Archive for ‘Microsoft’

April 29, 2011

Is The Gates-Buffett Pledge Really Spurring New Giving? [News Report]

by Avinash Saxena

Today 10 new tycoons signed on to the Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge, the promise that 69 super wealthy folks have made to give away at least half their wealth to charitable causes. But a recent discussion among some of the Giving Pledge members raised some questions. Are Bill Gates and Warren Buffett mostly signing up folks who’ve already given away huge chunks of their fortune –or made plans to do that?

When Warren Buffett called Business Wire founder Lorry Lokey and asked him to join signed the Giving Pledge, Lokey says he told Buffett, “Warren, you’re late. I already gave it.” Buffett didn’t mind, according to Lokey, whom I met at a conference called the Global Philanthropy Forum. “Buffett said, ‘That’s why we want you aboard,’” Lokey recalled. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway bought Lokey’s Business Wire for an undisclosed price in the hundreds of millions of dollars in 2006.  Lokey told me he’s given away $670 million, primarily to universities and high schools in California, Oregon and Israel. All of that was given or pledged before Buffett called Lokey last year.

John and Tashia Morgridge similarly were big into philanthropy long before the Giving Pledge. John Morgridge, a billionaire, became chief executive of Cisco Systems in 1988, took it public in 1990, and later served as the company’s chairman. He and his wife Tashia have been giving away bits of their wealth for 25 years, as this Cap Times articlepoints out. During a panel discussion about the Giving Pledge at the Global Philanthropy Forum on April 14, Tashia Morgridge explained, “We’d already been giving away a lot of our wealth and intended to give away a lot of it.” Much of the Morgridges’ giving has gone to educational institutions in Wisconsin and to environmental conservation.

Other billionaires on the list who were giving in a big way before they joined the Pledge include AOL founder Steve Case, who created the Case Foundation with his wife Jean in 1997; and CNN founder Ted Turner, who famously pledged in 1997 to give the United Nations $1 billion over 10 years.

Meanwhile, some members of the audience listening to the panel grumbled about the fact that these big givers tend to give to the same sorts of causes, like putting their names on buildings at universities (Lokey contributed $75 million toward a new $200 million stem cell research building at Stanford), which don’t do much for solving issues of poverty or feeding the hungriest.

When asked why Giving Pledge members give more to universities than social service organizations, John Morgridge replied that “You can’t give large sums to those social service organizations … Most of us give small sums to those social service [groups].”

John Morgridge and Lokey both expressed dismay at the number of superrich who don’t see the need to share their fortunes. “This Valley has a lot of wealth. For my case, the disproportionate amount is spent on homes that they live in for two weeks a year,” Morgridge said during the panel.

Added Lokey: “We’ve got all kinds of billionaires sitting on their rear ends doing nothing.”

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April 26, 2011

Cloud development: 9 gotchas to know before you jump in [Infographic]

by Avinash Saxena

Cloud development: 9 gotchas to know before you jump in

Application development and testing in the cloud are gaining popularity, as more businesses launch public and private cloud computing initiatives. Cloud development typically includes integrated development environments, application lifecycle management components (such as test and quality management, source code and configuration management, continuous delivery tools), and application security testing components.

Although technology executives and developers with experience in cloud-based development say there are clear benefits to developing in these environments — such as costs savings and increased speed to market — they also caution that there are challenges and surprises to look out for.

[ Get the no-nonsense explanations and advice you need to take real advantage of cloud computing in InfoWorld editors’ 21-page Cloud Computing Deep Dive PDF special report. | Stay up on the cloud with InfoWorld’s Cloud Computing Report newsletter. ]

Just how common development in the cloud is likely to become isn’t clear. But industry analysis shows it’s on the rise. In a February 2011 research note, Gartner said clients that attended the firm’s symposia in 2010 expressed “sharply increased interest” in cloud computing to enhance the development and maintenance of existing custom Web applications.

“I see it the most in prototyping and parallel branch development, but there’s also huge growth in the load- and performance-testing space,” says Eric Knipp, a principal research analyst at Gartner.

If you’re looking to venture into cloud development for the first time, here are nine types of hurdles you might encounter and suggestions on how to address them from developers who’ve actually done the work.

Cloud development gotcha 1: The cloud doesn’t always work like the “real world”
Developers might find that the configuration they use in production is hard to replicate on cloud services. For example, with an application you develop in the cloud before bringing back to run locally, you might need to test against a legacy system that you can’t simply copy onto a cloud service, Knipp says: “That means there might be a lot more stuff that developers have to stub out to get a test app up and running.”

