Digital Tipping Point: Clip of the Day
Larry Augustin, GNU Linux business visionary 07 (2005)
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It’s no secret that the Zune has become synonymous with failure and it demonstrates Microsoft’s inability to expand to new markets and become profitable in them. Steve Ballmer recently commented on the XBox and Zune, calling them “funny products” because Microsoft has not yet figured out how to make money off them. That’s just what he said on the record.
Microsoft has just made another poor attempt at reviving the Zune franchise, but according to some, it’s time for Microsoft to give up and stop wasting money.
The Zune is another matter. Apple’s lead is too large. The Zune is not a product which is terribly different from its competition.
Microsoft can simply say it does not want to take a bath on the Zune while it is taking a more intelligent risk with Xbox profitability.
Kill the Zune. Save some money.
More information about the Zune (starting more with more recent reports) can be found in:
- Zune Guy calls Microsoft ‘liars,’ says Zune situation is ‘f***ing bulls**t’
- Zune Guy Rant Against Microsoft and Zune no Longer Available
- Zune absent from Microsoft exec’s speech
- The beginning of the end for the Microsoft Zune
- Zuneral this Saturday!
- GameStop to Stop Zune Sales
- From Vista to Zune: Why Microsoft Can’t Sell to Consumers
- Zune Sales Still In the Toilet
- Microsoft May Build a Copyright Cop Into Every Zune
- Microsoft says Zune executive will leave company [article removed]
- Dancing Ballmer subjected to Zune dance therapy
- A Legitimate Reason to Hate the Zune (And Microsoft Too)
Another Microsoft failure is actually Windows. Yes, the latest version continues to be a failure and Roughly Drafted explains how Microsoft got there.
Microsoft senior vice president Bill Veghte called the campaign “telling the story of Windows,” a product that, as he wrote, “enables a billion people around the globe to do more with their lives daily.”
Wait, Windows enables users to do more than what, not having an operating system? More than if they had not paid for a commercial operating system? More than if they were using another operating system?
This is the kind of meaningless corporate speech that Microsoft has been gushing for years. In reality, the “story of Windows” is really not something Microsoft can afford to tell.
The truer story is being told by Daniel and it’s quite entertaining to see through (and past) the screen of smoke and mirrors.
Windows Security Crisis
There are 8 more reasons for Microsoft software to produce zombie PCs.
Microsoft packed eight fixes in its four security bulletins released for Patch Tuesday, addressing numerous imaging and other critical errors that could all leave Windows users vulnerable to a remote attack by a malicious hacker.
There are many zombie PCs out there on the Internet (around 320 million), but GNU/Linux, which is said to be a leading platform in Web and mail servers according to this Science Daily article, is trying to resolve the issue by defending Windows.
They recently unveiled a unique new program called the “Korset” to stop [Windows] malware on Linux, the operating system used by the majority of web and email servers worldwide.
Microsoft Squeezes the Goose
At times of financial stress [1, 2, 3] it’s hardly surprising that Microsoft passes more of its burden onto innocent customers, who were spoiled to the point of believing that Windows is free (gratis). To paraphrase Bill Gates, Microsoft was planning “to collect some time in the next decade,” so there are new types of nags even in a 7-year-old operating system.
Microsoft warns about Windows anti-piracy checks
Under its Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) notifications program this September, Windows will automatically activate these notifications urging users to check for validity of their installed operating system.
Microsoft Seniors Quit the Company
Two departures stand out. The first is the head of Microsoft Romania, who is now being replaced.
Starting October 15, 2008 Calin Tatomir, former IT private consultant director will take over the lead of Microsoft Romania, the company informs on Monday (8 Sept). He will replace Silviu Hotaran, Microsoft Romania head between 1996-2004 and June 2007 until now.
There are also some shuffles down south in Australia where a chief executive left.
Fleming, who takes up his new post on September 29, replaces Andrew Howard, who was acting chief executive after former chief Ian Reinecke left in April.
Where will those who depart actually end up? As we’ve shown earlier, this can be complicated.
