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Ballmer: ‘Windows 8 is coming!’ Microsoft: ‘Eek!’

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer this week let slip what was already a poorly kept secret: Windows 8 will go on sale next year.

But that’s not a message Microsoft wants to let out so soon, apparently: The company issued a retraction shortly after Ballmer’s speech.

Windows 7 had been the fastest-selling version of Windows ever, but sales started to slump last quarter. Knowledge that a new product is on its way may soften demand even further, analysts say.

At a developers conference in Tokyo earlier this week, Ballmer spoke about Microsoft’s current product successes as a launching point to talk about what he believes will be an even brighter future. When he came to Windows 7, he noted that the next version of Windows will be even better.

“We’re obviously hard at work on the next version of Windows,” said Ballmer said, according to a transcript. “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.”

Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) declined to comment to CNNMoney about Ballmer’s remarks, but many news organizations received an amusing backtracking statement from the company’s PR team earlier in the week.

“It appears there was a misstatement,” Microsoft’s representatives told CNET, PC Magazine and others. “We are eagerly awaiting the next generation of Windows 7 hardware that will be available in the coming fiscal year. To date, we have yet to formally announce any timing or naming for the next version of Windows.”

Until this week, Microsoft’s top brass have been unusually secretive about Windows 8. The company is typically is unafraid to discuss or even release beta versions to the public, but this time it’s working quietly.

Ballmer’s speech was even the first time a Microsoft executive publicly called the product “Windows 8.” Microsoft hadn’t officially confirmed the name of its next Windows iteration — internally, Microsoft refers to it as “Windows.Next,” though many Microsoft employees on LinkedIn refer to the new OS as Windows 8.

It’s understandable if Microsoft is hesitant to give consumers and businesses any reason to put off their purchases of Windows. But it’s more than a little unusual that the company is going to such lengths as to call the CEO’s long, articulate comment about Windows 8 a “misstatement.” To top of page

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Big Deall? Microsoft Buys Skype For $8.5 Billion In Cash

The deal is done. Microsoft is buying Skype for $8.5 billion in cash in its first sizeable acquisition since August 2008, when the Redmond software giant spent $486 million on Greenfield Online.

In fact, this is Microsoft’s biggest financial bet to date in terms of M&A, trumping its $6 billion+ purchase of aQuantive, which dates back to May 2007, in size.

The purchase price includes the assumption of Skype’s debt.

The agreement has been approved by the boards of directors of both Microsoft and Skype.

Skype will become a new business division within Microsoft, and its current chief executive Tony Bates will assume the title of president of the Microsoft Skype Division, reporting directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

The deal was first reported by GigaOM‘s Om Malik (he does that sometimes) and later confirmed by the Wall Street Journal, who cited people familiar with the matter.

The $8.5 billion question: did Microsoft overpay for Skype?

Perhaps, perhaps not. Only time will tell. As always with these things, the many tech industry pundits and analysts will look at this deal from all possible angles and then some, and still only a handful will end up being somewhat accurate when we look back in a couple of years.

From a non-financial point of view, the acquisition makes a ton of sense today, though.

Skype digitally connects dozens of millions of people on a daily basis, enabling them to communicate with each other through voice calls, chat messages and video conferencing.

There’s no doubt it’s a big brand on the Web (with both consumer and enterprise appeal, worldwide at that), and is poised to keep mattering in the next decade and beyond.

In August 2010, Skype filed to go public, expecting to raise $1 billion, but not long after appointing a new CEO, former Cisco SVP Tony Bates, the company put its IPO plans in the freezer while it looked for ways to generate more revenue from the popular service.

Skype’s 2010 revenue was $860 million, adjusted EBITDA was $264 million, and – as many are tripping over each others to point out – the company actually lost $7 million last year.

But looking ahead, chances for the business to keep growing, perhaps even acceleratingly so, are fairly big. In that sense, it’s a valuable asset to own (and to keep out of others’ hands).

The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.

Microsoft and Skype said they “hope to obtain all required regulatory clearances during the course of this calendar year”.

Microsoft also pledged that it would “continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms”.

Since its former owner eBay sold the company to a consortium of investors formed by Silver Lake Partners, Joltid (the company founded by Skype’s original founders, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis), the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Andreessen Horowitz in November 2009, the company has been pursuing an aggressive strategy to be available everywhere, anytime, both in enterprises, the living room, even classrooms and, very importantly, on smartphones.

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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