|Cisco CEO John Chambers says that the embattled networking giant has a lot of work ahead of it.|
Microsoft ( MSFT) kicked off the week with a major piece of M&A, spending $8.5 billion to acquire Skype, squaring up to Cisco's WebEx and Apple's ( AAPL) FaceTime products. The all-cash deal injects a much-needed adrenalin shot into the software giant's mobile strategy. Combined with Microsoft's Nokia ( NOK) alliance, the Skype deal could be a shrewd move, increasing the pressure on the fledgling FaceTime technology and Google's ( GOOG) Google Voice. "Everything has been shifting away from Microsoft," said one analyst earlier this week, referring to the company's failure expand beyond its dominance of the PC era. "They need to make acquisitions, since nothing else has worked." Skype is the leading international Internet calling service with 663 million registered users, 170 connected users and 8.8 million paying customers. Microsoft, however, was not the only tech giant interested in Skype. As eBay ( EBAY) explored its options to carve out Skype last year, Verizon ( VZ) was one of the players that sniffed around, according to people familiar with the Skype spinoff. Microsoft shares closed the week down 1.15% at $25.03 on Friday.
In Apple news, the iPhone maker was crowned as the world's most valuable brand, according to Millward Brown's 2011 BrandZ study, released on Monday. Apple has now overtaken Google as the most valuable brand in the world, not exactly a bolt from the blue given the phenomenal success of devices such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad. Apple's 2011 brand value was $153.29 billion, the study said, an increase of 84% from 2010. Google's value dropped 2% to $111.5 billion. Apple's stock was down 1.75% at $340.5 on Friday.
Yahoo!'s ( YHOO) Chinese interests were under the microscope this week when it accused e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, in which it has a 43% share, of selling its Alipay unit to Alibaba's chief Jack Ma without its consent. Alibaba Group responded Friday saying that Yahoo! knew the sale was in the works for two years and that it was mandated by the Chinese government. Shares of Yahoo! ended the week down 3.61% at $16.55.
The turnaround at Symantec ( SYMC) continued with the software maker's fourth-quarter results, which were posted after market close on Wednesday. After overcoming its recent execution problems, Symantec offered healthy guidance and told TheStreet that it is seeing good growth in enterprise backup, hosted services and Data Loss Prevention. Shares of Symantec closed down 1.76% at $20.06 on Friday.