Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft’

Big Data to the Rescue

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

We’ve all been inundated with talk about the era of Big Data. But these last few weeks, we felt its impact in dramatic fashion. Just hours after the explosions at the April 15 Boston Marathon, the FBI had amassed10 terabytes of data that four days later led them to the two suspects. Big Data is all about aggregating data sets into big-data algorithms that can see patterns and in the case of Boston, the data was cell phone tower call logs, text messages, social media data, photographs and video surveillance footage to quickly pinpoint the suspects.  Think about how long the investigation might have taken without the crowd-sourced information which had ordinary people sending the authorities thousands of pictures and videos.

In our industry, we recognize the era of Big Data because it’s had a huge impact on real estate. Christian Belady of Microsoft projects that annual global spending on data center construction will increase to $78 billion by 2020 with the US representing about $18 billion of that total. Looking ahead, the demand for data centers is secure. It’s being driven by the trend towards backing up data in the proverbial cloud, the growth of online shopping (it grew 14% between 2011 and 2012 to $42.3b in sales), the advent of electronic health records,  and all the time we spend posting, pinging, tweeting and liking on social media. McKinsey & Company predicts a 40 percent growth annually in the data being generated. Some datasets within the federal government are measured in petabytes, each of which is one million gigabytes or 1,000 terabytes. Among companies of more than 1,000 employees in 15 out of the economy’s 17 sectors, the average amount of data is a surreal 235 terabytes. That’s right — each of these companies has more info than the Library of Congress.

Data Demand

It’s estimated that the amount of global data will reach 40 zettabytes (ZB) by 2020 (that’s over 40 billion terabytes), an amount that exceeds previous forecasts by 5 ZBs. That represents a 50-fold growth from the beginning of 2010 and that number is probably a lowball.

So, why all this data? Because companies are hoarding it. Like hanging on to clothes that don’t fit, most of America’s premier companies are starting to do essentially the same thing with data. The reason? They recognize the opportunity cost of not collecting data. Often times, the chance to get data only happens once–when it occurs. This is true whether it’s from video surveillance, pictures from a cell phone, people browsing their on-line store, GPS tracking information coming from a car, recording tweets or information collected through scientific research.  So, if you don’t yet know what to do with all that data, put it in storage. Today, less than 1% of the world’s data is analyzed.

Data In the Distance

Looking ahead, we see no signs of abatement in the demand for data centers.

In 2012, we saw the institutions, REITs and private investors flocking to the asset class because of the long term leases, substantial tenant investment, and tenant credit profiles. As companies look to cut costs and lighten their balance sheets, we will also sale-leasebacks which will allow them to deploy their capital in their digital infrastructure rather than bricks and mortar.

Google Chrome Overtakes Internet Explorer as the Favored Web Browser

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Google Chrome has overtaken Internet Explorer (IE) to become the world’s most widely used web browserGoogle Chrome was the world’s most popular web browser for a single weekend in March, but according to StatCounter, it is now more popular than Microsoft‘s Internet Explorer and is expected to remain in the top spot for the foreseeable future.

Chrome has beaten a trend that indicated it was going to surpass IE later this summer.  Microsoft dismissed the March figures as inaccurate, but there is a longer-term trend of users choosing Chrome when they can decide for themselves; business IT departments tend to favor IE.  The StatCounter statistics also indicate that Google Android‘s built-in browser is now the most popular mobile phone program.  On desktops, Chrome and IE have been on around 33 percent each, but Chrome is currently taking the lead.

Aodhan Cullen, StatCounter’s chief executive, said “At weekends, when people are free to choose what browser to use, many of them are selecting Chrome in preference to IE.”

Writing for Digital Trends, Andrew Couts says that “Of course, the StatCounter numbers are only one estimate.  And others give IE a far more substantial lead.  According to NetMarketShare, for example, IE held on to a whopping 54 percent of the market, as of April.  And Chrome actually comes in third with 18.85 percent, compared to 20.20 percent held by Firefox in NetMarketShare’s study.  That said, StatCounter’s numbers are a trusted metric in the industry, and are far more recent than NetMarketShare’s latest count.”

