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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

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March 31, 2008 3:42 PM

Microsoft employees buying fewer shares of company stock

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Today is one of four days each year that Microsoft employees can buy company stock at 90 percent of its fair-market value as part of the company's employee stock purchase plan. A report filed today on that plan shows that Microsofties have purchased fewer shares of company stock through the program per capita in each of the past two years.

(Update, Wednesday afternoon:
Note this post responding to readers who suggested a better way to evaluate the figures reported here.)

Continue reading this post ...


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March 31, 2008 10:33 AM

Yahoo not holding back new initiatives with Microsoft bid pending

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Clearly not content to sit still as the Microsoft boa constrictor patiently tightens, Yahoo has churned out several new initiatives in the past two months. The latest is Shine, an Internet site focusing on women that it launched today. The site is getting a positive initial reception.

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March 28, 2008 4:15 PM

'White space' demonstration device, backed by Microsoft, breaks a third time

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft's "white spaces" demonstration device is broken. For the third time.

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Comments | Category: Bill Gates , Hardware , Intel , Microsoft , Public policy & issues , Wireless & telecom |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 28, 2008 12:05 PM

Microsoft in China, then and now

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

There are a couple of interesting articles out today about Microsoft's relationship with China, past and future.

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March 27, 2008 6:23 PM

One-time pundit on Microsoft antitrust case to head FTC

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

A prominent pundit and legal expert during the historic Microsoft antitrust trial, William Kovacic, was named chairman of the Federal Trade Commission.

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March 26, 2008 4:00 PM

Microsoft to advertise small business offerings on NASCAR

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

For the 2008 season, Microsoft will be one of the sponsors of the No. 49 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team.

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March 26, 2008 3:17 PM

Yahoo, Microsoft search share declined in February, Nielsen reports

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Matching the trend reported last week in comScore's Internet search market share figures, Nielsen Online is out with its February report showing Google built on its enormous lead while Yahoo and Microsoft gave up ground.

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March 26, 2008 10:00 AM

Adobe/Macromedia vet and former NPD analyst Swenson joining Microsoft

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Yet another Adobe/Macromedia veteran is joining the Microsoft team doing battle with the design and online applications giant.

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March 25, 2008 1:49 PM

Microsoft radar: Clock ticks on Yahoo; iPhone apps from Redmond?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

After a lull before and after Easter weekend, it seems the tidbits on the Yahoo acquisition front are starting to roll in again.

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March 25, 2008 9:32 AM

Microsoft, Yahoo make moves toward open social networks

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Yahoo announced it's joining with Google and MySpace to form a foundation backing "the sustainable and open development of the OpenSocial initiative and related intellectual property." Meanwhile, Microsoft announced that it's working with five social networks, including Facebook, to allow users to easily move their contacts between the networks and Windows Live.

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March 20, 2008 11:35 AM

Survey: Microsoft's corporate brand declining steadily since 2003

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

A survey of U.S. corporate brand recognition and favor shows Microsoft on a five-year skid, even as it ranks highly on other such lists.

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March 19, 2008 3:12 PM

Google, Ask.com gained Internet search share as Microsoft, Yahoo slid in February

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

In February, the total volume of U.S. Internet searches declined from a month earlier, as did the share of searches performed on Microsoft and Yahoo sites. Google's share increased, according to data just released by comScore.

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March 19, 2008 10:54 AM

Adobe CEO 'committed' to Flash for iPhone; touts benefits over Microsoft Silverlight

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


Adobe CEO Narayen.

Two weeks after Apple CEO Steve Jobs made waves by saying Adobe's widely used Flash multimedia technology wasn't up to snuff for the iPhone, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen said Tuesday his company is "committed" to developing a Flash Player for the device.

