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  • Ballmer Says Amazon Isn't a "Real Business"

    theodp writes According to Steve Ballmer, Amazon.com is not a real business. "They make no money," Ballmer said on the Charlie Rose Show. "In my world, you're not a real business until you make some money. I have a hard time with businesses that don't make money at some point." Ballmer's comments come as Amazon posted a $437 million loss for the third quarter, disappointing Wall Street. "If you are worth $150 billion," Ballmer added, "eventually somebody thinks you're going to make $15 billion pre-tax. They make about zero, and there's a big gap between zero and 15." Fired-up as ever, LA Clippers owner Ballmer's diss comes after fellow NBA owner Mark Cuban similarly slammed IBM, saying Big Blue is no longer a tech company (Robert X. Cringely seems to concur). "Today, they [IBM] specialize in financial engineering," Cuban told CNBC after IBM posted another disappointing quarter. "They're no longer a tech company, they are an amalgamation of different companies that they are trying to arb[itrage] on Wall Street, and I'm not a fan of that at all."

    219 comments | yesterday

  • Microsoft Now Makes Money From Surface Line, Q1 Sales Reach Almost $1 Billion

    SmartAboutThings writes Microsoft has recently published its Q1 fiscal 2015 earnings report, disclosing that it has made $4.5 billion in net income on $23.20 billion in revenue. According to the report, revenue has increased by $4.67 billion, compared to $18.53 billion from the same period last year. However, net income has decreased 14 percent compared to last year's $5.24 billion mainly because of the $1.14 billion cost associated with the integration and restructuring expenses related to the Nokia acquisition.

    But what's finally good news for the company is that the Surface gross margin was positive this quarter, which means the company finally starts making money on Surface sales. Microsoft didn't yet reveal Surface sales, but we know that Surface revenue was $908 million this quarter, up a massive 127 percent from the $400 million this time last year. However, if we assume that the average spent amount on the purchase of this year's Surface Pro 3 was around $1000, then we have less than 1 million units sold, which isn't that impressive, but it's a good start.

    112 comments | yesterday

  • Employers Worried About Critical Thinking Skills

    Nerval's Lobster writes: Every company needs employees who can analyze information effectively, discarding what's unnecessary and digging down into what's actually useful. But employers are getting a little bit worried that U.S. schools aren't teaching students the necessary critical-thinking skills to actually succeed once they hit the open marketplace. The Wall Street Journal talked with several companies about how they judge critical-thinking skills, a few of which ask candidates to submit to written tests to judge their problem-solving abilities. But that sidesteps the larger question: do schools need to shift their focus onto different teaching methods (i.e., downplaying the need for students to memorize lots of information), or is our educational pipeline just fine, thank you very much?

    518 comments | yesterday

  • How To Beat Online Price Discrimination

    New submitter Intrepid imaginaut sends word of a study (PDF) into how e-commerce sites show online shoppers different prices depending on how they found an item and what the sites know about the customer. "For instance, the study found, users logged in to Cheaptickets and Orbitz saw lower hotel prices than shoppers who were not registered with the sites. Home Depot shoppers on mobile devices saw higher prices than users browsing on desktops. Some searchers on Expedia and Hotels.com consistently received higher-priced options, a result of randomized testing by the websites. Shoppers at Sears, Walmart, Priceline, and others received results in a different order than control groups, a tactic known as “steering.” To get a better price, the article advises deleting cookies before shopping, using your browser's private mode, putting the items in your shopping cart without buying them right away, and using tools like Camelcamelcamel to keep an eye out for price drops.

