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Apple Wanted Kinect, Steve Ballmer Cashes in Microsoft Shares

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
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Microsoft confirmed last Friday that CEO Steve Ballmer plans to sell nearly one-fifth of his shares of the company, valued at .3 billion. Meanwhile, the company’s Kinect gaming technology apparently went to Apple first, but the creator of the technology found them difficult to work with.

AppleInsider has a pair of Microsoft-related stories on Monday, just as the company launches their new Windows Phone 7 handset here in the U.S.

First up is a report that Kinect creator PrimeSense first took the motion-sensing camera to Apple, where CEO Inon Beracha claimed “it was the most natural place for the technology.” According to Cult of Mac, the camera and infrared sensor was first developed by engineers for the Israeli military, with Beracha enlisted to “shop it around Silicon Valley and find partners to commercialize it.”

Unfortunately, the initial meetings with Apple proved a challenge, with Cupertino’s legendary veil of secrecy producing little more than “a stack of crippling legal agreements and NDAs,” Beracha explained. Referring to the company as “a pain in the ass,” the technology soon found a home with Microsoft as part of its Xbox 360 gaming console, released here in the U.S. last Thursday.

Meanwhile, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is planning to cash in on his work with the company, offering up to 75 million shares of his stock by the end of this year “to gain financial diversification and to assist in tax planning,” the software giant said in a statement on Friday. Ballmer has already sold off over 49 million shares in three separate transactions, taking home more than .3 billion.

According to Cnet, Ballmer may be making the move to avoid savings and investment tax hikes that go in effect come January, when capital gains tax rates increase as much as 20 percent. By selling now, the Microsoft CEO likely saved as much as million which could have gone into Uncle Sam’s coffers.

Despite ditching so many stock shares, Ballmer remains committed to Microsoft. “Even though this is a personal financial matter, I want to be clear about this to avoid any confusion,” the CEO stated in a press release. “I am excited about our new products and the potential for our technology to change people’s lives, and I remain fully committed to Microsoft and its success.”

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Apple Shares Dip On Margin Outlook For 2011


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Now for some other business news.  You may have caught word that yesterday Apple announced that it “expects to experience decreases in its gross margin percentage in future periods, as compared to levels achieved during 2010,” due to a mix of new products that cost the company more to produce and an expectation that product components and other costs will rise.  On the flip side though, the company also saw a hiring boost in their annual report that was filed with the SEC.

Apple is expecting a 36 percent first-quarter margin, which would be down from the 37.5 percent that analysts, who were polled by Thomson Reuters expect, on average.

On this news, AAPL dropped .66, or about 1.5 percent, to 3.17 a share in afternoon trading according to ABC News.

Despite the seemingly bad news, analysts didn’t think it to be all bad.

Shaw Wu, an analyst with Kaufman Bros. said in his note to investors today that there wasn’t any new guidance in Apple’s 10-K, and that he thinks any drop in shares should only give cause to buy more shares of the stock.

Wu felt that Apple’s remarks in their filing were on par with each annual report that it has filed about the upcoming fiscal year “as far as we can remember.” 

He continued, “those fixated on cautious gross margin commentary in its 10-K filing in previous years would missed out on a significant investment opportunity in the last 5-7 years.”

Despite the lower margins, the news wasn’t all bad.  Apple appeared to have gone on a slight hiring spree.  According to the New Mexico BusinessWeekly, the filing also revealed that Apple had 46,600 full-time employees on Sept. 25, which was much higher than the 34,300 in 2009 and 32,000 in 2008. 

That jump in jobs was mainly in the retail area, as Apple had 26,500 employees, a 10,000 increase from 2009.  Apple also now has 317 retail stores, compared to 273 from last year.

On the horizon, Apple is planning to open up 40 to 50 new stores next year, and more than half of those would be outside the U.S. 

Follow this article’s author, Matthew Tilmann on Twitter