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March 18, 2008 12:55 PM

Microsoft explains when, where and how to get Windows Vista Service Pack 1

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft today released a major update to its year-old operating system, Windows Vista, but there has been some confusion about exactly when, where and how to get the software. I asked David Zipkin, a Microsoft senior product manager in the Windows group, to explain how a person in each of the four following situations should get Vista Service Pack 1, which includes the bug fixes and patches Microsoft has issued since Vista launched.

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March 18, 2008 9:16 AM

Yahoo, justifying its 'no' to Microsoft, releases optimistic financial outlook

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


SEC

Yahoo optimistic investor presentation today included this slide, which shows that the company's forecasts for revenue and cash flow growth are much higher than those of financial analysts.

Yahoo this morning publicized an optimistic investor presentation that spells out its plans to "roughly double operating cash flow over the next three years." The plan was shown to the company's board of directors in December 2007 and is being released now to support the board's determination that Microsoft's acquisition offer of $44.6 billion "substantially undervalues Yahoo."

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March 17, 2008 12:10 PM

Does Bear meltdown impact CEO Schwartz' reported role as Microsoft adviser?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


Bear Stearns CEO Schwartz.

Remember about two weeks ago when The Wall Street Journal reported that Bear Stearns CEO Alan Schwartz was brought on to advise Microsoft in its bid for Yahoo?

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March 17, 2008 7:35 AM

Microsoft Windows Mobile phones to get Adobe Flash Lite video platform

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

You can't yet watch Flash videos on your iPhone, but soon that capability will be available on Windows Mobile phones.

Adobe announced this morning that Microsoft has licensed its Flash Lite software, the version of the nearly ubiquitous multimedia platform designed for mobile devices. Future Windows Mobile phones will be able to access Flash content in the Internet Explorer Mobile browser.

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March 14, 2008 2:07 PM

Microsoft buying up another online ad firm, Rapt

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The announcement this morning that Microsoft will buy Rapt, which makes advertising yield management solutions for digital publishers, marks the eighth advertising-related acquisition by the company since at least 2006. Mary Jo Foley counted them up here.

Rapt will be folded in to the Atlas Publisher Suite, technology from aQuantive, which now resides in Microsoft's Advertiser and Publisher Solutions Group.

The company's products and services measure supply and demand to help publishers "better price, predict, and provision advertising assets." Customers include: CNET Networks, Dow Jones & Company, Expedia, Fox Interactive Media, Microsoft, MTV Networks, NBC Universal, The New York Times Company, Reuters, USA Today and Yahoo.

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March 14, 2008 12:13 PM

Microsoft, Intel, universities planning research partnership

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

On Tuesday, Microsoft and Intel, along with researchers from two as-yet unnamed universities, are planning to announce "significant new research ventures," according to a news release Microsoft sent out this afternoon.

The executives making the announcement are Tony Hey, corporate vice president in charge of external research at Microsoft Research, and Andrew Chien, an Intel vice president in charge of the Corporate Technology Group and director of Intel Research.

I wonder if their announcement will look anything like the ongoing research into Internet-scale applications backed by Google and IBM, which got its start at the University of Washington.

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March 14, 2008 9:41 AM

WSJ: Microsoft and Yahoo execs talked Monday

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Adding credence to reports Thursday that Microsoft and Yahoo were in informal negotiations, The Wall Street Journal today reported that the talks took place Monday and that no investment bankers were present.

Additional details from the Journal, which relied on unnamed "people familiar with the matter":

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March 13, 2008 3:30 PM

Game consoles: Sony PS3 outsells Microsoft Xbox 360 for the second month in a row

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

For the second month in a row, Sony's PlayStation 3 outsold Microsoft's Xbox 360, according to U.S. sales data for February from The NPD Group.

As the two higher-end consoles duke it out, Nintendo's Wii, which is in the midst of several sought-after game and accessory launches this spring, continued to run away with the market.

