Channel Surfing with Kris and Mike, June 10, 2016

This week, Kris and Mike take a look at this year's Fortune 500 list, wacky medical technology and...unicorns?

Kris Blackmon, Head of Channel Communities

June 10, 2016

7 Min Read
Channel Surfing with Kris and Mike, June 10, 2016

KRIS: Another week bites the dust. Remember back when you were a kid and summers seemed to last forever? Long, lazy days that ran into each other, no pressures, no timetables. Now every Friday I look up surprised another week has passed me by. Is this grownup life, Michael?

MIKE: I think so. I see kids playing outside in the beautiful weather and can’t remember a time when I wasn’t planted firmly in front of my computer for eight straight hours. Ah, youth. But alas, the business world waits for no one.

KRIS: The big news this week was the release of Fortune’s annual list of the 500 companies most likely to rule the world. There were 51 technology and telecommunications companies on it this year, and their rankings clearly demonstrate some things the channel has been talking about for a long time.

MIKE: 2016 is definitely the year of the tech company, according to the Fortune 500. Apple placed #3, while companies like Facebook and Microsoft beat the odds to jump up the rankings multiple spots, respectively. Even companies like Xerox remain ahead of so-called “new tech” companies like Salesforce. It just goes to show that sometimes old dogs can learn new tricks.

KRIS: But when it comes to tech, it isn’t just the numbers that analysts look at for these rankings. Potential growth is a huge factor, which is why companies like Facebook are rising like my Monday-morning blood pressure on this year’s list. Facebook, with only $18 billion in revenue, is valued at $332 billion. HP Inc., in contrast, is basically flipped with revenue of $103 billion but a valuation of only $20 billion. Facebook might not have outranked bellweathers like AT&T, IBM, Cisco or Oracle this year, but it’s considered more valuable than all of them.

I have to admit, all this money talk still confuses me. Which is probably why I have a credit score of 12.

MIKE: It’s OK, we can’t all be as fiscally successful as Apple. Our friendly neighborhood iPhone manufacturers raked in an astounding $233 billion in revenue this year. That’s enough cash to buy a small country!

KRIS: Despite its commanding #3 spot, though, we’re all curious to see what happens between now and next year’s list for Apple in the face of its declining iPhone sales. It had better come up with that “next new iWonder” soon, or it might follow in the footsteps of our PC-maker friends.

MIKE: I almost forgot about that. It’s business as usual for the PC market, as shipments once again dropped in 2016. IDC estimated a drop in sales of 7.3 percent compared to a year ago, which can’t be sitting well with companies like Dell, HP and Lenovo. In fact, the news marks an “unprecedented” sales slump of four consecutive quarters for the ailing PC market. Ouch.

KRIS: It’s a mad rush to jump on the cloud-based marketplace, following in the footsteps of King of the Cloud Companies, Salesforce, who continues to double down on its developer ecosystem.

MIKE: Salesforce is working hard to make its developer ecosystem friendly for non-technical folk (such as yours truly) who want to develop business applications of their own despite the lack of skills normally needed for such efforts. The most notable additions to company’s latest core software release are a series of improvements for the Lightning App Builder function, which are expected to give aspiring app designers a way to design apps just by dragging and dropping panels in whatever manner they like. Customized web pages, coming right up!

KRIS: That means you and I can finally develop that sarcasm-as-a-service app for business, right? I really think there’s a market for that.

MIKE: If Salesforce has some kind of app capable of translating my crayon drawings into logical blueprints, I think we’ll be in business.

KRIS: On the other end of the tech business spectrum, Fortune has kindly released a pretty snazzy list of the top tech unicorns. Because, you know, we really don’t talk about them very much. (This is where that sarcasm-as-a-service app would come in handy.)

MIKE: Just like a real unicorn, Fortune’s list of this year’s companies valued at more than $1 billion is sparkly, majestic and just a little mysterious. However, it does not lead to any rainbows, like a real unicorn should.

KRIS: I thought that was leprechauns?

MIKE: Is there a difference? No wait, yes, there is.

KRIS: We could use a little magic in the U.S. workforce. Despite all of the amazing new technologies that allow us to (ahem…need to bust out the jargon from my previous life in marketing) “streamline operations, increase operational efficiencies, and provide actionable insights based on verifiable performance data,” Americans just ain’t working like they use to. The rate of productivity growth is almost completely stalled. It was the slowest from 2011 to 2015 that is has been since the five-year period ending in 1982. What gives, Michael? Why are you such a slacker? I blame all you millennials. (We blame everything else on you, why not this?)

MIKE: Could it be my generation’s penchant to simply “like” things on social media rather than go out there and roll up our sleeves? I don’t subscribe to that particular stereotype. Some experts are saying that while technology has made leaps and bounds in the past few years, regular folks are still struggling to utilize these new gadgets, which is why we’re experiencing such a slump. Over time, the issue should start to clear up. After all, we weren’t capable of building sports cars immediately after the invention of the motorized engine, right?

KRIS: Maybe adding YET ANOTHER PRODUCTIVITY TOOL to our arsenals will help. Move over, Slack and all its many, many brethren. Microsoft has entered this game with the launch of Office 365 Planner, which gives users yet another platform to spend too much time talking about doing stuff and not enough actually…you know, doing stuff.

MIKE: I’d like to respond to that, but first I have to answer 50 Facebook messages and tweet out this one photo… oh, I see what you’re getting at there. Apparently, Microsoft’s new planner tool will allow users to visualize their workloads so they can tackle projects as a team, with a heavy emphasis on organizing and assigning tasks to specific group members. Best of all, Planner is compatible with existing Office 365 solutions, so it should fit right into Microsoft’s ecosystem once it releases to the general public.

KRIS: Cool, I guess, but the coolest news by far this week was also out of Microsoft, who says it’s figured out how to identify potential cancer victims before they’re diagnosed just through analysis of their search queries. Whaaaat?

MIKE: It sounds like science fiction, but it’s real, folks: The study, which was published in the Journal of Oncology Practice by two Microsoft researchers and a Columbia University graduate student, analyzed Bing search results from people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and then cross-referenced their searches to determine specific patterns. Using the information they gathered, they were able to look for similar queries that could be used to predict an impending diagnosis. Pretty cool stuff, don’t you think?

KRIS: The initial results seem small–researchers are predicting that early screening prompted by these new insights could increase the five-year survival rate from 3 percent to as much as 7 percent. But the implications of this are so exciting. If they can do this with pancreatic cancer, what else could they do it for? Diabetes? Parkinson’s? Alcoholism? There are privacy implications, to be sure, but the potential of data analysis to help people get better, more accurate preventive care that could save hundreds of lives is so exciting to me.

MIKE: Technology can be scary, but it can do wonderful things as well. Here’s hoping this is one of them.

KRIS: That’s all from TVG for this week, folks. Have a great weekend!

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About the Author(s)

Kris Blackmon

Head of Channel Communities, Zift Solutions

Kris Blackmon is head of channel communities at Zift Solutions. She previously worked as chief channel officer at JS Group, and as senior content director at Informa Tech and project director of the MSP 501er Community. Blackmon is chair of CompTIA's Channel Development Advisory Council and operates KB Consulting. You may follow her on LinkedIn and @zift on X.

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