CyberTech Rambler

March 31, 2009

TomTom settles with Microsoft

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:37 am

TomTom, as expected, settle with Microsoft (Groklaw’s coverage here and here).

It’s a sensible thing for TomTom to do, regardless of the merits of the case. The issue of FAT’s long filename will remain unsettled. TomTom preferred to remove it rather than challenge it in court. To tell the truth, nobody, Microsoft included, has the stomach to litigate on that archane issue. As an “embeded” program manufacturer, I would do what TomTom do, i.e., simply take more care about limiting the filename to 8 characters, rahter than spend money challenging it in court. For Microsoft, it is definitely worried that it might trigger the Linux common defense. It’s just unncessary hassle if it trigger it.

Is it a Novell-like deal or RedHat-like deal? We have not enough information to acertain it. Microsoft’s Press Release is careful to say that TomTom’s obligation under GPLv2 remains intact. It can mean either TomTom is careful to make good its obligation, or Microsoft go creative again. It could also mean Microsoft will now say to potential licensee that we have a way to charge you money while keep your GPLv2 obligation intact.

The battle is once again, a stalemate. Nobody gain or lose in this case. I don’t know about you, but I expected it.

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March 27, 2009

SCO wants to sell itself, by hook or by crook

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 10:57 pm

Well, it is really a long long time since I last wrote about the sorry company known as SCO. PJ’s latest post says that SCO propose to pay IBM, Novell (and to be fair, other smaller creditors) whatever it still owe after five years with SCO stock.

Of course PJ, IBM and Novell see through that transparent plan. The later two understandably prefer cash-in-hand over SCO stock.

Tell you what bring a smile to me: Remember that when SCO first started the round of threatening to sue companies over Linux everyone believe it did that to annoy IBM enough to buy it to shut it up? Looks like SCO not only have not given up that hope, it is thinking creatively how to sell itself to IBM. This plan, if approved, means IBM would be at least part owner of SCO, SCO need only to wait five years. 😉

Told you Microsoft knows how to compete …

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 4:19 pm

Linux started the Netbook market. Windows is a late comer. However, as I always said, Microsoft knows a threat when it sees one and have enough muscles and inertial to negate its disadvantages as a late comer.

To tell the truth, I do not trust any sales/statistics figures coming out from the Netbook market. For one thing, the segment is too new. It has completed its initial phase, the phase that decides whether it is a dude, just another computer or full of promises. I think it is safe to say it proven itself to be full of promises. It is just ripe for the next stage, where you see a lot of innovation and competition for that segment. What will emerge out of that phase is anyone’s guess.

Having said I do not trust sales figure, I am going to point you to an article on Network World that claims Microsoft rules Netbooks which quoted Microsoft as having 90% of the market. I still do not trust the statistics, but will agree that Microsoft is a rock-solid competitor in that market segment. In my opinion, if this means in best case scenario Microsoft only manages a 90% market share means the market is still very competitive. I would had expected Microsoft to sweep the floor (95%+) by now. 10% is enough to gather sufficient momentum to ensure innovation do happen. As the article itself points out, a lot of IT industry heavyweight has their crosshair set on that market, meaning if I were Microsoft, I will not confortable with a 90% market share at this stage.

March 25, 2009

Sorry, but not even your customers think you have them in mind …

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:02 am

TheRegister said that:

“[Novell’s] Hovsepian said he could have done a “better job” of communicating about the deal and suggested he got caught up in thinking about customers, instead of the perception and possible fallout from dealing with Microsoft.”

Actually, he was not even successful in “thinking about customers”. Sorry. If his customers appreciate that he was “thinking about them”, they will flock to him, then he would had been vindicated for signing on the dotted line. There are multiple way to see the deal. People like me who see it from the side of open source will always going to criticize the deal. But if his customers flocks in, then it means the deal work from the business side and I will be the first to say that the public (or those that matters) had spoken, and they did not agree with us.

In a related note, Ina Fried of CNET choose to highlight the Microsoft-Novell deal, I think the more interesting point in the article is how Microsoft decided to go into the patent game and how it built up its patent business. Events leading up the Microsoft-Novell deal is certainly interesting, but to me is a freak show on the side.

March 23, 2009

TomTom gearing up for a fight

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 4:03 pm

It looks like TomTom is gearing up for a fight as it signed on the dotted line f9r OIN’s Linux defender program. This is a significant hardening of TomTom’s stand.

When TomTom filed patent suit against Microsoft in retaliation, that is something TomTom may be forced to do by law, i.e., counterclaim now or forever hold your tongue. It is definitely collecting legal firepower for a defense. One can also see it as a way to try to extract a better settlement deal from Microsoft, if settlement is what TomTom wants. Finally, it is a common legal counter move so it is difficult to read anything, although it does not prevent me from trying 😉

I do expect TomTom to do other maneuvre to protect itself and strengthen its position.  To sign up to Linux defender program is one way of strengthening one’s position. In one stroke TomTom is buying into Linux collective defense. If Microsoft litigate anything which is considered as a threat to Linux, as a licensee of OIN protection, TomTom can tell OIN to help  (financially and materially). That is a brilliant move until you consider what the downside is.

The downside is … It makes any settlement talk with Microsoft significantly more difficult. When collecting ammo to strenghten one’s bargaining power, the rule of the playground says you do not collect any ammo that makes the situation worse for you. Signing up for OIN license make one’s position worse because the other side is less likely to settle, and if it does, it will make you pay for acquiring this ammo.

