Steve Ballmer


THE NEWS WRAP: Ballmer steps down from Microsoft board to focus on basketball

8:17PM | Tuesday, 19 August

Former Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer has announced he will be stepping down as a board member at the company.   Ballmer, who retired six months ago, has been a member of the Microsoft board for the past 14 years.   He recently purchased the Los Angeles Clippers NBA franchise and plans to focus on running that team.   In a letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, he says his confidence that the company is heading in the right direction, combined with a “multitude of new commitments” made it impractical to continue to serve on the board.   “I have confidence in our approach of mobile-first, cloud-first, and in our primary innovation emphasis on platforms and productivity and the building of capability in devices and services as core business drivers,” he says.   “I bleed Microsoft – I have for 34 years and I always will. I continue to love discussing the company’s future.”   Uber hires top Obama adviser as new campaign manager David Plouffe, who ran United States president Barack Obama’s breakthrough 2008 election campaign, has been named Uber’s new SVP of policy and strategy, Re/code reports.   Last July, Uber CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick was closing in on hiring a high profile manager to head its policy and strategy and fight “an asshole named Taxi”.   Lyft COO leaves company Travis VanderZanden has left his post as COO of transportation network startup Lyft after “some level of tension with its founders, sources told Re/code.   VanderZanden arrived at the company after it acquired his on-demand car wash service Cherry last year.   Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 80.85 to 16,919.59. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

Mobile commerce visionary Tomi Ahonen on the newest mass media: You must watch this video

1:51AM | Wednesday, 22 January

Are you thinking about developing an Android or iPhone app? Perhaps you have already established a business and remain a mobile sceptic?   Or maybe you are looking for a good business idea?   If so, it’s time to take some inspiration from one of the world’s pre-eminent experts on mobile, Tomi Ahonen.   Who’s this Tomi Ahonen character, you ask? He was a senior executive at Nokia back in the ‘90s, the good ‘ole days when the Finnish mobile phone giant dominated the planet. Since leaving the company, Ahonen has become an outspoken critic of the now-former Nokia chief executive, Stephen Elop, and the company’s recent Windows Phone 8-powered smartphones.   If you carried a Nokia 3210 in your pocket back in the late ‘90s, it was partly due to forward thinking Finnish engineers and executives like Ahonen. Amongst many other achievements, he oversaw Nokia’s 3G Research Centre and wrote the first industry white paper on bringing internet services to mobile.   Back in the golden age known as the late ‘90s, Ahonen foresaw that online services on mobile would be used in a fundamentally different manner to how it is on a desktop computer. It’s a theme he discusses in greater depth in his book The Seventh Mass Media, which argues mobile is the seventh and most recent of a series of fundamentally different media forms, following print, recordings, cinema, radio, television and the internet.   See, these days, Sonny Jim Crockett, it’s common sense to assume that your desktop website will work differently to a well-designed mobile site. Not so, back in the ancient days of the internet.   Heck, right up until recently, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer was still insisting mobile devices were just PCs in a different form! But that’s another story!   Anyway, during the video, Ahonen lists nine unique benefits of mobile. They are:   1. It’s the first personal media form. 2. It’s (almost) permanently connected. 3. It’s always carried. 4. It has a built-in billing system. 6. It has the most accurate audience info of any media. 7. It captures the social context of consumption. 8. It enables the eight mass media: Augmented reality. 9. It’s a digital interface to the real world.   What implications do these nine unique benefits have if you own or are about to start a business? How should you optimise your business for mobile communications? And why does mobile matter for business in the first place?   All is revealed in this video.   Your task for today is simple. Watch it:     Get it done – today!

