This week, there’s a company I never even thought about, another company I forgot about. It was a reminder that we should not underestimate the boring.
One of those companies is called Polly, and if you know what it does, the Gold Star for you. It makes gadgets such as telephone headsets for corporate call centers and speaker gizmos for office conference calls.
This stuff isn’t quite cool, but it can be useful, and Poly is nicely profitable and worth selling for 1.7 billion.
The buyer, HP Inc., makes a lot of money by selling computers and Hulking printers to businesses. It’s a snooze that has made HP worth close to $ 40 billion, or about eight times the value of WeWork, a company that was thrilling and almost ran out of money and died in 2019.
The products for the inhabitants of Cubicle may not be the Wiz-Bang miracles we envision from Silicon Valley, but the world runs on boring technology that requires boring organizations to do boring but important things. Many companies that sell this technology make rivers of cash, even if only five people are able to explain, for example, what the software giant SAP makes.
My goal is to take a few minutes to help us appreciate the dullness that makes the world round.
I don’t know what technology my employer uses to process my paycheck. Most of us will never see the Amazon computer servers that fire Netflix on our TVs. The US health care system relies heavily on patient records from a software company called Epic. You may not know what Oracle is, but if you bought anything online, you may have indirectly contacted one of its databases.
We’ll never write Valentine on that kind of boring software, but we need it to work. Even dull stuff can make what we do better, like enable telemedicine calls or help us check if diapers are in stock before we go to the store.
A lot of the technology designed for businesses smells or gets stuck in the past, but it’s the nut and bolt of everything. Companies that create dull technology for organizations will probably last longer than dozens of Doritos-on-demand start-ups. And it is a gold mine. Businesses and governments are expected to spend about $ 4.5 trillion on technology this year. Some of the world’s most valuable technology companies like Microsoft, SAP, Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce and ServiceNow are boring.
Boring is not just amazing. It can also be a political asset. Facebook can’t buy a packet of chewing gum without government regulators, suspecting the company is plotting to erode global teeth. And when he tries to buy any company, the alarm bell of distrust goes off.
Yet in January, Microsoft announced the acquisition of the video game Titan Activision Blizzard for about $ 70 billion. Regulators can still block takeovers, but at least partly because of Microsoft’s identification with the tech superpowers as controversial. Microsoft has more revenue and more value than Facebook’s parent company Meta. But it mostly uses products that businesses use to do things like crunch data and, say, communication tools that have been misused to spread conspiracy theories.
Mark Gorenberg has dedicated his professional life to snoozing technology. In the late 1980’s, he worked at Sun Microsystems, whose technologies like Unix and Java continue to permeate almost every segment of current technology. Gorenberg described the Sun as “very boring but powerful.”
Since then, Gorenberg has worked for investment firms that specialize in supporting young companies that sell essentially obscure technology to businesses.
He told me that many so-called enterprise tech companies are not the most advanced. But he is betting that the dull realm will be the center of exciting exploration.
Gorenberg is talking about innovations like the recently introduced technology from Microsoft that essentially helps the software write itself. Their investment firm, Zeta Venture Partners, supports one start-up that scans car crash records to evaluate insurance claims and another that detects potential network failures before taking to the Internet.
He is talking about a future where boring technology is essential but also has a bit of wow.
If this technology can be a little exciting and can help all of us, great. But there will always be the basis of boring technology that touches our lives and the world – even if we never know it exists.
Want better cellphone calls at home? Give this a try.
Brian X ChenThe New York Times Consumer Technology columnist suggests what to try if a call on your smartphone sounds awful or drops while you’re at home.
Many of us experience spotty cellphone calls at home. It can help you use Wi-Fi calling, which will route telephone calls over your internet connection. It often gives us more reliable and better quality phone calls than Funnel on our local telephone networks, especially if we are not living next to a cell tower.
In general, smartphones do not automatically use Wi-Fi calling, so here’s how to turn this feature on.
On iPhones: Open the Settings app, select the option for the phone, select Wi-Fi calling, tap the bar to turn on the feature and fill in some details about where you live. (In the event that you dial 9-1-1 this law enforcement helps you find out.)
On Android phones, Settings for Wi-Fi calling may change but try this: open the phone app, tap the option for more, then select settings. Select the option labeled Calls and tap on Wi-Fi calling.
One caveat: this may not be the best option if your home has a Wi-Fi spot. Here is my past column on fixing Wi-Fi problems at home.
Before we go
Oops: The hackers were found to have emergency requests for several internet companies to hand over information about their users by law enforcement officers. Apple and Facebook were fooled by the demands last year, Bloomberg News reported, and provided information such as addresses and phone numbers that were used in the harassment campaign. (Subscription may be required.)
You may have noticed that almost all Facebook reels have videos: The Vox’s Recode publication reports that Facebook’s efforts to promote those byte-sized videos in our feeds mean that it released 11 reels of the 20 most viewed Facebook posts in the U.S. during the last three months of 2021. And the set of reels is anonymous, reposted. Wrote videos from TikTok or the kind of spammy, Vox.
Related to On Tech: Facebook will make you love reels.
Long hangovers when countries block websites: After Turkey banned Wikipedia in 2017, it took years of legal challenges to back up the online encyclopedia. The Washington Post reports that the struggle for Wikipedia for the banned Facebook, Twitter and other sites in Russia could be a glimpse into the future. (Subscription may be required.)
Related: Anne Rowwarda, a young woman in Michigan, is compiling some weird Wikipedia pages. An example: an entry for “The Most Unwanted Song”, a 1990s novelty tune.
Hugs this. (It’s not boring.)
A flamingo is identified by its leg tag, no. 492 escaped from the Kansas Zoo in 2005 (on Independence Day). My colleague Daniel Victor happily details no. People who have been fleeing for the last 17 years have been shocked to see the life of 492 and a flamingo in Texas.
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