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05.19.08

A Decade After US Anti-trust Ruling, Microsoft Likely to Topple Itself

Posted in America, Antitrust, Courtroom, Finance, Google, Microsoft, Novell at 11:49 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“We need to slaughter Novell before they get stronger….If you’re going to kill someone, there isn’t much reason to get all worked up about it and angry. You just pull the trigger. Any discussions beforehand are a waste of time. We need to smile at Novell while we pull the trigger.”

Jim Allchin, Vice President, Microsoft

They say that regulation is needed to ensure that the Trust is every now again weakened or dissolved. While a new target for severe anti-trust action seems to be Intel (we will not focus on this here), Microsoft seems to be gradually undoing its own business not due to regulation, but due to its own failures and "hubris-infected" leadership. Let’s recap some timely interesting figures.

When you assess the financial state of Microsoft (MSFT), then you are rather likely to think about the value of the stock, but it rarely tells the full story. It merely represents the combination of public and potentially private holdings in the stock. Chairman Gates has been loosening his grip on MSFT for the past 2 years, based on reports that were published after obligatory disclosures. It’s a gradual process, which is also mandatory for one with a personal stake in the company (prevention of inside-trading and the likes of that).

“Chairman Gates has been loosening his grip on MSFT for the past 2 years, based on reports that were published after obligatory disclosures.”Watching the graphs of MSFT, you will most likely miss a very important factor and a hidden ingredient. It was only mentioned in isolated places in the press way back in 2006. One would need to at least point out that Microsoft has been pumping approximately $36,000,000,000 of its own savings into its own stock since then. It’s important because it means that real investors have been departing. If they didn’t, the stock would go up through the roof. The stock, therefore, does not tell the truth and it's not a function of might.

Assume that we’ve agreed that the stock says too little. It’s not an encouraging sign. But that’s not the whole story. The degradation, as recently described even by Cringely, affects other forms of financial balance. Microsoft has been left with just about $26 billion the bank (Apple is a close second this latest technology survey) and it has also lost $30,000,000,0000 in terms of market cap since February, which is when the bid for Yahoo was made. If Microsoft buys significant portions of Yahoo (and returns money that investors expect), it could find itself in debt.

The company’s grip on its core business is evidently slipping too. That’s where long-term hopes continue to reside because newer businesses (or separate divisions) generally lose heaps of money. Had they been an isolated entity, they would have gone bankrupt by now. One of the latest noticeable articles about the key issue was published some hours ago and it states:

I call it the “tyranny of the installed base.” I saw plenty of it when I worked at minicomputer Data General in the 1990s. Customers want bug fixes and enhancements to their existing products–even if it’s some legacy database that fewer and fewer people used with each passing year. The result is that lots of resources get sucked into supporting the “old stuff,” leaving that much less energy, money, etc. for the “new stuff.”

But the real issue here is more insidious. A company, especially a public company, can’t really “Just Say No” to that installed base and tell them to take their business elsewhere. Imagine if you would this scenario: Ballmer wakes up next Monday morning after having an epiphany over the weekend. He walks into Redmond, tosses a few chairs for emphasis, and announces that Microsoft is going to immediately discontinue selling and developing its Windows operating system and Office products because they’re mired in the past and have become too much a distraction from what’s really important–its online services business.

The point to be made here is that one needn’t necessarily rely on regulators alone. The market is able to see the abuses and — in accordance — raise its nose in the face of Microsoft’s offers. Just watch the retorts of Yahoo!

Moreover, Microsoft’s stubbornness in this dilemma, where it struggles keep its cash cow’s expansion (similar to Novell's dilemma), turns out to be rather suicidal because it leaves the door open for competitors in tomorrow’s generation of software.

By all means, none of this will ever change the fact that Microsoft has abused and corrupted. It carries on to this day. It has all been learned and filed, no matter how much denial and history-rewrite attempts are being made. Bill Gates wants to control the museum of computing, but he can be trusted as much as leaders that spread self-glorifying sculptures of themselves around town. And then there’s the 10-year anniversary of a significant court ruling that brought a gold mine or a treasure trove filled with smoking guns.