Therefore, I think this is clear signal that TomTom is gearing up for a fight, rather than settle.

March 22, 2009

Not 500 dollars for a logo, but 200 dollars

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 1:30 am

Steve Ballmer was quoted to had said that you pay 500 dollar more for the same hardware if you choose Apple over Windows.

First a conflict of interest statement: I own a mac. Now that this is out of the way, let’s look further deeper.

I think Ballmer is right that one do pay extra for the logo. But not 500 dollars but 200 at most. The difference? The operating system of course. I prefer Mac OS X interface over Windows’ and is prepared to pay for it. I believe it is worth 200 dollars. That’s a modest sum if you use the computer for more than 3 years. Operating System is something you cannot avoid using with computers. 

The other 100 dollars is for Unix/Linux compatibility. I need that for my computer to interface better with the Linux setup in my office. I can use Windows, but it is easier to use something that is also Unix-based. For one thing I don’t have to struggle to find equivalent software and then remember how to operate that software, or workaround using the software to achieve my task.

So, for you joe public you pay 300 dollars more for the logo, I pay less because I have an additional requirement. 

Is the 200 dollars for the logo worth it? That is a judgement call. The way I see it is it is 200 dollars spread over 3 years and I can afford it.

However, I think the most important question to ask is, is a mac really cost 500 dollars more than a Window computer?

I am afraid not. If you spec up an equivalent Windows computer, the difference is not much, plus or minus 100 dollar or 150 dollar. This was part of my decision to get a mac in the first place: Worst case scenario I pay 150 dollar more for the computer. That is inside the 200 dollars I am willing to pay for Mac OS X.

Let’s look at the “logo” question the other way: How much do I pay for the Window logo compared to if I use one of the free operating system, say Linux. Factor in large volume discount but taking out those trial wares, I will say 75 dollars. Question is, is it worth it?

In a lot (but not all) situation it does. This is after taking away all the bias towards Windows joe public has and the useless claim that Windows has more softwares written for it  (As long as the computer has all the software you need to use, does it matters if it support 1 or 10 million more software that you don’t?). To me, there is a large number of situation where a full blown Windows software do not make sense. In a non-insignificant situation, some other versions of Windows that one cannot use, e.g., Windows CE, is more suitable, if Microsoft allowed it.

Essentially,  the question is about how much you are willing to pay for the  operating system.

There is no doubt Microsoft is feeling the pinch at both end of the market. Microsoft’s strength has always been in the middle and overall more lucrative segment.

When times are good, people probably have more money to spend for the top end. When times are bad people will start considering the lowest end more. However, demand for the middle segment is always there and is still relatively safe Microsoft territory. Might not be in 10 years time, but certainly still there when the current economy downturn is over.

March 20, 2009

Sabre-rattling … or trying to extract a a better deal

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 2:19 pm

TomTom apparently fire back at Microsoft with a patent suit of its own. I am glad that Groklaw decided to cover it.

Is it really sabre-rattling, or is it TomTom buying ammunition to extract a better deal with Microsoft? I do not know.

One thing we know for sure: Microsoft normally does not back down when someone files a patent suit against them. It cannot afford to. It is one of the most sued companies and in the long run, it makes business sense to fight every suit, just to deter fivilous one. If Microsoft thinks that on principle, they have to fight every patent suit to the bitter end then I agree with it.

Knowing that Microsoft does not back down, this make any settlement interesting. Interesting because the settlement terms will be scrutinnized by the internet grapevine.

March 19, 2009

We do not need this type of problems with Election

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 9:01 am

Diebold finally revealed information that I think, means  one of its voting machine is not up-to-scratch.

Elections must be seen to be “whiter than white”. Machines are important aid that if implemented correctly, can have beneficial effect as it makes it difficult for human to tamper with it. As we all know, human is one of the weakest link in election.

Everything has to be taken in context. I think it is important to reevaluate whether voting machines, Diebold’s or otherwise, at the minimum does not compromise the integrity of the election.

Abuse of take down notices…

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 8:54 am

Want proof of wide-spread abuse of DCMA take down notices? Ask Google. Its filing to New Zealand’s Telecommunication Forum says that 37% were judged by Google to be not valid copyright claims. I am not going to mention that more than 50% are targetting competition as I think the category is too inclusive to draw any conclusion.

This piece of information from Google is important, because if one implements a 3-strike system, as New Zealand proposes, it is extremely likely to be abused very badly.  As Google said, we need an independent adjudicator. I will say we will also need stiff penalty for those who abuse the system and transparency in the system. For penalty, something along the line of 100 dollar processing fee upfront. 20 dollar non-refundable for processing. The 80 dollar refunded if the claims are valid, ISP and the target of the complain to share that 80 dollar if the claim is invalid. Every complains should be public information, to allow abusers to be named and shamed.

Choruss: Good or Bad?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 8:43 am

Choruss is a new  initiative, like those pesky one I do not like governing the use of photocopiers, that aims to compensate music writers etc from file sharing. It is generating some debate in the internet right now. EFF thinks it is a good idea. TechDirt do not like it. It makes it interesting.

I haven’t gone through the event recording yet. TechDirt’s point is valid, but perhaps represents the worst-case scenario. There must be steps to ensure that those do not happens, and I think EFF is competent enough to see these through. As for Universities subscribing to the service without any benefit to their students, it is definitely possible. After all, the Universities’ interest are not exactly the same as that of their students. It is like the situation where you should not rely on company lawyers but hire your own, because your interest and that of your company is not always the same.

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