Posts tagged "IBM"

Dell Officially Goes Private: Inside The Nastiest Tech Buyout Ever

Eight months is a long time to stay mum, especially for a tech industry wunderkind, as Michael Dell was, and one of the world’s richest men, as Michael Dell is, while enduring daily bombs from Carl Icahn about his leadership and ethics. (“All would be swell at Dell if Michael and the board bid farewell,” Icahn tweeted at one point.)

So as he strides in front of 350 employees in the glass-enclosed conference room of Dell’s Silicon Valley division a few weeks ago, with celebratory gourmet cupcakes frosted with the company’s blue logo nearby, you can literally feel a weight coming off his chest. “It’s great to be here and to not have to introduce Carl Icahn to you,” says Dell, the parry prompting laughter and cheers. “We’re the largest company in terms of revenue to go from public to private. In another week or two we’ll be the world’s largest startup.”

It’s not that Dell hasn’t been talking. Ever since February, when he announced his plan to take his eponymous company private, armed with his own fortune and billions from the private equity firm Silver Lake Partners, he’s traveled the globe–including three trips to China–privately reassuring everyone who would listen that Dell was business as usual. But at the advice of counsel he kept a tight lid on talking about the buyout.

Now, having closed a $25 billion deal to take the company he founded in his dorm room private, the shackles are off. He can say what he wants–and do what he wants, too. After mixing in his 16% ownership, valued at more than $3 billion, and another $750 million in cash, with $19.4 billion from Silver Lake and a consortium of lenders, he now controls a 75% stake in the Round Rock, Tex. company. The only investor conversation he has to have, he says, is with “self.”

So what is Dell now saying to himself, as well as customers, partners and employees?

Most critically, the world’s third-largest personal computer maker has no plans to abandon the PC, despite that product line’s sinking fortunes. In fact, he plans to sell way more of them and, if the recent past is any guide, he may just sell them at a loss. Selling commodity boxes on the cheap allows him to get Dell in the door to upsell customers on lucrative software and services. Dell has driven down the prices of PCs many times before. But a PC maker selling PCs as a loss leader? That’s the kind of thing you get to do when you take a company private. “We’ve always viewed [PCs] as a business that’s got a life cycle to it. Growth is in new areas, and it’s a business you’ve got to manage very efficiently from a cost structure. It’s still a great way to get into new customers,” says Dell.

The world got a taste of this land grab in Dell’s last quarter as a public company. Net income dropped 72% from a year earlier–but Dell’s PC share ticked up one percentage point, its largest move in almost three years. There’s a long way to go to rebalance the business. After four years of work and $13 billion in services, software and other acquisitions, the firm still gets more than 60% of revenue from PCs. Dell’s market share in services and software stands at less than 1%, but these are the only categories making money and growing. Enterprise solutions, software and services revenue was up 9% in the latest quarter, and services comprised 100% of total operating profit. And in addition to battling traditional rivals like Hewlett-Packard and IBM, the company also has to worry about IT newcomers such as Amazon and Rackspace, which are wooing businesses with cloud-based services.

Yet some of the smartest minds on Wall Street, including Icahn, are convinced Michael Dell and Silver Lake got a steal at $25 billion, putting 20% down. “I agreed with the shareholders that he was not paying a fair price for Dell and that they were getting hosed,” Icahn says.

Hosed may be too a strong a word. No one else but Dell wanted the company that badly, not even Icahn, who had a “win win,” walking away from eight months of grandstanding with a stake worth $2.2 billion, and after squeezing out another $500 million for shareholders. The growth-challenged company will be buried under just less than $20 billion in debt in an industry in secular decline.

But Icahn knows what Dell does: that without dividends and buybacks, he should have enough cash flow to cover the interest payments. And without the public markets to worry about he has the flexibility to pull off the rebalancing act. Silver Lake, which in its last three tech deals reportedly made 213% on Skype, 730% on disk drive maker Seagate Technology and 430% on chipmaker Avago Technologies, can do the math, as well. Conservative estimates peg the potential returns on this leveraged buyout at 11% a year, based on the most recent dismal earnings. And if cash flow growth comes back–or the current results are being, shall we say, sandbagged a bit? Then Dell will neatly bookend the founding legend of his University of Texas dorm room

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Posted by plates55 - November 5, 2013 at 12:39 pm

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Tech Time Warp of the Week: The Commodore-64, 1983

The best selling computer of all time? It wasn’t the Macintosh. Or the Apple II. Or the IBM PC.

