Archive for the ‘ Yahoo ’ Category

A Microsoft bid for Yahoo might put Andreessen in top role

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November 29th, 2011

As bidding for Yahoo comes down to the wire, reports say that Microsoft will indeed be among the suitors and that Web browser pioneer Marc Andreessen is considering taking on the task of executive chairman at Yahoo as part of an offer.

The New York Times’ DealBook blog reported a consortium of investors led by Silver Lake and Microsoft is among several groups submitting bids for a minority stake in Yahoo today. The Times, which cited “people briefed on the matter,” also reported that Yahoo’s financial advisers, Allen & Company and Goldman Sachs, set the end of business today as the deadline for bids for a minority piece of the company.

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Separately, AllThingsD reported that Andreessen was contemplating taking the executive chairman role at Yahoo as part of a bid that would include his Andreessen Horowitz venture firm. Andreessen Horowitz is bidding with the Silver Lake group, according to the report. The firm previously teamed with Silver Lake on its acquisition of Skype, and then on the sale of that company to Microsoft.

The AllThingsD report suggests that Andreessen has significant concerns about playing a major role at Yahoo. He seems uncertain about future growth prospects, worried about the work required to fix Yahoo’s many problems, and concerned about the impact his role might have on his friend and Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang.

According to the reports, the company is focused on considering bids for minority pieces of the company. According to the Times, the company would then borrow to finance a stock buyback. Given than about 10 percent of the company is still held by Yang and co-founder David Filo, the deal for 20 percent of the company, coupled with the buyback, would give the winning investor group a majority holding.

The Times said that TPG Capital is also expected to submit a bid proposal, and that other offers could come from Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, THL Partners and Hellman & Friedman. And it reported that Yahoo’s Chinese Internet partner Alibaba–which Yahoo still owns a 40 percent stake in–is talking with private equity firms about putting together an offer for the entire company.

Which Tech Giant Will Own the Future?

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November 4th, 2011

Of all of the companies, Apple has the most difficult path. This is because it recently lost the one person in the world who had the proper skills to run that company. This is because Steve Jobs redesigned Apple around his unique skill set. To continue at its current level, it can’t just be good — it has to be outstanding, and the firms that did this consistently last decade can be counted on one hand with four fingers left over.

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I ran into a new forward-looking video from Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) last week that showcases a number of Microsoft technologies as they might be used a decade from now. Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) produced a video a few years ago, equally compelling, showcasing a future based on its technology; unfortunately, it hasn’t been able to demonstrate a single design win yet that indicates it is on that path. This got me thinking of a Philips (NYSE: PHG) video (unfortunately I don’t have a link) in the 1990s that basically predicted the iPhone — a device it never actually made.

Over the years, it has often seemed like the companies in power have people inside who can accurately see the future but are often cursed by people running the business who can’t or won’t execute against that vision. They are able to see the future but in some terrible parody of the cursed Greek prophetess Cassandra, who could see but not change the future, they are unable to benefit from it.

I’ll look at four companies that are at various stages and consider their future chances: Microsoft appears to be in decline; Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) is in transition; Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) appears to be the next Microsoft — in a bad way; and Facebook is the current heir-apparent.

I’ll close with my product of the week: a notebook from Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) that looks like it was carved out of a block of aluminum and blends practicality with design elegance.
Microsoft on the Cusp

This is now Steve Ballmer’s Microsoft, and in many ways the firm bears little resemblance to the user-focused company that Paul Allen and Bill Gates launched in the 1980s. It is financially successful but clearly struggling in a market defined by Apple gadgets and user focus — which is somewhat ironic, given Microsoft’s initial success was largely because it was more user-focused than IBM (NYSE: IBM). The video I started out with accurately showcases a possible future for the company, but its historic problem is that it is too unfocused as a company, and the result is too many efforts that are massively under-resourced.

For instance, with Mango, the latest iteration of the Windows Phone platform, Microsoft has a product that is actually competitive and arguably better than Android — yet it is still losing market share, largely because it is massively underfunding it. It is spending billions on Bing, but the lack of progress there indicates it is under-resourced as well.

The test is not how much you spend, but whether you are making progress — and this new Microsoft focuses too much on containing costs and not enough on funding at levels that ensure success. That, to a large extent, is why it fails.

