17 May 2013
Despite being retired and working actively to donate as much of his fortune as possible, Bill Gates once again finds himself the wealthiest man in the world.
The Microsoft co-founder has topped Bloomberg's Billionaire Index with a $72.7bn net worth, better than the $72.1bn of Mexican mobile carrier boss Carlos Slim. Gates had yielded the top spot to Slim in 2010 after holding the title of world's wealthiest for more than 15 years.
Bloomberg credits the jump to a combination of market factors. Gates saw his fortune grow as Microsoft shares were up this year, while Slim's America Movil stock has slipped following government rulings, which could help competitors take a larger share of the market.
Eighth on the wealth list was Oracle founder Larry Ellison, while Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google fame checked in at 18th and 19th richest.
It should be noted that Gates is working to give away a large portion of his wealth to charity. Since retiring from Microsoft he has devoted himself full time to his foundation, which donates and raises money for a variety of noble causes around the world.
Still, given his reputation as a businessman and competitor, you have to think a small part of the man is reveling over once again being at the top.
Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison once called cloud computing a fad. Well, that fad is now making Oracle money.
According to an IDC study, Oracle software revenues grew over three percent on the back of big data and cloud software. According to the study, Oracle owned a 21 percent share of the application development and deployment (AD&D) software market.
Ellison unveiled Oracle's first IaaS offering last October at OpenWorld. Now, the firm is seeing growth in the software market. Oracle's slow march to cloud software looks to be paying off this year.
However, Oracle still has a while to go before it can truly compete in the evolving world of enterprise software. The firm still lags behind IBM and Microsoft in overall enterprise sales.
Microsoft has been the top dog in the enterprise software world for a long time. Its grasp on the market doesn't seem to be slowing anytime soon either with a 17 percent share of the sector.
However, Oracle can still look to get into the number two spot by leaping over IBM. Big Blue didn't see much growth in enterprise software revenues for 2012. The firm only registered a little under a one percent growth mark year-over-year.
That in comparison to Oracle growth could mean big things for the firms future. If Oracle continues its trend towards growth, and IBM continues to stay consistent, it can take the number two spot.
To do that Oracle would need to continue to bring out cloud software offerings going forward. The world of enterprise is increasingly becoming cloud-centric. IDC reported that the cloud would be a major growth sector moving towards 2015 and that has proven to be coming true.
For Oracle to capitalise on that growth it would need to continue its push towards the ether. Oracle's executives have been hesitant to embrace the cloud on the level of some of its competitors, but it's getting there.
It will be interesting to see if Oracle will attempt to bring out ground-breaking cloud software offerings in the future or if it will stand content to just play catch up with its competitors.
The firm's Q3 earnings were less than impressive. Commentators mentioned that a probably cause of the poor earnings was the firm's failure to offer compelling cloud services.
The products the firm released over the second half of last year were a good start. However, to truly capitalise on the cloud market it will need to do more by stop playing catch up and start being an innovator.
Microsoft has quickly become one of the most powerful patent licensing firms in the world. Following its deals to license patents to original design manufacturers (ODM) like Foxconn it has amassed a flow of cash on all the patents it has created during its illustrious career.
Redmond has reported that 50 percent of the world's Android phones are now made by firms that license its patents. According to a 2011 report from paidcontent.org, license fees actually made more money for Microsoft than Windows Phone devices.
That figure will likely roll over to the new line of Windows Phone if the firm continues to muscle Android makers into paying licence fees. Not to mention, if Windows Phone continues to struggle to gain a foothold in the market.
As Microsoft continues to licence its patents it will continue to make money hand over fist. Nothing about what the firm is doing is illegal. The last time a competitor argued that it was they lost.
Barnes & Nobles tried to fight Microsoft in court last year. The Nook maker argued that Microsoft tactics were of the anti-trust variety. Of course, a US judge dismissed that thought and Barnes & Noble ended up signing a licensing pact with Redmond.
The only one who has really put up a fight with Microsoft and its patent portfolio is Google. By way of its subsidiary Motorola, the search giant has fought hard to avoid paying fees to Microsoft.
If anyone could put up a true fight it is Google. However, precedent has already been set because of the Barnes & Noble case and it's hard to see a government authority stepping into to stop the Windows maker under current law.
After all, Microsoft did develop the technology completely above board. The R&D department in Redmond is one of the best in the world. So it's not like Microsoft hasn't invented truly ground-breaking tech.
It's just good business for Microsoft to make money on its patents. Perhaps that's part of the problem affecting the wider software industry when it comes to patents.
Overtime, Android handset makers may have to increase their prices because a piece of the pie goes to the licence owner. To cover overheads the next Galaxy phone might cost an even crazier price tag because of patent licence fees.
