IBM's Power6 push began this week with a tweak to AIX support. In a letter to customers, IBM vowed to support future updates to AIX 5.3 for an additional two years. This appears to be IBM's Power6 concession, since the vendor, according to our sources, will announce Power6 systems this month and ship them in the middle of the year but won't have AIX 5.4 available for months. Normally, IBM would like to have a new major release of AIX ready for its new processors and have customers upgrade accordingly. No such luck.
To criticise Microsoft is, of course, to attack not only an easy target but also a popular one. Many people hate the big M for the simple (and undeniable) reason that it is successful. This is a comfortable reason to hate a company because it guarantees an unending supply of hate figures; if/when the big M falls from grace another one will be along in a moment. But success is an irrational reason for criticism, of course, unlike stupidity which is a perfectly valid one. Without prior warning, at 3:59PM yesterday afternoon, Microsoft announced that Steve Ballmer’s keynote today was off-limits to journalists: As the deadline for the keynote approached, the press room heaved with excitement... I should have mentioned this in our meeting that Steve Ballmer’s keynote address tomorrow is closed to the press. His keynote address is geared toward customers and partners only. I apologize for the inconvenience and for not mentioning this earlier. Bear in mind that this is completely without precedent. PR dudes normally go around the press room with whips before a keynote. The whole point of inviting journalists to a conference is to have them do the journaling thing. You don’t then ban them.
House of CardsHouse of Cards The American Department of Justice (DOJ) threw a spotlight on the murky underworld of internet gambling payment processing this afternoon with the indictment in Utah of seven individuals and four companies – including BetUs.com and serial violator BetonSports.com - involved with processing payments for online gambling transactions, according to the Associated Press. The indictment seeks to recover $150 million from the defendants under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), in addition to hard assets such as real estate and property used in running the operations. Ever since President Bush signed the Unlawful Internet Gambling and Enforcement (UIGEA) into law last October, internet gambling companies have been scrambling to process payments from frustrated American customers. The UIGEA did not make internet gambling illegal under federal law – it targeted the banks and financial institutions involved with processing internet gambling transactions, to prevent American consumers from gambling online. Americans accounted for about half of all internet gambling revenues worldwide in 2005. No longer. Although the UIGEA does not take effect until early July, major financial institutions pulled out of the American market almost immediately, forcing American gamblers and US–facing gambling suppliers to resort to increasingly roundabout methods of payment. Indeed, one of the companies indicted, BetonSports, was already in legal hot water in the Eastern District of Missouri, where several executives, including former CEO David Carruthers, were indicted on similar charges last summer. Although BetonSports had allegedly been cooperating with the authorities there, apparently the company fell off the wagon. Some habits are tough to kick. Money laundering is just the disguising of the true nature of a financial transaction, and the convoluted payment systems allegedly developed by the defendants appear to qualify as that. According to US Attorney Brett Tolman, two of the companies, Hill Financial Services and Gateway Technologies, provided accounting and transaction processing services in Utah, and then routed the payments through foreign-based companies CurrenC and CurrenC Worldwide, where the laws on gambling transactions are more forgiving. One little-known provision of the Patriot Act mandates the coding of financial transactions, all the better for the feds to track what is going where and why. The floating world of non-traditional payment processing circumvents this by routing money through companies ostensibly not involved with gambling, as in the above allegations. Just how does the DOJ unravel these things? Although Tolman didn’t discuss that question, the DOJ most likely triangulates based on payment histories readily provided by American or foreign financial institutions. The DOJ could fairly quickly compare the payment history of a customer account formerly sending monthly payments directly to Bodog, for example, with more recent post-UIGEA history of the same account and guess with some accuracy where the gambling money now goes. Of course, as with our useless drug war, increasingly sophisticated networks will find new ways to circumvent the enforcement. Maybe something will develop along the lines of the P2P file sharing networks that give the RIAA fits, in which fragments of commonly used data packets are pulled off of different servers around the world, or even internet versions of halawa-style networks - who knows? "We now have a body of information technology and strategy that can cross many jurisdictions," Tolman told the news conference. Of course, there will always be jurisdictions beyond the grasping reach of the DOJ, and gamblers will continue to find them using the latest technologies. Unfortunately for the millions of Americans who want to gamble online, online gambling has become one of those phony firestorms kicked up every few years by ambitious, overeager American politicians and their flunkies in the press. Until a more rational debate about the pros and cons of internet gaming takes place, otherwise law abiding Americans will continue to slink around the internet looking for ways to place a bet on their favorite team or play a quick game of poker.® Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office
Another day and another Microsoft event designed to promote the importance and flexibility of OpenXML, this time using some of the company’s UK partners to make the point. And it is a fair point, if only because the company’s Office Suite is so well-entrenched in so many businesses and organisations. Getting it to interoperate with other applications is an obviously important step that has to be taken.
Tiscali bagged 62,000 new broadband punters in the UK during the first three months of the year, its financial report revealed on Friday. The new lines bring the Italian firm's UK subscriber base to nearly 1.5 million - fourth behind Virgin Media, BT, and Carphone Warehouse, and ahead of fifth placed Orange, on just over one million. During the Pipex sale speculation in April, Tiscali was fingered by many as next for the chop in the rapidly consolidating broadband market. Tiscali is in a stronger independent position than its shrinking rival, however. Its Q1 additions represent a strong performance when viewed against yesterday's Virgin Media results. Rocked by its dispute with Sky over TV rights, the cable giant added 97,600 broadband lines, a much lower percentage increase on its three million-plus base. Tiscali has been a leading unbundler with TalkTalk, and now has about 437,000 unbundled lines out of 443 BT exchanges. Last week it launched a download-to-rent service, with prices starting at 99 pence. Tiscali's report is here (PDF). ®