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March 13, 2008 12:01 PM

Microsoft's MSN chief media officer Bradford leaving for L.A. ad tech company

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Picture added, 4:23 p.m.: Bradford talking with Terry Semel, then chairman and CEO of Yahoo, at Microsoft's Strategic Account Summit May 9, 2007 in Seattle. At the time, rumors of a Yahoo acquisition were swirling, but it was not addressed in Semel's speech or the Q&A with Bradford.

Joanne Bradford is leaving Microsoft on March 19 for Spot Runner, a Los Angeles advertising company focused on technology to make "television advertising more affordable and accessible for local businesses."

Microsoft said Greg Nelson, who has spent six of his 12 years at Microsoft in a leadership role at MSN, will lead the portal in the interim.

Satya Nadella, the newly elevated senior vice president of Microsoft's Search, Portals & Advertising Platform Group, issued a statement.

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March 13, 2008 10:03 AM

Microsoft and Yahoo in informal talks, CNET reports. Is the tide turning?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

CNET is reporting this morning "informal merger discussions" are taking place between Yahoo and Microsoft. The source is unnamed, and there are several caveats that make this soup taste pretty thin. But perhaps the tide is starting to turn on Microsoft's acquisition offer, now six weeks old.

Earlier this week, prominent tech pundits were again considering a scenario in which Microsoft waits for Yahoo's April 22 earnings report -- which could be ugly -- and then pulls its offer. Presumably, this would send Yahoo shares down the tubes. Then Microsoft could come back with a lower offer that investors and management (already under a barrage of shareholder lawsuits) would have to see as the only port in the storm.

I've asked Microsoft for comment on the CNET report, and any update on the status of the offer.

Meanwhile, TechCrunch has named four potential Microsoft candidates for Yahoo's board of directors:

-- Edward H. Meyer - former CEO, Grey Advertising
-- John Chapple - CEO, Nextel Partners
-- Tom Freston - former president, Viacom
-- Jaynie Studenmund - Former CEO, eHarmony


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March 13, 2008 7:18 AM

Does AOL's Bebo deal lower chance of potential Yahoo tie up?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

One of the would-be "white knights" who could rescue Yahoo from Microsoft's acquisition bid was rumored to be Time Warner's AOL unit. And with Rupert Murdoch publicly taking News Corp. out of the running earlier this week, AOL was pretty much the last alternative left in play for Yahoo.

Does that change with today's announcement that AOL is buying U.K. social networking site Bebo for $850 million in cash?

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March 12, 2008 1:13 PM

Microsoft buys Kidaro as virtualization shopping spree continues

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft is purchasing Kidaro, a Redwood City, Calif., desktop virtualization provider, for undisclosed terms. It comes on the heels of Microsoft's January purchase of Calista Technologies, another desktop virtualization company.

It's at least the third significant acquisition of a company in this space this year, the third being VMware's purchase of Thinstall.

So what is desktop virtualization and what is Microsoft getting with Kidaro?

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March 11, 2008 1:50 PM

Mr. Gates goes to Washington as Microsoft gets more H-1Bs than any U.S. tech

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates is scheduled to testify before the House Committee on Science and Technology Wednesday morning in what is likely his last appearance on Capitol Hill as a full-timer at the company he co-founded.


DENNIS COOK / AP

Bill Gates, right, talks to Sen. Edward Kennedy and Sen. Patty Murray in this March 2007 photo.

As he did just more than a year ago, Gates is expected to press Congress on the need to raise the cap on H-1B visas and improve the quality of U.S. high school graduates -- particularly in math and science. (Update, 9:40 a.m., Wednesday: Here's Gates written testimony, a 20-page PDF. Excerpts after the jump.)

BusinessWeek, having reviewed the latest H-1B numbers, reports that "Indian outsourcers accounted for nearly 80 percent of the visa petitions approved last year for the top 10 participants in the program." Only two "traditional U.S. tech companies" are among the top 10 participants. Can you guess who?