It hasn't affected prices yet. But that is mostly because margins are still pretty high in the smartphone market.
However, Microsoft may eventually end up being responsible for price hikes on phones it didn't have any effect on making, to cover the cost of licensing its patents.
Hopefully, it may not get to that point and lawmakers will clamp down on patent trolls before it gets out of hand. Unfortunately, they are the only ones in a position to srop it.
Facebook doesn't make money on hardware, software, or subscriptions. Instead, they make money on the data users put out. They take the data users send out and sell it to advertisers who in turn sell users stuff through the use of targeted ads.
The idea that major corporations sell users data scares a lot of people. These people don't necessarily have anything to hide; they're just ordinary people who like to have a sense of privacy.
These people use Gmail, Facebook, and Google+. Some of them will even probably end up using Facebook Home.
These potential Facebook Home users spoke up about their fears that the app/skin/thing would invade their privacy in a way unheard of previously. So Facebook went on the offensive and dropped a Q&A for Home's privacy policies.
The Q&A basically said Facebook Home doesn't change the way the company handles user data. User's location data won't be collected in anyway that is unique and it won't collect data users create from other apps.
So if nothing changes then what is the end game? Why is Facebook making a free super-app that doesn't do anything new for advertisers? Because by putting itself on your home screen, Facebook can gleam a lot more data using the same policies.
By buying into Facebook Home users will be sort-of using a Facebook ecosystem. Facebook already has an app store which has the potential for growth. It also has a messaging service and a slew of other apps users could use to replace their current Android offerings.
The famous Microsoft "Scroogled" campaign derided Google for searching through Gmail messages to serve up sponsored ads. Google uses all of its apps to give advertisers some new kinds of data.
Now Facebook is doing the same thing as its semi-rival Google. It's building out an ecosystem in attempt to better understand how to sell its users stuff. So if you are the type to worry about Facebook Home's privacy policies, you should be less focused on Home and more focused on Facebook as a whole.
Facebook's current privacy policies are the real issue, not the future violations of an unreleased app. If anything is to be done, it should be getting Facebook to update its current policies to better adapt to mobile.
The company has already defined itself as a mobile company so perhaps it should make privacy policies that reflect that. If Facebook really wants to talk up its privacy agenda, it needs to really work to change what its current policies are and not to talk about what its doing with a new app.
Windows XP is still in use on 23 percent of Microsoft desktop devices, 12 years after its release back in 2001, according to stats gathered from V3 research.
Today marks one year until Microsoft finally ends support for the ageing yet massively popular XP operating system (OS), so we decided to do some digging into which operating systems our audience are using to visit V3.
Of readers visiting the site from a Windows desktop, the majority - 60 percent - are now on Windows 7, but XP is still the second most popular Microsoft OS, with almost a quarter of users.
However, XP’s popularity has dropped off significantly in the past year. During the first quarter of 2012, a third of V3 visitors were using XP, compared to 57 percent on Windows 7 and nine percent on Vista.
Windows 8, which was only released in late 2012, has seen an impressive take-up already, with 11 percent of readers using the latest OS. Vista only has a five percent share.
V3 readers seem to be at more advanced firms than those surveyed by app migration specialist Camwood, which found that two in five UK businesses are still using the ageing XP system.
The audience stats also reveal interesting insight into the overall decline of the desktop and Windows, in favour of mobile browsing.
Windows still has the biggest share of the V3 audience, at 68 percent, but this is down from 85 percent in the first quarter of 2012.
Visitors reaching the site via an iPhone or iPad have jumped from three percent to nine percent, while Linux has also gained a percentage point, rising from a still small base of two percent to three percent.
Android is also gaining ground, with 10 percent of the available share, while Mac desktops are remaining steady with around eight percent of our visits coming from the Apple desktop OS.
Yahoo Mail now has cloud storage integration thanks to a recently announced partnership with Dropbox. The integration means that Yahoo has email storage offerings similar in scope to Microsoft's Outlook.com and Google's Gmail.
It's surprising that it took this long for Yahoo to bring a cloud storage offering to its web email client. Gmail has been offering integration with Google Drive for years and Microsoft brought Skydrive support to Outlook last year.
The late arrival speaks to Yahoo's current predicament. The former internet superpower has been forced to play catch up on a variety of its products over the last year. This is mainly due to the fact that Yahoo didn't really know what it wanted to be until last July.
Yahoo finally started to map out what it wanted to become when it anointed ex-Googler Marissa Mayer chief executive officer in July.
The company dabbled in half-baked plans during its carousel of leaders over the past few years. But it was only when Mayer took the reins that the company actually started to create a plan of action.
Former Yahoo executive Carol Bartz tried to put the firm's focus on ads and content. However, that plan was quickly dashed when she was let go after only two years of service. Never one to mince words, Bartz would later call the board of directors who fired her a bunch of "doofuses".
