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11.24.08

Eye on Microsoft: Vista/7 Trouble and More Security Chaos

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Security, Vista, Vista 7, Windows at 3:36 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

THERE is a large heap of things to cover today, so we’ll dive right into it.

Vista/Vista7

The Vista case revealed a lot of ugly secrets, such as Rob Enderle's intimate relationship with Microsoft. In evidence preceding the Ballmer deposition, it is also shown how sloppy a CEO he is.

Grammar check optional for Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer

Newly-released emails in the Microsoft ‘Vista capable’ lawsuit not only demonstrate that Microsoft managed to piss off HP as well as Dell with its confused approach, but that people who are running busy companies don’t have time for full stops.

[...]

Quite frankly, this reads more like an MSN chat transcript than a CEO trying to resolve a potentially major partner crisis. Memo to Steve:

* Full stops can make it much easier to read sentences.
* Please avoid meaningless phrases like “I am not even in the detail of the issues”.
* Outlook has had a spelling and grammar checking facility for some time; using it more often might be sensible. After all, you never know when internal email might end up in a court document these days.

Windows Vista is still being rejected and GNU/Linux chosen for the server, according to this survey.

This survey continued the trend with 64% of users preferring to evaluate on Windows. Of interest is that 91% do not intend to use Vista but instead are staying with XP or Windows Server 2003. The logical conclusion from the analysis is the open source community either deploys on Linux, or stays with the Windows operating systems it has, not moving to Vista.

Eric Raymond, citing the Vista trouble, talks of Microsoft as a falling empire. He explains why in his personal blog which recently returned to life.

There’s another problem. Vista is so dead that Microsoft is already touting its successor “System 7″. Not end-of-lifing XP on schedule means they’ll actually have to support three different operating systems for at least the years until System 7 ships, and some time afterward. Even Microsoft is going to feel the strain, and ISVs are likely to play safe by writing to the minimum (XP) specification.

Raymond may be considered biased, but even a Windows-oriented Web site, Neowin, has published the article “Six reasons Microsoft will continue to lose market share.”

Microsoft has positioned itself at the top, a top that is targeted by hundreds if not thousands of companies. They have spread themselves from their core identities and they are opening themselves up for a loss of market share. For this article market share is defined as a broad term where Microsoft will lose users from its user base to its competitors.

Readers respond to this almost angrily.

Windows Vista 7 [sic] is not in a better position and according to the editor of The Inquirer, all that vapourware strategy might do a lot to lift GNU/Linux.

Microsoft CEO, the shy and retiring, softly spoken Steve Ballmer admitted that this was happening and seems to be slowly walking away from Vista.

[...]

It could be that this will be the moment for Linux to make its long awaited rise to fame. If firms want to cut costs but upgrade hardware then Linux ideas are probably the only way to go forward. Indeed some companies will be able to keep their older hardware for a bit longer.

Vista 7, it is worth remembering, is just another Vista.

Yet when InfoWorld gave Windows 7 a through benchmarking and shakedown, the result was the same ill foreboding that accompanied pre-release Vista (and proved all too accurate).

Online Business

We mentioned Jerry Yang earlier in the day. As everyone probably knows by now, he was pressured out, essentially giving room to Microsoft cronies who accommodated the company’s highest ranks (even Board of Directors) over the course of the past few months. Meanwhile, others pounded on Yang with Microsoft’s encouragement.

Yahoo has been struggling for months to improve its financial performance, but things have gone from bad to worse for the company this year, and its stock has sunk to a closing price of $10.63 on Monday. First, the company thwarted Microsoft’s unfriendly attempt to acquire Yahoo outright, and later just its search business, though Yahoo appeared to grow more interested in a deal even as Microsoft grew cooler. At one point, Microsoft offered to acquire the company at $33 per share.

Fortunately, Yahoo has begun negotiating with AOL.

