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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

November 26, 2014 at 11:03 AM

China charges Microsoft $137 million in back taxes

Microsoft’s testy relationship with China just got a bit tougher.

The Chinese government has levied $137 million in back taxes and interest against the company, according to a report by China’s Xinhua state news service.

The report doesn’t identify Microsoft by name, labeling the target of the fine as “M,” described as a world-renowned U.S.-based company that started its Chinese subsidiary in 1995. Microsoft launched Microsoft (China) Co Ltd. in Beijing in 1995.

Xinhua’s report said that the company’s Chinese unit was losing money on paper, even as the Chinese subsidiaries of other firms in the industry were profitable. The investigation, Xinhua said, found the company was shipping its profits overseas in avoidance of domestic taxes.

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November 25, 2014 at 11:11 AM

India on tap as first market for Microsoft Lumia 535

Microsoft is poised to use India as the launch pad for its first post-Nokia smartphone, the budget-priced Lumia 535.

The company’s Indian unit teased a Nov. 26 event, featuring copious references to the number five –a key piece of its branding on the device announced earlier this month. The Lumia 535 will be the first phone to carry the Microsoft Lumia — rather than Nokia — name after Microsoft bought Nokia’s handset business earlier this year.

Some in the tech blogosphere have criticized Microsoft for not featuring an obvious flagship Windows phone device to go toe-to-toe with the newer high-end phones running on Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android operating system.

The Lumia 535 (Photo: Microsoft)

The Lumia 535 (Photo: Microsoft)

In making its first Microsoft-branded smartphone relatively cheap ($137 before market- and vendor-related adjustments or discounts), the post-Nokia strategy may instead be to try to capture the new smartphone consumers in emerging markets. It also could be a play to defend market share in one of Nokia’s historic strong points: among international buyers of budget phones. 

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Comments | More in Mobile | Topics: Lumia 535, microsoft, windows phone

November 24, 2014 at 1:40 PM

Microsoft sues IRS for details of tax probe contract

Microsoft is suing the Internal Revenue Service in an effort to get details of an agreement between the tax regulator and a law firm examining how Microsoft tallied its sales between subsidiaries.

The underlying tax matter is a big one for Microsoft. At issue is the IRS’s look at “transfer pricing,” or how companies charge for goods and services bought and sold between a company and its international subsidiaries.

Microsoft says the IRS is looking over the company’s income tax returns for its fiscal years 2004 through 2009. The IRS in May entered into a $2.1 million contract with law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan to provide services related to the tax audit, Microsoft said in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. Quinn Emanuel says it specializes in business litigation and arbitration.

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November 20, 2014 at 2:45 PM

Microsoft’s Azure stumble a worrying one

It’s risky to play armchair psychologist. But it’s probably safe to say that one of the things that keeps Microsoft executives awake at night happened earlier this week: the company’s cloud stopped working.

A good chunk of Microsoft’s Azure cloud-computing services went offline for about 11 hours on Monday, disrupting service for Microsoft customers in the U.S., Europe and Asia. The BBC has a good rundown of how this hit some clients — from preventing health care workers from accessing their email and documents to a social media startup’s site going dark.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of the cloud for Microsoft. It’s the second part of Chief Executive Satya Nadella’s “mobile first, cloud first” mantra, and a big reason Microsoft’s done pretty well financially recently even as some other tech giants that cater to business customers faltered.

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Comments | More in Cloud computing | Topics: azure, cloud, microsoft

November 19, 2014 at 3:18 PM

ISS pegs Microsoft CEO pay at $90.8 million, asks investors to vote no

Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella was paid $90.8 million during the company’s most recent fiscal year. That’s according to an influential shareholder advisory firm, which is recommending shareholders vote against the pay package. Institutional Shareholder Services, which advises large investors on how to vote on corporate issues, says Microsoft shareholders should say no in the largely symbolic vote on…

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Comments | More in Compensation | Topics: microsoft, proxy statement; compensation, satya nadella

November 18, 2014 at 8:28 PM

Senate rejects Microsoft-backed NSA limits [Updated]

The Senate on Tuesday evening rejected a bill curbing the National Security Agency’s data-gathering powers, a blow to Microsoft and a coalition of technology giants that had asked Congress to restrict the spy agency’s programs.

Microsoft, along with Apple, Google and a host of technology companies, posted an open letter this weekend urging the Senate to vote to limit the NSA’s ability to gather bulk Internet and phone data. But in a vote largely along party lines — with Democrats voting yes, and Republicans, weighing in shortly after their victory in this month’s elections, opposed — the measure was rejected.

U.S. technology firms have been major players in the public debate following Edward Snowden’s leaks last year showing that the U.S. government intelligence apparatus was gathering more data than previously disclosed. The storm has damaged the business interests of companies like Microsoft, as private-sector customers and governments foreign and domestic worried about the security of their data.

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Comments | More in Microsoft | Topics: edward snowden, government, national security agency

November 17, 2014 at 4:19 PM

Soccer giant Real Madrid to announce deal with Microsoft

Microsoft is set to add another agreement to its lineup of sports marketing deals: Spanish soccer powerhouse Real Madrid.

In a brief release on its website, Real Madrid said it will announce an agreement with Microsoft at 6:30 p.m. Central European Time (9:30 a.m. Pacific for those of us not in Spain). The content of the deal isn’t much clearer after viewing the brief teaser Microsoft posted.

Real Madrid is the reigning club soccer champion of Europe and a force of nature in the sport. It’s also a global brand that routinely ranks among the most valuable sports franchises.

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November 17, 2014 at 10:33 AM

Microsoft, tech giants urge Senate to curb government data collection

Corrected version Microsoft and a roster of tech heavy-hitters have asked the U.S. Senate to pass a bill curbing the National Security Agency’s powers to collect phone records, emails and other data in bulk. The bill, which could come up for a vote in the Senate as early as this week, also would allow companies like Microsoft to disclose the rough…

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November 14, 2014 at 5:08 PM

Microsoft reiterates opposition to increased shareholder board nominees

Microsoft says a proposal to give shareholders a greater say in candidates for the company’s board of directors could disrupt the company’s operations.

In a filing released just shy of two weeks before the company’s Dec. 3 shareholders meeting, Microsoft provided a slate of data packaged to show the company is under good stewardship and bringing in new blood to the board of directors.

An proposal up for vote at the meeting would give shareholders a greater say in board nominees. Provisions include allowing a single shareholder or a group of shareholders who’ve held a combined 3% of Microsoft stock for 3 years to nominate candidates numbering up to 40% of the board of directors.

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Comments | More in Corporate governance | Topics: board, microsoft, shareholders meeting

November 14, 2014 at 7:00 AM

Microsoft’s free streak a cultural, not financial shift

The past couple of weeks have given plenty of ammunition to Microsoft watchers who sense a major shift in direction under chief executive Satya Nadella.

Microsoft is offering free mobile versions of its Office suite to individual customers with Apple- and Google-powered phones. The company Wednesday said it would release a more powerful set of free developer tools for its .NET programming framework.

Is Microsoft, kingdom of the sky-high profit margins, giving away the keys to the castle?

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