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 iLounge.com, 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.