Ballmer Takes A Pay Cut

Steve Ballmer shouldn't look so happy.In the face of its first annual sales decline ever, Microsoft paid CEO Steve Ballmer five and a half percent less than it did last year. His total earnings for FY2009 were $1,276,627 according to Reuters, compared with a 2008 paycheck for $1,350,834.

I was actually shocked to see the low numbers. I remember reading some time ago that Microsoft never pays executives exorbitant salaries (here’s looking at you, Bobby Kotick), but Ballmer’s salary is a mere $665,833. That 5.5 percent he lost? It came as a $100,000 cut to his yearly bonus, which was just $600,000 this year. I know it’s ridiculous to talk about this kind of money as anything other than huge, but relatively speaking, Ballmer isn’t raking in the dough. Well, not from his salary anyway.

Ballmer personally owns 408 million shares of Microsoft stock – a chunk of the company worth around $10 billion. That’s where the real money’s at with Microsoft, and even though Ballmer doesn’t receive any yearly compensation in the form of shares, you can bet he makes plenty off what he’s already got.

Your Ears Aren’t In Control

Sony Ericsson earbud guy.As predicted, Sony Ericsson’s great announcement for September 21st was underwhelming; it was so underwhelming, in fact, that I forgot all about it. I didn’t even think to look for it until today when I saw a drawing that vaguely resembled the creepy dude from the original website.

So what was the big announcement? Earbuds controlled by your ears! If it sounds confusing, that’s because it is. One big confused mess that reminds me just how out of touch tech companies can be. The new headphones, called the MH907, work by sensing how many buds are in your ears. Plug in two headphones and your music starts playing. Unplug one to pause your music. If you get a phone call you can take out both earbuds and then plug one back in to answer. To hang up, pull an earbud out, then put both earbuds in to start the music back up.

I think everyone has the same question here: why invent a product that requires a string of gestures to replace one-click functionality. You know what I do if I’m listening to music on my phone and I need to pickup an incoming call? I press “Answer Call.” Just once. To start my music back up, I press “Play.” That’s it. No plugging and unplugging. No pointless ad campaign to point out a worthless product. Just one of those button things we’ve been hearing about for so many years.

The Latest Scoop On The Apple Tablet

Apple iPad.Jeremy Horwitz, editor-in-chief at, says he has the latest scoop on the Apple tablet from a reliable source. How reliable? This guy predicted the Chinese iPhone! The Nano Camera! The iPhone 3GS! Oh yeah, so did a couple thousand other people, but hey, it’s better than someone who predicted none of those things…I guess.

So what’s the newest of the new news? Almost nothing. The source says basically everything we already know. It’s a big version of the iPod Touch/iPhone. It’s not competing with netbooks (Apple making a $300 tablet…right). It can be used as an e-reader. About the only new information is that there will be two models, one with 3G and one without, and it will likely be announced on or before January 19, 2010.

Wait, none of that is new either. Speculation about the device has long included 3G capability, and discussing the lame factor in predicting a 14-week announcement window seems cruel (though really, that’s weak).

To end the roundup of half-assed guessing-at-shit-that’s-almost-certain, Horwitz reminds you to keep an open mind. You wouldn’t want to make the mistake iLounge commenters made when they asked, “what’s the point of putting a camera on the Nano?” would you? You’re right, I would too. That camera sucks.

Princeton Students Hate The Kindle DX

Kindle DX.Remember that pilot program for the Kindle DX? Yeah, that thing at Princeton where Amazon subsidized some of the cost of a Kindle DX for a small group of students and Princeton paid the rest. Despite the early rutting from everyone involved, it looks like the Princeton side of the deal is none too happy. One student is so displeased with the device that he called it a “poor excuse of an academic tool.” Snap!

The e-readers have been in student hands for two weeks across three classes. The Daily Princetonian claims many students are “dissatisfied and uncomfortable” with the Kindle DX. Most students cite the lackluster annotation features, though a lack of page numbers has also proven a bit of a setback. One professor added concerns for transitioning from physical to digital forms. His own texts are riddled with highlights and scribbles for noteworthy passages. Transferring those notes to the Kindle would take days.

Despite the inconvenience, students have not yet decided to opt out of the pilot program.

Palm Could Sell The Pre At Full Price If They…

Palm Pre.Palm’s Pre has been getting price cuts all over the place since launch, proving at once that Palm really wants to get the phone into your hands and that consumers don’t like it enough to pay more than they would for a messaging dumb-phone. There’s even a deal for the next couple days to get a Pre for free. Palm could be selling the Pre for full price, though, if they would just get it together already.