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March 10, 2008 5:15 PM

Plenty of former Microsoft employees work at Adobe, too

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Mark Anders, a senior principal scientist at Adobe, read my story today about the former Adobe and Macromedia people who now work on competing products at Microsoft and wanted to point out that "the brainpower flows in both directions." I mentioned at the end of the story that Anders -- who is leading work on Thermo, a new tool for designers building rich Internet applications -- came from Microsoft, but there are many more who have followed a similar path. He gave me just a few examples in an email this afternoon.

"I would like to point out that there are a LOT of former Microsoft people here," Anders wrote.

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March 10, 2008 10:32 AM

Microsoft radar: Murdoch not fighting Microsoft; user data methodology; Ozzie speaks

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

News Corp. is not going to battle Microsoft for Yahoo, Rupert Murdoch told investors this morning. From Reuters: "We're not going to get into a fight with Microsoft, which has a lot more money than us," Murdoch said at a Bear Stearns media conference.

An interesting footnote on the methodology behind Louise Story's piece today on the amount of data being gathered on us by media companies. The New York Times paid comScore to tally this data. comScore tracked five types of "data collection events," such as videos served or searches entered.

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March 7, 2008 11:55 AM

Microsoft appealing class-action status in Vista Capable suit

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft is appealing U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman's Feb. 22 decision to certify a class-action lawsuit challenging Microsoft's "Vista Capable" marketing program as deceptive.

In a motion filed Thursday, Microsoft's attorneys argue that Pechman's ruling raises "important legal questions ... which have significance far beyond this case." Microsoft is asking the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to immediately review the ruling and asking Pechman to delay further proceedings in the Vista Capable suit until it does.

From Microsoft's motion (18-page PDF):

"If the Court of Appeals answers those questions in Microsoft's favor, this case will not proceed as a class action; if the Court of Appeals resolves these questions in plaintiffs favor, it will lay these threshold legal questions to rest. Either result will allow the parties to approach this action with full information about Microsoft's potential exposure to class-wide damages."

Bloomberg first reported this development.

Update, 12:20: Microsoft's attorneys listed several ways the company would be hurt if the proceedings continued with the case continues with the class-certification appeal unresolved.

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March 6, 2008 10:52 PM

Ballmer Q&A: Extended coverage

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and former Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki made a great combination on stage. Their hourlong Q&A at Mix, Microsoft's conference for Web developers Thursday, was filled with zingers, tough questions and some pleasantly frank answers -- especially once Kawasaki established early on that he was going to call Ballmer out on any "bull***t PR" answers. They also left enough time to take several questions from the audience.

I included some highlights in this story -- Ballmer's latest comments on the Yahoo bid, Google, online services, antitrust and the pending exit of Bill Gates -- but there was much more than I could fit in the print edition. Below you'll find expanded coverage of various topics from the talk.

For those with the time and the inclination, I suggest you watch the Q&A yourself. There are plenty of technical sections -- still interesting, but not for everyone. There are also several laugh-out-loud hilarious exchanges between the two tech veterans.

Is Apple 'this little Chihuahua you just kick away?'

What's up with Vista?

Three days in the life of the Microsoft CEO

Buying in to Facebook

No comment on the Sonics

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March 6, 2008 10:43 PM

Ballmer Q&A: Is Apple 'this little chihuahua you just kick away?'

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Steve Ballmer went toe-to-toe with Guy Kawasaki on Apple, dissing his MacBook Air and welcoming his suggestion that Microsoft might view the longtime rival as a "little chihuahua you just kick away."

"Arf. Arf," Ballmer responded, in a startlingly good impression of a small dog barking. He acknowledged that Apple has taken some market share from Microsoft in recent years and credited the company for the iPhone, calling it a "very prominent product."

"They're going to continue to do good work, and we're going to continue to compete with all vigor and energy," Ballmer said.

Continue reading this post ...


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March 6, 2008 10:37 PM

Ballmer Q&A: What's up with Vista?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

One of the best exchanges of the event came when Kawasaki challenged Ballmer on Vista.