Observers must be wondering whether, in internet economics, a negative added to a negative gives a positive. In other words, whether two losers getting together can do something against the apparently overwhelming competition from Google. The failure of Microsoft’s takeover bid for Yahoo this summer has already drawn criticism, in view of both Microsoft’s rather luckless efforts at internet search and Yahoo’s weak position. It is equally questionable whether an amalgamation between the troubled Yahoo internet group with Time Warner’s wobbly online subsidiary AOL, has any better prospects of success. According to German press agency DPA, Yahoo is negotiating a takeover of AOL.

According to the latest surveys, Google continues to gain, so there’s no real effect on them.

Google Inc.’s lead widened in the U.S. search market over Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. in October, a report shows.

Motivated by Boycott Novell, InformationWeek published this article about Microsoft’s latest attack on Google (via former seniors):

Two of ClickStream’s employees, CEO and co-founder Cameron Turner and senior research analyst Kim Anderson, used to work at Microsoft.

ComputerWorld covered this too, citing Boycott Novell as its source.

Mobile

On the face of it, Windows Mobile continues going the way of the dodo. Here are some of the latest reports which are left to readers’ judgment:

1. Microsoft’s mobile strategy has gone missing

Against this background, Microsoft’s continued tardiness in developing its own mobile strategy gets more worrying. At the company’s Professional Developers Conference recently, Windows Mobile was notable by its absence — and not for the first time. No clear guidance has been given for the next major revision of the software, and the trends are not good. It is now commonplace for flagship Windows Mobile handsets to come with a non-Microsoft web browser — a sign that something is badly broken.

2. Microsoft falls behind in mobiles

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer – in Sydney the other day for a software developers conference – was quick to pour scorn on Google’s new Android mobile phone system when he turned up at a Telstra investor briefing.

3. Microsoft fixes Windows Mobile 6.1 email bug

Microsoft has patched a Windows Mobile 6.1 bug that left some users unable to send messages until they deleted and recreated their email accounts. The “Windows Mobile 6.1 POP and IMAP Send Mail Patch” is downloadable now, the company says.

This belated fix is also mentioned here. These are almost signs of neglect.

Failing Hardware Businesses

Microsoft’s CEO recently called Zune and XBox360 “funny products” because the company is unable to derive profit from them. Microsoft is now “hiding from the Zune,” as Matt Asay puts it.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer spots – or, rather, doesn’t spot – the Zune in Microsoft’s new advertising for that uber-social iPhone “competitor.” According to Zune marketing director Adam Sohn, this is on purpose: “We’re trying to funnel people from the software side….You don’t have to buy the device immediately.”

Regarding XBox360, same old, same old. Microsoft’s servers are probably down again. There’s malfunction.

This weekend, Xbox Live is experiencing connectivity issues again and the company can’t find a solution yet. Larry Hryb, known by the pseudonym Major Nelson, said in his blog that these issues were resolved on Friday, only to correct himself on Saturday and reveal that “some folks are still having issues” and that “the Operations center is investigating.”

Hype Factor

The main thing going for proprietary software vendors is marketing. Lots of marketing! Just how much? Almost half a billion dollars for Apple, per annum. It’s about the same as Vista, which is a product, not a company. For Microsoft, it’s well over a billion overall.

Update: Microsoft spends more on advertising across all of its combined businesses than Apple does, but its Windows business is what competes most directly with Apple. Microsoft’s total advertising budget across all of its businesses, including Windows, Office, Xbox, and all the enterprise stuff, was the following (from the 10K): “Advertising expense was $1.2 billion, $1.3 billion, and $1.2 billion in fiscal years 2008, 2007, and 2006, respectively.”

This is also covered in:

1. Apple spends almost $500 million on ads

Apple spent $486 million on ads last year, up from $467 million the year before, and $338 million in 2006, according to a filing with the SEC. The ‘Get a Mac’ campaign was launched in mid-2006.

