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4/19/2002
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IT Confidential

"Neither of these inquiries should be construed to suggest legal violations have taken place," said Fiorina in the E-mail.

Would software have saved Enron? That was the tantalizing notion put forth by Jim Davis, senior VP and chief marketing officer for data-mining software vendor SAS Institute at the company's user group meeting in Orlando, Fla., last week. Davis told attendees that SAS tried to sell its risk-management application to Enron early last year, well before the energy-trading company imploded. Enron managers said they used Excel spreadsheets and didn't need the SAS software. Davis admits it would likely have taken more than SAS software to stop Enron's financial nosedive. "Their problems go much deeper than that, so I don't know how much SAS would have helped them." Meanwhile, SAS is having its own software problems, founder and CEO Jim Goodnight says. When asked about the company's long-delayed plans to go public, Goodnight says SAS first must have the software in place to produce quarterly reports. And that's proving to be a problem as the company struggles to implement Oracle financial applications. "It's probably the buggiest software known to man," says Goodnight, who maintains that his company has already spent $10 million on the project.

Speaking of user group meetings, Computer Associates' founder Charles Wang and CEO Sanjay Kumar figure to take some heat at the company's annual user group meeting, CA World, this week in Orlando, as the federal probe of the company's accounting practices heats up and their old nemesis, shareholder Sam Wyly, tries again to rally board support for a management overhaul. But the two software execs are heroes back home on Long Island, where they're getting most of the credit for the New York Islanders' surge into the National Hockey League playoffs after a seven-year absence. Cheers rocked the Nassau Coliseum at the team's final home game when a video montage of the season's highlights showed a picture of the two, who bought the moribund club two years ago. There's no word whether either of them will be able to slip out of Disney World to catch this week's playoff action.

Homeland Security czar Tom Ridge had a reputation as a tech-savvy exec when he was governor of Pennsylvania, and he's making that apparent in his choice of deputies. Last week, Ridge tapped Jim Flyzik, CIO of the Treasury Department, to help him with technology issues. Before the Treasury Department, Flyzik worked in IT at the Secret Service.

Everybody knows Carly Fiorina plays hardball. That's why it came as no surprise when Fiorina informed Hewlett-Packard employees in an E-mail last week that she had fired one of their colleagues for leaking two company memos to the press. Fiorina also said the company is "cooperating fully" with two government inquiries stemming from Walter Hewlett's lawsuit alleging strong-arm tactics on the part of HP during the shareholder vote over the merger with Compaq, one from the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York and another from the SEC. "Frankly, I welcome the opportunity to dispel any and all doubts about the integrity of HP's conduct, that of its board of directors, management team, merger team, and hard-working employees. We waged this proxy contest openly, fairly, and lawfully, and we won the merger vote on its merits."

Jeff Bezos must be sick to death of cranky writers. Amazon.com's CEO has been exchanging nasty E-mails with the head of the Author's Guild, Nick Taylor, concerning the online bookseller's habit of promoting heavily discounted used copies of books along with new copies at the normal discount. The guild claims the practice potentially robs authors of royalties, while Bezos argues all book sales help the writing professional as a whole. Meanwhile, 21 Dog Years: Doing Time @ Amazon.com, a one-man show based on author Mike Daisey's two years working at Amazon, is in previews at the Cherry Lane Theater in Manhattan. The show chronicles "60-hour weeks" and "the cult of personality that is Jeff Bezos," according to advance notices.


I'm sick to death of cranky writers--wait, I am a cranky writer! Oh well, a little self-loathing never hurt anybody. Join the fun; send a nasty E-mail or an industry tip to jsoat@cmp.com or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about risk management, buggy software, or the hockey playoffs, meet me at InformationWeek.com's Listening Post: informationweek.com/forum/johnsoat.

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