Tag: Redmond

Microsoft to act to save XP

Software giant Microsoft is considering a plan to automatically switch on Windows Defender for those customers who insist on not running any system protection on old XP machines.

According to Microsoft’s own site, the Volish goal has been focused on getting as many of its customers off of the older Windows XP operating system onto something more modern and protected—Windows 8.1, if at all possible.

But Microsoft will discontinue support for Windows XP in April 2014, which means that if anyone continues to run the OS any holes will exist, unpatched, forever.

The idea is that as a customer goes into an unprotected state, Microsoft wants antivirus vendors to be installed as the first upgrade source. If the licence has expired, the first thing Microsoft asks them to do is to go upgrade.  If they have not got any AV products then Microsoft will automatically install its Defender product.

Vole said it will not nag, but at the same time to tell people that they’re not protected, and move them back into a protected state without them really knowing.

Windows XP makes up 22 percent of the worldwide user base, and in developing countries it can be under the bonnet of a third of machines.  It is possible that there could be a lot of machines which are suddenly protected by Windows Defender.

Microsoft board member has conflict of interest

A proxy advisory firm with the unlikely moniker of Glass Lewis has claimed that Microsoft’s lead independent director John Thompson has a conflict of interest and should not have the job.

Thompson is in charge of the company’s efforts to find a new chief executive.

Glass Lewis is one of two major companies that make recommendations to shareholders based on corporate governance guidelines. Of course, there is no reason for anyone to listen and many of the big names don’t.

According to Reuters,  Glass Lewis said that Thompson was the CEO of Virtual Instruments, a cloud-computing firm that sells licences and devices to Microsoft.

It is not clear why Glass Lewis thinks that this is a conflict of interest now. The mister had been in the job since February 2012 and elected by shareholders at the annual meeting later that year.

Virtual Instruments, was paid about $2.3 million last fiscal year by Microsoft for software licences and hardware devices.

Microsoft said those buys were negotiated “at arms-length” and at similar terms to Virtual Instruments’ other customers.

Glass Lewis said Thompson’s roles at both companies created a potential conflict, and classified him as an “affiliated” director as opposed to “independent”, which it said makes him inappropriate.

Otherwise Glass Lewis is recommending shareholders vote to re-elect the company’s other eight directors, including CEO Steve “whispering” Ballmer and Bill “Vole” Gates. 

Microsoft astonishes Wall Street

Software giant Microsoft managed to surprise the cocaine nose jobs of Wall Street with quarterly results that were much better than expected.

For a while, the Wall Street augurs have been prophesising that Vole’s bottom line would be only be goodish. Analysts have been trimming back profit targets for Microsoft over the past three months.

But Microsoft turned in some rather good numbers well past average revenue forecasts despite retiring Chief Executive Steve Ballmer’s restructuring and the pricy acquisition of Nokia’s handset business.

What appears to have done better than expected was the commercial side of Microsoft’s business. It posted a 10 percent increase in revenue, mostly thanks to selling Office and server software to businesses.

The consumer and hardware group’s revenue rose a more modest four percent, mostly due to the poor sales for Windows system as sales of personal computers continue to fade.

PC sales have been sliding for the last 18 months, although Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood recently claimed that there were green shoots of stabilisation.

Sales of Windows software to PC makers, such as HP, Lenovo and Dell fell seven percent in the quarter.

Surface tablet sales posted a sharp increase to $400 million in sales, largely due to rising interest in the smaller, heavily discounted Surface RT model. This proves that Microsoft should have released it should have made it cheaper in the first place.

Microsoft posted a 17 percent increase in profit to $5.2 billion, up from $4.5 billion during the same time last year.

Revenue rose 16 percent to $18.5 billion, helped by rising sales of its Office software. Analysts had expected $17.8 billion, on average.

For the fiscal second quarter, which takes in the crucial holiday shopping season, Microsoft is predicting revenue of $23.1 billion to $24.1 billion in the future. 

Gates buys a slice of the FCC

We thought it was a bit of surprising news this morning when we discovered that the recently squeaky clean Sir William Gates III has been caught writing cheques to buy a slice of the FCC.

