The go-shop period on Michael Dell's bid to take Dell private ended quietly on Friday. Turns out the drama wasn't over, and probably won't be for a long time.
This morning, the special committee of Dell's board of directors announced that there are two new offers to compete with Michael Dell's proposal (in partnership with Silver Lake Partners and with Microsoft's backing) to pay $13.65 a share, valuing the company at $24.4 billion.
The Blackstone Group is behind one new proposal that would offer $14.25 a share. Activist investor Carl Icahn, who had already publicly complained about Michael Dell's original offer, is behind the other offer. Icahn's proposal is a complex arrangement involving his current 4.6 percent stake in Dell, equity commitments, an offer of $15 a share up to $2 billion, cash equity financing and other elements.
According to Dell's special committee, either of the proposals could be superior to Michael Dell's offer, but it's too soon to tell. "The Special Committee has not determined that either the Blackstone proposal or the Icahn proposal in fact constitutes a superior proposal under the existing merger agreement and neither is at this stage sufficiently detailed or definitive for such a determination to be appropriate," the committee noted in a statement this morning.
Given the amount of money involved, and the participation of the tactically vocal Carl Icahn, we could be looking at a long period of uncertainty around Dell.
Posted by Scott Bekker on March 25, 2013 at 11:58 AM0 comments
"Begin to explore the potential benefits and risks that [Software-Defined Networking] will bring to your organization, but beware of SDN-washing which simply re-labels legacy approaches with the latest buzzwords."
Joe Skorupa, vice president and distinguished analyst, Gartner, in a Gartner Q&A about SDN.
Replace "SDN" in the concept "SDN-washing" and you've got a good framework for critically evaluating any buzz-heavy technology.
Posted by Scott Bekker on March 25, 2013 at 11:58 AM0 comments
Leaked screenshots of "Windows Blue" suggest the update to Windows 8 could include new snap-view sizing options, new tile sizes, a browser update, more personalization colors and settings changes.
Windows Blue is a rumored coming wave of updates to Windows 8 and Windows RT, as well as Window Phone and Windows Server. Some elements of Blue could arrive as early as this summer.
The 20 screenshots posted on Sunday by The Verge focused on the Windows 8/RT client interface, exclusively showing the modern UI. The Verge characterized the leaked version as an early build that was released on March 15 for partners only.
|Image source: Winforum, via The Verge. |
Windows 8/RT currently allows two tile sizes on its Start screen. The small type is a square and the large type is a rectangle two squares wide. The leaked screenshots show two new tile sizes. A new tiny square fits four into a current square. A new large square is the size of two current rectangles stacked on top of each other. In the screenshots, the only large square is the Desktop icon. It's unclear whether the Desktop will be the only icon that can display at that size.
The screenshots also show new options for snapping apps. In the current Windows 8/RT interface, you can view two apps at once, with one taking up two-thirds of the screen and the other taking up one-third. The Blue version apparently will allow apps to each take up half of the screen, or for apps to take up as many as four side-by-side positions.
Other views in the screenshots show an Internet Explorer 11 "About" page, multiple settings and Charms changes and more personalization colors.
Check out The Verge's gallery here.
Posted by Scott Bekker on March 25, 2013 at 9:03 AM1 comments
While a big update for Windows may be coming this summer, small-bore improvements for Windows 8/RT are coming tomorrow.
Brandon LeBlanc posted Monday in the Windows Experience Blog about changes coming to the Mail, Calendar and People apps. The updates to the apps will be available for free from the Microsoft Store.
One element in the Mail app I'm eager to try is the ability to search the server, not just the default two-week local cache, for an item.
Other changes LeBlanc describes include:
- Users can flag e-mails and find the items in a new "Flagged" folder.
- Draft e-mails show up automatically at the top of the Inbox.
- It's possible to add, edit and delete hyperlinks when composing messages.
- Editing and deleting bulleted and numbered lists are supposed to be easier.
