23rd > December > 1999 Archive
A Brazilian reader has written to The Register and says that his government has banned Quake and five other games it rules as too violent. According to the reader, the objective of the Procuradoria da República is to prohibit all excessive violent games and to include new titles as just as soon as their effects can be evaluated. One wire quoted Fernando de Almeida, procurator of the República em Belo Horizonte as saying Quake had been added to the prohibited list last week. Others on the hit list are Duke Nukem, Doom, Postal, Mortal Kombat and Requiem. The games which Brazil proposes to ban were evaluated by a team of psychiatrists, teachers and others. In all, the list includes 133 PC games. Gamers in Brazil are organising a petition against the moves, with those upset by the move invited to drop a line to email@example.com. There is more information on the moves -- in Portuguese -- on www.hardinfo.com.br ®
Forget Nostradamus, and put Old Mother Shipton out of your mind completely. Because Sun Microsystems has already entered the year 2000 and reports that there's no problems with their machines at all. According to the information, which is posted at this Sun page here, and dated December 27th 1999, there have been no issues with any Sun equipment as the world rolled over into next year. The Register understands that Scott McNealy has a working model of Dr Who's Tardis and popped into the future so he could re-assure his customers that there's no need to worry at all. And because Scott's been into the 21st century and come back, that means the rest of us don't have to worry about any accidental conflagration. And it also means that Mother Shipton, who predicted the telegraph and railways, and that the world will end in 1999, was also wrong... ®
Last week Santa Vulture invited UK Register readers to enter a competition to win a bundle of top LEGO games and software. The winner of the competition is Larry Gardiner, who works in the Compaq Enterprise Solutions and Services Group. More of Larry and his prize-winning entry later.
Greg Maffei, CFO of Microsoft since he took over from Michael Brown in 1997, is leaving to join Worldwide Fiber of Vancouver, a BC-based builder of fibre optic networks. This is not the first time that Maffei has indicated he wanted to leave. In April he was offered the job of CEO of Road Runner (a cable modem Internet service owned by Time Warner), but Bill Gates objected to his departure on the grounds that as a 10 percent shareholder in the company, Microsoft has the right to veto who was appointed as CEO. Maffei was one of the inner circle at Microsoft, and as CFO looked after its $22 billion cash and $8 billion of investments. It's arguably the hot seat that he's vacating. At the end of June Microsoft admitted that it was being investigated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, and in a conference call at the time, Maffei said that the SEC was investigating the way that Microsoft treats reserves. The SEC investigation was probably triggered in January following disclosures related to a wrongful dismissal claim brought by Microsoft's former general auditor, Charles Pancerzewski. He was offered a "resign or be fired" choice in 1996 after he questioned the legality of Microsoft's accounting practices. During the trial Microsoft witness Richard Schmalensee cast some doubt on the company's ability to determine Windows revenue, and to separate IE development costs. There was widespread incredulity about this, and it's not clear whether or not it's really true. But if it is, then it's Maffei's baby. His departure is evidently "amicable" since he remains as chairman of the spun-off Expedia, and has been allowed to convert 10 per cent of his unvested Microsoft options into unvested Expedia options. Maffei said that his departure will mean that he will be leaving "a lot of money on the table", meaning that he will be unable to take up lavish Microsoft stock options, which Microsoft uses as its way of retaining senior staff. These are probably additional to his holding of some $200 million of options. He did sell around $14 million of Microsoft shares last month, and filed for permission to sell a further $9 million, but to his credit he had not otherwise disposed of any during his term as CFO. On balance, the most likely possibility seems to be that Maffei wanted to leave to get away from Microsoft because of potential problems with the DoJ and the SEC, and to live a more normal life. It is probable that he will get substantial stock options from his new employer, potentially worth more than Microsoft has been prepared to offer in the past, although the move to create a separate tracking stock for Expedia was seen as a way of increasing compensation possibilities for an elite group. Maffei's replacement is John Connors, a one-time accountant who joined Microsoft in 1989 and who was previously VP of the worldwide enterprise group, which will now report to Jeff Raikes for the time being. Before that he was chief information officer, and also worked as financial controller under Brown. Wall Street did not like the news and marked Microsoft shares down $3 in after-hours trading on the news. Despite the euphoria of having sent Windows 2000 to manufacturing, morale at Microsoft is not high in view of the continuing legal cases and the SEC investigation. Pete Higgins, the former group VP who had been on leave of absence, recently made it known that he will not return to Microsoft, but will establish a venture capital company. It seems increasingly likely that Paul Maritz will also leave, and further executive departures are expected. ®
Yesterday, American legal vultures met in Washington in an attempt to pick over the carcass of Microsoft, supposedly because they are acting in the interest of clients who have been harmed by the business practices of Fort Redmond. The truth is of course that they scent some rich pickings, and hope that Microsoft would rather settle for a few million dollars than face protracted litigation and high legal costs. Money is of course relatively inconsequential to Microsoft, but the aggravation is considerable - and the class action lawyers know it. Michael Hausfeld of Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll of New York (specialists in slave labour, holocaust and genetically modified food cases, it seems) hosted the meeting, in the hope of co-ordinating some 42 cases that have been launched or are in the process of being filed, with many more expected. The objective was to develop a national strategy for dealing with the alleged overcharging of users. But an article in the Washington Post draws attention to the lack of expertise of some of the lawyers. Perhaps their first step should be to learn a little about the IT industry, because the examples in the article are hilarious. Some of the lawyers apparently just substitute a few words in the texts of other suits, but not very carefully so that in one case Microsoft was being accused of excluding "other developers of Intel-compatible PC operating systems from obtaining the supply of such generic drugs' active pharmaceutical ingredient ('API')". A representative of Krause & Kalfayan, the firm making the gaffe, said that mistakes were not a big deal. Shelby & Cartee located Microsoft as principally in Texas and said it would represent those who made purchases through the "Macintosh Computer Company". Waite, Schneider, Bayless & Chesley thought that Microsoft withheld information from Netscape, so preventing the development of a Windows 95 version of Netscape Navigator." The firm's web page states that the firm "has set a new standard in the legal profession". There is a strong case to be made that users of Microsoft software have been harmed, but wrongs will not be righted by these lawyers. Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray said that "It seems like all of these cases were written under the influence of an active pharmaceutical ingredient. The only people who are going to benefit from these cases are lawyers." Fair enough so far as the funny substances go, but was he admitting that Microsoft would be paying up, since the cases are presumably being handled on a contingency fee basis? ®
UpdatedA letter sent from an API reseller to the company complaining about problems with products has now been resolved. API contacted The Register late today, and said that the issues with the reseller have now been resolved.