06.03.09

What Microsoft’s Anti-Linux Taskforce in Wal-Mart Teaches Us About Sub-notebooks

Posted in Deception, FUD, GNU/Linux, Hardware, Microsoft, Windows at 10:05 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Notebook

Summary: What do leaked antitrust documents teach us about the orchestration of competition assassins (Microsoft calls them “taskforces”)?

Remember when Microsoft commissioned a group of people to pressure Wal-Mart to take GNU/Linux off the shelves? Well, it worked, despite the fact that GNU/Linux was selling very well. Those who never saw this internal correspondence from Microsoft most certainly should.

The same thing appears to be happening at the moment in Microsoft’s war on GNU/Linux-powered sub-notebooks.

At an earlier stage, Microsoft used its friends from NPD and right now they are using ASUS to scare vendors who are stocking GNU/Linux. This also intimidates potential buyers.

According to this new article, Microsoft is very likely behind these latest developments.

The very next day, Asus’ chairman, Jonney Shih, after sharing a news conference stage with Microsoft corporate VP, OEM Division, Steven Guggenheimer, apologized for the Android Eee PC being shown.

Shih said, “Frankly speaking … I would like to apologize that, if you look at Asus booth, we’ve decided not to display this product. I think you may have seen the devices on Qualcomm’s booth but actually, I think this is a company decision so far we would not like to show this device. That’s what I can tell you so far. I would like to apologize for that.”

What the heck does he have to apology for? This wasn’t some put-together at the last minute skunk-works project that never should have been seen by the public eye. This was a system that, from all reports, could have gone into production immediately.

The only thing I can think of is that Asus doesn’t want to tick off Microsoft. Microsoft has been losing money by almost giving away Windows XP Home to netbook vendors. The Evil Empire wants to make that up this year by forcing netbook customers into buying over-priced, under-powered Windows 7. But, if customers get a chance to buy Linux-powered netbook for a good deal less than Windows 7 netbooks, Microsoft is scared that they’ll lose the netbook market.

If this was an isolated incident, I might not make so much of it. But, it wasn’t.

On the other side of the world, PC World, Britain’s self-professed largest specialist chain of computing superstores, announced that, regardless of what was coming with Linux netbooks, it would only be selling Windows netbooks.

[...]

Microsoft, frightened by the sudden rise of new Linux netbooks, is doing it best to make sure that neither you, nor anyone else, get a chance to even see one, never mind buy one.

It’s typical Microsoft strong arm tactics. Microsoft doesn’t dare compete on quality, so it pressures OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and retailers to keep people from even realizing that there are other, never-mind better, choices.

How much money has Microsoft spent (e.g. on kickbacks) in order to push GNU/Linux out of the market? Its people were not even successful. Microsoft reported a sharp decline in earnings and cited sub-notebooks as a reason. As Fewa put it a few hours ago, “a company can provide all the incentives it wants, they just can’t be based on the boycott of opposing products or tying.”

Acer, unlike ASUS, has not yet been "closely tied up with Microsoft," so it will deliver sub-notebooks with Android on them. This is also covered in the following articles that contain interesting details which we highlight:

i. Acer to make first-ever Android netbooks

Acer at Computex today said it would be the first to produce netbooks using Google’s Android platform. Company IT product president Jim Wong expects the systems to appear in the summer and that the Linux-based systems will still use Intel Atom processors. He didn’t provide prices, though the Android netbooks should be less expensive than Windows versions as Google doesn’t charge for licenses where Microsoft asks for $15 for each copy of Windows XP.

[...]

Acer’s decision is a blow to Microsoft, which has managed to achieve a near-monopoly of the netbook market by consciously selling Windows below cost to reduce most of the price advantage that had led Acer, ASUS and others to choose Linux in the first place.

ii. Acer to make first-ever Android netbooks

The Google Android OS is coming to the Acer Aspire ONE netbook, and sooner than you might imagine. As a happy ONE owner myself, and a keen observer of all things Android, the news that it could be as soon as Q3 this year really pleases me.

Microsoft is using its pressure tactics (extortion, blackmail, etc.) to not only exclude GNU/Linux from OEMs and shops but from chipmakers too. We previously wrote about the relationship between Intel and Microsoft in:

Watch what this analysts group had to say about Intel and Microsoft:

For over 20 years, Microsoft and Intel have partnered to grow the PC industry. Now, Intel is launching a netbook that will use the Linux operating system and not Microsoft. Could it be the economy and the need for more revenue? Or could it be such a huge revenue opportunity for Intel that they can not let the high price of an operating system slow them down?

