WASHINGTON: Microsoft Heads Ballmer & Gates Donate To Marriage
Microsoft founder Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer have each donated $100,000 to Washington state’s marriage equality movement.The AP cites Zach Silk, campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage, who says the checks were cut on Friday and are being reported to the state Public Disclosure Commission Monday afternoon. The Washington state Legislature passed the law allowing same-sex marriage earlier this year, and it was signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire in Feb. But an effort to put that law up to a vote was successful, meaning Referendum 74 — seeking to overturn the law allowing same-sex marriage in Washington state — is on the ballot in November.
In November last year, Microsoft joined in the filing of an amicus brief supporting the overturn of DOMA.
Bill Gates Gives $750M To Troubled Global Fund To Fight HIV-AIDS
CBS News reports:
Bill Gates pledged $750 million on Thursday to fight three killer diseases and rescue a beleaguered health fund whose financial losses have cost it donor support.
The Microsoft founder said he is lending his “credibility” to the Geneva-based Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria by making the donation through a promissory note so the fund “can immediately use the money and save lives.”
Gates’ announcement at the World Economic Forum, a magnet for the world’s business and political elites who pushed for the fund’s creation, was part of an orchestrated attempt by the fund to galvanize donors on its 10th anniversary.
“These are tough economic times, but that is no excuse for cutting aid to the world’s poorest,” Gates told reporters.
He downplayed the $23 billion fund’s reported losses of tens of millions of dollars to corruption, misuse and undocumented spending that were highlighted in Associated Press stories, and said it is “disappointing” to see how people have focused on a “small misuse of funds.”
A donor backlash over AP reports about poor financial monitoring and the fund’s losses uncovered by its own internal watchdog, the inspector general’s office, prompted the organization last year to cancel more than $1 billion in planned new spending mainly to expand existing programs. The fund’s executive director, Dr. Michel Kazatchkine, this week also announced his resignation.
“The internal checks and balances have worked in every case,” Gates said. But, he added, “If you’re going to do business in Africa, you’re going to have some losses.”
The public-private fund has helped change the fortunes of many of the world’s poor through its prevention and treatment programs among 150 countries, Gates said.
The fund says it has provided antiretroviral treatment to 3.3 million people, detected and treated 8.2 million people with tuberculosis, and given 230 million bed nets to families to prevent malaria over its 10-year existence. It says it also has helped prevent 1.3 million pregnant women from passing on HIV to their babies, cared for 5.6 million orphans and kept 7.7 million others alive.
“It’s a breathtaking achievement,” U2 rock star Bono said in a compilation of fund supporters’ statements from the fund Thursday.
A former Japanese prime minister, Naoto Kan, told the news conference that his nation has contributed $1.3 billion to the fund. Kan also said the fund’s “transparency” must be maintained, which includes auditors and investigators in the inspector general’s office uncovering and publicizing its own losses, as the fund goes through a series of reforms launched last year after the AP stories.
“The European debt crisis is shaking the world economy, which in turn seriously affects the fortunes of the Global Fund. But it doesn’t mean the significance of the Global Fund is less,” Kan said. “The corruption exists. It’s regrettable, but that’s reality.”
Global Fund board Chairman Simon Bland said the fund is “transforming the way we do business” by streamlining the organization and will continue to “hold ourselves accountable” for what it spends.
“There will be no shying away from that transparency,” Bland said.
Bland told AP he has hired the London accounting firm RSM Tenon Group to look into internal fund allegations that Kazatchkine, a French immunologist, improperly allocated several million dollars of fund money to benefit charity activities of France’s first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, and firms run by her close friend.
Bland said the firm has produced a confidential report that he intends to make public which lends little support to the allegations. France is the second-largest contributor to the fund behind the United States, and Bruni-Sarkozy serves as one of its ambassadors.
Kazatchkine, who has been at odds with the inspector general’s office that has been uncovering the losses, resigned after the board decided to create a position of general manager to chart a new direction. The position was among a series of recommendations by a high-level panel created to address the problems raised in AP articles.
“I believe it is untenable that there are two heads in an organization and that’s why I decided to leave,” he told AP.
Kazatchkine said the Global Fund “can’t be more transparent than we have been.”
“We’re by far the most transparent organization in development,” he said at Davos. “Fighting corruption, yes, of course, and I have repeatedly said zero tolerance for corruption. Yet we also have to recognize that this business is not without risk. And risk, or the sense of risk, can also paralyze action.”
Google, Microsoft, Starbucks Say DOMA Hurts Business
The Advocate reports:
Top U.S. companies including Google, Microsoft, and Starbucks took the unusual step on Thursday of legally documenting their opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act.
