|Volume 2: No. 51|
Virtual-reality firm VPL Research Inc. (Foster City, CA) has fallen apart. Co-founder Jean Jacques Grimoud was replaced as president in April and resigned from the board in September. The new president, Walter Fisher, laid off all employees when cash ran out at the end of November. Grimoud is now trying to save the firm (and move it to Palo Alto), but patents may have passed to Thomson CSF (France) as a result of loan defaults. Fisher, co-founder Jaron Lanier, and others of the technical staff are trying to start a new company. [Rebecca Smith, SJM, 10/8.]
Outbound Systems Inc. (Boulder) is ceasing production. Its portables couldn't compete with Apple's new PowerBooks. [SJM, 12/11.]
FMC Corp. and Harsco Corp. are combining their FMC Defense Systems Group (Santa Clara, CA) and BMY-Combat Systems Division (York, PA). Both make armored vehicles. "There's just not that much business to keep all these companies going." [Tom Schmitz, SJM, 12/3.]
Software bundled with new PCs is taking most of the profit out of the software market, and may cause prices to fall to the range of CDs and videotapes. "If you start a new PC software company, the next step is to apply for food stamps." [Roger McNamee. Rory J. O'Connor, SJM, 12/9.]
The Software Entrepreneur's Forum is sponsoring a seminar on software product launches. 1/30; Belmont, CA; $125 for members; $150 after 1/15. (408) 374-6644, or (415) 364-1571 to register. [SEF Forum, 12/92.] The ad asks "Why would you expect to do any better than Borland, Symantec, or Claris?"
Borland is laying off 350 people from an already lean workforce of 2,100. Philippe Kahn blames Microsoft for a DOS/Windows-subsidized database price war, but analysts say Borland never fully recovered from absorbing Ashton-Tate. The company's grim future is mostly likely caused by delays in shipping new products. [Lee Gomes, SJM, 12/10.]
Attorneys investigating Microsoft for FTC have requested FTC permission for a court injunction against monopolistic practices. The perceived problem is that Microsoft uses its DOS/Windows domination to get PC makers to bundle DOS or Windows with 80% of PCs, then uses that market penetration to sell its own applications. [Paul Andrews, Seattle Times. SJM, 12/10.] The most likely outcome is an FTC warning notice.