Nokia: risky business?
Last night Microsoft announced the $7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia's Devices and Services business, as well as its patents and mapping systems. Puget Sound Business Journal followed up today with a report that investors are seeing the acquisition as a bad move. "Microsoft’s stock on Tuesday lost all the gains it had made since CEO Steve Ballmer announced he would step down within a year. It was trading well below $32 a share, down about 6 percent on the day," wrote PSBJ's Emily Parkhurst.
The move is certainly risky for the departing CEO, but not necessarily the anvil nearsighted investors have made it out to be. Current Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, who left Microsoft in 2010 to head Nokia, wasted no time in jettisoning dead weight, a campaign he kicked off with an alarming memo to employees in early 2011. The memo showed that Elop understands what success in the mobile market looks like and his trimming at Nokia turned the former Finnish mobile giant into a prime acquisition target for -- who else -- his old friends at MSFT.
It seems Ballmer, who has been harumphing all over about Microsoft's devices and services transition, is finally putting his money where his mouth is: into the world's former leader in devices. Two questions, all rumors of Elop as Ballmer's successor aside: Will Microsoft capitalize on Nokia's talent and patent assets? Will Elop and Ballmer have the vision to turn Microsoft into not just a follower in the mobile market, but a leader?
Health insurance call center: lotta reps, not much detail
The Washington Health Benefit Exchange’s call center opened for business today. 140 customer service reps at call centers in Spokane and Virginia fielded about 100 calls an hour this morning. (They can handle 175 languages!) “It’s been brisk,” said Michael Marchand, Director of Communications for the Exchange. “It’s good to see people in Washington seriously considering the opportunity that’s before them.”
Here's the hitch: Call center reps can’t offer specifics about the actual benefits until October 1. That’s when the Exchange will post details about the 41 approved (by the state insurance commish) health insurance plans on its website. Ever helpful, the rep we spoke with estimated the monthly premium for a 30-year-old male making $50,000 a year at $268. But, cautioned the rep, “when it comes to the details and what it actually covers and exactly how, we don’t have all that information.” The $268 estimate comes courtesy of an interactive calculator developed at UC-Berkeley. The calculator is on the Benefit Exchange website. The call center stays open through March 31, when this first open enrollment period closes.
The city of Seattle has assumed — for 23 years, according to The Seattle Times -— that we were all perfectly content with the number of licensed taxis zipping around the city. But the recent flood of taxi alternatives (town cars, Car2Go, Lyft, etc.) prompted transpo planners to measure demand a new way. And guess what? According to the survey whose results will be unveiled at a City Council meeting tonight, we want more taxi-like transit services – just not from taxis.
Cabbies who are, not surprisingly, un-thrilled by the finding, will complain to the council tonight — about the hundreds of dollars they alone must pay for city permits and state taxes and the extra hours (up to 12 hour days, every day) they now drive just to keep up with the competition. Taxi operators staged protests about these inequities earlier this summer, but nothing much changed. Although the city views permit-less Lyft-, Sidecar- and UBERx-type services illegal, no drivers have been busted. How do you honor the cabbies’ legit concerns without stifling welcome innovation? Maybe you don’t. Either way, we’ll know more after tonight’s City Council meeting.
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