Olongapo Telecom & Information Technology

Friday, February 08, 2008

VoIP becoming popular among local businesses, says HP

By Lawrence Casiraya - INQUIRER.net
Local companies are beginning to adopt convergent network applications starting with Internet telephony, according to a local HP executive.

According to Martin Diez, local sales manager for ProCurve, HP’s networking unit, even medium-sized companies are adopting IP telephony or voice-over IP (VoIP) because it is proving to be more cost-effective.

“It is the starting point even for SMBs (small and medium businesses),” Diez said, referring to VoIP, which allows voice calls via Internet instead of over traditional phone lines.

Aside from VoIP, other applications like IPTV, telepresence (or high-resolution) videoconferencing and even IP surveillance cameras can all be integrated and managed within a single network.

“There are also companies, for example, that have migrated from analog cameras to IP-connected surveillance cameras in their warehouses,” Diez noted.

The convergence of these applications that rely on the Internet has led to the term "unified communications."

"Businesses now depend on these applications to generate revenues," Diez said.

What is helping drive the adoption of IP-based applications is open standards, or the ability to interconnect different applications regardless of whether an end-user is using from ProCurve or rival vendors like Cisco.

HP launched its line of ProCurve 2610 switches, touting open standards and features like power-over Ethernet and capable of connecting 802.3af -- compliant IP phones or those that consume 15 watts and below.

Local ProCurve end-users include Allied Bank, Robinson's Malls and television network GMA-7.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

E-court project

E-court project makes debut in Marikina City court rooms

The city government of Marikina Wednesday started its electronic court (e-court) project to facilitate and enhance court transactions and services.

Mayor Marides Fernando said the program would reduce the delays in court proceedings and transactions, benefiting both the public and the city government ’s employees.

The project was initiated by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. through a P5 million allocation from the Priority Development Assistance Fund.

The allotment covers the computerization of eight regional courts and two municipal trial courts in the city.

It would also help set up a court database to allow better connectivity in the judiciary ’s administrative processes.

The project aims to connect local courts to the Supreme Court so both sides can effectively monitor decisions, memoranda and caseloads, Fernando added.

It would also pay for a closed-circuit video room that allows a child witness to testify outside the courtroom.

Lawyer Aquilino “Koko ” Pimentel III, a son of the senator who attended the project launch, said computerization would play a major role in reducing delays in court proceedings.

He expressed hopes that it would soon evolve into the paperless filing of pleadings and sharing of court information.

Apart from providing a database, the e-court project also calls for the installation of a computer-aided transcription machine that allows transcripts of stenographic notes to be printed and distributed right after a hearing.
By Kristine L. Alave - Philippine Daily Inquirer

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Zed wants NTC issue settled, welcomes probe

MANILA, Philippines -- Mobile phone content aggregator Zed Philippines on Wednesday welcomed the investigation by the House committee on information and communication technology on value-added service providers.

Zed country manager Jay Paolo Adevoso said in a press statement, ‘‘this is welcome development as Zed has been trying to resolve this issue with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for some time now as we are committed to complying with all official rules, regulations and laws of the country.”

Zed, a Spanish company, was invited to the hearing to answer allegations in House Resolution No. 399 co-authored by Representatives Justin Chipeco and Florencio Noel that the company is not registered with the NTC and does not comply with the 60-40 nationality capital structure requirement for VAS providers.

Representative Joseph Santiago, committee chair and himself a former commissioner of the NTC, said there is a need to cure some ambiguities as technology has already overtaken some provisions of Republic Act 7925.

He said the committee is dismayed with the lack of cooperation of NTC commissioners and vowed to issue a subpoena should they fail to appear in succeeding hearings. He said that for as long as the issue with the NTC is not resolved, investors will not come because of the uncertainty of the business environment.

Chipeco said there is a need to look at the definition of a value-added service (VAS) provider as there is no distinction with that of a content provider. He added that this ambiguity is open to the interpretation of the NTC.

Representative Teddy Boy Locsin said he sent a letter to NTC Commissioner Ruel Canobas to inquire about the legal basis for the 60-40 nationality capital structure requirement. He asked the NTC representative why another foreign operator, Information Gateway, was allowed to register but did not accord the same privilege to Zed.
Philippine Daily Inquirer

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Google ramps up email defense offerings

SAN FRANCISCO -- Google on Tuesday began marketing new online tools for protecting email from spam and other problems as it continued to encroach on the terrain of software king Microsoft.

