Steve Ballmer reveals why he can't change TV channels

And OS competition extends to number plates

Channel Weekly The atmosphere at the Christmas party for Microsoft's lawyers might be a little quieter this year after the software vendor finally called time on its attempts to get the EU to agree to the Gates/Ballmer vision of competition.

After nine years of legal tussles (and nine years of hefty lawyer's bills), Microsoft decided not to appeal to try and overturn the European Court of First Instance's verdict that the software giant was guilty of anti-competitive behaviour. It has abandoned attempts to charge an ongoing percentage royalty to third parties for licensing interoperability information.

If it's Microsoft, there has to be a lawsuit

Of course, no lawyer ever goes hungry, and while Microsoft was busy ending one big case, a company in South Korea was starting another, ensuring that another bunch of lawyers were kept in the manner to which they have become accustomed.

Korean instant messaging programme developer is claiming millions of dollars in anti-trust damages. A Digito spokesman claimed: "If Microsoft hadn't bundled its instant messaging program with its operating system we could have reaped significant profits."

But because it did, the lawyers can reap them instead.

Keeping the lawyers busy

And in the UK, EDS and BSkyB were doing their best to ensure another group of lawyers would have an enjoyable Christmas party this year. BSkyB is suing EDS for £709m in damages over a customer management system contract in the High Court, but lawyers for the outsourcing business branded the claim "absurd and extravagant".

A bit like a typical legal bill then.

CSC offers jobs cuts for Christmas

While one outsourcer was trying to spread some Christmas cheer (even if it was to the briefs), another was preparing to disseminate bad news among its workforce.

CSC revealed it was shifting more UK jobs offshore in an effort to control costs.

The latest redundancies will hit the Global Infrastructure Services (GIS) department. Voluntary redundancies will be offered but compulsory job losses are likely if not enough volunteers are found. The company said it hopes to have the process completed by Christmas. CSC staff who contacted the Register described the job cuts as aggressive and likely to hit almost 30 per cent of staff within GIS.

Turbolinux tries to keep the lawyers idle

Perhaps in a bid to prevent too much Christmas cheer in the legal fraternity, Turbolinux has extended its collaboration agreement with Microsoft to improve interoperability and co-operate on research and development.

Turbolinux customers will also be protected against possible future legal action by Redmond.

The protection against future legal action may appeal to Turbolinux now that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer seems to be looking for other things to pay lawyers for after the EU case. He recently named Red Hat as an alleged violator of Microsoft patents. The only problem is that no one knows which patents are being violated.

Steve Ballmer thinks the mobile phone is a universal remote control - no wonder he can't change the channel on his TV

When he's not thinking of ways to keep lawyers occupied, Ballmer is busy entertaining the world, and this week was no exception as he claimed Microsoft was the only company with the "wherewithal" to dominate the world of mobile computing.

According to Ballmer, people want a phone that is "a universal remote control for your life - your business life as well as your personal life. Consumers will want phones that span all of their life personas". Will it have a sleep button?

Vista is really good. Honest!

In a busy week, Microsoft also tried to woo reluctant users to adopt its Vista operating system by claiming it recorded 60 per cent less malware infections than the OS it is supposed to replace, Windows XP.

Ben Fathi, corporate vice president of development for Windows, also claimed Vista experienced fewer security vulnerabilities than Mac OS X or Ubuntu Linux. Readers of El Reg were sceptical. In one comment, a reader suggested Vista didn't need any malware infections because it already was malware.

Apple makes rivals green with latest figures

Of course, there's more to the IT industry than Microsoft, whatever Steve Ballmer might say. Another company grabbing the headlines was Apple, which reported a 28 per cent increase in revenues for the fourth quarter to $6.22bn and profits up 67 per cent at $904m.

Mac shipments were up 34 per cent to 2.1 million machines and Apple sold 10.2 million iPods, up 17 per cent. It also forecast turnover of $9.2bn in the next quarter.

A fifth of all iPhones are unlocked

In an interesting aside to Apple's results, it emerged that of the 1.4 million iPhones sold to date, as many as 250,000 could have been unlocked. In other words, close to a fifth of buyers have chosen not to tether themselves to AT&T's cellular network.

BEA plays hard to get

Elsewhere, Oracle's take over bid for BEA looked like becoming a little bit more protracted after BEA boss William Klein claimed the $17 a share offer was "not in the best interests of BEA shareholders" and dismissed Oracle's threat to withdraw its offer this Sunday.

"Despite your statement that Oracle will withdraw its proposal, we simply cannot accept an offer that seriously undervalues BEA," Klein wrote in a letter to Oracle president Charles Phillips. But Klein was careful to add that the BEA board had not suggested they would "be opposed to a transaction that appropriately reflects BEA's value, reached through a reasonable process".

Cisco can't kick buying habit

While BEA was telling Oracle to make a better offer, Navini Networks was happily agreeing to be swallowed up by the Cisco empire for $330m in cash.

Navini brings a portfolio of "Smart WiMAX" products and technologies, such as subscriber modems, base stations, adaptive antenna arrays and management systems. WiMAX is a wireless-internet technology with a far greater range than Wi-Fi which Cisco expects to play a key role in its "Connected Life" vision to bring ubiquitous service to any device over a network. Navini is Cisco's 124th acquisition.

Businesses seek relief from taper relief changes

UK business leaders met Chancellor Alistair Darling to spell out their objections to his proposed changes to how capital gains tax is charged. When Darling announced the end of taper relief for capital gains in his pre-Budget report two weeks ago, small and medium businesses reacted with horror.

John Wright, chairman of the Federation of Small Business, was hopeful of a compromise. "There are four and a half million small businesses. Many would have been unable to start up under this proposed new regime," he claimed.

He would say that, wouldn't he

Google claimed rapid innovation was driving adoption of Google apps at 1,500 new small to medium business customer sites per day, along with a few big companies like Proctor & Gamble and GE.

Matthew Glotzbach, head of products at Google Enterprise, told the audience at Interop that the addition of more than 100 new features to its business software services since their debut in February was accelerating the rate of adoption and acceptance of Google applications in business settings as a successor to – and not replacement for – Microsoft Office.

What's 48.3 million credit card numbers between friends?

TJX already had the record for the largest credit card heist, but it looks as if the company's place in the record books could be even more secure after a group of banks claimed the number of accounts affected was double the retailer's original estimate of 45.7 million card numbers.

The banks claimed 94 million accounts were stolen as a result of the security breach at TJX, alleging it downplayed the seriousness of the situation. Research firms have estimated the total loss from the breach could reach $1bn once legal settlements and lost sales are tallied. But that figure was at least partly based on the belief that fewer than 46 million accounts were intercepted.

For the person who thought they had everything

Great news, people with lots of money and an unhealthy desire to be personally and publicly associated with a computer operating system can now splash their cash on an OS number plate.

Bidders can choose between L1NUX and W1NNT. Those unable to decide might be tempted by the following blurb which accompanied the W1NNT plate: "Being Windows, the user will be able to get into the car and drive with no specialist training required. Also, the addition of add-on components will not require time-consuming recompiling of the Kernel."

No word on whether it's more likely to crash though which, after all, could be a much more important consideration for a car. ®

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