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from Breakingviews:

Facebook and Google catch glimpse of split future

By Richard Beales

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. 

The likes of Facebook, Google and Alibaba keep dabbling in new, new things. The U.S.-based social network’s $2 billion acquisition of virtual reality headset maker Oculus VR earlier this year is a prime example. At the same time, old-school technology companies are headed for splitsville. They offer a glimpse into the future for their younger counterparts.

The $16 billion Symantec, according to a Bloomberg report on Tuesday, is considering separating computer security from the storage business built around the deal it struck in 2004 to buy Veritas Software for $13.5 billion. EMC, with a market value of nearly $60 billion, is under fire from shareholder Elliott Management, which wants it to disband its so-called federation. HP, valued at approaching $70 billion, just announced plans to divide, following close on the heels of similarly sized eBay’s desire to spin off PayPal.

That keeps with a broader market emphasis on focus. Investors in sectors from pharmaceuticals to mining and restaurants are demanding and rewarding companies’ plans to offload the dispensable parts of their businesses.

from Breakingviews:

Larry Ellison cedes driver seat with hand on wheel

By Robert Cyran

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. 

Larry Ellison is ceding the driver’s seat at Oracle while keeping one hand on wheel. The software giant’s founder is stepping down as chief executive officer, but his 25 percent stake in the company – and dual role as chairman and chief technology officer – ensure he’s far from relinquishing control. Splitting his former job between two executives could, however, lead to a bumpy transition.

from Breakingviews:

Microsoft’s China dream sorely strains credibility

By Ethan Bilby

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Xbox gamers fear the “red ring of death”, a flashing light that can herald system failure. Microsoft, which makes the consoles, must be awaiting a similar sign in China. After 22 years, the tech giant has achieved little in the country, which looks to account for around 2 percent of revenue. Cloud services may multiply that over time, but political headwinds are raising the cost of business - possibly too high.

from Breakingviews:

Oracle deal provides partly cloudy forecast

By Kevin Allison

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Oracle’s $5.3 billion deal for Micros Systems provides a cloudy forecast for shareholders in the database giant. Even if it’s the start of a new deal binge by Chief Executive Larry Ellison – which is possible – it’s not at a crazy valuation. But longtime partner Micros is more of an add-on than a way to supercharge Oracle’s effort in the cloud.

from Breakingviews:

Samsung software bet rests on future beyond phones

By Robyn Mak 

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Samsung may be the world’s largest smartphone vendor, but the electronics giant is looking beyond phones. The company has launched the first smartphone that runs on its own operating system. Samsung is unlikely to challenge Google’s lead in handsets any time soon. But it may have more success with software that can control televisions, appliances and even cars.

from Breakingviews:

U.S. firms get caught in China spying crossfire

By Ethan Bilby

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

It’s almost a year since U.S. President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping held a cordial “shirt-sleeves summit”. When it comes to the two countries’ internet rivalry, however, bare knuckles have replaced bare forearms. Last week’s indictment by the United States of five Chinese army officers as alleged cyber spies has prompted a backlash against American companies. China’s weapon is shutting them out from future growth.

from Breakingviews:

Unicorns stampede through tech fantasyland

By Jeffrey Goldfarb
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

There’s a new stampede in technology’s fantasyland: Unicorns. The single-horned stallion has made the leap from legend to run free through modern-day Silicon Valley, New York, London and the plains of central Israel as a term to describe the most successful startups. In a different and unintended sense, the trope couldn’t be more apt.

from Breakingviews:

Microsoft founders recede into middle distance

By Robert Cyran
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
Microsoft’s founding fathers are finally receding into the middle distance. Satya Nadella’s experience makes him a solid choice to succeed longtime Chief Executive Steven Ballmer. Better still, he will have greater room to maneuver as Bill Gates steps down as chairman. Nadella will need to grapple with his predecessors’ bad decisions, like the Nokia deal, and he’s unlikely to pursue a breakup. But he can focus on what the company does best.

While many candidates entered the frame, it was always going to be a difficult post to fill. Microsoft spans everything from its omnipresent operating system to enterprise software to consumer hardware. It’s also threatened by upstarts and a shift in technology away from PCs. Finding a manager that understands technology, all these markets and has skills in revitalizing a mature behemoth was close to impossible.

from Breakingviews:

Microsoft lucky to avoid Nokia’s India tax bill

By Andy Mukherjee

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Microsoft is lucky to dodge Nokia’s tax bill in India. On Dec. 12, the Delhi High Court allowed the Finnish group to transfer its Chennai factory to the U.S. software giant as part of its planned $7.4 billion sale of its mobile handset business. While the overall deal wasn’t in doubt, Microsoft avoids Nokia’s hard-to-assess tax liability. If only Vodafone had been so fortunate.

from Alison Frankel:

Dueling cert petitions give SCOTUS choice on software patent review

On Wednesday, CLS Bank filed a brief opposing U.S. Supreme Court review of a spectacularly controversial en banc decision from the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. You probably remember the Federal Circuit ruling from last May in the CLS case: The en banc court held that Alice Corp's computer-implemented escrow system is not eligible for patents, but couldn't muster a majority to explain why. The 10 appellate judges ended up writing six different opinions, none of which attracted enough co-signers to provide long-sought clarity on a standard for the patent-eligibility of abstract ideas that are implemented via computers. As Alice's lawyers at Sidley Austin explained in their certiorari petition in May, "The legal standards that govern whether computer-implemented inventions are eligible for patent protection ... remain entirely unclear and utterly panel dependent."

CLS's counsel at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher didn't contest that assertion - the precedential muddle isn't really debatable - but argued that the Federal Circuit reached the right conclusion when it found Alice's escrow system ineligible for patenting. With three new judges on the Federal Circuit, CLS said, it makes more sense to give the new judges - Richard Taranto, a former senior partner at Farr & Taranto; Raymond Chen, the onetime solicitor general of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; and Todd Hughes, who most recently served in the Justice Department's civil division - a chance to consider computer-implemented patent eligibility. "The reconstituted court is capable of settling its own internal divisions," CLS's brief said. Gibson Dunn actually uses seemingly irreconcilable post-CLS Federal Circuit panel decisions in Bancorp v. Sun Life and Accenture v. Guidewire to underscore its argument that the discussion of software patent eligibility is still percolating healthily in the Federal Circuit so the Supreme Court needn't get involved.

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