When the government and 20 states filed their antitrust lawsuit, they charged Microsoft with exerting a ”choke hold” on rivals while denying consumer choice.

The lawsuit we filed today seeks to put an end to Microsoft’s unlawful campaign to eliminate competition, deter innovation, and restrict consumer choice. In essence, what Microsoft has been doing, through a wide variety of illegal business practices, is leveraging its Windows operating system monopoly to force its other software products on consumers.”

That reads like a blast from the past. I spent the better part of two years watching lawyers for Microsoft and the trustbusters argue before the bench. Beyond the day-to-day, though, this was fundamentally a debate about the future of the desktop at a time when the Windows operating system was under challenge from the Internet.

Bill Gates and his closest managers truly feared what would happen to Windows if Netscape’s browser became the preferred conduit to the Internet. The court ultimately found Microsoft guilty of predatory behavior, but the company avoided potentially crippling, worst-case sanctions.

For more information about Microsoft’s slightly older market abuses, there’s always Groklaw’s brilliant coverage and accumulation of exhibits.

Recent news:

OOXML: Bugs as an International Standard

Posted in ISO, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML at 10:48 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Profit or loss in finance, life or death in healthcare

Over the past couple of years we have highlighted cases where OOXML gets its math wrong or witnessed incidents where its tight and correspondent (but not OOXML-compliant) Microsoft Excel got its math wrong too (e.g. Office 2007, other versions which received bad patches). This says a lot about quality assurance at Microsoft and also about sloppiness at ISO.

Examples that are worth bringing attention to again:

The only news is that Rob Weir has just added another problem to the pile. It’s a very detailed post and as we mentioned very briefly the other day, Microsoft et al continue to hide OOXML from the public, thus leaving little or no time for scrutiny while it is crucial (a further delay seems possible).

So Excel is off by 2% or so. Do we really care. It’s just money, right?

The problem is that the function in OOXML is defined incorrectly, from the financial perspective. The discount rate is the discount from the redemption value, not the discount from the purchase price. So the first term in the formula should be (redemption-par)/redemption, not (redemption-par)/par. If you make this change, then the calculated value matches the value Excel gives.

[...]

What would be normal practice would be to take the definitions, as given in the OOXML text, and to calculate the values according to the definition provided in the text, and then to compare the resulting values with what Excel returns. That would provide a useful double-check of the definitions in the text. But OOXML doesn’t do that. The example here are mere fluff and provide no additional assurance to the implementor.

The discrepancy here also indicates that no one has actually reviewed these formulas for accuracy. Errors like this are immediately evident, but only if you look. The fact that things like this have escaped the notice of Microsoft, Ecma TC45, their Project Editors, 80 NB reviews, the BRM experts, and the eagle eyes of ITTF, should make one have considerable concerns over the the sufficiency of the Fast Track review and approval process.

ISO standards for saleYet another bug as a standard? Does anyone even care? Does anyone care to actually implement this bug to ensure validation, which does not (and never will) ensure compatibility and inter-operability with Microsoft Office? Does Microsoft care? Hardly. As Tim Bray said quite recently, “what Microsoft really wanted was that ISO stamp of approval to use as a marketing tool. And just like your mother told you, when they get what they want and have their way with you, they’re probably not gonna call you in the morning.”

Bill Gates: “No! There are no significant bugs in our released software that any significant number of users want fixed.”

“FOCUS: Oh, my God. I always get mad at my computer if MS Word swallows the page numbers of a document which I printed a couple of times with page numbers. If I complain to anybody they say “Well, upgrade from version 5.11 to 6.0″.

Bill Gates: “No! If you really think there’s a bug you should report a bug. Maybe you’re not using it properly. Have you ever considered that?”

