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More reader-contributed Microsoft miscellany gathered up over the past week: the European Commission believes Microsoft violated European antitrust laws; the Phoenix Linux Users Group is planning to protest Arizona's purchase of Microsoft Office licenses for each public school student; and a brief consideration of embedded tracking information stored on Windows XP beta discs; plus notes on Hailstorm (Jim Allchin isn't sure how it'll be used to make money), bad priorities in the open source community ("...The primary problem is that most people are mistakenly comparing Linux to Windows"), and more.
Citations : The European Commission has informed Microsoft Corp. that it believes that the US software company may have violated European antitrust rules by using illegal practices to extend its dominant position in the market for personal computer operating systems into the market for low-end server operating systems. Low-end server systems are cheaper servers usually used as file and print servers as well as Web servers. In a Statement of Objections, the Commission also alleges that Microsoft is illegally tying its Media Player product with its dominant Windows operating system. This Statement of Objections supplements one sent to the company a year ago and adds a new dimension to the Commission's concerns that Microsoft`s actions may harm innovation and restrict choice for consumers. A Statement of Objections is a formal step in European antitrust proceedings which does not prejudge the final outcome.
Mario Monti, Competition Commissioner stated "Server networks lie at the heart of the future of the Web and every effort must be made to prevent their monopolisation through illegal practices. The Commission also wants to see undistorted competition in the market for media players. These products will not only revolutionise the way people listen to music or watch videos but will also play an important role with a view to making Internet content and electronic commerce more attractive. The Commission is determined to ensure that the Internet remains a competitive marketplace to the benefit of innovation and consumers alike."
Background Information A statement of objections is a formal step in European antitrust proceedings which does not prejudge the final outcome. Microsoft has about two months to reply in writing to the supplementary statement which is now merged with the existing procedure triggered by a Sun Microsystems complaint, which was at the origin of the first statement of objections of 3 August 2000, see IP/00/906.
As part of the procedure, Microsoft will have the right to access the file compiled by the Commission and can also request an oral hearing to present its case.
The first statement of objections focused on discriminatory licensing and refusal to supply software information to allow for the interoperability of rival server products with older versions of Microsoft's Windows operating systems.
An outraged Phoenix Linux Users Group is putting together support for a formal protest against taxpayer monies ($172MM) being used to build IT infrastructures for Arizona schools.
While the majority of the $172MM would provide network connectivity and other much-needed IT services to the schools, part of the plan calls for the purchase of Microsoft Office licenses for each student.
PLUG argues that the cost of licenses could be reduced or even eliminated by the use of free/open source alternative office packages like Sun Microsystems' StarOffice.
Some PLUG members discussed the subject on their mailing list, which has turned into a major discussion and plans to protest parts of the legislation and suggest alternatives.
Trent Shipley writes "...most of the $172MM would stay here (in AZ) and add value to the local economy ... it would increase the IT sector here."
Brian Cluff suggests "(If opensource/free software were used) ... it would be perfectly legal to give every kid in the school a copy of it to use at home, since that seems to be a large part of the problem and that it's also multiplatform so they won't have a bunch of computers unable to run it..."
"Technology Review recently learned of a home-brewed decryption program that defeats the most advanced antipiracy features built into Microsoft Reader, a leading e-book program downloaded by over a million people since its debut in August 2000."
"The program's creator, a U.S. cryptography expert who asked not to be identified, says he wanted to circumvent the 'two-persona' limit, a rule built into Microsoft Reader at the behest of publishers that allows purchasers to read the same e-book on up to two devices, but no more."
"The software dumps unprotected copies of these files into a new folder on the user's computer-as the programmer demonstrated to Technology Review using an actual owner-exclusive e-book purchased from a major online bookstore."
"Technical beta testers who downloaded Windows XP Home or Professional Edition from Microsoft's servers last weekend might want to be careful about giving out copies of the CD-ROMs they generated. Microsoft has embedded a security check into each XP CD-ROM that uniquely identifies each tester so the company can tell if someone else uses the authorized tester's CD-ROMs to install XP. A tester who wondered about a universally unique identifier (UUID) reference number in the CD-ROM's International Organization for Standardization (ISO) header unwittingly uncovered the security measure. (Microsoft used ISO files to generate the XP CD-ROMs). Security expert Steve Gibson is examining the UUID, and the preliminary results are obvious: Microsoft is watching you."
"Many have discussed what to do about Microsoft's hold on the desktop, as well as its .NET initiative. However, I think it's time to start looking at how Microsoft is selling into areas that have traditionally been the stronghold of Unixes.
Businesses have collectively spent billions of dollars on infrastructure building and IT systems purchasing and maintenance. And ever-hungry Microsoft has not failed to smell the loot. The software giant clearly wants to move in on Sun (Solaris/iPlanet), Oracle, IBM (AIX), HP (HP/UX), and others' licensing fees.
If Microsoft can make .NET the "preferred platform" for business inter/intra/extranet solutions, then the corporate viability of non-Microsoft systems will go down."
"Microsoft's HailStorm initiative has been described as everything from a weapon aimed at America Online to a crucial component of the software giant's move to a subscription-based business model. But how, exactly, will HailStorm work, and where does Microsoft make money on the service?
Don't ask Jim Allchin.
Despite being among the top five executives at Microsoft and the man in charge of the company's crown jewels--the Windows operating system--even Allchin is unclear on HailStorm's business model and its revenue-generating potential.
'I just don't think it's fleshed out yet,' the Microsoft group vice president conceded in an interview with CNET News.com. 'On the business side, there's a lot of thought that needs to happen. A lot of thought.'"