Service virtualization technology can help, Knipp says, and developers can take advantage of market offerings that enable multiple/parallel branch development. Take the case of iTKO, which offers a software suite called Lisa that helps companies move enterprise applications into the cloud.

April 25, 2011

Nintendo to launch new Wii in 2012 to arrest profit fall [Gaming]

by Avinash Saxena
Main Image
 Nintendo Co Ltd will launch a successor to its aging Wii game console in 2012 as it bets on a new hit games platform to win back users lured away by rivals Microsoft and Sony, and reverse a fall in profits.

The maker of the DS handheld games device, which is also facing competition from smartphone makers including Apple Inc, said on Monday it will demonstrate a prototype of the new Wii in Los Angeles on June 7 at the E3 game show.

Nintendo is looking to repeat past successes in the gaming market. The Wii took the industry by storm five years ago by offering family games such as tennis and bowling that appealed to non-traditional gamers.

This time around, however, Nintendo will find it harder to sidestep its competitors and must also contend with a burgeoning smartphone market that didn’t exist in 2006, said Mitsushige Akino, Chief Fund Manager at Ichiyoshi Investment Management.

“Core users and game lovers that will certainly buy it, but I think it will be hard to capture buyers outside of that group,” he said.

On Monday, Nintendo also reported its second straight fall in annual profit, which was half of a year ago, as demand for Wii games console fell. Having sold 86 million units since launching in 2006, sales last business year slipped by five million units to 15 million.

Nintendo company declined to provide further details of the new Wii.

“As for the details of exactly what it will be, we have decided that it is best to let people experience it for themselves at E3,” Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata, told a news conference.

“So I won’t talk about specific details today, but it will offer a new way of playing games within the home,” said Iwata, a former game designer.

Nintendo launched a glasses-free 3D-capable handheld games device, the 3DS, this year, to fend off increased competition from other game console makers and smartphone makers. It must also contend with Microsoft and Sony which have brought new products to the market since the Wii’s debut.

In March, Microsoft said it had sold more than 10 million Kinect motion-sensing game system units worldwide in just over four months, making it the fastest-selling consumer device on record. The infrared camera add-on for the Xbox game console tracks body gestures for video games. Sony’s rival motion sensing device is dubbed Move.

DECLINING SALES

In the business year just ended, Wii console sales fell to 15.1 million units from 20.1 million a year earlier. It expects sales to fall by a further 2 million units this business year.

Sales of its non-3D handheld DS shrank by almost 10 million units to 17.5 million, and the company expects that to slide to 11 million this term.

Nintendo’ operating profit fell 52 percent to 171.1 billion yen ($2.09 billion) in the year ended in March from 356.8 billion yen the previous year, below a Thomson Reuters SmartEstimate of 200.8 billion yen.

SmartEstimates put more weight on recent forecasts by highly rated analysts.

Nintendo expects operating profit of 175 billion yen for the year to March 2012, compared with a consensus of 215.8 billion yen, based on eight analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S after the March 11 disaster.

Nintendo shares closed up 0.9 percent ahead of the earnings report in a flat broader market. ($1 = 81.845 Japanese Yen)

April 24, 2011

Open source programming tools on the rise [Infographic]

by Avinash Saxena

Open source programming tools on the rise

 If the open source model has a sweet spot, it’s in programming tools. Linus Torvalds’s fabled “world domination” on the desktops of clerks or CEOs may never arrive, but it’s already here on the computers of programmers everywhere. Even in the deepest corners of proprietary stacks, open source tools can be found, often dominating.The reason is clear: Open source licenses are designed to allow users to revise, fix, and extend their code. The barber or cop may not be familiar enough with code to contribute, but programmers sure know how to fiddle with their tools.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Find out which 7 programming languages are on the rise in today’s enterprise and beware the 12 programming mistakes to avoid. | Keep up on key application development insights with the Fatal Exception blog and Developer World newsletter. ]

The result is a fertile ecology of ideas and source code, fed by the enthusiasm of application developers who know how to “scratch an itch.” Programmers are a knowledgable and opinionated bunch; open source lets them share their knowledge and implement what they want.

Here is a very unscientific survey of worthwhile open source tools that have caught our eye. Some are entirely new projects; others are old favorites that continue to generate new ways to surprise us as they morph to support the latest programming trends.

This is the beauty of open source. Tweak and recompile, and your old programming tool can be new again.

Open source programming tool on the rise: Rhomobile Rhodes
Ruby may be the second most popular language on Github, but that won’t do you any good if you want to program for the iPhone, a platform that prefers Objective-C, the way God intended when he first created the NeXT machine.

