Nobody knows what to expect from Microsoft's branded retail stores scheduled to roll out sometime this fall, but the company's been making some very interesting moves, the latest of which includes hiring George Blankenship to help with the launch. If that name sounds at all familiar, it's because Blankenship is a former Apple executive who also helped launch Apple's retail presence back in 2001.
Microsoft so far has declined to say what Blankenship's exact role will be, but given the success of Apple's store fronts, it's probably a safe bet he'll perform some of the same tasks as before, including helping to select the best locations.
"We're doing stuff and we're in the game and continuing to take some these hard market-share opportunities head on and compete because it's a test of will," said Kevin Turner, Microsoft's chief operating officer.
During Turner's Worldwide Partner Conference keynote earlier this month, the CEO said the first Microsoft store will open right next to an Apple store.
If you've ever shopped for a videocard, you may have run across a company called GeCube. The company has been somewhat of a player in the graphics market, producing ATI videocards from the Radeon 7000 PCI series to the much more recent PCI-E Radeon HD 4890. That's as far as the company will go, says news and rumor site DigiTimes.
Citing a Chinese-language Apply Daily report, DigiTimes says Gigabyte has recently released its 61.5 percent stake in GeCube and relinquished its spot on the board of directors. As a result, GeCube decided to sell off its graphics card business, but the company isn't going away completely. Instead, GeCube has already attracted a new partner, and although GeCube isn't saying who the new partner is, going forward the two will apparently work together on a non-graphics card related business.
As of right now, GeCube's website still reflects its graphics business.
As the economy struggles to regain its footing, so too does the PC industry. The latest casualty to the bottom line hits the graphics market, which recorded anemic sales of graphics chips in 2009, the worst year ever, according to Jon Peddie Research.
Even scarier, Peddie says that graphics chip shipments are a leading market indicator since a big portion of chip sales goes to original design manufacturers (ODMs) and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
But it's not all gloom and doom. Peddie also said the worst is probably over, noting signs of a recovery in the third quarter are likely to appear. Moreover, Q3 will mark the beginning of major architectural changes and products from Intel, Nvidia, and AMD/ATI as each one continues to develop GPGPU products.
IBM this week announced its second-quarter 2009 results, noting diluted earnings of $2.32 per share compared with diluted earnings of $1.95 per share in the second quarter of 2008. That's a year-on-year increase of 18 percent, and according to IBM, the highest for any first, second, or third quarter in the company's history.
"As a result of our strategic transformation, we have a very strong business model that is delivering superior earnings, cash, and client value," said Samuel J. Palmisano, IBM chairman, president and chief executive officer.
Looking forward, IBM said it expects full-year 2009 earnings of at least $9.70 per share, up from its previous expectation of $9.20 per share. In addition, the company said it expects full-year 2009 pre-tax income for its Software segment to grow by double-digits and reach somewhere around $8 billion.
As promised earlier this year, Microsoft plans to roll out several Microsoft-branded retail store fronts, but up until now, Microsoft wasn't saying where or when. Keven Turner, Microsoft's Chief Operating Officer, answered both of those questions during his Worldwide Partner Conference keynote on July 15.
According to Turner, the first store will open this fall and take residence right next to an Apple store. How's that for a new neighbor?
"As we progress on our retail strategy there will be scenarios where we have stores in proximity to Apple," Microsoft said a statement to CNet. "We are on track to open stores in the Fall timeframe. Beyond that we have no additional details."
Location aside, Turner insists Microsoft wouldn't be imitating Apple, which goes in line with Microsoft previously saying the stores would focus more on building the company's consumer brand than with distribution.
If you can't beat 'em, buy 'em, and most would agree that Netflix has grown too large (and too strategic) to beat. So who wants to buy them? If you believe the latest rumor, Amazon wants to buy the online DVD rental service, news of which has sent Netflix stock soaring to the highest it's been in 11 weeks.
"There's heavy call buying and the stock is up on renewed takeover talk, with Amazon being mentioned specifically," said Fred Ruffy, the senior options strategist at WhatsTrading.com. "It's pretty typical of speculative buying."
While Netflix and Amazon both compete in the Internet video business, not everyone is convinced a takeover makes much sense. Michael Pachter, an analyst for Wedbush Morgan Securities, points out that Amazon has distribution centers all across the U.S., meaning the company would have to collect sales tax in those states. Should that happen, subscribers would likely end up footing the bill.
As expected, both Amazon and Netflix said they don't comment on rumors or speculation.
It looks like Intel's Atom platform and the whole netbook craze can only do so much to stave off slumping sales. According to market analysts Gartner Group, worldwide spending on IT is expected to drop 6 percent from 2008 to $3.2 trillion in 2009. While $3.2 trillion might not sound like much to sneeze at, the 6 percent slide is almost twice as much as Gartner predicted during the first quarter.
The biggest casualty in IT spending comes to computing hardware, which is expected to drop by 16 percent. IT services and telecom spending are on track for 5.6 percent and 4.6 percent drops, while Gartner predicts software spending growth to slow by 1.6 percent.
According to Gartner, lingering global IT budget cuts and the rising U.S. dollar are both to blame.
We all know what really goes down over at The Pirate Bay, and apparently so does the Swedish District court, which found TPB's defiantly outspoken founders guilty of assisting copyright infringement and ordered them to serve a year in prison and pay a combined $3.6 million in fines. And if the latest rumor turns out to be true, they'll be the ones laughing all the way to bank, even if ultimately paying the fine, which would leave them with $4.2 million.
That's the amount that would be left over after Global Gaming Factory X, a gaming company, acquires the torrent sharing site for $7.8 million. GGF says it plans to complete the acquisition by August and then launch new business models that would pay copyright owners.
"We would like to introduce models which entail that content providers and copyright owners get paid for content that is downloaded via the site," said Hans Pandeya, CEO of GGF. "The Pirate Bay is a site that is among the top 100 most visited Internet sites in the world."
Of course, illegal access to copyrighted content might play a small huge role in why TPB is so popular, but GGF believes it can build on the torrent site's success while going completely legit.
Just a few days ago, iSuppli said worldwide PC shipments had declined in Q1 by the "largest historic rate" since the firm has been tracking the market. But after a rocky start, the PC market could be headed for a rebound by the end of the year, says market research analyst firm Gartner.
According to Gartner, the market is on pace to ship 274 million PCs worldwide by the end of 2009. That's still a 6 percent drop compared to last year's shipments of 292 million, but better than Gartner expected, who previously predicted a 9.2 percent decline.
Going forward, Gartner says shipments will pull an about-face in 2010 and predicts a 10.3 percent growth rate. However, the firm also warned that Windows 7, available today in pre-order form at a reduced rate, isn't likely to prove a game changer for PC sales.
"Unless Microsoft mounts a major marketing campaign in support of Windows 7, we think consumers will simply adopt the new operating system as they would normally buy new PCs and/or replace old ones," Gartner Research Director George Shiffler said in a statement.
In an effort to help save R&D costs for its own-brand motherboards, Intel will release ODM (Original Design Manufacturer) orders to Taiwan-based motherboard makers, with the first orders belonging exclusively to Foxconn, DigiTimes reports.
As it currently stands, Intel ships between 4-5 million units annually, but although the chip maker is reportedly looking to cut back, the company did say it will continue to design and develop motherboards, as well as closely cooperate with industry players in the motherboard market.
If it turns out to be true, the big loser in the new deal is Pegatron Technology, an Intel OEM partner which will stand on the sidelines for these new orders. Adding salt to the wound, Asus, Pegatron's biggest client, is looking to increase its outsourcing to other companies as well.