It’s lights out for Silverlight, at least for Microsoft's partner, NBC.
“NBC just finished broadcasting the Olympics online with Microsoft’s Silverlight video technology, but the network and the NFL are turning back to Adobe’s Flash for live streaming of Sunday Night Football this fall, and started tonight with the season opener between the NY Giants and the Washington Redskins,” Michael Learmonth reports for Silicon Alley Insider.
Whether that’s an isolated choice of somewhat of a pattern, well… it remains to be seen. █
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Market distortion example
A rather serious new case of government’s budget misuse has just been identified and it spreads very quickly at the moment due to its outrageous nature. Here’s the gist of it.
What you see below is a current ad from an educational IT suppliers br[o]chure. It features the new Acer Aspire One netbook in both Windows XP and Linux incarnations. What’s odd about it? The lower spec machine with the free operating system costs half again as much as the higher spec one running Windows.
How can this happen?
Well, here in Victoria the state government has done a deal with Microsoft, which as I understand it essentially means all state schools get their copies of Windows paid for by DEECD. So if a public school buys a higher spec netbook with Windows XP, they get a $156 discount from the government. If they buy a lower spec one netbook with Linux they do not.
So, the government is sponsoring Microsoft’s monopoly while demoting free(dom) software at taxpayers’ expense. Brendan Scott, an Australian lawyer specialising in Free/open source software, has just commented on this issue.
Strike me pink! Less than a week after OSIA sent its submission to a Victorian Parliamentary inquiry into how Victoria can better engage with open source, Cafuego reports some very concerning goings on to do with the Acer Aspire One, the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and apparently discriminatory treatment by the Department of machines loaded with XP compared with those loaded with Linux (when being sold to eligible purchasers).
The one comment at the bottom states: “It looks like the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development need to be sued.” Well, it did happened in Quebec quite recently [1, 2].
This one particular incident will be an excellent case study in monopoly abuse and may also serve as proof of continued abuse of market position by Microsoft.
Earlier today (late afternoon to be precise), a reader from Australia independently brought up the topic of Acer laptops. In the IRC channel he told us not about market distortion using deals but using word of month. It started with a discussion about Eee PC. Specifically he said: “Is anyone able to get GNU/Linux Eee’s anymore? We had a customer who wanted a 901 with Linux but we couldn’t get one. The major supplier is only offering XP [...] Can get Linux on a 900 Celeron but not a 901 Atom. We have had requests for both versions, but only one is made available.”
“Gartner was doing the Microsoft dance once again.”This issue of GNU/Linux-powered Eee unavailability (e.g. in the UK) was already discussed in here. Australia too had some strange incidents reported — incidents where the GNU/Linux-powered Eee PCs were made more expensive than their Windows counterparts. The company later equated the prices, trying to ‘correct’ the error despite being "closely tied up with Microsoft.”
This brings us to Acer. Gartner was doing the Microsoft dance once again [1, 2, 3]. Our reader says: “This is from within our company who is partners with Acer: Gartner did a market study fo[r] Acer and told Acer that Asus was having “a lot of trouble” with Linux and it isn’t working for them so they are getting out of it. I did note to our directors that Gartner’s biggest client is Microsoft but only a couple of people were listening.”
Further he adds: “I’m not sure what Acer is up to really. I hope they’re telling the truth because the pressure within our company not to promote Linux came from Gartner – through Acer. Acer was passing this on and not adding any caveats about Gartners ‘analysis’.” █
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This is a roundup of news relating to Intellectual Monopolies, sometimes also referred to as “IPR”.
Microsoft’s Junk (Software) Patents
Microsoft’s appetite for patents — a virtual ownership of any stupid idea for that matter — was well illustrated by the PgUp/PgDn kerkuffle [1, 2, 3]. This newly-granted patent was applies for by Microsoft back in 2005, probably decades after this so-called ‘invention’ first appeared (not to mentioned the three-finger salute, better known as CTRL+ALT+DEL). Patents appear to be Microsoft's latest strategy amid disguised financial difficulties [1, 2] and possibly fraud.