2. Analysis: Apple Ads More Effective Than Microsoft’s

Todd Bishop has crunched the numbers and found that Apple’s advertising success over the last year has paid off.

Microsoft’s marketing push is now becoming more desperate than Jerry Seinfeld and “Mojave”, not to mention mischievous guerrilla tactics.

Microsoft’s new ‘I’m a dork’ store

[...]

I’m a Microsoft critic, but it’s depressing to watch the company make such a lame attempt at creating its image as trucker “I’m a PC” hats. It can and should do better.

Microsoft is also using photos of its competitors’ products to promote its own.

Microsoft Using Apple’s Macbook Pro In Promotional Material?

[...]

[S]ometimes one encounters stuff that is just too good to pass. So that other day my dad bought a new HP Pavilion desktop, and since I am the geek in residence I ended up setting it up for him.

Priceless. Almost pathetic in fact.

Security

Quite a huge mess in the past week. Here is a quick roundup.

First of all, there is a kernel flaw in Windows Vista. Watch Microsoft’s schedule for addressing it:

A flaw in Vista’s networking has been found that can crash the system, but no fix is expected until the next service pack

Microsoft recently admitted that it took it 7 years to fix a bug, but now it’s coming up with excuses. A reader wrote to us about it, claiming that “the liars spinning press releases for Redmond claim that the patch was 7 years in the making because it would disrupt existing services. Contrast that to what they did with XP SP2, broke darn near everything…

http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-10096611-83.html
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/11/17/ms_explains_patch_delay/
http://www.techworld.com/security/news/index.cfm?newsID=107034

“I guess what must have happened was that the hole started driving more people back to Samba,” he added.

Here is another new example.

Worm Risk Spurs Critical Microsoft Patch

This marks the first time since April 2007 that Microsoft has released a fix outside of its normal Patch Tuesday cycle; it was sparked by lessons learned from worm epidemics like Blaster and Slammer, which cost users billions of dollars to disinfect in 2003.

They also did this in Christmas. All versions of Windows had a “Critical” flaw which required an emergency patch..

Here is another new flaw that affects Microsoft Communicator and is highlighted in several Web sites right now.

Researchers at VoIPshield Labs have pinpointed a wide range of denial-of-service vulnerabilities in Microsoft Communicator, the unified communications that features business-grade instant messaging , voice, and video tools.

With such insecure-by-design systems [1, 2] abound, no wonder even kids can become botmasters and/or cyber-criminals.

Teen hacker confesses three-year crime spree

Known by the online handle of Dshocker, the 17-year-old Massachusetts hacker also admitted he breached multiple corporate computer systems, called in bomb threats and engaged in credit card fraud. The defendant, who was identified only by the initials N.H., pleaded guilty to charges in court documents that included one count each of computer fraud and interstate threats and four counts of wire fraud.

Symantec warned about unprecedented turbulence.

Symantec is warning of a sharp jump in online attacks that appear to be targeting a recently patched bug in Microsoft’s Windows operating system, an analysis that some other security companies disputed Friday.

Symantec raised its Threat Con security alert level from one to two because of the attacks, with two denoting “increased alertness.” But other vendors, including Arbor Networks and McAfee, said they were seeing no such activity.

Will there be more zombie PCs to join a faction of about 320 million? It sure looks like it, but the following article is peppered with ‘vapourware speak’.

Fake Windows “Antivirus” Code Infected 1 Million Computers

Even with Windows 7 in pre-Beta stage, Microsoft is emphasizing the need for end users to run security software with the operating system, indicating that it is working with members of the industry in order to have the first antivirus products tailored for the Windows client as early as the Beta development milestone. Fact is that the necessity to install security solutions is valid for all Window operating systems, not just Windows 7, but at the same time, there are some antivirus products that users need to steer clear of. Just in November, Microsoft contributed to removing malicious code posing as Windows antivirus solutions from approximately 1 million computers worldwide.

