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Gates kicks off CES in Las Vegas

BY CSA STAFF

LAS VEGAS Microsoft chairman Bill Gates kicked off the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on Jan. 6 with his traditional opening keynote speech and confirmed rumors that it would be his last.

Gates – a CES fixture who’s delivered a speech at every show since 1998 – is leaving Microsoft as a full-time employee this summer. But he used his speech to tout Microsoft’s recent success stories and his vision for what he called a “second digital decade” in which disparate electronic devices would be connected with simple and unique user interfaces.

“The second digital decade will be more about connecting people and being user-centric,” said Gates. As for the present, Gates said Microsoft’s new Windows Vista operating system is now being used by 100 million people and that Windows Live now has 420 million users. And he noted that Windows Mobile “reached 10 million users in 2007 and will double that in 2008.”

Earlier in the day, Sony Electronics held its annual CES press event and unveiled new products headlined by its new line of OLED (organic light emitting diode) high-definition TVs that are razor thin and produce incredibly sharp pictures. It also introduced a revamped version of its Mylo portable communicator and its new generation of Walkman phones.

But the biggest buzz at CES so far was generated by an announcement made two days before the show began. On Jan. 4, Warner Bros. announced it was switching exclusively to the Blu-Ray high-definition DVD format, abandoning HD-DVD and putting a likely end to a two-year format war.

Warner joined Sony, Disney and Fox as supporters of Blu-Ray and left Toshiba and HD-DVD with just Universal and Paramount. The HD-DVD Group – apparently caught by surprise – cancelled a CES press conference scheduled for Jan. 6. In a statement, Toshiba said, “we will assess the potential impact of this announcement with the other HD-DVD partners and evaluate potential next steps.”

Blu-Ray was already dominating the software side of the business – accounting for about 70% of high-definition DVD sales in 2007 – and Warner’s arrival will increase that lead on HD-DVD. In a prepared statement, Warner Home Entertainment president Kevin Tsujihara cited the format war as a reason for its decision.

“A two-format landscape has led to consumer confusion and indifference toward high-definition, which has kept the technology from reaching mass adoption.” Warner is scheduled to go exclusive with Blu-Ray in June.

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Weis Markets names new CEO

BY CSA STAFF

SUNBURY, Pa. Weis Markets has named David Hepfinger as the company’s new president and CEO, succeeding former CEO Norman Rich, who has retired.

Prior to becoming CEO, Hepfinger was the company’s president and COO.

Prior to joining Weis Markets in March, Hepfinger was SVP of retailing and administration at Price Chopper, a 116 store supermarket company based in Rotterdam, New York. In this position, he oversaw Price Chopper’s warehouse, distribution, procurement and store operations.

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New CEO tasked with Borders turnaround

BY CSA STAFF

ANN ARBOR, Mich. Borders Group announced that Ron Marshall, who most recently was Principal of Wildridge Capital Management, a private equity firm he founded approximately three years ago, has been appointed president and CEO and will serve as a director. Marshall, replaces George Jones who served in that same capacity since July 2006.

Prior to founding Wildridge Capital, Marsahall was CEO for eight years with Nash Finch Company, a $5 billion food distribution and retail organization, where Marshall was responsible for a turnaround that included the quadrupling of earnings over a six-year period as well as a 40% improvement in EBITDA over the same period.

“Borders is a powerful brand with millions of loyal customers who love to shop in the stores,” said Marshall. “These are tremendous assets that can be built upon once the balance sheet is strengthened and the company is on more solid financial footing. I’ve led turnarounds at other retail organizations and look forward to leading a new management team at Borders to drive profitability and help ensure lasting success for this great name in retail.”

In addition to Marshall’s appointment as CEO, other management changes were announced. Mark Bierley has been named CFO and EVP of finance. Anne Kubek has been appointed EVP of merchandising and marketing. Additionally, Dan Smith has been named to the new position of chief administrative officer.

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