(July 2012) Patent Wars in High Tech: In 'Steve Jobs,' the biography of the Apple co-founder, Walter Isaacson recounts how Jobs had convinced Bill Gates to agree that Microsoft would not create graphical software for anyone other than Apple until a year after the Macintosh shipped in January 1983. Unfortunately for Apple, it did not provide for the possibility that the Macintosh launch would be delayed for a year. So Gates revealed in November 1983 that Microsoft planned to develop a new operating system for IBM PCs -- featuring a graphical interface with windows, icons, and a mouse for point-and-click navigation -- called Windows. Isaacson writes that Jobs was furious. He knew there was little he could do about it, but he lashed out nonetheless. "Get Gates down here immediately," he ordered Mike Boich, who was Apple's evangelist to other software companies. Gates came down -- alone and willing to discuss things with Jobs. "He called me down to get pissed off at me," Gates recalled. "I went down to Cupertino, like a command performance. I told him, 'we're doing Windows.' I said to him, 'we're betting our company on graphics interface'." Their meeting was in Jobs's conference room, where Gates found himself surrounded by ten Apple employees who were eager to watch their boss assail him. Jobs didn't disappoint his troops. "You're ripping us off!" he shouted. "I trusted you, and now you're stealing from us!" Gates just sat there coolly, looking Steve in the eye, before hurling back, in his squeaky voice, what became a classic zinger. "Well, Steve, I think there's more than one way of looking at it. I think it's more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it." Steve Jobs continued to maintain that Microsoft's Windows software had been copied from Mac software and today a smartphone could have as many as 250,000 patent claims (mostly questionable) according to David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer. How to keep track of that!
(June 2012) The Irish Times this month published a ranking of Ireland's top companies in cooperation with KPMG, a Big 4 accounting firm, and we ask if it's a work of faction (a mix of fact and fiction)? CRH, the multinational buildings material firm, is on top followed by Microsoft, Google, DCC and Dell. Corporate nationality has become less certain in recent times when for example, Accenture, the US management consultancy firm, has its headquarters in Ireland, which doesn't make it an Irish business while CRH, developed beyond its Irish roots with most of its staff of 75,000 now located outside Ireland; its primary stock exchange listing in London and up to 90% of its shares owned overseas. The US firms Microsoft, Google and Dell, get their top rankings not because of the levels of their activity in Ireland but because for tax purposes, end-user sales in countries such as the UK or Germany, are booked in Ireland rather in the actual countries where the transactions took place. Microsoft had a global revenue per employee of $777,140 in fiscal 2011 and $27m in Ireland; Google had a global revenue per employee in 2010 of $1.33m and $8.52m in Ireland.
(June 2012) The Eurozone crisis again dominated business and economics news this week. A new Greek government took office and it is seeking to revise the second bailout that was agreed with the EU-ECB-IMF troika. The Group of Twenty summit of leaders of advanced and emerging economies put pressure on Angela Merkel, German chancellor, to take bold measures to tackle the ongoing debt crisis. The Financial Times reported that peripheral bank shares are at 1985 levels, according to the Datastream PIIGS Banks index. US shares’ one-year returns are outperforming the eurozone by the most since 1991. The Bank of Spain reported on stress tests which found that Spanish banks need fresh capital of €62bn and on Thursday an auction of Spanish debt had an average yield on bonds maturing in 2017 at 6.072%, compared with 4.96% in the previous auction last month. However, the 10-year Spanish bond yield dropped below 6.4% Friday, falling from a eurozone-era peak above 7.3% set Monday. In Ireland, the ESRI (Economic and Social Research Institute) forecast that GDP (gross domestic product) and GNP (gross national product -- mainly excluding the profits of the dominant multinational sector) will increase by 2.2% and 0.5% respectively in 2013.
