Tag Archives: Secrecy

Power and Intel’s fine

Yesterday, the European Commission imposed a record €1.06 Billion fine on Intel for violating EC antitrust rules on the abuse of a dominant market position.  Between Oct. 2002 and Dec. 2007, the company had a global share of x86CPU sales to OEM’s of 70% and the EC found that Intel had secret payments with its OEM channel and a large retail channel to muscle out AMD.  These payments were took the form of conditions that prohibited the OEM from purchasing any AMD CPU’s or beyond a stated percentage.  To one computer manufacturer, AMD offering a million free CPU’s. In the end the customer took only 160k, fearing losing its Intel rebate.  The EC found such practices illegal and resulted in EU customers paying more for computers. Intel, naturally stated that it will appeal.

While not condoning anti-competitive behaviour, this does prove the point that much of commerce, particularly in oligopolies, is sotto voce.


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Stowe Boyd, a noted commentator on social networking yesterday wrote:

“We have become used to living secretive lives, rather than open ones. Our ethics and codes of conduct are constructed around principles of default secrecy.

From my perspective, a large swath of everyday business communication would greatly benefit from being conducted in the open, or dramatically shifted in tone and purpose.

So it’s not just that the sorts and styles of communication we are involved in now would shift to a public context, but the very nature of what and how we are communicating would change if we were to operate under the premise of openness.

There is still a place for privacy and even secrecy, but the notion that all communication defaults to secret and is only made private or public after some examination seems to me to be the opposite of sensible. On the contrary, secrecy should be the exclusive province of only a small fraction of the world’s dealings.”

Should secrecy be the norm in communication?  I hold that is how we are wired.  We communicate, as all animals do, for a clear purpose,  interacting with an audience.  By secrecy I mean, communication is directed and enclosed.   To do otherwise is a waste of energy at best, and at worst, an endangerment to safety for many. We are not wired to be 360 degree, 24×7 billboards.  Does the use of social networking tools and concepts in a business context preclude secrecy?  Of course not.  It encompasses a set of media that can bind and enhance a community. Information can either free flow to the outside world, or not in varying degrees towards total seclusion.  Within the sales channel community as in any community are sub communities.  Though there may be greater inclusion in decisions due to the increased richness of communication and collaboration – that does not necessarily mean there are far fewer secrets. 

Those who have worked outside large businesses might be surprised at the degree of openness that already exists between corporations in areas such as research, manufacturing, customer service and channel ecosystems, openness that has increased due to globalisation and the growth of communication technologies.  Social networking enhances those business relationships and creates wider peripheral vision in customer service. It can enhance resilience, and if privacy is not well understood , endanger it as well.

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