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Silicon Valley - The Geeks Are Back In Charge? 209

Posted by simoniker
from the rain-rain-go-away-suits? dept.
securitas writes "The New York Times' Steve Lohr reports on a fundamental shift taking place in Silicon Valley in the post-dotcom era: the geeks are back in charge. New start-ups and companies that survived the bubble 'are based on innovation and are run by people with deep technical skills.' These companies have real technology and a solid technical base that have historically been the bedrock of Silicon Valley - something that was temporarily forgotten during the dotcom bubble. Profiled companies include Tellme Networks (speech recognition), InterTrust (DRM - digital rights management), VMware (virtual machines) and Scalix (Linux e-mail servers)."
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Silicon Valley - The Geeks Are Back In Charge?

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  • by andy1307 (656570) * on Sunday October 26, 2003 @09:33AM (#7313427)
    As in you-know-who Torvalds and Frank Quattrone [bayarea.com]

    NEW YORK - The month-long criminal trial against Frank Quattrone, Silicon Valley's once-high-flying financier of the technology boom, crumbled Friday when a judge declared a mistrial after jurors deadlocked on a verdict.

    Inside Frank Quattrone's Money Machine [businessweek.com]

    Nobody knew it at the time, but the apex of the Internet rocket ride came on the morning of Dec. 9, 1999. Executives of computer maker VA Linux Systems Inc. gathered at 6 a.m. in the trading offices of Credit Suisse First Boston (CSR ) on the 17th floor of a San Francisco skyscraper for the company's initial public offering. Among those assembled were Larry M. Augustin, the chief executive, and his friend Linus Torvalds, the inventor of the Linux operating system, who was dressed in his customary T-shirt and sandals. Their three toddlers scampered around underfoot while the adults watched in stunned silence as the stock price jumped from 30 a share to more than 200 within minutes. Augustin nudged Torvalds and whispered: "Did you ever think we'd be here?" At the end of trading, the company's shares were worth 239.25 apiece, up 697.5%, making it the best-ever first-day IPO performance.
    • Linus Torvalds... dressed in his customary T-shirt and sandals.

      That's all? Too much information :-)

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Posting anonymously for obvious reasons.

      I used to work at CSFB, where Quattrone was. A bigger bunch of gung-ho cowboys it would be hard to imagine. I was asked to do such things as fiddle reports to show losses become profits (reasoning was given, but the reasoning was bogus and the guy just wanted to get a bonus). I edited code on live production servers. Systems fell apart on a more than daily basis. Some loon had decided the best way to look productive was to do a release every two weeks, regardless of

    • Linus Torvalds, the inventor of the Linux operating system, who was dressed in his customary T-shirt and sandals.

      ...Just like Jesus!
  • Let's not forget ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nbvb (32836) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @09:35AM (#7313432) Journal
    Let's not forget our friends over at IronPort Systems (www.ironport.com). Great product, great team...

    Amazing, first real dot-com I've dealt with that has a real solid shot of being the Big Dog in what they do ..
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Not to mention the terrific team at SteelDock Tech (www.steeldock.com) - they're awesome, a real pro-active synergy-driven group who think outside the box. I've met a few of them, and they're all team-players with the self motivation and drive necessary to push the envelope.

      If you're interesting in buying some stock, let me know, I can cut you in with a good deal.

  • DRM? (Score:4, Troll)

    by gunix (547717) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @09:36AM (#7313437)
    "These companies have real technology and a solid technical base
    InterTrust (DRM - digital rights management), "

    Is it just me, or why do I feel bad when I read "real technology" and DRM in the same text?
    • by andy1307 (656570) *
      And they are suing Microsoft [intertrust.com]

      Microsoft Patent Infringement Overview In April 2001, InterTrust commenced a patent infringement lawsuit against Microsoft. Since that time, InterTrust has continued its investigation of Microsoft products and expanded the litigation to now include eight InterTrust patents and many patent claims. Overall, InterTrust's current assertions against Microsoft can be characterized as relating to:

      Now you know why they were included.

    • Re:DRM? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DrEldarion (114072) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @10:05AM (#7313526)
      Is there a reason why DRM shouldn't be labeled "real technology" besides the fact that you don't like it?

      -- Dr. Eldarion --
      • Re:DRM? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Scarblac (122480)

        There is the feeling many techies have, that real DRM on audio at least will always be ineffective. If you can play it over your stereo, you can record it and thus copy it. With other types of data it's not so obvious, but still, my impression is that DRM will never stop any serious pirate and will just be a hassle for consumers. In short, it won't work.

