We expect to hear more than a few expletives being fired off in Microsoft's direction by some of its 1,400 ex-employees that were laid off last month. That's because Microsoft has begun sending letters to some of those that have been let go claiming it overpaid severance and would now like some of the money returned, according to TechCrunch.
"An inadvertent administrative error occurred that resulted in an overpayment in severance pay by Microsoft," the letter states. "We ask that you repay the overpayment and sincerely apologize for any inconvenience to you."
CNet says a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed the authenticity of the letter but wouldn't comment further, saying it was "a private matter between the company and the affected people." It's also unknown how many of the letters have been sent out, what exactly the "administrative error" was, or what the overpayments add up to, but apparently under-compensation also occurred.
Hit the jump and tell us if you agree with Microsoft asking for the money back.
Ping any power user's PC and there's a good chance you'll find he/she is using Google for search queries (who isn't?), Gmail for at least one email account, and maybe even Google Desktop. Throw in Google Apps and all the rest of Google's offerings and it's not hard to see we're living in a GWorld, but at what point does the company become too big?
This is the question raised by CNet, who points out that Google avoided one antitrust lawsuit by abandoning a proposed advertising pact with Yahoo, only to recently be hit with another by TradeComet.com. Such is the price of growth, which has seen Google take a 36.5 percent to 30.5 percent market share advantage over Yahoo in July 2005 and increase it to 63 percent versus 21 percent currently.
"You almost feel sorry for Google," said Danny Sullivan, editor in chief of Search Engine Land. "They're doing a good job and people are turning to them. But when they pass 70 percent share, people are going to be uncomfortable about Google becoming a monopoly."
Jeff Atwood, a co-founder of Stack Overflow, says he has no ill feelings toward Google, but is definitely concerned about where the company will be in four years. "A world in which there is no competition strikes me as unhealthy," Atwood said.
Is Google close to becoming a monopoly? Hit the jump and post your thoughts.
Time will tell if this proves to be a somber moment or cause for celebration, but AMD on Wednesday announced that it had secured stockholder approval for the creation of 'The Foundry Company.' That means AMD can now officially focus its efforts on the design of new chips and technologies, leaving the burden of manufacturing and associated costs to its Abu Dhabi-based spinoff.
While the split into separate design and manufacturing firms represents a major shift for the No. 2 CPU maker, the original vote had to be postponed after a low turnout by shareholders last week. At the time, 97 percent of the shares voted were cast in favor of the spinoff, but the shares voted represented only 42 percent of its total stock. This time around, AMD managed to scrounge up the majority vote it needed.
Under terms of the deal, AMD stockholders approved a proposal to issue 58 million shares of the company's common stock with warrants to purchase 35 million shares of its common stock and 35 million shares of the common stock upon exercise of those warrants to an affiliate of the Mubadala Development Company PJSC.
The transaction is expected to close by March 2, 2009.
What a difference a year makes. Nvidia yesterday reported a loss of nearly $148 million, or 27 cents per share, for the fiscal fourth quarter. A year prior Nvidia reported a profit of $257 million, or 42 cents per share.
Said Nvidia's ever-candid CEO Jen-Hsun Huang, "November fell off a cliff." Huang was referring to the dramatic drop in demand, which led the company to post revenue of $481.1 million, down 60 percent from the $1.2 billion it reported for the fourth quarter a year prior.
A rebound might not be on the immediate horizon for Nvidia, either. Market research firm iSuppli predicts that shipments of desktop PCs will continue to sag in 2009, with shipments expected to fall 5.5 percent to 146.2 million units. This is important because many high-end videocards end up in those PCs.
Despite the depressing sales numbers, we can't help but think it could have been worse for Nvidia. The graphics chip maker scored a major win by convincing Apple to use its GPUs in the recently refreshed MacBook line, and going forward, the company's newly released GTX 285 and 295 videocards have put the company on more even ground with ATI's 4870 and 4870 X2 parts.
How exactly can Intel afford to drop $7 billion upgrading its U.S. factories over the next two years when the economy is in the dumps and few in the tech industry seem to be making a profit? Maybe a better question is how can Intel afford not to keep investing?
The news of the massive investment was made public today by Intel CEO Paul Otellini, who was giving a speech in Washington. But what's perhaps most interesting about the $7 billion figure over two years is that rival chip maker AMD has lost almost as much over the past two years, and has split into separate design and manufacturing firms. Two different companies with two very different approaches; who's will pay off in the long run?
