Lots of exciting business news this week, though even the multitude of earnings calls was overshadowed by the announcement that Google’s Marissa Mayer has taken over as CEO at Yahoo!, quite possibly providing the listing company with a strong chance to re-invent itself. Elsewhere, Microsoft has managed to find its way into quite a few stories and Valve is finally bringing the Steam platform to Linux. Read on!

Business

Marissa Mayer, one of the most powerful women in technology, is Yahoo!’s new CEO.

The biggest news this week was by far the sudden and unexpected appointment of Marissa Mayer to be Yahoo!’s next CEO, taking by surprise everyone who had assumed Ross Levinsohn, the interim CEO, would get the job permanently. Mayer, who had previously worked at Google for 13 years, said: “I am honored and delighted to lead Yahoo, one of the internet’s premier destinations for more than 700 million users. I look forward to working with the Company’s dedicated employees to bring innovative products, content, and personalized experiences to users and advertisers all around the world.”

Mayer was employee number 20 at Google, joining after she graduated from Stanford with a master’s degree in computer science. She worked in various departments, influencing everything from the design of Google’s homepage to Gmail, and was most recently SVP for maps and location services. She was passed over for promotion when Larry Page took over as CEO, however, halting her ascent despite her experience and long record at the company. Perhaps it is not surprising therefore that she said it was a “reasonably easy decision” to leave for Yahoo!.

The decision by Yahoo!’s board, pushed by the activist shareholder Daniel Loeb who ousted the previous CEO, Scott Thompson, was unanimous, and given Mayer’s history represents a distinct shift towards products rather than media or services for the company. Mayer also sits on the boards of Walmart, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Ballet and the New York City Ballet. She started at Yahoo! on Tuesday, the day after she left Google, with a salary of $1mn per year alongside a package worth up to $60mn.

Microsoft has sold its 50% stake in MSNBC.com to NBC for $300mn. MSNBC started as a joint venture between Microsoft and NBC (then owned by General Electric) in 1996, though Microsoft gave up its share in the television network in 2005. MSNBC.com has now been rebranded as NBCNews.com.

Mark Penn, a political strategist who worked on Hilary Clinton’s presidential nomination campaign in 2008, has been recruited by Microsoft to serve as vice-president for strategic and special projects. Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO, said: “With a strong set of products and an exciting pipeline for the next year, Mark’s experience and out-of-the-box thinking will help us more effectively reach new consumers and grow market share.”

Ellen Siminoff: Not quite Marissa Mayer, but getting there.

Zynga has appointed Ellen Siminoff to be its first female board member. Siminoff is currently the CEO and president of Shmoop University, an educational publisher, and was a founding executive at Yahoo!.

Customers affected by the recent O2 outage will have either 10% taken off their monthly bill or 10% added to their first top-up in September, according to the operator. All of O2’s three million customers will be given £10 to spend at the O2 store regardless of whether they had problems.

In a popular week for earnings calls, seven major companies reported their quarterly finances. Here they are in brief:

  • Yahoo! reported Q2 earnings of $226.6mn on $1.22bn in revenue, as compared with $237mn on $1.08bn for Q2 2011. Yahoo!’s new CEO, Marissa Mayer, was not present for the earnings call.
  • Intel reported a Q2 net income of $2.8bn on revenues of $13.5bn, beating analysts’ consensus, but cut its forecasts for Q3 owing to a “challenging macroeconomic climate.”
  • IBM reported Q2 income of $3.9bn on revenues of $25.8bn, Big Blue’s 38th consecutive quarter of growth. Despite the profits the company still plans to start a round of layoffs later in the summer in the UK and Ireland.
  • Google saw a Q2 net income of $2.79bn on $12.21bn in consolidated revenues, but the newly acquired Motorola division reported a $233mn operating loss. Google’s cash-on-hand war chest now stands at $43.1bn.
  • eBay’s numbers soared for its second quarter, with a 144% year-on-year increase in profit to $692mn on revenues of $3.4bn. The company’s shares rose almost 6% in after-hours trading as a result of the news.
  • Nokia posted a total Q2 operating loss of almost $1bn, offset only by a quarterly cheque from Microsoft and some royalty payments. Nokia expects its Q3 results to be similarly poor.
  • Microsoft’s Q4 earnings saw a 97% decrease in operating income to just $192mn even as revenues rose 4% to $18.06bn. The extra spending comes from a $6.2bn write-off for Microsoft’s purchase of aQuantive back in 2007, which has largely failed to live up to Microsoft’s over-valued expectations, and some profits tied in to Windows 8 have been deferred until next quarter.

