CyberTech Rambler

November 21, 2011

Still a good business strategy to threaten Microsoft with Open Source

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 1:54 pm

ComputerWorldUK blogger Tony Collins confirm to us what we already suspected, if you are big enough,  you can get big discount if you threaten Microsoft Office with Open Source. Even the size of the discount, i.e., 100%, is not a surprise to me. It also shows that Microsoft is willing to be extremely competitive when the situation calls for it. Giving that sort of discount shows that they did their homework and realize that to compete, they not only need to negate the cost to customer on licensing, but also to negate the overhead cost of migrating away from Office.

While Qamar Yunus, the assistant director in the Cabinet Office ICT policy team who tell us this piece of tidbits, advise his peers that the threat should not be used as a ploy to get discount from Microsoft, I disagree. It is standard business practice to orchestrate such a bluff to get a discount. Microsoft knows this. It is up to them to call your bluff. Just turn up in a meeting and say to Microsoft “Right, I am moving to Open Source” will not work, you need to lay down the groundwork. Microsoft already done their intelligence work before coming to such a meeting, especially if they suspect you want a steep discount. A credible pilot study will help.

The nice thing with this ploy is, one can repeat this again and again. As long as the threat is credible, and Microsoft is in fear of losing you, they will play along. You must not, however, let it be known that you are doing this. If they called your bluff and succeeded, then the next time round, they are not going to be that  generous. That is a risk for the organization to decide whether to  take.

November 9, 2011

Barnes & Nobles refers Microsoft Android Strategy to regulators

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 10:05 pm

That news is only to be expected. It is a logical next step in the litigation. First you make a lot of noise on your reply brief to the allegation, then hope that the other side either back down or negotiate something more acceptable to you. Failing that, get powerful third parties involved. Regulators fit this bill perfectly. There is little downside if this does not work. At the minimum, if regulator accept the invitation to investigate, you gain a few years of delay. By then, the litigation might be decided by other factors.

Microsoft certainly expected this. It will be interesting to see how the regulator reacts. To me we do need clarification from it to see whether the way Microsoft’s goes about in this ‘Raise the cost for the competition’ strategy is legit.  I have no doubt, as a strategy, ‘Raise the cost for the competition’ is a valid and legal strategy. However, this type of strategy has one major risk: One tend to be sail very close to, or being driven or drift to, dubious practices that the society and court will not tolerate. This is definitely one.

One cannot counter FUDs with FUD

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 9:56 pm

Ed Bott piece on the FUD spreading by Open Source people about Secure Boot in UEFI has a problem: It itself is FUD.

I do not agree that the Secure Boot requirement in UEFI is FUD by open source people. First: There is real fear. The fear that PC makers’ implementation of  UEFI might lock everyone out except the most dominant player, Microsoft in this case. In the worst case scenario, they would lose access to extremely large number of potential customers. That’s legitimate fear however you define the word fear.

Second, there is plenty of Uncertainty. As it stands, UEFI created the uncertainty for people developing and using open source operating system. Without the requirement to bypass Secure Boot in UEFI standard, there is clearly uncertainty is whether they will be locked out of their own computers and their customers’ computers.

As for the last component ‘Doubt’, it is certainly doubtful that all UEFI implementation will provide ability to boot more than one operating systems, especially cheaper one. Now you might say it is then up to the consumer to choose between different implementation. Unfortunately, this statement is only true for tech-savvy consumers. The average joe consumer would not know the different or care about the different. When they do it is likely to be too late. However, more alarming to me is the secure boot process raise cost to all OS vendors. It is extremely unlikely that a way to provide enough booting keys to secure-boot sufficient number of OSes in a way that will sustain the healthy computing environment can be found. In this  case, only the dominant players benefit at the expense of smaller players. Microsoft and RedHat, probably SuSE and Ubuntu, are large enough to absorb  this extra cost. Other smaller players won’t be able to afford the costs. That is bad.

However, Professor Anderson blog post highlight the fact that with worst nastiness of enforcing Secure Boot and providing no way to bypass it, nasty government can force citizens to use altered versions of software that allows draconian censorship rules to be applied or to enforce snooping on its citizens’ online activity. Microsoft’s turnover is larger than a lot of small countries so it probably will ignore them. However, there are still a lot of big  countries out there that can twist Microsoft arms. Now tell me this is not legitimate fear?

Back to the article by Mr Bott. That’s a piece full of  PR material from computer vendors. None of the comment Mr Bott sought and got commit to provide ways to secure boot at least two operating systems in meaningful ways. With this I do not mean vendors committing to allow non-secure boot on all computers they sell. All I ask for is a meaningful number of computers to be sold with more than one OS to be secure-booted. That is a low threshold, and vendors cannot even met that.

As an article claiming to dispel FUD, it not only failed its objective, but might eventually turn out to be the seminar piece proving the claim of the opposition.

Do I see the hand of Microsoft in the UEFI Secure Boot problem? No. However, my opinion is on the line of Brian Proffitt opinion. To me, secure boot make sense for Microsoft, and if it locks out competition, it would be a nice benefit that they won’t want to let go of. Who would?

In business, you cannot expect Microsoft to come out to defend a healthy computing environment, especially if a healthy computing environment is not really necessarily in a company’s interest.

However, what I can see is antitrust action coming. We are more likely to see the first salvo on the European side of the pond. The non-requirement to support more than one operating system,which in effect is what UEFI do with no need for non-secure boot or in the secure boot universe, no need to support more than one OS) raises legitimate unfair competition concerns. Like mobile phone roaming charges, where one cannot point one’s finger at any single mobile operator for anti-competitive behaviour but their collective action is not in the consumer’s interest, the industry itself is skewing against the interest of consumers, thus raising antitrust concerns.

Ultimately, I believe secure boot will strangle itself. Either someone found a way to break the system, or the implementation bring so much practical problems that it will be abandon. Personally I would like to see it abandoned on  the grounds that consumers realized it restricts their freedom. That way it will be a long time before we see a repet of secure boot. Since I subscribe to RMS’s statement that this is Treacherous Computing and Prof Anderson view that this is Trusted Computing 2.0, if the consumers wake up then we won;t see Treacherous Computing 3.o.

Economist noted the passing of two computing GIANTS

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 9:18 pm

I had been moaning that the mainstream press did not note the passing of Dennis Ritche. While I did not say the same for John McCarthy, the feeling is the same. I was relief and pleased that at least one major non computing publication, The Economist, noted the passing of the two men.

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