    152 comments | 2 days ago

  • Automation Coming To Restaurants, But Not Because of Minimum Wage Hikes

    dcblogs writes: McDonald's this week told financial analysts of its plans to install self-ordering kiosks and mobile ordering at its restaurants. This news prompted the Wall Street Journal to editorialize, in " Minimum Wage Backfire," that while it may be true for McDonald's to say that its tech plans will improve customer experience, the move is also "a convenient way...to justify a reduction in the chain's global workforce." Minimum wage increase advocates, the Journal argued, are speeding along an automation backlash. But banks have long relied on ATMs, and grocery stores, including Walmart, have deployed self-service checkouts. In contrast, McDonald's hasn't changed its basic system of taking orders since its founding in the 1950s, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a research group focused on the restaurant industry. While mobile, kiosks and table ordering systems may help reduce labor costs, the automated self-serve technology is seen as an essential. It will take the stress out of ordering (lines) at fast food restaurants, and the wait for checks at more casual restaurants. It also helps with upselling and membership to loyalty programs. People who can order a drink refill off a tablet, instead of waving down waitstaff, may be more inclined to do so. Moreover, analysts say younger customers want self-service options.

    668 comments | 2 days ago

  • How Sony, Intel, and Unix Made Apple's Mac a PC Competitor

    smaxp writes In 2007, Sony's supply chain lessons, the network effect from the shift to Intel architecture, and a better OS X for developers combined to renew the Mac's growth. The network effects of the Microsoft Wintel ecosystem that Rappaport explained 20 years ago in the Harvard Business Review are no longer a big advantage. By turning itself into a premium PC company with a proprietary OS, Apple has taken the best of PC ecosystem, but avoided taking on the disadvantages.

    293 comments | 2 days ago

  • Tech Firm Fined For Paying Imported Workers $1.21 Per Hour

    An anonymous reader sends in news about a company that was fined for flying in "about eight employees" from India to work 120-hour weeks for $1.21 per hour. Electronics for Imaging paid several employees from India as little as $1.21 an hour to help install computer systems at the company's Fremont headquarters, federal labor officials said Wednesday. "We are not going to tolerate this kind of behavior from employers," said Susana Blanco, district director of the U.S. Labor Department's wage and hour division in San Francisco.... An anonymous tip prompted the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate the case, which resulted in more than $40,000 in back wages paid to the eight employees and a fine of $3,500 for Electronics for Imaging.

    281 comments | 2 days ago

  • Mark Zuckerberg Speaks Mandarin At Tsinghua University In Beijing

    HughPickens.com writes Abby Phillip reports at the Washington Post that that Mark Zuckerberg just posted a 30-minute Q&A at Tsinghua University in Beijing in which he answered every question exclusively in Chinese — a notoriously difficult language to learn and particularly, to speak. "It isn't just Zuckerberg's linguistic acrobatics that make this a notable moment," writes Philip. "This small gesture — although some would argue that it is a huge moment — is perhaps his strongest foray into the battle for hearts and minds in China." Zuckerberg and Facebook have been aggressively courting Chinese users for years and the potential financial upside for the business. Although Beijing has mostly banned Facebook, the company signed a contract for its first ever office in China earlier this year. A Westerner speaking Mandarin in China — at any level — tends to elicit joy from average Chinese, who seem to appreciate the effort and respect they feel learning Mandarin demonstrates. So how well did he actually do? One Mandarin speaker rates Zuckerberg's language skills at a seventh grader's speech: "It's hard not see a patronizing note in the Chinese audience's reaction to Zuckerberg's Mandarin. To borrow from Samuel Johnson's quip, he was like a dog walking on its hind legs: It wasn't done well, but it was a surprise to see it done at all."

    213 comments | 2 days ago

  • We Need Distributed Social Networks More Than Ello

    Frequent contributor Bennett Haselton writes: Facebook threatened to banish drag queen pseudonyms, and (some) users revolted by flocking to Ello, a social network which promised not to enforce real names and also to remain ad-free. Critics said that the idealistic model would buckle under pressure from venture capitalists. But both gave scant mention to the fact that a distributed social networking protocol, backed by a player large enough to get people using it, would achieve all of the goals that Ello aspired to achieve, and more. Read on for the rest.

    258 comments | 2 days ago

  • Sale of IBM's Chip-Making Business To GlobalFoundries To Get US Security Review

    dcblogs writes IBM is an officially sanctioned trusted supplier to the U.S. Defense Dept., and the transfer of its semiconductor manufacturing to GlobalFoundries, a U.S.-based firm owned by investors in Abu Dhabi, will get U.S. scrutiny. Retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. John Adams, who authored a report last year for an industry group about U.S. supply chain vulnerabilities and national security, said regulators will have to look closely. "I don't want cast aspersions unnecessarily on Abu Dubai — but they're not Canada," said Adams "I think that the news that we may be selling part of our supply chain for semiconductors to a foreign investor is actually bad news."

