NetApp and Pure show strong results on flash storage and cloud

NetApp has recorded strong second-quarter results, with revenues of $1.52bn for the three months to 26 October, an increase of 7% year on year.

Meanwhile, Pure Storage’s third-quarter results show revenue of $372.8m, which equates to a remarkable 34% year-on-year rise. But despite its stellar revenues, Pure is still running at a loss.

A notable subtext to NetApp’s results is the contribution of all-flash storage systems, with a run rate (projected earnings for the year) of $2.2bn, which is a 29% increase on the equivalent period last year.

That figure would have been unthinkable about five years ago, when NetApp’s relationship to flash was somewhere between frosty and uncertain. At the time, NetApp executives had long declared solid state only suitable for cache and then went though a series of flip-flops on plans for flash arrays.

It is to the company’s credit that flash is now such an integral part of its offer and that it is showing so healthily in IDC’s tracker of external storage systems shipped. At the last count, it was in second place for market share at 13.5%, behind Dell EMC with 29%.

Five years ago, things weren’t so different, with NetApp showing similar market share back then – 13% on revenues of $748m for the third quarter of 2013. What is notable is that the company’s slowness in adopting a flash strategy did not seem to harm it.

Pure Storage’s performance is also outstanding, with a 34% year-on-year rise in revenues testament to the current importance of flash storage to the mainstream.

Pure’s portfolio is based around its solid state-equipped FlashArray range, which it said earlier this year will now also contain NVMe flash capability with NVMe-over-fabrics connectivity to expansion shelves.

Like NetApp, Pure has also made a push towards the cloud, with announcements this week of its Cloud Data Services that see it offer native cloud instances of the Pure Storage environment, plus replication and backup target capabilities for hybrid cloud operations.

NetApp’s cloud-oriented offerings this year have included Cloud Volumes in AWS and GCP, Cloud Volumes Ontap, Azure NetApp Files and Saas Backup for Microsoft Office 365.

And although Pure posted a gross profit of $249m, expenses (R&D, sales and marketing costs) reduced that to an operating loss of $27.2m.

Only 30 Percent of People Believe Their Teammates Are Committed to Quality Work — Here Is How to Fix That

If you have ever passed a group of serious cyclists on the road, you might have seen something called “drafting.” The group rides in a line, very close to each other’s back wheels so that only the first rider needs to overcome significant air resistance. Everyone else drafts behind that first bike — using much less effort to go much faster than they could alone.

The group can speed along this way, but the lead rider will eventually get tired. So for this tactic to work, each cyclist needs to take a turn riding in front. And that takes coordinated communication and mutual support — it takes teamwork.

But teamwork at our jobs can be elusive for many. Gallup’s 2017 “State of the American Workplace,” which surveyed almost 200,000 American employees, reports that only three in 10 employees believe that their co-workers are committed to doing quality work. Only two in 10 said they have a “best friend” in the office.

Doing meaningful work with people you respect is not impossible. It just takes effort.

This effort starts at the company level. Leaders need to provide a clear vision and shared goals for everyone to rally around — working together towards a common goal helps teams develop a sense of fellowship.

This is something I see first-hand with our Aha! team. We had a clear vision from day one — we imagined a world of lovable software built by happy product teams. Since we are an entirely distributed team, it was especially important for us to set clear goals for the business and transparently share them with the team. Everyone knows our mission and understands their role in helping achieve our goals.

But perhaps the culture at your company does not have clear goals, which makes it difficult for people to collaborate well together. Or maybe you feel that you do not have frameworks in place for how to best engage other co-workers or those across groups.

Here are four proven ways to be a better teammate:

Focus on a goal

If you start the day dreading your long list of to-dos, it can actually hurt your productivity. Professors at Penn State researching this concept found that this negative early-day mindset lowers working memory, which you need to learn and retain information. Instead, start the day focused on a clear goal. Ask yourself, “What is the most important thing I can do today to move our team forward?”

Stay curious

There are certain indicators of how successful an organization is — individual curiosity is a key one. This trait has been proven by behavioral scientists to help teammates listen more and fight less with each other, leading to better team performance overall. Being curious at work shows that you are invested and that you are dedicated to solving every tough problem.