What will Microsoft do next? Apart from ruining sub-notebooks as a whole by shutting GNU/Linux out, then elevating their prices and providing crippled versions of an operating system too heavy for the form factor?

More about Intel and Microsoft:

“Decisions Engine” Means Microsoft Decides What You Should Think

Posted in Antitrust, Bill Gates, Deception, FUD, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Search, Steve Ballmer at 9:27 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Hard choice

Summary: Microsoft’s engine may be akin to commercial propaganda; IE6 users allegedly forced to use it anyway

Microsoft loves changing history even if Wikipedia intervention becomes necessary. Microsoft’s image is worth money, so Microsoft is willing to pay people to edit Wikipedia, which is precisely what it does.

As we showed before, Microsoft’s ‘new’ engine is biased by design and we already know that Microsoft is changing search results in order to promote the company’s own perspective. It’s not as complicated to achieve as it may seem given that only commonly searched-for phrases in technology need to be policed (tweaked) by Microsoft or its massive public relations department (Waggener Edstrom).

Christian Einfeldt has just tested what Microsoft initially called “search engine” [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]*. Here is what he found:

But rather than a search engine or even a “decision engine”, Bing also appears to be a spin engine, in that it provides partisan answers to controversial topics, such as Steve Ballmer’s propensity to throw chairs to blow off stress. At a friend’s suggestion, I typed the following phrases (without quotes) into both Google.com and Bing.com. The results are very telling. Be sure to look at the phrase completion options that you are offered as you type.

“linux ”

“antitrust microsoft”

“ballmer throws chair”

“bill gates steals”

The important thing here is not whether Bill Gates does, in fact, steal, and I am not here to make ad hominem attacks on the world’s richest man. The point is how Microsoft deals with criticism. With spin. As opposed to Google, which just repeats much of the criticism of it.

[...]

Contrast that with phrases that are negative for Google, such as “Google is evil.” Typing “Google is e” yields no suggestions. But typing in “Google is” yield results which are both positive and negative for Google as a company:

“Google is your friend”
“Google is broken”
“Google is skynet”
“Google is making us stupid”
“Google is a number”
“Google is paying to work from home”
“Google is always right”
“Google is taking over the world”
“Google is watching you”
“Google is paying”

More to the point is the first phrase. Microsoft’s first suggestions all are aimed at diverting attention away from one of its keenest competition, Free Open Source Software, a competitor which, every year in its official annual 10k SEC-mandated warning to investors, Microsoft lists as a threat to its profitability.

[...]

Clearly, Bing is not Google, and is not going to overtake Google anytime use, nor offer information which, on the whole, is as useful to its users as Google search results.

By the way, the most concise summary of why Google is beating Microsoft can be seen by typing this phrase into your browser: Bingisnotgoogle.com. Google is always one step ahead of Redmond.

What could possibly be worse than an Orwellian ‘search’ engines like Microsoft’s? Well, how about having it shoved down people’s throats?

Is Microsoft forcing Bing on IE6 users?

[...]

We’re getting word that a number of Internet Explorer 6 users are loading up their browsers to discover that the default search engine, which they had set as Google, has been changed to Bing. What’s more, when they try to change it back they’re being blocked from doing so thanks to a Microsoft Live Search message that reads: “Oops This isn’t the page that you wanted”.

Neelie Kroes, are you paying attention?
_____
* Later on they excused the poor quality and hyped it up by renaming it “decisions engine”.

Microsoft Folks Rewrite ODF’s History and Build Anti-ODF Social Network

Posted in Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard, Wikipedia at 6:46 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Microsoft’s attempts to shun ODF continue unabated, with endorsers from Microsoft itself

Microsoft has become exceptionally transparent in its anti-ODF activity as of late [1, 2, 3, 4]. It’s not just technical fragmentation of ODF which Microsoft causes [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] in order to reduce interoperability. It is actual out-in-the-open smearing of opposition to Microsoft’s proprietary OOXML, which Microsoft has been breaking many laws for.