Google unveiled email security services built with technology from Postini, a start-up the California Internet titan bought last year for $625 million.

The software protects, filters, encrypts and archives email, and is compatible with Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes, and Novell Groupwise.

Google said subscription pricing for email security starts at $3 a year per user to "accommodate the budget of any business."

Premium online services that include virus protection and saving messages is priced at $25 annually per user.

"As threats rise in volume and complexity, and compliance requirements pile up, IT is struggling to find the resources to keep up," said Google director of product management Scott Petry.

"Now, Google can take care of this for you."

Google's new email security service comes as Microsoft is courting Yahoo with a $44.6-billion buyout offer aimed at combining resources to better challenge Google in the flourishing Internet realm.

Email security services are the latest additions to the Google Apps platform, which offers Internet-based computer programs including text, spreadsheets, and appointment calendars.

The offerings are part of a trend toward software as an on-demand service hosted "in the cloud," or online by an Internet firm, instead of being installed and maintained on users' computers.

US firm Salesforce.com, which specializes in "software as a service," recently topped a million subscribers and its chief executive Marc Benioff predicts annual revenues will pass a billion dollars this fiscal year.

Salesforce.com has a "strategic alliance" with Google.

Microsoft has built its fortune on packaged software installed on computers, but is shifting increasingly to online on-demand services as well.

Microsoft is hoping to bolster its position in the Internet market by buying struggling Yahoo, which has seen its fortunes sag while Google's have soared.

Yahoo's board of directors is mulling the $31-per-share buy-out offer from Microsoft, which is pressing Yahoo for a quick response.

Nearly 588 million people visited Google websites in December, while the combined total for Microsoft and Yahoo websites was 665 million visitors, according to industry tracking firm comScore.

Microsoft and Yahoo claim 15.7 percent of the worldwide Internet search market, compared with Google's dominant 62.4 percent share, according to industry-tracking firm comScore.

However, Yahoo is the world's most popular web-based e-mail service, used by 257 million people, and if combined with Microsoft's offerings would claim 77 percent of the instant messaging market, comScore reports.
By Glenn Chapman - Agence France-Presse

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DOJ nixes Internet ‘horseracing’

THE Department of Justice has thumbed down the application of a local subsidiary of a United Kingdom-based firm for a license to operate virtual horseracing in the internet.

In a four-page opinion, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez stressed that the Philippine Racing Commission is not authorized to sanction the operation of an online horseracing under PD 420, the law which created the commission.

Gonzalez issued the legal opinion upon the request of PRC chairman Jose Ferdinand Rojas who has received an application from Turfmaster Philippines, a private subsidiary corporation of Turfmaster UK, for the issuance of a permit to be able to legally operate an online horseracing in the country.

The firm sought the PRC’s issuance of a license to operate upon the advice of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.

Gonzalez said that PRC’s power covers only the holding of races involving actual horses.

“Indubitably, while the Philracom has jurisdiction and power over every aspect of the conduct of horse-racing’ including the issuance of licenses and/or permits in the conduct thereof, it appears clear that the said power/jurisdiction covers only the holding of races involving actual, live horses which, apparently, must also be registered with the Philracom as race horses before they can take part in horse races,” Gonzalez said.

“A reading of the provisions of the Philracom charter does not show any iota of evidence that is authorized, directly or otherwise, to sanction the operation of virtual horseracing in the internet,” he further said.

He added that the proposed online horseracing can be considered as “gambling in the internet” as the game intended would involve betting.

Such activity, according to Gonzalez, cannot be allowed without the consent of Congress. By: Hector Lawas - Journal online

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

chip with two billion transistors

Intel to deliver first computer chip with two billion transistors

Intel announced on Monday that it has created a two-billion-transistor computer chip that will give supercomputers "a leap in performance and capabilities."

The world's largest maker of microprocessors says its new Itanium brand chip, codenamed "Tukwila," built for supercomputers increases the power of machines more than twofold and will be available near the end of the year.

The "quad core" chip is designed with four processors that share computing workloads, according to Intel.

"The quad-core chip is coupled with higher bandwidths and large caches to enable a doubling in performance of Tukwila over the current Intel Itanium 9100 series processor," the Santa Clara, California, company said in a release.

