Posted Aug. 20, 2014 at 6:52 a.m.

Uber hires Obama exec; Salix near deal close; Ballmer leaves Microsoft board; Lenovo's NFL Fantasy; HTC's new phone

Published: 2014-08-20 06:52:16
Updated: 2014-08-20 06:52:16


In today's Bulldog roundup of tech and life science news:

  • Uber hires former Obama exec to help with lobbying;
  • Salix nears deal close;
  • Ballmer quits Microsoft board;
  • Lenovo's new NFL Fantasy contest;
  • HTC's new phone runs Windows

The details:

  • Uber Hires David Plouffe

Uber is stepping up its political game with a high-powered new hire.

The taxi-alternative service is hiring a former White House adviser to lead its campaign for acceptance in the 170 cities around the world where it operates.

David Plouffe is best known for running President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign. He is joining Uber as senior vice president of policy and strategy in September, bringing a campaign mindset to a company that has faced resistance in some U.S. cities from the taxi industry and regulators.

Uber's app lets smartphone users locate nearby part-time drivers for the service, who use their own cars to ferry around passengers, as well as locate yellow cabs in cities like New York.

The service has run into opposition from taxi services and local governments in some cities, due to safety fears and complaints that it can dodge rules taxicabs must follow.

In a blog post, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick compared privately held Uber to a political candidate competing against "the Big Taxi cartel," which has used "decades of political contributions and influence to restrict competition, reduce choice for consumers, and put a stranglehold on economic opportunity for its drivers."

  • Salix Nearer Cosmo Pharmaceuticals Deal

Raleigh-based Salix Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: SLXP) is nearer to closing its deal for Cosmo Pharmaceuticals, the company said Tuesday.

The company said it "had received notice of the early termination of the waiting period for U.S. antitrust review under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, as amended, relating to its previously announced combination transaction with Cosmo Pharmaceuticals. The waiting period was scheduled to expire on August 21, 2014. Termination of the waiting period satisfies a condition to the closing of the transaction. Completion of the transaction remains subject to approval by Salix’s stockholders and certain other closing conditions."

  • Ballmer Leaves Microsoft Board

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is stepping down from the company's board, closing a chapter on 34 years with the software giant.

Ballmer says he plans to devote more time to his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers, civic contributions, study and teaching a business class at Stanford in the fall.

Microsoft Corp. published Ballmer's resignation letter on its website Tuesday along with a response from current CEO Satya Nadella thanking him and wishing him well.

The 58-year-old says he plans to hold on to his Microsoft stock and will continue to offer feedback on products and strategy. With 333.3 million shares worth $15 billion, Ballmer's 4 percent stake in the company makes him the largest individual shareholder. A few institutional investors hold slightly more.

"I bleed Microsoft — have for 34 years and I always will," Ballmer wrote. "I will be proud, and I will benefit through my share ownership. I promise to support and encourage boldness by management in my role as a shareholder in any way I can."

  • Lenovo's New NFL Fantasy Contest

Lenovo, the world's No. 1 PC manufacturer, is sponsoring its second NFL Fantasy contest. 

"Lenovo is giving the nation’s top two fantasy football players the chance to be real-life coaches, moving them from behind the keyboard to making key player personnel decisions," the company said Tuesday. "Starting today at NFL.com/FCOY, Lenovo will kick off its second season of its Fantasy Coach of the Year contest, pitting millions of NFL.com fantasy players in thousands of leagues against each other. The top finalists will be flown to Arizona, where they will team-up on national television with NFL alumni captains to draft the two Pro Bowl teams."

Two finalists will go "head to head, drafting their own nine-player fantasy squads among the Pro Bowl players selected to compete. Using standard NFL.com scoring, the winner will take home the Fantasy Coach of the Year trophy and attend Super Bowl XLIX."

  • HTC's New Phone Runs Windows

HTC will start making a version of its flagship HTC One phone with Microsoft's Windows software inside.

HTC said it developed the new model at the request of Microsoft, which has been trying to boost its Windows Phone system. The company will continue to make an Android version of the One, as well as other Android phones.

"By no means does this indicate we're moving away from Android," HTC spokesman Jeff Gordon said.

HTC Corp. was the first company to release a phone using Google's Android operating system back in 2008, but it now lags behind Samsung, Huawei, Lenovo and other makers of Android phones despite critical acclaim for the HTC One.

HTC was also the first to release a Windows phone, in 2002, but it hasn't had a new one since 2012.

Gordon said HTC has been waiting until it had something strong enough to compete with Lumia phones from Nokia, a business Microsoft now owns. A mid-range device, he said, "would completely be overshadowed by the competition."

 

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