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Trumpets should sound whenever Michael Dell makes a career move or The Business Press Maven makes an utterance, wouldn't you say?
Recently, Dell announced a return to the head spot at his company, and the business media spent an entire week describing his return as a matter of serendipity: Dell, they wrote in their universal drone, had finally grown tired of the bad earnings performance and somehow awoke one morning transformed into someone who wanted to take matters into his own once-capable hands.
Their limited ability to think critically was spent on the bleedingly obvious by saying that Dell, capable or not, would have a tough time turning
Finally, on Monday, The Business Press Maven
decided he would rather be hacked apart by a pickax than read one more of these stories. None framed Dell as the master of business timing that he was, who left his company the moment his troubles began and came back essentially the day that Vista,
operating system that was undoubtedly going to lead to a spurt in computer sales, was released.
Put that in your serendipity and smoke it.
No Surprise About Vista
Anyhow, most of the time, it takes up to two weeks for The Business Press Maven's premonitions to come true. This time, it took only a few days. Look at this headline from
The Wall Street Journal
this morning: "
Windows Vista Launch Lifts PC Sales."
Like, uh, duh.
Research data from Current Analysis Inc. said what Michael Dell and The Business Press Maven already knew: For the week ended Feb. 3, unit sales of PCs jumped 67% from a year ago and 173% from the previous week, when Vista was not available. Turns out, Vista requires more power, and people are conditioned to replace their PCs when they replace their operating system.
Again, duh. Freakin' double duh.
As I said, the business media used up their limited ability to think for themselves to note that Dell would have his hands full turning around his company. Also, they were spending much of their time -- perhaps accurately, I don't know because I'm no software expert -- talking about how the unremarkable Vista had glitches and might not sell the way Microsoft had hoped. That might be true, as far as Microsoft goes. But for the computer makers, as Dell and The Maven saw, it would all be incremental gravy. If sales were a little worse than Microsoft expected, it would still all be additive to the troubled, in-need-of-a-boost computer makers.
The Buffett Rumor
While we're on the subject of brilliant business magnates and things not mentioned by the business media, let's amble over to the topic of Warren Buffett and the various rumors that he is going to buy himself a piece of a newspaper company. If you think I know nothing about software (a posted note on my computer says, "Take out forefinger; point toward 'on' button"), you should see what little I know about the future prospects of takeovers.
That's why I never report on takeover rumors -- or rumors of big influential block purchases. I'd just as soon report on my imaginary friends. But if the business media is going to report on takeover rumors -- or games of patty-cake with their imaginary friends -- at least put it all in proper perspective. Buffett was a longtime investor in
The Washington Post
, and some of the newspapers still have good brand names, a Buffett focus.
But listen up, investors, because the same dopes who forgot to mention Vista as being central to Dell's decision to come back did not mention Buffett's recent comments on the newspaper business.
to think newspapers were the best business going, and with essential monopolies in both distribution (ever try to get a new paper on one of those trucks?) and advertising (where else were you going to place a classified?), newspapers were money-printers. Who could argue with him? But does that mean he'd be a willing buyer now? Are newspapers a bargain at these prices, in the magical book of Warren?
Plenty of journalists -- probably for obvious personal reasons -- seemed to think (or hope) so.
But let's take a little trip over to a land The Business Press Maven likes to call reality. At a recent
( BRKA) meeting, Buffett spoke about erosion of newspaper earnings in perpetuity. In terms of phrases, he used "permanent decline." He spoke about newspaper readers heading to the "cemetery" while those getting out of college -- years away from the cemetery -- did not read them. He said that newspapers were once bulletproof franchises that anyone could run but that they'd been slow to see what was happening to them and were all but doomed.
Does this sound like a man who would be in buying mode? Shouldn't these comments have been mentioned by the business media in putting vague rumors of big purchases by influential investors in perspective?
I'll let you answer those questions for yourself. I gotta go shop for a new computer that will support Vista.
At the time of publication, Fuchs had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this column.
A journalist with a background on Wall Street, Marek Fuchs has written the County Lines column for The New York Times for the past five years. He also contributes regular breaking news and feature stories to many of the paper's other sections, including Metro, National and Sports. Fuchs was the editor-in-chief of Fertilemind.net, a financial Web site twice named "Best of the Web" by Forbes Magazine. He was also a stockbroker with Shearson Lehman Brothers in Manhattan and a money manager. He is currently writing a chapter for a book coming out in early 2007 on a really embarrassing subject. He lives in a loud house with three children. Fuchs appreciates your feedback;
to send him an email.