- Effort has been put into maintaining formatting for content posted into Mail from Word or other sources.
- Solid blocks of colors have been removed to make the Calendar app more readable.
- There's a new "work week" view in the Calendar.
- Appointment scheduling is getting more robust.
- The People app "What's New" feed can be filtered by social network.
These aren't groundbreaking changes by any means, but it's good to see Microsoft attempting a faster cadence of improvements to the built-in apps.
Posted by Scott Bekker on March 25, 2013 at 9:03 AM1 comments
Longtime readers of RCP will remember Lee Pender, our inimitable and polemically-inclined original blogger. Lee's since moved on to a custom publishing role in the company, by way of our sister publication Redmond magazine. But many of his posts live on.
He wrote one in 2011 called "5 Reasons Why I Hate Twitter," which still attracts visitors. One recent reader was a BBC radio producer working on a segment about the seventh anniversary of Twitter. BBC reached out to Lee, and he got on Skype to join a panel discussing Twitter.
The archive of the BBC program is here. The part about Twitter starts at about 37:10, and Lee starts bringing it at about 44 minutes. It's worth a listen. In case you were wondering, he still hates Twitter.
Posted by Scott Bekker on March 24, 2013 at 11:58 AM0 comments
Aspect Software this month renewed its Microsoft Partner Network membership with an impressive 13 competencies. Even for a Microsoft National Systems Integrator, that's a lot of competencies.
Aspect, a provider of customer contact and workforce optimization solutions, is based in Chelmsford, Mass. and has 1,900 employees worldwide. Microsoft made an equity investment in Aspect in 2008 to guarantee a global partner for delivering contact-center solutions based on the Microsoft unified communications platform. The platform at the time was Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, a product that has morphed into Microsoft Lync Server 2013.
In the interim, Aspect has greatly expanded its Microsoft practice beyond the call center. A major expertise build-out occurred when Aspect acquired Quilogy Inc., a Microsoft NSI, in January 2010. Aspect is continuing to invest in Microsoft training and certification internally, as well.
As of this month, Aspect has seven gold competencies in the Microsoft Partner Network -- Communications, Collaboration and Content, Digital Marketing, Mobility, Business Intelligence, Customer Relationship Management, and OEM. The company's six silver competencies are Application Development, Data Platform, Application Integration, Midmarket Solution Provider, Hosting, and Learning.
That's way up from last year, when Aspect renewed its MPN membership with three gold competencies and nine silver competencies. The golds at that time were Communications, Portals and Collaboration and CRM.
Microsoft global channel chief Jon Roskill said in a statement that having a single gold competency puts partners in the top 1 percent of Microsoft's partner ecosystem. Having more than one gold competency is even rarer territory. In a global review of Microsoft's Pinpoint directory of partners last year, RCP found only about 50 companies worldwide had more than half a dozen gold competencies.
Posted by Scott Bekker on March 21, 2013 at 11:58 AM0 comments
Microsoft business partners are at the center of U.S. government investigations into bribery allegations in three countries -- China, Romania and Italy.
The Wall Street Journal revealed the preliminary investigations this week in an article about the inquiries by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The article is based on unnamed sources the paper says are "familiar with the probe." The investigations involve the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a 1977 law prohibiting bribes to foreign government by employees or agents of U.S. companies.
Microsoft confirmed the existence of the investigations in a blog entry posted Tuesday by John Frank, Microsoft vice president and deputy general counsel.
"Today, the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. government is reviewing allegations that Microsoft business partners in three countries may have engaged in illegal activity, and if they did, whether Microsoft played any role in these alleged incidents," Frank wrote.
Frank's blog noted the matters raised by the paper are "important" and should be reviewed by Microsoft and the government, but cautioned, "It is also important to remember that it is not unusual for such reviews to find that an allegation was without merit." He suggested Microsoft would cooperate with government investigators.
