Tech Watch: Ballmer Says Microsoft Should Buy Yahoo; New Dell Desktops; Kill Switch on Google’s Phone

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer suggested that his company may buy Yahoo. Yahoo’s stock rose with the speculation.


Will Microsoft Swallow Yahoo?


We’ve had false alarms before, but it seems Yahoo might be facing another takeover offer in the near future. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said today during a keynote interview at Gartner ITXpo that purchasing Yahoo “would make sense economically” for both companies’ shareholders. The comment was reported by Rex Crum of MarketWatch.

On the news, Yahoo’s stock shot up 13% to $13.42, from $11.75. Those with a memory for failed acquisitions will remember that Microsoft’s previous bid for Yahoo priced shares of the search giant at $33 each. Steve Ballmer apparently remembers, too, commenting that the company is probably “worth at least [that] much today.”

Despite the faltering economy, such a deal is still feasible for well-moneyed Microsoft. The company is highly valued, with a capitalized value of almost $221 billion dollars.

Dell Refreshes Desktops; Hints at New Netbook

Dell isn’t a company known for the aesthetic appeal of its computers, and its line of Vostro full-size tower PCs are no exception. But that doesn’t stop them from being hot sellers, and with a new round of refreshes announced today, they’re likely to keep selling.

The Vostro line has an incredibly broad range of price-points, with the lowest-end model starting at just $320 and the top end ringing in at over $2,000. There are three Vostro models: the 220, the 220S, and the 420, of which the latter is the most configurable. The 420 sports seven PCI/PCIe slots and an eSATA connector for adding cards and storage, and all three models are available with a litany of processors including Intel’s Celeron, Pentium Dual-Core, Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad chips. All three also support optional Blu-ray drives.


And while the Vostro updates might be official, more hardware news is coming out of Dell in the form of an unintentional leak. Dell’s online Product Support pages make reference to a 12-inch netbook that appears to be a sibling to the currently-availbable Mini 9. The site lists the device’s user manual and troubleshooting documents, as well as a setup guide.

According to those documents, the Mini 12 (or 1210, by model number) packs an Intel Atom processor, 1GB of DDR2 RAM, Ethernet, Bluetooth, WiFi, three USB 2.0 ports, optional wireless broadband in the form of WWAN, VGA out, audio in and out, and a 1.3 webcam. The 12-inch display measures up at 1280×800 pixels, and the whole thing — including a 3-cell battery — will weigh about 2.7 pounds (or more, with the bigger 6-cell battery.) WIndows XP and Ubuntu Linux seem to be the platforms available, but no price or availability date is known as yet.

Google Phone To Have Much-Hated ‘Kill Switch’

When Apple’s iPhone found its first chorus of detractors, one of the features they latched on to was Apple’s inclusion of a so-called “kill switch” inside the device — software that would allow Apple to remotely wipe applications from the phone if it deems them in violation of the developer distribution agreement that each developer signs with Apple.

Now it appears that Google’s is suffering the same criticism. Google’s Android mobile operating system, employed on the HTC-made T-Mobile G1 that will go on sale next week, comes buttressed by an application marketplace that is notably more free-market than the Apple’s. The Android app store, which contains free applications but will eventually contain paid apps, too, is said to be much less regulated than its iTunes equivalent, making the inclusion of a kill switch that much more surprising to the technorati.

The user contract terms of Android Marketplace reveal the kill switch explicitly, saying that in an instance of terms violations, “… Google retains the right to remotely remove those applications from your device at its sole discretion.” Unlike Apple, Google has chosen to publicize and acknowledge this feature up front, before users get their hands on the phone, which might prevent the company from fomenting as much resentment as their Cupertino-based competitor.

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I've written about innovation, design, and technology for Fast Company since 2007. I was the co-founding editor of FastCoLabs