Monday, May 29, 2006

The Lattelecom snake and the IT rodent

Eating something big is a visible process in snakes, you see its lunch after it is eaten as it is slowly crushed and digested inside the snake. In this case, Lattelecom is the snake and its apparently willing lunch was the company formerly known as MicroLink. And there lies the problem--a well known brand with not only customer recognition but employee loyalty as well – is not going down inside the snake very smoothly.
I would not be writing this if I had not heard it from two different sources in the Latvian IT industry. Pulling down the old battleflag of MicroLink and getting everyone to salute the Siamese twin snowboarders (Lattelecom Technology, the new "us" ??) is not an easy task. It doesn't help that one of the battle hardened generals (Janis Bergs, who founded, as Fortech, and headed MicroLink in Latvia) has left with his own little army (buying out the local MicroLink software development unit FMS).
This is not to say that it is impossible, because Lattelecom has to get its IT act together, there is no alternative. If management understand how mission critical it is helping all them former Linkers or whatever they called themselves to rally to the twins, then the job should get done. But at least this explains some of the stories circulating about Lattelecom's merger hurdles.

Citywide WiFi in Riga
Lattelecom has announced that it will wire the 150 or so public urinals and places for writing obscenities and smashing safety glass (the kind that turns to granules) for drunken fun -- also know as phone booths, into WiFi base stations to blanket most of downtown Riga with outdoor WiFi. This will require one to, I suppose, to buy a subscription card to the service. On the other hand, since I don't foresee sitting in Vermanis Park with this laptop on January 3, 2007, describing the snowfall, I could imagine the city or even Lattelecom simply declaring these hotspots to be free for the summer at least. As we do not have a cybercafe on every corner, there would not be too many people screaming about unfair competition and all that. It would be a great promotion for tourism -- free wireless Riga. It would also upstage the E-stonians, those folks to the north of us who are born with IP addresses instead of names (there are Estonian, sorry E-stonian names that will not be missed if you try pronouncing them -- Kukakmägikaksikolmiterviseksi and the like.)
Jokes aside, I am expecting comments from E-stonia about how they were first with the free wireless city internet, which may well be true...
As for me, I am in Paris at the moment, attending the SAP event here over the next few days. If you chopped off fingers and toes for every Latvian company that can actually use and afford SAP (the heavy-duty ERP system and all its variations), you would probably still have an intact foot. But this is more a look at the future than at today's reality.

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