Monthly Archives: February 2019

Microsoft “sets record straight” on latest Yahoo-Icahn drama

admin | 03/02/2019 | COMMENTS:Comments Closed

Over the weekend, news broke that Microsoft's on-again, off-again flirtation with Yahoo was over before anyone outside the negotiations was even aware they took place. The news broke thanks to a statement issued by Yahoo. Yahoo's account of matters suggested there was a joint offer from Microsoft and financier Carl Icahn that bordered on the absurd: ditch your board, sell us your search, and capitulate within 24 hours. All that was missing was the "or else" and a Jolly Roger. HangZhou Night Net

Microsoft apparently found the description a bit one-sided, as it has now released a statement in which they claim to "set the record straight." According to the folks in Redmond, it was the head of Yahoo's board, Chairman Roy Bostock, that solicited an offer for the purchase of the company's search business. In response, Microsoft came up with a variety of financial guarantees that would compensate Yahoo for the loss of one of its key revenue sources, and submitted that as the basis of further negotiations.

According to the statement, any take-it-or-leave-it demands were simply focused on having Yahoo let Microsoft know whether its offer was a suitable launching point for these negotiations. At no point was it suggested that the existing management would have to show itself out and hand Carl Icahn the keys to the executive washrooms.

Microsoft, referring to Yahoo's statement, indicated it, "believes the statement contains inaccuracies that need to be corrected." If so, they should probably do the same for a statement from their erstwhile partner, Carl Icahn. Icahn posted his own letter today, agitating for the removal of Yahoo's board in part because, "Mr. Ballmer indicated that, due to his experiences with Yahoo during the past several months, he could not negotiate any transaction with the current board." Clearly, based on this weekend's events, Ballmer is more than willing to do so.

It's obvious that at least two parties are stretching the truth here, and I'd personally be surprised if it's not all three. It's enough to make a reporter long for August 1, when Yahoo shareholders vote on the company's board. At least a few of the potential deals should be permanently eliminated by those votes.

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Mini-Note beware: Gigabyte releases 9″ Tablet with 3G

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Gigabyte yesterday announced a new subnotebook presumably aimed to compete with the HP Mini-Note, Asus Eee, Everex Cloudbook lines, and other subnotebooks. This subnotebook, however, is a tablet PC. The M912V features an 8.9" 1280*768 touchscreen that swivels around to rest on top of the keyboard, converting the subnotebook into a tablet. The new subnotebook is also the first to use Intel's new Atom processor, and will cost $700 when it is available later this month. HangZhou Night Net

The new device is almost identical to the HP Mini-Note but for the touchscreen and Atom processor. Both feature 8.9" 1280*768 screens, near full-size keyboards, 2.5" notebook hard disks, come standard with a gig of DDR2, and run Windows Vista. TheM912V ships with a 160GB hard disk standard; it's likely that other disk options, possibly including an SSD, will emerge quickly. The touchscreen leaves thenew device's laptop bona fides untouched; keyboard and touchpad remain, in their usual positions, preventingergonomics foibles like those that afflict the Cloudbook. The higher-res screens and support for larger hard disks set these devices apart from other offerings like the Cloudbook and Eee by allowing high-definition video, more storage, browsing of more web content at native resolution, and the other perks that come with this hardware.

Additional perks are new connectivity options. The M912V includes standard ports like modem, NIC, audio, VGA, and three USB ports, but it also has an ExpressCard slot for expansion and optionalsupport for HSDPAservice, allowing 3G mobile broadband. The device features a relatively standard 1.3 Mpixel webcam, but strangely, no card reader. Its Atom processor runs at 1.6 Ghz, and should outperform the VIA C7-M in the current Cloudbook and Mini-Note. VIA'sIsaiah processoris right on the horizon though—it's a drop-in replacement for the C7,and has the potential to outperform the Atom, although Atom is very low-power, and this may allow the M912V to have much better battery life. No solid reports on battery life are available; some reports quote it at 3.5 hours from a 4500mAh Lithium Ion battery.

