A fine week for MS, Intel and Vonage

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Unappealing prospects

Microsoft has finally blinked in its three year stare-out contest with the European Commission. This week the firm said it would not launch another appeal against the landmark €497m anti-trust fine slapped on it in 2004. Accordingly, it'll now have to open up access to APIs to let other developers, including open sourcers, interoperate with Windows servers.


As well as coughing up the multi-hundred million Euro fine to the EU, Microsoft agreed to hand over $240m for a teeny tiny sliver of Facebook. The deal values the social networking site at roughly $15bn. No one could be sure, but we think we heard laughter coming from Google HQ shortly after the deal was announced.

Anti-trust me, I'm a software developer

Following the news that the Beast of Redmond had finally succumbed to the Eurocrats, Korean firm Digito filed a suit against MS claiming millions of dollars in anti-trust damages. It argued that the Windows operating system being pre-loaded with a media player and instant messaging is costing it millions in lost revenue.

Next project

With Microsoft finally out of the way, competition watchers at the European Commission can concentrate all their energies on the Google/Doubleclick inquiry.

According to reports this week, the regulator extended the deadline for the probe until 13 November. No one could be sure, but we think we heard laughter coming from Microsoft HQ shortly after the extension was announced.

ICANN investigates insider leaks

Internet oversight agency ICANN has launched an investigation into the possibility that insider information is being used to snap up desirable domain names before the person or organisation likely to be interested in them has had a chance to buy. Naughty.

Vonage settles one lawsuit...

Vonage has settled its legal tete-a-tete with Verizon, agreeing to pay the telcoms giant somewhere between $80m and $120m. Final terms of the deal depend on one last ruling from the US Court of Appeals.

Gets another one in the post

This time, it's AT&T putting the screws to the plucky Voice over IP provider. The erstwhile Ma Bell filed suit last week in a Wisconsin-based federal court, insisting that Vonage is violating its patent for a "wide-area packet telephony system". Vonage says it still hopes to settle this one out of court, too.

Quis patents patentodis?

Forgive us. But the answer to the garbled question is clear this week, as IBM announced it had filed an application at the US Patent Office, entitled "system and method for extracting value from a portfolio of assets". Er, is that really a patent for a method for making money from patents?

Intel will have Transmeta inside

Intel has agreed to stump up $250m to Transmeta to settle the patent dispute case between the firms without battling through the courts.

Intel will pay its rival $150m in a lump sum, plus an annual license fee of $20m for the next five years. It also promises not to sue Transmeta for using technology it claimed infringed its own patents.

How many patents make a conspiracy?

Turbolinux and Microsoft are extending their collaboration agreement to improve interoperability and co-operate on research and development. Turbolinux customers will also be protected against possible future legal action by Redmond. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Legislators, leave those patents alone

More than 430 organisations spanning all 50 US states have fired off a letter urging Senate leaders to oppose a bill that would overhaul the country's patent system. And that includes tech outfits like Qualcomm and AmberWave.

The US Patent Reform Act was passed by the House of Representatives, but is awaiting a vote from the Senate as a whole. The idea is to harmonise the US patent system with methods used in other parts of the world and cut back on perceived abuses of the system in the courts. Odd that such a noble enterprise should be opposed...?

Government gets IT savings right

Here in Blighty, the government has finally heard a kind word from auditors about its IT projects. The Public Accounts Committee says Whitehall has acted on its recommendations by improving services and value for money.

According to Edward Leigh, chair of the PAC, the government's response to recommendations in the committee's 16 most recent reports has resulted in action by Whitehall departments and savings for the taxpayer.

Schneier on the warpath, a quickfire security round

The information security market is riddled with mediocre products because buyers are often sold on a story rather than having enough information to make a rational choice, security expert Bruce Schneier has said.

With that in mind, what follows is a selection of security warnings we spotted this week.

Adobe has patched a serious security hole in its Reader and Acrobat programs, but that hasn't stopped miscreants flooding email inboxes with malware-tainted PDF files that try to remotely hijack vulnerable computers.

If you have RealPlayer installed and use Internet Explorer to browse the web, beware: An exploit in circulation can allow an attacker to take complete control of your machine, Symantec is warning.

The security firm also cautions that flaws in ActiveX controls are being increasingly used to run security exploits. Arbitrary file overwrite and deletion flaws, typically exploited through ActiveX controls, are well on the way to becoming a new class of security flaw, it said.

