Question & Answers: Microsoft’s EU court battle

Microsoft was fined millions of euros by the European Commission two years ago and today Microsoft has started it’s fight back in the European Court to get that money back and argue that it’s been treated badly, but this time it’s not just money that is at stake but the reputacion of both Microsoft and the  European Commission, here’s part of a Question & Answers article from the BBC about the court case.

What’s all this about?

Microsoft has abused its virtual monopoly in the computer world to muscle out smaller rivals, especially those that make media players and software for servers – at least that’s the finding of the European Commission’s competition watchdog.

Back in 2004, the commission fined Microsoft 497m euros (£343m, $615m) and forced it to offer a version of its Windows operating system without Microsoft’s own media player.

The company was also told to give rivals more information about how Windows works, so they can make their own software integrate better with the operating system that runs some 90% of the world’s computers.

But it’s not just money and Microsoft’s reputation that are at stake.

For the Commission this is the granddaddy of all anti-trust cases.

The EU’s competition watchdog has suffered a string of defeats in court recently. If it loses the Microsoft case, its credibility could be undermined for good.

What does Microsoft have to say for itself?

The company strongly denies the charges brought by the European Commission.

Just because a company is big and successful, says Microsoft, it should not have to share all its secrets and innovations with rivals.

The company says it has followed all the rules, and that the commission has “erred” in applying them.

If the Commission succeeds, says Microsoft, consumers would suffer, because there would be fewer incentives to innovate.

Furthermore consumers demand “bundled” solutions – all-inclusive software packages that feature basic things like media players – says Microsoft, and don’t want the pain of having to download or buy everything separately.

Via: BBC News

Microsoft seeks open antitrust hearing, EU says no.

Microsoft has now asked the European Commission to open up to the public a hearing that could lead to a large fine for Microsoft, but the European Commission has said that procedural regulations require it be closed, which in my opinion isn’t good at all!

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFTnews) asked the European Commission to open to the public hearings that could bring the U.S. software giant a large fine, but the Commission said on Tuesday that regulations require they be closed.

The administrative hearings on March 30 and 31 will be on charges that Microsoft failed to carry out sanctions imposed by the Commission, the executive arm of the 25-country European Union, two years ago for violations of antitrust law.

Microsoft faces fines of up to 2 million euros ($2.4 million) daily.

“We waive our right to a confidential hearing to ensure a full and fair examination of the issues in this case,” Microsoft told Reuters on Tuesday, adding that it wanted “the opportunity to respond to the Commission’s allegations in an open hearing.”

Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd told Reuters: “The request was refused by the hearing officer because the procedural regulations explicitly prohibit this.”

Article 15 of the Commission regulation covering mergers says: “Formal oral hearings shall not be public.”

However, Microsoft will still have the option of stepping outside the hearings to present either an account of them or the witnesses it produces, so that reporters can speak with them.

The Commission found two years ago that Microsoft used its dominant position with the Windows operating system to damage rival makers of server software used to run printers, password sign-ins and file access for small work groups.

The Commission fined Microsoft 497 million euros for its violations and was also ordered to offer a version of Windows without audio-visual software.

MORE TRANSPARENCY

The Commission also said Microsoft must provide interconnections so competitors could get their server software to run as well as Microsoft’s own with Windows desktop machines.

It said the company had failed to provide adequate documentation for the interconnections, so competitors were unable to use it.

On a separate track, the Commission is also looking into the amount charged by Microsoft for licenses to use the interconnections.

The Commission gave Microsoft a deadline last year to provide the documentation, but said as recently as this month that the company had not complied.

The Commission opened proceedings against the company to fine it for failing to comply, and the hearings are part of those proceedings.

Microsoft has responded to the Commission. It opened its reply to the formal charges and posted them on the Web.

It also offered to open some of its source code — the blueprint of its software — for server software to licensees.

Software company Samba, a Microsoft critic and a third party in the case, has also opened some of its filings and posted them to the Web.

And with Microsoft’s permission, the Commission opened some of its own documents.

A hearing on Microsoft’s underlying challenge to the Commission’s 2004 antitrust decision against it will be held in Luxembourg before the EU’s Court of First Instance from April 24.

($1=.8348 euro)

Via: Yahoo/Reuters

What’s Next for Bill Gates?