FOCUS: “Yeah, I did…”

FOCUS Magazine, 1995

Microsoft is SourceForge Awards’ Only Sponsor, Uses it to Spread FUD

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FUD, Microsoft at 8:19 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Embrace, subvert, and rubbish

Yesterday we wrote about Microsoft’s latest successful invasion into a free open source event. This happened in Romania. Moments ago we also shared you an unusual incidents from Romania Hungary. Steve Ballmer has just had eggs thrown at him during a talk. This is more disruptive than what happened in China during a speech by Bill Gates last year, though not quite as memorable as that pie in the face.

Is all of this justified? Of course we don’t endorse it. Can we sympathise? Well, have a look at this, will you?

The other day we shockingly wrote about some bizarre awards that are offered in this year's SourceForge.net awards contest. They inspire fear.

Among them you have:

  • [Project] Most Likely to Be Ambiguously Accused of Patent Violation
  • [Project] Most Likely to Get Users Sued

Now get a load of this. The only sponsor of SourceForge.net2008 Community Choice Awards is Microsoft. Yes, you heard that right.

The page states (in full, in case it gets modified later):

Sponsors

Diamond

Microsoft is a worldwide leader in software, services and Internet technologies for personal and business computing. Microsoft offers a wide range of innovative products and services designed to help individuals and organizations realize their full potential.

Through efforts like Port 25, Shared Source and Codeplex, Microsoft is focused on participating in a broad range of choices for developing and deploying software, including open source.

To learn more, please visit www.microsoft.com/opensource.

Getting Started:
If you are an interested in starting an open source project, Microsoft provides a number of programs and initiatives to help you achieve your goals. This includes lightweight, freely downloadable programming environments, such as Microsoft Visual Studio Express.

No other companies are even listed as sponsors. See for yourself at http://sourceforge.net/community/cca08-sponsors

When we talk about Microsoft attempting a hijack, can skeptics finally see what we’re warning about?

Steve Ballmer license

Image from Wikimedia

Eggs Thrown at Steve Ballmer (New Video)

Posted in Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, Videos at 7:42 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

New from Romania Hungary where this incident occurred.

Egg Vorbis [sic] (Theora) version below.

Ogg Theora

Links 19/05/2008: Important Windows Refund Precedence, Unbundling Near?

Posted in News Roundup at 9:23 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

GNU/Linux

Ubuntu

  • Hate Ubuntu? It’s normal!

    The fact that many people dislike the top distribution is not really a problem. The problem is that many of these folks are extremely vocal on the Internet to express their opinions. While no intelligent reader will ever take them seriously, they do give the Linux community a bad name and discourage potential Linux users from joining us.

  • [Ubuntu] Weekly Newsletter #91

F/OSS

User Security vs. Vendor ‘Security’

  • Microsoft confirms Windows adheres to broadcast flag

    News that the world’s largest software maker has voluntarily agreed to help broadcasters control the recording of their shows is bound to outrage enthusiasts of digital video recorders, as it represents the biggest threat to the practice known as time shifting since the FCC’s attempt to require flag adherence.

  • Microsoft Stockholder? Take Stock in This…

    While we are passing along the subject of anti-virus and spyware, let me ask you this. While MS does offer a somewhat crippled product to protect Windows, they push me toward a subscription purchase to get the full monty. Why am I being cornered into purchasing a “fix” for a problem Microsoft created? Shouldn’t the full application be offered as part of Windows? Let me ask you this as well. Why should I purchase and use a product that necessitates I purchase and use another product in order for the first product to work the way it is supposed to?

  • Hackers compromise Red Cross earthquake relief site
  • Spain arrests ‘prolific’ hackers

Law and Crime

Leftovers

Microsoft Talks to Open Source “Community Members” About Patent Royalties

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GPL, Microsoft, Novell, Patents at 8:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“I’ve heard from Novell sales representatives that Microsoft sales executives have started calling the Suse Linux Enterprise Server coupons “royalty payments””

Matt Asay, April 21st, 2008

Here is just a quick shot from the hip.

Watch this smug new article closely enough and you will see just what vision Microsoft has for Free software, which it implicitly considers as separate from its own provisional idea of Open Source (self-serving of course).

