Technology and computing

Google “Re-Circling” the Great Fire Wall of China?

googleA corporate strategy article by Thunderbird students Eric Chown, Mike Grey, Nicholas Kincaid, Steve McCaa, Charles Midthun and Srikanth Venkatasubramanian

Mei Huang’s family has moved from Beijing to Shanghai and she misses her old friends. She had a great day in school today and has met a new boy — she is really excited and wants to share the news — what are they up to and wouldn’t it be nice to just chat real time, even if it was online — but the current service provider has strict limits on this capability. … Wen Li met with a group of friends last night and they know there is something wrong with the way people are being treated by the local businesses — the bosses seem to have no feeling or responsibility to the workers. This leads to thoughts about the Tiananmen Square uprising and the reasons for the demonstrations — but there is no way to search for anything related to this period, everything is censored. … Hui Zhong has been working on a report on the river systems in China, but the word for river “jiang” is the same as that of a former head of the communist party and searches for political information are taboo. (Ford) So she needs to be somewhat vague, and the information returned doesn’t meet her needs. There must be a better search engine that understands more than exactly what is typed, something that understands what she wants or is looking for.

K.O. for BlackBerry maker RIM?

BlackberryAs mobile technology has made leaps and bounds, Research in Motion (RIM) maker of the once popular Blackberry mobile phone struggles to survive. Can the company save itself from bankruptcy or is it too late?

Turned off…
Thorsten Heins, the new CEO of Research In Motion (RIM) probably cancelled his subscription to the New York Times. One of the United States’ leading daily papers decided to drop its app for BlackBerry after seeing a notable drop off in user traffic on its app. The app will no longer load news stories, essentially turning off. This follows a series of unflattering developments regarding the maker of the once dominant mobile phone brand BlackBerry. Large multinational companies such as Halliburton and Qantas recently decided to no longer use BlackBerry services and have been switching their employees to Apple’s iPhone. The US Government’s procurement agency has also followed suit, starting the switch from BlackBerry to iPhone for all US Government Agencies..(1) (2)

Apple, Are You Interested in the World's Largest Market?

AppleA corporate strategy article by Thunderbird students.

With $100 billion in cash and closing in on the richest market cap in history, many feel that Apple is at the top of its game.[i] Nevertheless, at some point, Apple’s products will reach saturation levels at the high-end of the market in developed countries.  To keep the top spot, Apple will need to direct its growth efforts to emerging markets and find ways to make its products both relevant and widely available to customers outside of its traditional target markets.

In spite of its strong worldwide sales, Apple has long ignored an underserved market segment that, if tapped, could enrich its coffers even more.  Far away from high end markets in developed countries, lay the “poor” representing 65% the world’s population.[ii] On average, individuals in this “bottom of the pyramid” (BOP) group earn $2,000 per year or less; however, because of the large number of consumers in this group, their aggregate purchasing power is immense.[iii] This BOP segment represents a tremendous opportunity for Apple to serve a market that currently relies on second-tier technology for mobile devices and media platforms, yet is eager for lower-priced, high-quality goods and services.  In spite of their low incomes, those in the BOP segment often spend 10% to 500% more than those in higher-end segments on similar goods.[iv] By offering a high end brand at a price competitive with second-tier products, Apple could drive tremendous sales volumes and acquire a large share of the BOP market.

Will the Death of Groupon Be its Lookalikes?

GrouponA corporate strategy article by Thunderbird students.

In 1887, Mr. Asa Candler was faced with a distribution dilemma. [1] The Atlanta druggist had spent $2,500 on a formula for a sweet-tasting drink and was looking for a way to promote the sale of this little-known beverage named Coca-Cola. [2] His solution: handwritten tickets offering customers a free sample. To Mr. Candler’s surprise, the offer was a huge success. So was born the coupon. By 1913, an estimated 11% or roughly 8.5 million Americans had received a free coke. [1] One could argue that Mr. Candler’s invention of the coupon is the reason Coca-Cola started on its path to becoming one of the most iconic global brands - ever.

Fast forward to 2008, when an internet start up based in Chicago, IL created one of the largest shake ups in the marketing world since Mr. Candler’s first hand written ticket; that company - Groupon. The novelty of Groupon was this: through the power of the internet, select “daily deal” coupons could be offered and if a big enough “group” agreed to purchase the deal, then the deal would become valid. [3] The program was used by participating companies as a way to reduce the risk of losses, increase customer traffic, and drive promotions. Now four years since its launch, the Groupon business model has come under attack and faces many strategic obstacles, including competition from lookalike websites.

Samsung’s 'Smartworld' Challenge

SamsungA corporate strategy article by Thunderbird students Patricia Breceda, Mandukhai Hansen, Nick Mohin, Ajay Mungara, and Aleksey Vlasov

In May 2010, Ajay Mungara (Thunderbird ’12) was visiting the headquarters of one of the fastest growing companies in the world, Samsung Electronics Corporation (Samsung) in Suwon, South Korea for the first time. As he passed through the high security visitor center, he looked forward to the exciting and challenging opportunity to get to work with the “Jewel[1]” of the Samsung Group. Over the past two years and many more visits, and meetings with Samsung representatives, Ajay has seen Samsungs success to forge full speed ahead, and its brand value rise to #17 on Interbrand’s 100 Best Global Brands of 2011 list.[2]

Ajay knew there’s more to Samsung than its focus on Research and Development, and was curious about knowing more. As coincidence would have it, he came upon a group of fellow Thunderbirds who have also been watching Samsung’s rise, and interested in exploring more in to how Samsung is taking lead in the global smartphone competition. Together they pondered about Samsung’s global strategy, and wanted find out how it was able to displace Apple as the world’s top selling smartphone maker by volume, and how it continued to take market share away from world’s top handset manufacturers such as Nokia and Motorola in most emerging markets. They also wondered about the challenges it could be facing as the collaboration of world’s leading software and mobile handset manufacturers continues, such as mergers of Google-Motorola, Windows-Nokia. Can Samsung sustain its success for the long term? Can it survive the battle for the most valued component, the operating “eco” system in the smartphone?