Channeling Yoda for a moment, it tries but it needs to do — and the end result continues to fall short of expectations. If Microsoft could accurately assess the cost of success, it would likely choose different battles to fight rather than underfunding the battles it is fighting. Seems like a simple thing, but if it made this one change, it would be far better for it.
Google: Death by Envy and Advertising

In 2007, this video foretold a future in which Google wins. It predicts that Google buys Microsoft in 2015 and pretty much takes over the world by 2050. Is really is rather interesting to watch. I do think it accurately showcases Google’s potential, but I don’t think Google is on this path either.

As was revealed in Steve Jobs’ biography, Jobs himself, effectively speaking from the grave, argued that Google was becoming Microsoft — too unfocused and too willing to toss crap out to the market. In short, Google needed to focus and grow up.

Children tend to obsess over showing up their elders. Mature adults focus on goals tied to success — well we should, anyway. Steve Jobs accurately described Google’s childlike excessive focus on Microsoft as its biggest problem and the reason that it has become a poor parody of that company.

Recently it even got its own version of the old Microsoft consent decree (which ironically mirrored IBM’s decades before). As I was writing, this info graphic was released showcasing that Android, Google’s premier operating system, pretty much screws the people who use it.

This brings up a second clear problem for Google, and that is quality. By separating the revenue from the product (it funds everything indirectly through advertising), it does what any product company knows is death: It makes its developers a cost center. Cost centers are naturally starved for funding and generally underperform as a result. So, for Google to reach its potential, it needs to stop focusing on showing Microsoft up, find a way to adequately resource its efforts, and focus instead on what it wants to be when it grows up — or it will fail, as Netscape did, for being the perennial child.

I also doubt Google wants to be remembered as the company that stole from Steve Jobs while being mentored and while Jobs was dying of cancer.
Facebook: Nibbled to Death

Facebook is clearly its own company. It doesn’t seem to be focusing excessively on any predecessor, and it is shifting its revenue sources from pure advertising into things more closely connected to products, like gaming. Interestingly, the video that showcases Facebook is being created, and it is being crowdsourced. This approach also showcases both the promise and problem for Facebook in the future. The video isn’t done, and the teaser is a collection of disjointed views from observers on the company’s future — kind of the video equivalent of a group of monkeys trying to type Shakespeare.

Because Facebook’s long-term success is most tied to how people interact, the core skills needed are more closely tied to skills like ethnography than they are to the engineering skills that typically define companies like this and currently define Facebook. In fact, coverage of Mark Zuckerberg (the CEO and vision behind Facebook) suggests that he is about as far from a people expert as we are likely to get in this business.

Already we are seeing services like Tagged, a social service designed to create deeper relationships, and Nextdoor, a Facebook-like secure offering focused on neighborhoods nibbling around Facebook’s edges. Services like this showcase Facebook’s core weakness — the very real problem that humans currently can’t scale to the relationship numbers that Facebook provides, and general services like Facebook have trouble focusing on the needs of small demographics or distinct geographies.

In short, Facebook’s future will likely be dependent on its ability to develop and apply leading expertise on human behavior and remain good enough for the majority of people looking for a social service. If it doesn’t, it isn’t Google it has to worry about — it is being nibbled to death by a ton of better-focused competing services, as barriers to entry remain very low in this segment.
Wrapping Up: Apple – The Next RIM or Reborn Again?

Of all of the companies, Apple has the most difficult path. This is because it recently lost the one person in the world who had the proper skills to run that company. This is because Steve Jobs redesigned Apple around his unique skill set. To continue at its current level, it can’t just be good — it has to be outstanding, and the firms that did this consistently last decade can be counted on one hand with four fingers left over.

Atari, Commodore, Netscape, Palm, Motorola and now Research in Motion (RIM) have all demonstrated that today’s champion can easily be tomorrow’s bozo. It doesn’t feel like Apple’s board or executive team has yet fully grasped that Apple can’t be sustained as it is without Jobs. It will have to change or find someone who can actually replace him.

Right now, this video showcases Apple’s future, and it desperately needs to change this outlook to something far more positive. In 1996, commenting on Apple, Steve Jobs appears in this video to have provided direction. But in the end, the company will have to maintain product passion at the top to continue to dominate — and right now, that is broken at Apple. Interestingly, this video by Corning may represent the best future for Apple, particularly if the new Apple TV rumor is true.