        So calling a company a good solid tech company because it does DRM does sound a bit shaky to me.

        • It is a solid tech company as long as the status quo is maintained; to wit, that companies control the law because they spend more money on lobbying. As has been pointed out repeatedly on slashdot in the past, lobbying is simply necessary, and we need to find a way to carry out lobbying on behalf of the people. I think the best way would be a distributed network of people who know where important figures at all level of government would be at most or many times (it is not necessary to track them all the tim
      • DRM is real technology.
        it's also a false economy.

        --
        now go work on your spamsite!


      • DRM is not real technology because it isn't inventing anything new. All it is doing is taking existing real encryption technology, and making it act against the user rather than for him.
      • Is there a reason why DRM shouldn't be labeled "real technology" besides the fact that you don't like it?

        Nope :)
      • Re:DRM? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sacrilicious (316896)
        Is there a reason why DRM shouldn't be labeled "real technology"

        DRM is certainly a real technology in the sense that it has goals and implementation details. I do think there are ways to see it as not a "real" technology; admittedly, doing so involves adopting some non-textbook interpretations of "real". Suppose that we colloquially choose to say that real technology is that which results in a clear benefit for humankind; arguably DRM doesn't. These issues aren't black and white, but that's the spiri

      • Is there a reason why DRM shouldn't be labeled "real technology" besides the fact that you don't like it?

        That's so easy, I wonder if you mean it.

        Technology is a tool that does something useful.

        DRM is nothing but a trade seceret that keeps people seperated from their information to one degree or another. It seeks, in its basest form, to impose the physical restrictions of older media on electronic media. They are using standard techniques and technologies that were worked out for legitimate purposes.

    • Hardly real. I was attempting to use it at one stage, it never ever worked. The client was buggy, killed Windows 95, it was expensive, securing content was a pain, and then, instead of trying to fix those problems they switched to "securing" email.

      They couldn't get their software to work, so now they've fallen back to enforcing patents. Or, expensive software that doesn't work, yup Microsoft is trying to do that too sometimes...

    • DRM technology was conceived long before mass trading of audio on the internet was even thought of, let alone practiced by millions. One of the markets ITRU was angling for before that was the medical industry - being able to put medical records in an encrypted format, to 1) ease reliable transfer of patient information between medical providers, and 2) securing your medical records against unauthorized access.

      So, what about DRM being used for consumer audio? I don't want any DRM on music I purchase, and
  • Myths (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cubicledrone (681598) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @09:37AM (#7313443)
    1) Everyone fired or laid off post-dot-com was a skill-less, freeloading slacker who got their technical skills from "Learn $TECHNOLOGY in 21 days" books.

    False. In fact, middle-management is now finding their IT department unable to do much of anything without a huge budget increase or new equipment. Middle-management, as expected, is still sitting there, having meetings and trying to figure out what to do.

    2) Anyone who can't get a job as a programmer now is a skill-less, freeloading slacker who got their technical skills from "Learn $TECHNOLOGY in 21 days" books.

    False. There are Masters Degree holders in both engineering and scientific fields of IT study who cant rent interviews, much less jobs.

    3) Technical skills are a commodity.

    False. Perhaps 10% of the working population has the training, education and experience to build a complete computer program. Middle-management, unable to understand this fact, much less the technologies they are in charge of, continues to presume that ordering a database is no different than ordering new file cabinets.

    When these and other myths are no longer givens in the discussion of improving the IT department, then, and only then, will things improve.
    • Re:Myths (Score:5, Insightful)

      by squiggleslash (241428) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @10:09AM (#7313535) Homepage Journal
      Much of this perception has to do with the fact that when there was a shortage of people with computer skills in the late nineties, two things happened:

      1. There were an awfully large number of "Learn $TECHNOLOGY in 21 days" types who got hired. Actually, more seriously, there were an awfully large number of "Know the buzzwords associated with $TECHNOLOGY in 21 days so you can pass interviews" types. I know this, I had to work with so many of these people. Programmers who didn't understand such basics as modularity and FOR...NEXT loops, who couldn't read a two paragraph spec, etc.

      These people were eventually fired or laid off, which in turn lead to an assumption of guilt on the part of anyone fired or laid off. But I also know skilled, talented, individuals laid off from my own company, which didn't feel the recession (or, if anything, benefits from it - we do consultancy that tries to make certain types of retail outlet more efficient and profitable in a business where it's vital stock keeps moving) who were discarded due to temporary shortages or office politics. If I started my own business, I'd hire several of the people we laid off in an instant, above many of those I work with today.

