How can I say that Microsoft Corp., one of the most profitable companies ever to exist is going to go bankrupt, and actually mean it?
Because I’ve done a lot of work studying the company, and understand some things about it, its markets, and its customers, that aren’t common knowledge. It is an exceptionally complex issue that I’ve never explained fully before, to anyone. In this series of posts I’m going to break down my reasoning step by step, explaining how I found the data I’m using, where I’m guessing, and most importantly why I think the way I do.
This is the second part of the the series, I hope you enjoy reading it.
I left off during an explanation of what Microsoft is, specifically how I determined what it is. Often the company in question won’t realize exactly what it is, what its strengths are, what its weaknesses are, or even the exact business that it is in. This is why when working on a report on a company, or business segment, the reporter has to determine this themselves.
What is Microsoft Continued
I covered part of what you need to determine what Microsoft, or any other company is. Now you have to understand what everyone else thinks it is.
Sorry, I know I said last when talking about legal issues, I was half asleep at that point 🙂
This means reading a lot of articles about the company and its products, from a range of sources. In Microsoft’s case, PC Industry publications are one set of sources, if you were investigating General Motors you’d want to check automotive industry publications.
Industry publications have to be considered carefully. Is the source dependent upon ad revenue from your subject company? If so you have to discount most of what you’ll find. It might be accurate, but slanted.
General Business publications are another good source, if your company is large enough or sexy enough to be covered by them. Most companies won’t be, but Microsoft luckily is.
Fan sites are also a valuable source of information. Fan compliments and complaints about a product or company can be highly enlightening, because fans usually know the product company far better than you will. Of course you have to watch out for paid trolls hired by competitors or the company. This is an extremely common problem, and one that won’t go away until legislated.
Comments on unrelated sites can be really valuable. If you are on a site that covers another industry, and there’s a complaint or compliment about the company you are researching, it’s really valuable. It’s even more valuable if it comes from someone you know, because it is easier to get details, and you have some knowledge of the source. That won’t happen very often though.
Every single thing has to be analyzed. Does the person talking:
- Know what they are talking about, i.e. is the complaint/compliment plausible? If it is plausible, is it possible, there’s a huge difference. If it is impossible why did they print it, maybe you are wrong about it being impossible. Remember the Toyota acceleration issue? It was a real hardware issue, but it was treated like a unicorn sighting for a long time.
- What errors are there in the article? Wikipedia rates the New York Times as an excellent source, I rate it 2.5 stars out of 5. The New York Times is inaccurate about half of the time, even on General News Articles. Take the Steubenville Rape Case that Anonymous is watching, and which I wrote about a couple of days ago, the Times article had a couple of inaccuracies. So did the article I read in the Guardian, and both are usually considered good sources. General News Sources tend to be less accurate on technical issues. Be careful.
- What common errors do you see in many articles? This can be really important, because if you see the same error appearing in more than one publications, the writers are probably working from a press release, or the same set of notes. And that happens, I’ve seen press conferences, where one attendee stepped out for a smoke, and borrowed someone else’s notes. I’ve also seen press articles being used for stories. Pick a couple of phrases and Google them. If they show up in more than one place…
- Assume that every single person covering the company/story is an incompetent fool, until proven otherwise. Most won’t be, but their mistakes can kill you. If you are doing an in-depth evaluation of this type on a company, you want to get it right. Don’t trust anyone.
To a certain extent you have to think like a spy. Cross, Double Cross, Triple Cross…
The odds are that no one is really trying to mislead you. But they will mislead you, because they may have every reason to believe that they are right, and belief of any sort is a tough thing to oppose.
This is how I get to know a target. I didn’t start off planning to write about Microsoft going bankrupt. I just knew that some of what I was reading didn’t make sense, and that made me dig deeper. The deeper I dug, the stranger things got, and they got pretty strange indeed.
How could a company that makes that much money be in trouble, and if they are, why haven’t you heard about it?
Simple. Because many of Microsoft’s problems aren’t directly visible, much like the Flu virus that laid you out last winter wasn’t directly visible. At least not without an electron microscope…
I’ll continue tomorrow. Have fun!
Wednesday January 9, 2013