In the end, each of these companies must find in itself the vision, the focus, and the willingness to take the needed risks to define the future. Each could, but odds are that none of them will. Something to think about this week.
Product of the Week: Dell XPS 14z

Product of the Week

The XPS line has always been one of my favorites, and for most of this year, I carried the 17-inch older version of this product. The XPS 14z, initially released in China, represents the current state of the art in Windows 7 notebook computers. Pretty to look at and elegant in use, this laptop computer, at 14 inches, hits the proper balance between portability and usability in terms of size.

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Dell XPS 14z
Dell XPS 14z
(click image to enlarge)

Twelve inches is far more portable, but the screen and keyboard tradeoffs make them hard to use for heavy writers. Seventeen inches is an amazing desktop replacement, but portable it isn’t, and the weight and inability to use it in many planes — even in business class — makes it problematic.

While the 13.3-inch screen size is typically the better form factor, the unique LG Shuriken display this laptop uses is a 14-inch panel in a 13.3-inch mount, giving you the benefits of more screen size in a smaller laptop.

Dell went to a great deal of trouble to make sure this laptop balanced properly and unlike other premium laptops in its class (read MacBook Pros) it won’t try to iron your legs and dissipates heat properly.

With the passing of Steve Jobs, Dell is the only large PC company still run by its founder, and the XPS line is that company’s premier line. As a result, this is the product that is likely most closely designed for its founder.

Balance is important in any product, and whether you are buying from Apple or Dell, paying a little more for something you’ll depend upon is always worth the price — at least, it is to me. Since the XPS 14z is the quintessential Dell product and the most balanced Windows 7 consumer notebook I’ve yet seen, it is my product of the week.

Google (NSDQ:GOOG) and Microsoft (NSDQ:MSFT) are likely helping finance rival bids to acquire Yahoo (NSDQ:YHOO), with mountains of cash as likely a motive as competitive reasons, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

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Google has talked to at least two private equity firms about the possibility of financing bids to acquire Yahoo, the Journal reported.

The word of the potential deal comes less than a month after it was reported that Microsoft may be looking for a partner to bid on Yahoo.

The possibility of both Google and Microsoft financing rival bids for Yahoo makes a powerful statement about the future of the Internet and search engines.

Yahoo and Microsoft in 2009 agreed to work together in the online search and advertisement business, with Microsoft’s Bing search engine powering Yahoo’s search capabilities and Yahoo becoming the exclusive worldwide relationship sales force for both companies’ premium search advertisers.

A successful bid by a Microsoft-backed private equity firm could help cement that company’s relationship with Yahoo.

At the same time, Google is Yahoo’s top rival in the online search engine business, an important business because searches help drive a large portion of internet advertising dollars. If Google were to back a successful bid for Yahoo, it could help prevent Microsoft from capitalizing on its Yahoo relationship.

The Journal, citing two unnamed sources, wrote that Google is in talks with two private equity firms about the possibility of financing a bid for Yahoo.

Such a move, however, would come under strong antitrust scrutiny, especially since an agreement between the two regarding an advertising partnership was scuttled by the U.S. government in 2008.

Google and Microsoft may be looking to finance bids for Yahoo for reasons other than competitive drivers. The Journal, in a separate report, wrote that Google has about $42.6 billion in cash, while Microsoft has about $57.4 billion in cash. For both companies, the bulk of that cash is overseas, and could be put to better use as a loan to private equity firms than leaving it in the bank, the Journal wrote.

Yahoo’s share prices rose 3.7 percent to $16.71 on the news of the rival bids.

Google did not respond to a request for further information.

How to live with malware infections

Written by admin
July 5th, 2011

Get used to it: Malware can’t be completely blocked or eliminated. But you can manage your PCs, mobile devices, and networks to function despite being infected

Malware survival tip No. 2: Deploy technologies and tactics that can help keep malware from spreading


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Even when some of your systems are infected with a virus to the point where nothing seems to remove it completely, that doesn’t mean the virus has to spread to other systems in your organization.

When you discover or suspect such a virus, take the infected systems offline as soon as possible to reduce the chance of spreading the malware or compromising other systems. Next, reapply a known, clean image, says Andy Hayter, the antimalcode program manager at ICSA Labs, a testing and certification firm.