This is part 2 of an interview between Time magazine and Bill Gates, in which the Microsoft chief talks about the battle against Google, Origami and other new products from the Microsoft machine.

TIME:What other innovations are coming from your research group?

Gates: Videoconferencing is another good example. There’s more of it going on today than in the past. But it’s still not really mainstream. Even with cameras being very cheap, one thing that researchers noticed was that you look really bad in a videoconference image, because the lighting is bad and you get shadows and things. So they’re showing this software that makes you look good, that understands about shadows and bags under your eyes and highlighting the twinkle in your eye and it’s very realistic. It’s what a great makeup artist would do, but the software is doing that with this face recognition and transformation. And so it’s things like that that will take something like videoconferencing and you’ll start to use it more and you’ll start to think of it and you won’t really realize that a fairly key element was a little bit of magic software.

TIME:What’s your strategy for developing the next great innovation that will make people go wow!, in a world where new technologies and devices come along frequently and as a culture we’re technologically spoiled and harder to impress?

I wouldn’t say that. People know very well that these machines could be easier to use, they could do more for them, and they have a pretty clear filter about whether it has helped them get done the things they like to get done. And if it helps them share memories of the kids growing up with the grandparents then they’ll use it. And some technology things seem very cool and then there isn’t lasting use that takes place with them. Some things are a long time in the works. This high-definition video game, Xbox360, we’ve been working on that 3 1/2 years before we came out with it. And the way that works is that platform will stay the same for over four years and then there will be a big leapfrog.

Full Story At Source

Q&A: Bill Gates Spills About What’s Next for Microsoft

This is part 1 of an interview between Time magazine and Bill Gates:

TIME: How do you think about innovation? What are your cues? Is there a way you look at the world and derive a vision of the future? People wonder how Bill Gates comes up with the next big idea.

Gates:There are tons of great people here at Microsoft who are always coming up with ideas. I go off for a week every six months and read hundreds of papers from people who are telling me about big advances, and their ideas about things they think we should do. Take a simple concept. You’re a parent and your kid is growing up. How do you collect all the photos, email, video, calendarsall those things—and make it so that sharing it with relatives or going back 10 years later and finding some neat moments are very easy to do? Obviously today’s software lets you do that better than you could 10 years ago, but it’s still very hard, very manual and nothing like what it will be. Microsoft Research has a thing called the Sense Cam that, as you walk around, it’s taking photos all the time. And the software will filter and find the ones that are interesting without having to think, “Let’s get out the camera and get that shot.” You just have that and software helps you pick what you want.

Actually the first place they used this is with people who have medical problems where their memory is not working. So they’ll meet their son, which is a big event for them, but they won’t be able to remember what was said. If you use this camera and play back the images for them, it reinforces those memories. That’s not the mainstream application of it, but it’s this amazing thing that who would have thought the right kind of software could take that memory impairment and really just change the life of someone like that and let him or her have those memories in a very simple, fun way.

It’s really great to have the research people constantly talking to the product group people “hey, we’ve made this breakthrough and why can’t you apply it?” The product people are so much in the real world they’ll say, well, it’s too hard to set up or someone will have a privacy concern that if you have all those photos how are they going to be used.

Full Story At Source

Inventor of Hotmail turns his attention to weblogs

Intersting Artticle about Sabeer Bhatia, the Bangalore student who with his colleague invented Hotmail and went on to make a fortune by selling it to Microsoft.

Sabeer Bhatia, the Bangalore student who with a colleague invented the iconic Hotmail e-mail service and went on to make a fortune by selling it to Microsoft, is returning to fix what he describes as a neglected stepchild.

Mr Bhatia, now a serial technology-entrepreneur, will on Monday unveil his first attempt to enhance the Hotmail experience since selling for $400m his stake in the company he founded in Silicon Valley a decade ago.

Mr Bhatia will be in India to announce the global launch of blogeverywhere.com. Users of the website will be able to download a toolbar that allows them to write and publish their own blogs, while also giving Hotmail users faster access to their messages.

Blogeverywhere’s toolbar will download unread e-mail messages and store them in a local cache while a first message is being read. Users will then be able to access unread messages from their computer’s own memory instead of having to retrieve them from the internet.

