Microsoft Dodges $1.5 Billion Bullet

The federal court yesterday dismissed a $1.5 billion judgment a jury had made against Microsoft for patent infringement. Bill Gates breathed a sigh of relief, and immediately stopped looking in his couch and car for spare change to cover the bill.

The dispute -- and the record-breaking, mind-boggling settlement amount -- stems from the MP3 digital music file format standard. Microsoft and Apple, which should also be heaving a sigh of relief, license MP3 usage from a consortium that includes the German research group Fraunhofer Institute and other companies that were involved in developing the format.

What was at issue were the timing of the MP3 development and who now actually owns it after a series of mergers. The jury determined the amount of the monstrous settlement by calculating a small percentage of the sale of every copy of Windows that uses the MP3 format in its Media Player.

Naturally, Microsoft's senior vice president and general counsel Brad Smith praised the fed's ruling as a "victory for consumers of digital music and a triumph for common sense in the patent system." Also naturally, Alcatel-Lucent plans to appeal the ruling.

Here's another copyright and intellectual property ruling involving Microsoft -- what's your take on this? Just another round of going after the big guy? Or do you feel Microsoft is prone to "borrowing" a bit from here and there? Where should the intellectual property lines be drawn? Drop me a line at llow@redmondmag.com.

Niagara Rising
Sun just keeps getting hotter. It just announced a forthcoming new version of its Niagara processor. The new chip, dubbed the UltraSPARC T2, is said to be twice as fast as the earlier iteration. Expect this blazing-fast sun to shine later this year.

Sun will also license the chip to other manufacturers, which is becoming a whole new line of business for the solar-powered chipmaker. It fired up a new business unit last March to handle the licensing biz. Networking and storage device vendors are the likely target customers, says chief exec Jonathan Schwartz.

What's the makeup of your company's server farms? Using Sun-based servers? Still an Intel shop? Some combo thereof? How does the new Niagara technology affect your plans? Rise up and let me know at llow@redmondmag.com.

Global Warming Up -- To Linux
Dell's computers will be spreading the word and the code of Linux. Those feisty Texans will be loading up systems bound for the U.K., France, Germany and China with Linux instead of Windows.

In May, the Round Rock rebels started selling PCs loaded with Ubuntu Linux, but that was just in the States.

The European Dells will have Ubuntu, while the Dells bound for China will run Novell's SuSE Linux. I don't think Dell's plans are causing Bill to lose any sleep, though. Windows is still running on somewhere north of 90 percent of the world's PCs.

In other Linux news, you'll have to wait a bit longer for Red Hat's latest. Red Hat Global Desktop Linux won't be available until September.

In May, Red Hat said it was working on this new version with Intel so it could better develop a Windows-comparable feature set. The delay is said to buy time to check out adding video compatibility that may include DVDs and streaming video (that really does start kicking in on Windows territory). Red Hat Global Desktop Linux will be targeted toward small businesses in other countries that may not be able to afford licenses for Windows, but may need a bit more than Ubuntu.

Have you made the switch to Linux at any level? Have you taken it out for any test drives? How is it coexisting in your world? Think globally, operate locally and let me know right here at llow@redmondmag.com.

RDN Launches .NET Survival Guide
Our sister publication, Redmond Developer News, is coming to the aid of .NET developers everywhere by launching the .NET Survival Guide. Here are a few words from RDN Editor Michael Desmond:

Any developer can tell you that it's a jungle out there, especially if you're a busy coder trying to stay on top of multiple Microsoft platforms and technologies. Whether it's constant refreshes to the .NET Framework or new approaches to managing programmatic data access, there just never seems to be time to master and consolidate skills. You need look no further than the nearly feature-complete beta 2 of Visual Studio 2008, the second beta of.NET Framework 3.5 and the latest CTP of SQL Server 2008 to know what I'm talking about. Between November and February, you can expect a veritable blizzard of new products and technologies to blow in from Redmond.

This is where the .NET Survival Guide comes in. In our Sept. 1 issue, we'll pull together expert insight and useful resources into a concise package so you can quickly judge your exposure across a range of categories and disciplines. Worried about moving to multi-core savvy parallelized code? Have questions about emerging security practices? Need to make decisions about moving to rich Internet application development? The .NET Survival Guide will offer both answers and context for these questions.

We need input from you. What technologies and issues should we explore? Is there a specific topic expert you'd like to hear from? E-mail me at mdesmond@reddevnews.com and help us shape our first annual .NET Survival Guide.

Mailbag: Yahoo's China Syndrome, Xbox Still Not Cheap Enough
In his piece about Yahoo's current China troubles -- with Congress investigating the extent of the company's involvement in the imprisonment of a Chinese journalist -- Lafe asked readers this question: Would you pass on a market with a fifth of the world's population? Here are some of your answers:

Yes. In a minute. China would re-negotiate. Yahoo is the world leader in portal traffic. Google is the world leader in search. China knows this. Obey the laws of a client nation unless that requires breaking U.S. law. Australian software vendors do NOT break Australian law by assisting China in this manner.

But China also knows that U.S. companies have become commerce whores and would sell their own children for a stake in any new market. Blame us, the boomer generation, for raising a sloth generation.

-Anonymous

Personally, it is my position that I would pass on doing commerce with any country or entity that doesn't openly and honestly protect the human rights of those within its oversight. Realistically, in an economy that is driven by greed and the fatness of the bottom line, human rights, unfortunately, take a rung pretty low on that ladder. It is with regret that I see most siding with the standard view that the dollar to be won far outweighs the human rights considerations.
-Mark

Without the slightest hesitation, yes. Which is worth more: money or human life?
-Anonymous

In lighter news, Microsoft has recently dropped the price of the Xbox to $349. Some of you still aren't very impressed:

The Xbox can drop to $99 and the PC would still rule for gaming.
-Kurt

Lowering the price of an Xbox 360 will NOT lead me to buy one. The price was too high (at least for me) in the first place and second, as long as it has a reputation for failure, then I will NEVER buy one.

No one should ever rush to get a product to market before it is ready for the consumer. I don't consider known hardware failures to be consumer-ready. Who ever got the bonus for putting the console out before it was ready should have to pay it back (at a minimum) to those consumers whose units failed.

Those of you who rushed to be the first are the ones who suffered. That's why I always wait a bit. I can't afford to throw away what little entertainment money I have.

-Les

There's not a snowball's chance in hell of me throwing away $349, plus tax, plus more money spent in games.

Microsoft + hardware = TROUBLE, as in Microsoft + Windows = PAIN!
-Stephen

And Angus offers Nokia a word of advice after hearing about the company's plan to use Microsoft DRM software for its platform:

After many experiences with DRM, I have only one word for Nokia: Don't! If DRM actually worked, then I wouldn't be quite so offended by it, but when your legally purchased media won't play in your legally purchased device because that device does not support that DRM, then customer interest in the silly stuff evaporates.
-Angus

Tell us what you think! Send an e-mail to llow@redmondmag.com or leave a comment below.

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