Embrace interruptions

When you are heads-down working, you might feel frustrated when you see a new email or instant message pop up. You do not want to be interrupted. But you need to be open to solving tough problems no matter when they happen. Recent research from Harvard shows that intermittent collaboration actually helps the entire team achieve better results overall.

Practice gratitude

When you accomplish great work together, gratitude follows. And expressing that gratitude makes more of a difference than you might realize. Psychologists have found that people are often hesitant to show appreciation, falsely believing it will not make much of an impact on others — when in fact, gratitude is essential for your own happiness and the well-being of your co-workers.

No one wants to be unhappy at work and we all want to work on something meaningful.

And the key to meaningful, satisfying work is serving others well. When you put in the hard work of being a great teammate, you will start seeing changes — in yourself, your co-workers, and your accomplishments.

What do you do to help your team do great work?

Sticking to Your Morals Benefits Your Company, Study Says (But There's a Catch)

That little twinge of temptation to cheat. Fudge. Lie. Play favorites. Maybe you’ve felt it. And as hundreds of headlines show us, companies veer off of the rules all the time. But according to research, if you want your business at the top, the one thing you shouldn’t skimp on is your ethics.

Better ethics from leaders, better performance

In a study published in Academy of Management Annals, researchers reviewed more than 300 books, studies and other texts on moral leadership published between 1970 and 2018. They found that the organizations with the highest performance had leaders who prioritized morality. Those companies had employees were more satisfied, engaged, creative and proactive.

But why does sticking to a moral path get this result?

Coauthor Jim Lemoine, assistant professor of organization and human resources at the University of Buffalo, says that the employees tended to see ethical leaders not only as more effective, but also as more trusted. When workers know you stand for something, that you’ll do what you think is right, they feel protected and stable. This subsequently frees them to focus on their jobs better, be more creative and interact with others in a relaxed way.

The big catch: Who decides what’s moral?

As Lemoine points out, what’s “right” can be subjective. As an example, consider the decision to open a new coal plant. One leader might say this is ethical because it provides jobs and relies on a natural resource. Another leader might say it’s not ethical because of the harm to the environment or because there are more cost-effective forms of energy now available.

What’s more, the research study asserts, different approaches to ethics can get different outcomes. For instance, leaders who focus on norms and standards can excel at keeping companies out of hot water legally or politically. But they might twist the rules to their own benefit.

At the end of the day, Lemoine says, there’s no best moral philosophy. Just make sure you have a philosophy you live by. Even as you abide by a particular approach, you should recognize that others might have a way of looking at a situation or the world that’s different than you. This doesn’t make them right or wrong, but it does require that you communicate as openly as possible to avoid conflicts and work better together.

Passion Alone Isn't Enough for Success. Here's What Else You Need to Have

Here’s why you should toss that concept out the window, at least as it’s usually stated all by itself.

It’s natural for focus and motivation to wane, for there to be times when you wake up, look at work and just feel…meh. But if you listen to the gurus, that experience can prompt ridiculous amounts of guilt. You’d be successful, the logic goes, but apparently you just don’t want it badly enough. You’d be at the top, except you don’t have as much passion as the other people.

What really makes a difference isn’t the passion. You probably do have that. What really separates the people who make it from those who don’t is the ability to handle boredom.

Yep. Boredom.

Think about it. We might have to spend weeks or months on specific projects, and sometimes it can take years to gather the information or skills we need to move to the next step. Now, science suggests that, on one level, one of the best ways to learn is to stick to one topic for a few months. But the brain also loves novelty and is distracted by it. So you have to find a way to either make what you’re doing seem super interesting again, which can be challenging even for the best of us, or find a way to keep showing up despite the feelings of meh.

Ok, so how do you do keep showing up?

A few strategies save you here.

1. Just remember that what you’re feeling isn’t permanent. Depression and anxiety can happen because, in the boredom, we fear that we’re stuck, that that’s all there is and that we’ll never be happy or excited again. You will.