Here is another new and baffling patent from Microsoft.
The US patent might be a bit daft, especially when it comes to software, but it does offer some interesting insights into what crazy things the big companies might be working on for future products. One such patent emerged today: Microsoft applied in 2005 (and was granted in 2008) a patent which describes how different windows may be coloured differently, or that they may have different transparency settings.
Corrupted Politics of Software Patents
McCain is a long-time Microsoft ally, who even pondered making Steve Ballmer his partner. McCain’s role in lobbying and attitude towards software patents were recently discussed in [1, 2, 3]. The following article is more explicit about it.
Rai has signed a brief in the case arguing for a broad scope in what can be patented. But Obama co-sponsored a patent reform bill in 2007 that would have prohibited patents on tax-avoidance strategies, Reines noted. He suggested that McCain supports wide patentability on technology, including software. “Software is a very important industry, and Senator McCain believes we need to support our innovation economy critically,” Reines said.
The McCain side didn’t take a position on business method patents.
This is hardly surprising, but at least we now know that while he argues in favour of a reform, he remains loyal to his friends at Microsoft with a pro-software patents stance.
Patents Versus Freedom and Innovation
Here is a good new example of how Intellectual Monopolies harm freedom.
In short, the problem here is probably not VIA per se, but a patent licensor (or a whole bunch of them) who would not exactly be thrilled to see trade secrets spilled out for all to dissect. What’s ironic is that such worries are typically overblown beyond belief — something Steve Mosher of OpenMoko pointed out when I spoke to him. There’s no secret that can be kept indefinitely, and the whole point of technological innovation is not to sit on the same secrets forever but to keep moving forward.
This little article about Apple suggests that “digital music player” was a patent.
Hertfordshire based Kane Kramer, now 52, came up with and patented the design of a digital music player when he was just 23. Dubbed the IXI, the original music player had only enough capacity to store three and half minutes of music – although Kramer expected this to increase over time.
Copyrights Against Today’s Talent
Friends of monopolies (and enemies of those ‘little people’, whom they purport to represent) such as McCreevy and Sarkozy [1, 2, 3, 4] are causing some more anger as the implications of their action become more apparent.
As with Congress and Disney, the EU’s proposed 45-year extension would make the rich richer, and would perhaps put roughly 30 Euros per year in most artists’ pockets. It’s a terrible idea with limited benefit for its intended beneficiaries, and huge detriment to the public and would-be artists growing up in the shadows of today’s artists.
If the EU wants to baby artists, set up a pension plan for them. Coddle them with milque toast in their old age. Do something. Just don’t extend copyright terms. That helps few and hurts many.
So much for “protecting poor artists”. This is about ensuring that the children and grandchildren of dead people continue not only to enjoy inheritance but also enjoy an active money flow along with monopolistic record labels. Nancy Sinatra is among the lobbyists for such ridiculous extensions that deprive today’s new artists from further exposure and opportunities.
Jon Maddog Hall has just published this item expressing similar discontent with the law.
Maddog finds out that copyright prevents preserving paper player piano rolls.
Slightly less related to this, Michael Roberton is calling for change as well.
Lala, for those who don’t know, is a free streaming music venture. Invested in by Warner Music group to the tune of $20m it streams about five million songs, but also offers 89 cent MP3 sales, and song rentals for 10 cents each. But why is almost nobody using their well-designed, expansive, free streaming service?
I’m not talking about the song rentals for 10 cents – we all knew that was a non-starter. But people aren’t streaming songs even for free. While Imeem is streaming more than 1m sessions per day, on Lala only 25 daily listens will get your song into the weekly Top 10. The service just isn’t attracting users at all, in spite of the marketing major label WMG has committed to do. Lala appears to be just another in a long list of industry endorsed companies that tries to make the labels happy – and in so doing, apparently forfeits its chance to build a user base or a business.
When Everyone is a Criminal by Default
The BBC published a report yesterday on copyrights enforcement using DRM. It’s specifically about Spore.
