Sun sees giveaway plan foundering, lays off 200
The new business strategy can't save jobs in Sun's high-end server group. Plus: Burger King's royal videogames.
SAN FRANCISCO (Business 2.0 Magazine) - In February, the defiant Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy predicted a triumphant resurgence for his company to Business 2.0: "Four years ago we told our engineers to throw out everything that doesn't matter." Now, apparently, McNealy has decided that 200 employees are among what doesn't matter. The layoffs came from the company's high-end server group which has recently been giving away computers to anyone who asks for one to test. Indeed, even Sun (Research) president Jonathan Schwartz has acknowledged in his blog that the free trial offer has proved a bit rocky, and these cuts make that all the more apparent.
Want fries with your Xbox?
Burger King has been asking customers to wake up with the King - and now the fast-food chain wants them to play with the King, too. The company is considering putting its royal Burger King crown on a series of Microsoft (Research) Xbox games, according to videogame blog Kotaku. At $4, the games wouldn't cost much more than an Angus Cheesy Bacon Steak Burger, and would feature BK's King character in fighting, action, and racing titles. It wouldn't be the King's first appearance in a videogame, however - he's already one of the pugilists in "Fight Night Round 3."
Brits ripped off by bits
When it comes to digital services British consumers are paying a steep price for innovation - when you look closely at what's on offer, it's easy to see that UK outfits don't, as the British say, offer "value for money." Take Carphone Warhouse's new "free broadband" offer. Sure, it's free, if you pay 9.99 pounds a month for Carphone's TalkTalk VOIP residential service, and another 11 pounds a month for a "line rental charge." That comes out to $36.50 - about what you'd pay in the U.S. for AT&T (Research)/Yahoo (Research) DSL and VOIP from Vonage. (And unlike in the U.S., British callers pay by the minute to call cell phones.) Jupiter Research analyst Ian Fogg writes in his blog that the offer is not as appealing as it sounds, especially given U.K. users' preferences for pay-as-you-go services.
Then there are the mobile banking services now offered by both HSBC (Research) and First Direct. Customers will see their bank accounts drop by 20 to 30 pence every time they check their balances via cell phone - about the same cost as a phone call, points out a First Direct executive. Finally, Italian-Anglo band Planetfunk is releasing a single available exclusively on mobile phones for 99 pence, or about $1.72 - 73 percent more than a song costs on Apple's (Research) iTunes store in the U.S.
Microsoft gets into the RSS feed business
The blogosphere runs on RSS feeds - a technology that strips down blogs and other websites into a series of headlines and posts, and serves them up to users of special feed-reading software and websites like My Yahoo. (Check out CNNMoney's feeds here.) Now Microsoft wants to get into the feed-reading business, too, putting feeds on everything from your PC to your Xbox to your Windows Mobile smartphone. The company has hired well-known blogger Niall Kennedy to head up the effort. Kennedy recently left blog search engine Technorati as part of a sudden employee exodus. Microsoft program manager Alex Barnett notes that Kennedy's working out of Microsoft's Silicon Valley campus, not its Redmond headquarters, to better tap into the Bay Area's blog expertise.To send a letter to the editor about this story, click here.