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Putting in a layered defense that includes technologies such as firewalls, antispam, intrusion prevention systems, intrusion detection systems, and antivirus software — plus keeping systems up to date with the latest patches — should help prevent the malware from infecting an entire organization, Hayter says.

“Control gateways between network segments and apply greater monitoring and control over internal networks,” adds Richard Zuleg, a consultant at security consulting firm SystemExperts.

Encrypt traffic and data whenever possible, Zuleg advises, and use technology such as server and desktop virtualization both to quickly redeploy systems or even reset them to clean images and to separate data from the system.

“Companies need to be controlling who has advanced privileges on systems and strictly control access to data,” Zuleg says. “If infected PCs are to become an accepted part of a network segment, then you will have no trust in that segment and must consider it to be like the public Internet.”

New network analysis tools will soon emerge that let you better identify where malware exists on the network and how to best contain viruses, says Marc Seybold, CIO at the State University of New York at Old Westbury. When such technology becomes available, “if devices that Jane Smith uses to access the network are persistently trying to transmit data to outside domains that are in some way anomalous compared to other traffic on the network or her long-term patterns, then additional attention would be focused on such a user’s devices and remedial action taken,” he says. Among the companies working on such technology are Alcatel-Lucent, Riverbed, and SonicWall.

At the same time, Seybold says, network traffic flows will start to be more compartmentalized and insulated from each other as network access control and policy-based management are combined with application flow monitoring. “As these are linked up, full behavioral analysis based on end-to-end application flows bound to specific users will become possible,” he says. Eventually there might be predictive analytics that could preemptively intercept malware transmissions based on past user behavior, “but that is still science fiction,” he says.

Malware survival tip No. 3: Diversify your IT infrastructure to decrease reliance on one or two OSes or browsers
It might make sense to move away from the Windows monoculture, which can be more quickly and easily attacked, and bring in other operating systems and devices so that you know a malware infection can never take down everyone in the organization. Maybe some people who handle critical systems or data can use a Linux PC or a Mac OS X PC so that they’re not as likely to be hurt by a virus aimed specifically at a common Windows vulnerability.

Along these lines, consider avoiding a browser monoculture, because a lot of current malware invades systems via the browser. Evaluate browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera to see which fit best with your enterprise applications and user base.

“Diversity is always good to prevent your entire infrastructure from coming down,” says B. Clifford Neuman, director of the University of Southern California’s Center for Computer Systems Security. “But there is the flip side to this strategy in that it gives an intruder many different possible choices of attacked system in which to get a foothold into your organization.” You trade potentially limiting infection for having more possible infection entry points.

Of course, whenever you make a move to switch operating systems, you might encounter resistance from some quarters. Tony Hildesheim, senior vice president of IT at financial services firm Redwood Credit Union, says his company is reviewing the use of alternative operating systems, browsers, and some business applications. But “none of these options appear to be all that popular with the business units,” he notes.

Technology diversity is not always an effective defense per se. ICSA Labs’ Hayter points out that malware infections are not limited to desktop PC environments. “There are many serious pieces of malware that can infect other [operating systems] and devices, be they desktop-based or mobile,” he says. “Additionally, malware can cross platforms from one OS or device to another, further requiring a layered defense plan.”

Yahoo said it only had to make one minor adjustment to its website for traffic optimization as a result of World IPv6 Day.

“Yahoo is very excited about how smoothly World IPv6 Day went for everybody. It’s a great testament to the preparation that went into this event,” said Jason Fesler, an IPv6 architect at Yahoo. “The early data says there is minimal risk to pushing forward.”


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BACKGROUND: World IPv6 Day: Tech industry’s most-watched event since Y2K

Akamai and Limelight also said they were stepping up their efforts toward full, commercial-grade support of IPv6 due to the success of World IPv6 Day.

“We’re going to look at the data for IPv6 usage and use that to improve our services,” said Andy Champagne, director of engineering at Akamai, which had 30 customers participate in World IPv6 Day using its beta IPv6 service. “Then we are going to work with our customers to roll out IPv6.”

Tom Coffeen, director of global network architecture for Limelight, said it had IPv6-enabled every server on its network for World IPv6 Day and that it had encountered only minor issues that involved some routing policy changes.