DRM is used to combat piracy and protect copyright, but players of Spore complained that this meant the game was “for rent, not sale”.
“The DRM on this thing is less friendly than my recent colonoscopy – you get three installs. That’s it. No install returned for uninstallation, or anything else,” wrote one reviewer.
Spore is already being smashed as a result of the poor decision.
EA’s big title gets 1-star rating
For software that appeals to a wide audience like EA’s latest sim game Spore, it’s sometimes the first time the average person gets a good taste of how digital rights management (DRM) puts the screw on legitimate users.
Spore’s DRM limits customers to only three activations after the game is installed. That number isn’t restored even if the game is uninstalled. Three is what you get unless you call up Electronic Arts customer support and give them your sob story.
Intellectual Monopolies are bad. Sooner or later people discover what these are and what the implications may be. And they’re not flattered to have been deceived. █
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Microsoft’s infamous “tilt into the death spiral” humour is not so funny. Rather than build superior products it is trying to destroy rivals and eliminate choice in the market, not only to reduce real choice. Today’s new discussion is based on VMware, which was covered extensively in the past two days’ news.
“Therein you have many of the characteristic of what Microsoft refers to as “The Slog”, which is beyond just “guerrilla marketing”.”We have already documented some examples of Microsoft tactics for countering competition. Familiar patterns include dumping, shared monopoly alliances, financial games, targeted brain drains, and aggressive/hostile acquisitions. That last pattern happens to be a warning about Microsoft’s attempts to scoop up or attack the competitors one by one.
A previous post showed some new example of cases where Microsoft executives influence Microsoft's potential rivals, which no longer are. They are likely to become more obedient due to the inter-personal issues at play (bearing in mind that companies are just people and — accordingly — their behaviour is a personal thing too).
Some of the latest maneuvers against VMware are being played while insulting the competition using paid allies, e.g. Yankee Group [1, 2], and having partners make a lot of noise over yet-inexistent Microsoft technology. Therein you have many of the characteristic of what Microsoft refers to as "The Slog", which is beyond just “guerrilla marketing”.
Looking at VMware for some details, Vance reveals the ugly story behind it.
In the summer of 2007, Diane Greene was lauded as a business hero for leading VMware, a maker of business software, to the hottest stock debut since Google. But in the ensuing year, despite her popularity with employees and on Wall Street, her relationship with her directors, and especially VMware’s chairman, Joseph M. Tucci, grew increasingly chilly.
On July 7, she found out just how cold it had become. After Ms. Greene made a special presentation to VMware’s board, Mr. Tucci, who heads VMware’s parent company, EMC, pulled her aside, according to people familiar with the events, who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal company decisions.
Inviting Mendel Rosenblum, Ms. Greene’s husband and the co-founder of VMware, into the room, Mr. Tucci told Ms. Greene she was fired, effective immediately. And he said the board wanted Mr. Rosenblum, VMware’s chief scientist, to take her seat on the board. Mr. Rosenblum declined the offer.
And VMware’s new chief executive, Paul Maritz, once a top executive at Microsoft, is fighting to articulate how VMware can evolve from a darling upstart to a mature player capable of maintaining its growth while facing off against some of the world’s technology heavyweights.
What a surprise! Not.
Microsoft’s partner of the year is appointing Microsoft leadership instead. It’s all about EMC and it’s some kind of war over the future direction at VMware. Microsoft is trying to ‘pull a Netscape’ against it with zero-cost and bundling of technology. VMware indicated over a year ago that antitrust action would be considered, but what is VMware now? Under the regime of a Microsoft executive (Paul Maritz) and top Microsoft partner (Joseph Tucci), it seems to have become just a corpse of its former self and a ‘yes man’ to Microsoft. In essence, VMware has been ‘hijacked’ not by investors but by companies it enabled to gain power over it, notably EMC.
The ‘older-generation’ employees of VMware dislike the new management, which mistreats and sacks the founders. Here is some more new evidence of the backlash.
We’ve been told virtualization is the fastest evolving sector of the computing industry. But now, VMware is running on autopilot without its key scientists, and Microsoft hopes another delay won’t hurt it too much.