“Looking at Wikipedia, we mostly see new changes from the usual Microsoft folks, such as edits from Ghettoblaster, from “hAl” ( Albert Zonneveld), and from Alex Brown too (he is strongly pro-Microsoft).”Looking at Wikipedia, we mostly see new changes from the usual Microsoft folks, such as edits from Ghettoblaster, from “hAl” (Albert Zonneveld), and from Alex Brown too (he is strongly pro-Microsoft). Who are they kidding? These changes are not invisible.

At the same time, Microsoft + Ecosystem is founding an “ODF” area from which to smear ODF. Wouter is starting an online pro-Microsoft tribe, but it is more like unprofessional tripe from people who pretend to be dissociated from Microsoft. All the usual Microsoft folks (Alex Brown, Jesper Lund Stocholm and so on) are soon joining. Even prominent Microsoft employees immediately join in. Of course they are joined by their likes, e.g. SharePoint developers. Yes, they are joining places that go under the “ODF” heading. Why the fear? Like the frantic talk about “Linux”? It’s obsessive. Only later some other people join in, probably in attempt to add balance. In response, Rob Weir also jokingly creates an equivalent group for the opposite direction.

Why is Microsoft so afraid of ODF? And why does it still pretend to have befriended ODF? And if it claimed truthfully that “ODF ha[d] truly win”, then why does it spend so much time smearing it with endorsement and encouragement from Microsoft “Technical Evangelists” (paid cheerleaders and conductors of AstroTurfs), even managers like Gray Knowlton? There is no “New Microsoft”.

“Pamela Jones [...] has told Infoworld that Microsoft will be the next SCO Group”

Heise

General Electric Healthcare Calls Patent Trolling “Extortion” (Plus Other Patent News)

Posted in Europe, Law, Patents at 4:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Cash grab

Summary: Roundup of news about software patents, trolls, and ambush

SOFTWARE PATENTS are a hot topic at the moment because they may either vanish or invade more countries. They are probably the last obstacle for Free software to clear and they seem also like Microsoft’s last resort. Here is a particularly good comment on the subject: [via Digital Majority]

Such a set of instructions is an algorithm, so such a patent could fit some people’s definition of a “software patent”. Of course, you could try to respond to this by defining software as a set of instructions to be performed by a programmable computer. But this overlooks the problem that most technical processes nowadays are computer-controlled. Again, you could try (as some FFII-backed MEPs did during the CII patents directive debate) to restrict patentability to only those technical processes which make use of “forces of nature”. The first trouble here is that even “pure software” makes use of “forces of nature” within the microprocessor. Even marketing processes make use of forces of nature governing our brains. So this could become quite a meaningless restriction, and even if it was applied restrictively it would leave, for instance, sound or image processing methods in a grey area. The current approach of the EPO’s Boards of Appeal, which is confirmed by the judges of most EPO states, is that for a computer program to be patentable there must be a “technical effect” going “beyond the normal physical interactions between the program and the computer”. It is an interpretation which of course leaves a lot of room for debate, but do you have a better alternative? Of course, considering how difficult it is to pin down what a “software patent” actually is, it is difficult to avoid that other debate: why bother? why shouldn’t pure software be patentable? what’s so special about it in comparison to other areas of technology?

Andre from the FFII has just taken a look at Google’s approach to patenting:

And for my field of special interest, patents and standards, yet another patent license text:

Patent License
Subject to the terms and conditions of this License, Google and its affiliates hereby grant to you a perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive, no-charge, royalty-free, irrevocable (except as stated in this License) patent license for patents necessarily infringed by implementation of this specification. If you institute patent litigation against any entity (including a cross-claim or counterclaim in a lawsuit) alleging that the implementation of the specification constitutes direct or contributory patent infringement, then any patent licenses for the specification granted to you under this License shall terminate as of the date such litigation is filed.

There are reasons to believe that the patent system is deficient for more than just software patents as a reason. There are also business method patents at stake, not to mention the fact that there are patent trolls. Here is a new roundup of some of their activity in Texas:

Klausner alleges that six defendant companies are infringing the ’576 Patent. The defendants are Qwest, Yahoo, Panasonic, Ribbit Corp., SpinVox and ooma.

The plaintiff also alleges that all the defendants, with the exception of SpinVox, have infringed the ’818 Patent.

Klausner is a patent troll that we wrote about many times before [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. Even a lobbyist for software patents calls what the likes of Klausner are doing “extortion”.