Microsoft launches Surface tablet - - a rival to Apple's iPad; Convenience of tablet coupled with integration with business systems similar to a PC
(June 2012) On Monday at an event in Hollywood, Microsoft unveiled its Surface tablet, a rival to Apple's iPad which it said is designed to seamlessly transition between 'consumption and creation, without compromise.' Apart from competing with Apple, the software giant will also be competing with PC maker -- its biggest customers. Jon Milward, director of Managed and Support Services at Northdoor, a leading UK IT consultancy, comments on the business case for the new tablet: “Microsoft has developed Windows 8 (the new PC operating system) to give the same user interaction whether it’s used on a PC, laptop, phone or tablet. Therefore, the new Microsoft Surface tablet equipped with Windows 8 will give business users all the convenience of a tablet and the same level of integration with their business systems as a PC.”
(April 2012) Ahead of Facebook's expected IPO (initial public offering) next month, the social media firm announced on Monday that its first-quarter 2012 profit and revenue fell from the final quarter of 2011. The firm also announced with Microsoft that it had agreed to buy patents from the software giant for $550m, that the latter had recently acquired from AOL (America Online).
(April 2012) Irish exports have been seen as the beacon amidst the bleak wreckage of post-crash times. However, while total exports have risen 61% in real terms in the period 2000-2011, employment in internationally tradeable goods and services firms - - both foreign-owned and indigenous firms - - is lower than in 2000 despite a 25% growth of the workforce during the property bubble period. The evidence of a sharp disconnect between the dominant foreign-owned sector and the depressed domestic economy is very evident and what could be termed phantom services exports are one key factor.
(March 2012) Daily News Digest -- Mon Mar 26, 2012: Key Irish and international news at a glance; For big US companies, 2011 was a good year. For their CEOs, it was surprisingly mediocre...The good news; China’s government will engineer a soft landing. The bad news: Even a soft landing is painful for industries that have become dependent on the world’s fastest-growing major economy as their main profit engine..."É uma pessoa boa demais," commentators say of Pedro Passos Coelho (Portugal's prime minister) -- he's too good a person.
(March 2012) IBM says every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data - - so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. This data comes from everywhere: from sensors used to gather climate information, posts to social media sites, digital pictures and videos posted online, transaction records of online purchases, and from mobile phone GPS signals to name a few. This data is Big Data. Another tracker of key trends says the amount of data in our world has been exploding, and analyzing large data sets - - so-called Big Data - - will become a key basis of competition, underpinning new waves of productivity growth, innovation, and consumer surplus. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports retailers have started to wear out their welcome in customers' email inboxes, forcing stores to rethink their spam strategies. Last year, the top 100 US retailers by e-commerce revenue sent recipients an average of 177 emails apiece, up 87% from 2007. In the UK, dunnhumby, founded by wife and husband team, Edwina Dunn and Clive Humby in 1989, developed the successful Tesco Clubcard that tracks the shopping behaviour of 13m households, with item-level purchase data. Tesco now owns dunnhumby and is said to save £350m a year because of the Clubcard information. The data company has many big clients besides the retailer and made profits of £53m last year.
(November 2011) The New York Times said last April that when Google opened for business in China in 2006, Eric Schmidt, its chairman, said, “Google has 5,000 years of patience in China.” But its divorce from the country just four years later was inevitable because operations there were troubled from the start. That is the conclusion of Steven Levy, a longtime technology journalist who spent three years reporting inside the company to write “In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works and Shapes Our Lives.” The newspaper says the book, a wide-ranging history of the company from start-up to behemoth, sheds light on the biggest threats Google faces today, from the Chinese government to Facebook and privacy critics. There are also some insights on Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder.
Corporate Tax: Apple/ Microsoft have cash of $108bn offshore; US reform could hit Ireland - - Part 2
(November 2011) Corporate Tax: American companies hold more than $1trn in cash overseas as US tax only becomes payable when profits are repatriated. Apple and Microsoft currently hold $108bn between them offshore. US tax reform is likely in coming years and the common corporate tax territorial system regime where only domestic profits are taxed, could be an option for the US Congress. However, without some measures such as a minimum tax to pay, a territorial system would encourage even more profit-shifting by American companies to low tax jurisdictions such as Ireland…Bloomberg reported last June that Cisco Systems, the top Internet network hardware company, has cut its corporate taxes by $7bn since 2005 by booking roughly half its worldwide profits at a subsidiary at the foot of the Swiss Alps that employs about 100 people.