2. Reevaluate your routine. There’s a good scientific argument for using the anticipation of reward to make routines bearable. Looking forward to some ice cream or a movie at the end of the day, for example, can stimulate dopamine production so you feel better and can get through the mundane stuff. And heading to some kind of hobby after work can give your brain a much needed break and opportunity for creativity, too. But in an article for LinkedIn, Dr. Deepak Chopra, founder of the Chopra Foundation, argues that this just splits your life in half. Instead, he recommends learning to minimize whatever downsides the routine has and maximize the benefits or best aspects of it. These are elements in the routine that help make the day still fresh and inspiring. Put another way, don’t tolerate life–improve it.

3. Focus on the task, not the clock. The idea here is to reward yourself for effort, not minutes worked. As biopsychologist and author Dr. Nigel Barber asserts in his article for Psychology Today, the biggest cause of boredom and the resulting meh is the fact we measure work in units of time, not in terms of production or accomplishment. He writes that, “when people focus on the task they are doing, they forget about time and there is no sense of the hours crawling slowly by.” So even if you’re flitting from job to job for a big goal, stay present in the moment, rather than looking at your watch every three seconds to see if 5:00 p.m. has arrived yet. This is one time when scheduling a slightly challenging amount or being able to creatively coming up with more relevant activities is going to help you. As you complete tasks well, take pride in what you’re doing!

Passion is important. But successful people haven’t drunk from some magic well of it while the rest of us stay parched. Trust that the fire is there, and don’t let periods of boredom convince you that you’re somehow less than. After all, the chill of the night doesn’t mean that the sun isn’t shining and sending warmth. We just have to put on a mental sweater until we can feel that heat at sunrise again.

With 1 Simple Move, Google Showed Yet Again Why It's Not the Company You Thought It Was

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

They hope, though, that you don’t notice when those promises become, well, a little diluted over time.

It’s the thought that counts, after all.

One thought offered by Google when it committed itself to your health was that Deep Mind, its profound subsidiary that uses AI to help solve health problems, was that its “data will never be connected to Google accounts or services.”

Cut to not very long at all and Deep Mind was last week rolled into, oh, Google.

In an odd coincidence, this move also necessitated that an independent review board, there to check on Deep Mind’s work with healthcare professionals, was disappeared.

This caused those who keep a careful eye on Google — such as NYU research fellow Julia Powles — to gently point out the company’s sleight of mouth.

This is TOTALLY unacceptable. DeepMind repeatedly, unconditionally promised to *never* connect people’s intimate, identifiable health data to Google. Now it’s announced…exactly that. This isn’t transparency, it’s trust demolition. 

This is, though, the problem with tech companies. 

We looked at them as if they were run by wizards doing things we could never understand.

Any time we became even slightly suspicious, the tech companies murmured that we should trust them. Because, well, we really didn’t understand what sort of world they were building.

Now, we’re living in it. A world where everything is tradable and hackable and nothing is sacred.

A world where the most common headlines about the company seem to begin: Google fined..

I asked Google whether it understood the reaction to its latest Oh, you caught us, yes, we’re going to do things differently now move. 

The company referred me to a blog post it wrote explaining its actions.

In it, Google uses phrases like major milestone and words like excited

It also offered me these words from Dr. Dominic King a former UK National Health Service surgeon and researcher who will be leading the Deep Mind Streams team: 

The public is rightly concerned about what happens with patient data. I want to be totally clear. This data is not DeepMind’s or Google’s – it belongs to our partners, whether the NHS or internationally. We process it according to their instructions – nothing more.

King added:

At this stage our contracts have not moved across to Google and will not without our partners’ consent. The same applies to the data that we process under these contracts.

At this stage.

Oh, but you know how creepily the online world works.

You know, for example, that advertising keeps popping up at the strangest times and for the strangest things.

Within minutes, certain apps on my phone were full of ads for Google’s new Pixel 3 phone. Which I could buy most easily, said the ads, at a Verizon store. 

Who would be surprised, then, if personal health data began to be linked with other Google services, such as advertising?