Kawasaki: "Another not-so-softball: What's the deal with Vista?"

Ballmer: "Vista, the second-most popular operating system in history?"

Kawasaki: "The one that you get no choice in getting, yeah."

Then Ballmer changed the subject, reaching into Kawasaki's lap to grab his MacBook Air.

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March 6, 2008 10:31 PM

Ballmer Q&A: Three days in the life of the Microsoft CEO

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Asked to describe his typical day running the world's largest software company, Steve Ballmer outlined three patterns.

There are his days on the road, meeting with customers typically from 7:30 in the morning to 8 at night and then flying to another city for another 11 hours of meetings.

"The second kind of day is what I call the doctor is in his office," Ballmer said. "Every hour on the hour I have a meeting. One-on-one, group reviews, just boom, boom, boom, boom, boom."

That can be a little exhausting, he conceded.

The third type of day is one he spends thinking, writing and researching with only one or two meetings. "Most of the time is mine. Mine to dig into things. Mine to call people I'm interested in talking to," he said.

Ballmer gets a surprisingly small amount of e-mail.

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March 6, 2008 10:24 PM

Ballmer Q&A: Buying in to Facebook

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Guy Kawasaki asked Steve Ballmer about Microsoft's "ashtray size" bet on Facebook. Again, it's about advertising and the belief that a few key sites will have an outsize impact on the future of the Web and online advertising, Ballmer said. Neither Ballmer nor Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was involved in negotiating the specifics of the deal, Ballmer said.

Later, Kawasaki asked, "What's the Microsoft perspective on social networking? Is it a fad? What is it?"

Ballmer: "The notion that people are going to use the Internet more and more richly and more and more deeply to stay in touch with their friends, to make new friends, that's not a fad. There's no question that's not a fad. The fundamental nature of how people socialize is changed forever."

The business models for social networking will continue to evolve, however.


Check out our complete coverage of Ballmer's Q&A with Guy Kawasaki.

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March 6, 2008 5:13 PM

Mix: Microsoft's Steve Ballmer mum on Sonics

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

LAS VEGAS -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer would not comment on the fate of the Sonics at Microsoft's Mix conference here this afternoon.

After today's story by Seattle Times reporters Jim Brunner and Ralph Thomas linked Ballmer to a group of investors looking to buy the team and pay for half of a Key Arena expansion, I asked Ballmer what he'd like to see happen with the Sonics and what he was prepared to do to make it happen.

"I'm not talking about that today," he said.


Check out our complete coverage of Ballmer's Q&A with Guy Kawasaki.

Continue reading this post ...


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March 6, 2008 11:06 AM

Microsoft-Yahoo bid rumors; Ballmer joins Sonics full-court press; iPhone works with Exchange

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The New York Post chimed in this morning on Yahoo's move to postpone the deadline for nominating candidates for its board of directors -- seen as an effort to stave off Microsoft's acquisition. The Post's unnamed sources expect this to push Microsoft to take a more aggressive strategy.


"'[Microsoft CEO Steve] Ballmer is just one of many highly emotional people involved in this,'' said a source who has spoken with executives at both companies. ''Microsoft has been trying to avoid going completely hostile, but now it is going to get completely hostile.'"

More substantive details in the story, again from unnamed sources: Microsoft has readied a slate of Yahoo director candidates and could submit it as soon as next week. It is considering changing its bid to all cash. The value of the current bid, which is half stock and half cash, changes with Microsoft's stock price, and is down from $44.6 billion when it was announced to $41.5 billion, as of Wednesday's closing price.

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March 5, 2008 12:44 PM

Mix: Could Microsoft Silverlight be coming to the Apple iPhone?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Update, 3:50 p.m.: In the post below, I speculated about a possible iPhone-Silverlight pairing, that, not surprisingly, is a possibility -- but there's no announcement coming here at Mix or at Apple's iPhone SDK event tomorrow in Cuptertino, according to Scott Guthrie, vice president of Microsoft's .NET developer division.