      2. Programmers got greedy. Seriously greedy. I recall two or three years ago reading poster after poster on Slashdot protesting that employers with problems finding employees were just paying too little, and if only they understood that $150,000 was an entry-level salary these days they'd see...

      What they forgot was that few businesses can justify $150,000 on a computer programmer. Those that were paying those kinds of salaries were generally the dot-coms, who also had no business plans and were little more than VC money-pits. But because they were paying so well, programmers held out for those kinds of salaries, with the disasterous consequences we're seeing now - something close to a tech recession, many competant programmers drawing welfare, and businesses outsourcing programming - a medium where traditionally communications are already awful and need improvement - to other countries where they can find cheaper labour. Businesses were forced to look elsewhere, and that's exactly what they did.

      How you resolve this issue is open to question. Despite general pessimism, the fact is businesses that need programmers will always find it easier to locally hire than set up labour pools in other countries, but it's time for some realism and some recognition that a safe, well paid, job is usually better than a temporary obscenely-paid one.

      • Re:Myths (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Knights who say 'INT (708612) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @10:49AM (#7313675) Journal
        but it's time for some realism and some recognition that a safe, well paid, job is usually better than a temporary obscenely-paid one.

        Actually, you need to do a present-value cashflow comparison between the two options.

        Really, "present-value cashflow comparison" is a Business 101 buzzphrase, but it's pretty much how you understand how financial decisions should be made. Everything else in finance (from internal rate of return decisions to Black-Scholes derivative evaluation) are variations on that theme, with different degrees of sophistication.

        Here [macroanalytics.com]'s a quick tutorial I just found on Google. It's really easy to understand, and might avoid unwanted insertions in thy financial behinds.

        • True, but you're assuming rational behaviour from the recipient of the "obsencely-paid" job, which would involve saving and investing the extra money for when it's needed. In actuality, most people in that position (or their spouses) will just end up buying more stuff.
      • The problem is that people were hiring programmers who weren't worth all that money, they could churn their way through writing code but they weren't the inspired sort worth the cash. If the expansion had continued unchecked then programmer salaries would have kept going up too. The programmer who holds your code together (there's usually just one or a few out of a few or a lot, respectively - once your project grows beyond a certain size it tends to become multiple distinct engineering projects anyway) des
      • Re:Myths (Score:4, Interesting)

        by elpapacito (119485) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @12:05PM (#7313973)
        I think there is a common misconception of what programmers really do. If we compare the cost of resources (in a certain moment in time) of the resources used by programmers (mostly books,hardware,beverages,food) and the cost of resources used by other workers (for instance , a plumber) with the market prices of their products/services and quantity of good/service produced , I think we'll see that programmer are living goldmines.

        Let's say that a plumber spends some money in materials to build a network of pipes needed to bring fresh water to an house. He sells his product to one person, with one house. You can't resell that very same work to other persons, because each and every house needs its plumbing works and materials.

        Now the programmer spends his/her lifetime in front of a computer and does some investments in himself by buying hardware and books.Some company may pay these costs.Once the program reaches a mature stage it can be sold to MILLIONS of clients with ridicolously low replication costs.

        The programmers usually don't get royalties on quantity of software sold : once the program is developed, it's company property and (in theory) the programmer could be fired. Thanks for your help, goto hell.

        Now is it unreasonable for a programmer to ask for -comparatively- otrageous wages ? NO ! We have just seen that he's not likely to see his revenue increase EVEN IF the company for which he developed the software sold some million copies.

        He may choose to have stock options instead of cash , but as many programmers have understood that's too much of a risk expecially when there isn't a system preventing management from doing wrong business decision or simple fraud.

        Someone may say that the programmer doesn't know jack about selling products, financing, accounting , laws etc so he deserves to be paid little because he's not sustaining all the costs involved in running a company. But how the f*ck is a programmer supposed to do ALL of that and still do his job of daily coding and bugfixing ?
        It seems humanly impossible to me.

        Yet, his product can be sold in enormous quantity and he's supposed to sustain all the risks of his job without a fair share on the QUANTITY of product sold. No wonder he's going to ask for comparatively huge wages.
        • Re:Myths (Score:4, Interesting)

          by squiggleslash (241428) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @04:29PM (#7315005) Homepage Journal
          It might come as a surprise but, despite knowing literally nearly a hundred programmers throughout my career, I've never met one who worked for a software publisher.

          Never one. I work at a business consultancy. People I've met include employees of Vodafone (the UK telecommunications giant), various military suppliers (Ferranti (RIP), Boeing), various ISPs, Ford, a university or two, a fuel consultancy, banks, and others are the groups that immediately spring to mind. If you remember that until recently, more lines of code had been written in COBOL than most other programming languages put together, you get some idea of the scales involved in where programming is done. I don't know about you, but I can't think of a single off-the-shelf app written in COBOL (Well, there are rumours about Duke Nukem 3D...) COBOL is pretty much exclusively used for in-house applications.

