February 29, 2008
MS Cuts Vista Prices for XP Upgrade Versions
I posted a comment on the blog yesterday about Microsoft's record fine by the European Union and suggested they raise Vista prices to pay it off. In one day after that bit of sarcasm over the price of Vista, Microsoft announced that they will reduce the price of the OS for boxed copied of upgrade versions. This is not only an attempt at moving more copies of the operating system, but to get more people off of XP. While Microsoft says XP support will end in 2009, they actually had to extend XP sales by demand of OEMS because customers weren't ready to give up on something that works (XP) compared to something that wasn't ready for prime time (Vista).
Remember, a Vista upgrade cancels the underlying XP license, unless one goes through some specific steps in the process to avoid that. However, Microsoft says that would violate their upgrade license terms even though they plan on not penalizing anyone so far for using it. Of course, they would be penalizing themselves and their customers if they did something about that. Imagine trying to reinstall the upgrade copy on a machine where the underlying XP license was canceled. That's not a happy scenario.
The price break coincides with the release of Vista SP1. Curiously, large manufacturer rebates on boxed copies of Vista versions were spotted at Costco and other places running through March 15.
February 28, 2008
MS Emails Concerning Vista Capable Emerge
Microsoft internal emails have come out in the "Vista Capable" litigation, and they aren't pretty. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer posts PDFs of the texts and has a story highlighting the content. Among those highlights are Microsoft employees confused and disappointed about what Vista Capable actually means, including one employee who bought a Sony laptop on the representation of that sticker and found out he couldn't run the Aero Glass interface or Movie Maker. Says Mike Nash, "I now have a $2,100 e-mail machine." Ouch.
Some of this stems from a decision to lower standards that included the Intel 915 chip set. Intel wanted to keep selling the support set for motherboards. Emails from MS employees dealing with major retailers suggest that this was a bad idea. Really?
The story has links to the full email texts.
eBay Settles With MercExchange Over Patents
In a somewhat anticlimactic move, eBay and MercExchange have settled their litigation over the use of three MercExchange patents involving the "But It Now" feature on eBay. The settlement has eBay buying the patents from MercExchange and MercExchange dismissing all claims and appeals involving the original litigation. The case is notable for the Supreme Court ruling that injunctions are not automatic in patent infringement cases and are subject to the traditional tests of whether an injunction should issue.
February 27, 2008
Microsoft Fined $1.3B by the EU Over Antitrust Non-Compliance
Microsoft gets fined to the tune of €899 million for failing to charge a reasonable rate for licensing communication protocol information to third parties. The EU required Microsoft to open up their licensing of these protocols as part of the 2004 antitrust ruling issued against the company. Microsoft songed and danced that one for about four years before coming up with a reasonable fee for European customers. Now that the dollar has dropped to an exchange rate of about $1.50 per Euro, that's about $1.3 billion by the current exchange rate. MS has three months to hope the exchange rate improves. Either that, or charge more for Vista.
Comcast Appeared Before the FCC on Monday
The Comcast hearing yesterday at the Harvard Law School over Comcast's network management practices proved interesting, if for no other reason Chairman Kevin Martin's aggressive questions to Comcast executives. The Commission has stayed away from overt statements of network neutrality, allowing for reasonable management practices coupled with transparency to the fee-paying customer as to what those practices are. So far, so good. But when Comcast apparently blocked or throttled P2P transmissions the question remains as to what is exactly reasonable network management and do customers have any knowledge as to what those practices may be.
The context is a bit murky here given Comcast is in the video and video on demand business as well as the Internet business. Reasonable network practices may be a cover to block competition who rely on P2P methods to deliver legitimate licensed content to Comcast Internet customers. That specter was raised by Commissioner Robert McDowell who said "I think if Comcast did not also provide video services, we would not be here having this debate."
Comcast claimed that their traffic management was reasonable, only implemented in a high traffic condition, and only in the geographic area where the condition occurred. Sounds reasonable, but for the AP's tests that indicated that P2P traffic was blocked, not slowed. Not so, essentially said Comcast. The problem with all of these statements and representations is that we still don't really know what's going on with Comcast network practices beyond statements of principle. This may be cleared up as the Attorney General of New York has issued a subpoena asking for more detailed information. Comcast says it is cooperating with New York authorities.
The FCC will ultimately rule on Comcast, and then look for the expected Court challenge on the Commission's authority to do so. There is a link from the FCC main page to the hearing, provided one has the execrable Real Player viewer installed. It lasts around six hours for your viewing entertainment. I suggest as a test that as many Comcast customers view it simultaneously and see if it shows up on your screen.