"Obviously, there's a lot of people, including people from Adobe and Microsoft, that are going to be tuning in to watch [Apple's event tomorrow]," Guthrie said. "Ultimately Apple does control the iPhone and the experience of the iPhone, so the options of what we can do will, to some extent, be dictated by them much more than us. Certainly from our strategy perspective, we'd like to be able to run Silverlight everywhere that has any kind of marketshare."

He said his statement earlier today that Microsoft wants to get Silverlight on "everything that has an SDK [software development kit]" was "more a statement of desire as opposed to any particular plan."

Here's my original post:

LAS VEGAS -- Microsoft's keynote program at Mix dragged on for three hours two and a half hours (seemed longer), but I'm glad I stayed until the end.

Scott Guthrie, vice president of Microsoft's .NET developer division, wrapped up the presentation by saying it's Microsoft's goal to get Silverlight installed on as many mobile phones as possible, regardless of whether they're using the Windows Mobile operating system -- "everything that has an SDK [software development kit]." Silverlight is Microsoft's new online platform for running video and rich Internet applications.

Hmmm. Tomorrow, Apple is holding an event to highlight the availability of its SDK for the hot-selling iPhone, which has eclipsed Windows Mobile devices in market share since it hit the market last summer.

And since Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs told Adobe that Flash Lite -- a mobile-focused version of the dominant Adobe product that Silverlight competes with -- wasn't going to fly on the iPhone, it begs the question of what will? It's not like there are a ton of choices.

"[S]ome believed Apple would release iPhone software tools [Thursday] that could be used to add Flash to the iPhone," according to this Dow Jones story. See additional coverage here and all over, really.

While an Apple rejection wouldn't be a "death blow" to Adobe's efforts, Robert Scoble says the development "certainly does cripple their chances against Microsoft's Silverlight."

Is it a coincidence that tomorrow Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is taking the stage here at Mix with Guy Kawasaki -- the famous Apple evangelist (who has long since left the company) -- for a Q&A session?

Guthrie highlighted the company's recent successes in moving Silverlight to mobile devices. On Tuesday, Nokia, the world's largest cellphone manufacturer, announced that it will preinstall the software on its Series 60, Series 40 and Internet-tablet devices this year. Nokia phones use the Symbian operating system.

I'm speaking with Guthrie in about two hours and I plan to ask him directly about any plans to get Silverlight on the iPhone. I'll update this post with his response.

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March 5, 2008 12:37 PM

GAO Report on Energy: Back to the future, circa 1973

Posted by Angel Gonzalez

Oil has hit $104 a barrel - finally breaking the inflation-adjusted historical record set by the oil shock that began in the late 70s. And like in that difficult decade, the twin specters of inflation and recession, rarely seen in the same room, are rising together to haunt the U.S. economy.

Now the Government Accountability Office tells us that our energy mix is essentially the same it was in 1973, despite a $58 billion federal investment in researching energy technologies. In a report released today, the agency says renewable energy has risen barely one percentage point to represent 7 percent of our total energy use. Fossil fuels account for 85 percent of the total, down from 93 percent three decades ago. The only sector that grew was the nuclear one, which, after a flurry of atomic plant construction in the 1970s, now represents about 8 percent of our energy consumption.

Part of the reason that the $58 billion didn't alter our energy diet is that it wasn't invested consistenly. While the government ramped up spending during the oil crisis of the 1970s, investment in renewables dropped to a trickle when crude prices fell in the 1980s and 1990s. Federal research began growing anew in this decade as oil prices rose again, but the agency still thinks the department's R&D spending is not hefty enough. Only a coordinated effort between legislators enacting new rules and standards, along with private sector and international investment - an alliance cemented by the fear of ever-more expensive crude - will be powerful enough to diversify our energy use, says the report.

