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10.02.08

Eye on Microsoft: Various Picks from the Past Week

Posted in Finance, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Standard, Windows at 8:19 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Spam will be a thing of the past in two years’ time.”

Bill Gates, 2004

A lot has happened with Microsoft while your humble editor was absent. :-) Here are just a few quick picks (with many more coming soon).

Putting Money Down and Making Reservations on the African Tables

Very recently we wrote about Microsoft’s ‘addition’ tactics being used against people in Africa [1, 2]. The company appears to be using money at the moment in order to ‘shield’ these territories from GNU/Linux.

Microsoft, Usaid team up to support ICT education>

[...]

Under the arrangement, Usaid will provide financing worth $2 million to help in procuring ICT tools like computers and others while Microsoft will help in designing and supply of software that will help in collecting data in the ministry.

Elsewhere in the world, Bill Gates, whose political crusade in the UN was spotted just days after his so-called ‘retirement’, is still keeping it cozy with the UN, which has favoured Free software for a while.

“I love the Millennium Development Goals,” he said, according to remarks posted on the Gates Foundation Web site. “I think they are the best idea for focusing the world on fighting global poverty that I’ve ever seen…Thanks to these goals, not only UN agencies but the world at large knows the key measures of poverty, hunger, health, and education. Some of the numbers are good and some are not. But the fact that the world is focusing on the numbers is excellent.”

Lost in IP

Microsoft is among the main factors (culprits rather) that imperil the adoption of and transition towards IPv6 [1, 2]. According to Vint Cerf, it’s time to hurry up.

The world is about to run out of the internet addresses that allow computers to identify each other and communicate, the man who invented the system has told The Times.

Cerf works at Google, which Microsoft is desperate enough to fight using what the Inquirer called “bribery”. The bad tactics are extended further and it’s summarised thusly:

Desperate times call for desperate measures

Microsoft’s attacks on Google have become very ugly.

Undocumentation

Shane did some wonderful work covering this over the weekend. For future reference — for it is very relevant to our research — here are some more coverages of this debacle.

1. Microsoft threatened on antitrust non-compliance

As surely as night follows day, so Microsoft is regularly upbraided for not complying with the US government’s landmark 2002 settlement for breach of antitrust laws.

Now, six years into a seven-year settlement monitoring process, presiding settlement judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has told Microsoft’s she doesn’t think it’s going far or fast enough in meeting the terms of the deal.

2. Judge: Microsoft documentation unfit for US consumption

Microsoft may have made a big push to settle many of the antitrust actions facing it around the globe, but those efforts have run up against a major stumbling block: the company’s inability to document the protocols need to interoperate with its own software. Documentation problems got Microsoft in hot water with the EU, and they’re now the only reason it continues to be under court supervision in the aftermath of its antitrust settlement. But, despite having interoperability become a corporate strategy, its documentation efforts came under fire in a court hearing earlier today.

3. U.S. judge tells Microsoft: Get on the stick!

Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) came under sharp criticism from a U.S. judge on Thursday for being slow to produce technical documents it is required to give software makers as part of a 2002 antitrust settlement.

4. Microsoft’s interoperability documentation: A lesson in foot-dragging

[I]t’s frustrating that it has taken so long, and so much government pressure just to get Microsoft to do what is right for its platform business. Yes, interoperability may crimp Microsoft’s plans for its applications business. Even if so, it’s time for Microsoft to stop talking a big interoperability game and then choosing to ride the bench.

Jose_X wrote about this in his comment “Way to open up Microsoft!”

No Love for Standards

Web standards too have remained a blind spot for Microsoft.

Microsoft Live Search Maps hates Chrome and Firefox

[...]

Once again, Microsoft is caught doing services that work better with Microsoft’s own web browser, and offering a sub-par experience to anyone who dares not to run the firm’s Integral Part of the Windows Operating System – stand in line to buy your boxed copy of Vista please.

Microsoft is “Dying from the Inside”

So says a Microsoft employee, who posted this rant, which includes a revelation of $20 million bonuses under “a new plan.”

Suddenly I was very motivated to read the 8-K, in a pissed-off sort of way.

From the filing:

Item 5.02 Compensatory Arrangements of Certain Officers

The Compensation Committee of the Microsoft Corporation (“Company”) Board of Directors has approved a new executive officer incentive plan (“Plan”) for the Company’s executive officers. The Plan replaces the existing annual cash bonus and equity award programs for the Company’s executive officers beginning with fiscal year 2009.

The Plan allows the Compensation Committee to establish award programs for specified performance periods (e.g., one or more fiscal years). The maximum amount payable to a participating executive officer is a percentage of an incentive pool for a performance period. For fiscal year 2009, awards will be granted from an incentive pool with maximum funding of 0.35% of Microsoft’s fiscal year 2009 corporate operating income. The awards granted to each participating executive officer will be limited to a fixed share of the incentive pool, and these awards may be further reduced or eliminated in the discretion of the Compensation Committee (or in the discretion of the Board of directors, for awards to the Company’s chief executive officer, Steven A. Ballmer). The Plan specifies a maximum amount of $20,000,000 that may be paid under the Plan to a participating executive officer for one or more performance periods that end during a fiscal year. Award amounts under the Plan may be made in either or both stock awards issued under the Microsoft Corporation 2001 Stock Plan and cash. Vesting of stock awards will be determined by the Compensation Committee. The 2001 Stock Plan generally requires that stock awards vest over at least a three-year period.