All this extra firepower comes at the cost of increased cost, size, and weight. The M912V costs $700, in league with the Mini-Note and almost twice the Eee and Cloudbook, weighs almost three pounds, and fails the coat pocket test due to its larger size. The touchscreen may or may not be a game-changing feature in the subnotebook market; it's unknown how effective the touch interface will be on a device so much larger than a phone and so much smaller than a laptop. Everex plans a touchscreen cloudbook for later this year, so even the touchscreen subgenre may see a lot of competition.

This competition in subnotebooks will probably cause a slow shakedown over the next year or so, as lots of devices launch and most fail to sell very well. The market will settle to a smaller number of manufacturers, as maturing markets usually do. With this impressive new subnotebook, it looks like Gigabyte is trying hard to be among them; the M912V puts a nice gloss on the higher-end point by providing some compelling features for those pounds and dollars.

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Infectious cancer forces Tasmanian Devil lifecycle evolution

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We briefly touched on a rather bizarre discovery that has upended a little of what we think we know about communicable diseases: an infectious cancer, or, rather two of them, both discovered in recent years. One targets domestic dogs, and is relatively benign. The second strikes the world's largest living marsupial carnivore, the Tasmanian Devil. This disease spreads through biting, which appears to be a common form of social interaction among the devils, especially during mating season. HangZhou Night Net

It's also uniformly fatal; the tumors strike the faces of the animals, preventing them from feeding. As a result, populations of the animals have plunged by as much as 90 percent in the decade since the disease was first described, raising serious fears about the animal's survival in the wild (captive breeding programs are ongoing). Now, a study that will appear later this week in PNAS suggests the wild populations of the animal may be evolving in response to the lethal disease and adopting a completely different life cycle as a result.

The study relied on population surveys performed in a number of sites around Tasmania that started before the emergence of the disease. Historically, Tasmanian Devils reached sexual maturity at two years, and produced several litters of young before reaching old age at five or six years. Animals three years old or more accounted for half or more of the population at the survey sites before the disease arrived. The figure was closer to 10 percent afterwards and, in one site, older animals were entirely absent.

But the population distribution wasn't the only thing that changed. Prior to the disease's arrival, one-year-old females bred rarely or never. Afterwards, precocious breeding was common; in three sites, roughly half the year-old females were breeding. It appears that the disease has forced a situation that was once a rare variation to become the norm. The Devils are adapting to a completely different approach to propagation, one in which they undergo precocious sexual maturation and produce only a single litter during their (now abbreviated) lifespan.

If the selective pressure applied by this cancer continues to find favorable variations that accelerate the animal's maturation, the wildlife rescue efforts may create a bizarre form of speciation event. The species they preserve will essentially no longer exist in the wild, even though a wild population of Tasmanian devils will persist.

PNAS, 2008. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0711236105

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Microsoft adds Netflix, steals from Nintendo for Xbox 360

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Microsoft was given the honor of opening the 2008 E3 Summit with the first press conference of the show, and the company took advantage of it: the show was heavy on both announcements and games. Two things became very clear as Microsoft talked about its strategy with its gaming console during the show, however: it hasn't given up on the idea of the system as a set-top box, and the company is not above blatantly stealing from its competitors. Enter Netflix and avatars. HangZhou Night Net

Netflix is coming, and it is free

One of the major announcements was that the 360 would be completely reinvented after the Fall update, featuring a brand-new UI and a host of new features. The new UI is slick and looks much easier to use than the previous blade-based system, but the major news is that Microsoft will be partnering with Netflix to offer streaming movies via Xbox Live and the 360 for those with Netflix subscriptions. The best part? If you're already a Gold subscriber to Xbox Live, the service will be free.

You won't be able to rent movies in the traditional way; this is only for the streaming movies Netflix offers, and you'll have to be a Netflix subscriber to get in on the streamed movies. These number over 10,000 at the moment, which makes them a small percentage of the number of movies that Netflix offers as a whole, but as a value-added proposition, this is hard to argue with. In essence, Microsoft has just given your Xbox 360 all the functionality of the $100 Roku box, and it's not charging you anything for the service outside of the Live subscription fees you're already paying.

