Microsoft throws a party for MUC as AC/DC chucks filth off its website

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Microsoft was in good spirits this week at the launch of its long-awaited "Microsoft unified communications software" in San Francisco, officially announced by chairman Bill Gates, business division president Jeff Raikes, and a guitarist in a red velvet jacket.

Now that's rock and roll, especially as the guitarist was playing a guitar bearing Gates' signature and a Microsoft unified communications (MUC) logo. Bet that'll be a collectible in years to come to rank up there with the axe Jimi Hendrix played at Monterey. We've heard that where there's MUC, there's brass, but we didn't know there was guitar as well.

Microsoft helps catch pirates

One group of people unlikely to have been invited to the party were the nine staff at Wendy Fair Markets Ltd convicted of distributing unauthorised goods after several years of investigation by Trading Standards, aided by forensic evidence provided by Microsoft.

In a separate case, also helped by Microsoft, Page Computers owner David Lawrence was found guilty at Kettering Magistrates Court of hard disk loading MS software. A further six resellers were also caught with unauthorised copies of Microsoft products.

Dutch say 'boycott Vista until we get XP'

It's not like the Dutch to be party poopers, but the Dutch Consumers Association was doing its best to sour the mood by calling for a boycott of Windows Vista after Microsoft refused to offer free copies of Windows XP to users having problems with its latest operating system.

The association, known as Consumentenbond, claims Vista "is just not ready" and argues that as Microsoft offers XP to business clients when they have problems, it should do the same for consumers. To combat critics, Microsoft Netherlands launched a website on Friday which addresses many issues raised by the Consumentenbond.

Supreme court refuses to kill gangster suit

Whatever the Dutch think about Microsoft, they're unlikely to level the charge of "gangster" at the company. Not so in the US where Microsoft and Best Buy are being accused of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations (RICO) Act by conspiring to register thousands of consumers for Microsoft's online MSN service without their knowledge.

The bad news for both companies is that the US Supreme Court has refused to dismiss the federal lawsuit against Microsoft, known as Odom v Microsoft. James Odom filed his suit after purchasing a laptop from a Best Buy store in Contra Costa County, California.

According to his complaint, Best Buy electronically routed his credit card number to Microsoft, and Microsoft used it to sign him up to a six-month free trial on MSN. When the trial expired, the suit alleges, Redmond started charging him for the service. The suit insists this constitutes wire fraud by the sort of ongoing criminal "enterprise" described by the RICO Act, which awards triple the damages in civil cases.

Cisco offices raided in Brazil

Sticking to the legal theme, 650 police and tax officers raided Cisco offices in Brazil and made 40 arrests during a massive raid against alleged illegal avoidance of import duties.

Investigators also seized $10m worth of kit, a commercial jet, 18 vehicles, and some $400,000 in US and Brazilian cash, according to the International Herald Tribune. Six government tax officials have also been arrested.

The two year investigation is looking at products worth at least $500m that have been shipped into Brazil from Panama, the Bahamas, and the British Virgin Islands. These goods should have generated $833m in tax to the Brazilian exchequer. Aside from the more sensational aspects of the case, we're intrigued by those figures: if true, Brazilian import taxes must be 166 per cent.

Sky's the limit for BSkyB case against EDS...

In further legal news, BSkyB's lawsuit against EDS for £709m kicked off in the High Court.

The broadcaster alleges EDS failed to fulfil obligations of a £48m contract for a customer service system that was first agreed in 2000. BSkyB ended its contract with EDS in March 2002 and began legal action against the Texas-based firm in August 2004.

The huge claim, one of the largest British commercial cases of its kind, alleges deceit, negligent misrepresentation, and breach of contract by EDS. For its part, EDS said it "will vigorously defend its position" against BSkyB's costly allegations.

...but EDS can still afford to offer staff $10,000 reward to leave early

BSkyB's case against EDS began three days after the outsourcing giant offered 12,000 staff (a quarter of its US workforce) extra benefits to take early retirement.

