Garage sale draws Google guys

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By  Published  October 13, 2006

Home is where the heart is, according to the old saying, and Google has proved it by snapping up the place where the search engine began.

The Mountain View-based firm has bought the Silicon Valley home where co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin rented a garage eight years ago.

The owner of the home, Susan Wojcicki, needed help with paying the mortgage at the time and agreed to lease her garage to the Stanford University students for US$1,700 a month.

The guys were not exactly down on their luck — Google had just been incorporated with US$1milion from their backers.

Now it has US$10 billion in cash with a market value of US$125 billion.

Google did not reveal the cost of buying its spiritual home, but most estimates of similar houses in the area are around the US$1million range. A snip for the young multimillionaires, then.

There are tentative plans to turn the place into a guest house of sorts. “We plan to preserve the property as part of our living legacy,” Google spokes-man Jon Murchinson told AP.

And what of Susan Wojcicki? Well, she now just so happens to be Google’s vice president of product management.

Zune or bust

While Google is splashing the cash, Microsoft is tightening its belt. The Register reports that Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, chairman and CEO respectively of the software giant, have had their bonuses shrunk by US$50,000 to US$350,000 from US$400,000. Agreed, it’s not exactly chicken feed, and the fact that they both got paid US$616,667 in salary will not dent their net worth. Gates is estimated to be worth US$50 billion and Ballmer’s net worth is at US$13 billion, according to the Forbes rich list.

However, a proxy statement, released to the Securities and Exchange Commission, noted that “Their salaries and total compensation are significantly below competitive levels for the information technology industry and large market capitalisation US companies.”

Considering the year’s Vista and Office delays,the on-going fight with the EU Commission and the lukewarm response to the firm’s Zune gadget, it is amazing the guys took home any bonuses at all.

A kind of Blu

Beleagured electronics giant Sony has announced the December release of Blu-ray recorders with 250GB and 500GB capacity respectively.

The good news has been tempered with the pricing: The 500GB version will cost the equivalent of US$2,500.

And it seems that not only will these devices be out of the pockets of most consumers, it appears they may not be able to have the opportunity to buy them in the first place.

According to ZDnet, Sony, as well as Panasonic, which is also releasing a Blu-ray recorder and Toshiba, which is pushing its rival HD-DVD recorder, have no current plans to sell these products abroad. The products are designed specifically for the Japanese market, and both Blu-ray and HD-DVD makers seem to be scaling back ideas for a worldwide launch.

Meanwhile, Sony has released three regional codes for its Blu-ray DVD players. So either it is going to sell them abroad or it is not — and that’s before it’s Blu-ray based PlayStation 3 makes it debut.

If it doesn’t sort out the confusion quickly, Sony could be facing a backlash. After all, consumers will not want to spend their money on products knowing a better version is already on sale overseas.

Jetsetting PCs

While the battery recall snowballs, irate laptop manufacturers may be considering looking at alternative ways to power their devices. Such as a jet engine. The idea is not as daft as it seems according to Canadian newspaper The Toronto Star.

What began as whimsical imagining by Alan Epstein, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US, has come on in leaps and bounds.

Leading a team of 20 colleagues and students in the field of micro electromechanical systems, or MEMS and funded by US$30million from the US military, he has reduced the jet engine to the size of a US quarter coin.

“My laptop now runs about three hours with a full charge,” he explained.

“With a micro-engine about the same size and weight (as a laptop battery) you’d end up with somewhere between 15 and 30 hours,” he added.

The engine is based on six silicon wafers housing a miniature compressor, combustion chamber, turbine, generator and so on. They are bonded together and etched. The space between them performs the necessary functions.

But as with the ordinary laptop battery, issues abound concerning the heat as well as fumes from the gas. Epstein has answers for both.

He plans to create vents — to bring in external air and dilute the hot air — in a similar fashion to a helicopter.

Epstein also plans to use butane gas — the same gas in cigarette lighters — to stop the smell. If all goes to plan the tiny gas turbine generators could be in consumer products within five years.

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