          Software usually isn't sold. It's usually created and then maintained for many years, often many decades. So the concept of royalties is pretty much a non-starter for either paying programmers or making a starting point about what sorts of salaries they should be demanding.

          Salon's Ask the Pilot guy once made a comparison between actors and pilots, bemoaning the fact that pilots were always seen as rich despite that rarely being the case. He pointed out that everyone knows that the Baldwins and Stallones of this world are paid enormous salaries, but nobody thinks twice about the concept of a "struggling actor". The struggling actor is very definitely the rule, not the exception, and it has nothing to do with his or her talents. Programming in terms of work done is a lot like acting - most of the work we do will not generate that much revenue, even if some "stars" that we're all familiar with (the stuff in boxes at Staples) will. But like pilots, even within the technical community, most programmers are assumed to be working on those star projects. Most programmer's aren't.

        • But that is not particular to software.
          What you're describing is essentially how all high-volume manufacturing works. There is an upfront cost (design, tooling, etc) comparable to the programmer purchasing books and designing/coding for that specific project, ongoing overhead costs which both the programmer's company or a mfg company would share, and revenue from the same thing replicated thousands or millions of times and sold. In real product manufacture the cost of raw materials and machinery would be hi
      • Absolutely true statements, all worthy of their +5 moderation points, IMHO!

        There's another, ugly, side to this dot-com to dot-bomb story though.

        Quite a few unqualified individuals who blatantly lied and scammed their way into high-paying tech. jobs were able to crash-course learn what they needed to know, on the job - and are now actually "not too bad" at what they do.

        I have an aquaintance, for example, who moved from the St. Louis, Missouri area out to Silicon Valley when he managed to B.S. his way into
      • If you describe yourself as a 'programmer', then your days are numbered.

        To stay employed you have to differentiate yourself from the thousands of other 'programmers' standing in the unemployment line.

        The way to do this is to become more than just a programmer. Become a computer scientist; become a system integrator, a tool developer, a software system engineer - anything but 'programmer'.

        In today's world you need to not only know how to specify and implement software, you need to know how to build a dat
    • You forgot to mention that it those same middle managers who couldn't manage their own staff are now mismanaging the outsourced projects.

      What I hope is that techies are taking a lesson from Alan Cox, who is taking time off coding to do an MBA. Middle management have become too technically disconnected to be responsible for anything.

      Perhaps things would be better if the mismanagement read "Learn $TECHNOLGY in 21 days". At least they might understand what is going on.

      • Re:Agreed... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by gbjbaanb (229885) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @10:37AM (#7313625)
        absolutely, to get a job nowadays (and there was trend to this before the dot-com era) is to be a top-notch geek, but *also* to be able to communicate with other people, and *additionaly* understand that everything you do is done in the context of a business making money, selling stuff, etc.

        Too many geeks think that their project is the single most important thing, that they must spend another few months getting it perfected... without realising that getting something out to be sold on budget is the primary thing.

        I disagree that managers should learn a bit of technology, my old boss tried that, and god it was awful. He didn't *learn* it, just the buzzwords, he read a few articles on the web, thought he knew it all (I've known a few programmers like that, and some /. posters too :)

        No, managers need to be accountants or personnel people - deal with money or people, that's what they need their skills in.
        • Re:Agreed... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Slashamatic (553801)
          Many years ago I was a projet management course and we were shown "Das Boot" as an example (this was the bit when the sub was stuck on the bottom). The manager (captain) was knowledgable enough about what each team was doing so as to coordinate between them. The lesson is that whilst you don't need to know the details, you had better have an idea of what your teams are doing.

          One of the single largest examples of poor management is when there is the lack of real coordination. In developer terms, I don't ne

          • "The lesson is that whilst you don't need to know the details, you had better have an idea of what your teams are doing."

            The lesson is that you better ask questions and listen to your team to get your information for making your decisions how to deploy the team.

            What really is the problem is that managers often think that they know the material their teams are dealing with, while in reality they dont. And as a result they start to make their decisions based on their own intuitions, instead of advice from t
            • I agree that the lack of delegation is in itself an error, however inadaquate understanding is a major problem. In order to deploy staff sucessfully, you must have a good overview of the task. You cannot delegate the overview - this is something you must have yourself. Persons coming from a non-technical background manageing a very technical process are at a disadvantage. At the same time, a manager from a technical background must understand resource limitations and budgets.