According to WebProNews’ Sean Patterson, “When Google launched its Chrome browser in 2008, its focus was on speed.  This aimed right at the weakness of the market’s large, slow browsers.  Chrome’s ease of use, combined with its automatic updating features, gave the browser an edge and propelled it into the browser wars with a fury.  This comes at a time when Microsoft has actually improved Internet Explorer.  Microsoft’s browser now has many of the features that Chrome and Firefox sport, and its newest version is faster than previous ones.  Unfortunately, the company has a hard time getting users to upgrade to newer versions of the browser.  Many IT departments don’t bother with the hassle of upgrading browsers on every employee’s computer.  Also, many Internet Explorer users are less computer-savvy users who simply use the browser because it came with their Windows installation.  Some people still use Internet Explorer 6, an outdated, unsupported browser that doesn’t work with much of the modern web.  In fact, according to StatCounter, more people use Internet Explorer 6 than use Opera or Safari 5.1.”

Facebook IPO to Be Listed on Nasdaq

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Facebook is friending Nasdaq in one of the most-desirable deals among the Internet companies jockeying ahead in the race for social-media IPOs.  The addition of Facebook’s listing enhances Nasdaq’s reputation as the favored exchange among high-tech companies.  The exchange is home to several tech firms, including Apple and Google.  The stock will trade under the symbol FB, as Facebook prepares its initial public offering for May.

“This is a strong, substantial win for Nasdaq, and no doubt a momentum builder for future listings,” said Richard Repetto, an analyst at Sandler O’Neill & Partners.  Facebook’s IPO — which could raise as much as $10 billion — -is likely to be the biggest Internet IPO since Google’s in 2004.  “Winning Google further emboldened Nasdaq’s reputation as being the exchange of choice for the technology companies,” said Jay Frankl, senior managing director at FTI Consulting.  “The Facebook listing I’ve seen as being similar to the Google listing, which had a similar competition between the exchanges, and a similar win for Nasdaq.”

Companies pay an annual fee to list their stock, while exchanges receive listings-related income from the sale of market data and additional services offered to their listed companies.  A company can pay as much as $500,000 annually to be listed on the NYSE, while all Nasdaq fees are capped at approximately $100,000.

The decision is a big victory for Nasdaq, which competes intensely with NYSE Euronext, which operates the New York Stock Exchange.  The listing will give Facebook financial clout as it works to expand its global audience of about 845 million users.  It also might help Facebook avoid a challenge from Google, which wants to rival Facebook with its own social networking system.

Writing in Forbes, Robert Hof wonders if “Will Facebook’s sudden, outsized presence distort the Nasdaq index of 100 companies so that it becomes even more volatile than it already is?  It’s not a premature question by any means.  Already, just a few companies – Apple, Google, Microsoft, Intel, and Oracle – dominate the Nasdaq index, accounting for nearly half the value of the entire Nasdaq 100.  Thanks to its incredible run, Apple stock once again accounts for almost 20 percent of the index, after exchange operator Nasdaq OMX Group reduced its weighting to 12 percent a year ago.  It’s not clear yet, of course, what kind of presence Facebook will have in the index, since it obviously has to go public first and then get added by Nasdaq OMX.  But it seems a good bet that trading in its shares, like those of many new issues, will be anything but calm.  And given the huge interest in the company by investors and the press, and the relatively small float at the outset, every little announcement or hiccup seems sure to send the shares soaring or plummeting.  If Facebook becomes a significant portion of the Nasdaq index, as seems likely, that could make the famously dynamic index even more volatile.  This isn’t much of a problem for Facebook itself.  Its fate rests less with what the stock does in the short term than with how CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his business executives Sheryl Sandberg and others build out the company’s advertising, payments, and other potential businesses.”

CNBC’s Bob Pisani says that Nasdaq’s securing the Facebook listing is an important psychological victory. According to Pisani, “What does matter are the co-branding opportunities, and it here it gets down to a simple issue: what are you offering in the way of a partnership?  It’s not hard to imagine the pitch: the NYSE would certainly have argued that they have broader business-to-business connections with the biggest companies in the world, with whom they can partner to expand the brand name and co-venture with.  I have mentioned before that, as an example, if Groupon (which listed on Nasdaq) was doing something with Starbucks, Groupon might send out 65 million emails that references a deal with Starbucks and Groupon, with the solicitation noting that Groupon is listed on Nasdaq.  Nasdaq will pick up a portion of that cost.  Zillow, to take another company (also on Nasdaq), might have been very interested that Nasdaq has an enormous electronic sign in Times Square that is a virtual billboard for a company that wants to attract eyeballs to its website.  Get it?  What can you offer us?  And just what did Nasdaq offer to Facebook?”