Too many tech companies know only one way to do business — to grow and wrap their tentacles around every last aspect of human life. 

The likes of Google operate on a basis of a FOMO paranoia that even teens and millennials might envy.

They need to know everything about you, in case they miss out on an advertising opportunity.

You are not a number. You are a lot of numbers. 

And your numbers help Google make even bigger numbers.

Will that ever change? Probably not.

How Did the 'Freedom From Facebook' Campaign Get Its Start?

In July, executives from YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter testified before Congress about their company’s content moderation practices. While Facebook’s head of global policy Monika Bickert spoke, protesters from a group called Freedom From Facebook, seated just behind her, held signs depicting Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg’s heads atop an octopus whose tentacles reached around the planet.

Freedom From Facebook has garnered renewed attention this week, after The New York Times revealed that Facebook employed an opposition firm called Definers to fight the group. Definers reportedly urged journalists to find links between Freedom From Facebook and billionaire philanthropist George Soros, a frequent target of far-right, anti-semitic conspiracy theories. That direct connection didn’t materialize. But where Freedom From Facebook did come from—and how Facebook countered it—does illustrate how seemingly grassroots movements in Washington aren’t always what they first appear.

The point here isn’t to question Freedom From Facebook’s intentions. Their efforts seem to stem from genuine concern over Facebook’s outsized role in the world. But the labyrinthine relationships and shadowy catalysts of the efforts on all sides of that debate show just how little involvement actual Facebook users have in the fight over reining the company in.

Since the 2016 presidential election, Facebook has confronted an onslaught of scandals, many of which drew scrutiny from federal lawmakers. First, Russian propagandists exploited the social network, using duplicitously bought ads to sway US voters. This March, journalists revealed data firm Cambridge Analytica had siphoned off information belonging to tens of millions of users. In the wake of this second controversy, Freedom From Facebook was born.

The initiative wasn’t formed by everyday Facebook users. It’s instead the product of progressive groups with established records of opposing tech companies, whose own relationships illustrate just how tangled these connections can be.

Specifically, Freedom From Facebook is an offshoot of the Open Markets Institute, a think tank that operated under the auspices of the New America Foundation until OMI head Barry Lynn publicly applauded antitrust fines levied against Google in Europe. Google is a major New America donor; Lynn’s entire team studying tech market dominance and monopolies got the ax, and spun out Open Markets as an independent body.

Earlier this year, former hedge fund executive David Magerman approached Lynn’s group with the idea to start to start a campaign in opposition to Facebook. Magerman poured over $400,000 into what became Freedom From Facebook, according to Axios. His involvement wasn’t known until Thursday. The connected between Freedom From Facebook and OMI was also not entirely explicit.

Freedom From Facebook has done more than stage protests on Capitol Hill. During Facebook’s annual shareholder meeting in May, the group chartered an airplane to fly overhead with a banner that read “YOU BROKE DEMOCRACY.” When Sandberg spoke at MIT in June, Freedom From Facebook took out a full-page advertisement in the student newspaper calling for the social network to be broken up. On Thursday, the group filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission asking the agency to investigate a Facebook breach disclosed in September that affected 30 million user accounts.

Freedom From Facebook also formed a coalition with a diverse set of progressive organizations, like Jewish Voice For Peace, which promotes peace in Israel and Palestine, and the Communications Workers of America, a labor union that represents media workers. The coalition now comprises 12 groups, who “all organize around this fundamental principle that Facebook is too powerful,” says Sarah Miller, the deputy director of Open Markets Institute. Confusingly, according to Freedom From Facebook’s website, the coalition also includes Citizens Against Monopoly, a nonprofit Miller says was set up by Open Markets itself.

Eddie Vale, a progressive public affairs consultant, also confirmed in an email that Open Markets hired him to work on the Freedom For Facebook Initiative. He led the protest in July featuring the octopus signs.