              In the case of NASA, there was

        • No, managers need to be accountants or personnel people - deal with money or people, that's what they need their skills in.

          While this is in many ways true, and I do understand your sentiment (I hate situations where bit of knowledge is both too little and too much -- buzzword-throwing zombies acting like they know enough), I would argue that to deal with money and people, they SHOULD know a bit about domain, the field they are working in. Not necessarily about technical details, but about things that ma

    • Re:Myths (Score:3, Interesting)

      by emptybody (12341)
      I know many people who are still employed because they do not have strong skill sets.

      Management went through and axed folks who cost money. Skilled workers cost money.
      They kept the low men on the totem pole. People that they could keep dumping crap work onto. People who will never find better jobs anywhere.
      People who will continue to work applying hack after hack, and bandaid after bandaid rather than fixing any one problem because they do not know how to debug problems. People who accept gladly an artifi
    • Re:Myths (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kfg (145172) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @10:24AM (#7313575)
      Gold is rare. Gold is also a commodity. It is bought, sold and traded as well as used as a basis for buying, selling and trading other commodities.

      Technical skills may be both rare and needed, misunderstood and overlooked by managment and HR, but that does mean such skills are not a commodity. If they can fire you and hire someone else to do the same job, you are a commodity. Like it or not, right or wrong, businesses are structured in such a way that anyone can be fired and replaced by someone else.

      Checkout clerk is actually a small technical skill. You can confirm this by going through nearly any Wal-Mart check out line. The low quality of of most checkout clerks is palpable. When you hit a good one these days it's almost a religous experience. I had someone actually count back my change to me the other day. It made me want to marry her.

      This doesn't mean that checkout clerks are not a commodity.

      You know the joke?

      "What did the employed physicist say to the unemployed physicist?"

      "Would you like fries with that?"

      10% of the population? Hell, that isn't even rare. Colleges sell Master degrees, and even doctorates, as commodities. Get the right degree, get the right job. I'm sorry, but that's a pure commodity market. The very fact that you're talking about it in terms of job interviews proves it's a commodity market.

      Get the right degree, go live in the jungle with gorillas. Get the right degree, live in a garret/basement writing poetry/free software.

      That is not a commodity technical market.

      The second you walk into an HR department you pick up a big sign that says, "I am a commodity, please buy me."

      If they do not, but buy someone else instead, that proves you are a commodity.

      The fact that they can't differentiante between a good apple and a bad apple when they are in the market for apples does not mean apples are not a commodity.

      There is a way not to be a commodity. Don't walk into the HR department. It really is that simple.

      But that's hard. You'll need some serious skills to pull that off. Skills the other 25 million engineers don't have. Some of those skills have nothing to do with the tech. They are life skills.

      Aquire them. Make yourself unique in your niche and able to maintain life and limb without an HR department (although this may mean going to live in the jungle with gorillas. If what you want is a condo and BMW you just might have to enter the commodity market. In this case you'd be better off producing the commodity rather than being the commodity).

      Otherwise you can just keep adding your resume to the stack that grows higher, and higher, and higher. . .

      Other than that, I'm with you.

      KFG
    • 2) Anyone who can't get a job as a programmer now is a skill-less, freeloading slacker who got their technical skills from "Learn $TECHNOLOGY in 21 days" books.

      False. There are Masters Degree holders in both engineering and scientific fields of IT study who cant rent interviews, much less jobs.

      While I am not one that believes all unemployed programmers are "skill-less, freeloading slackers," I cannot agree with your reason for saying 2) is false. I have worked for (and with) people who hold masters

    • Less than 10% of the working population has the training, education and experience to build a complete file cabinet.
  • VMWare (Score:5, Informative)

    by AmigaAvenger (210519) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @09:38AM (#7313445) Journal
    VMWare is considered a new startup? They have been around since 1998, andn actually have a very solid product at a reasonable price to offer... nope, can't be a dotcom2 startup!
  • by IM6100 (692796) <elben@mentar.org> on Sunday October 26, 2003 @09:43AM (#7313454)
    Does this mean Carly will move back in with her mother at the trailer park?

    Will the good stuff get re-branded back to Hewlett-Packard and the bad product lines get sold to Dell?

    A geek can dream, can't he?
  • Let's advertise "I (love) X10" T-Shirts using pop-unders in google..!

