Step on it, Already

Microsoft’s Board moves its CEO search towards the end

Bloomberg is reporting that Microsoft’s CEO search is nearing an end.   The company’s board of directors will narrow its previous list of candidates (set at 8) to 3 to 5, according to the news outlet. That meeting, scheduled for  2013-11-18  takes place one day before Microsoft hosts its annual shareholders meeting not far from its headquarters, in Redmond, WA.

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In a bid to keep or improve the momentum its stock saw since Steve Ballmer announced his departure within 12 months,   Microsoft will quickly advance its search forward.   Microsoft’s stock has jumped 17% since that announcement in August 2013. The company’s board would be negligent to allow it to fall off or stagnate.

There’s also been a great deal of criticism that many of the recent changes that Ballmer has enacted over the recent months, including the company’s focus change from boxed software to devices and services, its recent reorg – which was extensive – as well as its acquisition of Nokia’s handset business and the abandonment of its “stack ranking” employee evaluation system, would box the new CEO in and narrow their choices.   The fear is that this would effectively make them a replacement and not a successor.

The intent is to get a replacement in place by the end of the year.   If the selection process moves into 2014, then ValueAct’s president, G. Mason Morfit, a newly appointed board member, will have a more active voice in the choice of CEO as part of the recent agreement ValueAct and Microsoft entered into in August 2013. ValueAct Capital instituted a potential proxy fight and as part of the agreement to avoid that, Microsoft and ValueAct entered into an agreement that included a board seat for Morfit. The “more active voice” clause is also part of the deal, according to a filing with the SEC.

My friend Preston Gralla   had some  interesting ideas  on who that person might be. His take, and I agree with much of it, is that Microsoft needs a complete remake. That would kill nearly every internal candidate (Satya Nadella, Kevin Turner, and my speculation on a third internal candidate – Julie Larson-Green) as well as Stephen Elop.   Elop may be coming directly from Nokia, but he’s a former Softie, and was once part of the culture that needs to so drastically change. If I were a member of the MS Board, while Elop may institute change, I would be afraid that it wouldn’t be a big enough change.

That leaves just two real candidates – former Skype CEO Tony Bates and Ford’s Alan Mulally.   I honestly like both. While Bates may have the tech experience and the entrepreneurial drive that might be needed, I think Mulally is the better choice.   He has the corporate experience with a larger organization in Ford and has brought about the kind of rapid change that the MS Board wants. Mulally can always tap Tony Bates for COO, too; which would give the organization the best of both worlds.   It just may be the winning combination that Microsoft needs at this time.

I don’t want to push Kevin Turner out of a job, but in the end, it may be the right choice for Microsoft. If there isn’t another good spot for Turner within the organization, I’m certain he and his family won’t starve to death. Microsoft would likely take care of him if that scenario came about.

I’ll have more on the CEO developments at Microsoft as they become known. Please watch Soft32 for more on this developing issue.

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Chat with your friends with RaidCall

Chat with your friends with this group-based audio chat software for Windows.

raidcallVoIP is a huge deal. Making calls to friends and loved ones across the internet is easier than ever to do today.  This is one reason why I like apps like RaidCall, It’s an audio chat client for Windows.

RaidCall is free and light weight.  Setting it up is very easy.  With it, you won’t have to rent or set up local chat servers. Its low CPU usage and minimum memory footprint also allow for smooth, uninterrupted communication between you and your call recipients.

RaidCall supports Group Communications, too.  You can have up to 10,000 users at a time in a single RaidCall group and has a flexible group management system.  The client supports Hi-Fi quality voice chat from anywhere in the world; and has additional features like a voice recorder, polling, announcements, and an activity log.

RaidCall also supports instant messaging.  Aside from passing text messages back and forth, the app also handles file transferring and screenshot sharing, and chat records. It also supports personalized themes and emoticons.

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RaidCall is a decent VoIP client, but is seriously lacking in video calling support. With apps like Skype and FaceTime readily available (depending on platform) that support both audio as well as video chat, for many, RaidCall may be a non-starter in the consumer market.

For SOHO, it may be a decent choice, as video chat may not be a huge need here.  However, the lack of video chat support in a client like this is a huge hole.  Even though it’s free, there are other aps out there that are likely a better choice.

download RaidCall

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Change you voice with Skype Voice Changer

This is more about demonstrating a clever technology than providing a genuinely useful service. With that in mind, it’s certainly fun to play about with.

Skype Voice Changer is based on the numerous applications that are available to artificially alter voices. Some of us have tried out such tools before, while many of us have encountered them in the form of special effects or, most memorably and horrifically, in a certain teenage girl’s song about her favorite day of the week that caused a storm on YouTube.

What’s different about this software is that it works in real time. Rather than take an entire recording and work its magic, it aims to alter your voice so quickly that you can hold a conversation with your chat partner hearing your distorted voice without any obvious delays.

The control set-up is simple but effective. You start by choosing from a range of pre-set filters and effects, then make the call on Skype. While talking, you can tweak features such as pitch and echo, with the changes taking immediate effect without you needing to restart the software or the call.

