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August 14, 2007

Microsoft news summary: Bach sells shares; Office competition;"'white space" device broken

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 11:06 AM

Several stories of note to followers of the Redmond software giant this morning:

Microsoft Entertainment and Devices Division President Robbie Bach sold more than $9 million worth of stock in the months before the company announced a $1 billion charge against fiscal fourth quarter earnings related to Xbox 360 failure rates he called unacceptable. The sales, outside of any scheduled stock sale program, were first reported last month by MarketWatch. This Dow Jones story notes that Bach sold an additional $3 million in stock May 1, according to this SEC filing Monday, well after they should have been reported. A company spokesman called the delay "an administrative error." It's worth noting that the company's stock price did not change dramatically when the hardware failures and related warranty extension was announced July 5.

"Credible" competition for Microsoft Office is emerging in the form of a combined offering from Google and Sun Microsystems, as well as from Adobe. Mary Jo Foley reports, "Over the weekend, Google began offering StarOffice for download as part of its Google Pack. Instead of charging the $70 per copy that Sun has levied for StarOffice, Google made the office suite available for free." Google is positioning the StarOffice alongside its Google Docs & Spreadsheets offering, which would give it the kind of desktop software plus online services integration Microsoft is trying to develop across all of its offerings.

The FCC reviewed, and ultimately gave thumbs down to a device meant to demonstrate that empty television airwaves could be used for wireless Internet access. It turns out the device was broken, according to a Microsoft's chief lobbyist. His statement, quoted in this Associated Press story, attributed the "FCC's aberrant test results" to a broken internal component. Microsoft was one of several tech companies working on the demonstration device. From the AP story: "An FCC spokesman declined to comment on the matter. Microsoft said in an FCC filing that it sent a duplicate device that was functioning properly, but that the agency never tested it." We wonder if the device was out of warranty.

Microsoft released nine security updates today -- yeah, it's "patch Tuesday" again -- six of which were rated "critical." The nitty gritty details are on the company's Security Bulletin site.

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