New York (CNN) – Can an old dog learn new tricks? That is the question facing tech giant Microsoft.
Once a must-have growth stock, Microsoft shares have been stuck in the mid $20 range. While Apple has surged 391% in the past five years and Google has risen 28%, Microsoft shares are down 8%.
I caught up with Steve Ballmer at the launch of Office 365, the cloud version of its popular software package and a product the company hopes will dispel the image that they are trapped in the past.
He acknowledged the company suffers from a perception problem. “It is hard to understand. Half of the world’s inboxes are on Hotmail. We have maybe 50, 100% more customers than Gmail. We are not newbies.
Hong Kong, China (CNN) –- Dot-anything. The possibilities for your new web address are now practically endless. And they don’t even need to be in English anymore. That’s because ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, voted Monday to relax the rules limiting domain names to the 22 that currently exist.
That means move over .com, .org and .gov.
You’ll be joined by .canon, .unicef and .paris. These and several other known brands, organizations and cities have already said they’re going to apply.
While big names will be applying for the new web addresses between January and April 2012, I’ll wager you won’t be among them – unless you have $185,000 to spend on the new domain name application fees (as much as I would like to, I can admit I won’t be applying for .inocencio).
When Apple boss Steve Jobs took the wraps off iCloud, the company's new cloud services, he gave us a glimpse at the future of computing.
What is iCloud? It's a system for storing various bits of your data online, and pushing all that data to all your devices so that they are always in sync. For example, let's say you create a document on your Mac. Without needing to hit "Save", iCloud will automatically save a copy of it online, and push it out so you can edit that same document on your iPhone or iPad.
Apple calls iCloud a breakthrough. Jobs says it's the culmination of a decade-long effort to kill the desktop file system.
(CNN) – A few years ago a disgruntled employee for a large multinational automotive firm left the company - but when he walked out the door, he also walked out with plans for a new car model under development on a cheap USB drive.
When the plans were leaked, the cost to the company was an estimated $1 billion in lost sales and increased research and development costs, according to a security expert who worked on the case.
"The information ended up being published, which saw sales plummet for the existing model as customers decided to wait for the new model," said the expert, who asked not to be named due to confidentiality agreements with the automaker.
Yet that theft will never showed up in criminal statistics, nor will the cost be listed in public ledgers as cost due to "cybercrime." Murky by nature, cybercrime losses are difficult to categorize. That helps keep them hidden from the public eye by companies leery of publicizing breaches in corporate security.
Hong Kong, China (CNN) – Is the Chinese government behind Google’s most recent hack attack? Or is an unaffiliated rogue group of China tech geeks going after the personal e-mails of prominent Americans? This is next to impossible to know.
That’s why U.S. President Barack Obama is holding off – at least for now – on any official finger-pointing at the country. This is despite White House staffers themselves having been targeted, among hundreds of others including activists, journalists and government figures. That includes one Cabinet-level official, according to the Washington Post. In the meantime, an alphabet soup of U.S. security bodies are investigating – from the FBI to the DHS and the NSC.
As any China watcher would expect though, Beijing is bristling at the thought it’s being singled out for blame. China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lei Hong pointed out cyber attacks happen everywhere.
"Hacking is an international problem. China is also a victim of hacking. Claims that the Chinese government supports hacking activities are totally groundless and are driven by an ulterior motive."
Now Beijing did not specify more on these motives but it’s fair to say they center on raising suspicion and fear of China as it grows in political and economic power.
Then there’s the revelation of China’s Blue Army.
Last week China’s Defense Ministry confirmed its existence. It’s a highly-trained, elite cyber wing of the People’s Liberation Army. It’s got just about 30 online soldiers. And its stated purpose is two-fold. The first – to defend the country from cyber attacks. The second – to fire off its own online barrages in case of war.
And it’s the Blue Army’s latter purpose that’s got foreign governments and China critics nervous. (One interesting side note – whether unfortunately accidental or distinctly on purpose – is that the phrase “Blue Army” is usually applied to the enemy in People’s Liberation Army exercises. The PLA itself used to be called the Red Army.)
Should governments fear the Blue Army?
In the interest of their own national security the answer may be yes. But, to be fair, other countries do have their own versions. The United States, Israel, Britain and Australia have confirmed theirs. But few other countries have them – or at least have not admitted to them.