A brief filed in court comes from 70 businesses and organizations that want their voice heard on the constitutionality of DOMA, which bans same-sex marriage from being recognized federally and stops couples married in states such as Massachusetts from having their weddings recognized in less accepting places such as Alabama.
The companies paint the law as an overburdening government regulation that should be repealed.
Their brief points out that the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives is defending DOMA in court on the notion that it imposes “a uniform rule” on whose marriage is recognized. “The perspective of the American employer who must implement DOMA is very different,” the companies state. “Employers are obliged to treat one employee spouse differently from another, when each is married, and each marriage is equally lawful.”
The companies say DOMA “forces” them “to investigate the gender of the spouses of our lawfully married employees and then to single out those employees with a same-sex spouse.” For example, HIPPA laws usually consider marriage a “qualifying event” that automatically enrolls a spouse in an employee’s health insurance. Companies now spend time and money weeding out any gay employees who get married.
If companies don’t want to discriminate, because it hurts their recruiting efforts or they’re just opposed to it in principle, then DOMA causes a bunch of “workarounds” that come with wasteful administrative costs of their own.
Companies complain that when a same-sex couple legally marries, it requires them “to maintain two sets of books.” That’s because the couple is considered married under state law but not married under federal law. “The double entries ripple through human resources, payroll, and benefits administration,” they write.
Some of the companies have had to pay consultants to jury-rig systems used to track benefits and taxes so they can accommodate the double records. “These dual regimes have spawned an industry of costly compliance specialists,” they complain.
“The burden on the small employer is especially onerous,” the companies point out. Small businesses can’t afford to hire consultants, and “such burdens, standing alone, might chill a smaller employer from employing an otherwise qualified employee because she happens to be married to a same-sex spouse.”
The brief was filed on behalf of the following businesses:
Akamai Technologies, Inc.
Bank of New York Mellon Corporation
Biogen Idec, Inc.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mass., Inc.
Boston Community Capital, Inc.
Boston Medical Center Corp.
Bright Horizons Children’s Centers LLC
Calvert Investments, Inc.
The Chubb Corporation
Constellation Energy Group, Inc.
Diageo North America, Inc.
Eastern Bank Corp.
FitCorp Healthcare Centers, Inc.
Integrated Archive Systems, Inc.
Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group, LLC
Levi Strauss & Co.
Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge Trust, LLC
Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co.
Massachusetts Envelope Company, Inc.
Massachusetts Financial Services Company
National Grid USA, Inc.
Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.
New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc.
New England Cryogenic Center, Inc.
The Ogilvy Group, Inc.
Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Partners HealthCare System, Inc.
Reproductive Science Center of New England
Skyworks Solutions, Inc.
State Street Bank and Trust Co.
Stonyfield Farm, Inc.
Sun Life Financial (U.S.) Services Co., Inc.
Time Warner Cable, Inc.
Trillium Asset Management Corp.
W/S Development Associates LLC
Law and professional firms:
Burns & Levinson LLP
Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP
Foley Hoag LLP
Goodwin Proctor LLP
Goulston & Storrs, P.C.
McCarter & English LLP
Nixon Peabody LLP
Parthenon Group LLC
Ropes & Gray LLP
Seyfarth Shaw LLP
Sullivan & Worcester LLP
Professional, trade and civic organizations:
Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce
The Boston Foundation
Massachusetts Association of Health Plans
Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, Inc.
The National Fire Protection Association
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
Retailers Association of Massachusetts
And the following cities:
The City of Boston, MA
The City of Cambridge, MA
The City of New York, NY
Microsoft & Yahoo Equalize Health Benefits For Gay Employees
The New York Times reports:
With open enrollment season in full swing, several big companies have said that they would begin to reimburse gay employees for the extra taxes they pay on health insurance for their significant others. Now, two more technology giants, Microsoft and Yahoo, have decided to join in, starting Jan. 1.
Married heterosexual couples don’t have to pay the taxes because their unions are recognized by the federal government.
While Yahoo’s new policy will apply only to same-sex partners and their dependents, Microsoft said it would also begin to offer domestic partner insurance to workers with opposite-sex partners. And they will get the extra reimbursement, too.
The movement to equalize benefits has picked up speed in recent weeks, as companies revisit their employee benefit policies for the coming year. Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, and American Express have also announced similar changes. There’s still a long way to go — most companies don’t “gross up,” as the reimbursements are known. But we’ve been closely tracking corporate America’s progress in this chart.
Under federal law, employer-provided health benefits for domestic partners are counted as taxable income if the partner is not considered a dependent. On top of that, the employees cannot use pretax dollars to pay for their premiums — unlike their opposite-sex married counterparts.