    Anyone?
  • by andykuan (522434) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @09:47AM (#7313469) Homepage
    How does tellme.com fit in here as a company run by geeks? They got over 200 million in capital for a quintessentially dot-com biz model: a consumer-oriented the-advertising-will-pay-for-everything phone service. They've only made it through the dot-com crash because they're sitting on a ton of cash and they've got AT&T backing them. Besides, they're less technology producers than technology integrators: the speech recognition engine they use is from Nuance.

    Anyway, nice premise for an article. It's good in concept, but the writer could've done a better job finding companies that really represent the ideal of companies run by geeks and driven by innovation.
    • Hear, hear! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I agree exactly with what you said.

      Why is it that reporters eat every dish of crap served up by VC's, and constantly refuse to investigate the real news? Too tight deadlines I suppose.

      This isn't limited to the NY Times. The San Jose Mercury News does almost nothing but repeat what VC's say to them. Dan Gilmore is a notable exception; and the only one to come to mind.
    • The real lesson of the "dot-com bubble", if such a thing existed, is that analyists and newspaper reporters can't tell the difference between greed-hype-fraud and service-technology-winner. The collapse of the telco industry was mostly the result of anti-competive behavior on the part of incumbents. The failure of businesses that depended on cheap and available bandwith was to be expected when the bandwith did not happen. The few silly business plans that are cited as the "bubble" happen all the time any
    • > How does tellme.com fit in here as a company run by geeks?

      I agree, mostly. TellMe hasn't really invented any great new technologies that I'm aware of. But they seem to have done a very good job of integration. The Nuance speech engine they use wasn't really ready for prime time, but TellMe managed to build a production-quality system out of it. There's a lot of value in being able to just make things work. That allows TellMe to build the enterprise appliations that seem to bring in most of thei

  • Interesting cycle (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nepheles (642829) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @09:47AM (#7313471) Homepage

    It's interesting to see a shift this way.

    It seems that the tech industry is highly cyclical, and, once the current batch of geeks have innovated sufficiently to create marketable products, slowly business people will come to replace them

    Once these products have run their course, and a recession kicks in, the shift happens the other way.

    It's a fairly symbiotic relationship, I think, playing to each group's strengths. It's certainly worked for the past 40 years. Long may it continue

  • Have you looked at their business model? and their millions in investments?

    More like : this free Slashdot informercial brough to you by the TellMe board of directors ...
  • by MobyTurbo (537363) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @09:55AM (#7313493) Homepage
    Intertrust, an example of a "geek company" in the article, stopped being a technology company with over 300 employees, and became a patents-on-DRM IP lawsuit company with a little over 30 employees, and no new programming. They are now involved with a lawsuit over DRM features of Windows Media Player.

    I don't know why the New York Times chose them as an example of a "geek company" really the only true example of that was VMWare, which never was a dot-com bubble company in the first place.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    On behalf of the rest of us in Silicon Valley, I, for one, welcome the return of our hornrimmed pocket-protected overlords.
  • These are Geeks ? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MosesJones (55544) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @09:56AM (#7313495) Homepage

    Now excuse me if I disagree here, but these appear to be a combination of technical people with decent business people working towards a real solution or product. Technologists don't have to be "geeks", most are not. I'd say that the .com was more a result of geeks than most sectors of the market as it was totally ungrounded in business.

    Steve Jobs & Bill Gates are not geeks, and its THOSE sort of people, and people like Metcalf @ 3COM, and the founders of the other successful IT businesses that Silicon Valley is founded on. Its people who combine strong technical skills, with an even stronger view on how to make markets.

    • Re:These are Geeks ? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by WindBourne (631190)
      I'd say that the .com was more a result of geeks

      I would differ with that. The .com was routinely business ppl trying to pull off netscapes. They would get a business person who would start something, bring in some geeks, hype a lot, then IPO absolutly nothing but a shell. A good example of that is the way SCO operates these days. Lies being told be a total business person. Claims stuff was stolen and speaks about bringing their OS up to snuff by basically stealing from those that he accuses of theft. AL
  • by weylin (174709)
    It's vapourware, there isn't a price or a release date anywhere on their site.
  • InterTrust? (Score:4, Funny)

    by hanssprudel (323035) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @10:30AM (#7313606)
    (Firstly, it's Digital Restrictions Management and nothing else - don't propogate the doublespeak.)

    Can somebody who runs a company founded on the basis of closing off computers from their users, and making it impossible to hack them really be called a geek? This is a company that lauds and depends on the DMCA - which is the antithesis of everything that being a geek or a hacker means.

