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David Sims
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First Coffee

By David Sims

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is former fellow Boston subway musician Mary Lou Lord’s 1998 Got No Shadow album. That’s right, First CoffeeSM has not always been The World’s Most Dangerously Overcaffeinated Business Writer©:

Although nobody is writing the obituary quite yet,
Siebel Systems is losing key battles to regain their mojo.

The upcoming issue of Business Week will sketch a bleak profile of the tottering software giant. It tells of the May 5 meeting in New York where Siebel’s investors and analysts “gathered for a powwow with company execs in New York,” and left disappointed that Siebel’s new top management still has no idea of how to use their $2.2 billion to actually help the company – issue a dividend, buy stock back, sell out to the highest bidder or what.

Interviews with Siebel current and former employees show a disheartened staff, beaten down by Mike Lawrie’s abrupt firing, a new round of layoffs and a shareholder revolt. Employees are streaming to SAP – “by the dozen,” according to Business Week – and talk is of who’ll end up taking them over. Current water cooler bets are on Oracle or – believe it – Carl Icahn. Siebel employees don’t even know if current CEO George Shaheen is The Turnaround Guy or The Get The Best Price For The Company Guy.

Here’s a hint, according to Business Week: “If 35% of Siebel is sold, Shaheen will receive two years’ salary – about $2 million, plus a target bonus of 125%. Also, his 2 million options, worth about $18 million at current prices, will vest immediately, according to filings with the Securities & Exchange Commission.”

Standard enough contract at most companies, but a new thing for Siebel. Consider that Shaheen, a long-time Siebel board member hasn’t purchased any Siebel stock since taking over as CEO and place your bets accordingly.

First CoffeeSM hopes dual mode succeeds beyond everybody’s wildest expectations, but is
not as sanguine about its chances as the industry seems to be. Calypso Wireless is announcing the availability of prototypes for its dual mode, Wi-Fi - GSM-GPRS handsets, the C1250i, that run on the Intel PXA chipset solution. They’re promising demonstrations and field trials in the next few weeks with mobile carriers in the US, Europe and Latin America, and they’re lawyered up with all the standard NDA’s and Field Trials Agreements for a serious run.

Calypso’s ASNAP technology lets cell phones automatically detect available Wireless Local Area Network and “seamlessly” switch between the signals of a standard cellular link towers and an available short-range broadband network such as cable or DSL with Wi-Fi. It also lets mobile carriers and ISPs identify and authenticate mobile users, which in turn lets the companies divide revenue and add two-way, real-time video conferencing.

Calypso President and CEO George Schilling, who’ll be conducting the C1250i Wi-Fi demos thinks that it’s a way for mobile carriers to offer higher bandwidth services “without having to purchase an additional licensed radio frequency spectrum.

According to research by In-Stat/MDR, the marriage of Voice over Wireless Area Network and cellular technology “will be arriving sooner than most would think. By 2006, VoWLAN/cellular handsets will be in many enterprise customer hands” – Twilight Zone theme music, please – “and starting to enter the home market as well,” the idea being that customers need – or would pay more for – a VoWLAN/cellular combo handset with all the abilities of a regular cellular handset.

IP telephony provider
Beyond the Network America, Inc. has selected transatlantic transport provider Hibernia’s cable network to provide optical level service from New York to London.

Beyond the Network evidently liked Hibernia’s route diversity, enhanced optical level service and ability to drop off traffic directly to Dublin: Hibernia Atlantic owns and operates the only direct transatlantic cable route from the U.S. and Canada to Ireland and the U.K.

“Hey, First CoffeeSM, what are those fun-lovin’ rascals over at
Qwest up to?” Glad you asked.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the latest is that a protest by investors at
MCI’s shareholder meeting today could persuade Qwest to relaunch their bid, which nobody over the age of 7 thought was dead anyway.

Evidently several large MCI investors have said they will boycott a vote on re-electing directors at the annual meeting to protest the MCI board watching out for the best interests of their customers by accepting a $8.44 billion bid by Verizon Communications Inc over a $9.74 billion offer from Qwest.

The Journal’s sources said Qwest’s management will view a high percentage of withheld
votes as one cue to relaunch their bid, the others being if anybody who holds any stock in MCI asks them to, if that Paris Hilton video is available online or if the current yearly rainfall in Seattle is greater than that of the Mojave Desert.

Any protest boycott is simply spiteful symbolism as MCI’s nine directors are selected by the board’s nominating committee, and any percentage of “yes” votes will ensure a win, according to AFX.

Nortel Networks Middle East is trotting out a road show touting IP telephony to SMB and enterprise organizations to Jeddah, Riyadh, Khobar, Dubai and Doha, showcasing its latest IP wares for sale.

Business partners BTC in Saudi Arabia and Datapulse in the UAE and Qatar are the opening acts, presenting sessions on Nortel developer partner solutions in their respective countries, followed by a session focusing on the requirements for converged networks. The word is Nortel’s going to unveil a new SMB solution, the BCM50, an IP telephony system targeting SMBs and branch offices.

Those who lamented the death of the Trabant in East Germany, as well as the Austin Mini and the Volkswagen Beetle – neither of which have anything to do with those twee, soulless chickmobiles being marketed as “Minis” and “Beetles” today – get out your hankies: The Paykan is ending production.

As of yesterday Iran’s Khodro Company, which made the first Paykan in 1967 and has turned out 2.2 million since, has produced the last one. By far the country’s most popular car, 40% of the cars on Iran’s roads are the slightly glorified boxes on wheels.

However, since the 1990s Khodro and other Iranian carmakers have won licenses to produce Renaults, Nissans and other more desirable cars. Plus the Paykan is one of the major causes of pollution in Iran.

“Paykan shouldered Iran’s auto industry for years. But we could not continue our support of domestic products at any cost,” Industry Minister Eshagh Jahangiri said in ceremonies marking the end of Paykan’s production.

The Paykan has been described as “a four-cylinder time capsule” whose design has not noticeably changed since 1967, and which gets 12 miles to the gallon. Its name means “arrow” in Farsi, and it’s the budget car, costing about $5,000.

Iran seeks to join the World Trade Organization, and if it’s accepted it must end its twelve-year old ban on car imports.

First CoffeeSM would like to reassure readers that neither Michael Isikoff nor Newsweek magazine were used as sources for this column.

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