Surely It is Best for Everyone If Microsoft Buy Yahoo

Carol Bartz & Steve Ballmer
Image by Yodel Anecdotal via Flickr

A Marriage Made in Heaven – Carol Bartz of Yahoo and Steve Ballmer of Microsoft

The BBC reports that Yahoo may be back in play again:

Shares in Yahoo rose on reports that China’s Alibaba Group was preparing a takeover bid with private equity firms Blackstone and Bain Capital.

It cites unconfirmed reports that Alibaba is talking to those private equity companies about bidding up to $20 a share compared with Yahoo’s current market price of $16. That would value Yahoo at $25 billion.

That must leave Yahoo shareholders grinding their teeth in frustration, since the company in 2008 rejected a bid from Microsoft worth $45 billion. That offer even included an option to sell for $31 per share cash for shareholders who didn’t fancy taking Microsoft shares. Yahoo, then led by Jerry Yang, refused the offer. That led to Mr Yang being forced out of the company.

The BBC speculates that part of the reason why Alibaba wants to buy Yahoo is simply to get back the 43% of Alibaba that Yahoo owns.

Yahoo has been struggling for years, but still has some very important web assets. Its portal is still the most visited site in the US; it still has a market share in search that is comparable with Microsoft’s (though far behind Google’s) and it owns lots of other valuable internet properties like Flickr. So the value that Microsoft saw in Yahoo back in 2008 is basically still there.

If Alibaba buy Yahoo with private equity finance, they may well sell it on to Microsoft, minus Yahoo’s stake in Alibaba.

If they don’t, Microsoft may yet bid again for Yahoo themselves. They could even sell that stake badck to Alibaba to defray some of the cost.

The alternative is for Yahoo to soldier on, probably for years, selling its assets to keep itself afloat, its presence gradually dwindling into irrelevance.

Yahoo has potentially huge value to Microsoft – and precious little value to anyone else. Shareholders get a nice juicy wad of cash – though less than they could have had back in 2008 if Jerry Yang hadn’t been such a prima donna. Customers benefit because Google gets some real competition at last. Microsoft gets a chance to carve a real stake in the web-based future. Yahoo employees get to work for one of the world’s powerhouses.

If Microsoft do end up owning Yahoo, it really will be best for everyone. What’s not to like?

Geeks’ Corner: Internet Explorer 9

StatCounter: browser market share in Europe in...
Image by nitot via Flickr

Blue = Microsoft Internet Explorer, Green = Google Chrome

I have always conservatively stuck with Internet Explorer. Obviously IE6 is a piece of obsolete junk now (and was never very good, in truth) but IE7 and especially IE8 seemed very good – every bit as good as Firefox, which I use at work.

Since Microsoft have now released IE9 as a production offering, and I use Windows Vista, which it supports, I downloaded it yesterday. Microsoft promised better performance. Ha ha.

It runs like a dog.

It is full of trivial changes that appear to have been made simply to make it different, rather than to help users. Why did they move the favourites button from the left to the right, for example?

It is full of rough edges. There’s that irritating “back” button, that’s partially overlapped by the toolbar, for example. It looks like somebody worked out the dimensions wrong:

And when you click on a link or an item in your favourites list, of course it doesn’t respond immediately. But neither does it give you the “please wait” icon to show you the PC is working. It just sits there. Now did I click that link properly or not?

And there’s that horrible scaling that makes it default to 125% zoom, complete with fuzziness caused by the scaling. I tried for ten minutes to get it to default to 100%. Then I decided to RTFM (read the f—ing manual) and clicked on Internet Explorer Help.

It provided me with the extremely unhelpful message:

The topic you are looking for is not available in this version of Windows. For more information, try searching on http://www.microsoft.com.

But most of all, it runs like a dog. Probably on the six-core processors in the state of the art PC’s in the Microsoft offices in Redmond it runs beautifully.

But my PC has an AMD Athlon 64 single core processor. Definitely not state of the art, but not too shabby either. Everything else runs just fine.

But IE9 runs like a dog.

I tried to go back to IE8, but it just produced an error message saying that a later version had been detected on my PC.