It was the Commodore-64, the computer-disguised-as-a-keyboard that made its debut in 1982.

According to the late Jack Tramiel — the man who founded Commodore International — the company was selling nearly a half million C64s a month when he was forced out of the operation in 1984, and by the time the machine finally gave up the ghost a decade later, he estimated, somewhere between 22 million and 30 million Commodores had found their way into the world.

“We made machines for the masses,” Tramiel said on the 25th anniversary of the C64, before nodding to the man sitting beside him, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. “They made machines for the classes.”

With the video below, you can return to the heyday of the C64. Your guide is the late Jim Butterfield, the mustachioed Canadian who built a career showing the world how to use this dirt-cheap home computer. Butterfield was the author of such books as Learning Machine Code Programming on the Commodore 64 (and other Commodore computers) and he founded one of the largest Commodore users’ groups in the world, but you could also find him on TVOntario, hosting a show called The Academy. And he turned up in Commodore training videos like this one.

Released in 1983, the original video ran for almost two hours. But, against our own better judgment, we’ve cut in down to about 9 minutes, giving you just the best of the lot. It’s a document not only of the C64, but of an earlier age of computing, an age when home computers were foreign objects to most people — when the “un-boxing” was such a scary thing.

Yes, Butterfield un-boxes the machine for you, but that’s just the beginning. He shows you everything from the I/O ports on the rear of the machine to the cassette tape reader you can use in lieu of a floppy drive to the memory chips inside the chassis.

We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.



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Posted by plates55 - March 15, 2013 at 9:32 am

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IBM Rattles Moore’s Law With Smallest Magnetic Memory Bit

IBM researchers have come up with a storage breakthrough that could lead to memory chips 100 times more dense than those in use today.

IBM researchers have created what they claim is the world’s smallest memory bit using only 12 atoms.

This accomplishment by IBM scientists is the culmination of nearly 30 years of nanotechnology research, IBM said. By demonstrating the ability to store information in as few as 12 magnetic atoms, IBM shows that it can deliver an environment that is significantly less than today’s disk drives, which use about one million atoms to store a single bit of information. This can lead to the creation of smaller, faster and more energy-efficient devices, IBM said.

By taking a novel approach and beginning at the smallest unit of data storage, the atom, scientists demonstrated magnetic storage that is at least 100 times denser than today’s hard disk drives and solid state memory chips. Future applications of nanostructures built one atom at a time and that apply an unconventional form of magnetism called antiferromagnetism, could allow people and businesses to store 100 times more information in the same space.

“The chip industry will continue its pursuit of incremental scaling in semiconductor technology but, as components continue to shrink, the march continues to the inevitable end point: the atom,” said Andreas Heinrich, the lead investigator into atomic storage at IBM Research – Almaden, in a statement. “We’re taking the opposite approach and starting with the smallest unit–single atoms–to build computing devices one atom at a time.”

The most basic piece of information that a computer understands is a bit. Much like a light that can be switched on or off, a bit can have only one of two values: “1” or “0”. Until now, it was unknown how many atoms it would take to build a reliable magnetic memory bit, IBM said.

Describing the process of how IBM’s discovery works, the company said:

With properties similar to those of magnets on a refrigerator, ferromagnets use a magnetic interaction between its constituent atoms that align all their spins – the origin of the atoms’ magnetism – in a single direction. Ferromagnets have worked well for magnetic data storage but a major obstacle for miniaturizing this down to atomic dimensions is the interaction of neighboring bits with each other. The magnetization of one magnetic bit can strongly affect that of its neighbor as a result of its magnetic field. Harnessing magnetic bits at the atomic scale to hold information or perform useful computing operations requires precise control of the interactions between the bits.

The scientists at IBM Research used a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) to atomically engineer a grouping of 12 antiferromagnetically coupled atoms that stored a bit of data for hours at low temperatures. Taking advantage of their inherent alternating magnetic spin directions, they demonstrated the ability to pack adjacent magnetic bits much closer together than was previously possible. This greatly increased the magnetic storage density without disrupting the state of neighboring bits.

IBM Research has long been a leader in studying the properties of materials important to the information technology industry. For more than 50 years, scientists at IBM Research have laid the foundation of scientific knowledge that will be important for the future of IT and sought out discoveries that can advance existing technologies, IBM officials said.