    And besides, Intertrust makes software based DRM, which shows that they can't have any actual technical skills or they would know their product can be defenition not work. Except for the "let's get rid of the open PC platform all together" crowd (aka TCPA and Palladium), anybody selling DRM is selling snake oil. Apparently the NY Times got fooled.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 26, 2003 @10:37AM (#7313629)
    Geeks back in charge? Read the whole article. We've been reading "Silicon Valley is back" articles for two and half years now. Initial investors in the companies mentioned will probably never get their money back. Bottom line is that a few dotcom firms are still living off of their IPOs at 10 percent of their staffing levels. The founders are collecting their paychecks and stuffing their 401Ks and outsourcing to India. "Geeks back in charge"? Nope. Business as usual is more like it. The last "geeks in charge" were Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak. One bailed out and the other morphed back into the privledged little rich boy brat he always was.

    • Maybe it appears as though you've been 'reading' about the valley coming back for two years. But here it is a different story. The last two years have been bleak and depressing. Articles in the merc every week about how people are coping without tech jobs. How to squeeze the pennies and how people don't want to leave.
      Only in the last 3 or 4 months have things seemed to be picking up. My company is hiring people as are several companies I have associates at. Granted, it isn't hiring like it's 1999(woo
      • "to ANYBODY who even says 'I can do impossible task X'. Where X is usually something like 'facial recognition'..."

        Actually, I think I am pretty capable of doing facial recognition. It's the name memorization that I have more of a problem with ;-)))

        "I recognize you, but I forgot your name" sort of deal.

        Will I still get buckets of money now?

  • skilled=unemployed (Score:4, Insightful)

    by emptybody (12341) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @10:40AM (#7313638) Homepage Journal
    I know many people who are still employed simply because they do not have strong skills.

    Management went through and axed folks who cost money. Skilled workers cost money.
    They kept the low men on the totem pole. People that they could keep dumping crap work onto. People who will never find better jobs anywhere.
    People who will continue to work applying hack after hack, and bandaid after bandaid rather than fixing any one problem because they do not know how to debug problems. People who accept gladly an artificially low salary.

    They don't keep the skilled technicians that could maintain everything because they cost more money. instead they "hire the handicapped" and keep the cheap flunkies who do what they are told and will not complain when the finger of blame is pointed at them for the technology failing that they do not know how to support in the first place!
    • by Ranger (1783) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @11:08AM (#7313755) Homepage
      Not only that, if you are skilled, employers for unskilled jobs are reluctant to hire you for fear you'll leave them as soon as you find a better job (which is true). Unless of course they know you can't find a better one because the economy sucks so bad (which is also true).

      Skilled tech workers are in a double bind. Their jobs are being replaced by H1-B's, or outsourced overseas. The problem is companies go too far in reducing labor costs. Everyone wants the best bang for the buck. I do to, but you still have to spend money. It should be about getting the most value for your dollar and not spending the least you can possibly get away with.
      • Skilled tech workers are in a double bind. Their jobs are being replaced by H1-B's
        WTF!? Go to the job board of your choice (Monster, Dice, craigslist, whatever) and search for "No H1-B." You'll find lots of hits. There's nothing more damning you can put on your resume these days than that you need sponsorship! Stop being such a racist demagouge trying to blame all your problems on "foreigners."
        • Stop being such a racist demagouge trying to blame all your problems on "foreigners."

          WTF! You must be a liberal, because that's usually the first thing they love to do is play the race card. You don't know anything about me. I am not a racist demogogue. If anyone is prejudiced, it's you. Who said I was the blaming the foreigners? I'm blaming the companies for getting laws created that hurt both immigrants (turns H1-B's into hi-tech coolies), and citizens (sets up an unfair system to exclude them.)
    • I have a hunch that it is much easier to generate money with 2 $30k dollar programmers than it is with 1 $60k programmer.

      Nobody cares what skills you have or how you can better improve the product. Those are worthless unless they directly translate into more money for the company.

      I wouldn't blame somebody for playing dumb just to keep a steady income.
    • I find it amusing that your dupe post got +1 insightful while the original just sat around. Of course, I had to double check that the userIds matched...

      • After my initial post I realized that it would not be seen as it most 2nd or 3rd level replies most often languish unread.

        I reposted as a direct reply specificly because I wanted to see others take on my thoughts.

        I, too, find it quite interesting that this (slightly modified yet submitted only moments later) duplication received more response. Even exceeding my own expectations.

        Score one for predictable people.
    • Wow. What an interesting conspiracy theory. But wouldn't it have been more efficient to simply claim "I am unemployed because I am so damn good."

      The fact is, there are a lot of unemployed people with great skills and there are a lot of employed people with bad skills. The economy is bad and that's just the way it goes. But you will pardon many of us if we don't accept your premise that only poorly skilled people are employed now because they are cheap.

