WinInfo Short Takes: Week of May 13

An irreverent look at some of the week's other news...

European Antitrust Case to Go Well Beyond US Case
Although a final decision is still months away, European Union (EU) regulators are reportedly crafting dramatic and far-reaching remedies for their antitrust case against Microsoft, remedies that go well beyond those in the company's proposed settlement in the US antitrust case. Under European law, EU Competition Commissioner Marco Monti can fine Microsoft as much as 10 percent of its annual revenues, but the regulator has bigger plans than a simple fine. According to sources close to the case, Monti could require Microsoft to provide two Windows versions--one that ships with Windows Media Player (WMP) and one that ships without WMP. In addition, the EU is considering a plan that would require Microsoft to provide the low-level technical information its rivals need to make compatible server products that work as well as Microsoft's server products. It sounds like Monti and the nonsettling states are on the same page.

Microsoft Remedy Hearings: States Cancel Modular Windows Demonstration
In a surprise move, the nonsettling states and the District of Columbia have canceled a modular Windows demonstration planned for early next week. The states canceled the demonstration after Microsoft lawyers complained that they would need months to respond to the mountain of documents and CD-ROMs that the states "dumped" on them yesterday in preparation for the demonstration. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly could barely contain her anger at the states lawyers, stating, "This is absolutely astounding. I cannot tell you I am happy about the way this has been done." Attorneys for the nonsettling states now say that the demonstration is unnecessary because none of Microsoft's witnesses were able to back up claims that a modular Windows version is impossible.

Microsoft Remedy Hearings: Security by Obscurity
A comment Microsoft Group Vice President Jim Allchin made during cross-examination in the company's remedy hearings has the open-source community in a furor this week because, they say, it proves how Microsoft will continue to withhold information that will help third parties create products that easily interoperate with Windows. Responding to a question about the security exception in the proposed settlement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ), Allchin essentially said that the company must be permitted to withhold information that would compromise Windows security (you know, like interoperability information). "The more creators of viruses know about how antivirus mechanisms in Windows operating systems work, the easier it will be to create viruses to disable or destroy those mechanisms," Allchin said.

Microsoft Remedy Hearings: Security by Obscurity Part II
And what about Samba? For years the open-source project has used reverse engineering to provide Windows networking interoperability to users of Linux and other UNIX-like OSs. Samba developers had been looking forward to a mid-2002 Microsoft code release that would have given them the information they need to work with the company's latest networking protocol, the Common Internet File System (CIFS). There's just one problem: Microsoft forbids using the code in any projects covered by the GNU General Public License (GPL), which is exactly what Samba uses. Go figure.

Microsoft Remedy Hearings: Microsoft Witness Recants Testimony
A Microsoft witness recanted his testimony this week after lawyers for the nonsettling states showed that his comments were factually incorrect. University of Virginia professor Kenneth Elzinga admitted he had "mischaracterized" the nonsettling states remedy proposals when he testified that Microsoft's rivals in the computer industry had "developed" the proposals. Attorney Steven Kuney showed Elzinga that the states derived the wording for their proposals from Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's original ruling against the company and, in some cases, copied text word for word from his mid-2000 judgment. "The word 'developed,' I will concede, is an awkward one," Elzinga admitted. Furthermore, Judge Richard Posner first requested the proposal for a modular Windows version when he attempted to mediate a settlement during the original antitrust case. "Is Judge Posner someone you consider subject to undue influence by Microsoft's competitors?" Kuney asked. "No," Elzinga replied.

Microsoft Remedy Hearings: Microsoft Witness Agrees with States Plan
And speaking of Elzinga, the professor's unsubstantiated claims about Microsoft's competitors weren't his only embarrassing moment on the stand this week. Elzinga had testified that the states' plan for a modular Windows version would harm consumers, but he later admitted in court that such a product would "increase consumer choice."

Here Comes License 6.0 ... Again
Microsoft License 6.0 is back, and like a hockey-mask-wearing villain in a cheap horror movie, it isn't exactly welcome. The company originally launched the controversial licensing plan last fall and then temporarily canceled it after many customers complained. (See the WinInformant Web site for more details about the plan and its cancelation .) License 6.0 either will "simplify options," according to Microsoft, or "shake down its customers for millions of dollars more every year," according to critics. I guess it all depends on how you look at it, but I suppose both sides are correct: What could be simpler than no options? And what could cost Microsoft's customers more than License 6.0? Not much, says The Infrastructure Forum, which calculated that Microsoft customers would pay 130 percent more for License 6.0 than they paid for previous licensing schemes. License 6.0 will rear its ugly head again in July, Microsoft says. Stay tuned.
   
Microsoft Convicted of Software Piracy
From the "You Can't Make This Stuff Up" files comes the following story, which didn't get any play in the US press because of its occurrence right around the time of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Apparently, a French court convicted Microsoft of software piracy and fined the company, a delicious irony because Microsoft is one of the world's most aggressive antipiracy organizations. According to the French court, Microsoft illegally used source code from another company in its SoftImage 3-D software, a high-end animation package the company acquired in 1994. Let he who has no sin cast the first stone, eh?

Xbox Creators Launch New Venture
Seamus Blackley and Kevin Bachus, two of the people who fathered Microsoft's Xbox gaming system, announced their new venture this week. The men are starting a company called Capital Entertainment Group that will create ... video games. Go figure. Before working at Microsoft, the physics-oriented Blackley was the developer behind Flight Unlimited, a huge success, but he also developed Trespasser, a Jurassic Park title that bombed. Blackley and Bachus say the new company will be all about games, and they will support the Sony PlayStation 2 and Nintendo GameCube in addition to the Xbox.

The New HP: iPAQ In, Jornada Out
If you've been wondering how the new Hewlett-Packard (HP) will decide which of its and Compaq's products will survive post-merger, wonder no more. The Compaq iPAQ is in but the HP Jornada is out. HP will phase out its Omnibook, Kayak, Vectra, and Netserver products, as well the TRU64 OS, but OpenVMS will survive. HP's printer business, of course, will continue, and the company will inexplicably continue selling both HP and Compaq consumer-oriented desktops and laptops. Given that most of the products HP plans to sell used to be part of Compaq, explain one thing to me: Why isn't this company called Compaq?

TAGS: Security
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