More of the same here:

Known as Kardphisher and “in the wild” since April, 2007, last week the malware author of this trojan horse mimicking the Windows XP activation interface while collecting the credit card details the end user has submitted, has made significant changes to visual interface and usability of the trojan, consequently improving its authenticity. Guess what happens when a gullible end user falls victim into this social engineering attack?

Zombie PCs aside (they spew over 100 billion SPAM per day), Microsoft is named the fifth most spammer-friendly harbour.

The software giant debuted on the list earlier this month at number 9 (one being the worst), and has slid over the past few days down to number 5. Spamhaus says spammers and scam artists are abusing Microsoft’s live.com and livefilestore.com properties to redirect visitors to sites that peddle fake pharmacy products, porn and Nigerian 419 scams.

Due so so many compromised machines, espionage and DDOS attacks ensue:

1. Pentagon Hit by Unprecedented Cyber Attack

“We have detected a global virus for which there has been alerts, and we have seen some of this on our networks,” a Pentagon official told FOX News. “We are now taking steps to mitigate the virus.”

[...]

Military computers are often referred to as part of the Global Information Grid, or GIG, a system composed of 17 million computers, many of which house classified or sensitive information.

2. Net bombarded by heaviest ever attacks this year

Online networks suffered their heaviest brute force attacks to date this year, with more sites than ever coming under sustained assault.

With so much trouble around, what would Microsoft do? Maybe ‘pull a Netscape’? It has just decided to bundle its security products with Windows, thereby gaining unfair advantage over a more advanced competition. Below we have some selective coverage.

Rivals: Low share led to drop of OneCare”

[...]

In a statement, Rowan Trollope, the senior vice president of consumer business at Symantec said:

We view this announcement as a capitulation by Microsoft, and a reinforcement of the notion that it’s simply not in Microsoft’s DNA to provide high-quality, frequently updated security protection.

Well, Symantec’s CEO has just announced his retirement/exit.

Here is some more coverage of interest:

1. AVG Sees Uphill Battle for Microsoft in Its Launch of Free Anti-Virus Software

Microsoft will also likely contend with a severe backlash from dissatisfied channel partners, whose margins and unit sales will be negatively impacted as a result of the free product offering, AVG believes.

2. Microsoft’s Morro Incites Mixed Feelings From Competition

Microsoft’s Morro, its new free antimalware software scheduled to be released next year, will probably not be a threat in the long run, major security companies say.

3. Microsoft kills Windows Live OneCare and Equipt subscription services

Microsoft’s Equipt — which Microsoft launched in July of this year — is dead and Microsoft is having to go back and pull copies of Equipt from the channel (Circuit City in the U.S. and DSGI in the U.K.). Microsoft is offering customers a pro-rated refund for the service and allowing purchasers to keep Office Home & Student edition for free forever, Microsoft officials said.

4. Microsoft give students the finger, once again

I wrote about Microsoft Equipt some months ago, and now that people are starting to buy it, they’re pulling it from the ranks. They’re pulling the product from all shelves, online and offline, but on the plus side, they’re allowing subscribers to get a pro-rata subscription refund and they’re letting you keep the Office Home & Student edition for free, forever.

This marks the death of yet another Microsoft product/service, this time the short-lived Equipt. It was Symantec’s CEO (or someone equally senior) who warned that without competition in this area, products will become very poor yet irreplaceable. This is a recipe for further problems where defenses are predictable, uniform, universal and therefore easier to consistently defeat. It’s not good for anyone. According to today’s BBC article, on-line crime is now estimated at billions, but should this be surprising at all?

Radiation

Bilski Case Working Against Patent Trolls and Against Software Patents — Already

Posted in Courtroom, IBM, Microsoft, Patents at 12:52 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Supreme court
U.S. Supreme Court, March 2008

TODAY’S NEWS is encouraging because there are finally signs of resistance rather than cowardly settlement. The Facebook case that we mentioned the other day is summoning re Bilski [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33] as precedence to fend off the patent trolls.