      I, for one, am poorly skilled and highly paid. Go figu
      • A deeper problem that I see is that the employed individual has no need to better himself. And, the unemployed person is looked over for positions because he is "overqualified", which really means the resume is interpreted to be for a candidate that will be too expensive to even bother interviewing.

        In point of fact, gross salary is but a piece of the compensation puzzle. I have a commute from hell. 2-4 hours each day. Cutting that in half would be worth a considerable amount to me. It would effectively giv
  • Geeks in charge (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mabu (178417) * on Sunday October 26, 2003 @10:57AM (#7313719)
    I think the geeks have always been in charge (though I think "nerd" is a more appropriate characterization). It's just that for awhile, during the dot-com-boom, a bunch of MBAs showed up and snowjobbed management with their magical doublespeak skills and ran the companies foolish enough to drink their kool-aid into the ground.

    Meanwhile, the many solid companies with a solid foundation of technical talent who maintained control over their ventures just plugged on. With all the FOD out of the way, they look like they're new when they're not.
  • The worm has turned. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LibertineR (591918) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @11:15AM (#7313771)
    I dont know what to attribute it to, but at least in my field, interest has exploded just in the past 3 weeks. It is as if someone pulled a switch, and Silicon Valley was turned back on again. For the past 6 months, I was getting 2-3 inquiries a week, and since October its been 2-3 a day.

    Last week, I turned down business for the first time this year for lack of available time. I dont think there is going to be a lot of hiring, but for Consultants like me, things seem to be getting good again really quickly.

    If things continue like they have been, I may have to hire an extra couple of consultants myself.

  • ...companies like Intertrode, or ini-tech??
    ...hmm what is the world coming to?
  • bfg technologies (Score:2, Interesting)

    by r.future (712876)
    bfg technologies [bfgtech.com] striks me as another company like this. If you go to their web site and look around you will see that theya re a group of techie gammers who made a video card company. If you look at the "Why we are different" section of their web site you will see that the

    1. offer 24 hr tech support.
    2. a lifetime guarantee on all their cards.
    3. that the owners of the company are huge gamers who make the cards so that can use them when the play games.
  • by Lysol (11150) * on Sunday October 26, 2003 @11:54AM (#7313926)
    Two kickass reports about the whole 90's boom - one specifically going into some good detail on Quattrone - are viewable via Frontline.

    Dot Con [pbs.org]

    Wall Street Fix [pbs.org]

    and even Bigger than Enron [pbs.org]

    Dot Con is much more specific as far as the whole Quattrone thing goes. It's amazing cuz I went thru that with a company that I help found (like many others I'm sure) and it's just phenominal the greed that ensued and how investment bankers and investors just took most of the public for a ride.

    I'm actually glad that I never invested during this time, however, I had many friends and family that did and just got sacked. If the majority of the public really knew what went on during this period of time, I doubt they'd look to invest again. Of course, nothing like this in tech will probably happen again any time soon, if ever.
  • Tellme was brought into existance for one purpose - to go public. Their business model was a joke (internet on phones?) and they were total media whores with their bunk-beds and 'sleepless developers' in every media outlet you could find (most of which now defunct).

    Too bad for them most of this stuff was cliched by time they rolled it out as amusing press. Also too bad the IPO craze was over before they could flog it. They now stand as a totally irrelevant testiment to 90s greed.


  • This article IMHO was very out of touch and even depressing. The future of information technology rests on the death of intellectual property (specifically copyrights), not it's rebirth. The blazing take-on of linux, one would think, would at least give them a hint of what drives the information economey. I just can't comprehend how someone would want to bet their career and their life-future on an "intellectual property" strategy. At this point in the game, it is almost pitifull. The only thing I can
  • by RealBeanDip (26604) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @03:04PM (#7314660)
    >>These companies have real technology and a solid technical base that have historically been the bedrock of Silicon Valley

    Now all we all need is a business plan... Let's give away our product (we'll make it up in volume). We'll maximize our user-base communities and merge into an e-business to sell into vertical markets while maximizing our investment with our margin accounts.

    All we need is an overpriced CEO, his favorite exec buddies, some groovy office space and expensive furniture.

    Happy days are here again!
  • The sad fact is that for any product you should spend 80% of the money in marketing and %20 in development/testing. I've worked off and on for over a decade for a voice mail company that has a good product, but can't market it worth a damn. If you can't sell it, then it's worthless.

    BTW, I created the phrase "The Magic Is In The Marketing!" over a decade ago and it's still the absolute truth.
  • and that whole $30-million file manager fiasco. How embarassing.

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