And Microsoft is in “on-going dialog” with community members over making it easier to find the royalties in its documents.

Microsoft wants open source software to accept software patents globally and also pay for the privilege of using mathematics. Thank you, Novell.

No Patents in Linux

Say No to Novell

Ballot Stuffer from Redmond Stuffs Another FOSS Conference (Romania)

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 5:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft wants more influence in yet another Open Source and Free Software conference

The other day we mentioned Microsoft’s latest such intrusion in the Philippines. Well, now it’s Romania. Yes, only a few days later. What gives?

To put things in perspective, remind yourself of what seemed like ballot-stuffing by Microsoft partners in Romania [1, 2]. The OOXML ballot-stuffing in this nation was also alluded to in [1, 2, 3], so you could follow the links and see the damning evidence that comes from the latest comprehensive report. The affiliations and last-minute arrivals were very telling and similar to what was last observed last week, at an international scale.

This latest discovery about a Microsoft sponsorship comes from Bogdan, who said and also showed it all.

Eliberatica FOSS Conference in Romania, Eastern Europe:

GOLD Sponsors:
Microsoft
Microsoft Romania

http://www.eliberatica.ro/2008/eliberatica-partners-and-sponsors

For Romanian readers:
http://itboard.ro/blogs/zolis_tool/archive/2007/05/18/eliberatica-prima-zi.aspx

There are actually quite a few Romanian GNU/Linux distributions (e.g. Attila Craciun’s Bluewhite64, Darkstar Linux) and even companies like AXIGEN. The country considered buying 1.2 million Fedora-powered OLPCs last year. It’s a weird relationship and Microsoft complicates it further.

Also of interest (2007):

Romania: Software piracy made us what we are today

Experts have called for stronger action from Romanian officials on software piracy, with prosecutors encouraged to stop dismissing potential cases. The International Intellectual Property Alliance in 2006 said dismissals are acting as a disincentive on police to clamp down on criminals, who are mostly end-users and distributors.

A Brief Overview — Open Source Software in Romania

Romania is developing its own Linux distributions. One of the biggest is Darkstar Linux, based on Slackware. Furthermore, the open source community is translating free software projects into Romanian, e.g. KDE or GNOME. The Romanian Linux User Group (RLUG) translates and improves the Debian documentation.

Like many other European countries, Romania has caught a glimpse of what Linux and other open source software can do for business or private use. Romanian user hope the government will realise one day that instead of wasting money on proprietary products, it can not only improve the functionality of institutions but also use open source software as a way to direct those funds to other more important issues.

All-time High for GNU/Linux: 44.6% Market Share

Posted in Deception, GNU/Linux, Site News at 4:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

…So says AWStats, based on Boycott Novell’s logs for May 2008

Occasionally, some statistics of ours are shared in order for readers to realise that the market share lie is caused by total neglect of niche sites — namely Web sites that attract certain types of audience and will never ever share their logs to support some peripheral ‘studies’. The title was chosen to be an eye-catcher, but it’s true that it’s an all-time high for us.

GNU on televisionLike a few other sites that could be named as extremely conscious about visitors’ privacy (they won’t even include user-targeted scripts because of that), we never will expose any personal data. In fact, the logs get flushed every night, so there’s no trace of them (only visual summaries remain). In any event, so far this month we’ve seen a very high volume of surfers whose operating system is identified (for certain) as “Linux”. To give you the breakdown by distribution:

  • Ubuntu: 7.4 %
  • Suse: 4.3 %
  • Fedora: 3.7 %
  • Debian: 3.6 %
  • Mandriva: 0.8 %
  • Red Hat: 0.2 %
  • Centos: 0.1 %
  • GNU Linux (Unknown or unspecified distribution): 24%

We still opine that a Big Lie is being spread whenever some Web statistics are selectively gathered, commissioned, generated and then published to suggest low ‘market share’ (installed based) for GNU/Linux. The population considered in the studies is biased, even if not deliberately so.

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