Frankly there will be few reasons why you’d want to use this regularly unless you are really into crank calls. That said, it’s certainly worth a look if you have an elderly relative who often wonders at “the things they can do with computers nowadays.”

download Skype Voice Changer

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Keep in touch with all of your Facebook friends with fTalk

Let’s face it. You use Facebook to keep up with your friends and family. You share pictures, stories, and stuff, and it’s a lot of fun. When it comes to connecting with friends, sometimes, getting the cute fluff out of the way so you can chat with yo’ peeps is just what is needed. This is the reason why I really like fTalk. It’s a multiplatform chat client, specifically designed to work with Facebook.

fTalk enhances your social media experience by taking Facebook to the next level. With fTalk, you can chat with your Facebook friends directly from your desktop, without having to run a browser and surf to Facebook. fTalk enables you to chat with your friends even when you’re at work or in a public environment where you don’t necessarily want to; or can’t open Facebook.  You can see which of your friends have logged in, you can change your status, use emoticons and even video chat! fTalk offers a fun and light Facebook chat experience; and its free.

fTalk is a decent app. It allows you to chat with your FB friends even without having an active FB session going in your browser. It’s very much like Skype for Facebook; or something similar. The app is great. I like it. However its only real value is that it automatically integrates with your FB account and pulls in all your FB Friends.  You could manually do that with Skype Windows Live Messenger, AIM or any other chat client that also supported video. While this doesn’t kill the application’s usefulness, it does limit you to just chatting or video calling to only your FB friends, and if someone does want to chat or video chat with you, they have to be your Facebook friend first.

download fTalk

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Get in touch over email, IM, or a call with Google Talk

You know…Skype is the thing. It really is. The Jetson’s video-style chat is something that many people have been dreaming of as the standard M.O. for voice communications for the last 50 years. Now, thanks to the Internet and to those tools like Google Talk, it’s now possible; and it really doesn’t matter what platform you’re using. Google has a communications solution for you.

Unified communications is one of THE buzz words of the coming year. Google is doing its best to provide most everyone with the single best way to communication with family and friends and they are hoping that their Gmail and Google Talk combination are the key to that success.

With Google Talk, you can IM and voice chat with friends, family and just about anyone with a Gmail address or Google account.

With Talk’s text chat, you can send instant messages, make status updates, and transfer files. With voice chat, you get free PC to PC GLOBAL, long distance calling, and can hold an video conference with multiple parties all at once. All you need is Google Talk, a Gmail address and a web cam at each end point. Even if someone is missing a web cam, they can still participate either via audio only or one-way video

 

 

 

Read full review | Download Google Talk

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Make free audio and video phone calls with Skype

I live in Chicago, IL. My family lives in Houston, TX. My wife’s family lives in Scottsdale, AZ. We have three children and unfortunately, they don’t get to see their grandparents much. Before my father passed away earlier this year, he wanted to spend as much face time with his grandchildren as possible. Thankfully, we had Skype to fill the void. It’s the premier, consumer voice over IP (VoIP) calling solution available for Mac and Windows.

There are a couple different consumer video calling solutions on the market today. Many of them come with either the web cam you buy. Some, like Apple’s FaceTime and iChat are proprietary. However, Skype is the one that most everyone thinks of and reaches for when you’re looking to share special moments with long distance loved ones.

Whether you want to share a special event, that new outfit, some stunning scenery, or the results of the big game, Skype allows you to share all this and more with Jetson’s style video calling. You’ll never miss out on the moments that matter most, regardless of the reason you’re apart – a business trip, vacations, etc.

Skype provides a way for small to medium sized businesses to collaborate and save on travel. As long as the call is between two points, Skype won’t hit you for the cost of the call, but they also include business plans with better connections that better facilitate the sharing of ideas, meeting of new team members, etc., effectively minimizing the cost and time of unnecessary business travel.

The latest version of Skype also includes support for HD audio and video. Providing everyone on the call has an HD quality webcam, you can see the video call in HD. However, you’ll need to understand that video of just about any quality, HD most notably, takes up a lot of bandwidth. HD video is likely best sent and received through a wired, vs. wireless connection to your home or office network. If you’re experiencing audio sync or video quality issues, then you will likely need to check your network connection and make any necessary adjustments.

Download Skype

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Facebook introduces Video Chat and Group Chat features in collaboration with Skype

A couple of days ago, Facebook, world’s biggest social networking website announced that is planning to “launch something awesome”. Well, yesterday, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced as rumored and anticipated, video calling – powered by Skype. Cool, right?

The video functionality is built right into Facebook Chat, so all your conversations start from the same place. To call your friend, just click the video call button at the top of your chat window.

Moreover, the company revealed other chat improvements, such as an option to see the friends you message most (whether on line or offline ) and group chat.

P.S: Facebook has 750 million users (confirmed yesterday), and since Skype only has 170 million users, it’s clear why Skype gains from this integration.

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Skype Video Chat now works on Android Phones

Skype has just released a major update for Android users which adds Video calls to Android.

Don’t just say ‘Hello’ – give someone a wave on video over Wi-Fi or 3G on Android phones.

It’s a big step but unfortunately, this cool new feature is only available on four phones, at list for now: HTC Desire S, Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo, Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro and Google Nexus S.

The thing is that all the smartphones listed above run Android 2.3, but I’m sure that the company is working to make video chat available on a wider range of devices.

You can get the new Skype from the Android Market.

P.S.: Skype seems to work on Samsung Galaxy S too. The only thing that you need is Android 2.2 Froyo or later.

 

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