MediaFile

There’s Apple… and there’s Microsoft

It’s a tale of two companies in the technology world on Thursday. There’s Apple, whose quarterly profit beat expectations on strong iPod and Mac computer sales. And then there’s Microsoft, whose dismal earnings sent shockwaves through financial markets.

There should be plenty of interesting questions for CEO Steve Ballmer on the company’s conference call this morning — some of which he likely wouldn’t answer if asked.

Why didn’t Microsoft give investors a warning if the results were going to look so lousy? Why release the results Thursday morning rather than when it was supposed to, later this afternoon? What’s going on with Yahoo? Will 5,000 jobs cuts — the biggest ever by Microsoft — be sufficient? And, seriously, why is Apple doing such so much better?

Already, there is no shortage of opinions on what’s happening over at Microsoft, and more will tumble out after the conference call. For now, check out this Instant View by Reuters, which gives a pretty good idea of what Wall Street is thinking.

Or just read this comment by Frank Lesh, a futures analyst and broker at FuturePath Trading LLC in Chicago: “This is not good news for Microsoft, there’s nothing here to inspire buying, not even buying on weakness at this point.”

Obama greenlights analog TV for another season

After all the excitement, endless public service announcement ads and electronics retailers salivating over anticipated high-definition TV sales, it turns out that the United States might not be switching to digital television just yet.

President-elect Barack Obama is backing a move to delay a mandatory switch to digital TV signals on Feb. 17 because viewers might not be prepared. Also, the government has run out of $40 coupons to help pay for converter boxes.

The idea that as many as 8 million homes (according to Nielsen data) might lose TV reception in a few weeks is not the kind of headache a new White House administration wants to deal with so it’s perhaps not surprising talk of a delay, possibly up to four months, is gathering support.

Ballmer upstaged at first-ever CES keynote?

After watching Bill Gates deliver Microsoft’s keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show for 12 years, CEO Steve Ballmer finally got his moment in the sun on Wednesday.

We were rooting for you Steve, but next time, tell your friends not to steal your thunder.

First, it was Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg leaking the news that the U.S. phone company has picked Microsoft as its default mobile search provider. It’s a big win for Microsoft, which has been lagging behind Google and Yahoo on the Web, but Ballmer didn’t get to be the first to tell the world. Seidenberg stole the spotlight, announcing the deal at a Citi investor conference earlier on Wednesday. We were hoping Microsoft would take back the limelight by giving us more details when it was Ballmer’s turn at CES, but alas, all the CEO said was, “I’m also thrilled to announce a new long term partnership with Verizon to offer our live services on all Verizon phones.”

Steve Ballmer might as well take applications for Yahoo job

Able to use a computer? Check. High school diploma? Check. Work well with others? Check. Willing to strike a deal with Microsoft? Ummmm….

Indeed, in the hunt for the next top dog at Yahoo that last issue — whether the candidate can do a deal with Microsoft — may be the most pressing.

Since Yahoo’s announcement on Monday that Jerry Yang would step aside, the tech/media world has been abuzz with speculation about his replacement. Silicon Alley Insider is even running a terrific mock election — letting its readers vote among six candidates.

Ballmer still dreaming of a Yahoo acquisition?

ballmergartner.jpgHere’s Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer during a keynote interview at a Gartner’s ITXpo, where — in case you somehow missed the news, the chatter, and the stock market reaction — he reportedly said a deal with Yahoo may still make economic sense.

His comments sent Yahoo’s stock up as much as 12 percent before a Microsoft spokesman clarified to say that there were no current discussions between the companies. Furthermore, “Microsoft has no interest in acquiring Yahoo.”

So what’s the story? It seems the notion of a deal is still simmering in Ballmer’s mind, but there is, of course, the overwhelming question of price.

NBC: Local ads bad, Silverman fine, and Rainbow is no-go

zucker1.jpgGeneral Electric’s problems – it warned yesterday that turmoil in the global credit markets could drive profit down as much as 12 percent — have once more put the spotlight on its media unit, NBC Universal.

Forever, it seems, media observers and Wall Street bankers have been talking about whether or not NBC should be sold by majority-owner GE. For its part, GE and its leadership — most notably CEO Jeff Immelt — repeatedly respond that NBC isn’t going anywhere.

As The Hollywood Reporter points out, GE’s latest troubles have nothing to do with NBC.  The article reports that Immelt called NBC a “great media franchise” during his rounds yesterday.

Yahoo: The Road to No Deal

The following is a timeline of key events leading up to Yahoo’s Aug. 1 annual meeting.

2006 January – Yahoo Inc begins to report a string of weak quarterly results, reflecting competitive missteps by the company, market share gains by rival Google Inc, changes in the online advertising landscape and weakening spending in some ad segments.

Stock_slide

2006 – Microsoft Corp and Yahoo begin preliminary talks on various partnerships, including a merger.

He said, she said

If you’re getting lost in all the nasty rhetoric between Yahoo, Microsoft and Carl Icahn, here’s our primer on what the fuss is all about.

They’re trading insults (again) after the latest deal talks broke down (again). Microsoft’s top lawyer is pressing the antitrust issue in Yahoo’s Google search partnership in Washington today, while Yahoo’s top lawyer accused Microsoft of trying to force a fire sale.

Don’t forget, this comes after Monday’s war of words over the latest Microsoft proposal to acquire Yahoo search, which was floated with the help of billionaire activist investor Icahn and rejected by Yahoo (again). Here’s what they’re saying about that deal:

Microsoft’s Bert and Ernie

bertandernie.jpgBill Gates’ retirement from Microsoft Corp was an opportunity for him and Chief Executive Steve Ballmer to espouse on their decades-long partnership. Here are some excerpts from their Town Hall meeting with Microsoft employees on Friday.

On how they met:

Gates : Steve and I were both at Harvard and I was in this dorm up at Radcliffe where the kind of anti-social math types hung out … I was energetic and had ideas. There was a guy who would hang out with me who also knew Steve and he kept saying “There is this other guy who is super energetic like you and he’s a neat guy.” So … we went out to the movies together. I think we saw right away that, even though we are different in some ways, we had a lot in common and from that day forward, we brainstormed about our dreams, what we wanted to do and that was fantastic.

Ballmer: So we went out to see this movie. It was a double bill. ‘Singing in the Rain,’ which is my favorite movie ever. I’ve seen it now 30 times … We come back from the movie and we’re dancing, playing Gene Kelly and some guy wrestles me to the ground. Bill is trying to beat him away. It was really a weird kind of place.

Yahoo to Microsoft: No, No, No

yangthinking.jpgDetails of the backroom dealings between Microsoft and Yahoo from an investor lawsuit were unsealed by Delaware Chancery Court Judge William Chandler on Monday.

The document adds some color to what we already know, including a history of rebuffing offers dating back to 2007, criticism over the size of Yahoo’s severance plan by its own consultants and Yahoo’s recently hired CTO.

Notes by a Yahoo participant from a phone call between CEO Jerry Yang and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer Ballmer also appear to indicate that Yang quickly rejected Microsoft’s January 2008 overtures, as his predecessor Terry Semel did a year before (at the far higher price of $40).