Rhomobile Rhodes is an open source platform for bundling up Ruby websites and stuffing them into an iPhone app. You can even use jQuery Mobile to handle the layout if you wish. It’s like building a Web app, but you have to remember that the user has big fat fingers instead of a much more precise mouse pointer.

Open source programming tool on the rise: Git
While many developers continue to use CVS and Subversion, a number of projects are moving toGit, a source-control tool that works well for less centralized teams where a dominant central repository might not exist.

What Git does is it makes practically every copy its own central repository and offers sophisticated tools for merging the resulting proliferation of repositories. With SVN or CVS, users check out just a copy, a subordinate version of the code that must eventually rejoin the center. Git users, on the other hand, create stand-alone repositories with all the rights and privileges of the center. With Git, you can create four or five repositories on your development box and eventually merge them all. To use an analogy, Git is like democracy, while CVS represents the old feudal world.

April 22, 2011

RIM BlackBerry PlayBook: Unfinished, unusable [Infographic]

by Avinash Saxena

RIM BlackBerry PlayBook: Unfinished, unusable

 It’s been half a year since Research in Motion unveiled its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet based on the QNX operating system. This week, RIM began shipping the 7-inch tablet. After spending a couple days with the final product, it’s clear that the PlayBook is a useless device whose development is unfinished.Not only can it not compete with an Apple iPad, it can’t compete with the second-best tablet,Motorola Xoom, nor even with marginal Android tablets such as the Galaxy Tab that use the smartphone version of the Android OS rather than the Honeycomb tablet version. In fact, if my choice were between a PlayBook and a Windows 7 tablet — my benchmark for unusability — I think I’d rather go sans tablet.

[ Also on InfoWorld: “Tablet deathmatch: Apple iPad 2 vs. Motorola Xoom.” | Compare and calculate your own scores for the iPad 2, Xoom, Tab, and PlayBook with our tablet calculator. | Compare the security and management capabilities of iOS, Windows Phone 7, Android, and BlackBerry in InfoWorld’s Mobile Management Deep Dive PDF report. ]

I knew the prerelease reviews were negative, and I had my own concerns after seeing a PlayBook demo in January. But even those didn’t prepare me for the profound disappointment that is the PlayBook. Why did RIM bother shipping it?

Communications only if the straitjacket fits
The fundamental nature of thePlayBook’s flaws begin with the requirement that a BlackBerry be tethered to it for access to business email, calendars, or contacts. Other than using a Webmail client, a PlayBook without a BlackBerry is unable to communicate. You can’t connect to POP, IMAP, or Exchange servers directly from the tablet, as you can from an iOS or Android device — you must have a BlackBerry tethered via Bluetooth using the BlackBerry Bridge application. In that case, you essentially see your BlackBerry email, calendar, and contacts in a window on the PlayBook when connected.

If your BlackBerry is on the AT&T network, you can’t install Bridge — AT&T won’t allow it. As luck would have it, my BlackBerry Torch uses the AT&T network, so AT&T blocked me from installing Bridge, which meant I could not get my Exchange or IMAP email, work with my calendar, or look up contacts. It also meant I couldn’t use mailto links in the browser, such as in “share with a friend” links — extremely frustrating. This is what happens when you lock in customers before making sure your business partners (AT&T, in this case) will support your particular type of straitjacket. (And note that Verizon Wireless hasn’t yet decided whether it will support the PlayBook.)

Companies that don’t use BlackBerry smartphones will be in the same position as AT&T-provisioned BlackBerry device users like me: The PlayBook will not be viable for business communications. Webmail is a poor substitute for native email.

Test Center Scorecard
20% 20% 15% 20% 15% 10%
RIM BlackBerry PlayBook 8 4 5 2 8 6
5.4
POOR
April 17, 2011

Microsoft Targets Groupon With Swedish Deal Site [News Report]

by Avinash Saxena

The company has partnered with Swedish business directory Lokaldelen to launch the similarly named Lokaldealen (which actually translates to “The Deal Shrine”).

Microsoft will be marketing the new deal site, which bears all the hallmarks of a Groupon clone, on its Yahoo portal and its display ad network on Hotmail and Live, according to a blog post from Sweden’s AllaDeals.com, a daily deals aggregator.

So far 13 people have signed up to today’s Lokaldealen deal, or “Dagens deal”: 30 pieces of sushi at a restaurant in Stockholm, for 140 kronor ($22.47), instead of 285 kronor ($45.75).  Local Swedes had 14 and a half hours left at the time of writing to participate.

