indirectly against Apple. The company that exists today using the same name bought that name and trademark through a Chapter 7 asset liquidation. They gained the right to use the Newer badge to sell anything they want.

Over the years, I also had the pleasure of meeting Gil Amelio (a decent guy, I ended up seeing him several times) and Jon Scully (met him once).

That's enough old times for now. See you soon.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

WiebeTech Products featured in 'Transformers'

The movie "Transformers" utilized WiebeTech products in one critical scene. Early in the movie, while on Air Force One, a small transformer robot pulled disk drives out of a storage enclosure. The disk drives are clearly visible, with a bright orange 'W' on each one. They are the same drives which are utilized in WiebeTech's ProSata SS8 high capacity portable ultrascsi storage enclosure!

WiebeTech products were also utilized a couple of years ago in the hit TV series '24'. The nuclear override device, which Jack fervently sought, was in fact a WiebeTech ComboDock. It was clearly visible on screen, as was the innard cutouts of one of our Forensic Field Kits.

You've probably seen the movie Jurassic Park, right? Another company which I ran had products in it as well. The company was Newer Technology, and Newer's memory was inside the Mac computers in the control room scenes. The large amount of real memory in each computer facilitated (among other things) smooth QuickTime playback on the screens of those computers. Newer received a credit at the end of the movie (go ahead; load your DVDs/VCRs; the credit's still there...)

OK, now lets go all the way back to the beginning of time, which, of course, was the movie "The Net" starring Sandra Bullock. The Pan American Computer show within that movie was in fact MacWorld/San Francisco and the venue was Moscone Convention center. The bad guy is filmed chasing Sandra Bullock through the convention floor. He passes directly through the booth of Newer Technology, and was very close to me. I'm in the movie. I'm looking away; the camera shot clearly shows the top of my balding head. :-)

I was recently interviewed by Carrie Rengers of the Wichita Eagle in reference to Transformers. That interview is contained within this article.

The Eagle also recently ran an in-depth interview of me. Unfortunately, a subscription to the Eagle archives is required to view the article. If you're still interested, it's posted here. Look for the article in archives by Dan Voorhis, entitled, "A Conversation with James Wiebe".

Monday, August 13, 2007

PGA Championship & Inventory Control

PGA Championship

On a personal note, my wife (Kathy) and I made the trip down to Tulsa so that we could watch the last two days of the PGA championship. I was most impressed with Woody Austin, who lives in Derby, KS, just a few miles from here. It was blazing hot. Tiger Woods won, but Woody was close behind.


Inventory Management is an absolute requirement in small business. One of the things that I learned through the bankruptcy of Newer Technology many years ago is that management must cast a careful and prudent eye on inventory. We do that a lot here at WiebeTech - we've developed several different ways to examine our inventory so that it well balanced, well stocked, and not obsolete. I hate obsolete inventory! I also hate not having inventory in stock, ready to ship to customers!

We've developed a system which allows us to examine our inventory by line item, complete with detailed usage and aging information. As a result, we are able to easily calculate obsolescence on our total inventory and scrap our junk. We have many different ways we can 'look' at our inventory using this system - we can change aging periods; we can set different cutoff levels for what constitutes an inventory obsolescence issue per line item.

Inventory in a technology company is kind of like inventory in the produce section of a grocery store. Lettuce looks great when it's fresh, but no one will buy it when it is stale and old. That is why our selection of hard drives is higher in capacity than many of our competitors - we tend to stock capacities that are new, in demand, and are likely to remain in demand for some time. We don't like to stock older drives with small capacities. They are poor values for the consumer, and they are poor inventory risks for us.

Our inventory control system is really composed of three major components: a) our enterprise financial system, b) which works in conjunction with FishBowl inventory control software, c) for which we have developed many custom reports. (I can't recommend FishBowl - it is cumbersome and buggy - we've had to work around some of its issues.) Email me if you'd like to hear more about FishBowl.