10 events and trends that shaped the tech industry in 2013

12:02AM | Friday, 6 December

The tech sector has always been hyper-competitive, and never has this been truer than in 2013.   For the likes of Twitter, Samsung and Google, the harvest of 2013 was bountiful.   However, from the perspective of Nokia, Microsoft, BlackBerry or the PC industry, it was a year to forget.   Here’s a look back at 10 of the big events and trends that shaped the tech sector in 2013.   1. One billion smartphones sold this year – and counting   The most important tech story of 2013 didn’t take place with a major product announcement or a Steve Jobs-style keynote speech.   Instead, it took place without fanfare at an ordinary mobile phone retailer somewhere deep in suburbia.   It was there that a consumer decided to purchase the one billionth smartphone to be sold during 2013.   To put that number in perspective, it is projected that 227.3 million tablets shipped worldwide during 2013, 158 million television sets, 180.9 million portable PCs and 134.4 million desktop PCs.   Meanwhile, figures from market analysts IDC show smartphones also outsold featurephones worldwide for the first time in history during the first quarter of 2013.   What this means is that while smartphones now account for more than half of the 418.6 million mobile phones shipped worldwide each quarter, there are still millions of old-fashioned featurephones being sold each year.   Especially in the low-end of the market and in emerging economies, that means there’s plenty of extra room for growth in the future – especially at the low-end of the market.   Make no mistake about it. The smartphone industry is big – far bigger than the PC or TV business. And it’s only going to get bigger in 2014.   2. Google Android and Samsung: The juggernaut rolls on The biggest winners from the spectacular, ongoing growth of the smartphone market have been Samsung and Google.   Last year, smartphones running Google Android outsold Apple. In 2013, that trend morphed into total industry domination.   For example, of the 261.1 million smartphones shipped worldwide during the third quarter of 2013, 211.6 million or over 80% ran Google’s Android operating system.   That compares to just 33.8 million iPhones, representing around 12.9% of the market, and a measly 3.6% for Windows Phone.   Samsung managed to ship 72.4 million smartphones during the second quarter of 2013 alone, representing around 30.4% of the market – more than double Apple’s sales during the same period.   Those device sales also mean increased component orders flowing through the various divisions of the South Korean tech conglomerate, which manufactures everything from semiconductors to batteries and smartphone displays.   The growing strength of the South Korean electronics behemoth is demonstrated by its advertising and marketing budget, which has been estimated at around $US14 billion worldwide.   To put that figure into perspective, as of 2011, North Korea’s entire national economy was estimated to stand at $US12.385 billion.   3. The PC industry bloodbath   While Google and Samsung have had a stellar year in 2013, the same certainly can’t be said for the PC industry.   The September quarter was the sixth consecutive quarter of falls, according to Gartner, with shipments falling to 80.2 million units for the quarter from 87.8 million a year earlier.   Figures released by IDC forecast PC shipments for the full year to fall 9.7% in 2013.   More alarmingly, it appears the emerging middle class in China, India and Brazil aren’t keen on buying computers, with total PC shipments in emerging markets expected to drop from 205.2 million to 185 million this year.   Australia and New Zealand led the trend, with a massive 21% year-on-year fall in shipments for first quarter in Australia, along with a more astounding 27% fall in New Zealand.   The implosion of the PC market was disastrous for a number of PC makers, including Dell, HP and Acer.   In August, HP announced a major shake-up of its senior management team after announcing a large 15% year-on-year drop in net earnings and a 22% drop in revenue from consumer devices during its quarterly results.   That same month, Dell reported a massive 72% year-on-year collapse in quarterly earnings, while a consortium including founder Michael Dell, Silver Lake Capital and Microsoft successfully fought off high-profile investor Carl Icahn’s bid for control of the company.   And at Acer, founder Stan Shih made a surprise return as interim chairman and president, following the resignation of former chief executive JT Wang and president Jim Wong after the company recorded a record third-quarter loss.   The resignations came after Acer announced its consolidated revenues for the third-quarter of 2013 fell 11.8% year-on-year to $US3.11 billion, resulting in an operating loss of $US86.6 million.   4. Surface falls flat   On top of falling PC sales and 3.6% Windows Phone market share, the news was dire for Microsoft on another front in 2013.   Late last year, Microsoft launched its Surface series of tablets as a first step towards making devices, with the company believed to have manufactured around six million units.   The release of the Surface instantly made Microsoft a direct competitor to many of its already struggling PC partners, straining relations in the process.   Fast forward to July of this year when Microsoft announced a massive $US900 million writedown on its inventory of unsold tablets. The writedown came less than a week after Microsoft announced a large price cut of $US150 for the struggling product line.   Adding insult to injury, Microsoft also revealed it has spent $US898 million advertising the tablets, while only generating $US853 million in sales.   According to many leading analysts, the company was believed to have sold just 1.7 million of the six million tablets it had built.   To put those numbers in perspective, Apple sells around 14.6 million iPads each quarter, while Samsung sells around 8.8 million.   5. Steve Ballmer resigns   During the 1990s, Microsoft was undeniably the 800-pound gorilla of the tech industry.   Then, in January 2000, founder Bill Gates stood aside as chief executive, in favour of Steve Ballmer, in order to focus on his philanthropic efforts.   Since then, the company has lost much of its former dynamism, and has failed to become the dominant player in a range of new technologies that have emerged since then, including search, tablets, smartphones or social media.   In August last year, Vanity Fair magazine journalist Kurt Eichenwald ran a feature exploring why Microsoft fell behind its rivals. A management technique called stack ranking was almost universally blamed.   “If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, two people were going to get a great review, seven were going to get mediocre reviews, and one was going to get a terrible review,” a former software developer told Eichenwald. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”   Add the low market share for Windows Phone, poor sales of the Surface and the PC industry bloodbath, and it became clear something had to give at Microsoft.   In July, the company announced a major management restructure, with the company’s strategy shifting to focus on “devices and services”.   Then, just one month later, Ballmer resigned as chief executive, with stack ranking dumped as a management technique soon after.   The Redmond, Washington-based tech giant is currently searching for his replacement.   Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 6. Nokia sold for a song   Soon after Ballmer’s resignation, the news was overshadowed by an even bigger story.   In September, Microsoft announced it was buying Nokia’s smartphone and devices businesses for $US7.2 billion, with the Finnish telecommunications company retaining its Nokia-Siemens services network equipment business and the Nokia brand name.   The deal came after Nokia announced its smartphone sales had slumped 27% year-on-year during the second quarter of 2013, with an overall loss of €115 million ($A190 million) for the quarter.   The sales plunge was led by the company’s Windows Phone-based Lumia smartphone unit, where shipments fell 27% from 10.2 million units during the second quarter of 2012 to just 7.4 million for the same quarter in 2013.   To put that number into perspective, it was a little over one-tenth the number of smartphones sold by Samsung during the same quarter.   It was an inglorious end to a company that absolutely dominated the mobile industry through the 1990s and 2000s. As recently as 2010, when Apple sold 47 million smartphones, Nokia managed to sell 104 million.   According to prominent industry analysts, such as former Nokia executive Tomi Ahonen, the fateful moment came in February 2011, when then chief executive Stephen Elop made the decision to switch its smartphones to the Windows Phone operating system.   Soon after, a leaked internal letter from Elop known as the “burning platform” memo likened the company’s situation in the mobile phone market to a person standing on a burning oil platform.   After the takeover was announced, Elop was named as one of the top contenders for the position of Microsoft chief executive.   7. BlackBerry’s failed comeback and takeover attempt   It wasn’t just Nokia that had a tough time in the smartphone market at the hands of Samsung and Google.   In January, BlackBerry launched its new, all-touch BlackBerry 10 smartphone operating system. The platform, originally scheduled for late 2011, had been delayed by a year, preventing the company launching a flagship phone in 2012.   The Australian launch for the first smartphone to run the new platform, the Z10, came in March at a gala event in Sydney hosted by Adam Spencer. A second device using a traditional BlackBerry keyboard, called the Q10, came soon after.   While the reviews were generally positive, the new devices failed to be the big comeback success the company’s then-chief executive, Thorsten Heins, had hoped for.   By August, the company formed a special five-member panel to examine takeover options after director and Canadian investment guru Prem Watsa quit the board.   In its September quarter results, the full carnage was laid bare. The Canadian smartphone maker reported just $US1.6 billion in revenues for the quarter, down 45% year-on-year and 49% quarter-on-quarter.   The company also revealed it sold just 3.7 million smartphones for the quarter – and less than half of those ran BlackBerry 10.   Total losses came in at $US965 million, including a massive $US934 million inventory writedown against unsold stock of the company’s Z10 smartphone.   The company announced more than 4500 staff layoffs, representing nearly 40% of its global workforce, while Heins bought a new private jet.   Meanwhile, the company’s rollout of its Messenger app for Android and iOS was frozen due to technical issues with its release.   In early November, with banks uncertain of the company’s long-term future, Watsa failed to raise the requisite $4.7 billion for a buyout, instead lending the company $US1 billion.   As part of the deal, Heins stood aside as chief executive, replaced by former Sybase chief executive John Chen, with Watsa rejoining the board.   Heins received a $US22 million golden parachute for his efforts, significantly less than the $US55.6 million he would have received had the sale gone through.   8. The Twitter IPO   Last year, Facebook’s disastrous IPO ended in tears – followed by lawsuits.   Thankfully, the outcome was not repeated when its social media rival, Twitter, listed on the New York Stock Exchange in November.   After opening at $US26 per share, the company’s share price surged 72.69% in its first trading session.   It closed at $US44.90 per share, before dropping slightly to $US44.44 in after-hours trading.   Making the result even more amazing was the state of its balance sheet.   While the tech giant has revenues of $US534.46 million and around 230 million users worldwide, it has never posted a profit.   Despite this, the company now has a market capitalisation north of $US20 billion, with chief executive Dick Costolo claiming the company’s long-term investment strategy has prevented it from chasing profits in the short term.   9. iOS7, iPhones and iPads   For Apple, 2013 was a solid if somewhat unspectacular year.   In June, the company released a redesigned version of its smartphone and mobile operating system, iOS7, alongside a new version of its Mac OS X desktop operating system, known as Mavericks.   It was the year that Apple finally unveiled a low-cost version of its iPhone, known as the iPhone 5c, alongside a new 64-bit flagship smartphone called the iPhone 5s, complete with a 64-bit processor and a fingerprint sensor.   Then, in October, the company unveiled a lighter version of its iPad, known as the iPad Air.   None of the products had the industry-shaking impact of the unveiling of the Macintosh, iPod, iPhone or iPad.   That said, with billions in profits each quarter, a solid second place in the smartphone market and the world’s biggest selling tablet, solid and unspectacular for Apple is better than most companies could dream of.   10. Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launch   Last, but certainly not least for gamers, 2013 marked the introduction of next generation games consoles from both Sony and Microsoft.   Coming a year after Nintendo launched its Wii U system, Sony announced one million first-day sales of its PlayStation 4 system, but the launch was marred by a number of angry consumers taking to social media to complain about non-functional systems.   Sony’s first-day sales were soon matched by the first-day sales of Microsoft’s new Xbox One system.   So how will the two new devices perform over the long term? We’ll have to wait until next year to find out!   This story first appeared on SmartCompany.