The move is designed to help EDS move more and more of its operations to cheaper territories. EDS plans to offer eligible staff an extra $10,000 and improved retirement benefits if they accept the offer.

Evesham creditors get plenty of nuthin'

Whatever the EDS staff decide, $10,000 is a lot more than unsecured creditors of defunct PC maker Evesham Technology can expect.

According to the creditors report by administrators DTE Leonard Curtis, Evesham Technology went bust owing creditors nearly £7m, but there are no "surplus funds" available for unsecured creditors. Among the long list of creditors, it emerged that Microsoft Licensing was owed more than £800,000 and AMD a figure of £340,000.

Good news for everybody except, maybe, IBM

Sticking to figures, Intel had some pretty good ones for its third quarter as revenues were up 15 per cent to $10.1bn and net income rose 43 per cent to $1.9bn. Mobile processors and PC and server chip sales were both up.

Seagate was another winner with revenues up 17.6 per cent to $3.3bn for its first quarter ending 28 September, and net income rose $19m to $355m. The storage vendor sold 47 million disk drives, more than it had planned for.

There was also good news for Bell Micro. The distributor may still be investigating its accounts and restating previous results, but preliminary figures for the third quarter showed revenues up 30 per cent. Year-on-year revenue growth in Europe was 29 per cent, 42 per cent of the distributor's total revenues. Foreign currency changes made a big positive impact - without them, growth would have been down to 18 per cent.

Things weren't quite so rosy for IBM. Revenues of $24.1bn for the third quarter were only up 6.6 per cent and net income increased by a mere 6.3 per cent. While services and software did well, hardware revenues were down 10.3 per cent to $5.1bn with revenues of only $361m. The mainframe business was down 31 per cent.

Apple's many pies

Apple has been in the news a lot. First, the company finally set a release date for Leopard, the delayed next version to its operating system (Mac OSX 10.5), announcing it will be available on 26 October at a price of £85.

Then it revealed a software developers kit would be available for the iPhone and iTouch in February next year, four months after CEO Steve Jobs declared that "software developer kit is required for the iPhone" at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference.

In addition, Apple was forced into a world first for the iPhone through its deal with Orange in France. Because French law prevents carriers from tying handsets exclusively to their networks, Orange will have to offer an unlocked model (for a price yet to be specified by either party) alongside a locked iPhone for €399.

Finally, Apple responded to the launch of Amazon's DRM-free music download store by cutting the price of its DRM-free iTunes Plus tracks from $1.29 to $0.99.

Four we almost missed out

BT reseller DMSL has created an IT repair service using hundreds of trained local resellers to provide advice to SMEs on computer hardware, software, printers and services from IT vendors. FixITlocal has 300 resellers involved and is expected to compete with the likes of the Geek Squad and PC World's Tech Guys.

The self-described "UK's number 1 web host", Fasthosts, admitted to a botched update to its mail server that permanently deleted customer emails because the backup system failed.

On a sci-fi note, Simon Pegg of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fame, is to play a young Scotty in the next Star Trek film. He joins Zoe Saldana as Uhura, Anton Yelchin as Chekov, John Cho as Sulu, and Zachary Quinto as Spock in a film chronicling the early days of the Enterprise crew.

Sticking to space operas, Star Wars creator George Lucas has announced plans for a live-action TV spin-off set in the Star Wars universe, but without Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader. According to the LA Times, Lucas revealed only that the series would be about "the life of robots" and was "going to be a lot of fun to do". Yeah, but how much fun will it be to watch?

A good way to end

Aussie rock group AC/DC has finally obtained from the porn company that used the site to market images of bondage, water sports, and other types of filth.

Obviously, this state of affairs could not continue, especially given the band's large teenage fan base. From now on, they may find themselves directed to titles like Givin The Dog A Bone, Caught With Your Pants Down, Big Balls, She's Got Balls, Mistress For Christmas, but the only corruption will be to their ears. ®

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