So while many big companies offer health insurance coverage for domestic partners, it costs employees more money to use it. To level the playing field between gay and heterosexual employees, more companies are digging into their own pockets to cover the extra expense.
Many of them choose only to cover same-sex couples since heterosexual domestic partners have the option to marry and avoid the extra taxes. That makes Microsoft’s new policy stand out as being particularly generous.
Is your company on our chart? If not, mention the name in the comment section below and we’ll ask the company if it has any plans to change its policy. We’re also curious to learn about any big companies that do not offer domestic partner health insurance.
Bill Gates: “I Will Miss Steve Intensively”
All Things D reports:
Bill Gates, the man who was both a partner and rival to Steve Jobs during his long career at Microsoft, called working with Jobs “an insanely great honor” and said he would miss the Apple founder “immensely.”
Shortly after the announcement of Jobs’s death, Gates sent a statement to AllThingsD, offering his condolences to Jobs’s family and friends and praising Jobs’s impact.
The pair appeared together in a memorable joint interview at D5 in 2007, in which each praised the other’s accomplishments and reminisced about their long careers together.
Asked what the biggest misunderstanding about their relationship was, Jobs quipped that it was the fact that the two had kept their marriage secret for so long. Then things turned serious, with Jobs noting how the two men, once the youngest men in the room, were now the old men of technology.
“And, you know, I think of most things in life as either a Bob Dylan or a Beatles song, but there’s that one line in that one Beatles song, ‘you and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead,’” Jobs said. “And that’s clearly true here.”
For his part, Gates reflected on Jobs’s sense of the consumer and his willingness to take big risks, including Apple’s bold bet with the Mac.
- I’m truly saddened to learn of Steve Jobs’ death. Melinda and I extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends, and to everyone Steve has touched through his work.
- Steve and I first met nearly 30 years ago, and have been colleagues, competitors and friends over the course of more than half our lives.
- The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come.
- For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely.
HP Ditches Mobile Devices
The Huffington Post reports:
In discontinuing its tablet and webOS phone hardware lines, Hewlett-Packard is killing off several pieces of hardware that it had just released.
HP’s newest devices weren’t exactly tearing up the marketplace. According to one report, Best Buy had ordered 270,000 HP Touchpad tablets and only sold 25,000 of them; a March 2011 comScore report said that HP’s WebOS was being used by about 3 percent of smartphone users, badly trailing phone operating systems by Google, RIM, Apple and Microsoft.
Below is our HP Graveyard, the smartphones and tablet (oh, there’s one big tablet) that were around for the HP death spiral. WebOS, the Palm/HP operating system might be sticking around, but we definitely won’t be seeing these HP gadgets anymore, so take your time to grieve and say goodbye to these gizmos.
I really thought HP was gonna be Apple’s serious competitor.
Will Apple Follow Microsoft in Pulling Out of Christian Values Network?
The Advocate reports:
Hours after being named in a petition on Change.org, software giant Microsoft removed their online store from a referral service that funds alleged hate groups.
Started by Seattle resident Stuart Wilber, the petition claims that dozens of LGBT-friendly companies — including Apple, Dell, and Netflix — are unknowingly supporting alleged hate groups through the Christian Values Network (CVN), a link referral service that donates money to more than 170,000 charities.
WinRumors.com reports that “Customers can choose to purchase Apple hardware or a Netflix subscription through the service and Apple or Netflix would make a donation to the charity of the customer’s choice through CVN.”
But according to Wilber, The Southern Poverty Law Center has declared several of the associated charities — like Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, Summit Ministries, Abiding Truth Ministries, and Liberty Counsel — to be known “hate groups,” for their “blatant and repeated homophobic lies about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.”
More than 500 people signed the petition in less than a day, prompting Microsoft to remove itself from the program.
Wilber was pleased with the company’s prompt response. “Microsoft’s swift reaction to my Change.org petition demonstrates their strong support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities,” he said. “Microsoft has a long tradition of being supportive of our community. I assumed they would be just as upset as I was that their brand was being used by antigay hate groups to raise money. I’m glad I was right.”
A similar petition asking Apple to sever ties with CVN was started by fellow Seattleite Ben Crowther.
Read the full story here.
Apple’s Latest Weapon Against Android: Nortel’s 6,000 Patents
Cult Of Mac reports:
In a sign patents are playing an increasing role in protecting marketshare, Apple and a group of other companies paid an ‘unprecedented’ $4.5 billion to keep Nortel patents away from Google. How will the 6,000 patents be used? First stop, sue the pants of Android, experts predict.