Nick O’Neill of AllFacebook thinks Facebook might have to pay up (and he has a copy of the patent up on his site, for the curious). I’m not sure. A top patent court has recently ruled against the validity of patents that don’t involve some sort of “machine or transformation” — I wonder what “machine or transformation” Leader has to offer here? I’m no legal expert, but it’s not clear to me, after reading through the patent. I’m guessing Facebook, if not the rest of the web-based tech industry, won’t be losing too much sleep over it tonight.

Holders of software patents are already warned that their patents might be worthless and that they may require revision.

Clients with issued software patents, medical method patents, and other similar patents may want to run a “Bilski test” on the claims of those patents, particularly if there is a likelihood that the patents will be asserted in the future. If those patents raise any concerns, it may be advisable to correct potential problems or insure against them (e.g., by adding new, more-patentable claims) via reissue proceedings or continuation practice. However, clients should understand that amendments made in a reissue proceeding can provide competitors with additional defenses against a patent. As for patent applications that are still pending, applicants should develop strategies for adding the sorts of elements identified by the Federal Circuit to the claims – in most cases, we expect this can be done without significantly affecting the strength of the claims. For patents currently in litigation, defendants should re-check their defenses, but should be careful not to over-read Bilski, and plaintiffs may really want to look into correcting suspect patents.

As we showed back in May, even the pharmaceuticals are beginning to question the notion of intellectual monopolies as they decide to collaborate instead. Irrespective of this, there’s some fear there of the Bilski ruling.

In re Bilski: Trouble Ahead for Biotech?

[...]

While Bilski purports to clarify the test for analyzing the patent-eligibility of processes, many key questions remain unanswered: When is a process sufficiently tied to a particular apparatus or machine? When is the use of a recited machine more than “insignificant extra-solution activity”? When is the claimed transformation “central to the purpose of the claimed process”? When does a claimed invention foreclose substantially all uses of a fundamental principle, such as an algorithm or natural phenomenon? Does Bilski have implications for method of treatment claims? And what about non-process claims, such as claims to a peptide or polynucleotide that was isolated and purified from nature?

Those companies ought to concentrate on bringing drugs to markets in urgent need. Patents encourage overpricing and isolation, i.e. slow progress. They often lead to death and make a morbid society, even literally speaking. So whatever the outcome of re Bilski may be, it’s a clearly step in the right direction, which is rare.

On the downside, IBM and Cisco seem to be playing ball with the patent trolls of Intellectual Ventures, claiming that they do so in order to battle other trolls.

Now, two former executives of Myhrvold’s Bellevue patent licensing firm are striking out on their own with support from IBM and Cisco to serve as a counterweight to patent holding firms like Intellectual Ventures. Today, RPX Corp. is launching what it dubs “defensive patent aggregation” — a membership club of sorts where large and small technology companies pool capital in order to order to protect themselves from patent litigation.

What about small companies? Fighting fire with fire is not a solution. It only leads to burning. IBM should just step up and end software patents already.

Novell Partners Blog Lists “Red Hat Linux” as Just “Linux”

Posted in GNU/Linux, Red Hat, Servers, SLES/SLED at 11:28 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Was: “Novell Partners Blog Conveniently Renames “Red Hat Linux” Just “Linux””

[Correction: Top500.org lists the operating system of Roadrunner as “Linux”, so nothing was done deliberately by the Ops Americas blog.]

IN TOP-TIER supercomputing, SUSE lost its top spot some months ago, so it bragged about this spot while it lasted. One of Novell’s promotional sites (not directly affiliated with Novell though) has just published a list of top supercomputers along with the variants of GNU/Linux that they run. Funnily enough, where Red Hat should definitely appear they seem to list it generically

SUSE Linux has traditionally performed very well in the high performance realm.