Previously, the highest number of transistors packed into a computer chip was 1.7 billion in a two-core microprocessor, according to Intel.
-- AFP

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Telco growth seen to slow down on peso’s strength

Telco growth seen to slow down on peso’s strength

By Darwin G. Amojelar, Manila Times Reporter

THE Philippine telecom industry is expected to slow down this year owing to weak consumer spending because of the rapid appreciation of the peso, the country’s second largest mobile phone service provider said.

Gerry Ablaza, Globe Telecom Inc. president and chief executive officer, told reporters that the company is cautious given the local currency’s rise vis-à-vis the dollar.

“Hopefully, not a slowdown but maybe slower growth. Maybe revenue growth for the entire market this year will be in the 8 percent to 10 percent vicinity, whereas it was over 10 percent last year,” Ablaza said.

Ablaza said the strong peso could continue to hold back the company’s international long distance revenue growth.

The Globe executive said the industry will continue to grow but the pace will depend on develop-ments in the broader economy such as the peso and the rise in crude oil prices that could weigh on consumer spending.

Ferdinand dela Cruz, Globe Telecom head for Consumer Business, said the overseas Filipino workers’ purchasing power is shrinking because of the peso appreciation.

“There will be a softness in consumer spending [because of the stronger peso],” dela Cruz said.

A Nielsen Media Research report said that majority of OFW households spend between P101 and P499 a month to communicate with their loved ones. Another 13.7 percent spend between P500 and P999, while less than 10 percent spend more. The great majority at 97.4 percent uses prepaid cards.

Despite the expected slowdown, the subscribers identification module (SIM) penetration rate is expected to reach 70 percent this year from 60 percent last year, Ablaza said.

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RP’s deficient ICT usage

‘Groundbreaking’ report reveals RP’s deficient ICT usage, infrastructure

Melvin G. Calimag - Manila Bulletin

Despite its reputation as the world’s text messaging capital, the Philippines has yet to make better use of communications and computing infrastructure if the country wants to benefit from the full economic and social benefits of ICT.

This is according to a new "groundbreaking study" by Professor Leonard Waverman of the London Business School and global economic consulting firm LECG, which made use of a "connectivity scorecard" to analyze not only a nation’s ICT infrastructure but the effectiveness of its use.

The connectivity scorecard, the report said, is the first index to examine the quality as well as quantity of ICT usage and infrastructure. The study was commissioned by Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN).

According to the report, even the world’s best connected countries are not exploiting communications technologies to their fullest potential and in many cases policy and regulatory activity designed to promote connectivity is not having the impact intended.

The connectivity scorecard ranks the United States first in a group of 16 innovation-driven economies (as defined by the World Economic Forum), although its score is only 6.97 out of a possible 10.0.

The differentiated nature of the scorecard compared to other rankings is illustrated by the fact that Korea, typically a high scorer on other indexes, is ranked 10th on the list, with a rating of just 4.78.

In the list of nine nations that are classified in the study as resource or efficiency driven economies, Russia topped the list with the country’s high literacy rate, along with solid scores on several measures of usage and infrastructure, especially mobile usage, resulted in a rating of 6.11.

The Philippines placed seventh, just slightly ahead of India and Nigeria, with a score of 2.38. Neighboring country Malaysia finished a strong second with a score of 5.82.

The scores of the innovation-driven economies and the efficiency- and resource-driven economies are not comparable, as different sets of criteria, taking account of different circumstances in the two sets of countries, have been used to determine scores.

The connectivity scorecard measures the extent to which governments, businesses, and consumers make use of connectivity technologies -- copper wires, fiber-optic lines, mobile phones, and PCs that underpin today’s information economy -- to enhance social and economic prosperity.

For each component of the scorecard, countries are benchmarked against the best in class in their tier; thus if a country was best in all dimensions, it would score a maximum of 10.0 Countries typically considered to be highly connected achieved only modest scores on the scorecard -- the average score for a group of 16 countries that include the US, Sweden, and Korea was 5.05.

The results indicate an opportunity for countries to add hundreds of billions of dollars in economic benefit by rethinking how they measure and enable connectivity, according to the study.

The authors point to a well-known study by Crandall and Jackson that showed a $ 500 billion longterm economic benefit to the US just from achieving near-universal broadband penetration.

The scorecard is also unique in categorizing indicators of connectivity by consumer, business, and government, with weightings tailored to each country. Low scores reflect gaps in a country’s infrastructure, usage, or both. The US, for example, scored lower on consumer infrastructure because of its low broadband penetration, and Korea is noticeably low on business usage metrics.

