Microsoft’s latest stunt could prove risk that is worth taking

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Microsoft, the multibillion-dollar company founded by Bill Gates, is “giving away” the crown jewels: its Windows operating system is being offered for free for smartphones and tablets. The software giant still derives the bulk of its profits from Windows despite veering off into services, according to international media closely following the company, which were abuzz with theories recently why this latest stunt could prove a risk worth taking.

Locally Hendrik Malan, the operations director for Frost & Sullivan Africa, said that if successful, Microsoft could “substantially reshape the global smartphone market and provide Microsoft with a much-needed entry into a market in which it has struggled for so long”.

That is a tall order if one considers that by the third quarter last year Google’s Android operating system, on which companies such as Samsung offer a range of devices, was dominant, according to data provided by global research firm Gartner. In November last year it said Android held 82 percent of the market, followed by Apple’s iOS system, which claimed a market share of 12.1 percent. Windows Phone held just 3.6 percent of the market.

Malan said that in the past the Windows licensing fee of between $5 (R53) and $15 had been a significant turn-off for manufacturers, while developers focused on creating applications for the most popular operating systems. Malan believes the shift will attract more developers as the Windows platform increases in popularity.

It’s likely to be good news across Africa where Windows is being rolled out.

But of less cheer is the news that Microsoft will discontinue support for its XP operating system for the PCs of the millions of consumers whose pockets helped build the business, in a bid to force them onto a more modern operating system.

Mining

South Africans pride themselves on Ubuntu, the essence of humanity that speaks to our interconnectedness as human beings, but talk is cheap if the humanitarian crisis at Blyvooruitzicht gold mine in Carletonville is anything to go by.

It is cheap considering that the nation is turning a blind eye to the plight of 1 476 employees at Blyvoor who were left destitute after the mine went into provisional liquidation in August last year.

To have ubuntu is to be generous and to put the needs of others first. But Blyvoor employee Meea Maqai has not been buried since he was killed in a shoot-out with security guards in January.

Maqai’s body has been in a Carletonville mortuary since he died. His family cannot afford R10 800 to pay for a casket and to transport his body to his home in Mokhotlong, Lesotho. His son, Litsitso, travelled to Blyvoor and has returned home empty handed.

A mine manager who promised to contribute towards the burial was arrested and subsequently released last week for being in possession of gold worth R1 million and a cash stash of R20 000.

The new owner of Blyvoor, Goldrich Holdings, which bought the mine for R70, is mum. Readers have called in to assist with the burial of Maqai, but even union officials have forgotten ubuntu.

The National Union of Mineworkers said it could not help. Its shop steward said because Maqai was an Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union member at the time of his death, the union would not be involved. Nelson Mandela must be turning in his grave to see that his legacy has been forgotten.

Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Asha Speckman and Dineo Faku.


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