Due to Autobuild and now the OpenSUSE Build Service we have been able to build a common code base across many architectures like: x86, x86_64, Power, Itanium and System Z. This gives people the ability to either scale out with commodity processors are scale up with higher power CPUs.

[...]

1. Roadrunner – Linux

2. Jaguar – Compute Node Linux

3. Pleiades NASA/Ames – SLES 10

[...]

Maybe it’s not deliberate, but it’s curious how they replace “Red Hat” on “Roadrunner” with just “Linux”. It might be Novell’s Red Hat envy [1, 2, 3] because they abstain from showing that Red Hat holds the number-one spot.

Microsoft and Novell still want more of Ballnux everywhere. Microsoft funnels money into Novell to make it so.

Microsoft SUSE

Microsoft’s B.A.D. (Bribing, Addicting, Dumping) Comes to the Philippines

Posted in Asia, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Windows at 10:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

NO INTRODUCTION IS NEEDED to this problem because we’ve already addressed it in reference to other countries, namely:

This lock-in circus is coming to the Philippines now… and not without free promotion from the local media, which neglects to mention the great harms of the programme. This one isn’t about locking in poor businesses (BizSpark) but about making young people desperately dependent on Microsoft’s non-Free products.

By offering its software for free to students, Microsoft is hoping to help address the need for more skilled professional developers in the country.

Called DreamSpark, this program gives students access to developer tools, such as Visual Studio and other platform, tools such as Windows Server and Windows Sequel Server database.

This thing has already spread to quite a few other countries.

Hoping to plug the gap in information-technology (IT) skills in the global workforce, Microsoft Philippines is providing professional-grade software development, gaming and design tools to students.

[...]

Microsoft has already made DreamSpark available in Belgium, China, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Educators must learn why schools should use only Free software. Anything else would be damaging and potentially dangerous. Just because it’s digital doesn’t make it harmless.

Prison

More Manipulation at Microsoft: Politics, ‘Charity’ for Automobiles, Media Coverage

Posted in Antitrust, Finance, Google, Microsoft at 10:19 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Lobbyists Drive Technology

WE wrote about the personal contributions from Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates to politicians only about a fortnight ago. This leaves a lot of room for political corruption, which comes in the form of favours or bribes. Nepotism and favouritism are to blame. On many occasions we also explained the degree of political manipulation in the Yahoo! saga. Microsoft just has too much control over the government, and it shows.

In Jerry Yang’s last stand he not only discovered but also pretty much confessed that Microsoft had ruined his planned deal with Google (Susan Decker was involved too). Microsoft virtually runs the country — at least in its area or scope — because it invariantly shoots down all sorts of peripheral deals which it does not like, as we showed many times before [1, 2, 3].

What a change. Back in the late 1990s, when Microsoft was busy fending off hordes of government antitrust lawyers, the company took a remarkable step: it actually asked Congress to reduce funding for the Justice Department’s antitrust division.

Gates Fundation [sic] and Pollution

To those who are new to what the Gates Fundation [sic] is doing, a good start would be this post. In short, the Gates Foundation is investing in companies that are responsible for a lot of pollution and also cause death. It’s hard for ordinary people to know the true stories though because Gates and Microsoft are also acquiring media companies, then manipulating them. They tell the stories that they want to be told.

Anyway, here is the latest example of an investment with negative impact.

Gates, who previously reported a 5.5 percent stake in AutoNation, said on Friday that his Cascade Investment LLC owned 9.4 million shares in AutoNation and that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust holds more than 8.3 million shares.

Making the would better place, one car at a time. That’s what charity and philanthropy are apparently about. Tax exceptions are only a bonus.

Gartner and Other Sellouts

There is a lot of goodness coming from Microsoft's latest crime. As more E-mails are divulged, it becomes clearer that Microsoft is muscling journalists and exploiting the Gartner Group too.