The picture painted by the Journal's sources gives Microsoft a controlling role in both the China and Italy cases, with business partners as pawns.
According to the paper's account, the Chinese case involved what sounded like not a channel partner but a Microsoft contractor. "The tipster, who worked to land potential new business, alleged that an executive of Microsoft's China subsidiary instructed the tipster to offer kickbacks to Chinese officials in return for signing off on software contracts," the paper reported, quoting unnamed sources familiar with the matter. The tipster's contract ended in 2008. According to the newspaper, Microsoft hired an outside law firm to investigate that allegation. The 10-month internal investigation concluded in 2010 and found no evidence of wrongdoing, according to the paper.
In Italy, the case involves consultants specializing in customer loyalty programs. The allegations that U.S. officials are investigating in Italy involve consultants giving gifts and trips on behalf of Microsoft to Italian officials to win government contracts, the Journal said.
The newspaper's description of the Romanian allegations is more ambiguous about Microsoft's possible role. According to the sources quoted by the newspaper, resellers offered bribes to win software deals with Romania's Ministry of Communications.
No business partners are identified in the report.
Posted by Scott Bekker on March 20, 2013 at 11:58 AM1 comments
After reporting earlier this week that Microsoft is dropping OEM licensing costs to goose Windows 8 sales, Digitimes today is quoting channel retailers on the pricing sweet spot the move allows them to target.
The magic number is $506, the publication reported that its Taiwan-based channel retail sources say. That represents a price drop of about 10 percent.
The publication earlier this week reported that Microsoft will cut the OEM price for Windows 8 by $20 starting in April or May. The price cut will apply to Windows 8 notebooks with touchscreens that are 11.6 inches or smaller, according to the report. Systems based on the new price could start appearing in June.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting similar price cuts this week.
The price cut leaks, which Microsoft is not confirming, comes amid a new round of gloomy projections for the PC market in 2013.
Posted by Scott Bekker on March 07, 2013 at 11:58 AM3 comments
Business continuity is a huge and mature opportunity for the channel. Much of the selling process centers on technology questions and setup. Doing that part right is critical, but the opposite end of the process often gets overlooked.
Time and again, it's lack of attention to three final steps that leads to a data disaster when recovering from a physical disaster.
1. Scheduling a Full Disaster Rehearsal
Planning and installing a business continuity solution is time-intensive and exhausting. Once the system appears to be up and running, there's temptation on both the partner and customer sides of the deal to move on. The revenues are booked, and backups look like they're occurring correctly. This is no time to quit.
Bringing business systems back online is a complex process. Servers have startup dependencies that require other software to be loaded in the right order. Scripting the sequence can be tricky. No matter how thorough the planning, the customer may not realize a certain essential business database isn't covered until after a restoration. Every plan must be tested as completely as possible. Real-world disasters throw unique complexities into the system. Getting as many of the regular complexities as possible ironed out of the process beforehand frees partners and customers up to deal with only the novel issues that a real disaster might present.
Smart partners also know that getting a full business continuity system in place is an iterative process. Listing and addressing the issues that emerged in the disaster rehearsal is only part of the process. Running the disaster test again and again until no issues emerge is the end of the process.
2. Testing Fail-Back
If the test shows that the mission-critical application server fails over successfully to the backup server, that's an essential element of the business continuity solution. There's another critical piece that sometimes falls through the testing cracks. Will the system fail back to the original server gracefully without losing data the secondary system accumulated while it was handling the workload? It's important to not only consider, but also to test, how fail-back works. A key wrinkle is that the system might be returning to a production server that's no longer identical to the one that originally ran the system.
