Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer isn't getting his full bonus this year. In an annual proxy statement filed with the SEC, the software maker has revealed that Ballmer is receiving 79 percent of his total eligible "incentive plan award" in 2013. Previously, Ballmer received 91 percent of his eligible bonus. In the filing Microsoft makes it clear why Ballmer hasn't achieved 100 percent bonus: Surface RT and Windows 8.
"The company faced challenges due to weakness in the consumer PC market. While the launch of Windows 8 in October 2012 resulted in over 100 million licenses sold, the challenging PC market coupled with the significant product launch costs for Windows 8 and Surface resulted in an 18% decline in Windows Division operating income. Slower than anticipated sales of Surface RT devices and the decision to reduce prices to accelerate sales resulted in a $900 million inventory charge."
Microsoft famously took a $900 million hit on Surface RT in its latest quarter, owing to poor sales of its first tablet hardware. Ballmer recently admitted Microsoft built too many Surface RTs, and the company lowered the price of them by 30 percent worldwide in an effort to boost sales. It now plans to introduce its new Surface 2 tablets later this month. While Microsoft revealed 100 million license sales for Windows 8 earlier this year, with the exception of a brief update on August activations, it has been suspiciously quiet on full figures ever since.
Ballmer still gets $1.26 million
CEO Steve Ballmer now plans to step down within the next 12 months, and Microsoft's board of directors are tasked with finding a replacement to execute the "One Microsoft" strategy. Ballmer bid a tearful farewell to Microsoft employees during his final company meeting as CEO. Set to Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes' "I've had The Time of My Life," Ballmer danced, screamed, and cried his way through the final moments of his exit speech. While he may have only achieved 79 percent of his potential bonus, Ballmer will still receive a base salary of $697,500 and a bonus of $550,000 for 2013.
Apple's OS X Mavericks is nearly ready for its public release, which means that development on its successor is now underway. Mavericks, version 10.9 of Apple's venerable Mac operating system, is expected to launch toward the end of this month, according to 9to5Mac's Mark Gurman. When it arrives it'll include more than 200 new features, a few of which Gurman says haven't yet been formally announced — such as the ability to block phone numbers and Apple ID's in the FaceTime and Messages apps.
The report says Mavericks could reach Golden Master status (which means it's finally ready for consumers) at Apple as early as this weekend. The follow up to Mavericks, OS X 10.10 (it hasn't been given a fancy nickname just yet), will continue to bring design elements from iOS 7 and iCloud over to the desktop. It is believed that Apple will continue its longstanding tradition and announce OS X 10.10 next summer alongside iOS 8 — likely at WWDC 2014.
Samsung has just announced its earnings guidance for the third quarter of 2013, and it looks like records will be broken yet again. The company is estimating approximately 59 trillion won (around $53.9 billion) in total revenue, with operating profit coming in at about 10.1 trillion won (roughly $9.4 billion). Should the numbers prove correct — and Samsung has historically been extremely accurate when it comes to its estimates — it would be an increase over the 9.53 trillion won (around $8.5 billion) in operating profit and 57.46 trillion won (about $51 billion) in sales it reported the previous quarter.
It's an even bigger increase when compared to the same time last year, when Samsung reported 52.18 trillion won ($48.5 billion) in sales and 8.06 trillion won ($7.5 billion) in profit. That's a year-over-year increase in revenue of over 13 percent. Last quarter investors were a bit underwhelmed by Samsung's results, voicing concerns that growth in the high-end smartphone market could hinder future growth. There's no sales figures available for this more quarter yet, but when they final numbers are released smartphone sales will no doubt be an area of intense interest for those looking to determine whether Samsung can maintain its current pace.
HTC has released its unaudited earnings for the first quarter of 2013, and the results confirm what the company itself predicted in July — it's losing money. The smartphone manufacturer made a net loss of NT$2.97 billion (about $101 million) on revenue of NT$47.05 billion (about $1.6 billion). Operating loss was NT$3.50 billion, or about $119 million.
HTC had earlier predicted revenues of between NT$50 and 60 billion for this quarter, a slip from analyst consensus and down on last year's NT$70.2 billion. It appears that sales of devices such as the HTC One over the past few months have failed to meet even the company's expectations, with revenue down 33 percent year-on-year. The loss is the first posted by HTC since it went public in 2002, and comes just as rival Samsung predicted record profits for the same quarter.
With Microsoft's Nokia acquisition raising questions over the future of third-party Windows Phone devices, Redmond has its work cut out convincing OEMs to continue to license its struggling software — and a report from Bloomberg News suggests that the software giant may have gone to extremes. According to the report, Microsoft last month asked HTC to install Windows Phone as a "separate option" on Android handsets, and offered to "cut or eliminate" the license fee as an incentive.
Redmond reportedly offered to "cut or eliminate" license fee
The talks are said to be in the preliminary stages, and the exact mechanics haven't been worked out. The report says it's unclear whether a hypothetical phone would run Windows Phone and Android concurrently, or allow users to select a default. Another possibility would be for Microsoft to propose simply converting an existing Android handset to run the Windows Phone OS, similar to the way Nokia released the Lumia 800 based on its N9 design.
Microsoft appears to be sticking with its strategy of licensing software to other manufacturers, even though it will soon produce its own smartphones. Outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer reportedly visited China last week in an effort to court new third-party hardware partners; HTC, which just posted its first ever quarterly loss, is said to have no plans for future Windows Phone devices.
More bad news for BlackBerry: Rogers, Canada's largest wireless company, won't be offering the ailing phone manufacturer's latest Z30 model.
The Canadian provider's president, Robert Bruce, called the new Z30 "good," but also claimed it was "on the high end," and "maybe a little niche-y." He justified the decision by saying "we need to make decisions about what phones are the phones our customers are most interested in."
Rogers has the largest number of BlackBerry subscribers in Canada
The Z30 is BlackBerry's next flagship phone, and an attempt to cast away the shadows of the disastrous Z10 launch. BlackBerry is pitching to shift away from the consumer market — and the Z30 is one of BlackBerry's two planned high-end devices — but Rogers' decision will hurt: the provider has the largest number of BlackBerry subscribers in Canada, suggesting a user-base that'd be more inclined to upgrade to the newer model than most.
Rogers and BlackBerry have previously had strong ties, as The New York Times reports. BlackBerry used Rogers' network to develop its early products, and the two were working with each other ten years before BlackBerry's first wireless email device. That relationship had continued through this year: the Canadian provider hosted the country's debut of BlackBerry 10 devices at its head offices in February.
BlackBerry recently received a buyout offer from another Canadian company: Fairfax Financial. The deal is expected to be finalized within a month pending regulatory approval.
Whether you prefer Stanley Kubrick's judicious use of classical music in 2001: A Space Odyssey or Vangelis' disembodied electronica in Blade Runner, there's no denying the importance of a good soundtrack in elevating a sci-fi movie to cult status. The latest candidate for such a prized spot in film lore is Gravity, which is just hitting cinemas now amid widespread critical acclaim. The composer of its soundtrack is Steven Price, who most recently authored the nostalgic soundscapes of The World's End. Steven has sat down for a pair of spoiler-free interviews in the buildup to the movie's release, explaining some of the background for how he got the job and the close working relationship he had with director Alfonso Cuarón. Both men were keen to "do something different" with the Gravity score, blurring the line between organic sounds and electronic instrumentation. If the movie isn't out in your local multiplex yet, you can sample the product of their labor on Warner Bros' Gravity website, which lets you listen to the entire soundtrack.