MediaFile

Tech wrap: Microsoft backs Ballmer

Microsoft’s board stood behind CEO Steve Ballmer, defending its longtime leader after influential hedge fund manager David Einhorn touched off a debate by calling for his dismissal. The fund manager, who made his name warning about the financial health of Lehman Brothers before the investment bank’s collapse, accused Ballmer on Wednesday evening of being stuck in the past, launching the sharpest attack yet by a high-profile investor against the company’s leadership.

Google and four bank and telecom partners unveiled “Google Wallet” and “Google Offers”, taking U.S. shoppers a step closer to paying by waving their mobile phones at the checkout counter. Designed to work as an app on Android phones, it hitches a ride on MasterCard’s “PayPass” technology, which lets shoppers tap cards for payment. Google has signed up retailers including Macy’s, American Eagle Outfitters and Subway to blend the service with loyalty programs and discount offers.

Google, MasterCard, Citigroup, First Data and Sprint will make the service available this summer to people in New York and San Francisco.

LinkedIn will seek out opportunities in China to capitalize on its massive user base even though it sees the market as complicated, a company executive said. LinkedIn has a small presence in the country and is one of the few foreign social networking sites to still have access to Chinese Internet users.

Two Democratic political consultants may proceed with their suit alleging that The Huffington Post’s founders stole their idea for the news website, a New York judge has ruled. The attorneys for co-founders Arianna Huffington and Kenneth Lerer and TheHuffingtonPost.com had asked the court to dismiss the complaint filed by the consultants, Peter Daou and James Boyce, who alleged that the defendants broke their promise to work with them to create the site.

Tech wrap: New Apple iMacs built for speed

Apple refreshed its lineup of iMac computers with new Intel processors that it says are up to 70 percent faster and with USB-like ports that are up to 20 times as fast. Thunderbolt ports support displays and devices. The new iMacs also feature a new HD Web camera. Apple said the iMacs are on sale online and at its retail stores starting at $1,199.

Sony CEO Howard Stringer faced harsh criticism of his leadership after the company revealed hackers may have stolen the data of another 25 million accounts in a second massive security breach. The breach of the Sony Online Entertainment PC games network may also have led to the theft of 10,700 direct debit records from customers in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain and 12,700 non-U.S. credit or debit card numbers, Sony said. Investors said Sony and Stringer had botched the data security crisis. “The way Sony handled the whole thing goes to show that it lacks the ability to manage crises,” Michael On of Beyond Asset Management in Taipei said.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced that RIM will use Microsoft’s Bing search engine and maps as default options on its new BlackBerry devices. RIM’s move, coupled with its close partnership with Adobe Systems, sketches out a strategy of cooperation in a mobile market now dominated by Apple and Google. The strategy illustrates that the mobile market is entering a new phase that focuses on feature consolidation and “co-opetition,” writes GigaOM’s Kevin Tofel. The old strategy, which lasted from 2007 until recently, focused on new platforms, user interfaces and the emergence of the mobile app economy, Tofel adds.

Microsoft and Yahoo: The morning after

Ah, the morning after.

Microsoft and Yahoo have finally come to an understanding, putting to rest what seemed like an endless back-and-forth (As Barry Diller said yesterday,  “We’re not going to have to talk about whether or not it’s going to happen anymore).

In case you were at the beach, on the golf course, riding your bike, or hiding out in a cave yesterday, here are the very basics: It’s a 10-year Web search deal; doesn’t include display; Microsoft will the guarantee revenue per search for the first 18 months; Yahoo expects deal to boost income by $500 million and save about $200 million in capex; Microsoft will pay traffic acquisition at an initial rate of 88 percent; Yahoo will act as the global sales force for both companies’ premium search advertisers; etc. etc.

Just about everyone has weighed in on the deal, and more analysis is certain to come in the days ahead. In the meantime, here’s what we see as a few key questions about the deal.

Microsoft to cut more jobs?

The world’s largest software firm is cutting 5,000 jobs as it faces the worst economic crisis in its 34-year history. 

No further cuts are planned, but with no end to the recession in sight, how long can it be before Chief Executive Steve Ballmer has to chop more of Microsoft’s remaining 93,000 or so workers? 

Here are some of Ballmer’s comments from a conference call with analysts:

    “We think we have taken the right degree of action in terms of reducing the cost base.” “We are taking out somewhere between 5 percent and 15 percent of the cost line… which we think, in this environment relative to the reset in the economy, is probably the right level.” “Our model is not for a quick rebound (in PC sales).” “If the economy stays down and then builds slowly, we are probably at about the expense base… You can’t tell. The economy could also get a whole lot worse.”

(Photo: Reuters)

Microsoft: Here’s the lowdown on Yahoo

ballmer.jpgSo often with these things, there’s a lot of PR-speak and dancing around. But let’s give Microsoft’s top brass some credit –  they pretty much addressed the whole Yahoo thing head on during the annual meeting with Wall Street analysts up in Washington state.

Finance chief Chris Liddel was particularly clear on the subject. Take it from his boss, Steve Ballmer.

“I think Chris was just about as black and white on that topic as we’ve ever been,” Ballmer said shortly after Liddell finished speaking.

Microsoft: A Thousand Times No

And it was thus decreed that the messengers of Steve Ballmer were sent far across the land to say No to an alliance with the kingdom of Yahoo:
    
“Yahoo could always come back again and say please buy us for $33 (a share) and I’m sure we might reconsider it, but we’re not assuming that’s going to happen,” Microsoft Chief Research and Strategy Office Craig Mundie to Reuters in Jakarta, May 8. 

“The conclusion was reached that we should pursue our independent path,” Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates in Tokyo, May 7.    
    
“The key decisions on that will be made by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who took a look at Yahoo and decided that, on our own, he likes the stuff that we’re doing,” Gates in Seoul, May 6.

“We decided to move on and basically withdraw our offer …. Absolutely, that’s the end of the story. We are moving on because our strategy is very clear,” Microsoft International President Jean-Philippe Courtois to Reuters in London, May 6.