Looking ahead, the next development for Google’s claims of a China hacking will be verification. This will be a test for U.S. cyber sleuths to confirm attacks came from China. But well-trained hackers can disguise their origin of attack, making it seem they’re in one city when they’re actually in another country.
And what then?
If it’s proven that the Chinese government is behind the attacks, what would or could the U.S. do? The U.S. and China are intertwined as the world’s number one and two economic powers. Idealists will hope that Beijing isn’t behind those hack attacks on Washington. Realists will say both are likely doing the same to each other.
(CNN) – The 2005 movie “Thank You for Smoking,” which follows the travails of a media spin doctor for Big Tobacco, ends with our antihero in a boardroom of a new industry client. “So be straight with me – is it true?” he asks the executives in the room.
Muddled, nervous crosstalk ensues until the PR guru raises his hand.
“Look, gentlemen – practice these words in front of the mirror: ‘Although we are constantly exploring the subject, currently there is no evidence that links cell phone usage to brain cancer’.”
The executives audibly sigh with relief.
They aren’t sighing today. On Tuesday the World Health Organization announced that mobile phones are now being categorized as a “possible carcinogen.” The European Environmental Agency has pushed for more studies, saying cell phones could be as big a public health risk as smoking, asbestos and leaded gasoline.
New York (CNN) – There was a lot of cheering in the New York offices of LinkedIn – with good reason. On its first day of trading shares of the social networking site for professionals soared over 100%. That kind of price action raises a lot of questions.
Can the company like up to the hype? Do people only use Linkedin when they are looking for a job? Did they leave too much money on the table by not pricing the IPO higher?
I put some of these concerns to Jeff Weiner the CEO. He wouldn’t address the valuation directly but he did tell me they were very focused on finding investors who were focused on the long-term. It was his primary concern in this IPO. Weiner is very clear that he and his team are planning on plowing most of their profits back into the company. They may not even be profitable next year.
(CNN) – The hackers who hit Sony’s online PlayStation videogame service not only forced the company to take down its 70 million-plus user network, known as PSN, but struck a blow against the company’s strategic long-term plans.
“Sony has positioned PlayStation 3, not as a games console,” Tim Ingham of Computer and Video Gaming Magazine told CNN. “Indeed, it’s come out and said it sees it as an entertainment hub that sits in the middle of the lounge and provides movies, TV.”
Sony took down the network on April 20, yet waited nearly a week before telling customers that personal data may have been compromised, much to the ire of users.
The hackers have taken personal details – such as name, birth date, email address, user name and password – and other information that may have been taken includes credit card number, expiration date, billing address and password security questions.
Sony has recommended changing passwords and watching for suspicious billing activity. Others recommend cancelling credit cards as a precautionary measure.
“This is very, very serious – I think it’s hard to overstate how bad this is from Sony and potentially for consumers,” Johnny Minkley, editor of EuroGamer.net, told CNN.
PSN along with Qriocity – Sony’s online music and movie stores – are seen as Sony’s foothold in future plans to eventually go head-to-head with the likes of the iTunes store.
“PlayStation Network is a hugely profitable part of not only Sony PlayStation, but Sony itself,” Ingham said. “And online services are at the very heart of what Sony sees its 10-year game plan as, in entertainment. So, for it to pull the plug for a week is a really, really big deal.”
A larger issue lurks in the minds of businesses that are dependent on credit card purchases via customers online – will cases like this hurt not only Sony, but the public’s trust of e-commerce?
Barcelona (CNN) – The queue for the toilets says it all. Twenty men patiently stand in line as I saunter past into the ladies’ loo – which is mercifully queue free.
It’s almost unheard of – except here in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress, which definitely feels like a man’s world.
“I wish there were more women here,” says Robin Wauters, a tech journalist from Belgium. “If there are any women, they’re in marketing and PR. The cause of the divide is because there are not many women engineers, developers and managers.”
“It’s a closed circle driven for years by men,” says sales manager Daniel Barbieri from Colombia. “Women are ashamed to be in a closed and aggressive environment.”
About Business 360
CNN International's business anchors and correspondents get to grips with the issues affecting world business, and they want your questions and feedback.