Bill Gates Retires, Symbian Goes Open Source

Microsoft, usually a source of software patch updates and claims about Vista adoption rates, produced a bit of sentimental news this week as Bill Gates stepped away from his daily corporate duties on Friday. Gates, who founded Microsoft at age 19, will now devote his time to philanthropic work. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate discussed the issue of laptop searches and seizures at the nation's borders and also decided to delay a vote on a controversial spy bill. While on the topic of controversial plans, an ISP (Internet service provider) suspended a program that would have served up ads based on a user's Internet history after the move sparked privacy concerns. Yahoo, a perennial name in this space, defended its Google ad deal on Wednesday and the next day launched yet another reorganization. Finally, Oracle wants at least US$1 billion from SAP due to infractions supposedly committed by a subsidiary.

1. Gates may change direction of philanthropy: Helping solve some of the world's health issues will now occupy Bill Gates's working hours as the IT icon retired from Microsoft on Friday. Two years ago Gates announced that he was leaving the software world to devote his time to the philanthropic organization he started with his wife in 2000. The group's work involves funding malaria and HIV research, among other causes. The task of running one of the most powerful companies now falls to CEO Steve Ballmer and chief software architect Ray Ozzie, among others. Gates will not completely exit Redmond, though. He will continue serving as Microsoft chairman and dedicate one day a week to company business.

2. ICANN board opens way for new top-level domains: Look for new TLDs (top-level domains), including some written in Chinese scripts, after the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers board approved a policy that will form the rules for developing and managing the new TLDs. The board's actions could result in the creation of at least 70 million generic TLDs. The board also backed creating a small number of IDNs (Internationalized Domain Names). This measure, for example, would permit Chinese companies to register domain names that end in the Chinese symbols for China.

3. It's Official: Microsoft Hyper-V Now Available: Microsoft entered the virtualization arena with the release of its Hyper-V technology on Thursday. After installing Hyper-V, hardware with Windows Server 2008 can run multiple OSes, like Linux, on the same machine. Hyper-V was slated for release with Windows Server 2008 in February. Microsoft then decided to remove some of the product's features, which delayed its launch by 180 days. However, reports surfaced on Wednesday that Hyper-V's would debut this week, making its arrival early, but still late. Microsoft will face market leader VMware in the virtualization space, which is growing in popularity as enterprises look to reduce data center costs by running several OSes on one server.

4. Senators question border laptop searches: U.S. Senators Russell Feingold and Patrick Leahy on Wednesday called on U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to stop seizing and searching laptops and other electronic devices of people who are entering the country. After taking the devices, CBP officers allegedly search Web histories, copy hard drives and read documents. One witness at the hearing said the CBP's actions disrupt businesses while another testified that electronic copies warrant no special treatment compared to their physical counterparts.

5. Nokia buys rest of Symbian, will make code open source and Report: Google faces Android handset delays: Open-source software will soon run over half of the world's smartphones after Tuesday's news that the Symbian mobile OS is going open source. Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Vodafone and other telecom players formed the Symbian Foundation to distribute the OS under a royalty-free license. Experts believe Symbian's 60 percent share of the smartphone market and decade of development will foster more growth. Symbian's move to open source came on the same week as reports that Android, Google's open-source mobile OS, is progressing slowly due to conflicts with mobile carriers.

6. ISP backs off of behavioral ad plan: Charter Communications suspended plans to place ads based on a customer's Internet use in Web pages after the ISP's customers voiced concerns about the service, the company said. Charter, a major U.S. broadband provider, also drew the ire of two digital rights groups that claimed serving ads based on information gleamed from Web use amounted to spying and violated security practices. Two U.S. legislators also raised concerns in a letter to the company. In May Charter said it planned to team with NebuAd, a behavioral advertising company, on a pilot program.

7. Google introduces tool for planning online ad campaigns: Google also attempted to tackle the issue of targeted ad placement on Web sites, but with a tool for media planners, who determine where to place their client's ads. Media planners enter their desired audience's demographic information into Ad Planner, which generates a list of appropriate sites. According to Google, Ad Planner allows users to get information on searches related to a certain site and other, more detailed demographic data. News of the service prompted talk of Google expanding into the Web analytics business against the likes of comScore and Hitwise.

8. Senate delays vote on surveillance bill until July: On Friday the U.S. Senate announced that it will delay a vote on a controversial surveillance bill until July 8. An earlier spy program allowed the government to monitor without warrants phone calls and electronic communications between supposed terrorist groups and people outside the U.S. Major telecom carriers, which supposedly granted the government access to their systems, now face lawsuits for their role in the program. The bill, seen as a compromise between the White House and congressional Democrats, would allow the program to continue but with court oversight and have a court review if the telecom lawsuits warrant dismissal.

9. Oracle seeking billions in damages from SAP: Oracle reckons that SAP owes the company at least $1 billion for damages caused by its TomorrowNow subsidiary. Oracle sued SAP and TomorrowNow in 2007, claiming that TomorrowNow staff illegally accessed Oracle's Web site and pilfered information to use for courting Oracle customers. A court document filed Tuesday marked the first time that Oracle assigned a dollar figure to the incident, which the company labeled "corporate theft on a grand scale " in its original complaint. The case goes to trial in February 2010.

10. Yahoo defends Google deal to shareholders and Yahoo trumpets reorganization: Another week, another chapter in the Yahoo-Microsoft-Google saga. Yahoo shareholders received a letter on Wednesday justifying the company's Google advertising deal. The tie-up, which places Google ads beside some of Yahoo's search results, will generate $250 million to $450 million in cash flow in the first year. Allowing Microsoft to purchase Yahoo's search business would have ceded too much control to Microsoft, including the right to block a sale of the company, wrote Chairman Roy Bostock and CEO Jerry Yang. Yahoo executives denied Microsoft's original two offers to purchase the company, upsetting investors who believed that Yahoo abandoned its fiscal duties by not negotiating a buyout. Yahoo made news again on Thursday when it announced yet another reorganization, its latest in the last 18 months. This revamp will centralize its product development operations and create a business region for U.S. advertising, users and Web publishers.