Rosenblum’s colleague, executive vice president for R&D D. Richard Sarwal, resigned from VMware just last week to return to his former employer, Oracle. And The New York Times learned that Paul Chan, VMware’s VP for product development, already left the company last month without the company making a sound.
Dow Jones wrote about this too. Over at The Inquirer, this partnerships parade of Microsoft gets another mention with the addition of AMD, a Novell ally.
AMD HAS TEAMED up with Microsoft in a bid to jointly take a bigger slice of the server virtualisation market.
The two companies are offering a joint model which combines the Opteron’s AMD-V and Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V to streamline virtualisation on a hardware and software level.
It must not be forgotten just how close Novell is to Microsoft in that regard, working alongside its partners of the year at Citrix, which grabbed Xen away from Red Hat, Ubuntu and other GNU/Linux vendors. Here are some more new details.
“Microsoft has been working closely with the likes of Novell and Citrix to ensure support for non-Microsoft technology.”
It’s important to remember that Novell relies on Microsoft’s mercy and hopes that Microsoft will let SUSE gain advantage over Red Hat through virtualisation. In fact, Ron Hovsepian’s coming talk will be focused primarily on some of these issues.
Novell today announced Ron Hovsepian, president and CEO, will deliver a keynote at Interop New York on Wednesday, Sept. 17 at 10 a.m, at Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. The Interop New York conference is focused on providing comprehensive thought-leadership on key IT topics and the future of business technology. In line with those themes, the keynote, “Making IT Work As One,” will outline Novell’s solutions strategy, with a focus on delivering customer value by reducing cost, complexity and risk in today’s mixed IT environments.
In order to erode VMware’s strong position even faster, Microsoft will be doing what it does best: dumping.
Microsoft offers free Hyper-V stand-alone version
Hyper-V is Microsoft’s entry into the crowded field of virtualization vendors where the hypervisor is looking more and more like a commodity. VMware is the dominant player, but Citrix, Oracle, Red Hat, Sun and Novell are among those offering virtualization technology.
There is a lot of hyping up around Hyper-V at the moment. The Linux-hostile Sys-Con [1, 2] has just aired the article “The End of VMware!” Announcing a death prematurely to make it so? The editor stripped off the exclamation mark later, but the headline is still damaging. This smells like classic “Slog” tactics. Microsoft ‘talking point’ Ivy Lessner wrote another article indicating VMware despair.
This is not competition. This is a slog. █
“Ideally, use of the competing technology becomes associated with mental deficiency, as in, “he believes in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and OS/2.” Just keep rubbing it in, via the press, analysts, newsgroups, whatever. Make the complete failure of the competition’s technology part of the mythology of the computer industry. We want to place selection pressure on those companies and individuals that show a genetic weakness for competitors’ technologies, to make the industry increasingly resistant to such unhealthy strains, over time.”
–Microsoft, internal document
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This is a daily update to a previous post showing how Microsoft executives enter potential Microsoft competitors and then change the strategic direction of these competitors, typically in Microsoft’s favour. It’s only natural to expect this; it’s slightly more difficult to keep track though.
After the last set of examples, a reader warned us that Microsoft's Kevin Johnson occupying Juniper’s throne could be bad news to this company and those who are affected by it, especially Microsoft’s rivals.
Aruba Networks is one company that uses a lot of Linux. Even Microsoft depends on it [1, 2] (yes, Microsoft uses GNU/Linux). According to this new report from IDG, only weeks after his departure from Microsoft, Kevin Johnson might want to acquire Aruba Networks — something that Microsoft could never possibly do (similar to the XenSoruce hijack). Anyway, that’s only a possibility.
Juniper is reportedly looking to buy either Aruba Networks or Meru Networks to strengthen its presence in enterprise networks through a formidable wireless LAN offering (compare enterprise wireless LAN products).
FT.com stated this week that new Juniper CEO Kevin Johnson, who started at the company this week, is on the M&A trail and that Aruba or Meru are in his sights. The story attributed its information to “a source familiar with the matter and two analysts.”
