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'Xiaomi is good enough to break the American market' - Apple's Woz

Plus: 'No-one knows what the new Dell is or what is happening to their roles'

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Quotw This was the week when Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak rather bizarrely backed a Chinese firm that's been roundly mocked for emulating the fruity firm.

Apparently Xiaomi, dubbed the Apple of the Far East, is so similar to the fruity firm that its founder Lei Jun even appears in Steve Jobs-esque attire of black shirt and blue jeans to talk about the company's products.

But that hasn't stopped the Woz from hopping up on stage with Jun at a Beijing event and chatting about how great the Chinese company's latest smartphone is. He said:

I’m playing with mine. I like it so far. I’ll tell you if I have problems. Xiaomi has excellent products. They’re good enough to break the American market.

He wasn't completely oblivious to the whole situation though, acknowledging that the companies have something in common:

Xiaomi is in a very different age. It’s hard to compare apples to apples.

In other fruity news this week, US parents whose children spent all their hard-earned money on in-app purchases on their iPhones were thrown a bone by Cupertino, winning a $32.5m refund.

Tens of thousands of users complained to the Federal Trade Commission about the cash their wayward offspring were splashing on stuff like new bits of armour and power-ups in games and the regulator decided that Apple hadn't make it clear how to set up devices to limit in-app spending.

Edith Ramirez, chairwoman of the FTC, said:

This settlement is a victory for consumers harmed by Apple’s unfair billing, and a signal to the business community: whether you’re doing business in the mobile arena or the mall down the street, fundamental consumer protections apply. You cannot charge consumers for purchases they did not authorise.

The refund may be a victory, but it's not really much of a chastisement to the fruity firm, which is unlikely to be bothered by paying out the equivalent of around 6,000 seconds of its time in terms of annual revenue.

In more serious news this week, Dell is making a massive round of staff cuts this year, axing 30 per cent of its sales and marketing employees in EMEA and 20 per cent of sales workers in the US. Some redundancies were expected but folks had thought that low-profit areas would be the ones culled, rather than across-the-board cuts. A source told the Reg:

[It's as if Dell were saying] Let's shrink everything. It's stupid.

The redundancy revelations have led to Reg readers at Dell voicing their concerns about the company's new status as a private company and the lack of information they're getting. One comment from a Dell worker in Asia Pacific Japan read:

In APJ no one knows what the new org is or what is happening to their roles. We are all guessing or we can try for VR (Voluntary Redundancy) and get refused then managed out (it's a manager's call).

Our roles are just pressure to work days nights [and] holidays and commit ANYTHING to get purchase orders. Too burned out [and] overworked to think.

While an ex-Dell salesperson revealed:

Speaking with a friend high up in Dell management on the storage side on Tuesday (office of the CTO level), he shared that they are literally spending their days crawling out from under email and picking which teams to fire next. This is not the 'Big one lump' type layoff mentioned in your article – they are [terminating] several teams every week, and the statement was that as 'Sales continue to shrink and we are trying to roll off fast enough to balance it out'.

Morale is to the point that when my friend calls his direct report[s], the first question is 'Is this it? Are you calling to fire me?'

The news just gets worse and worse for Dell staffers, with more than 9,000 set to leave the firm.

Meanwhile, a former Oracle sales manager is suing the firm for discriminatory practices against employees of other nationalities. Ian Spandow said that he was sacked from the database giant because he wanted to offer a potential promotion prospect from India a higher wage.

He claimed in a filing that he applied for approval to transfer an employee with seven years' experience from India to California and wanted to offer him the same wage he would have given a white worker for the same position. He alleges that the management refused his request and ordered him to offer the Indian employee a much lower salary, despite having authorised him a few weeks before to offer a high pay packet to two other white workers for identical positions.

He told his supervisor in an email:

[Employee] is a seven year Oracle professional who has already been in my team. He knows everyone on the team, and will of course, know what they earn within days of arriving… I can't, in good conscience even mention $50k to him. It would be nothing short of discriminating against him based on his ethnicity/country of origin…

He said he was told to stop asking about it and when he escalated his concerns to the sales director, he was told the salary would be "good money for an Indian". Spandow said he was summarily terminated a few weeks later.

And in the UK, the Ministry of Defence's implementation of a computer system for recruitment has reportedly had a lot more than the "teething problems" the government mentioned in December. According to The Times, the project has actually wasted around £15.5m and concerns were being expressed about the entire plan, including poor project management and delays that spun out of control.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond is apparently now trying to figure out whether to spend another £50m for new tech to fix the system, which likely won't be going live until 2015. An MoD spokeswoman told The Reg:

In December last year we acknowledged a number of problems with the Army and Capita recruitment partnership. Ministers have gripped these problems and put in place a number of fixes to correct the issues that had emerged.

As we have previously said, in the medium-term, we are building a new IT platform that will be ready early next year and in the short-term we are introducing work-arounds and mitigation measures to the old IT platform to simplify the application process.

With an improved Army recruitment website, streamlined medicals and an increase in the number of recruiting staff, recruits should see a much improved experience at the end of this month.

On the £50m, she said the ministry "wouldn't comment on the figures from a leaked document" ®.

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