Definers began lobbying journalists, including those from WIRED, to look into Freedom From Facebook’s financial ties this past summer. The effort was led by Tim Miller, a former spokesperson for Jeb Bush and an independent public affairs consultant, according to The New York Times. “It matters because people should know whether FFF is a grassroots group as they claimed or something being run by professional Facebook critics,” Miller wrote in a blog post published Friday. He added that he believes the push to connect the group to Soros does not amount to anti-semitism, especially if it contains a modicum of truth. Facebook itself asserted much the same in a statement it released Thursday.

The extent of the Soros relationship seems to be that the billionaire philanthropist does provide funding to both Open Markets and some of the progressive groups who constitute the Freedom From Facebook coalition. There’s no indication, though, that he has any direct involvement with the initiative. Open Markets’ Miller says the think tank wasn’t aware Facebook was paying an opposition firm to ask journalists to look into its work. “I just think knowing Facebook as we do, I don’t know that I would say that we were surprised, but I do think the Soros angle was surprising,” she says.

After The Times published its report Wednesday evening, Facebook severed its ties with Definers. “This type of firm might be normal in Washington, but it’s not the sort of thing I want Facebook associated with,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on a call with reporters Thursday. Both Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg claim they didn’t know Facebook was working with Definers until the The Times published its story. This is not the first time Facebook has employed an opposition research firm. In 2011, the social network hired a public relations firm to plant unflattering stories about Google’s user privacy practices.

By distancing itself from Definers, Zuckerberg and Sandberg are putting space between themselves and how the sausage gets made in Washington. As they have grown more powerful, tech organizations including Facebook, but also Google, Amazon, and others, have poured millions into lobbying on Capitol Hill. Those efforts include fighting back against well-funded and sometimes secretive campaigns, like Freedom From Facebook. Meanwhile, the social network’s over two billion users mostly sit on the sidelines, watching the high-stakes battle unfold.


More Great WIRED Stories

Why You Should Join Uber's Rewards Program

Ridesharing is already a sweet deal (compared to taxis or owning your own car) but it’s about to get sweeter because a price war is now inevitable. The price war will manifest as both lower prices per ride and more perks, especially for frequent riders.

The rideshare companies are now launching “rewards programs” to secure customer loyalty, which means the best deals will go to customers who commit to, and stick with, a specific provider. The question you should be asking now is: which provider should I choose?

Personally, I haven’t used Uber since the scandals of two years ago, but if I did a lot of ridesharing, I’d be revisiting that decision. Why? Uber MUST offer the best loyalty program because its future existence depends upon it.

To understand why, let’s review how Uber got where it is today.

The Holy Grail of Branding

As branding goes, the brand name “Uber” was a stroke of marketing brilliance. While most companies would have gone with a brand name that had something that sounded transportation-y (think “Lyft”), “Uber” built upon pre-existing business lingo that connoted Nietzchean superiority (as in “Uber-guru Tony Robbins…”).

The combination of a positive emotional association with no pre-existing meaning for transportation helped the Uber brand morph into a uniquely-identifiable noun and verb as in “Let’s get an uber!” and “We can uber to the party.” Having your brand name represent your product category (e.g. Kleenex, Kool-Aid, Xerox) is the holy grail of branding.

That brand success would never have been possible for Uber’s main competitor Lyft, because”Lyft” sounds exactly like “lift,” which already has a specific meaning for transportation. Getting customers to say “Let’s get a Lyft” has little brand value because it sounds like you’re saying “Let’s get a lift.” In short, “Lyft” is just too on the nose.

Rebrand Not an Option

Unfortunately for Uber and its brand, the past couple of years have been full of bad publicity. The company has been credibly accused of lawbreaking, its management culture outed as sexist, and its business model criticized as exploitive.

The usual marketing response to that kind of overwhelming negative publicity is a rebrand. For example, the mercenary army known as Blackwater has rebranded twice (to “Xe Services” and then “Academi”) in an obvious attempt to distance itself from the time when several Blackwater employees were convicted of killing Iraqi civilians.

Uber, however, can’t rebrand without losing the close association between its brand name and the product category and must therefore continue to carry the negative baggage from its bad publicity. As a result, Lyft (despite having a weaker brand name) has grown from a market share blip to fully 35% of the U.S. ridesharing market.