Sweden is essentially a testbed for Microsoft. If Lokaldealen is successful, it will roll its service out to the rest of Europe. But it must initially lock horns with Groupon, which is the dominant local deals site in Sweden.

Locakdealen is currently active in three of Sweden’s largest cities: Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo and already has a sales force of 300 people dotted around 12 districts in the country, according to business newspaper Dagens Industri.

April 2, 2011

Linked In Makes New Features For Hotmail Users To Grow Their Network

by Avinash Saxena

The Linked in Makes new features fr hotmail users to grow their network.”

We’re happy to announce that we’ve collaborated with Microsoft to make it easier than ever for our users to stay connected through Hotmail. With Microsoft’s foray into interactive email around Hotmail Active Views, LinkedIn sees the potential for email to once again empower the working professional by removing some of the burdens of staying connected.

Starting today, we’ve begun to roll out one of our connection invite emails using Active Views to give LinkedIn’s Hotmail users the full advantage of interactivity within their inbox.

When you invite someone to connect on LinkedIn and the other person accepts, you receive an email about the successful connection. Within that email, LinkedIn provides insights about the other person’s network by showing who they are connected with and which companies they follow. With Active Views, you now have the ability to take multiple actions directly within email. Which means its much easier to connect to people you may know or follow companies that you’re interested in without leaving that email.

One of the ways our members interact with LinkedIn is through email. Traditionally, email has more or less served as a delivery vehicle for static content. Static content succeeds when it’s used properly to present information or to drive a limited set of actions. However, today’s world demands much more from the working professional. To stay connected, we’re asked to accomplish more, oftentimes across different sites and mediums. The traditional email fails to help manage this onslaught.

At LinkedIn, our passion is to create products that help our members be more productive and successful at what they do. Professionals come to LinkedIn to stay connected with other professionals, and create opportunities for themselves and their networks as well as to gain insights that help them be great professionally.

This is our first interactive email, and we’re excited about its potential. We look forward to leveraging Active Views to help make it easier for our members to stay connected and be more productive.”

April 1, 2011

Microsoft Shares WP7 Stats, Takes a Few Jabs at Other Platforms

by Avinash Saxena

One year after the initial launch of Windows Phone 7, Microsoft decided to share some stats about the platform on its Windows Phone Developer Blog.

Looking at the cold, hard numbers only, the stats look like this: 11,500 apps for the platform (7,500 are paid apps) and 36,000 developers (with 1,200 newly registered developers every week).

Windows Phone customers download an average of 12 apps each month. It takes 1.8 days, on average, for Microsoft to certify an app, and 62% of apps submitted are certified on their first attempt.

These figures sound solid but are still far behind Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS – for example, there are more than 300,000 apps for the iOS platform as of January 2011, and more than 100,000 apps on the Androidmarket as of October 2010.

Even if you count in the fact that the WP7 is younger than these two platforms, it’s still lagging behind. For example, iOS reached 100,000 apps in 15 months.

However, Microsoft’s Brandon Watson doesn’t really like the methodology used by some other platforms when counting apps.

“We recognize the importance of getting great apps on our platform and not artificially inflating the number of actual apps available to customer by listing “wallpapers” as a category, or perhaps allowing competitor’s apps to run on the platform to increase “tonnage.” We also don’t believe in the practice of counting “lite” apps as unique quality content. (…) Finally, we don’t double and triple count apps which are submitted in multiple languages.,” he explains.

 

March 30, 2011

City Tax Battle Isn’t About a Two-Year Break. It’s About Repealing the Payroll Tax Completely

by Avinash Saxena

Not only is the San Francisco Chronicle lacking the professional courtesy to link to TechCrunch for first reporting the tech industry’s fears about San Francisco taxing stock options– the paper is also missing the broader point in the escalating debate.

This isn’t about Zynga and Twitter negotiating a special deal, nor is it about a two-year deferral of payroll tax. Sure, that could keep a few companies and thousands of jobs in the city. But what would really cripple the city’s future economic growth is if every other startup reading this news, grimaces at the idea of haggling with unsympathetic elected officials who don’t seem to want their jobs, and decide instead to follow Mark Zuckerberg’s lead and open their company in Palo Alto or another Bay Area city from day one.

San Francisco has lost a lot of industries over the past decades like publishing and banking, and for much of Silicon Valley’s history, the city has watched as neighboring Bay Area cities got thousands jobs and newly minted millionaire citizens. The Web 2.0 movement has been San Francisco’s rare shot at owning an engine of constant new-job formation– and highly-paid jobs at that. And fortunately, some members of the city government get just how precious that is in a country gripped with underwater mortgages and 9% unemployment.