THE NEWS WRAP: Billabong ignores calls to properly evaluate rival offer

8:23PM | Sunday, 25 August

Troubled surfwear retailer Billabong is ignoring calls by the Australian Shareholders’ Association to delay its deal with Altamont in order to properly evaluate a rival offer from private equity firms Centerbridge and Oaktree.   “It seems to us you can't proceed and lock up one proposal that you say will be complete by October (when Billabong has flagged a shareholder vote) and properly evaluate another at the same time,” ASA chairman Ian Curry says.   “It feels like Billabong is going to take the position it is too late to proceed with any new offers.”   However, a Billabong spokesperson rejects the ASA’s demand, telling The Australian the company’s priority is to find the fastest path to certainty for employees and shareholders.   “Is it really going to benefit the business and the 6000 people employed globally to go through another six months of due diligence, management discussions and the like? This also has costs,” a Billabong spokesperson says.   Murray Goulburn calls for improved access to finance for agriculture   Murray Goulburn Co-operative general manager of shareholder relations Robert Poole has called on the banks to forge alliances with overseas investors in order to finance the agricultural sector.   The call comes as the co-op, which trades under the Devondale brand, launches MG Partnerships.   “A lot of the banks are still funding agriculture like they did in the 1950s and 60s, with 50% equity and mums and dads borrowing money," Poole says.   “That is, I think, going to rapidly change; and I think the banks are going to be involved in that or they are not, because the external capital is inevitably going to come.   “Overseas investors are taking a more positive long-term view of agriculture than what a lot of local banks and superfunds are.”   Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer announces resignation   Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has announced plans to resign within the next 12 months, ending a controversial 13-year reign at the helm of the tech giant.   “There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time," Ballmer says in a statement.   "This is an emotional and difficult thing for me to do. I take this step in the best interests of the company I love."   Microsoft’s share price rose 7% following news of the resignation.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up to 15010.51. The Aussie dollar is up to US90.29 cents.