Price War Inevitable

Ridesharing is a fully commoditized market, in the sense that the market players are providing nearly identical services. Assuming you’re in an area where multiple firms have coverage and, there’s no practical reason to take an Uber rather than any other service.

There are only two ways to grow share in a fully-commoditized market.

The first is to create brand preference through image management. Unfortunately for Uber, its brand is too tainted to pursue that strategy.

The second way to grow share in a fully commoditized market is to drop your prices or, alternatively, provide more product or service for the same price (which is much the same thing).

Earlier this week both Uber and Lyft announced rewards programs, which is clearly the opening salvo of a price war. At first glance, Uber’s program (which is built around Uber’s products) seems less attractive than Lyft’s program (which can convert into several popular frequent flyer miles.)

However, Uber is in a real bind. Their brand is tainted, their main competitor is capturing market share, but they can neither rebrand nor lower prices to overcome the negative brand perceptions. Because Uber’s marketing options are so narrow, it MUST win this price war, which means that whatever Lyft offers, Uber will have to beat.

Thus if can stomach Uber’s history, now is the time to commit to being a long-term Uber customer, sign up for their rewards program and do the bulk of your ridesharing with Uber.

All Is A Moot Point Next To Brexit Headline Watch

By Stephen Innes

Brexit Brexit Brexit

The fate of Brexit and the UK leadership continued hanging in the lurch Thursday, which predictably dominated the market attention triggering a wretched day for the pound which cratered some 300 pips to a low print around 1.273 and “the street” will be on headline watch across all time zones. By all accounts, UK PM May is at the end of her rope as the Brexit deal is running out of time. GBP is waiting on significant unknowns, but the EU is reportedly optimistic. Bloomberg reports say it is already circulating an agenda for the November 25 Brexit Summit.

Trade War

Of course, the US-China trade war wandered back into the picture as the cumulative news feeds suggest despite some favourable concessions offered up by China. It appears that both parties are looking to kick the can down the road until February to resolve some significant differences. While not too surprising, the fear here is that this long and winding road to compromise could be dotted with numerous pratfalls.

The USD

While the USD dollar has not reacted at all to the data overnight so arguably, traders have put positive US economic signs on the back burner while arguably focusing on Jay Powell’s comments yesterday that suggested the Fed is watching downside global risk. If the market starts to ignore positive data while only focusing on the negative, the USD will not benefit from tethering itself to all the positive US numbers which have been at the forefront of USD appreciation this year, an overly dovish ECB and BOJ notwithstanding.

Oil Markets

Again, a significant crude build is weighing on market sentiment amid slowing global demand after the Energy Information Administration reported a substantial crude oil inventory build for the week to November 9 of 10.3 million barrels. While US inventory warehouses remain at eye-watering peaks and the most significant build since 2017, by-products drew down significantly which held traders’ downside ambition in check.

Also adding a modicum of support, Saudi Arabia admitted they were duped by President Trump who may have orchestrated probably one of the best sleight-of-hand tricks in some time. He effectively drove prices lower by offering up far more Iran sanction waivers than expected. The US administration caught OPEC wrong-footed by what was supposed to be the harshest sanction ever applied to Iran, only for the US to take relatively mild action exacerbating the supply glut.

Indeed, the Saudis cannot be too happy with Trump’s waivers, suggesting OPEC will cut production of 1.4 million barrels while risking the wrath of President Trump. Indeed the “Made in America oil policy” has significantly dented oil market sentiment. US shale producers are equally responsible for global oversupply. The latest data show producers running at an accelerating pace, placing the US as the largest oil producer in the world. As well, President Trump’s stinging OPEC tweets have legs. And then, US tariffs are compounding China’s economic woes and are fanning concerns about demand growth in 2019 and 2020.

The markets do appear to be finding some semblance of a base as the relatively flat and supportive price curve suggests traders are respecting the fact OPEC and its allies considering production cuts of more than the initially mentioned 1mm barrels per day. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that Russia, the largest non-OPEC ally, refuses to commit to production cuts just yet as he sees approximate current price levels as suiting them just fine. Putin went on to state that “where it [crude prices] is now, where it was recently, anything around $70 suits us [Russia] completely.”