"What this study demonstrates is that not even the world’s richest countries can afford to become complacent about their current telecom and computing profile. Every nation has substantial work to do before achieving an ideal score in connectivity," says Leonard Waverman, professor of economics at London Business School and the creator of the connectivity scorecard.

"To increase the societal and economic benefits made possible by connectivity, countries need to consider infrastructure and usage as a combined yardstick."


Yahoo takes it easy as IT world is jolted by Microsoft buyout bid

Yahoo takes it easy as IT world is jolted by Microsoft buyout bid

Melvin G. Calimag - Manila Bulletin

Shocked and stunned by a $ 44.6-billion buyout offer from software titan Microsoft, Internet giant Yahoo tried to compose itself the morning after the earth-shaking announcement by issuing a brief statement that didn’t reveal any hint of action it may take.

Microsoft, through chief executive officer Steven Ballmer, sent a letter dated January 31 (Friday in Manila) to the Yahoo board of directors indicating the company’s intention to acquire the Internet icon.

In a press statement released on February 1, Sunnyvale, California – based Yahoo acknowledged it has received the "unsolicited proposal" from the Redmond, Washington-based software firm.

Addressing the offer, it said: "The Company said that its Board of Directors will evaluate this proposal carefully and promptly in the context of Yahoo!’s strategic plans and pursue the best course of action to maximize long-term value for shareholders."

The Microsoft offer was made after the departure of former Yahoo chair and CEO Terrry Semel, who previously led Yahoo in rejecting a similar takeover attempt in February last year.

In that rebuff, Semel told Ballmer that the Yahoo board was betting on the "potential upside" of a reformulated strategy that the company was about to implement at that time.

Ballmer, in his letter, retorted that the plan obviously didn’t work. "A year has gone by, and the competitive situation has not improved," he said.

This time, Microsoft said it is determined to finally close out the deal, even posing a veiled threat of a hostile takeover in case the Yahoo board would again turn down the offer.

"Depending on the nature of your response, Microsoft reserves the right to pursue all necessary steps to ensure that Yahoo!’s shareholders are provided with the opportunity to realize the value inherent in our proposal," Ballmer said.

Immediately after the buyout offer was announced, major news organizations such as the New York Times played up the significance of the buyout bid, making it the banner story in its online edition and devoting a special section for it.

The Times said Microsoft’s $ 44.6-billion offer for Yahoo is easily the largest takeover bid in the software giant’s history. It could also be the world’s largest technology deal ever, it added.

America Online’s deal for Time Warner, announced in early 2000, had a much larger price tag of about $ 112 billion. But some data-keepers, including Dealogic, classify that transaction a media deal, the influential newspaper noted.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Baguio stripped from Cyber corridor

INFORMATION Technology (IT) industry players have delisted this mountain resort city as one of the primary IT and call center hubs in the country due to the lack of sufficient telecommunication infrastructure which would guarantee continuous service to their foreign and local clients.

This was disclosed by Trinidad Trinidad, executive director of the Baguio-Benguet Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (BBCCII), who added that it is now time for government to come out with appropriate measures to attract telecommunication investors to come to the city and put up the needed facilities for advanced IT operations.

Post here your Valentine's Day greetings

She added IT and call center companies expanding their operations in the Philippines prefer to go to Cebu, Davao, Clark or Subic because of the presence of three or more service providers which could guarantee uninterrupted service to their clients in the other parts of the world.

In the city, only the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) and sister company Smart Telecommunications provide telephone lines for call centers.

Trinidad said the delisting of the city is a big setback to the repeated pronouncements of national and local officials that the city is fast becoming the IT and call center hub of the North.

While business in the city remains in good shape despite the economic slow down in the US and the unabated oil price increases, Dennis Sy, president of the Baguio Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BFCCI), said government, both national and local, must adopt appropriate programs and projects which are designed to boost investor confidence in areas like Baguio City so the desired economic growth in the areas outside Metro Manila could be achieved.

In the case of Baguio, businessmen have time and again prodded local officials to pass the local investment plan to serve as a plus factor for prospective investors to infuse capital in the local scene especially in the telecommunication industry where the city is fast falling behind.

Trinidad said IT and call center companies have helped in providing employment to thousands of locals but the delisting of the city could affected the economic gains the city has achieved over the past several years.