The goal isn’t a mere concession or two for the big boys. It isn’t a two-year payroll tax deferral either. David Chiu, President of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, is aiming for a near term agreement to take taxing startup stock options off the table completely and a goal over the next two years of repealing the payroll tax as it stands now– completely.

“I want to thank TechCrunch for starting this urgent conversation,” he said in an interview earlier today. “We are the only city in the entire state with a payroll tax, and I’ve been concerned about it since I came into office. Last year, we jump-started the conversation about why it is a job killing tax. I want to propose big changes, and it’s a long conversation.” Chiu, a former CEO, continued, “A two-year moratorium doesn’t solve the problem. That solution still limits the possibilities of new tech companies being formed here. I can tell you as the president, the current board is very willing to do anything that helps incentivize San Francisco job creation.”

As we speak, the Board of Supervisors is meeting – and Chiu is introducing a drafting request that will start a multi-week process of hammering out the details to pull this ambitious plan off. Chiu and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee have also invited several tech companies and venture capitalists to participate in the process. The first step will be addressing the stock option issue, although Chiu wants to make sure only high-growth startups are getting the exemption, not mature companies seeking a payroll tax loophole.

Repealing the entire payroll tax will take more time. It has to go on the ballot the same year supervisors are up for election, which means November 2012. If it does, expect a record turnout of entrepreneurs. The recommendation will likely be to replace the payroll tax with a solution similar to what nearly every other city does, taxing companies’ gross receipts. The compromise won’t gut the city’s taxes, but it also won’t put San Francisco at a disadvantage by unfairly penalize high growth startups creating thousands of jobs.

No doubt this will be a contentious issue, and it’s one that every single member of San Francisco’s startup scene needs to be paying attention to. Well, unless they want to start commuting. As we’ve reported before, San Francisco is one of the only cities in the nation that has a payroll tax. But what is even more unique that a lot of local reporters miss: San Francisco law counts stock options as part of payroll– something even the Federal government doesn’t do. There’s a new IRS requirement to report stock option gains. Since it didn’t exist before, companies like Salesforce.com didn’t have to worry about this unless they chose to report options as compensation.

But the subtle change is what has startups understandably spooked. Companies like Twitter and Zynga could owe tens of millions of dollars to the city should they go public at current secondary market valuation levels– as much as half of the proceeds of a typical IPO. It’s a cost that they would totally avoid simply by moving a few miles away. You can argue that these companies need to pay “their fair share” all you want. No company in their right mind would wind up paying it, because its fiduciary duty to shareholders would require it relocate and invest that money in the business instead.

The groundswell of supervisors seeking to address a more systemic change for all startups since TechCrunch’s original article is a good indication that multiple forces in the city government want to keep startups happy. As the Chronicle reports, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi is also drafting legislation he intends to introduce to the board today for a two-year moratorium on all payroll taxes on all private companies with 100 employees or more. It’s a step up from the proposal already under consideration that would allow a six-year break on taxes if companies relocate to the city’s blighted Tenderloin neighborhoods. Even the city’s own economists see some sort of concession as an fiscal no brainer.

As this issue gets bigger, it could be about even more than saving jobs. It could be about changing the political makeup of the city. Long a haven for progressives, San Francisco is one of the most unfriendly places to do business in the United States. Charmed by its weather, beauty and highly talented workforce, a lot of companies have just viewed policies like the payroll tax as the necessary cost to being here. When the founders of those companies decided they wanted to start a family or had just made enough money; they’d just move elsewhere.

 

March 29, 2011

New Intel solid-state drive hits 600GB

by Avinash Saxena
Intel has entered the high-capacity big leagues with a new series of solid-state drives that offer up to 600 gigabytes in capacity.
Intel solid-state drive 320 Series. Intel solid-state drive 320 Series

The world’s largest chipmaker is tapping into its most cutting-edge manufacturing technology to get the larger capacities–with chip geometries shrinking to a mere 25 nanometers. Those geometries are a step ahead of its newest Core i series processors, which are built on a slightly “fatter” 32-nanometer manufacturing process.

Intel’s third-generation SSD 320 Series comes in 40, 80, 120, 160, 300, and 600GB options.

And, of course, they’re faster. The new SSDs deliver up to 39,500 input/output operations per second (IOPS) random reads and 23,000 IOPS random writes on its highest-capacity drives. Maximum sequential write speeds have doubled from its second-generation SSDs to 220 megabytes-per-second (MB/s) sequential writes. Read throughputs have been boosted to 270 MB/s sequential reads. These numbers are comparable to–and in some cases exceed–published numbers from Samsung, a leading SSD manufacturer and supplier.

 

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