So, for the time being, looming production cuts will act as a foil to the downside risk from shockingly high US inventory builds.

Gold Markets

A softer US dollar, GBP notwithstanding and the Fed triggering some early warning signals about global growth risk in 2019 are being viewed in a positive light for the gold market. Compound this with the usual toxic combination of tasks brewing in virtually every corner of the political world; Gold should continue to find demand on dips provided the USD remains in check.

Currency markets

All is a moot point next to Brexit headline watch.

Cocktails From a Keurig Pod Machine? Yes Please

You may soon be able to serve cocktails to yourself and your friends by putting a pod into a Keurig-style machine and pushing a button. Drinkworks, a joint venture of Keurig and Anheuser-Busch, is selling its first product, the Drinkworks Home Bar, exclusively in St. Louis, by mail order and at a few select retailers. Expansion to other markets is planned for 2019. (The daunting legalities of shipping alcohol between or even within states means they can’t just sell the pods on Amazon, for example.)

For those who can get them, the machines cost $299, and the pods cost $3.99 each, or $15.99 for four. Users put in water, and also have to install a CO2 cartridge (the machine comes with the first two) that can make an average of 12 drinks. At launch, the Drinkworks Home Bar can make 15 different cocktails, ranging from a G&T to a Long Island iced tea to sangria to a White Russian or mai tai, or three different kinds of margarita. It can also produce a couple of brands of beer and even a hard cider. 

A lot of the technology inside the Drinkworks machine likely descended from Keurig Kold, Keurig’s and Coca-Cola’s attempt to to challenge Pepsi-backed SodaStream’s dominance of the at-home soda market. The Keurig Kold had the advantage of making drinks one of a time, and of offering Coca-Cola as well as other Coca-Cola-owned beverages, such as Sprite. But those upsides couldn’t overcome the Kold’s significant price disadvantages. The machine cost $299 and up, and the pods started at $3.99 for a pack of four, with each pod producing an 8-ounce beverage, smaller than a standard can, at least in the U.S. Keurig had to give up on the Kold after less than a year.

Keurig and its beer-behemoth partner are betting that the calculus will be different for alcoholic beverages. The product has met with skepticism in the press so far, but I think they might be on to something. Coffee and soda, and for that matter beer, are beverages people often  drink at home, and they usually only want one or two kinds. But the Keurig and its pods really come into their own in places like waiting rooms and lobbies where many different people can each have the hot beverage they like most. 

Likewise, I don’t see much reason for the Home Bar for just me if I always drink the same cocktail every evening–it would be cheaper and simpler to go out and buy the appropriate ingredients (or–even easier–a mix) and make it myself. But if I’m having a party, with 30 or 40 people who each want a different drink, then the Home Bar has a lot of appeal. Plus, it’s fun. It even has its own iPhone app so you can monitor its progress while it makes your drink. (The process is different for different beverages–the machine reads a bar code on the pod to figure out what to do–and most or all drinks can be made in a minute or less.)

I’ve never wanted a Keurig machine, but if the Home Bar goes on sale in my area, I might be seriously tempted to get one before my next big party. Or even my next book group gathering. Will other consumers feel the same way? We’ll have to wait and see.

How Business Owners Are Dealing With the Most Lethal Fires in California's Modern History

Jim Murphy was sleeping in his Bell Canyon, California home when his wife jolted him awake at 2 a.m. last Friday. 

“I really think it’s glowing orange on the hill above us,” she told him, worried that the wildfires, which erupted Thursday afternoon in Southern California, were edging closer and closer to their two-story home. Though skeptical, Murphy got into his car and drove up to the hill. There, he saw a blazing fire charging towards him, from three different directions. He texted his wife: “Start packing up immediately. We have to get out of here.” 

Murphy and his family are part of the more than 200,000 people estimated to be displaced by a series of wildfires engulfing parts of Northern and Southern California. Firefighters are struggling to contain the flames because the strong Santa Ana winds hitting the region keep sparking flare-ups. The infernos dubbed Camp Fire in the north and the Woolsey Fire in the south have ravaged nearly 230,000 acres–roughly six times the size of Pittsburgh–and destroyed more than 7,300 properties. At least 48 people are dead, and more than 200 are still missing. It is the most lethal fire-related disaster in California’s modern history.