Mr Bhatia believes the technology will cut down the lag time internet-based e-mail users experience in developing markets such as India where high-speed internet access is not widely available for the country’s estimated 250m online users.

Mr Bhatia has invested $5m from his personal fortune to develop blogeverywhere over the past two years. The idea was initially conceived by Shiraz Kanga, an Indian former software developer with Cisco Systems.

Mr Bhatia’s new venture is his first since investing $8m of his own money along with $7m raised from financial backers in Arzoo, a virtual classroom of free-lance academics and computer specialists who answer questions on IT problems encountered at home, or in a large workplace. That venture, however, ultimately flopped as a business.

Mr Bhatia is not alone among US-based IT entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in turning his attention to India and bringing funds to develop ideas in a country seen as one of the largest potential online markets after the US and China.

Pramod Haque of US-based funds Norwest Venture Partners and Vinod Khosla of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers are among the investors supporting Indian technology ventures.

Mr Bhatia will also on Monday launch an internet telephony service similar to Skype. He says he is in talks with four Indian telecoms companies that could enable PC users anywhere in the world to call a land line, or mobile number in India for Rs1 (US$0.02).

Via: FT.com

Seth Godin Speaks at Google

Just found a Blog post titled “Google’s Secrets Exposed” posted by Rick Segal on his Blog, and I must say thank you Rick for telling me about that Google Video with Seth Godin in it speaking to Google about its success.

Here’s a very good use of 48 minutes.

Seth Godin spoke to Google and, in 48 minutes, pretty much gave the talk every company of any size offering any  product or service should watch.

There is a pretty interesting moment that struck a cord with me.

Seth, in the video, talks about a Google shirt he wore in a NYC market. A lady selling peaches fawned all over him talking to him about how she loves Google, Google is her life.

Years ago, I was on vacation in Stockholm visiting the VASA museum. I was wearing my Microsoft developer relations coat with my Windows NT polo shirt. Yeah, I was geek pathetic, leave that aside.  A women comes up to my wife and I and says Do you work for Microsoft? Why yes I do, I say proudly.  She responds with a rant about not getting her Word upgrade and some other problem she was having with a support question.  Before my wife had a chance to grab her by the throat, I politely took her name/number (no email!) and promised somebody from the local office would call.

Slightly different times, slightly different issues but in end: Brand.

Watch the video, here. It is a great use of your time.

[Memo to Robert Scoble: Tell HR to make this mandatory viewing for all of MSFT.]

Via: Rick Segal’s Blog

London City to be Wi-Fi-enabled

London City is soon to be totally Wi-Fi-enabled now in my opinion I think call great news for a great City because I believe that Wi-Fi is definitely the way to go at the moment especially as it gives so many people more access to the internet when out and about, the internet is now part of a daily lives so that’s why I think that this is a great step towards what might help the internet eventually become more accessible in remote areas of the world, and might even help the internet become free.

Because after all a lot of governments like the UK Government have plans that they would like to follow, or so called E-Government schemes which is to make the internet accessible to everybody who cant get it!

Ok maybe the internet being free is a little bit far away but there’s no reason why it cant be, just like what Google is doing in San Francisco, anyway read below for more information on London being Wi-Fi enabled.

LONDON: The City of London Corporation is all set to have Wi-Fi network in place covering the entire city (The square mile). The project is being undertaken by the corporation in partnership with a private Wi-Fi firm, The Cloud. It is expected to be implemented in full in the next few months.

The Cloud, which will install the hardware and equipment, will make use of street furniture like the lamp posts and street signs for the purpose.

The network will make the city Wi-Fi-enabled and workers as well as visitors within the square mile will be able to make use of wireless devices to access the internet on streets and in open spaces. The project will support high speed internet access, email, music and video downloads and voice over Wi-Fi services.

The network also incorporates secure access and private data networks for emergency services.
Michael Snyder, chairman of the corporation’s policy planning committee, said the corporation is responding to the increasing time pressures faced by City workers by providing the technology to stay uptodate. “We feel it is important to provide this technology to maintain our position as the world’s leading international financial centre,” he said.

The system will facilitate connectivity to as many as 350,000 workers while on the move through their laptop or palmtop computers. Users can opt for business subscriptions or pay-as-you-go accounts.