“This is a huge problem for companies like ours,” said David Bates, intellectual property counsel for GE Healthcare. “It’s extortion, and we do face (these problems) on a regular basis, and because of the way the system is set up we can’t possibly keep up

Top up this contemporary patent mess with some malicious patent ambush such as Rambus'. Here is a new report on the subject.

Nvidia said Tuesday the US Patent and Trademark Office has initially rejected 41 claims by Rambus that accuse the graphics chip maker of aping its memory controller tech without paying.

The 41 jilted claims relate to seven of the nine patents Rambus alleges have been infringed by Nvidia. The IP-only memory company filed a formal complaint with the US International Trade Commission in November 2008 requesting an investigation it hopes will lead to barring of certain Nvidia kit if royalties or settlement money isn’t slipped its way.

Even businesses with real products can be patent aggressors (and offenders), so this is not a problem that elimination of trolls alone would resolve. Scope of patenting and purpose must be revisited to ultimately make economical and ethical sense. Sanity can be restored. Some patents kill people [1, 2].

Xandros: “We Are Kind of Getting Away from Being a Linux Company”

Posted in GNU/Linux, Linspire, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Xandros at 4:23 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Xandros logo

Summary: Potentially controversial remarks from a manager at Xandros

AFTER its patent deal with Microsoft, Novell became a .NET-oriented company that sells “patent royalties” (Microsoft’s name for SUSE vouchers). But another notable company that signed such a patent deal is Xandros, which later consumed another, namely Linspire. Xandros too has a history of leaning towards .NET (at the expense of GNU/Linux) after a deal with Microsoft.

Oddly enough, Xandros is assuming that Linspire users are Windows users (Linspire is now part of Xandros) and its representatives are publicly saying that they hide Presto's identity as Linux. It’s almost as though they are shy or embarrassed by the very software they exploit without pushing much (or anything) upstream.

Timothy from The Register has just caught another priceless quote from a Xandros manager:

While Xandros is not going to turn down a sale for any of its products, and it fully supports what it sells, just like other Linux distributors. Jordan Smith, product marketing manager for OEM solutions at Xandros, is perfectly frank about what Xandros is doing. “We are kind of getting away from being a Linux company, and we are more interested in presenting a user experience,” explains Smith. “Users don’t care about Linux.”

Truth be told, Xandros long ago moved away from its focus as a “[GNU/]Linux company”. Here are some of its press releases from recent days:

i. Xandros Discusses Application Stores and Ecosystems

Xandros has announced that key staff will present a birds-of-a-feather session on using standard Java Platform, Enterprise Edition (Java EE) technologies to maximize maintainability on Application Stores projects at the Sun JavaOne conference, Moscone Center, San Francisco, June 2, 2009. With the explosion of new mobile computing platforms, from smartphones to netbooks to e-book readers, an application store is no longer optional. It is a key contributor to the success of a platform.

ii. Xandros Creates Enhanced User Experience for Netbook Users With Moblin V2

Xandros today announced it is developing software products based on the recently released Moblin Version 2 project for Intel® Atom™ processor-based platforms. The new version of Moblin will enable Xandros to provide customizations with advanced Internet, media, social networking and graphics capabilities for the ASUS Eee PC. A turnkey Xandros software solution employing new Moblin v2 technologies will be demonstrated for the first time at the Intel booth at Computex, Taipei, Taiwan, June 2-6, 2009.

Accompanying new articles:

i. Xandros Discusses Application Stores and Ecosystems at JavaOne

Xandros today announced that key staff will present a birds-of-a-feather session on using standard Java Platform, Enterprise Edition (Java EE) technologies to maximize maintainability on Application Stores projects at the Sun JavaOne conference, Moscone Center, San Francisco, June 2, 2009. With the explosion of new mobile computing platforms, from smartphones to netbooks to e-book readers, an application store is no longer optional. It is a key contributor to the success of a platform.

ii. Asus unveils all-band 3G netbook running Google Android

It’s easy to see why Asus would continue to seek alternatives to Windows. Google’s Android is free, which helps in the ultra price-competitive netbook segment pioneered by Asus. It’s also economical on resources, and offers one click access to Google Apps online; handy if your netbook has next to no storage space.

[...]

Keeping its bets open, Asus also demo’d a second version of the SnapDragon netbook running Xandros Linux.

