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The Techday Weekender - Jul 21st 2012

Kiwi IT company Maclean Computing met equal parts sympathy and scepticism this week, after its director utilised a controversial section of the Companies Act that allows heads of liquidated companies to re-purchase all of their company’s assets, but leave the debt.

CEO Chris Maclean says the family-owned company, which was founded by his father Allan in 1993, has struggled to stay on top of debt costs since a former employee absconded with a significant sum of the company’s money.

The amount stolen from the company is thought to be around $500,000; a liquidator’s report released towards the end of the week placed the company’s debt at just over $3 million, and its assets at just over $1 million.

Although the re-purchase will leave a bitter taste in the mouth of some creditors, sections 386A-F of the Companies Act – also known as the ‘Phoenix Law’ – set out criteria under which such transactions can take place, and these criteria have presumably been met.

Judging by the comments on our stories this week there is a lot of sympathy out there for what the Macleans have been through. Chris says he’s even sourced funds totalling ‘hundreds of thousands of dollars’ from the wider family to try to meet the company’s obligations, which is more than most would do, so we sure hope they can get back on their feet.

In other news, Yahoo surprised the tech world this week by naming long-time Google exec Marissa Mayer as its new CEO.

Ross Levinsohn, who had occupied the position since former boss Scott Thompson was forced to step down after a resume inaccuracy scandal, had been tipped for the job. However, the industry has accepted Mayer with as much optimism as can be mustered for a company which has averaged one CEO a year for the past five years – even with the news that she is also six months pregnant (Mayer plans to take just two weeks of maternity leave, and says she’ll do her best to work through that period; as someone with a three-week-old child myself, I wish her luck).

In telecommunications news, Orcon threw down another big challenge to the industry this week in the form of a ‘free fibre’ offer for consumers, schools and businesses. It’s the second time Orcon has taken a leadership position in selling fibre services, and re-affirms their desire to encourage uptake of the government’s UFB network (which, given that Orcon is government-owned, is not surprising).

Of course, ‘free’ is only free until the end of this year, and only for customers who sign up for all of 2013 as well. Even so, given that Orcon’s basic UFB plans don’t cost more than plans on standard broadband anyway, it’s a great deal, and is bound to attract the attention of those households lucky enough to be part of the early build. OECD figures released the day after Orcon’s announcement show that although our broadband penetration is roughly average, we haven’t had much uptake of faster technologies, so kicking the UFB network into gear is a really positive move.

Finally, Microsoft has put a release date on the long-awaited Windows 8 operating system. The company has been charting the development of the system for almost a year, and the build was probably begun long before that, so October 26 is going to be a big day – particularly for Steve Sinofsky, who is president of the Windows division and who made the announcement on Thursday.

The division was the only one to lose money in Microsoft’s latest earnings report, but Sinofsky and co will be hopeful of turning that result around in a big way with the new release.

Next week’s Weekender will be written by new Techday news editor James Henderson, who is taking over from me as I head into the public service. I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has chosen to share their knowledge and ideas with me over the past year. As a tech journalist you are always reliant on the patience of people who know more than you, and I really appreciate all the help I’ve received in the last 12 months. This is an exciting industry at an exciting time, and I’m proud to have been a part of it.