Bill Gates, Sr.: The Rich Must Pay More Taxes

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Bill Gates, Sr., a retired attorney in Washington state, supports a ballot initiative that would require the state’s highest earners — including himself and his son — to pay an income tax.  Currently, the state does not collect personal income taxes.

The father of billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Jr., believes that the poor pay too much tax, and that the rich don’t pay enough.  Washington’s school system, which is a catalyst for future economic growth in the high-tech state, suffers from too little funding because the wealthy aren’t paying their fair share, according to Gates.  His 1098 initiative — an income tax on adjusted earnings that exceed $400,000 a year per couple or $200,000 for an individual — is drawing protest from Washington business leaders, as well as anti-tax groups.

Initiative 1098 would give tax credits to approximately 80 percent of Washington-based businesses and slash the state share of property taxes by 20 percent for businesses and homeowners.  According to critics, the legislation would harm the economy by taxing the earnings of people who own the businesses — money that would be used to put people back to work.  The opposition’s Defeat 1098 campaign believes that an income tax on 38,400 of the state’s highest earners would take away vital competitive advantages and drive away entrepreneurs.  Even Governor Chris Gregoire’s Commerce Department has publicized Washington’s lack of an income tax in statements about the state’s business climate.

Gates considers Washington state’s tax system to be “dramatically regressive”, something that was proved in 2002 when he led a commission created by the Legislature to study the state tax system.  The commission recommended replacing the sales tax or property tax with an income tax that would rebalance the load.  Gates cited data gathered by the national Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy that show Washington’s poorest 20 percent pay 17 percent of their income in sales, property and other taxes.  By contrast, the wealthiest one percent pays less than four percent.

The initiative would impose a state income tax on individuals earning more than $200,000 and couples earning upwards of $400,000.  In other words, single people would pay a five percent tax on income over $200,000 and nine percent tax if they earn more than $500,000.  Couples would pay five percent over $400,000 and nine percent if they earn a combined income that exceeds $1 million.

“It’s not a matter of picking on someone,” Gates said.  “It’s a matter of correcting to some extent a bad historic situation and arguing — I think absolutely persuasively — that this is a proper source for a serious financial shortfall in our operations, namely the public education system.”

Gates’ proposal also has met opposition from Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, and Jeff Bezos, President of Amazon.com, both of whom donated $100,000 to anti-tax groups.

Another voice of opposition is Stephen Moore, who wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “I wish I had a dollar for every time a wealthy liberal has declared he thinks he should pay more taxes. That list includes Warren Buffett, George Soros, Bill Gates Sr., Mark Zuckerberg and even Barack Obama, who now says that not only should rich people like him pay more taxes, they want to pay more.”

Gates is joined by Berkshire-Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett in calling for higher taxes on the wealthy.  President Obama supports “the Buffett Rule”, a guiding principle to ensure that the rich pay as large a percentage of their income as the middle class.  Some millionaires insist that Buffett doesn’t speak for them.  “There is more of a difference between my financial position as a multi-millionaire and Buffett’s than there is between mine and a guy that makes minimum wage,” one CNN Money reader said.  “Why am I grouped with him and why does he feel he can speak for me?”

Just 24 percent of millionaires said higher taxes on large incomes is the optimal solution, according to a survey from Spectrem Group, a research firm specializing in the finances of affluent Americans.  The largest group of millionaires, 44 percent, believe that a flat-rate tax across all income brackets is the fairest system.

Visionary Apple CEO Steve Jobs Dies at Age 56

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Apple’s  iconic co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs, who altered the habits of millions by reinventing computing, music and mobile phones, has died at the age of 56.  With Jobs’ passing, Apple has lost a visionary leader who inspired personal computing and products such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad.  These innovations made Jobs one of his generation’s most significant industry leaders.  His death, following a long fight with a rare form of pancreatic cancer and a liver transplant, set off an outpouring of tributes as world leaders, business rivals and customers mourned his early death and celebrated his historic achievements.

