I Almost Feel Sorry for Steve Ballmer

Almost...but not quite. Now that the Microsoft deadline for Yahoo to accept its acquisition offer has passed, Mr. Ballmer must now decide whether to go hostile as he had threatened, or to walk away. Several links on RedmondReport.com -- like this one from Bloomberg -- describe the scenarios facing Microsoft in its attempt to add Yahoo to its stable of Web properties.

But Ballmer faces a Hobson's choice: If he continues to pursue Yahoo, he gets tagged for a very un-tech-like hostile takeover. If he walks away, he gets a reputation for not playing hardball.

You'd think that Ballmer's billions would more than make up for any damage to his reputation in the industry, but apparently once you've made your first few billions, it raises the bar on what you'll tolerate in the world around you.

So three months later, should Microsoft go hostile to acquire Yahoo? Give me your 2 cents at pvarhol@redmondmag.com.

Microsoft Accidentally Tags Skype as Malware
Microsoft admitted that the latest batch of malware definitions it sent out incorrectly labeled the Skype VoIP software as malware.

An update sent out late last week corrected the issue, although in the interim it may have affected users who make calls on Skype on a regular basis. The anti-malware software affected was Forefront Client Security, Windows Live OneCare and Windows Live OneCare Safety Scanner.

I use Skype occasionally, primarily for overseas calls, and find it a convenient and relatively high-quality way of communicating when traditional phone service is expensive. Fortunately, this problem was resolved before I started experimenting with the next version of Forefront on my network.

There's no reason to believe that Microsoft was making a statement here; rather, it looks like a simple error. What do you think? Do you use Skype? Tell me at pvarhol@redmondmag.com.

Losing Your BlackBerry Signal
If you travel worldwide and are dependent on your BlackBerry to keep in touch with the office and your family, you may want to take a gander at this Economist item showing where in the world you won't get a BlackBerry signal.

It turns out it's a pretty large area. As you might expect, large areas of interior Africa, Asia and the Australian outback lack coverage. However, even much of South America and parts of Canada outside of the southern tier are BlackBerry-free zones.

In an era when we've come to expect both Wi-Fi hotspots and cell phone signals just about any place we go, this may come as a surprise next time you try to get a signal in, say, Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.

Have you ever not gotten a signal where you expected one? Tell me about it at pvarhol@redmondmag.com.

Mailbag: Where Does the Money Go?
Doug wrote about Microsoft's new Live Mesh initiative yesterday and asked readers to share how much they pay for Internet, TV and phone service. Here are the numbers -- see how your monthly bills compare:

I applaud your latest missive. The amount of money being charged for services is crazy. I purchase Dish for TV ($75 per month); no premimum channels. $85 for two cell phones -- no fancy TVMobile, MediaFLO, etc. I am a systems engineer (35 years in the business) and have only in the past three years switched from dial-up to DSL. DSL was $14.95 a month from Verizon. Now it is $17.95 a month -- same speed, more ads on the Web homepage. And just this month, Verizon has advised that it is again upping the price to $19.95 -- same speed, same hardware, more money. They want me to switch to the FiOS fiber stuff. Can you hear me NOW?

So far, these things are costing me $177.95 a month. If I can get this stuff to MESH up...well, now THERE is the deal of the century, right? Or would this be an Open Mesh Standard?
-Mark

  • Cell phone: $120 a month (family plan)
  • Cable/Internet: $180 a month (all movie channels plus 10MB broadband)
  • Land phone: $30 a month (no long distance)
  • Total: $330 a month

That's outrageous! I never really added it up this way -- I'm getting rid of something! At least my e-mail doesn't cost very much. I have my own domain so all it costs is $35 for registration, $30 for Web forwarding and $35 for each e-mail account (I have four: my wife, my kids and me). Less, if I register for several years.

Mediacom keeps telling me that it could save me money on my phone via VoIP but I keep thinking I'm already giving it too much of my money. Plus, I really like a phone that works when the power goes out.
-Dana

It's funny you should ask that at this time, as I'm transitioning jobs and the new place doesn't provide for BlackBerry, mobile, etc. I'm quite accustomed to being able to look up directions, recipes, odd-ball trivia all the time. Question is, what's it worth to be online? Most of these amounts are strictly for Internet connectivity, and I've tried to break it down accordingly:

  • Cable total: $68 ($48 Internet, $20 basic TV channels that I seldom/never watch)
  • Phone total: $130 ($68 mobile phone, $62 BES/text messaging on my Berry

No home phone/land line since 1999.
-William

I happen to work in the U.S. (legally) and live in Tijuana, Mexico. The idea behind this is to save on rent and other stuff that supposedly is cheaper in Mexico. But in the end, I just spend as much as any American (I think).

I pay $49.99 for my DirecTV service (I managed to have the service in Tijuana). I pay $60 for telephone/Internet (1.5Mbps DSL from Telmex, a Mexican carrier). I pay $43.95 for my Netflix subscription. I pay $14.99 for my Zune pass. I pay $69 for my annual Checkpoint subscription (home-based). I pay $40 for my Symantec subscription. So I spend like $180 a month. Is that an average? (Hope so.)

-Armando

I just read your take on Live Mesh. I've got a bunch of questions about this, whatever it is (and winds up being). But that's for another e-mail. For now, you asked what I pay per month for phone, TV and Internet service. Here goes...

My wife and I use Comcast for our cable TV and Internet service. Right now, it's running just over $100 a month, without any digital TV service. We'll be adding that soon, though, so figure $102-$105 per month. For phone service, we have AT&T mobile phones, and the monthly tab on those runs about $118. This includes an unlimited data plan for me, and a pool of minutes that the two of us share. We also have a land line phone, if you can call Skype that. For both SkypeIn and SkypeOut (so we have a real phone number and the ability to dial other POTS numbers), we pay $90 annually, or $7.50 a month.

In total, our electronic media and information services now run us around $225 a month. When we get the digital TV, that will probably climb to about $230 per month. How does that compare to other users?
-Dennis

Got something to add? Let us have it! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to pvarhol@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Peter Varhol is the executive editor, reviews of Redmond magazine and has more than 20 years of experience as a software developer, software product manager and technology writer. He has graduate degrees in computer science and mathematics, and has taught both subjects at the university level.

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