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Data Sheet—Thursday, December 4, 2014

Good morning, Data Sheet readers. With Steve Ballmer offstage, Microsoft’s annual shareholder meeting was a rather quiet affair. Meanwhile in London, the U.K. government is evaluating a proposed 25% corporate tax on foreign companies—with a particular interest in making the tech sector pay its fair share.

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TRENDING

Microsoft highlights diversity. Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson kicked off the software giant’s annual shareholder meeting by talking up diversity in the workplace—especially in a tech industry that “does not look like America.” Right now, the company is 61% white and 71% male, which is roughly on-par with other big players. With former CEO Steve Ballmer in the audience (not on stage) there was little other drama. Even current chief executive Satya Nadella’s jaw-dropping $84 million pay package passed muster. Fortune

Google to pay higher partner commissions. Microsoft relies heavily on systems integrators (like Accenture) and software “resellers” (think CDW) to win corporate accounts. Its cloud services rival is using a similar strategy to reach big businesses. It just increased the percentage those partners will earn on each deal. Wall Street Journal

Intel plays catch-up. It will pay $1.5 billion for updates to its Chengdu chipmaking facility. The goal: improve its mobile prospects. Plus, the company is showing some fashion sense. In its latest runway-worthy deal, Intel is teaming with designers at Luxxottica Group (which makes the Ray Ban and Oakley brands) on smart eyeglass technology. It already works with Fossil on wrist-worn smart gadgets. WSJ

New U.K. tax could hit tech companies hard. The country’s treasury chief is floating a proposal to collect a 25% on corporate profits on foreign companies to cover all “economic activity” that takes place there. It’s been dubbed the “Google tax.” No details, but it could include online commerce, like fees from clickthroughs on digital ads. By the way, the Federal Communications Commission isn’t the only one pondering ‘net neutrality.’ The idea is part of the European Union’s vision to create common rules for a “single digital market” across Europe. WSJ

New twist in Autonomy-HP debacle. Autonomy founder Mike Lynch says he has proof that differences in U.K. and U.S. accounting laws—and not fraud—were behind the $5.5 billion loss HP booked related to its acquisition. HP formally accused Lynch of fraud in San Francisco, and various U.S. regulatory agencies including the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigation. “The document shows the write-down was due to HP’s changes in accounting policy and it’s own business decisions, not fraud,” Lynch writes in a Dec. 2 blog. Lynch says he plans to share his thoughts with the U.S. government. HP says it’s fine with that. Computerworld

Sony, the security sequel. Talk about personal. The latest fallout from its massive network breakout even includes the “release” of employee performance reviews. Ouch. Fortune

POLICY & STRATEGY

Step one: Acknowledge the problem. Many organizations admit to an overdependence on email and meetings, which sucks hours of productivity out of every workweek. Far fewer understand the extent of the problem. Software from VoloMetrix helps big companies such as Boeing, Dell, Genentech, Qualcomm, and Seagate understand who is wasting time (and on what). Seagate was shocked to discover some teams spent 20-plus hours on meetings weekly. Wall Street Journal

STARTUPS & DISRUPTORS

What’s in storage? While EMC spends precious time defending its “federated” business model, hungry storage startups continue gobbling up venture funding.

This week’s example is Kaminario, which raised $53 million from existing backers Sequoia Capital, Pitango, Globespan, Tenaya, and Mitsui; new investors are Silicon Valley Bank, Lazarus Hedge Fund, and an unnamed “large public company.” The round was apparently oversubscribed.

Kaminario sells “flash” technology that loads data more quickly than tradition drives. Its latest differentiator is always-on encryption that requires an extra layer of authorization to get at the information and that make it harder to recover deleted files. “Flash arrays have quickly exploded into the market because they can meet modern business needs in a way legacy solutions cannot,” said Sequoia managing partner Haim Sadger.

Kaminario’s latest funding brings its total to $128 million. That pales in comparison to the $470 million behind vocal rival Pure Storage (the latter company’s valuation was $3 billion as of April). Pure has been particularly aggressive about trying to steal share from established vendors, especially EMC.

Its latest sales hook is an attack on the “adversarial practice of maintenance extortion,” which sometimes forces businesses into buying new storage hardware they don’t necessarily need. Pure is promising flat or better maintenance pricing, and it is challenging its competitors to follow suit.

Stay ahead of security incidents. Startup ThreatStream uses information gathered from hundreds of sources to keep companies and government agencies abreast of the latest cyberthreats proactively. The company Thursday raised a $22 million Series B round led by General Catalyst Partners, along with new backer Institutional Venture Partners and return investors Google Ventures and Paladin Capital Group. ThreatStream’s founder and CEO is Hugh Njemanze, a founder of ArcSight—acquired by Hewlett-Packard in 2010 for about $1.5 billion.

Watch out PayPal? Europe’s biggest processor of online payments, Swedish firm Klarna, will spend $100 million to establish a U.S. presence. Gigaom

Any time, anywhere, any gadget. Customer support software specialist Zendesk is prepping for a world where cries for help originate from within mobile apps or via smartwatches and other wearable technologies. ZDNet

MY FORTUNE.COM BOOKMARKS

How to get Eric Schmidt and Jack Dorsey to invest in your company By Shalene Gupta

GM’s Alicia Boler-Davis on encouraging girls to pursue STEM careers By Laura Lorenzetti

Why activist investors are getting even more … active By Paul Hodgson

The moment Sallie Krawcheck got hooked on social By Caroline Fairchild

Silicon Valley’s hottest startup is scaring insurance brokers and fighting regulators By Erin Griffith

Steve Jobs was right: There’s still no better mobile computing tool than your finger By Jason Cipriani

FOR YOUR INNER TECHNOPHILE

Less-invasive heart surgery? 3D holographic technology being tested by Israel’s RealView Imaging could lend doctors another set of eyes during complicated medical procedures. Among those taking a look: Philips Healthcare. RealView just raised $10 million, but it will be two years before it releases a commercial product. WSJ

 

ONE MORE THING

Stay at a Starwood Hotel, skip the check-in line. The hospitality company is rolling out a mobile app that automatically checks in guests and even lets them open the room door without a key. There are only 10 properties using the system so far, but Starwood scored a super-cool spokesperson: Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Re/code

MARK YOUR CALENDAR

IBM Interconnect 2015: Cloud and mobile strategy. (Feb. 22 – 26, 2015; Las Vegas)

Microsoft Convergence 2015: Dynamics solutions. (March 16 – 19, 2015; Atlanta)

Knowledge15: Automate enterprise IT services. (April 19-24, 2015; Las Vegas)

MicrosoftIgnite: Enterprise tech extravangaza. (May 4 – 8, 2015; Chicago)

SAPPHIRE NOW: The SAP universe. (May 5 – 7, 2015; Orlando, Fla.)