Ironically, telecommunication companies are having second thoughts of infusing billions of pesos in improving their facilities to cope with the advancement of technology because of alleged huge capital needed due to the mountainous terrain and the rather low return of investment because of a small market. (DS)

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Smart taps schools for disaster monitoring via mobile

By Lawrence Casiraya - INQUIRER.net
CEBU CITY -- Mobile operator Smart Communications is tapping universities to become part of a nationwide monitoring network for natural disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons.

In particular, Smart wants to tap partner schools under the Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program (SWEEP) initiative, which trains teachers from these schools on mobile and networking technologies.

“We want to involve these schools into a nationwide network of disaster monitoring systems,” said Mar Tamayo, head of Smart’s network services division, during the company's annual SWEEP competition held here.

Tamayo was referring to the development of such systems by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PhiVolcs), which is under the Department of Science and Technology.

Engineering faculty from the SWEEP partner schools met with PhiVolcs officials last October and presented proposals for low-cost “intensity meters” for monitoring earthquakes using GPS (global positioning system) technology.

Each school also gave updates on their respective disaster monitoring initiatives while agreeing to use these earthquake intensity meters in their respective schools.

Using wireless technology for disaster preparedness is the theme of this year’s SWEEP competition among schools. The winning school receives P500,000.

Smart's SWEEP competition is now on its fourth year. Mon Isberto, Smart’s public affairs spokesperson, said succeeding contests will focus more on wireless broadband areas and go beyond simpler GSM applications especially SMS or texting.

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Microsoft bids $44.6 billion to buy Yahoo

SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK -- Microsoft Corp. made a bid to buy Yahoo Inc. for $44.6 billion, seeking to join forces against Google Inc. in what would be the biggest Internet deal since the Time Warner-AOL merger.

In its boldest-ever acquisition move, Microsoft sent a letter to Yahoo's board on Thursday night to offer $31 per share in cash and stock, a 62 percent premium over the Internet media company's Nasdaq closing stock price that day.

Yahoo would give Microsoft dominance in Web banner ads used by corporate brand advertisers. It also attracts more than 500 million people monthly to sites devoted to news, finance and sports, and Yahoo Mail is the No. 1 consumer email service.

"Microsoft's wanted to do things that could build up its online business dramatically," said Pacific Crest analyst Brendan Barnicle. "This is going to be a big bet for them."

Yahoo said on Friday its board would evaluate the unsolicited offer. Its shares shot up 47.45 percent to $27.29, while Microsoft shares, which have a market capitalization of about $300 billion, fell 6.38 percent to $30.52.

Speculation of a tie-up has swirled in the markets for more than a year, as investors looked to Microsoft to team up with Yahoo against an ever more powerful Google, which owns about two-thirds of the global Web search market.

Cultural differences

But critics say Microsoft and Yahoo have very different corporate cultures and worry about a clash like the one that marred AOL's $182-billion purchase of Time Warner Inc. in 2001, which is seen as the worst merger in recent history, with many of the promised synergies never materializing.

The perception is that Yahoo, an iconic Silicon Valley company with a free-flowing, fun-loving attitude, may not fit in with the button-up, competitive Microsoft, the world's biggest software maker.

The two companies also have many overlapping businesses -- from instant messaging to email and advertising, as well as news, travel and finance sites -- but are both weak in the Web search market, which Google dominates.

Google has a 77-percent share of the global Web search market, while Yahoo is second with 16 percent and Microsoft is a distant third with 3.7 percent, according to comScore data.

"They have to do it because they've tried everything they can do to fix MSN," said Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster.

But he added: "Google is running away with the search market and that's obviously the best part of the market. The likelihood that Google gets caught is slim to none."

Transformative or overpaid?

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer told analysts on a conference call the deal would transform its money-losing Internet division, which it sees as critical to growth, into a profitable pillar of its business.

"We have been losing money. Our plan here would be to not lose money in the future," Ballmer said.

Ballmer said Microsoft has had on-and-off talks with Yahoo for 18 months, but was told by management a year ago that the timing was not right -- in an apparent reference to Yahoo's then-chairman and chief executive Terry Semel.

Semel was replaced by Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang as CEO in June and resigned as chairman on Thursday.

"With the Semel roadblock now gone, there is reason to think this [merger] is now likely to happen," said RBC Capital Internet analyst Jordan Rohan, noting Yahoo is running out of options in the face of a weakening business climate.

"I think Yahoo is going to say 'Yes' to this offer or some offer," he said. "Neither company by itself really seems to pose an effective threat to Google."