Other new coverage:

i. Xandros ‘Presto: No rabbit in this hat

Xandros has announced that key staff will present a birds-of-a-feather session on using standard Java Platform, Enterprise Edition (Java EE) technologies to maximize maintainability on Application Stores projects at the Sun JavaOne conference, Moscone Center, San Francisco, June 2, 2009. With the explosion of new mobile computing platforms, from smartphones to netbooks to e-book readers, an application store is no longer optional. It is a key contributor to the success of a platform.

ii. Budget travel tech – stay connected on the move for less

I popped an extra 16Gb in the MMC/SD slot in the side, so I have a bit of room to stash personal files without having to worry about partitions on the SSD drive. So, the hardware is good, but the included Xandros OS failed to live up to expectations, so the time had finally arrived for me to start earning my place on this esteemed writing team, and properly get my head around Linux.

Xandros is still selling GNU/Linux, so it would be an exaggeration to say that Xandros, like ASUS, is moving away from GNU/Linux. It does show, however, the negative impact of Microsoft deals. Xandros is not respected among GNU/Linux users.

Microsoft and the BSA Go Litigious

Posted in Courtroom, Law, Microsoft, Search at 3:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Handcuffs

Summary: Legal actions roundup

SEVERAL months ago we began witnessing the failure that Microsoft's Live Search cashback had been. Microsoft is now suing ten individuals which it claims to have abused their offering of cashback.

Microsoft filed a lawsuit May 21 against 10 anonymous defendants – John Does – alleging they fraudulently used the Live Search cashback service and stole an undisclosed amount of money.

Can people also be sued for using the ‘new’ search engine, which is not only blocked in some places but is also upsetting Fox right now for playing pornographic videos within itself? One does not even need to exit the search site because of “autoplay” (preview videos).

Meanwhile, over here in the UK, the Microsoft front known as BSA [1, 2, 3, 4] is chasing companies that are using non-Free software.

BSA urges London companies to check for pirate software

[...]

The BSA said that it is already investigating several companies in the London area for using unlicensed software. “As a result, these businesses face the prospect of legal proceedings and the BSA is urging other businesses to avoid being subject to the same fate,” it said in a statement. “In the current economic climate, London’s businesses cannot afford to waste money on legal actions, subsequent financial settlements and the unplanned purchase of legitimate software.”

Would it not be a lot simpler had companies simply abandoned proprietary software altogether?

To say a little more on legal news, the other day we wrote about the requirement that Microsoft should not abuse its monopoly to advance Internet Explorer. Microsoft lobbyists completely poisoned the press, but there are two newer reports which are more decent as they pay no attention to Microsoft’s spinners.

From heise: European Commission considers imposing new special conditions on Microsoft

Under the European Commission’s plans, writes the WSJ, Windows users would be offered a choice between several browsers when setting up their PCs. They would also have the option of making any one of the programs their default browser. Furthermore, Microsoft would have to make contracts with PC manufacturers to ensure they did not remove the option of selecting a browser.

From The Register: EC pressure on Microsoft grows

Competition authorities typically take one of two routes to dealing with companies which are found guilty of anti-competitive action. One option is to order a structural remedy, such as forcing a company to split up or spin off part of its business. Alternatively, they can instruct a firm to make a behavioural remedy, to change the way it does business.

The trouble with behavioural orders is they usually require detailed oversight to ensure the firm is complying properly.

Microsoft and legal violations are becoming almost synonymous.

Microsoft Gets Smaller

Posted in Finance, Microsoft, Red Hat at 2:55 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Micro

Summary: 13 Microsoft products shut down recently

SOME of our contributors get ridiculed for merely suggesting that Microsoft's future is not certain. Microsoft is still highly dependent on two products — Windows and Office — because the rest of its products, as many as there may be, are simply losing money, not making any. This is a verifiable fact. In addition, numbers have just been released which show a death toll of almost 2 products per month at Microsoft.

Microsoft guns down 13 unlucky products

Microsoft shuttered, put a hold on and let go of 13 products in the past eight months to help it cut costs, following a profits dive at the company that led to job cuts.

Make of that what you will of Microsoft’s state of commercial health. It’s already borrowing money. By contrast, Red Hat’s workforce, for example, keeps growing.

Related:

IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: June 2nd, 2009

Posted in IRC Logs at 1:12 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME Gedit

Read the log

Enter the IRC channel now

To use your own IRC client, join channel #boycottnovell in FreeNode.

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