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Posted by plates55 - January 21, 2012 at 12:54 pm

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Google buys 217 more patents from IBM to bolster IP portfolio

Google purchased another round of patents from IBM in the last week of 2011, adding 217 filings as the search giant looks to strengthen its existing IP portfolio to help protect itself in an increasingly litigious tech industry.
A report on Tuesday revealed that the United States Patent and Trademark Office officially recorded Google’s acquisition of 188 granted patents and 29 published pending applications from IBM in its patent assignment database on Dec. 30, 2011, according to blog SEO by the Sea.
The patents, which were effectively assigned to Google on Dec. 28, 2011, cover a variety of topics pertinent to the company’s internet business including blade servers, server load balancing, email administration and network performance.
Also found in the batch of intellectual property are patents useful to Google’s Android smartphone platform, like portable OS updating, transferring of web applications between devices, voice based keyword searching and a computer phone patent.
The keyword searching patent is of particular interest as Apple’s Siri digital assistant is seen as a key feature of the company’s iPhone 4S, with at least one market analyst saying that it was one of the main drivers of November sales for the new handset. Google is rumored to be working on a Siri competitor for its Android OS, naming the project “Majel” after Star Trek’s on-board computer.
Google has been on an IBM patent buying spree over the last year, with a July 2011 acquisition of 1,030 filings being followed by purchases of 1,022 filings and 41 filings in August and September, respectively.
The financials of the patent buy has yet to be revealed, and both Google and IBM don’t normally disclose the details of such transactions

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Posted by plates55 - January 4, 2012 at 8:20 am

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Passwords to become fossils by 2017?

Summary: IBM’s predictions for the next five years — fossilized passwords and biometric scanning for all.

IBM recently released its annual tradition of five predictions for five years in to the future — among them, the belief that passwords will become redundant.Generation Y, rejoice! No longer will you struggle with attempting to remember the password for your Facebook account, Twitter, Gmail, games networks — the list goes on. We’ve all had those moments, cursing under our breath, when after three attempts you are locked out justas you remember the actual word and number combination. Or even worse, forced to fill out mud-smear captchas until your eyes start to swim.According to IBM, future generations won’t need to suffer this kind of hardship.



Not much has changed in the last five years. When it comes to computer security, most of us still rely on passwords and username log-in systems to protect our private data and access our accounts. Some companies, for example EyeNet Watch,  offer fingerprint recognition software. However, this kind of technology is rarely used by the general public.

IMB is developing technology that views facial definitions, eye scans, voice files and even DNA as personal safeguards to a far more extreme extent than now.

The company wants to replace words and numbers with security based on your biological makeup, and create unique DNA based profiles that will serve as your ‘password’ for a variety of tasks. These could include going to an ATM, logging in to your computer, and perhaps going as far as signing in to individual online services like Facebook or Twitter.

By using personal data that is far more difficult to forge than simply guessing or learning a password, IBM believes this type of security will be far more appealing than the memory-based approach currently employed.

That is, if people want it. Personally, I’m not keen on the idea of more DNA profiles, even for security measures. It smacks of the U.K government’s failure to introduce biometric I.D cards. A question we probably don’t ask ourselves enough is: how much personal information are we comfortable for organisations to hold on us?

We are yet to see whether this kind of technology, which is likely to be far more expensive to produce, will make its way in to the general public market — or whether it will remain firmly in the grip of security companies and elitist technology.

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Posted by plates55 - January 1, 2012 at 9:29 pm

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Steve Jobs Giving the Finger to IBM [Image


Andy Hertzfeld, a member of the original Apple Macintosh development team and the designer behind Google+ Circles, has posted a rare photo of Steve Jobs giving the finger to IBM.
In memoriam for Steve Jobs as 2011 draws to a close, here’s one more rare photo that illustrates his rebellious spirit. In December 1983, a few weeks before the Mac launch, we made a quick trip to New York City to meet with Newsweek, who was considering doing a cover story on the Mac. The photo was taken spontaneously as we walked around Manhattan by Jean Pigozzi, a wild French jet setter who was hanging out with us at the time. Somehow I ended up with a copy of it. My editor begged me to include it in my book, but I was too timid to ask for permission, especially since IBM was still making CPUs for Apple at the time.
Check out the photo above
Read More [via CultofMac]


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Posted by plates55 - December 30, 2011 at 11:48 am

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