Under the proposal, Yahoo shareholders can choose to get $31 cash, or 0.9509 of a share of Microsoft common stock. The deal in aggregate must consist of one-half cash and one-half Microsoft common stock, the software maker said.

Some analysts said Microsoft was overpaying for a company that warned earlier this week it faced "head winds" in 2008, forecasting revenue below Wall Street expectations.

"To me, the premium seems exorbitant, for what is a dwindling business. I personally don't see how the synergies of Microsoft-Yahoo are going to take on Google," said Tim Smalls, head of US stock trading at brokerage firm Execution LLC.

Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry said Yahoo is not worth more than $20 per share as its only worthwhile properties are Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Answers and Yahoo Finance.

But others said the price is low enough for rival bidders to emerge, noting Yahoo traded at $34.08 in late October.

"There could be a little more money on the table," said Laura Martin, an analyst at Soleil-Media Metrics. "The company is in play. Yahoo will not be able to stay independent. Other bidders will emerge before this is over."

Antitrust concerns

Analysts cited Comcast Corp., Viacom Inc., News Corp. and General Electric Co. among possible bidders, but they also said few had the balance sheet to compete with Microsoft or were as natural a fit for Yahoo.

Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith acknowledged other bidders could emerge, but said any attempt by arch-rival Google to acquire Yahoo would face insurmountable antitrust hurdles.

Antitrust experts said regulators would likely take a close look at a Microsoft-Yahoo deal, but as the two are dwarfed by Google, the deal will ultimately likely be approved.

Microsoft said the online advertising market is growing rapidly and expected to reach nearly $80 billion by 2010 from over $40 billion in 2007. It paid $6 billion last year to buy online advertising services firm aQuantive as a bulwark against Google's growing position.

The software company said it identified four areas that would generate at least $1 billion in annual synergies for the combined entity.

Morgan Stanley and Blackstone LP scooped the prize banking job of advising Microsoft on the deal, according to sources familiar with the matter, while Yahoo is being advised by Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Facts about Microsoft

Following are some key facts about Microsoft:

• 1968: Eighth-grader William "Bill" Gates is first introduced to computers and programming languages.

• Gates and schoolmate, Paul Allen, are inspired by an article in Popular Electronics magazine about the first personal computer, the Altair 8800, to develop a version of the Basic programming language for the PC.

• 1973: Gates goes to Harvard University, where he lived down the hall from Steve Ballmer, now Microsoft's chief executive officer.

• 1975: 19-year-old Gates drops out of Harvard and co-founds Microsoft with Allen.

•1980: International Business Machines Corp. chooses Microsoft to write the operating system for the IBM personal computer, introduced in 1981.

• 1985: Microsoft launches Windows 1.0, the first version of the popular operating system.

• 1986: Microsoft went public on March 13 at $21 per share.

• 1986: Microsoft moves to corporate campus in Redmond, Washington.

•1989: Microsoft introduces the earliest version of its Office software.

• Gates founds stock photography house Corbis, which he controls.

•1994: Gates marries Melinda French.

• 1997: Microsoft acquires Hotmail, a free Web-based email service co-founded by Sabeer Bhatia.

• 2000: Gates and wife found the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a charitable organization.

• 2001: Microsoft enters the gaming market in November with the North American release of its gaming console the Xbox and competes with Nintendo Co Ltd.'s Wii and Sony Corp.'s PlayStation.

•2002: Microsoft and partners launch the tablet PC.

• 2003: The company starts paying dividends in January, with its first dividend at eight cents per share.

• 2004: Microsoft says it plans to return up to $75 billion to shareholders in dividends and stock buybacks.

• 2006: Gates says he will transition out of a day-to-day role in the company in July 2008.

• 2006: Microsoft launches Zune portable music player in November -- the first Microsoft-designed device in a market dominated by Apple Inc.'s iPod.

• 2007: Microsoft launches Windows Vista, the latest version of its operating system in January.

• 2007: Microsoft acquires aQuantive for $6 billion in May at a time the online advertising industry is rapidly consolidating and was its biggest acquisition till the Yahoo bid.

• 2007: Latest data as of June show Microsoft employs 78,565 people worldwide, of which more than half are from the United States. About 75 percent of US staff are men.

• 2007: Harvard dropout Gates gets honorary law degree from the university in June.

• 2008: Microsoft bids $44 billion for Yahoo.

(Sources: Microsoft Web site; MSN Encarta; Reuters stories)

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