Weekend news roundup: Microsoft’s price range for Surface, Silicon Valley’s nouveau riche

17 Sep 2012

The Microsoft Surface tablet computer

In our roundup of some of the top tech stories from the weekend, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer reveals the price range for Microsoft’s fabled Surface computer; they’re partying like its 1999 in Silicon Valley; and Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer pledges free smartphones for employees.

Microsoft reveals ‘sweetspot’ price for new Surface – between US$300 and US$800

Microsoft’s fabled Surface tablet computer, when it does arrive on shop shelves would not cost less than US$300 and no more than US$800, according to VentureBeat.

“Previously, there were rumours speculating that the Surface tablet would retail between $600 and $1,000 for the two different versions. But neither option comes with a built-in 3G/4G wireless connection feature, which Apple uses to justify a higher price for its line of iPads. Even at $800, the Surface will have to offer a pretty amazing experience for consumers to justify buying one.”

Living it up in Silicon Valley – let them eat noodles

The New York Times blogger Nick Bilton poked fun at the faux-modest lifestyles of those living it up in Silicon Valley. While by and large the industry there and elsewhere fields armies of ordinary people driving ordinary cars, doing ordinary things, like eating Ramen noodles, there is evidence of people living it up to another dimension.

These include individuals like Yammer founder David Sacks, who sold his company to Microsoft for US$1.2bn and had Snoop Dogg at his 40th birthday party. A secret list of the first Facebook employees called the Nouveau Riche 250 discusses the kind of things they’ll buy and do when they sell their stock – boats, planes, philanthropy, etc.

Bilton opines that one of the reasons Silicon Valley likes to play modest is fear of any embarrassing comparisons with the dot.com crash of 2000.

“True, the parties then would make today’s celebrations look like backyard barbecues with Betty Crocker cupcakes for birthday cake.

“Still, some valley denizens sense a shift has occurred as the wealth has become easy.”

“Today, being a venture capitalist is more about a lifestyle than it is about investing,” said Roger McNamee, a co-founder of the tech investment firm Elevation Partners. “They’re making a million bucks a year without generating much, if any, return. It’s like watching Fox News — these people are living in an alternate reality.”

Mayer promises to buy every Yahoo! employee a new smartphone

In a clear move aimed at winning over the troops and ensuring a mobile first mentality is ingrained at Yahoo!, the company’s new CEO Marissa Mayer has promised to buy every employee a new iPhone, or if they prefer, an Android device or the new Nokia Lumia 920, according to VentureBeat.

Realising that happy troops are also productive troops, she is introducing tactics that work well for Google.

According to VentureBeat, Mayer said in a memo to all staff: “As of today, Yahoo! is moving off of Blackberrys as our corporate phones and on to smartphones in 22 countries. A few weeks ago, we said that we would look into smartphone penetration rates globally and take those rates into account when deciding on corporate phones. Ideally, we’d like our employees to have devices similar to our users, so we can think and work as the majority of our users do. Moving forward, we’ll offer you a choice of devices, as well as provide monthly plans for the data and phone,” Mayer said.

Not only Apple fanbois camping in anticipation of new iPhone 5

Fortune reported that fanbois (boys and girls who love all things Apple) began camping outside Apple Stores as soon as last Thursday to make sure they are first in line for the new iPhone 5, but their ranks have been infiltrated by a new breed of camper.

These aren’t your usual fanbois – some of them are using the excitement to launch their new start-ups, including one called Vibe, others are being subsidised with food and drinks and branded T-shirts by Gazelle, a firm that does a brisk business selling old iPhones ahead of the launch of the new ones. Others include aspiring musicians who want to use the publicity that accompanies an iPhone launch to launch their new acts.

Things have changed. Fanbois are being infiltrated by guerilla marketers.

First benchmark results for iPhone 5

The first benchmark results from Geekbench are in, according to MacRumors, showing an iPhone5,2 device running iOS 6 with a dual-core 1.02GHz ARMv7 processor and 1GB of RAM.

“The total Geekbench 2 score comes in at 1601. Poole notes that the average score for the iPhone 4S is 629 and the average score for the iPad 3 is 766. A comparison chart of previous iOS devices can be viewed at Geekbench. The numbers seem to validate Apple’s claim that the A6 processor is twice as fast as the A5 and any previous iOS device. This one score also places the iPhone 5 ahead of the average scores of all Android phones on Geekbench. The full Geekbench results further breakdown processor, memory and bandwidth performance.”

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