This is a direct shot at Sony: the consoles have long been warring over which one is the better media center, and this new partnership with Netflix offers something that the PS3 will have a hard time matching. Microsoft has long stressed that its strategy for media on the 360 will focus on downloadable content over adding a Blu-ray drive, and today's announcement is the fruit of that strategy.

Microsoft also announced new partners in NBC and Universal for the Video Marketplace, bringing shows like 30 Rock, Battlestar Galactica, and The Office to its online service. Microsoft's Don Mattrick stressed that Microsoft is now the world's largest provider of on-demand high-definition television shows and movies.

Microsoft wants what Nintendo has, and it will take it without remorse

The other change coming with the Fall update will be the addition of Avatars to the Xbox Live experience. What are avatars? Well, they're Miis, Nintendo's distinctive and tightly-held way of having you connect with a virtual version of yourself. The avatars seem to be a carbon copy of both the idea and design of the Mii, and in fact, the room was filled with laughter and disparaging remarks as this feature was described.

What can you do with your Avatar? Set up a party of up to eight people to share photos or play games together, and in fact, Microsoft announced a new set of online games that tie into television game shows and will offer real prizes. Or you can chat and just hang out. The idea being, you stick with your party through multiple games, making Xbox Live an even more social experience. Now when you check to see who is online, you'll see your friends' Avatars hanging out, and then you can invite them to games or even to watch those Netflix movies together.

The new social features are nice, but this is a clear case of Microsoft playing Follow the Leader, and the company has to realize that this move looks classless and lame. It's one thing to take the concept, but watching a new version of Scene It! with Avatars makes it painfully clear just how close the look and feel of Avatars is to the Mii. This is something Microsoft can expect to get a lot of heat over, and rightly so.

There were also some startling game announcements, such as Final Fantasy finally coming to the Xbox 360, and we'll be covering many of those in Opposable Thumbs in the coming hours. Microsoft had many good things to show off, and some very exciting titles are coming to the system this year, but the wholesale theft of one of Nintendo's most prized innovations this generation turned much of the game press against the company in what should have been a triumphant press event.

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Dell plans multitouch Vista and XP updates for Latitude XT

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Back in late May, Microsoft demonstrated the only confirmed feature of Windows 7: multitouch. The Windows 7 feature would only be available for computers that had hardware which supported multitouch in the first place, but as demonstrated on the Latitude XT Tablet PC less than two months ago, there were already computers out there that supported it. HangZhou Night Net

Now, Dell has announced that it isn’t going to wait around for Microsoft to release Windows 7; instead, the company plans to bring multitouch to its Latitude XT via an update expected to be released tomorrow. The company plans to support both Windows XP and Windows Vista, effectively stealing Microsoft’s multitouch thunder for Windows 7. Here’s a (rather boring) video of the announcement that includes a short example of the update working its magic:

The software update will be offered globally via support.dell.com for the Dell tablet. Dell claims that the update will enable multitouch capabilities in applications including Google Earth, Microsoft Office, Firefox, Internet Explorer 7, XP’s Windows Picture viewer, and Vista’s Windows Photo Gallery. The update will include the following multitouch capabilities: scroll (placing two fingers on the screen and moving them horizontally or vertically), zoom (touching the screen with two fingers and moving them together), and a programmable double-tap (program a command that will occur when two taps are made with two fingers). This is great news for Latitude XT owners who were frustrated knowing that the technology was there in their device, but they had no firmware that could take advantage of it.

If you’re keeping track of all the Windows 7-only features that we currently know about, you’ll quickly realize that we’re back to zero. Dell’s move only further shows that Microsoft’s multitouch demonstration for Windows 7 at D6 was aimed to show off as little as possible.

Further readingDirect2Dell: Multi-Touch Capability Available Tomorrow for Latitude XT Customers

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