“We were surprised and pleased to see no bugs. The few issues we did encounter were quickly resolved,” Coffeen said. “We had many customers choosing to stay IPv6-enabled going forward. We’re ready to move to an opt-out model for our customers, where they have to request no IPv6 availability.”

Despite these successes, World IPv6 Day participants conceded that IPv6 still has a long way to go before it approaches the ubiquity of IPv4.

Colitti said Google estimates that only 0.3% of its users have adopted IPv6. He said it was too early to determine how many of its users suffered from broken IPv6 connections; estimates prior to World IPv6 Day put IPv6 brokenness at 0.03% to 0.05% of Internet users.

Similarly, Lee said that Facebook estimates that about 0.2% of its users were able to reach the website via IPv6.

“Once the world gets to about 1% adoption [of IPv6], then this will be for real,” Lee said. “That’s the initial mass that you need to have for global adoption.”

MORE: What if IPv6 simply fails to catch on?

Content providers are migrating to IPv6 because the Internet is running out of addresses using IPv4. The free pool of unassigned IPv4 addresses expired in February, and in April the Asia Pacific region ran out of all but a few IPv4 addresses being held in reserve for startups. The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), which doles out IP addresses to network operators in North America, says it will deplete its supply of IPv4 addresses this fall.

IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses and can support 4.3 billion devices connected directly to the Internet, but IPv6 uses 128-bit addresses and can connect up a virtually unlimited number of devices: 2 to the 128th power. IPv6 offers the promise of faster, less-costly Internet services than the alternative, which is to extend the life of IPv4 using network address translation (NAT) devices.

Web mail users at Yahoo and Hotmail have been hit with the same kind of targeted attacks that were disclosed earlier this week by Google, according to security software vendor Trend Micro.

Trend Micro described two similar attacks against Yahoo Mail and Windows Live Hotmail in a blog post, published Thursday. “It’s an ongoing issue for more than just Gmail,” said Nart Villeneuve, a senior threat researcher with Trend Micro. Villeneuve believes that Facebook accounts have also been used to spread similar attacks.


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BY THE NUMBERS: Microsoft: One in 14 downloads is malicious

Google made headlines Wednesday after revealing that several hundred Gmail users — including government officials, activists and journalists — had been the victims of targeted spearphishing attacks.

Google mentioned phishing on Wednesday, but the criminals have been using other attacks too. In March, Google said that hackers were taking advantage of a flaw in Microsoft’s Windows software to launch politically motivated hacks against activists.

Corporate networks have been under attack for years, but hackers now see personal Web mail accounts as a way to get information that can help them sneak into computers that would otherwise be locked down. “People always think of these attacks as isolated cases, but they’re more like a series of successful and failed attacks over a longer period of time,” Villeneuve said. “It’s not a one-off attack.”

For example, in the Gmail phishing attacks, the hackers used a little-known Microsoft protocol to figure out what type of antivirus software their victims were using. By knowing what antivirus program they were up against, they could then build attack code and then test it against their target security software to be sure that it would go undetected.

And by trolling through their victims’ email messages, the attackers could write believable-sounding messages that their targets would be more likely to click on or open up. That’s how the victims lose control of their computers: by opening, for example, a specially written pdf document or by taking their browsers to a malicious website. “This is the latest version of State’s joint statement,” read one fake email, used by the Gmail phishers. “My understanding is that State put in placeholder econ language and am happy to have us fill in but in their rush to get a cleared version from the WH, they sent the attached to Mike.”

“People, whether they’re human rights activists or they’re government officials, tend to have personal Web mail,” Villeneuve said. “It’s a good way for the attackers to get information on those individuals but also to get information that they could use for an attack of the corporate network of those individuals.”

Google said that the phishing attacks it had detected were launched from computers located in Jinan, China. That led some to suspect that the phishing was state-sponsored, but China’s U.S. Embassy said Thursday that China is the victim of cybercrime, not the perpetrator. “As a responsible player in cyberspace, China strongly opposes unlawful online activities and supports international cooperation in striking down on such misdeeds,” said Wang Baodong, an embassy spokesman, in an email. “Any claims of so-called Chinese state support for hacking are completely fictitious, and blaming misdeeds on China is irresponsible and unacceptable.”