After all, we would have hoped that the Federal Communications Commission watchdog would have been untouchable. But it turns out that Gates is particularly interested in a Spanish construction outfit which goes by the same acronym.

The Economic Times said that Gates has bought six  percent of Spanish construction company FCC for $155 million. We would have thought that given the economic pain in Spain, a construction firm is not a particularly wise investment.

The FCC was badly hurt by Spain’s property and construction crash, with shares losing around 80 percent of their value since their 2007 peak at the height of the country’s housing boom.

True, FCC share prices have doubled as investors welcomed the company’s moves to sell off assets to pay down its debt, make write-downs on bad investments and win a multibillion euro contract to build a metro in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.

What is also possible is that Gates was helping out a mate and someone he wants to work closer to people with his philanthropic efforts.

The FCC’s chairwoman is Ester Koplowitz, one of Spain’s wealthiest businesswomen and, like Gates is spending a lot of her dosh helping other countries and the poor. 

Microsoft board plots revolt against Gates

A small group of Microsoft directors is planning a coup against the company founder Bill Gates in what looks like a reprise of the god-awful flick Valkyrie.

Three unnamed members of Microsoft’s board have been identified by press as being concerned that chairman Gates is not forward-thinking enough anymore and Vole will lose the war if he is not removed.

According to the Guardian, the investors own more shares than Gate’s five percent  and they think Vole has become too big for Gates to handle.

It is believed that they are the ones who agitated for the removal of the shy and retiring Steve Ballmer.

They want to see someone like Alan Mulally who is the current CEO of Ford in charge at Vole, while others have thought that Stephen Elop, the chief executive of Nokia might be a good starter.

The feeling is that Gates is not creative enough to take Microsoft into a new generation of computing. Normally he would have enough power within the company to tell the three board members to go forth and multiply, but he has been gradually selling his shares in the company and is projected to no longer have stock in another four years.

So while operation Valkyrie ended up with Tom Cruise shot by a firing squad, the three board members will eventually win. It is just a matter of time before they have enough power to send Gates to rescue more Africans from life threatening illnesses. 

Don't trust Microsoft with your data, ex employee warns

People should be very careful about trusting Microsoft anywhere near their personal data, a former employee has warned.

Caspar Bowden, a privacy analyst who left the software giant in 2011, said that he does not trust the company after the Snowden leaks about online government surveillance.

Bowden said that, in the past, he had some difficulty making anyone else in the EU understand his concerns.

Talking to the Metro, he said he approached many of the European authorities with his concerns and they just shrugged. After the Edward Snowden leaks proving him right, he is suddenly in demand as a pundit.

Microsoft and other internet giants have been fighting a public backlash after former National Security Agency contractor Snowden proved they were handing over user data to a US surveillance program called Prism.

The Vole has denied allegations that the NSA can directly access its servers.

But Bowden has stopped using Microsoft products in favour of open source software and has not owned a mobile phone for two years.

He did not know about Prism when he was at Microsoft, even though questions of privacy should have crossed his desk. He does not trust Microsoft now.

Bowden has called for the creation of an ‘EU cloud’ and said users should be warned when they log on to services based in the US that they may be under surveillance. 

Bring us the head of Bill Gates

Microsoft shareholders are in a feeding frenzy after CEO Steve Ballmer announced he was quitting and they now want the head of Bill Gates.

It appears that getting rid of Ballmer was not enough and they want to purge Microsoft of its past leadership.

Reuters said that three of the top 20 investors in Microsoft are lobbying the board to press for Gates to step down as chairman of the software company he co-founded 38 years ago.

This is the first time that major shareholders are taking aim at Gates, who has never been questioned until now.

There is probably not a bat’s chance in hell of them succeeding. The three investors collectively hold about five percent of the company’s stock. This is slightly more than Gates himself holds so this would be a problem if only he and they were the only people voting.

Apparently the three think that Gates blocks the adoption of new strategies and would limit the ability of a new chief executive to make substantial changes. They are worried about Gates’ role on the special committee searching for Ballmer’s successor.

They are also worried that Gates has too much power over the company.

Gates once owned 49 percent of Microsoft before it went public in 1986.  He is selling 80 million Microsoft shares a year under a pre-set plan, which if continued would leave him with no financial stake in the company by 2018.