For example, the summary of Microsoft’s meeting with several Gartner analysts in October of 2006 is fascinating, and made more so by Jamin Spitzer, group manager of Worldwide Analyst Relations at Microsoft, who suggests that two objectives of the meeting with Gartner were to create “confidence in the Vista product, OEM/Retail channel, and device/app compatibility,” as well as “provide Gartner ‘wiggle room’.”

[...]

More generally, these emails as well as the others demonstrate that Microsoft does a good job of managing the media, including analysts and reporters. I think it would be too strong to suggest that Microsoft manipulates the media; if anything, the emails reveal a collegial but respectful interaction with the media.

Gartner’s recent anti-ODF 'study' (composed by a Microsoft turncoat) and anti-FOSS 'brochureport' are part of a pattern. For some background about this Partner Group is, see:

It is sad to see the system declining like this because of manipulation. It’s even more sad to the see sources of information being subverted by those very same manipulators who want their bogus story to be told and remembered rather than the truth.

Chess pieces
Cronyism at its finest

Microsoft Chief Technical Officer Quits, Replacement Made for Another Quitting CEO, Operations Head Bumped

Posted in Asia, Finance, Microsoft at 9:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Turmoil envisioned

AT the beginning of the year we provided several examples to demonstrate the crumbling of Microsoft at its highest of ranks. None of this has stopped since then and it appears to be continuing with this departure of a CTO.

Microsoft Exec Jumps Ship

The latest, and biggest, name to go is CTO Michel Burger, the charismatic Frenchman who spearheaded Microsoft’s efforts to get carriers to build their service creation strategies around the Connected Services Framework (CSF) and promoted the concept of service mashups.

[...]

Burger isn’t the first to go. Earlier this year, Michael O’Hara quit his job as general manager for marketing and industry management of Microsoft’s Communications Sector to join the GSM Association as chief marketing officer.

As always, we are somewhat concerned that Mr. Burger could end up inside a company where he could serve Microsoft from a distance. In this case, he’ll be landing in Vodafone, which already accommodates another Microsoft chief. We wrote about this before, e.g. under [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6].

In other news, another vacancy was Microsoft’s China CEO, which means that the previous one had left. This empty position is finally being filled now. Still, it leaves a clue as to what happened earlier on.

On the other hand, Ya-Qin Zhang, who served as Microsoft Greater China Region CEO after the previous chief stepped down one year ago, will continue taking charge of the China Research and Development Group for Microsoft as corporate vice president.

This is also covered here, but a subscription is required.

There’s more to it all. Microsoft Russia as well seems to have lost its head of operations (vacant seat), which is being replaced.

Pryanishnikov will replace Birger Steen, who has worked as General Director of the Microsoft RUS LLC since August 2004.

Why are all these people leaving? What is it that they see?

Several days ago we wrote about Microsoft and debt and it’s being repeated by Reuters now.

[T]he software giant said in September that its board had authorized it to tap the debt market from time to time for up $6 billion in funds. As part of that approval, the company has established the $2 billion commercial paper program.

Microsoft is also warning about tough times ahead:

1. Microsoft’s Ballmer warns that growth in work force will be ‘much slower’

Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said Wednesday that the company would have “much, much slower growth” in the size of its work force this fiscal year and probably the year after.

2. Microsoft CEO Ballmer: Economy will affect Microsoft

“None of this means the current economic environment won’t have any impact on our business or our industry; it certainly will,” Ballmer said, referring to Microsoft’s strong financial position. He was speaking at the company’s annual stockholder meeting in Bellevue, Wash.

Microsoft’s Mundie goes out of his way at this very moment, seemingly pulling the press in order to deny layoffs, but evidence on the ground seem to suggest otherwise.

Board room
Hard times, rooms emptied

States Are in Huge Debt, But Microsoft Keeps ‘Crime Money’ in Bank

Posted in Asia, Finance, Microsoft at 8:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Government attorneys accuse Microsoft of using its monopoly position to bully, bribe and attempt to collude with others in the industry, while illegally expanding and protecting its Windows franchise.”