"Otherwise, without sustained higher energy prices for our current portfolio, or concerted, high-profile federal government leadership, U.S. consumers are unlikely to change their energy-use patterns, and the U.S. energy portfolio will not significantly change," the report says.


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March 5, 2008 9:46 AM

Mix: Microsoft's Ray Ozzie says Web is the hub and it runs on advertising

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

LAS VEGAS -- Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's chief software architect, giving a much anticipated keynote speech at the company's Mix conference this morning, described the Web as a hub for all of people's increasingly fragmented digital activities.

The Web is becoming the center of our social experiences and our technology experiences. It will "ultimately impact everything we do," he said and eventually, actions such as linking, sharing, tagging content on the Web will become as familiar as file, edit and view on the PC.

He got the Y-word out of the way early in his presentation, a Web cast of which is available here.

"And then there's Yahoo," he said, rubbing his hands together. "Although I can't talk much about our proposed offer to buy Yahoo, I can say it's already added some interesting twists to what promises to be an exciting year on tap."

Not much there. Later, he said the acquisition is justified by the importance of advertising as the economic model that enables the Web-as-hub future.

"Advertising is going to continue to be the primary way that we and you monetize services and apps on the Web," Ozzie said.

He said he hoped the importance of advertising, and Yahoo's creative people and Web properties, makes clear the reasons Microsoft wants to buy the company.

The big news here is a beta of Internet Explorer 8, the next version of the world's most-used Web browser. Microsoft is highlighting features to please the audience of Web developers, but one thing users will likely appreciate is its ability to properly render Web pages, some of which appear normally in competitors Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari, but not in Internet Explorer 7.

Microsoft is also rolling out a beta of the next version of its online video and animation platform, Silverlight 2. The company said the browser plug-in is being downloaded more than 1.5 million times a day. (Update: Details of this and other announcements from today are summarized in this Microsoft release.)

An interesting local side note: Microsoft typically hires an entertainer to fill the time before a big keynote presentation begins. Today, they hired some local Northwest talent: Vince Mira is a Tacoma teenager who sounds for all the world like Johnny Cash. He played a short set here and it was jaw-dropping to hear him live.

Update, 1 p.m.: About one in three audience members had a laptop open during the keynote, so there's no shortage of reaction on the Web today. Here's some coverage from Mary Jo Foley, TechCrunch and InfoWorld.

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March 5, 2008 7:04 AM

With Microsoft offer still looming, Yahoo extends deadline to nominate directors

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Yahoo announced this morning that it amended its bylaws to extend the deadline to nominate candidates for its board of directors. The move gives Microsoft more time to select a slate of candidates favorable to its acquisition bid -- a strategy the company is widely thought to be pursuing. It also removes some of the pressure on Yahoo to come to the bargaining table as early as this weekend, as some observers have speculated.

The deadline, according to this news release, was extended from March 14 to "10 days following the public announcement of the date for Yahoo!'s 2008 annual meeting of stockholders. As the Company has not yet announced the date of this year's annual meeting, the amendment will give stockholders who want to nominate one or more directors, including Microsoft Corporation, more time to do so. The amendment does not preclude any party from nominating one or more directors at any time prior to the new deadline."

Meanwhile, another round of "white knight" talks are making headlines. This morning, The Wall Street Journal, quoting unidentified sources, reported that Yahoo is stepping up talks with Time Warner as an alternative to Microsoft's bid, worth $41.2 billion at yesterday's closing price. (Microsoft shares opened higher this morning.) Reports suggest Time Warner's Internet unit, AOL, would be folded into Yahoo, and the parent company would take a large financial stake in Yahoo.

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March 4, 2008 9:54 AM

Microsoft Research warns of competitive threats, not always heeded

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft has invited academics and journalists to its Redmond campus this morning for a preview of TechFest, the company's effort to transfer the technology developed in its huge basic research arm to the rest of the company.