“The world has lost a visionary.  And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented,” said President Barack Obama.  Even Bill Gates, his rival at Microsoft, joined in the laments.  “For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor,” Gates said.

With a passion for minimalist design and a genius for marketing, Jobs laid the groundwork for Apple to flourish after his death, according to analysts and investors.  A college drop-out, Jobs altered technology in the late 1970s, when the Apple II became the first personal computer to gain a wide following.  He repeated his early success in 1984 with the Macintosh, which built on the breakthrough technologies developed partially at Xerox Parc to create the personal computing experience. 

“Steve’s brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve,” Apple said.  “His greatest love was for his wife, Laurene, and his family.  Our hearts go out to them and to all who were touched by his extraordinary gifts.” 

According to Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, “We’ve lost something we won’t get back,” he said.  “The way I see it, though, the way people love products he put so much into creating means he brought a lot of life to the world.”  Wozniak said that Jobs told him around the time he left Apple in 1985 that he had a feeling he would not live beyond the age of 40.  Because of that, “a lot of his life was focused on trying to get things done quickly,” Wozniak said.  “I think what made Apple products special was very much one person, but he left a legacy,” he said.  Wozniak hopes the company can continue to succeed despite Jobs’ death.

Computerworld raises the question “Where will that excitement come from now?”  When Jobs stepped down as CEO in August, industry analysts said that Apple, with a team of talented, creative employees, will be able to continue his tradition for ingenuity, if not all of his passion, perfectionism and energy.  “Steve’s excitement for technology will still come from Apple and from the team that Jobs carefully built that worked with him to give us the iPhone and iPad and many other successful products,” said Carolina Milanesi, a Gartner analyst.

“Jobs didn’t just change mobile phones — he reinvented them,” said Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner.  “That was typical Steve.”  In another example, the iPad took user-centric values inherent in the touch-screen iPhone and larger-screen laptops, and found a useful compromise — a classic expression of Jobs’ ability to combine technological concepts, art and ideas and deliver a product that was termed “magical,” according to analysts.  “Apple, under Jobs’ leadership, focused on the user experience first and the technology second,” said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates.  “This focus was groundbreaking in that most tech companies were just the opposite.  Apple pioneered hiring many usability specialists, human factor engineers and designers before it was fashionable to do so.  Jobs’ vision of technology was to make a smooth intersection into our lives and our work, and that was what put Apple ahead of the pack.  He redirected engineering from technical engineering to engineering for usability.”

One question that has industry analysts abuzz is whether Apple will be able to maintain its dominant position now that Jobs is gone. Jobs’ passing and the industry’s mixed response to the recent iPhone 4S model create challenges for Apple in coming quarters,” said Neil Mawston, an analyst with Strategy Analytics.  “Industry eyes will inevitably turn to the iPad 3 launch next year to see whether Apple can continue the company’s impressive legacy of innovation created by Steve Jobs,” he said.  In a sign of deepening competition, Amazon.com recently unveiled its Kindle Fire tablet at an affordable $199 that could pose a serious threat to the iPad.  “Apple is facing a competitive firestorm from not just one company but a coalition of rivals that are trying to beat it, including some of the largest consumer electronics companies on the planet,” said Ben Wood, head of research at British mobile consultancy CCS Insight.

Writing in the Washington Post,  Melissa Bell believes that one of Jobs’ longest-standing legacy will be the recognition that his illness and death are bringing to pancreatic cancer.  According to Bell, “Steve Jobs knew the art of keeping your cards close to your chest.  Though  leaks did spring from the closely guarded Apple world, Jobs was a master at unveiling his secrets only when the time was right for him.  As with his business ventures, so it was with his cancer.  Jobs ‘kept his illness behind a firewall,’ the Associated Press reported.  Apple released no more of a statement than that they lost a ‘visionary and creative genius, and the world … lost an amazing human being.’  It was not known whether Jobs died from the rare form of pancreatic cancer that plagued him for seven years, or from complications from a liver transplant two years ago.  Despite the lack of details, Jobs’ role as the very public face of Apple put his illness on display along with his products.”