[...]

Given the feckless vote of confidence that a bunch of screw-ups like Yahoo! got at their recent shareholder’s meeting, I don’t have much confidence in our shareholders challenging our leadership. Stock price? Don’t care, got mine. What kind of performance targets must the company reach to achieve the rewards? Not gonna tell you.

First SPSA. Now this. Microsoft is dying from the inside, and the folks sucking it dry have zero motivation to change things. It’s working out pretty damn well for them.

Here is some more information about these bonuses.

The big winner this year appears to be Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner, who received the biggest bonus and salary award.

Novell has also raised some similar questions and so does Apple.

Not even Apple can escape the fallout from the global economic crisis, with it’s shares tumbling this week. That hasn’t stopped Apple’s executive team reaping in more than 120 million dollars in bonuses though…

Microsoft and Debt

Joe Wilcox posted this bit of text about his concerns. Microsoft’s market cap sank by $24 billion in just 17 Days, having already fallen sharply beforehand (by up to — and at one stage over — $100 billion).

Microsoft is on the list. Today, the stock closed at $25.01 a share, down $2.39, or 8.72 percent.

It’s worth bringing up this new short article, which states: “Following the massive Wall Street sell-off, Microsoft on Monday called on Congress to revisit its bailout decision, saying government action is “vitally important.”” There’s some more talk about the urgency of action. Microsoft admits it is not immune and its friends at the BBC have pinned quite a placement about it in the BBC earlier today.

Microsoft might soon enter debt.

Revisionism

The BBC’s revisionism is something that we pointed out before [1, 2]. SJVN explains why this should be a major concern.

Let’s go one more step though. Let’s say you want to know, specifically, what happened in the trial according to ace Microsoft reporter, and I’m pleased to say my friend, Mary Jo Foley who covered the Microsoft/DoJ case like paint. In January 2001, a search on Microsoft DOJ and Mary Jo Foley would have found 1,820 records.

None of the first twenty, the most popular links, are still active in 2008. And, as far as Google 2008 is concerned those stories don’t exist. That means, for most people, those stories never happened. It means, in short, that if you rely on the Web for “The Truth” you’re relying on something that’s constantly rotting away and falling apart.

Many people still rely on the BBC’s coverage, which is wrongly synonymised with “truth” or “trust”. There are reasons to end this trust, however:

Here are examples of Microsoft executives taking or inheriting positions of power/influence inside the BBC:

Trouble in Europe

Some months ago we covered Microsoft’s threat that it may sue over its exclusion. Here are some relevant posts about it:

The story is being repeated with some new evidence.

Should European governments favor open-source software when they hold tenders for public contracts? Economists and policy makers appear to think so but industry giants including Microsoft argue that this would be discriminatory and are considering legal action to prevent this from happening.

Glyn Moody wrote about this too.

At first, I thought this Computerworld UK story about software vendors “challenging” proposed EU guidelines was just a typical Microsoft whine about the imminent loss of its stranglehold over the government sector in Europe.

It is such a bad loser: after having abused its monopoly position for years, essentially telling the world and his or her dog to like it or lump it, it now runs screaming to teacher as soon as there is any suggestion of the playground daring to stand up to its bullying.

Miscellany

The impact of Windows zombies may be costing the British public dearly.

UK banking losses due to fraud in the first half of 2008 hit £301.7m compared to £263.6m in the same period last year, according to the latest figures from UK banking association APACS.

Fraud abroad made up 40 per cent of total card fraud losses reaching £121.2m in the period, up 11 per cent of the £108.8m lost last year. That loss was through tactics such as the use of counterfeit plastic cards with stolen PINs on machines overseas that only check magnetic strips, not chips.

Microsoft partners are betrayed once again, which is not particularly surprising.

Microsoft today tried to convince UK channel partners that it’s working hard to simplify its licensing terms, but many resellers have grumbled that the firm hasn’t gone far enough yet.

Microsoft is also funding some scare factor, suggesting that not paying Microsoft will entail horrible consequences.

Companies that rely on unlicensed copies of Windows are more likely to experience system failures and lose customer data, Microsoft Corp. said today, citing a company-sponsored report.

According to the research, which was conducted by the Harrison Group Inc. but paid for by Microsoft, midsize companies — those with more than 24 PCs and fewer than 500 — were 43% more likely to have had a critical system failure lasting more than 24 hours if they used unlicensed Windows.

While Microsoft loves accusing others of ‘stealing’ (its software, which it willingly gives away anyway), it’s being accused of stealing slogans now.

G.ho.st, a startup that offers a hosted operating system, has accused Microsoft of violating a company trademark with its prominent use of the phrase “no walls” in its recently unveiled US$300 million Windows marketing and advertising campaign.

That’s about all for today. There’s lots more on the way.

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