3. Scheduling the Next Test
The initial set of full-recovery rehearsals are absolutely critical. But they can't be the last rehearsals. In addition to ensuring that backups occur on schedule, it's important to develop a schedule to retest recovery scenarios at regular intervals. Things change fast in business. Server hardware gets replaced, business critical applications and databases get upgraded, important applications move in or out of the cloud. The business-continuity solution has to be retested to make sure it's still capturing the full current environment
Posted by Scott Bekker on March 05, 2013 at 11:58 AM0 comments
Through an agreement with Verizon Wireless, Tech Data Corp. partners will now be able to activate 3G and 4G mobile services on Apple iPads and other tablets.
The activations come through Tech Data's year-old TDMobility unit, a joint venture with Brightstar. Charles Kriete, executive vice president of TDMobility, said in an interview that about 700 partners are fully authorized through TDMobility to sell solutions, but that participation is open to Tech Data's entire 60,000 partner ecosystem. He said TDMobility has been adding between 50 and 100 partners a month in North America.
With Verizon on board, TDMobility now works with all the biggest carriers in the United States. TDMobility was already working with AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. However, Verizon is a big deal for TDMobility and its partners because of the size of its network and customer base, its large corporate presence and the ability to activate iPads. AT&T, the other major corporate account carrier, does not currently permit iPad activation through TDMobility. Sprint does allow iPad activation through TDMobility's infrastructure.
"Verizon has really stepped up in the channel, enabling the activation of a complete portfolio of mobile tablet solutions, including the iPad, on the largest LTE network for the VAR community," Kriete said.
The Verizon capabilities add a new type of business for TDMobility partners with higher margin, Kriete said. "Currently, we're doing around 70,000 tablet sales per month. Approximately 20,000 of those are embedded with 3G/4G, so they're capable of activation," he said. Any 3G/4G activations will be new business, he said. "We'd be coming from zero as far as the activating opportunity."
Posted by Scott Bekker on March 04, 2013 at 11:58 AM0 comments
When it comes to Windows Small Business Server, there are few independent observers as authoritative as Harry Brelsford, founder of SMB Nation.
And when Harry starts posting comparisons of where Office 365 stands now on a maturity scale relative to historical releases of Small Business Server, it's worth paying attention.
In Harry's estimation, the latest version of Office 365 is comparable to SBS 2000, just when SBS was, in his words, "starting to rock."
Check out Harry's full chart treatment on the topic at his blog. It's an interesting perspective on the upside for partners who position themselves to take advantage of Office 365's opportunities.
Posted by Scott Bekker on March 04, 2013 at 11:58 AM0 comments
The Register sent Andrew Orlowski to Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona, where he filed a report on Windows Phone called, "So much noise on WinMob, but Microsoft's silent on lovely WinPhone."
Orlowski brings history, market context and familiarity with the senior Microsoft executives involved to draw a nuanced portrait of the state of Windows Phone 8 and the marketing efforts surrounding it.
The upshot is that he's surprised at how little effort Microsoft seems to be putting into the everyday work of marketing a mobile platform, such as having a conspicuous presence at major shows like MWC and being hyper-responsive to carriers' every complaint. (He does acknowledge in passing Microsoft's massive primetime ad campaigns in a way that discounts their importance.)
He throws off several interesting asides in the article, as well. For one example, Nokia seems to be a very happy partner. For another, I've argued on several occasions that Microsoft is playing a long game, both with Windows Phone and the Microsoft Surface. Orlowski goes a little Occam's Razor on that idea:
"Now either Microsoft is playing a very long game, or perhaps it really doesn't care too much about winning here -- a muddling success is good enough for all the managers involved. This kind of attitude is common in bureaucracies -- keep your head down -- it's a form of risk aversion. But when the product is really good, it's baffling. Perhaps your career might actually (radical idea coming up) benefit from success?"
This piece doesn't shake my sense that a long game is a good framework to consider Microsoft's market moves in mobile. But Orlowski does raise a number of very valid questions about Microsoft's ability to follow through.
If you're interested in Windows Phone 8's prospects and the state of its marketing, this article is worth a read.
Posted by Scott Bekker on February 28, 2013 at 11:58 AM0 comments