Is the Motorola Mobility-Google Marriage Made in Heaven?

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Google’s recently announced $12.5 billion acquisition of Chicago-based mobile phone maker Motorola Mobility could be different if Google CEO Larry Page keeps his promise to run the acquisition as “an independent business.”  “If you believe what they say, they’re going to leave the company alone and let it do what it has been doing,” said Steven Kaplan, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.  “If anything, maybe they would move resources here because the tech talent is less expensive and our taxes are lower (than California’s).”

There remains the question of the economic impact of the sale on Chicago’s economy, especially in northwest suburban Libertyville, IL, where Motorola Mobility has its sprawling campus.  If Google retains Motorola Mobility’s Illinois workforce, the move will represent a win for the state, giving it the bragging rights that come with being part of one of the world’s wealthiest and most entrepreneurial companies.  If Google moves Motorola Mobility to California, it will be a blow to Chicago’s northwest suburbs, where many of Mobility’s employees live.

Motorola Mobility has deep roots in the Chicago area, which go back to the 1928 founding of Galvin Manufacturing Corp. in Chicago.  The company, which was rechristened Motorola, pioneered early televisions and two-way radios during the World War II years.  Motorola helped lay the foundation for the mobile-phone industry, and demonstrated its original handset in 1973.  “Motorola was a pioneer in this business,” said Will Strauss, an analyst at Tempe, AZ-based Forward Concepts Co.  “They certainly have a lot of intellectual property.  It will certainly level the playing ground quite a bit. It’s going to give them an awful lot to defend Android with.” 

One reason for the purchase is the patents that Google will acquire as part of the acquisition.  Google pointed to patent disputes as important in its agreement to buy Motorola Mobility.  Apple, the iPhone’s manufacturer, and Microsoft, which created Windows Phone software, have targeted phones that run on Google’s Android system.  Lacking its own trove of patents to vie with Apple, Microsoft and other companies, Google and its hardware partners were targeted by suits aimed at slowing the adoption of Android smart phones.  Adding Motorola Mobility, with 17,000 patents, which has been inventing mobile-phone technology since the industry began, may help Google stanch the onslaught.

“The analogy to a nuclear arms race and mutually assured destruction is compelling,” said Ron Laurie, managing director of Inflexion Point Strategy LLC, which counsels companies on purchasing intellectual property.  Google and its rivals “look pretty evenly matched at the moment.  Google may have become a patent superpower.”

Google plans to continue to license its Android system to other smart phone makers, such as HTC, Samsung and LG. ”Many hardware partners have contributed to Android’s success and we look forward to continuing to work with all of them,” according to Page.  According to analysts, the Motorola deal is likely to help Google expedite its innovation in smart phones and tablets.

Bernstein Research analyst Pierre Ferragu believes the acquisition was “solely driven by the ongoing patent war and is an unambiguous positive for the Android ecosystem.  It is in the interest of Google to continue to offer a fully open Android platform with equal access to all manufacturers.  For Google, there is much more value in securing a major market share for Android than favoring Motorola against HTC and Samsung,” Ferragu wrote.

 Writing in The Business Insider, Henry Blodget predicts that the deal will be a “colossal disaster.”  According to Blodget, there are multiple reasons why this venture will fail.  “Google is a massive global software company with huge profit margins, genius engineers, extraordinarily high pay scales, and a near-monopoly on the most amazing advertising business the world has ever seen.  Motorola is a has-been, low-margin, global hardware-manufacturing business that operates at break-even, has 19,000 employees — 19,000!  Motorola, in other words, is a VAST company, one that will increase the size of Google by a staggering 60+ percent.  Mergers of this size rarely work well (or smoothly), even when managed by companies that are very experienced at making huge acquisitions (which Google isn’t).  Motorola does not have dominant share of the key businesses Google is buying: smart phones, tablets, and TV gadgets.  This means it does not have the weight necessary to push anyone around.  For example, Motorola only has a small slice of market share (10 percent) in its key business (smart-phones).   It’s nowhere in tablets.  The only way to make decent money in the hardware business is to have real leverage, and Motorola doesn’t have it.  The only thing that Google and Motorola have in common is that they are loosely considered ‘technology’ businesses.  This is not enough commonality for a massive merger like this to be a success without heroic integration efforts.  (Think AOL-Time Warner).”