The antitrust case: a timeline

There is a lot of despairing news for Microsoft at the moment, so be prepared for many posts containing many references. The first one is yet another eye opener about a subject that we covered last month.

Microsoft engaged in illegal activities and was ultimately requested to pay compensation to schools in the State of California. But it’s rather outrageous that while poverty spreads and Microsoft is burning up its remaining cash reserves, the money it owes schools remains almost untouched in its bank account. Here is a new article that protests against it.

It’s a windfall for California public schools: a $250 million grant from Microsoft for new computers, software and training, part of a $1.1-billion class-action lawsuit settlement against the company.

[...]

But two years later, nearly 80 percent of the money is still in the vault, unclaimed by California schools. Only a few Kern County school districts have started cashing in.

The Panama-Buena Vista Union School District has had more than $519,000 of the pool set aside in its name, but, according to the settlement administrator’s Web site, the money is still sitting there.

Ditto for some of Kern County’s smaller districts: Mojave Unified ($147,837), Buttonwillow ($19,305) and General Shafter ($15,240) haven’t dipped into their share of the settlement money.

It’s important that they take advantage of the settlement, and not just for the most obvious reasons. The state’s schools will eventually receive an even larger payout once a final part of the lawsuit is settled, but state attorneys might not be as motivated to pursue it while the original pot remains so full.

“What a scam,” says one of our readers. “First the delay of many years and then the whittling down of a $1.1 billion settlement to a paltry $0.250 billion.”

This isn’t the first such article and it is a total disaster for the juridical system. The state was entitled to this compensation years ago, but the money just keeps sitting in Microsoft’s bank account. In some cases, the money is used up by purchasing more licences for copies of software from Microsoft (i.e. the abused paying the abuser again), but in other cases this money is being used to install GNU/Linux on new PCs in Californian schools. Christian Einfeldt and others are leaders of this effort, but remain just few among this cause.

Another case of abused Microsoft customers is China where black screens of death struck the nation, then leading to lawsuits against Microsoft for intrusion and sabotage of people’s personal computers. There is an update on this in the Financial Times for those who are interested in finer details and progress.

When Microsoft rolled out its latest anti-piracy initiative this year, it was not aimed at any particular country. Windows Genuine Advantage, a tool that identifies users of counterfeit software and pushes them to buy the real thing, was launched worldwide in several geographical blocs.

But Microsoft ran into trouble when the roll-out hit China last month. While users in other markets kept silent when hit by one of WGA’s more extreme features, a mechanism that blackens the desktop background on computers found to be using counterfeit Windows, their Chinese peers broke into a storm of anger, forcing Microsoft officials in the country into damage control mode.

Lastly, it was only a week ago that we explained why Microsoft is now abusing some of its most effective distributors. Microsoft needs cash. We used China as a specific example from the news and now there are some more cases and coverage in the United States, e.g.

1. Microsoft wins lawsuit

TULSA, Okla. (AP) – A Tulsa business is being ordered to pay Microsoft Corp. nearly $1 million in damages in a copyright infringement lawsuit.

2. Microsoft Wins Copyright-Infringement Suit Vs Okla Co -Report

U.S. District Judge Terence Kern issued a written order Thursday in which he found that Microsoft was owed $970,000 in damages and $25,182.25 in attorney fees in its civil lawsuit against James Dignan and his company, AllPro Computer and Gaming, the report said.

To summarise, Microsoft is getting aggressive and is now asserting its full rights to be paid for copies of its software while at the same time failing to pay Californian schools for the crime it committed, just as it does not pay tax in India, among other places.

Links 24/11/2008: Compiz 0.8; Ubuntu 9.04 Alpha; Fedora 10 Coming

Posted in News Roundup at 4:27 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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