So this blog post is being written in Google Chrome. It is well laid out and easy to use, and it just works. And it too runs like a dog. Except this time it’s a greyhound.

Microsoft have really messed up with IE9. A colleague at work calls me a “Microsoft fan-boy”. If even people like me can be driven away from IE like that, it has no future.

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Nokia and Microsoft – Taking a Bite Out of the Apple

en: Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft. Camera: N...
Image via Wikipedia

Microsoft Chief Steve Ballmer – Now He’s Got Nokia on His Side

The papers are full of Nokia’s alliance with Microsoft. The general flavour of most of the coverage is summed up by the headline in the paper version of the Telegraph today:

Ailing Nokia pins its hopes on Microsoft tie-up.

Nokia’s new Chief Executive reckons they are standing on a burning platform and contemplating jumping into the icy waters to save themselves.

And yet, of the two partners, it is arguably Microsoft who need this tie-up more than Nokia. Nokia is still the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer, with a 28 percent market share last time I looked. Their position at the cheaper end of the mobile phone market is even stronger. Yes, they are losing ground, but they still come into this alliance with a strong position.

Microsoft, by contrast, are an also-ran in mobile phones. They have a new mobile phone operating system, Windows Phone, but their market share of the smartphone market is a paltry 7 percent, and they have had difficulty finding any significant mobile manufacturer to user their software.

While Microsoft’s market share is low, that has been coming off their previous, much weaker, software. The new operating system has received good reviews, and now they have a strong manufacturer who will adopt it. Until now, Nokia’s Symbian operating system has been their biggest rival in this market; now Symbian will disappear.

This is clearly a bad day for Google, whose Android system was also in the running to power Nokia’s new phones.

It is a really bad day for Apple. They have always struggled to make headway in the personal computer market against the Microsoft stranglehold, and now their strong position in the mobile phone market is under threat, both from Google and now from this new Microsoft / Nokia alliance.

This deal isn’t about jumping off burning platforms into icy waters. Think instead of a Microsoft bridgehead into Apple’s territory.

You should never under-estimate Microsoft, as IBM, Lotus and countless others have found to their cost. Their age-old rivalry with Apple has just taken a turn in Microsoft’s favour.

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Microsoft: “IE is a Legacy Product”

Never Internet Explorer
Image via Wikipedia

The BBC has a report on a new vulnerability that has been discovered in all versions of Internet Explorer.

Microsoft’s notification of the issue is here.

The notification tells you that Microsoft is working on a permanent fix, but in the meantime recommend that those concerned use a protection system called the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit.

Ignoring for a moment that wonderfully “Microsoft” name, if you follow the link, it sends you to a Microsoft page that explains this Mitigation Experience Toolkit.

Here’s what it says:

By deploying these mitigation technologies on legacy products, the tool can also help customers manage risk while they are in the process of transitioning over to modern, more secure products.

Ho-hum. Are Microsoft admitting that IE falls into that category then?

Woops.

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Cool is Great for Teenagers. The Rest of Us Prefer Steve Ballmer

Steve Jobs Drones On … and On … and On About How Cool Apple Is

Apple and Research in Motion have been slugging it out over whose gadgets are more cool, and which ones sold more millions in the quarter to September (or was that August?).

Research in Motion (who make the Blackberry) accused Apple of having a “reality distortion field”, and Steve Jobs of Apple said:

I think it’s going to be a challenge for them to create a competitive platform and to convince developers to create apps for a third software platform after iOS and Android.

That’s iOS by Apple, and Android by Google of course.

A great comment on that article is worth quoting:

Apple try and make people believe that they are worse off in life by buying their products and not downloading apps to flick pieces of paper into a bin, or pour beer out of an imaginary glass whilst it makes a glugging sound; or one of the thousands of other completely useless applications available…

Microsoft don’t make ‘cool & sexy products’, they make products that work and do the job you want of them, no matter which way you hold the keyboard).

Meanwhile, Google are … well, arguing with Spain and Morocco.

While all this excitement is going on, Microsoft have quietly launched Windows Phone 7. In the past Microsoft have not been competitive in the mobile devices market. But they are quietly and with little fanfare improving their offering.