Hackers have rooted into a server owned by internet advertising network 24/7 Real Media and used it to serve malware-laced banner ads. The ads tried to circumvent security mechanisms on end users' machines, exploiting a vulnerability in RealPlayer that was patched late last week.

Meanwhile, BT has stitched up a critical security hole in the Home Hub that offered hackers full control of the router, which is in about two million UK homes. The firm's latest update has kneecapped part of the router's firmware called Remote Assistance, which gives customer support staff admin rights to investigate problems.

And Microsoft has some advice for anyone wanting to get over security worries. You guessed it - switch to Vista. The firm says systems running its latest operating system recorded 60 per cent less malware infections than XP. Safe as houses, eh?

Hacker more appealing to Lords

Gary McKinnon, the self-described "bumbling amateur" who allegedly got access to US government and military computers while researching space aliens, has been given leave to appeal his case in the UK. McKinnon was due to be extradited to the US to face charges, but took his final appeal to the House of Lords.

BOFH on the back foot

Illicit workplace "greynets" are enjoying enormous growth, with staff embracing the concept while BOFHs are left playing whac-a-mole.

The FaceTime survey, of 700 US employees and IT managers, found an average of nine greynets in every company, with only one per cent of firms avoiding them completely.

Movers and shakers

New jobs this week for 1,000 civilians at the MoD. The government department confirmed that the defence ministry's latest round of cost cuts will include computer specialists based at the MoD's Whitehall headquarters.

Meanwhile, Bernard Ghillebaert, chief executive of Orange UK, is to step down from his post after a management shake-up by parent firm France Telecom.

France Telecom announced that Tom Alexander, a Brit from outside the group, will take over. Ghillebaert will "be fulfilling a new group level role as executive vice president of sales and customer experience". Sounds like fun.

Buy me, says BEA

BEA displays its wares with a $21 per share price tag. The firm says it'll talk to anyone. Even to Oracle, which last week offered to chat takeovers at $17 a share.

ID suppliers shortlist

Eight companies have got through the first stage of the Identity Card Scheme procurement process. The list has a familar ring to it: Accenture, BAE Systems, CSC, EDS, Fujitsu, IBM, Steria, and Thales all made the grade to go forward to "enter a competitive dialogue" with the Identity and Passport Service.

Small biz, big bundle, taxing

Siemens Communications is offering a bundle of communications applications for small and medium sized businesses. Shiny.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Alistair Darling heard all about why people don't like his proposed changes to how capital gains tax is charged.

Cap roaming? That wouldn't be British

Documents exposed by The Times show that the UK's Labour government worked tirelessly to try and prevent the EU capping mobile phone roaming rates, a move which cost the industry millions. The documents, consisting largely of emails from civil servants to network operators, make for interesting, if slightly depressing, reading.

Look, mobile Google docs

Google has slipped its Web 2.0 Docs application onto its mobile portal, allowing users to view documents, spreadsheets, and presentations on their mobile phone browser. No touching though, thanks.

A whistlestop money tour

Apple posts strong results for its fourth quarter with revenues of $6.22bn in the three months ending 29 September 2007. This translates to a profit of $904m, or just over $1 a share. Analysts are trying to work out what it all means.

Harry Potter is not enough to save Amazon from a Wall Street slapping as the firm posted profit of just $80m on a $3bn turnover for its third quarter.

VMware has pumped out impressive third quarter results with profit up 90 per cent buoyed by strong sales of its hypervisor package. The firm posted combined license and services revenue of nearly $358m, and net income of $64.7m, or $0.18 per diluted share for the three months ended 30 September 2007.

Mozilla has confirmed to what extent it depends on Google. The firm announced that 80 per cent of its 2006 revenues ($66,840,850, up 26 per cent from 2005) can be traced back to Mountain View.

Microsoft made revenues of $13.76bn in the three months ended 30 September 2007, an increase of 27 per cent on the same period last year. Net income was $4.29bn, up from $3.48bn. The company credited good consumer sales of Vista and sales of Halo for its success.

And finally...

An Australian barmaid who splendidly "entertained customers" in a Western Australia hotel by "crushing beer cans between her bare breasts" has been fined A$1,000 dollars (£439) for a breach of the Liquor Control Act. Just what you need to wind down after a hard day spent BOFH-ing, we reckon. ®

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