TTM Technologies Acquisition of Meadville – A Retrospective Strategic Analysis

TTM TechnologiesA shift in the printed circuit board (PCB) industry has motivated leading US defense PCB manufacturers to collaborate with international businesses, particularly in China. In 2010, TTM Technologies became the largest US-owned printed circuit board manufacturer and the fifth largest worldwide by acquiring Hong Kong-based Meadville, a high volume PCB manufacturer. Leading into the 2010 decision, TTM was arguably the most prominent military and aerospace PCB provider in US and possibly the globe.

Since the mid-2000s, the PCB industry has had a new emphasis on less complex, high volume standard boards over the high complexity, lower volume PCBs required for the aerospace and defense industry – TTM’s core competency. In an effort to help diversify its manufacturing and lower costs, TTM acquired Meadville in April 2010, a somewhat controversial move that may well bring an end to TTM’s contracts with the US government.

The Importance of the Online Network: LinkedIn’s Strategic Position and Power

LinkedInA corporate strategy article by Thunderbird students Leah Burdick, Ilan Fehler, Nicholas Kincaid, Peter Klein and David Ryan

More so than traditional businesses, online businesses have the distinct advantage of acquiring more information about their customers. The more that is known about online users’ habits, needs and preferences, the greater the value that is derived from that relationship, as the businesses are better able to cater to the needs of those online users. An online network, a system of users, is enhanced not only by the relationship the business has with the user but also by the relationships that the users have with one other. Take the telephone for example. If you were one of the first three people to own one, you could only call the other two. Fortunately, today millions of people have access to telephones and anyone of them could theoretically call any other one. Therefore, a network of users derives greater value through the network’s size and ubiquity — the larger the network, the greater the value to both businesses and consumers.

Mobile Banking in Egypt

By M. Evans, L. Hammes, W. Herberger, B. Berg, T. El Wahsh, D. Rassloff

Banking in Post-Revolution Egypt Gets Upwardly “Mobile”

Without mobile phones, the Mubarak regime might still be thriving today. But political reform and social change are not the only ripple effects of widespread mobile usage. Mobile banking stands to create a dramatic new stimulus to the Egyptian economy. In a country where remittances from foreign workers contribute US$9.5 billion annually to the economy (Bloomberg News, 2010) and transfers between relatives within the country are common, one might think that transferring funds would be easy and convenient. Transferring funds should be an accessible service in a banking system that is well regulated and thrives on the competition between 39 banks. But for most Egyptians, these basic, common transactions are far from straightforward.

Microsoft and Nokia's Mobile Business: The Road Ahead

A corporate strategy article by Thunderbird students Antonio Perez Malpica, Amar Memon, Madhavi Rao, Andrew Rivas and Kaleena Rivas


Since their introduction in 1979, mobile phones have been constantly evolving and becoming an integral part of our daily lives. From the first generation of devices based on cellular networks to the introduction of digital technologies like GSM and SMS and all the way to ultra-fast third and fourth generation (4G) networks, mobile phones have become more powerful, have increased their capabilities and have turned into essential devices for consumers around the world.

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), in September of 2010 Nokia (Symbian OS) had 40.1% of the worldwide smartphone market share followed by BlackBerry (17.9%), Android (16.3%), and Windows Phone (6.8%). The IDC predicts that by the end of 2011, Android will become the leading OS system with 39.5% of worldwide market share due to their popular royalty-free business model, their partnerships with key global mobile carriers and the popularity of its applications (most of which are free). In order to increase its market share in the smartphone industry, Microsoft must deal with the strategic issue of proving the value of its Windows Phone 7 OS to their ecosystem partners and customers particularly in emerging markets where most of the growth is expected to occur.

Cisco: Hedging rather than betting

Cisco SystemsBy Executive MBA students Marc Simony, Sherrie Zollinger, Kellie Teelander, Casey Hirschman, Fayda Khalek and Dewan Simon

What do you do when you have $40 billion in the bank, net profits of $7.7 billion, an average annual unlevered free cash flow of around $9 billion, the world economy in shambles, and you need to continue to grow because stagnation will kill your stock price?

At Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) you announce a $10 billion share buyback to protect your stock price, and you try to maximize your sunk costs and IP (pun intended; both Intellectual Property and Internet Protocol). Cisco has a plethora of business units, but most are geared toward supporting packet flow over Cisco’s core business — networking infrastructure. Networking infrastructure, in this case, represents a large portion the sunk costs, because sold gear does not return any post-sale revenue scaled to the use and value it provides the purchaser.

Cisco doesn’t want to just sell shovels; it wants to be part of the gold rush. The easiest solution would be to attach a packet meter to Cisco’s switches and routers, give them away for free, and charge for their utility. It is unlikely, however, that businesses would buy into this. Option two would be for Cisco to “stuff” the network pipe and exhaust its use, leading to higher online capacity demand, and  enabling Cisco to sell more of its routers, Unified Computing Systems, and cloud-enabling virtualization technology—the full data center stack!


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