Facebook Is Worth $50 Billion? Anyone Remember the Dotcom Bubble?

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Could social media be the victim of the next dot.com bubble? Although Facebook has been valued at $50 billion – more than Yahoo!, eBay, and Time Warner and butting heads with such giants as Amazon and Google, there is some question about what the valuation is based on.  According to Newsweek, “Some media experts have compared Facebook with Disney, valued at about $70 billion.  But Disney has real, tangible assets – parks, hotels, cruise ships, iconic images to market on everything from T-shirts to tableware, and a massive library of classic animated films – to back its assessed value.  Facebook has a virtual network that, according to Time, links one-twelfth of the world’s population.  However, according to The Wall Street Journal, Facebook still has enormous infrastructure costs that include as much as $700 million for two data centers, and its profits have yet to be publicly disclosed.  When an investor buys a piece of Facebook, what exactly does that investor get?  The sudden, meteoric explosion in value of online social media sites like Facebook and Twitter is eerily reminiscent of the rise about 15 years ago of the online businesses that created the ‘dotcom bubble.’”

On the PBS Newshour,  Ray Suarez interviewed Josh Bernoff, a senior vice president of Forrester Research, who has written two books on social media.  According to Bernoff, “I certainly think that there’s no rational way to understand these valuations.  I want to be clear here.  Social is very exciting.  There’s a lot of business perspective, a lot of optimism that goes along with it.  But I think these valuations are based on where people think the next buyer will come from and not on where the actual revenues of these companies are going.”  Earlier this year, Microsoft bought Skype for $6.5 billion, although its revenues are less than $1 billion a year.  When LinkedIn went public, it was valued at $9 billion.  Its profits are just $12 million annually.

According to Experience:  The Blog “The dot-com crash of 2000 was devastating.  Even now, 11 years later, the NASDAQ Composite is just a hair over half of where it stood in March 2000.  The crash caused the loss of $5 trillion in market value, huge numbers of people lost their jobs, and the facade of most of those dot-com millionaires crumbled as their paper wealth evaporated.  (To me, the insanity of the dot-com craze is demonstrated by a single story told to me by a now-successful exec in a social enterprise company.  Back in 2000, he ran a tiny startup that got caught up in the dot-com hysteria; at one point it hit a market cap of $1 billion but was generating just $60,000 of revenue.)  I am taking you on this trip down Memory Lane for a reason:  It’s happening again.  Investors in social media startups are looking to cash in, and valuations are soaring despite modest to no profits.  Recently, Airbnb, a site that allows people to arrange short-term vacation rentals of rooms, homes and apartments, received a round of funding based on a $1 billion valuation.  While the company has not released financials, best guess estimates are that Airbnb only generates around $10 million of revenue.  To put this into perspective, Marriott has $12 billion in revenue and a market cap of $14 billion.”

The Next Web disagrees with predictions of a second dotcom bubble.  “Dotcom 2.0 is much stronger than its predecessor.  People are more technologically savvy and, crucially, broadband and smart phones are approaching ubiquity.  The world is switched-on, tuned-in and can’t get enough Internet.  Technological advances aside, the one thing that will ensure we don’t see another dotcom disaster is social media marketing.  The key to success this time lies in finding ways to monetize the many ventures – it’s understood that driving traffic isn’t enough, which is why Twitter is actively seeking ways to drive its revenue.  In fact, Twitter may make as much as $150 million this year, according to some reports.  There’s no question there are a lot of over-valued companies out there at the moment; some will undoubtedly crumble and some will flourish. But Dotcom 2.0 isn’t a bubble, and it won’t burst.”

The Giving Pledge Encourages Billionaires to Share Their Wealth

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

The Giving Pledge asks billionaires to donate 50 percent of their wealth to charity.  Two of the nation’s leading billionaire philanthropists are joining forces to encourage others to donate as much as half of their wealth to charities.  Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett are teaming to create the Giving Pledge, “an effort to invite the wealthiest individuals and families in America to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to the philanthropic causes and charitable organizations of their choice either during their lifetime or after their death.”