    95 comments | 2 days ago

  • Michigan Latest State To Ban Direct Tesla Sales

    An anonymous reader writes As many expected, Michigan Governor Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill that bans Tesla Motors from selling cars directly to buyers online in the state. When asked what Tesla's next step will be, Diarmuid O'Connell, vice president of business development, said it was unclear if the company would file a lawsuit. "We do take at their word the representations from the governor that he supports a robust debate in the upcoming session," O'Connell said. "We've entered an era where you can buy products and services with much greater value than a car by going online."

    256 comments | 3 days ago

  • What It Took For SpaceX To Become a Serious Space Company

    An anonymous reader writes: The Atlantic has a nice profile of SpaceX's rise to prominence — how a private startup managed to successfully compete with industry giants like Boeing in just a decade of existence. "Regardless of its inspirations, the company was forced to adopt a prosaic initial goal: Make a rocket at least 10 times cheaper than is possible today. Until it can do that, neither flowers nor people can go to Mars with any economy. With rocket technology, Musk has said, "you're really left with one key parameter against which technology improvements must be judged, and that's cost." SpaceX currently charges $61.2 million per launch. Its cost-per-kilogram of cargo to low-earth orbit, $4,653, is far less than the $14,000 to $39,000 offered by its chief American competitor, the United Launch Alliance. Other providers often charge $250 to $400 million per launch; NASA pays Russia $70 million per astronaut to hitch a ride on its three-person Soyuz spacecraft. SpaceX's costs are still nowhere near low enough to change the economics of space as Musk and his investors envision, but they have a plan to do so (of which more later)."

    95 comments | 3 days ago

  • Internet Broadband Through High-altitude Drones

    mwagner writes: Skynet is coming. But not like in the movie: The future of communications is high-altitude solar-powered drones, flying 13 miles above the ground, running microwave wireless equipment, delivering broadband to the whole planet. The articles predicts this technology will replace satellites, fiber, and copper, and fundamentally change the broadband industry. The author predicts a timescale of roughly 20 years — the same amount of time between Arthur C. Clarke predicting geosynchronous satellites and their reality as a commercial business. "Several important technology milestones need to be reached along the way. The drones that will make up Skynet have a lot more in common with satellites than the flippy-flappy helicopter drone thingies that the popular press is fixated on right now. They're really effing BIG, for one thing. And, like satellites, they go up, and stay up, pretty much indefinitely. For that to happen, we need two things: lighter, higher-capacity wireless gear; and reliable, hyper-efficient solar tech."

    99 comments | 4 days ago

  • Safercar.gov Overwhelmed By Recall For Deadly Airbags

    darylb writes "The NHTSA's safercar.gov website appears to be suffering under the load of recent vehicle recalls, including the latest recall of some 4.7 million vehicles using airbags made by Takata. Searching recalls by VIN is non-responsive at present. Searching by year, make, and model hangs after selecting the year. What can sites serving an important public function do to ensure they stay running during periods of unexpected load?" More on the airbag recall from The New York Times and the Detroit Free Press.

    120 comments | 4 days ago

  • Rumor: Lenovo In Talks To Buy BlackBerry

    BarbaraHudson writes: The CBC, the Financial Post, and The Toronto Sun are all reporting a possible sale of BlackBerry to Lenovo. From the Sun: "BlackBerry shares rose more than 3% on Monday after a news website said Chinese computer maker Lenovo Group might offer to buy the Canadian technology company. Rumors of a Lenovo bid for BlackBerry have swirled many times over the last two years. Senior Lenovo executives at different times have indicated an interest in BlackBerry as a means to strengthen their own handset business. The speculation reached a crescendo in the fall of 2013, when BlackBerry was exploring strategic alternatives. Sources familiar with the situation however, told Reuters last year that the Canadian government had strongly hinted to BlackBerry that any sale to Lenovo would not win the necessary regulatory approvals due to security concerns. Analysts also have said any sale to Lenovo would face regulatory obstacles, but they have suggested that a sale of just BlackBerry's handset business and not its core network infrastructure might just pass muster with regulators."

