Tag Archives: Lucent

What’s Next?

Yes, it is a big deal! Microsoft is acquiring the Nokia handset business for $7.2 Billion. I have lots of reactions to this. Some minor and obscure, and others not so.

First, Microsoft (MSFT) is clearly committed now to a hardware strategy! WOW! Think about its 35+ year history of software and just OMG. Ok, sure it has nearly always sold MSFT branded mice and other minor add-on hardware for PCs. And earlier this year they introduced the SURFACE tablet in an effort to create a greater market interest for Windows8. But now MSFT is solidly entering the mobile device market, not just as a software platform provider but selling and marketing a full range of handsets and smartphones. I hope MSFT knows they have a lot to learn!

Ok, some of you are asking who is Nokia (NOK)?, and why is their handset business worth such a fortune? Well, until Apple (AAPL) entered the mobile phone business not so long ago (it was only 2007), Nokia was the #1 high-end handset vendor globally with 35% market share. They never had the same impact here in the US as they had in Europe and elsewhere. But when I was a director within Lucent’s Mobile Applications business (2001-2004), it was the Nokia handsets that had the features we wanted to use with our experimental and demo applications. Of course, Nokia didn’t make CDMA handsets, only GSM and early 3G/UMTS devices at the time, so it didn’t always work out for us (being Lucent, i.e. direct competitor with Nokia’s network equipment). Instead, we often ended up trying to use HP devices (with clucky PCMCIA cards – remember those?). Does anyone even remember HP making mobile devices? Noooo, me either…

So Nokia had a great device platform for its time. Often running neck and neck with that other innovative handset company – RIM, better known for their Blackberry – the first smart-ish phone; and similar to Apple, with a highly proprietary architecture. What RIM missed (very very sorely, now) was the move to allow mass creation of 3rd party applications (which I advocated for as early as 2002 – someday I’ll pull out my presentation from the 3GSM World Congress in Nice that year, and the following year as well). Nokia and RIM tried this, but too late. Both these handsets businesses are now on serious down swings. It will be interesting if MSFT can do something to save it; and save itself too, given that highly successful and powerful handheld devices have seriously limited the future of the PC… (Aside: I don’t think Google has learned very much, as yet, from its own acquisition of a handset business on a serious down swing…)

Then perhaps, of even more interest to some of you (i.e. ALU employees/retirees/shareholders etc.), is what will Nokia do with its cash windfall? That is, after they pay off the debt to Siemens…?

To all my friends and co-workers at Alcatel-Lucent

My last working day at ALU was Thursday, February 7th. And, yes, this is my “good bye” letter… I’ve read my share of these before too, so I’ll try not to ramble!

I am proud and humbled to have been a part of Bell Labs, AT&T, Lucent, Octel, and Alcatel-Lucent for nearly 29 years! I’ve worked in large variety of roles and organizations over that time, and I have grown and learned so much. I enjoyed nearly all of it, and entirely because of all the interesting and intelligent people here. Though I have had the opportunity to know only a few of you well, ALL of you, collectively and individually, have made this place a wonderful and most difficult place to leave! [Yes, I know, LOL, given the huge numbers of people who have already left and are continuing to do so…]. Nevertheless, this is the right time for me to move on; officially my ‘retirement’. But I eventually hope to take yet a new role, in some new organization. At this time I have no concrete idea where (or when) that will be, but I’m excited about taking such a risk and the new possibilities that will come. Thank you all!

One brief story, that I can’t resist telling of my earliest times in the company:
I had my job interview with Bell Laboratories in New Jersey on January 2nd and 3rd, 1984 (yes, the first couple of days after the huge Bell System divestiture took effect). I had just turned 21 years old, and was a college senior from the small southern university town of Clemson SC, and NJ was a different kind of a place! I was fortunate that when I was still a toddler, my father had worked part time at Bell Labs in Holmdel NJ, while attending Rutgers for his MSEE, prior to serving fulltime in the US Army for his ROTC scholarship commitment, (and later also a four year stint at Bell Labs in Greensboro NC) and that he had kept up some of those connections. Those connections (and I hope perhaps my good grades and some already applicable work experience) meant that Bell Labs was willing to interview me, whereas otherwise they would not normally been recruiting from Clemson.

My first set of interviews were in Whippany NJ (where later I would start my employment in May’84), but for the second day I was driven via limo down to the Holmdel building (an hour trip). I don’t remember much about the trip nor the driver, except for two things… First, the huge six lanes of road in EACH direction!, called the ‘Garden State Parkway’ [lots and lots of times spend there! – yes, that’s humor!]. This was definitely new and different from mostly rural SC. And second as we entered the Holmdel property, just past the huge transistor-shaped water tower (really more like a War of the Worlds Martian war-machine) and approaching the 6 story black-glass building that is nearly a quarter mile from end to end… the limo driver said of the building, with its five vertical rows of concrete balconies stretching the whole length of the building interior overlooking the long atrium, that it reminded him of a penitentiary. Well, I had never been in a prison, but yes I saw the resemblance to movie versions as soon as I walked in the front door that day. And that image has stuck with me ever since, including when my office was on the fifth floor there for 4+ years in the 1990s. Yet, I have to say working there and elsewhere in this company has never, ever, felt like a prison. Just the opposite! I always felt empowered by (most of) my bosses to work on things that were exciting and dynamic, to take risks, and to be free-minded about the how my work would be performed and the results it would derive. And fortunately we never had to fight a war with a Martian water tower!