According to Patty Stonesifer, who is advising Gates and Buffett on the Giving Pledge, four additional families – real estate and construction’s Eli Broad, venture capitalist John Doerr, media entrepreneur Gerry Lenfest and former Cisco Systems chairman John Morgridge – are already on board.  Buffett, who has already pledged to donate 99 percent of his wealth to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said “At the latest, the proceeds from all of my Berkshire shares will be expended for philanthropic purposes by 10 years after my estate is settled.  Nothing will go to endowments.  I want the money spent on current needs,” according to Buffett.  Forbes magazine ranks Gates as the world’s second richest man with $53 billion and Buffett as third with $47 billion.  The United States is home to 403 billionaires.

The Giving Pledge is not accepting money itself.  Rather, it is asking billionaires to commit to giving their money to charity.  Although the campaign specifically targets billionaires, the Giving Pledge is “inspired by the example set by millions of Americans who give generously (and often at great personal sacrifice) to make the world a better place.”

Your Choice of Font Can Make You Greener

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Century Gothic font is eco friendly.  Changing your font can save significant money by requiring less ink to print documents.  Because various fonts require different amounts of ink to print, changing to a simpler font can make printer cartridges last longer.

Printer.com, a Dutch company that evaluates printers, worked with the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay in its changeover from using the Arial to the Century Gothic font.  According to Diane Biohowiak, the university’s coordinator of information-technology user support, she has asked faculty and staff to use Century Gothic for all printed documents.  The University also plans to implement Century Gothic as its default email font.  “The feedback we’ve gotten so far has been positive,” Biohowiak said.  “Century Gothic is very readable.”  The campus, which spends approximately $100,000 every year on ink and toner cartridges, expects to save $5,000 to $10,000 because of the font change.

Printer.com tested several fonts to determine their ink friendliness, with Century Gothic and Times New Roman emerging as the clear winners.  Century Gothic uses approximately 30 percent less ink than Arial.  The amount of ink a font requires is a result of how thick the lines are.  A font with “narrow” or “light” in its name typically is better than one with “bold” or “black”, according to Thom Brown, an ink researcher with Hewlett-Packard Company.  Additionally, serif fonts – with short horizontal lines at the top and bottom of characters – tend to use thinner lines and less ink than sans serif fonts.

Microsoft executives point out that it’s even greener to just not print documents.  The firm changed its defaults in Office 2007 from Arial and Times New Roman to Calibri and Cambria, said Simon Daniels, a program manager for the firm’s typography group.  “We’re trying to move the threshold of when people hit the print button.”

Will the iPad Make Laptops Obsolete?

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Will iPad put the PC to pasture?  Does the introduction of Apple’s new iPad sound the death knell for laptop computers?  The Wall Street Journal’s Personal Technology columnist Walt Mossberg’s test drive of an iPad has him believing that the new product has “the potential to change portable computing as we know it.”  During the test drive, Mossberg used his laptops only 20 percent of the time, because he found the iPad to be extremely user friendly and significantly lighter in weight.

According to Mossberg, “If people see the iPad mainly as an extra device to carry around, it will likely have limited appeal.  If, however, they see it as a way to replace heavier, bulkier computers much of the time – for Web surfing, email, social-networking, video- and photo-viewing, gaming, music and even some light content creation – it could be a game changer the way Apple’s iPhone has been.”  Weaknesses include the inability to write and edit long documents or view Adobe Flash videos, which the iPad doesn’t support.

Based priced at $499 and topping out at $829, the iPad “is thinner and lighter than any netbook or laptop I’ve seen,” Mossberg says.  “It weighs just 1.5 pounds, and its aluminum and glass body mere a mere half-inch thick.  It boasts a big, bright color 9.7-inch screen that occupies most of the front.  As on all Apple portable devices, the battery is sealed in and non replaceable.  It has a decent speaker, and even a tiny microphone.”

Mossberg concludes:  “All in all, however, the iPad is an advance in making more sophisticated computing possible via a simple touch interface on a slender, light device.  Only time will tell if it’s a real challenger to the laptop and netbook.”