The Buzz - 35

Hockey, anyone?

Hockey, anyone?

When BlackBerry maker research In Motion wrote a $612 million check to NTP to end a years-long battle that threatened to shut down BlackBerry service in the United States, it lost a big chunk of money but gained a big chunk of time. "I probably spent a good 25 percent of my time on litigation," said Jim Balsillie, chairman and co-CEO of RIM, in Waterloo, Ontario. "Thatll free up at least a day a week."

The big question is, What will Balsillie do with that time? For starters, hell buy other companies. On March 10, a week after announcing the settlement, RIM announced the acquisition of Ascendent Systems, a small company that makes voice software for wireless devices.

But, realistically, how long did that acquisition take? What else will Balsillie do with all that free time? How about working on his hockey game? When hes home, Balsillie plays competitive hockey for a team called the Wireless Warriors.

The RIM CEO is a bit of a hockey nut—last year there were rumors that Balsillie and co-CEO Mike Lazarides were looking to buy a National Hockey League team. Even minutes before the NTP hearing, Balsillie was talking about hockey. "I play with a bunch of lunch-bucket guys," he said. "Theyre just starting to get the BlackBerrys." (They use their new BlackBerry 8700s to surf the Web for ... "certain" Web sites, he said.)

Meanwhile, Balsillies game could use the extra attention. He plays left wing, but, according to the official Web site of the high-tech hockey league, his point total is a big fat gooseberry. —Carmen Nobel

IBMs Offshoring Vote

Should IBM create an independent committee to issue a report on offshore outsourcings impact on the companys brand and reputation?

Thats one of the proposals up for vote at IBMs April 25 annual meeting. Michael Saville, of Riverton, Utah, the owner of 80 IBM shares, plans to submit the proposal, said IBM.

In Savilles pitch to stock owners, he cites numerous press reports about IBM and offshore outsourcing—including a July 2005 article in this magazine—to make the argument that shareholders should have a say in where IBM sends its work. IBM is urging shareholders to reject the proposal.

"Shareholders may agree that IBM should continue to hire in other countries. But shareholders may wonder whether IBM hurts itself by terminating and replacing American IBMers to do so," said Saville in his proposal, made public in IBMs March 9 proxy statement.

"Shareholders may wonder whether the damage done to employee morale from the indignity of training replacements can put innovation at risk," Saville said. "Shareholders may also wonder whether offshoring jobs also poses risks to the companys brand name and reputation. An authoritative report is appropriate."

In response to Savilles proposal, IBM officials said "globalization is a complex issue that requires a collaborative approach by business, government, labor and universities to develop appropriate approaches."

IBM also said it employs workers in 160 countries and keeps 75 percent of its $5.8 billion R&D budget in the United States. — Larry Dignan

Writelys Back Story

Was Googles purchase of upstartle, the startup behind Web document creation tool Writely, the beginning of a Web 2.0 boom or the end?

According to Peter Rip, managing director of venture capital firm Leapfrog Ventures, its the peak of the Web. 2.0 frenzy. His blog, EarlyStageVC (earlystagevc.typepad.com), has the back story to the Writely deal and tells how the companys founders have been building document management tools with each new platform.

Rip says Googles purchase of Writely "is the market top for Web 2.0 feature acquisitions. The bar is rising for Web 2.0 entrepreneurs. Few Web 2.0 companies have this sort of prior art. Put another way, most Web 2.0 companies really are six months of engineering on a LAMP [Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/Python/Perl] stack." — Larry Dignan