But the head-hunting shareholders clearly smell blood after Ballmer said he would retire within 12 months, amid pressure from activist fund manager ValueAct Capital Management.

There is also some support from other shareholders for the move, although there are probably more that want Gates to stay.

When Gates was in charge, Microsoft had a visionary and now it doesn’t, one shareholder told Reuters. Shares of Microsoft have been static for a decade.

The feeling is that Gates was more effective as chief executive than as chairman. 

Ballmer goes out punching

The shy and retiring CEO of Microsoft, Steve “sound of silence” Ballmer, gave his last staff presentation with a typically subdued, low-key performance.

Ballmer launched himself onto the stage to the tune of “Can’t Hold Us” by Seattle’s Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. He left to the strains of Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin” which was the song placed at his first employee meeting in 1983.

That 1983 song, for what it was worth, was followed by “The Time of My Life” from the finale of “Dirty Dancing”. It all seems oddly appropriate, given what he has in his bank account.

According to Reuters, Ballmer was “visibly moved” – we don’t know who was moving him as he is usually propelled under his own steam.

Ballmer told the staff that they had “unbelievable potential” in front of them and an “unbelievable destiny”. We are not sure we believe that either, but it was also a cut and paste from his 1983 meeting.

He said Microsoft and a handful of others are poised to write the future. The Vole is going to think big and is going to bet big, he said, although without Steve it charge it will be hard to find anyone that big ever again.

Thousands of full time Microsoft Voles showed up to see Steve’s last hurrah. Most of them were bussed in from Microsoft’s campus on the east side of Lake Washington. More than 25,000 other staff tuned in via webcast.

Ballmer told the throngs that when he told his parents he was dropping out of Stanford’s business school to join Microsoft in 1980, his dad asked him what a PC was.

These days, he said, Apple is about being “fashionable,” Amazon.com is about being “cheap,” Google is about “knowing more,” but Microsoft is about “doing more”.

Ballmer’s exit will take a fair bit of colour from Microsoft, but at least staff will not have to worry about that ringing in their ears for a month after their January staff shindig. 

Ballmer: Regrets, I have a few

The shy, retiring and outgoing CEO of Microsoft, Steve “there’s a kind of hush” Ballmer has been ruminating on his success and failures lately.

According to AFP, Ballmer told analysts that his biggest regret was missing the boat on smartphones

He said that there was a period in the early 2000s when the Vole was so focused on what it had to do around Windows that it didn’t redeploy talent to phones. In the long term it would have been better for Windows and he regrets missing the boat.

Of course, Microsoft also missed the rise of the internet. It did not miss tablets, it just could not convince the world that a netbook without a keyboard was something anyone in their right mind would want.

These days Microsoft has “almost no share” in mobile devices, Ballmer admitted, but he said that leaves the company with significant “upside opportunities”. In other words, don’t look at the length, feel the width.

Ballmer said Microsoft needs to seize crucial opportunities with its hairy claws, particularly in cloud computing services, in online subscriptions to its word processing suite Office, and with its search engine Bing.

Steve Ballmer, 57, announced in August that he would retire within a year. 

Microsoft starts $40 billion share clawback

Software giant Microsoft is starting its $40 billion share buyback scheme.

The Vole, which seems to be trying to inject a bit of enthusiasm into its stagnant shares, also announced that it is increasing its dividend by 22 percent to 28 cents a share.

Microsoft has been quietly buying back its own shares since 2008 which may cause some to question if buybacks are worth it. It does indicate that the Vole is attempting to reassure its shareholders that restructuring around “devices and services” is a safe bet.

According to the Times of India, Microsoft shares rose 0.59 percent to close at $32.93 on the back of the news.

Keith Weiss, analyst at Morgan Stanley, said the news was positive for Microsoft but he was still worried about the “struggling devices strategy”.

Citi analyst Walter Pritchard said the company needed to return more capital through dividend.

Microsoft has more than $70 billion in cash holdings, much of which is held overseas.

The Vole is expected to unveil new Surface tablets in New York, which a few analysts appear to be holding out some hope for.