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Taxes and piracy - money goes round and round

Chancellor Alistair Darling this week made a concession for small business over the recent capital gains tax changes, which had some SMBs howling. The Entrepreneur's Relief tweak may placate grumbling small biz, but concerns were raised over the perceived lack of consultation beforehand. The change is expected to cost the government £200m per year.

But that's small change compared to the dent software pirates are putting into the UK economy - more than £1bn in taxes a year, according to a British Software Association report. The BSA has called on the government to commit to policy the recommendations laid out in the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property. The rest of the world has called on the BSA to go back to its calculator.

Yahoo! for OpenID

Yahoo! has pledged support for the OpenID framework, joining Google's Blogger, which separately announced its involvement.

In other exclamation-pointed news, Yahoo! is tipped to be preparing to sack up to 20 per cent of its workforce in the coming fortnight.

But Yahoo! isn't the only company syaing goodbye to staff. Online tat bazaar eBay is set to lose its CEO, Meg Whitman, who has served the company since 1998. She will remain on the board.

Data security? What's that?

An MOD laptop containing personal details of the 600,000 people who applied to join the armed forces in the last decade has been stolen. Curiously, it seems the MOD doesn't actually care, which raises troubling questions about the goverment's attitude to our personal data. But the Ministry of Justice is happy to answer them by continuing to send crucial data unencrypted by post. Will the merry-go-round ever end?

O2 misses iPhone targets by a nose

O2 has fallen just short of its target of 200,000 iPhone sales in the first two months the device has been on sale, managing to shift 190,000 phones.

Everybody's selling, everybody's buying

IBM has agreed to acquire Net Integration Technologies Inc, and will integrate the small business sofware service firm into its Lotus Software division. Big Blue also picked up a whole raft of global communications resellers as part of its bid for a bigger slice of the unified communications market.

HP meanwhile has bought up Exstream Software, for integration into its Web Services and Software business unit. Cisco has grabbed a chunk of Cambridge firm ip.access. Nokia is set to acquire a stake in Facebook. Symantec is to flog application performance management software maker Precise and the Tiscali group's boss is expected to sell up to rivals in the near future. It's all go in the acquisitions market.

The dating Olympics

Companies wishing to get in on the Olympics contracting bonanza can get cuddly on the new Olympic 'business dating agency' website. The site is aimed to help small businesses bid for sub-contracts and is now live.

Microsoft ruling

Last year's landmark EC court ruling against Microsoft may not be as compelling as is commonly thought. The competition action saw Microsoft fined €497m for anti-competitive practices, but a competition lawyer has suggested that the case might not provide an ironclad precedent.

Microsoft is also dancing with the US Supreme Court, and has asked the court to throw out Novell's multi-billion dollar WordPerfect lawsuit. Novell alleges that Microsoft used its monopoly status to disrupt the release of the word processor before Novell sold it to Corel. MS has had the request for dismissal denied by two courts so far, but whether the Supremes will follow suit remains up in the air.

Against this background of legal wrangling rises the rumour that Microsoft is going all-out to release the successor to Windows Vista, Windows 7, as quickly as possible. MS insists that it's travelling at a more sedate pace, but that doesn't stop tongues wagging. Could it be that the less-than-enthusiastic welcome Vista received is forcing the software giant to squeeze the next OS out in the second half of 2009?

Inside track

This week too the FSA took two men to court over allegations of insider trading during Motorola's takeover of TTP Communications. The men pleaded not guilty.

Becta holds up its hands

Becta executive Dave Hassell has admitted that government IT initiatives for schools have been mismanaged in the past. Becta intends to extend good practice to as many areas as possible, as well as providing broadband access and computers at home to every child in the country.

There's still room for ad growth

WPP chief Sir Martin Sorrell has claimed that there is still great potential in the internet ad market, even if you're not Google. In fact, he sees the 2000-pound gorilla of internet services as a paper tiger in that regard.

HD DVD sales down

US HD DVD sales slumped to just 15 per cent of overall high-def disc sales in the week ending 13 January, despite Microsoft's continued backing. Could this be a pivotal moment in the battle with Blu-ray?

Security woes

An SQL injection attack wiped the RIAA off the internet this week. The organisation's website went down on Sunday, but is now back online. Hackers also recently hit the Church of Scientology's website and that of the Panama National Assembly, where they briefy raised the US flag. Virtually, naturally.

Meanwhile the FBI warned of a rise in VoIP phishing. Known as 'vishing', these cons can be significantly more sophisticated than ordinary phishing emails, as they can incorporate text messages and calls as well. Read more here.

More worrying still is the news of an attack that can change your home router's settings when associating domain names with numerical IP addresses. Malicious code can send you to counterfeit pages, such as faked bank websites, where your details can be harvested by phishers.

Meanwhile Firefox is suffering from a bug, which could leak users' private information. Mozilla has confirmed the bug and is working on a fix.

Various embassy websites have been hacked and found to be pushing malware, so watch your step when browsing. Vulnerabilities have also hit MSN Messenger, Winamp and HP Virtual Rooms.

Biofuel targets lambasted

The Environmental Audit Committee has told the government to dump its biofuel targets, saying that the use of biofuels could cause serious environmental damage. It points out that biofuels are not a magic answer to the problems of emissions, but whether anyone will listen is another thing entirely.

In the mean time, the EU has set specific carbon emissions targets for European countries. The measures also require European countries to produce more of their energy by renewable means.

The results are in

Apple reported its best ever quarter this week, but that didn't do much to quell fears that the ailing US economy is reducing demand for the profit-driving iPod. Tensions are high as Apple predicts a greater-than-average revenue fall for the second quarter.

Motorola has announced its earnings, and the company continues to spiral downwards with a billion dollar full year loss taking centre stage. The company's doing what it can to drag itself back into profitability, but expects a loss for Q1.

Symantec however reports a rise in international sales revenue for Q3, and expects healthy growth during Q4. It's alright for some, eh?

ID cards hit a speed bump

ID cards continue to amuse and outrage as leaked documents show they will be delayed until 2012. UK citizens will apparently start to receive their cards just in time for the Olympics, though the Identity and Passport Service still insists on a 2009 rollout. It's something of a lone voice however, with both Accenture and BAE seeing fit to abandon the ID card sinking ship this week. The project wobbles on.

We'll be back with more next week ®

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