Weekend news round-up: Microsoft musical chairs, tech interns earn more than householders

3 Mar 2014

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

In our round-up of the weekend’s top tech stories, musical chairs at Microsoft as CEO Satya Nadella makes changes, tough but compassionate Tim Cook exorcises the ghost of Steve Jobs, and Silicon Valley tech interns earn more than most households.

Musical chairs at Microsoft

It was inevitable that as soon as new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella got his feet under the table there would be changes afoot at leadership level at the software giant.

Re/code reported that two direct reports to Nadella — EVP of business development and evangelism Tony Bates and EVP of marketing Tami Reller — are leaving the company.

“It’s not clear where either exec is headed, if anywhere immediately. But Nadella told top staff of the changes on Friday and the software giant was planning to announce them Tuesday.

“Sources added that EVP of advanced strategy Eric Rudder will temporarily take up Bates’ duties and longtime Microsoft marketing exec Chris Capossela will replace Reller.”

Heist almighty

The Daily Beast reported how incompetent management and faulty accounting – not virtual robbers – are the real culprits in the missing millions at Bitcoin exchange Mt Gox.

The Daily Beast was able to speak with a former employee of Mt Gox, on the condition of anonymity, due to a non-disclosure agreement with the company. According to the former employee’s testimony and other expert analysis, it seems very likely that the collapse of Mt Gox was not a criminal fraud but the result of poor management, faulty accounting, and system bugs that went unfixed many months after being recognised by the CEO himself. The final nail in the coffin was the unauthorised release of an internal document that was supposed to serve as the groundwork for saving the company. It is unclear who leaked the document – which was an unfinished draft of a plan of action.”

So WhatsApp with the story Jan Koum?

Tech writers often labour under the misguided conceit that tech founders always love having articles written about their start-ups. Seasoned hack Robin Wauters was disabused of this notion during an unexpected meeting with Jan Koum, co-founder of WhatsApp, which Facebook bought for US$16bn recently.

Writing in his blog, Wauters related how when he met Koum at Mobile World Congress last week Koum remembered a funding story about WhatsApp that Waters wrote for TechCrunch in 2011.

“As I sat down next to him in the 4YFN press lounge this week, he told me he hadn’t yet told his employees, and that there were still a few signatures that needed to be taken care of, and that he had to spend two days running around – not focusing on product – as a result of me breaking the news before they could.

“I posited that this wasn’t such a big deal, considering the outcome, but that only annoyed Koum more.

“‘It’s that kind of attitude that makes this so wrong,’ he said as he looked me sternly in the eyes. ‘Reporters like you make life very difficult for me and my peers.’

“I tried to explain that I was just doing my job, and that technically whoever leaked the story was mostly responsible for any ‘damage’ that was caused by the publication of my story, but he wouldn’t have it.”


The ghost of Steve Jobs

In a profile that shows how a tough, caring and committed Tim Cook is crafting a healthier environment at Apple, The Wall Street Journal recounted how when Cook assumed the role of CEO at Apple, the ghost of former CEO Steve Jobs was everywhere.

“Even as he took control of Apple’s empire, Cook couldn’t escape his boss’ shadow. How could anyone compete with a visionary so brilliant that not even death could make him go away?

“The genius trap had long been set for Jobs’ successor. Apple had been defined by him for more than a decade. Design, product development, marketing strategies and executive appointments – all hinged on his tastes. Apple’s accomplishments weren’t Jobs’ alone, but he had taken credit for most of them, which further fed his legend. One employee even owned a car with the vanity plate ‘WWSJD’: What Would Steve Jobs Do?

“The next CEO didn’t have the quasi-religious authority that Jobs had radiated. Cook’s every decision would be examined by current and former employees and executives, investors, the media and Apple’s consumers. He would also have to contend with the sky-high expectations that Jobs had conditioned the public to have for Apple.”

The great divide

In a series of reports illustrating the fascinating but glaring divide that is emerging between the tech economy and the ordinary US economy, The New York Times reported only were home prices in tech hubs 60pc higher than their initial asking price but that mere interns at companies like Facebook and Google at US$75k a pop were earning more than the median US household income.

“According to a report released on Friday by Glassdoor, an online jobs and career company, some of the highest-paying companies pay their interns more than US$75,000 a year. This is more than the median household income in the United States, which according to the Census Bureau, is US$53,046 a year.

“It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that many of the companies on the list are tech-based. Glassdoor said companies in the San Francisco Bay Area dominated the list of highest paid, representing 18 of the top 25 companies profiled.

“Palantir, the computer software and services company, was at the top of the list, paying interns a whopping US$7,012 a month. Assuming the intern works an entire year, that means an annual salary of US$84,144.

“Social media giants pay their interns better than most traditional tech start-ups, according to the report. Twitter interns came in third on the list, with a monthly salary of US$6,791. LinkedIn was right behind with at US$6,230 each month, followed by Facebook at US$6,213 a month.”

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years