At least Bartz had a chance to implement a strategy. Her successor, Scott Thompson, was out the door before his candidacy even really began.
The former PayPal executive was dropped from the Yahoo stable in less than six month of joining the company. Thompson was fired following the discovery that he lied about his education on his CV.
His dismissal quickly led to Mayer taking over the empire of dirt known as Yahoo. She, unlike her predecessors, has a definitive plan of action and the support of her board of directors.
Mayer wants to bring the focus back to Yahoo products. That is why Yahoo has been updating things like its email client and homepage. She's also put a focus on small acquisitions that can offer Yahoo a solid staff of workers.
Her approach differs from that of Bartz and looks more like what Google does. It is perhaps fitting that Mayer is a former Google employee, then. By putting a focus on products Mayer hopes to turn around Yahoo's fortunes through well made user offerings.
So far it looks like it could be working. Revenue has been solid and Yahoo has been making headlines on purpose since she took over. Take for example her recent purchase of Summly. Yahoo paid $20m for the app made by a UK teenager.
Whether it was a PR stunt or because she actually likes the product is anyone's guess. But one thing is for sure, if it was a PR move it was a good one. Yahoo made headlines with the purchase and got people talking about the company for something other than a chief executive firing.
Moving passed news of Yahoo executives fighting with the board of directors is always a good thing. Mayer seems to be well liked by her board. She has even been able to bring people onto the board with her hire.
Former PayPal chief technology officer Max Levchin joined Yahoo's board late last year. Levchin said one of the reasons he joined Yahoo was because of Mayer. Having that sort of support could be huge for Mayer moving forward.
Whether the bet on Yahoo products works is currently unknown. However, at least it is a plan. It is a plan that gives the firm focus and positive attention. Mayer may end up like Bartz by year's end, but at least for now the firm is doing something productive.
It will take a lot for Yahoo to create products that can keep up with Google and Microsoft offerings. Over time, however, that could change. Yahoo is currently on a path and if it stays the course (like sticking with one chief executive for a while) then there's no telling what might happen to the thing once known as "David and Jerry's Guide to the World Wide Web".
The release of an annual transparency report is quickly becoming part of the status quo in Silicon Valley.
As consumers begin sharing more and more data with technology companies its becoming increasingly important to know what is happening to your data. In a world with social media, understanding how and for what purposes consumer data is being used is now a necessity.
As consumers become more aware of the information they are sharing, so to are companies starting to open up about what they do with that data. From Google to Twitter, Silicon Valley is starting to open up about how many and what types of data requests they receive each year.
Last January, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) called on tech firms to make transparency reports the new norm.
The EFF started by calling on Microsoft to release a detailed report on the requests they receive for Skype user data. Then, the group took it one step further and asked the whole of Silicon Valley to make reports part of the status quo.
With the recent release of Microsoft's Skype transparency report, the EFF completed phase one of its mission. However, their task is not over just yet. The EFF now wants every tech company to buy into the idea of data sharing transparency.
Microsoft's recent transparency report is a strong first step. Having one of the biggest tech companies in the world step in line with a transparency status quo is a major coup.
Redmond and Skype were one of the last major holdouts in the push for consistent transparency reports. Now, with the latest addition, there should not be any reason for present and future companies to not offer transparency reports.
The information withheld in those reports is important because they hold government and law enforcement accountable for the type of data they request. By knowing that each request for data is being compiled, government agencies should be wary of making fraudulent data requests.
By making transparency requests the new norm Silicon Valley is making the various government agencies of world accountable for the requests they are making.
Microsoft is one of the wealthiest company's in the world, with billions in cash reserves. It's made this fortune on the back of software systems used the world over, by everyone from the largest multi-nationals to corner shops and kids in their bedrooms.
Indeed, this helped founder Bill Gates amass a personal fortune of some $67bn. As such, the fine levied by the European Commission today of £485m is probably not going to hurt the firm too much financially, although of course it will hurt its balance sheet.
However, the bigger issue for Microsoft is surely the sheer embarrassment the fine must cause as it was the result of a glaring software update oversight that meant it managed to remove a piece of code required under law after its first run in with the European authorities.
For a company to manage to ship an entire Service Pack update without anyone noticing it was missing a piece that really had to be there almost defies belief. For the firm to even report to the EC it was adhering to its obligations when it wasn't is just unfathomable.
For a firm that prides itself on its software and its chief executive famously proclaimed the company was all about "developers, developers, developers, developers" it's an utter egg-on-face-situation that must have its rivals rolling in the aisles.
It certainly doesn't help when it's trying to convince the world its Windows 8 system is worth a punt, and yet the headlines are dominated by news of massive fines for software failings.