Commentaries

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Apple-Google learn corporate governance 1.0

The resignation of Google CEO Eric Schmidt from Apple’s board should come as no surprise to anyone with an inkling of what corporate governance means.

But then Silicon Valley’s idea of corporate boards has long consisted of cozy, interlocking directorships which would be considered collusion in most other industries.

Google’s CEO is not leaving Apple’s board voluntarily. He is only stepping down in response to the increased government scrutiny of obvious potential conflicts of interest between the two companies.

Yet regulators shouldn’t be content with Schmidt’s departure. The truth is that Apple and Google have been heading into the same markets for years. A veritable chain of overlapping business ties remain in place even if the most obvious formal link is now broken.
(more…)

Saying boo to Micro-hoo: Eric Auchard

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Eric AuchardLONDON, July 29 (Reuters) – There’s been a bonfire of shareholder value at Yahoo and the blaze is not out yet, even after the agreement to a long-delayed deal with Microsoft.

Eighteen months ago, Yahoo walked away from Microsoft’s nearly $45 billion acquisition offer — a 60 percent premium to Yahoo’s then market value.

from Rolfe Winkler:

AOL’s valuation off 97% from peak. Now a good investment?

In a regulatory filing this evening (see page 54), Time Warner announced that it bought back Google's stake in AOL, for a 97% discount to what it paid in January 2000.  If AOL stock gets floated at a similar valuation, it might be a good value play.

First the news:

On July 8, 2009, Time Warner repurchased Google’s 5% interest in [AOL] for $283.0 million, which amount included a payment in respect of Google’s pro rata share of cash distributions to Time Warner by AOL attributable to the period of Google’s investment in us.  Following this purchase, we became a 100%-owned subsidiary of Time Warner.

I am thinking of rebranding myself as Zing

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Some tech links to start the week:

I am seriously considering changing my byline to Zing, what with all the media attention a certain search engine is getting.

Bing search for Eric Auchard

The New York Times looks at the ups and downs of turning brands into verbs. The jumping off point is Bing, Microsoft’s effort at verbal one-upsmanship over Google, Twitter and over generic daily activities. The software giant must alter deeply ingrained computer habits to succeed. In the meantime, my original questions about Bing remain.

The hollow ring of tech earnings reports: Eric Auchard

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By Eric Auchard

Morgan Stanley Hi-Tech Index year-to-dateLONDON, July 17 (Reuters) – For technology investors looking for clues to how the sector is faring, Intel Corp sent a false positive signal with its upbeat quarterly report this week. Subsequent reports from IBM, Nokia and Google show how hollow any recovery for growth stocks is proving to be. Even though the growth sector has defied the broader market sell-off in recent weeks, all the signs point to weak trading in months ahead.

Nokia, the world’s largest mobile phone maker, offered a harrowing reminder of what life is like for companies exposed to the wider vicissitudes of consumer demand. It is struggling in a handset market set to decline around 10 percent this year, even though Nokia signalled the industry may be stabilising.   

Don’t read too much into Intel’s success: Eric Auchard

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By Eric Auchard

Intel CEO Paul OtelliniLONDON (Reuters) – Intel Corp has cheered up investors by once again making forecasts about its financial performance. The trouble with reading too much into its rebound, however, is that this is largely due to productivity gains of its own making, rather than a broader awakening of demand.

To be sure, Intel’s revenue, profit and margins surged past all published analyst expectations for the second quarter. Partly, this was merely the “snapback” that occurred after Intel throttled back production to as low as 25 percent of factory capacity in the first quarter, amid a glut of unsold chips and shriveling demand.

from MediaFile:

Electronic health records in the land of Gotcha!

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There needs to be at least a hint of political scandal for serious public policy discussions to qualify as news these days. Which is why reports that patients in the UK's national healthcare system might be granted some some say in managing their personal health records after the next election gets largely lost in discussion of close ties between Google and Britain's Conservative Party. This is a shame, because public debate over the promises and perils of electronic health record technology are long overdue. ******The tempest concerns Steve Hilton, considered one of Tory party leader David Cameron's closest aides, who is married to Rachel Whetstone, Google's vice president of global communications. The suggestion in some reports is that these links will make it difficult for the party to include Google in any plan to give citizens the choice of storing their health records with private companies such as Microsoft or top UK private insurer Bupa. Google would have to get busy quick, as currently, its health records service is designed only for the United States. And it has had trouble gaining traction there. As an opposition party, the Conservatives' views on the subject are relevant because they currently enjoy a wide lead in polls over who might win the next national elections.******Electronic health records could offer broad benefits, if ever implemented.  But many issues must be resolved. The medical profession has long resisted adopting any plan that would help patients second-guess treatment decisions by their physicians. There remain vast problems with how to incorporate old medical records with any degree of accuracy into an electronic record. There are nagging questions about how to create common formats to share all the different types of information that might be included in a health record -- from scribbled prescription orders to faxes to database records to X-rays and so on. There are commercial issues over how to balance the interests of patients, medical providers and "payors," or insurers. Then there is the chicken and egg question of how to get these institutions involved and who will move first. Perhaps the most cripling issue is patient privacy and how to ensure that intitmate personal information is not released. ******In an April speech at the Conservative Party's spring conference, Cameron spoke of replacing the National Health Service's (NHS) centralized patient database with a distributed patient health record system that grants some powers to patients to manage their own information. He claims a private plan would "cost virtually noting to run", in contrast to the Labour government's £12.7 billion current upgrade of health information systems that does not include measures to give patients more control over their records.***

"People can store their health records securely online, they can show them to whichever doctor they want. They’re in control, not the state.***And when they’re in control of their own health records, they’re more interested in their health, so they might start living more healthily, saving the NHS (National Health Service) money.***But best of all in this age of austerity, a web-based version of the government’s bureaucratic scheme services like Google Health or Microsoft Health Vault cost virtually nothing to run."

***Paul Stevenson, a spokesman for the Conservative Party on health policy, confirmed his organisation has commissioned an independent report by the British Computer Society looking at issues involved in implementing a more decentralised approach to electronic patient records. He declined to comment on specifics of the party's plan, but said a response to the BCS report will be released in a few weeks time. "What the report does look at is how to move to a bottoms-up approach in NHS computing rather than a top-down approach," Stevenson said.******The public's attention span is never long for complex medical issues.  Note the relative inattention paid to public health preparations since the global swine flu panic of April. As we head into the silly season of late summer news, expect medical privacy scare stories to reach a fevered pitch.  The near-term prognosis is not good. ******(Images: TheInsider.com; Times Online; Google Health)

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