“It’s definitely difficult, but I am very thankful for what I have and that everyone is safe,” says Murphy, founder and CEO of BroadVoice, a Northridge, California-based company that provides phone services over the internet, also known as VoIP. (Northridge is a neighborhood of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley that is so far unscathed by the fires.) “You have to look at the bright side and realize that things could be a lot worse,” says the entrepreneur, who is currently living in a hotel with his family, while also covering hotel expenses for employees displaced by the fires.

Now is obviously a trying time for business owners like Murphy who have been directly affected by the fires. However, even businesses far beyond the California border may yet feel its effect this holiday season. Last year, the state’s outbound shipments took a hit during a three-week period after the October 2017 Sonoma fire, according to data from research firm FTR, which specializes in the freight and transportation industry.

An Amazon fulfillment center near the Sacramento International Airport has been closed since Saturday, and there’s currently no timeline for its re-opening, the Sacramento Bee reports. Insured losses from Camp Fire, which decimated the entire town of Paradise, California, are currently estimated to reach $6 billion, according to a Moody’s report released Monday.

Of course, businesses in California are likely to take the brunt of the still raging fires. Between dealing with power and internet outages to air quality alerts and just generally figuring out whether and how to respond to the humanitarian crisis after the fires subside, business owners will be occupied well into the all important holiday shopping season–the biggest sales period all year for many companies. 

Sensitivity Training

There’s also the human factor. For owners who can open up shop–perhaps they’re near the burn zones but aren’t in them–it’s a question of whether doing so is insensitive. 

“A lot of the times we look at it from the business end and [ask] ‘Can we stay open?'” says Lawrence Nolan, founder and CEO of Hardcore Fitness, a chain of gyms with 18 locations in the U.S., half of them in southern California. “I think the bigger question is, ‘Should we?'” While his clients workout indoors, smoke can sometimes make its way inside, he says. Last wildfire season, he opted to suspend classes at the locations in the path of large smoky gusts. He’s prepared to do it again this year if the air quality near his gyms worsens.

Linda Coburn also has mixed feelings about reopening. She operates a Pedego location, a shop in Westlake Village, California, that sells and rents electric bicycles. Her store endured power outages and ash, which seeped in through a closed back door, covering her store’s merchandise. The shop is back in business but isn’t actively doing rentals. “I try not to encourage people to do things that don’t seem really smart to me,” she says. “Like riding into a fire zone.” 

The key is to be sensitive to your community–and to employees, says Lindsey Carnett, founder and CEO of Marketing Maven, a public relations firm out of Camarillo, California. “The biggest thing is to have empathy towards your employees,” she says, noting that over the interim she has instructed her staff to work from home should they need to. “You don’t know what everybody’s situation is, if somebody lives with a parent with asthma.”

On the day the fires started, Carnett, who is also a mom to a six-week-old baby, woke up at 3:30 a.m. to a televised press conference about the mass shooting that killed 12 people at the Borderline Bar & Grill, a bar she frequented in college located in Thousand Oaks, California. Her husband was a bouncer there “back in the day,” the officer who was shot went to her gym, and one of the boys who died was her sister-in-law’s cousin. “A lot of personal connections there,” she says.

A dozen hours later, the wildfires broke out and the evacuations began. Thankfully, she says, her home and offices have not sustained any damages. Work keeps her focused, in what she describes as a “high-intensity mode.”

The fires’ unpredictability, including where the next flare-up could burn, however, doesn’t stray far from her mind. “We’re kind of at the edge of our seats wondering ‘are we going to be OK tonight?'” she says.

The city is carrying out mandatory power outages a few miles away from her office, far enough it’s unlikely to happen in her area. “I’m hoping that’s not the case, but if it is, we just have to be flexible and go with the flow,” she says. “That’s just what you do when you’re an entrepreneur.”