    73 comments | 5 days ago

  • An Algorithm to End the Lines for Ice at Burning Man

    Any gathering of 65,000 people in the desert is going to require some major infrastructure to maintain health and sanity. At Burning Man, some of that infrastructure is devoted to a supply chain for ice. Writes Bennett Haselton, The lines for ice bags at Burning Man could be cut from an hour long at peak times, to about five minutes, by making one small... Well, read the description below of how they do things now, and see if the same suggested change occurs to you. I'm curious whether it's the kind of idea that is more obvious to students of computer science who think algorithmically, or if it's something that could occur to anyone. Read on for the rest; Bennett's idea for better triage may bring to mind a lot of other queuing situations and ways that time spent waiting in line could be more efficiently employed.

    341 comments | 5 days ago

  • How Lobby Groups Rejected the Canadian Government's Plan To Combat Patent Trolls

    An anonymous reader writes Michael Geist reports that according to documents recently obtained under the Access to Information Act, the Canadian government quietly proposed a series of reforms to combat patent trolls including new prohibitions on demand letters, powers to the courts to stop patent forum shopping, and giving competition authorities the ability to deal with patent troll anti-competitive activity. The problem? Business lobby groups warned against the "unintended consequences" of patent reforms.

    57 comments | 5 days ago

  • IBM Pays GlobalFoundries $1.5 Billion To Shed Its Chip Division

    helix2301 writes with word that Big Blue has become slightly smaller: IBM will pay $1.5 billion to GlobalFoundries in order to shed its costly chip division. IBM will make payments to the chipmaker over three years, but it took a $4.7 billion charge for the third quarter when it reported earnings Monday. The company fell short of Wall Street profit expectations and revenue slid 4 percent, sending shares down 8 percent before the opening bell.

    84 comments | 5 days ago

  • Despite Patent Settlement, Apple Pulls Bose Merchandise From Its Stores

    Apple has long sold Bose headphones and speakers in its retail stores, including in the time since it acquired Bose-competitor Beats Audio, and despite the lawsuit filed by Bose against Apple alleging patent violations on the part of Beats. That's come to an end this week, though: Apple's dropped Bose merchandise both in its retail locations and online, despite recent news that the two companies have settled the patent suit.

    328 comments | about a week ago

  • Robot SmackDowns Wants To Bring Robot Death Matches To an Arena Near You

    Business Insider profiles Andrew Stroup, Gui Cavalcanti and Matt Oehrlein, who are trying to get off the ground a robot competition league, called Robot SmackDowns. The idea, as you might guess from the name, is to showcase violence and drama to draw on the crowd-appeal of wrestling, NASCAR, and monster truck rallies: this is definitely not Dean Kamen's FIRST — it's giant mechanical beasts shooting at and otherwise trying to destroy each other. And it's not quite right to call them robots in the usual sense; they're more like mecha: "In a MegaBots battle, a two-member team sits inside the bot's upper torso, where the controls systems are housed. Although the co-founders assure me that the pilot and gunner are well protected inside, the situation presents a heightened suspense. Each 15,000-pound robot is equipped with six-inch cannons inside its arms that fire paint-filled missiles and cannon balls at 120 miles per hour. Good aim can cause enough damage to jam its opponent's weapons system or shoot off a limb." They'll be launching a Kickstarter campaign soon; according to the article, "Assuming it raises enough money to build a fleet, [the company's] plan is to take the bots on the road. They will tour the country, face off in epic battles against other MegaBots, and build a fan base. Stroup says (without giving specifics) networks have reached out and will closely watch how MegaBot, Inc.'s upcoming Kickstarter campaign performs. The possibilities for distribution seem endless, though the team is tight-lipped about the exact direction it's headed."

    82 comments | about a week ago

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