Wi-Fi hotspots function by broadcasting internet signals across radio frequencies. The hotspots enable anyone with a wireless-enabled device to surf the web. The Cloud will install some 150 beacons at strategic places to ensure coverage as there are several high-rises and narrow streets in the city.

The Cloud’s chief executive George Polk said corporate users are increasingly turning to Wi-Fi for a range of services, including converged voice services. “We have strong demand from existing customers for coverage in high density and high profile locations like the City of London, and we expect this trend to continue.”

The Cloud has opted for an open network concept, which means that any service provider can use the network for a price to provide services to its customers. The firm already runs several Wi-Fi hotspots in London, such as at Canary Wharf, the British Library and Coffee Republic, a chain of cafés. Operators, including BT Group and Nintendo, rent time on The Cloud’s network.

Via: ABC Money

Another Chance to Sign up for the Yahoo! Publisher Network Beta Program

Look’s like Yahoo is giving me once again another chance to sign up for the Yahoo! Publisher Network Beta Program, but I’m afraid I’m still in the same situation as I was before, I don’t live in the United States and even though I have an overture account I can’t use it because I need a United States Social Security or Tax ID number, that of which I don’t have because I live in the United Kingdom!

I guess I shouldn’t have asked to Beta Test it when I already knew it was for the USA only, but hey if you don’t try these things out you’ll never know if you could have got in or not, I do hope they expand the Yahoo! Publisher Network Beta Program to other countries like the UK soon though!

Anyway here’s the email:

Dear Darren,

Recently we extended an invitation to you to join the exclusive beta release of our new Yahoo! Publisher Network self-serve platform, which provides small- and medium-sized web publishers with easy access to Yahoo! advertising and content.

We have not yet received your application, but we don’t want you to miss the opportunity to participate in the beta program. There are several new tools and services planned for the new Yahoo! Publisher Network self-serve platform, and when you become a member of the beta program you’ll:

  • Display relevant text ads on content pages of your Web site and earn revenue from qualified clicks to your site’s featured text ads.
  • Have the option of transferring your Yahoo! Publisher Network earnings to your Yahoo! Search Marketing accounts online to pay for clicks on your listings.
  • Help shape what Yahoo! offers to the online web publisher community.
  • Be the first to take advantage of new Yahoo! publisher tools, services and programs as they become available.

You can proceed with creating your account using the link below:

[Link removed]

This link is your unique access key. It is non-transferable and may be used to create one account only. (Please note that during the beta period, Yahoo! is only able to serve or accept U.S.-based publishers with a valid Social Security or Tax ID number, and with web site content that is predominantly in English and targeted at a U.S. user base.)

Don’t delay—your invitation will expire seven days from this reminder email. We’re looking forward to working with you to build a strong and successful community through the Yahoo! Publisher Network.

Sincerely,

The Yahoo! Publisher Network Team

Search site retires iconic Jeeves

Jeeves the valet who for a decade has overseen searches on the Ask website is about to be sacked.

By the end of February the iconic valet will disappear from the site he has graced since it debuted in 1996.

The decision to axe Jeeves was taken in September 2005 but he stayed in place while the company investigated how users felt about the change.

The removal of Jeeves has been driven by a broader effort to re-brand the Ask search site.

Friendly face

The shadow of redundancy first fell over Jeeves in March 2005 following the purchase of Ask by IAC/InterActive for $1.85bn (£970m). Soon after the deal was signed, IAC boss Barry Diller declared his antipathy towards the valet.

The decision to use Jeeves was taken by the creators of the Ask site to differentiate themselves from rivals and to put a friendlier, knowledgeable face on the internet.

He underwent a re-fit just prior to the IAC purchase which saw him lose weight and appear in a series of adverts for the site. In the future, Ask Jeeves will only be known as Ask.

Rachel Johnson, Ask’s vice president of marketing in Europe, said: “We can confirm that we are repositioning our brand and that Jeeves will be retiring.”

The broader rebranding of Ask comes as all search engines include all manner of other services alongside the basic finding of websites for users.

The initial decision to axe Jeeves was greeted with dismay by many and a campaign to save the valet briefly flared into life.

Source: BBC