By get it together I mean release a full-fledged app store. The App Catalog is still a pathetic shadow of what it could be, with too few apps and no paid support. With the 1.2 WebOS update that just went live users can finally re-download previously purchased apps for free, but the update really didn’t do much else. Nevermind that enormous changelog, which is mostly just optimization of existing features, Palm needs a major update to make the phone desirable. Until that happens, they can plan to watch Apple’s own store grow exponentially, shrinking Palm’s potential user base one iPhone at a time.

Apple Announces Current App Store Stats

iPhone App Store.Today, Apple saw fit to hit us with the cold hard numbers about the App Store, and they are big. Big like 2 billion downloads. Big like 85,000 apps. Big like a half billion downloads in the last quarter alone. That’s insane growth, and the App Store is now available to some 50 million customers across 77 countries, meaning that growth isn’t likely to slow down.

AppleInsider did a breakdown on the numbers, which includes some staggering statistics on daily download rates. The App Store has averaged 4.1 million downloads every day in its first year. Since April, that number is up to 6.3 million daily downloads. The staggering growth is something Apple obviously hopes to continue, and likely will as more and more carriers adopt the iPhone and more apps become available to iPod Touch users.

Axe Makes MMS Sexy

This story will be particularly interesting to all of you newly-minted MMS-using iPhone owners out there. Axe is using MMS to hype its new Day and Night line of products in very clever, very sexy fashion. The image below is a before and after of an Axe ad featuring the new product that requires an SMS to complete the image.
A very sexy Axe Night and Day ad.
The concept is simple, really. Show a nearly nude picture of a beautiful blonde with all her naughty bits replaced by white boxes. The ad has simple instructions: “To complete this ad send Axe to 2345 after 9pm.” The SMS generates a picture response, allowing to view the full image.

Say what you want about the state of advertising and the objectification of women. This thing is clever. Damn clever.

Source: DirectDaily

Get The Acer AspireRevo Nvidia Ion LE Variant For $200

Acer AspireRevo.The Acer AspireRevo has long been available as a cheap desktop designed for basic use like browsing and word processing. There’s a new model available, though, one that uses Nvidia’s new Ion LE card, giving the AspireRevo 1080p playback capability for a mere $200.

As for the rest of the computer, it’s the basic specs the world has come to love in cheap computing. There’s a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor, a gig of RAM, and a 160GB hard drive. You should know, Flash has not yet been optimized for playback on the Ion LE, meaning HD playback from Hulu will be choppy. I think it’s safe to say Nvidia’s new technology isn’t going anywhere soon, so when HD playback is fully supported, the Aspire Revo will be one of the best deals out there.

You can get the machine now at Newegg.

Walmart Rolls Pre Back To $80

Rollback that Palm Pre.In one of the quickest price reductions I’ve ever seen on a flagship device, the Palm pre has been cut once again to just $80. You can get that deal at Walmart, which beats the previous best from Amazon at $99.

I have to wonder just how low retailers can drive the price of a Pre to offer it for just $80 less than four months after launch. Sprint must be dying to sell these things if it’s willing to cut the price by so much. We went from $299 with a $100 rebate at launch to a flat $199 to a $150 deal in some places to the scattered $99 deals and now this. I’m going to guess there will be at least one thoroughly angry customer who purchased back in June and thinks a lawsuit is in order.

AT&T Has Refurbed iPhone 3G for $50

AT&T iPhone.If you’ve been thinking about making the switch to a smartphone or considering an iPhone, now’s about as good a time as any. AT&T enabled MMS on the iPhone today, which brings it up to speed with candybar phones of nearly a decade ago. The wireless provider also just found some old iPhone 3G models lying around that it will sell for a paltry $50.

Now, if I were you, I would splurge for the 3GS. It’s faster, has a better camera, and records video, which makes it much more than a cell phone. If you don’t want to drop $199 on a phone right now, though, the $50 3G will do just fine. It’s not that much slower, and you could probably live without the extra camera features.

There’s still one big reason to stay away: AT&T. Their service sucks and 3G coverage away from major cities is spotty at best. Also, you might be able to get Apple’s baby on a different network before your contract is up.

The good news is you’ll be just fine in either case. If you buy, you’re getting a great phone fairly cheap. If you don’t, you’re avoiding all the headaches that come with being tethered to AT&T. That is all.