Despite what has been the worst PC market in a long time, Intel says its $7 billion investment is the most it has ever spent transitioning to new manufacturing technology. Part of the money will go towards new machinery at factories in Oregon, Arizona, and New Mexico, all of which will be capable of producing 32nm wafers.
"From our perspective this is a cheaper, better technology," Otellini said. "Spending this money will lower our costs and give us more competitive products. It's something that's fundamental to our business model."
And fundamentally different than AMD's approach. Maybe there's a lesson to be learned here.
Big blue is seeing green, and it wants its business partners to see the same color. To that end, IBM has launched its "Ready for Energy & Environment" validation program for business partners, which currently sits at 100,000 strong. But out of those, only a very small number will qualify.
"We've set a fairly high bar," said IBM's ISVs and developer relations VP Chris Wong. "Only 30 or so partners will make it through the first year."
IBM says that in order for a business partner to pass validation and earn an endorsing mark, its products and services must first meet "stringent criteria" geared towards reducing energy, water, and paper materials. IBM didn't say what those criteria are, saying only that they were "established by the IBM Energy & Environment Review Board" and "are based on IBM's long history of environmentally responsible practices in its own operations."
Business partners who meet IBM's eco-friendly requirements will be allowed to market their product or service as "Ready for IBM Energy & Environment," as well as participate in various IBM marketing campaigns.
Citing an un-named studio source, CNet says the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has gone through a "significant" round layoffs. Significant in this case means over 10 percent, with even more layoffs on the way, according to the source.
The MPAA apparently confirmed the layoffs to CNet, but wasn't as forthcoming on the exact number. Nor did the company say how the staff reduction would affect its antipiracy efforts, including its current legal battle against RealDVD over alleged copyright infringement, which is scheduled to go to court again on April 1. But an MPAA spokeswoman did say that its leadership is mostly unaffected, perhaps suggesting that the trade group has no plans of letting up its copyright crusade on behalf of the six largest film studios it represents.
After serving three years at the helm, Lenovo CEO William Amelio handed in his resignation. The timing of Amelio's departure comes amid dismal quarterly numbers for the company, which includes a $96.7 milion quarterly loss. It's the first time in several years since taking over IBM's personal computer division that Lenovo has fared so poorly. But is Amelio to blame?
"My take on his departure was that he was really the fall guy for Lenovo's problems in the last year or so -- and rightfully so in some respects, because a lot of these issues came under his tenure," said John Spooner, an analyst with Technology Business Research. "I think that if Lenovo had been a little more successful, he may have stuck around for a bit."
Amelio's resignation comes at the end of his three-year contract, during which time Lenovo gave up market share in the enterprise sector to Dell and HP.
As the economy finds it increasingly difficult to free itself from the clutches of the proverbial bear, it is safe to assume that the eagerness with which investors rallied to fund tech startups has been consigned to history, at least for the time being. The tenebrous economy has also made angel investors nervous. Angels are now trying to maintain a safe distance from tech start-ups just like all other investors.
Most tech start-ups count on angel investors for funds in their infancy. However, the economic meltdown has sapped their otherwise unbridled optimism. According to a survey conducted by the Angel Capital Association in November, fifty percent of investors invested well within their expectations in 2008. And one in every three angel investors feels that the slide in investments will continue.
The abysmal lack of confidence isn’t the only thing to blame, but the dearth of liquidity has also forced them to pull in their horns. However, the doughtier investors are still investing, though at a decreased pace, as they want to make the most of plummeting company valuations.
Dan Martin, a San Francisco-based angel investor, told CNET that stocks are a better investment avenue than “investing in the friend of a friend who wants to open a green Chuck E.” But there is still hope for budding tech entrepreneurs as many angels are expected to make joint investments with others in their fraternity.
According to a report by DigiTimes, Kingston Technology is vouching for memory chip maker ProMOS Technologies and has agreed to act as a guarantor for the latter's application for a syndicated loan worth approximately $148 million. Of that $148 million, which is to be paid by nine local banks, Kingston has reportedly agreed to guarantee somewhere between $44 to $60 million.
Memory chip makers have found themselves in dire straights over slumping memory prices and an unforgiving global economy. The situation has gotten so bad that Qimonda, one of the world's top 10 memory chip suppliers, recently filed for bankruptcy. ProMOS has also been struggling, suffering losses adding up to $675 million in the first three quarters of 2008. Earlier this month, ProMOS submitted its application for a government-led bailout package.