Legal

Following last week’s ruling by a UK judge that Samsung’s Galaxy Tab did not infringe on Apple’s iPad because the Tab is “not as cool,” Apple has now been ordered by the same judge to put a notice on its website for six months, as well as take out advertisements in UK newspapers, publicly stating that Samsung did not copy it. The unusual order, designed to correct prejudice against Samsung, will be appealed by Apple, which claims it amounts to free advertising for its competitor.

An antitrust lawsuit filed against Microsoft eight years ago by Novell has at long last been dismissed by the presiding judge after jurors were unable to reach a verdict last autumn. Judge Frederick Motz wrote: “[Novell] did not present evidence sufficient for a jury to find that Microsoft committed any acts that violated [antitrust laws] in maintaining its monopoly in the operating systems market.” Novell, which was seeking damages of up to $1bn, says it plans to appeal.

Hacking & Security

Anonymous has launched attacks on five large oil companies.

Exxon, Shell, BP, Gazprom and Rosneft, five major multinational oil companies, have been targeted by Anonymous, which has released around 1,000 email addresses for the companies along with some plaintext passwords. The hackers appeared to be protesting drilling in the Arctic; some of the breached email accounts were used to sign a Greenpeace petition.

Firefox 14, released on July 17th, includes a fix for the bug that meant secure website content was being cached by the browser and displayed on the “New Tab” page.

ISPs have admitted that the ban on access to The Pirate Bay, ordered by UK and Dutch courts two months ago, has had almost no effect on peer-to-peer file sharing.

Gaming

Valve launched a new blog this week to detail its efforts in bringing Steam, along with Left 4 Dead 2, to Linux. The team said: “We’ve made good progress this year and now have the Steam client running on Ubuntu with all major features available. We’re still giving attention and effort to minor features but it’s a good experience at the moment. In the near future, we will be setting up an internal beta focusing on the auto-update experience and compatibility testing.” So far the Steam gaming platform has been available only for Mac and PC.

The executive producer of Star Wars: The Old Republic, Richard Vogel, has left BioWare after seven years.

Products

The Lumia 900: As the flagship Windows Phone, was slashing the price really part of the plan?

Nokia has cut the price of the Lumia 900, the flagship Windows Phone handset, in half to just $49,99. Nokia said: “This move is a normal strategy. It allows a broader consumer base to buy this flagship device at a more accessible price.” Analysts including Asymco, however, suspect Nokia may have sold only 350,000 of the devices and that the manufacturer now has a large inventory to clear; Microsoft has previously announced that the device will not run its upcoming Windows Phone 8 operating system, meaning it will soon be rendered obsolete.

Digg, which last week announced its sale to Betaworks, is planning to make a comeback… in just six weeks. A new website, Rethink Digg, has announced that the first version of the rebuilt site will be available as soon as August 1st.

Sparrow, an increasingly popular email client for Mac OS X and iOS, was suddenly bought by Google. It seems the acquisition was more about the team than the product, however, as the app will be updated only with bug fixes from now on and no new versions will be released.

Samsung’s new Galaxy SIII phone has reportedly reached the 10 million mark in sales, according to analysts.

Microsoft will release Windows 8 on October 26, 2012, according to Stephen Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live divisions at the company. The news follows Microsoft’s formal announcement last week of an October release date.

Microsoft Office 2013 is now available to download as a customer preview.

Misc.

After 16 years of searching, Apple has finally bought the apple.co.uk domain name.

David Willetts, the science and universities minister, has announced that from 2014 publicly funded research will be much easier to access.

Court filings from Jonathan Ive’s deposition in Apple and Samsung’s legal dispute have revealed pictures and schematics of iPad prototypes, possibly from as early as 2002.

The CEO of Lenovo, Yang Yuanqing, has decided to spend his most recent bonus of $3mn by distributing it among 10,000 junior employees, including receptionists and workers on Lenovo’s production lines.