Along with Google, Intel comes out on the losing end of an auction which ended with a price three times what experts expected. Along with Apple, Research in Motion, Ericsson, Sony and Microsoft EMC were part of the winning bid. The auction by bankrupt Nortel highlights “the defensive value of intellectual property in the fast-changing telecoms world, where established players are seeking to keep out new rivals,” Reuters reports.
Translation: the patents are all aimed at hobbling Android, which along with Apple has eaten telecom veterans such as BlackBerry-maker RIM for breakfast, lunch and dinner. “The consortium will go out and seek to make a return by prosecuting the other people, particularly the Android camp,” predicts one analyst.
Ironically, Google was given better odds early on for winning the auction, after the Mountain View, Calif. company bid $900 million in April.
The treasure trove of patents could also help Apple in defending increasing lawsuits. If a company sues you for patent infringment, the more patents you own, you can counter with infringement lawsuits of your own, according to the report. Recently, Apple has found itself in court, defending against patent-infringement claims from Samsung and others.
As Apple and Android fight for smartphone marketshare, the Nortel patent library may become important as the struggle potentially moves from retail shelves into courtrooms. As one German-based IP expert told Reuters: “Google lost an unprecedented opportunity to acquire a major bargaining chip.” For this round, at least – advantage Apple.
Microsoft CEO promises Windows 8 in 2012, 500 new features for Windows Phone 7
Los Angeles Times reports:
Windows 8 for desktop computers and tablets will ship in 2012, and an upcoming Windows Phone 7 update will include 500 new features, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said Monday at a developers conference in Japan.
Ballmer made the announcement in a speech, shortly after expressing his condolences to Japan about the earthquake and tsunami that struck the nation in March.
“It’s been 18 months since my last trip in Japan, which in my whole 30 years of working for Microsoft is the longest period of time between visits in Japan,” Ballmer said in his speech. “Microsoft is very committed to Japan. We’re celebrating 25 years this year, 25 years of Microsoft business in Japan. And to all of the developers in the room, I say: Thank you very much for the support and for the partnership.”
Ballmer said that Japan is home to Microsoft’s second-largest subsidiary and that Microsoft is looking to Japan to help the company be competitive in areas where it “is committed to investing and innovating and leading.”
One of the areas Microsoft wants to lead is “natural user interface” — using speech, gestures and touch to control computers. Microsoft has had success with its Kinect motion-sensing camera for its Xbox 360 video game console, but it has yet to release a major consumer tablet offering, which would rely on a touch-screen-oriented version of Windows.
Ballmer expressed frustration about having released Windows Phone 7 to the market last fall.
“Another big sort of effort for us in terms of transforming the future of communication is the Windows Phone,” he said. “We came to market with Windows Phone about a year later than I wish we had, shame on us.
“But we’re moving forward very actively. We launched Windows Phones last November. We’ve done a set of upgrades. We have a release that will come to market later this year in Japan. Not only is it a new release that is now much more global, but we’ve added over 500 new features to Windows Phone.”
Not long after that, Ballmer turned his attention to what Microsoft is doing on Windows 8.
“Windows 7 PCs will sell over 350 million units this year,” Ballmer said. “We’ve done a lot in Windows 7 to improve customer satisfaction. We have a brand-new user interface. We’ve added touch and ink and speech. And yet, as we look forward to the next generation of Windows systems, which will come out next year, there’s a whole lot more coming. As we progress through the year, you ought to expect to hear a lot about Windows 8. Windows 8 slates, tablets, PCs, a variety of different form factors.”
With the Lion OS update for Mac I’m quite exited, but I guess most of my PC friends won’t be as exited for this news. I picture something like this:
Microsoft To Purchase Skype
Microsoft has agreed to purchase Skype for $8.5B.
The acquisition will “increase the accessibility of real-time video and voice communications, bringing benefits to both consumers and enterprise users and generating significant new business and revenue opportunities,” Microsoft said. Skype will support Microsoft devices like Xbox and Kinect, Windows Phone and an array of Windows devices. Microsoft will also connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live and other communities. Microsoft said it will continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms. “Skype is a phenomenal service that is loved by millions of people around the world,” said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. “Together we will create the future of real-time communications so people can easily stay connected to family, friends, clients and colleagues anywhere in the world.”
Cable news networks have increasingly turned to Skype to eliminate the cost of bringing interview subjects to their studios.
I wonder if now that Microsoft is buying Skype, will the Group calls will be for free (as it is with Apple’s iChat)? And is the quality of the calls really gonna improve? Cause if Microsoft is gonna invest in quality and in non-Microsoft platforms as it has been doing with Microsoft MSN, then I’m changing to OOVOO.
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