Five things you should know about the cloud

7:43AM | Friday, 5 July

There are many people who think they know what the cloud is. Truth be told, the majority of these people would have absolutely no idea how to describe what is becoming a buzz word in business technology – and a concept potentially annoying to all those supposedly against it.   I want to lay a few silly rumors to bed today and tell you the five things you should know about the cloud – and no, not the fluffy white things in the sky – the technology that will help us move forward as a society into the next stratosphere.   1. A common misconception about the cloud is that it’s not physical. The cloud is actually infinitely physical. A big reason behind the success of Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, was the construction of his data centres in the USA that store all the data of Microsoft’s loyal users – yes SkyDrive is actually a multimillion dollar, state of the art facility that looks more like a super computer than a cloud.   2. Another common misconception about the cloud is that if you don’t have access to all of your files immediately on your desktop (without the internet) you’re doomed!   Well, as of June 30, 2012, there was a report that posted eight new users are added to the internet world wide every second. For those who aren’t good with maths – that’s almost 700,000 a day with new access to the net. In a month that’s roughly 20 million users added to the internet (almost the whole population of Australia).   What I’m saying is if you can’t find internet access these days you should probably try a little harder.   3. But what if my data goes missing? I get that question a lot. Truth be told – if you store your data on the cloud, not only is it easier to search, it’s not going anywhere.   Most data centres we use on a daily basis have IRS grade security, which means your files are just as secure as the President’s taxable income figure. Long story short, it won’t go missing because not many people are going to rob a multimillion dollar data facility; your house/office on the other hand?   4. It would be so slow, wouldn’t it? Another question I get almost every day. I always answer it the same way – “you pay for what you get!”   Maybe it adds a second to saving a document; however, it saves more than a second for finding a document, so the cloud comes out trumps in this department.   Unless you are operating on the same dialup internet that you had when Mark Zuckerberg was still crawling, you have nothing to worry about speed wise. Plus – the more you store on your computer, the slower it gets. The more you store on the cloud, well, nothing happens.   5. The final misconception I would like to lay to rest – and something that, being in finance, I think is an absolute no-brainer – is that the cloud is expensive.   If you are an individual, then, DropBox, SkyDrive, Google Drive and the like should be enough for you to store your important data until you kick the bucket. Google will make their offering free as long as humanly possible as always. The key is not to hoard!   For business, look at your capital outlay on tech and hardware upgrades every three years. Yes, they are periodical expenditures and you don’t have to worry about them for years. The problem being, when you do have to worry about them.   On the cloud, you just have to worry about a monthly fee. The outsourced party does the rest. Over a three-year average life span of tech and hardware, they work out to be almost even. Subtract the hassles of doing it yourself and you get the cloud comes out on top.   Well, I hope that was a little informative and has opened your mind to something that you’ll either have to open your mind to or have it opened for you.   Should you have any questions in relation to the above please do not hesitate to send me an email on  [email protected] I always love a good cloud discussion! And if you’re thinking of moving to the cloud now, let me know where you are and what industry you are in and I’d be happy to help with the transition.

Microsoft tipped to snap up music start-up Rdio

3:57AM | Tuesday, 12 March

Microsoft is in talks to acquire US-based digital music service Rdio, a start-up created by a co-founder of Skype, it’s been reported.

Microsoft’s $1.2 billion Yammer purchase hints at acquisition strategy

6:43AM | Tuesday, 26 June

US-based start-up Yammer will join the Microsoft Office Division after being acquired for $1.2 billion by the tech giant, highlighting Microsoft’s shift into the tech start-up space.

Can the Microsoft Surface tablet beat the iPad in business?

6:19AM | Wednesday, 20 June

Microsoft revealed its Surface tablet yesterday, and the reaction so far has been decidedly mixed.

Developers warned over Microsoft’s “mishmash” Surface tablet

6:28AM | Tuesday, 19 June

App developers have been urged to think twice before aligning themselves with Microsoft’s new “Surface” tablet, after analyst firm Ovum said the “mishmash” device could be confusing for consumers.

I know very little about finance or operations. Should I seek a co-founder?

6:04AM | Thursday, 21 June

How can I go about finding a business brain for my start-up?

Microsoft launches cloud-based Office 365

6:17AM | Wednesday, 29 June

Software giant Microsoft has launched its Office 365 product, claiming the new cloud-based office suite will help small firms compete with larger companies.

Microsoft buys Skype for $US8.5bn

5:27AM | Wednesday, 11 May

Microsoft has purchased internet phone service company Skype for $US8.5 billion, representing the largest deal in the company’s history as it seeks to claw back market share from rivals Google and Facebook.