Aruba was also mentioned before in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. Its dependence on Linux could be challenged under the reign of an executive from a company to whom “Linux” is the #1 threat.
“…the exodus at Redmond might prove harmful once again.”More troublesome is this new appointment of a Windows president in NComputing, a company that deploys huge numbers of thin-clients based on GNU/Linux. There are already Windows options, so under the leadership of a former Microsoft top man will GNU/Linux be marketed in the same way? Will it stay? He became a co-chairman, so the exodus at Redmond might prove harmful once again. Toxic influence is being passed.
There are some other potential examples in yesterday’s news. Yahoo, for instance, has just added a Microsoft executive to its top ranks. What would be the impact on the deal with Google, the new commitment to Firefox, and treatment of GNU/Linux? Each such appointment may have a very minor effect, but such things accumulate. A Microsoft 'headhunter' and some friends of his are already on the company’s board.
Also based on the news, it turns out that Paul Allen is investing in former Microsoft employees and and their business ventures. Not so long ago we mentioned his investments in CNET, which typically reports in a favourable fashion (towards Microsoft).
Last but not least, we recently explained what Black Duck means to FOSS. Black Duck was created and headed by a Microsoft senior. In this latest press release it further promotes this troubling idea of hybriding (Microsoft loves it) and Dana Blankenhorn comments on this too, thereby giving such disinformation further exposure in an “open source” blog.
Black Duck is on board the new buzzword train with the latest release, Version 1.4, of its Code Center product, which was originally developed to manage open source projects.
It’s all about the hybrid code.
Code Center is proprietary software. Some would argue that it can weed out or scare people away from Free software. While the head of the company (Microsoft roots) may no longer be inside the company, the same spirit remains and it’s not helpful. █
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Lenovo returns empty list on choice, denies changes
Many GNU/Linux aficionados have already seen this report from Henry at Ziff Davis. It claims that Lenovo has “ditched” SUSE, but there are refutations going on at the moment.
Gorman continued, “We will continue to certify Novell and Red Hat Linux on our ThinkPad notebooks and ThinkCentre desktops. Additionally, we will be offering Linux on our Think servers, an area we are seeing a greater demand for Linux.”
IBM’s ThinkPad line played an important role in the history of Linux, becoming the first notebook from a major manufacturer to be available both certified and pre-installed with Linux (Red Hat was the flavor of choice back in 1999, and the ThinkPad E600 was the model that everyone wanted, if memory serves). And too, prior to buying IBM’s PC business, Lenovo — even then China’s largest PC maker — offered Red Flag Linux pre-installed on some systems.
SUSE preinstalls are also not available in the UK.
Jolly good! So how come a visit to Lenovo’s UK website offers no Linux options whatsoever?
A couple of months ago we noted that Lenovo had stopped offering these machines without any O/S (FreeDOS rather). Our reader dsmith reported this. Microsoft ‘tax’ became unavoidable, which is grounds for complaints.
“At the end of the day, SUSE/Microsoft tax (patents) is the reason we prefer not to promote those offers from Lenovo.”More recently, InformationWeek reported that IBM had begun negotiations with Lenovo, which might result in Lotus on top of Red Hat, Ubuntu, or SUSE ThinkPads. There has been no word on that since. A recent press release, “Lenovo to Present More Linux-pre-loaded Laptops,” was mentioned here and it talked about SUSE (SLED) specifically.
At the end of the day, SUSE/Microsoft tax (patents) is the reason we prefer not to promote those offers from Lenovo. The topic was touched on before and contained some explanations in:
People who thought about buying a GNU/Linux-powered ThinkPad can turn to companies that actually preload GNU/Linux and not some Microsoft-taxed variant of it (‘Ballnux’). Dell, for example, keeps expanding its Ubuntu initiative, but there are other issues there. Microsoft is actively trying to elevate the cost (and therefore viability) of GNU/Linux on the desktop and server. It’s important to put an end to this abuse. █
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