We have seen this happen with so many different Microsoft products before – the classic being Excel, which started life way behind Lotus 123 (remember that?) but gradually drew ahead in features and eventually ground Lotus into the dust.

This is the Microsoft way. Microsoft are not cool. But they are the world’s most formidable computer company. They will sneak up behind a market leader, systematically out-develop them, and then eat their lunch.

Remember when Pepsi were cool? Coca-cola were so scared of Pepsi’s rise that they changed the recipe of Coke, and had to backtrack after angry consumer protests. Now Pepsi isn’t cool any more and it has faded away.

In the long run, coolness is no foundation for a serious company.

Why did I write this post? Well, it’s just an excuse really to once again show this video of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Cool it isn’t. Immortal it is. How could anyone prefer Steve Jobs?

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A Classic Example of NHS Waste and Incompetence

They Paid How Much???

The NHS has opted not to renew its deal with Microsoft for Office software.

Now many people would argue that the government should look at open source alternatives to Micorosft software anyway. But I can understand that MS Office is the most widely used Office software by far, and for the government to choose to use it could be a defensible decision.

But just look at the terms of that deal that they are not renewing.

The Telegraph report says that “up to 900,000″ employees (whatever that means) have access to Microsoft Office under the deal. And the deal costs £65 million per year according to a Microsoft spokesman (increasing to £85 million over the next three years).

Which means the NHS is paying Microsoft £72 per year for every one of those employees – assuming, of course, that “up to” doesn’t mean they just bought a block of 900,000 licences and aren’t even using them all. In which case, the cost would be even higher.

A quick look at the Microsoft website shows that a single licence for Office Home and Business (that’s the version that includes Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Outlook) costs £239.99.

(The Professional version that includes Publisher and Access costs £429.99, but very few staff would need those extra programs.)

At £72 per year, the government contract would have covered the cost of the Home and Business version in just over three years.

But that’s at full retail price, for a single licence, purchased direct from Microsoft. In other words, that’s the theoretical recommended price that nobody pays. Nobody, that is, apart from the hapless numpties in the NHS who negotiated that deal.

Frankly, you can get a PC with Office installed for not much more. And the government, remember, was buying 900,000 licences. For that quantity, a normal shopper would expect an enormous discount. It seems the government purchasers were more naive – or more sloppy and careless with our money.

This rip-off contract was signed 12 years ago – which puts it at 1998, one year into Tony Blair’s reign.

The government is right to end this contract. But it’s an utter scandal that such a contract was signed in the first place, and allowed to continue for so long.

The Telegraph notes that individual parts of the NHS can still set up their own contracts with Microsoft along similar lines if they wish. And they’ll be buying less than 900,000 licences, of course. I bet those Microsoft salesmen are salivating at the prospect of explaining to the gullible NHS purchasers that sadly the cost will have to be higher than the “super deal” they used to have centrally.

Let’s Kill IE6


Sign Up to the Petition – See Below

Anyone who has been involved in website development will know that one of the biggest issues they face is supporting Internet Explorer 6. It was introduced back in 2001, and is now completely obsolete. Microsoft have released two new versions of Internet Explorer since then, Internet Explorer 7 and Internet Explorer 8. And there are other modern browsers available, like the new versions of Firefox, Safari and Chrome.

However, IE6 is still heavily in use by major corporations and government departments. Their applications have been optimised to work with IE6, with all its quirks and non-standard behaviour. Because those users are still on IE6, developers of websites are forced to add support for IE6 to their websites. This is a significant additional effort, and therefore acts as a drag on website innovation and even on our economy.

There have also been questions about Internet Explorer 6’s security, although the latest patches for it should keep users reasonably well protected.

Microsoft are not phasing out support for IE6 until 2014. That is too long.

There is a petition on the Downing Street website, asking the government to stop using IE6. If the government did stop using it, it would be a massive step forward, removing that critical mass of IE6 users and driving the process of other users upgrading to a modern browser.

The petition says:

“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to encourage government departments to upgrade away from Internet Explorer 6.”

I do urge you to go and sign it. Your www needs you!

Click here to sign the petition.

If you are still using Internet Explorer 6, click here to upgrade to Internet Explorer 8 for free.