Rick Rashid, senior vice president of Microsoft Research, is giving an introductory talk. He's explaining the importance of Microsoft Research, which now has more than 800 Ph.D. computer scientists. One benefit of doing research that looks over the horizon is identifying new competitive threats.

"We're a great early warning system," he said. "We'll say something like, 'You know, this Internet search thing, it could be big some day.' People don't always listen to us."

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March 3, 2008 10:24 AM

Gates swipes at Google Apps, stays mum on presidential race, comments on Yahoo

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, taking questions from the audience at his company's SharePoint conference in Seattle this morning, was asked how Google Sites competes with Microsoft's new SharePoint Services. It's an issue I covered in this story.

He lauded Google's Internet search, but said its online offerings that compete with Microsoft's own productivity applications such as Office and SharePoint don't have the richness or responsiveness that businesses demand. He also suggested that Google has been able to make big marketing splashes for its Apps products, but has had little market penetration.

"The day they announce them is their best day," Gates said, adding, "I might be biased."

Asked who he's backing for president, Gates pointed people to www.one.org, an effort he has helped fund to get candidates to state their positions on global healh.

"I'm not making any particular public comment beyond that," Gates said.

He was also asked whether a Microsoft acquisition of Yahoo would have any impact on SharePoint. His answer, not really. The acquisition proposal reflects how serious the company is about consumer search, he said.

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March 3, 2008 10:00 AM

No one asks CFO Liddell about Yahoo bid, so he offers two cents

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

CNET is covering the Morgan Stanley event where Microsoft CFO Chris Liddell was speaking this morning. And, according to this report, no one -- none of the analysts or any of the audience during a Q&A session -- asked about Yahoo.

CNET's Dawn Kawamoto wrote what I'm thinking:

"Hello ... Microsoft is looking to lay down mega, mega, and, I say, MEGA bucks for Yahoo and no one at the investor/technology conference asked a single question about its bid.

"That didn't stop Liddell from addressing the proverbial elephant in the room.

"Said Liddell: 'No one asked me about Yahoo, which is interesting. It's a small company we are looking to acquire, but the company has not yet formally responded to our offer.... We will continue to look at our options and that is something I am incredibly systematic about.'"

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March 3, 2008 9:30 AM

Gates reprises 'Last Day' video

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft is getting more mileage from the star-studded spoof video of Bill Gates' "Last Day" at work, which debuted to big laughs at his Consumer Electronics Show keynote and has since been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on the Internet.

Gates paused his keynote at Microsoft's SharePoint conference in Seattle this morning to show it again, with new footage and a cameo from billionaire buddy Warren Buffett, who gave Gates some work space in a Dairy Queen (I think it was a DQ) to hold a meeting on global health. (How tempting it must have been to set that scene in a Hooters.)

The global-health message was more prominent in "Bill's Last Day Redux." In an early scene of Gates working out with Matthew McConaughey, for example, the buff movie star is holding a heavy punching bag and urges Gates on with shouts of, "I am tuberculosis!" Gates finishes off with a head butt.

Still scored hearty laughs.

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March 3, 2008 9:03 AM

Gates still packs 'em in as Microsoft kicks off big week

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The line formed at least an hour in advance for Chairman Bill Gates keynote speech to Microsoft's SharePoint conference here in Seattle this morning. The conference is sold out with 3,800 people in attendance. The company announced an expansion of its online services for businesses this morning, previewed in this story.

Gates' appearance begins a week in which nearly all of Microsoft's "C suite" will be speaking. Also today, CFO Chris Liddell is talking at Morgan Stanley analyst conference and CEO Steve Ballmer is taking the stage with a panel of European political leaders, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel as part of CeBIT 2008, a tech expo in Hanover, Germany, expected to draw 475,000 people.

Tomorrow, Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie speaks at Microsoft Research TechFest in Redmond.

Continue reading this post ...


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