Sprint loses $29.5 billion…sucking sounds continue

Sprint just announced losses of $29.5 billion for the fourth quarter. Read about it here. I wish I could have said I saw this coming but $29.5 is almost too hard to fathom.  (However, note, a large portion of that loss is the write-off related the failed Nextel merger — an almost text-book example of how not to merge two companies). Sprint seems to be falling apart. The stock lost nearly 11% today. I was thinking of shorting the stock but I did not. Bummer…

I have read a lot about Dan Hesse, Sprint’s new CEO. Everything I have read impresses me. I think he has a decent chance of turning the company around if he can only hold the walls together long enough. Moves like Sprint’s $99 truly unlimited plan is a start (although I was hoping for a much cheaper version). However, Sprint is fighting a huge negative wave.

I know a lot of people who hate the service. They either had the service or have heard from others who used to have it. No one ever says anything kind. As a long-time Sprint user, I try to defend the company. I never have dropped calls (except in NYC), can roam on Verizon if I am really pissed, and pay way less. I do try to avoid customer service if at all possible.

For competition sake, I hope Hesse can hold it together until they stop losing customers. Once that happens, they can start to turn the corner. The process is going to be slow and hard. Too many people are too annoyed with the company and would rather pay $10 more a month for another service without the hassles or dropped calls.

How can Sprint turn this around? That is for another post.

Sprint launched their own $99 unlimited plan — no “” marks needed

Today, Sprint launched their own $99 unlimited plan. Peep the press release here. Unlike its competitor’s $99 plan, this one truly is unlimited. That means the quote marks surrounding Verizon/Tmobile/ATT’s plans are not necessary. This plan includes all you can talk, all you can web surf, all you text, all you can watch. For the smart phone (or really talkative crowd), this is a great deal.

For a comparison, a similarly unlimited plan with everything included costs $35 more from ATT and $39 more from Verizon.  Of course, ATT also happens to have the best smart phones (such as that unnamed monstrosity from Apple) and the slowest network while Verizon has the best coverage and a 3G network as fast as Sprints’.

No matter how you look at it, you have to say, “Sprint, great job!”  You have finally given users a reason to switch to Sprint. You have now differentiated yourself.  That wasn’t too hard, was it?

The slippery slope towards commodity status marches on…

Finally played with Dell’s M1330

My friend just bought a Dell XPS M1330. As follower’s of this blog know, this computer was one of my top choices to replace my old ABS. I ended up buying a Macbook Pro. I am glad that I did.

Why did I like the M1330? The computer was small and light but powerful. It had a discrete graphics card, which was a must. Also, at the time I was looking, it was slightly cheaper than a Macbook Pro. Now, it is much cheaper and a MBP. I think my friend paid around $1,200 for a system with all the trimmings. That compares to about $1,800 for a MBP with a student discount included.

If you compare the two computers based solely on hardware/price, the Dell wins. Aesthetically, it is a draw. So why am I so happy that I bought a MBP instead of the M1330? The answer is simple — my friend’s M1330 is loud, hot and it vibrates (when only running Vista and IE). My MBP is essentially silent and never shakes even when running multiple programs.

I have a pet peeve with noisy computers. There is no reason why a computer’s fan should run unless intense programs are running. The average program is not intense. HD accessing should be limited. The heat, noise, and vibration of the M1330 is probably due to both the construction/engineering inside the M1330 and the software it is running, namely Windows Vista (although note, Vista on my Mac runs with only moderate heat/HD accessing issues).

The Macbook Pro wins this battle, at least for me. Had I bought an M1330 and it ran as hot, loud, with as many vibrations as my friends’, then I would have returned it immediately.

Microsoft Office 2007 for Windows versus Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac

I have a copy of MS Office 2007 for Windows and a copy of MS Office 2008 for Mac. I have used both. One is clearly superior to the other.

The winner: MS Office 2007 for Windows. Despite a release date over a year after Office 2007 launched, Office 2008 for the Mac barely compares. Office 2007 was a radical, new, and useful version of Office. The ribbon throughout is very nice.  Word is especially different. Outlook had a wonderful new feature — drag emails directly into your calendar. For a detailed review, go to here.

Office 2008 for Mac foregos many of the radical changes found in Office 2007. Word seems barely changed. Entourage is a pale comparison of Outlook and I can’t drag my emails into calendar events. Powerpoint has improved. The only major benefit of 2008 is that it is faster than Office 2004 for Mac because now it is native to the Intel platform. Underwhelming. For a detailed review, go here.

I wonder why MS did not simply convert MS Office 2007 for Windows into a Mac version. It probably would have saved them some work since it would just be code conversion to work on a new OS. Instead, by creating MS Office 2008 for Mac, MS now has two totally separate Office programs that need separate support functions. Why?

My guess is that MS is scared of the resurgence in the Mac platform. If business people saw that they could have the exact same Office platform on Mac as they could on Windows, it would make switching an easier decision. Now, that switch becomes more difficult to make. A business person who has put a lot of time into learning Office for Windows programs is going to have a learning curve when switching to the Mac editions. These editions also seem slightly less functional. Why spend the effort? Maybe they will just stick with Windows, instead.

Sprint’s $59.99 unlimited plan

I have only heard rumors, but Sprint might be considering a radical $59.99 unlimited plan.  Compare this to the $99.99 plan offered by the other major carriers.  A $40 savings for a service that is generally on par (within reason) to what the other carriers offer.

Sprint needs to do something radical and this could be it.  They used to differentiate themselves on price.  Now, they are just another carrier, which is boring.  New marketing campaigns have tried to right the ship but when the product is bland, a snazzier picture can’t do much.

Sprint, do something crazy and wild, launch the $59.99 unlimited plan and make this month truly one of the most interesting the telecom world has seen in a while.

The end of landlines

The offer of $99/mo unlimited calling plans means the beginning of the end for landlines.

Why have a landline now that you can talk all time, at any time of day, everywhere [in the US] you go?  There is no reason.  Depending on your current cell plan and landline plan, you might pay a slight premium for the new $99 plan.  However, the average consumer might decide that the premium is worthwhile for the gain in mobility.

Once people start to add up their phone costs, they might find that $99 is not too bad.