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Channel Reg Weekly

By | Billy MacInnes 4th October 2007 12:02

Microsoft's OS won't die while Palm's doesn't want to be born

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It's still a while until Halloween, but the undead walk among us and some of them are getting a new lease of life. Windows XP has been given an extra five months of sales life, until the end of June 2008, after the relative failure of its successor Vista to excite the masses into parting with large amounts of cash for another Microsoft operating system.

Microsoft corporate vice president, Windows product management, Mike Nash said it had been pleased with the response from customers using Windows Vista but admitted some needed "a little more time to make the switch [from XP]".

Microsoft sings a new Zune

Speaking of Microsoft and the undead, the Zune MP3 player has risen again in a restyled and expanded way with the launch of three new models, including a pair of flash-based versions. Most people will struggle to find any significant aesthetic differences between the new models and the original 30GB player released in 2006. The new Zunes will be available in November, although there is still no news of a European launch.

Poor boy Steve takes Oracle to task over Ellison salary

No one could accuse Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer of being undead, far from it, but poor, well that's a different issue. Steve wasn't very complimentary about the huge pay package given to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison: $61.2m and stock option gains of nearly $182m.

In addition, Ellison was paid a $1m salary and $8.4m in incentives. Oh, and he owns almost a quarter of the company, worth about $25bn. Ballmer told The Times: "I find it interesting and probably not that considered a decision to do what [Oracle has] done." Steve's pay package was only worth $1.3m, although he does own 4.3 per cent of Microsoft's shares.

Two out of three accountants prefer to settle

Staying on the subject of money, two of the three former Dell accountants accused of insider trading have settled with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The commission alleged the three accountants engaged in unlawful insider trading ahead of a public announcement on 11 August, 2005, that Dell's Q2 06 revenues would fall short of previous guidance and analyst forecasts.

Sorry's not that hard a word to say

While we're talking about settlements, it's worth mentioning the public apology by Manchester-based distributor Gen-x for selling counterfeit Cisco equipment. It is also handing over supplier information and paying Cisco an undisclosed sum, in return for not being taken to court.

Court puts RJ Campbell Ltd in the soup

While Cisco was putting the screws on Gen-x, Microsoft was getting £35,000 in damages against an internet trader for copyright violations and illegally importing cheap American software to Europe.

R J Campbell and his company R J Campbell Ltd, which traded as Software Price Beater on auction sites, admitted to selling counterfeit software and so-called "parallel importing". The High Court ordered the company to make an initial payment of £35,000, with the stipulation that more fines would follow. Potentially good news for Steve Ballmer's salary next year.

The trader was also ordered to place an advertisement in the trade publication PC Retailer announcing the verdict. Would that be at rate card or are there discounts for that sort of thing?

Westcoast simplifies licensing with licenseme

With all this talk of counterfeit products, it's worth mentioning the attempt by Microsoft licensing software distributor Westcoast to automate the process using a tool called licenseme.

The product's developer, UK-based Solarweb, says the technology cuts the "high error rates facing many in the channel". It claims as many as 25 per cent of licence orders from the channel are "rejected by vendors due to errors introduced during the sales process. These are...costly to rectify and can damage customer relations".

Westcoast commercial director Andy Dow said the system offered resellers "a simple, more profitable way to sell Microsoft licenses. No more manual keying in of product codes, no more assigning customers to the wrong licensing programme, and no more reliance on having a licensing specialist".

3Com at Bain threshold

The big news on the acquisition front was the private equity buyout of longstanding networking company 3Com for a price of $2.2bn. The deal, which is fronted by Bain Capital Partners and backed by its former Chinese manufacturing partner Huawei Technologies, is expected to go through in Q1 next year.

Lynx effect works on BT

On a slightly smaller scale, British Telecom (or BT as it likes to be known nowadays) acquired IT consulting and outsourcing firm Lynx Technology as part of its continuing efforts to muscle in on the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) space.

The take over of Lynx follows BT's purchase of Basilica in August as part of its strategy to enter the IT solutions market. Lynx managing director Paul Edgeley said: "We're delighted with the opportunities this transaction will deliver to the strong platform that we have developed. And we're confident that this will prove to be extremely beneficial for our customers, employees and our business partners."

How do you write 200 pages about a firewall?

Onto security now, and we'll start with the news that Spanish security firm Pentest has discovered multiple buffer overflow vulnerabilities in the most secure version of Check Point's FireWall-1/VPN-1, Secure Platform R60, which is certified to an EAL4+ assurance level of the Common Criteria evaluation.

But despite producing a 200 page analysis, Pentest was unable to demonstrate how any of the flaws it unearthed could be exploited remotely. Check Point responded by claiming the ramifications were "very limited because an exploit cannot be initiated by someone who is not already an administrator; also, the issue cannot be exploited remotely".

Credit card fraud goes overseas

Sticking with security, overseas credit card fraud doubled in the first six months of 2007, contributing to a 26 per cent increase in total credit card frauds, despite a fall of 11 per cent in fraud at UK retailers and a 57 per cent decline in UK cash machine fraud.

According to figures from UK banking industry association APACS, fraud on UK-issued cards being used overseas rose 126 per cent from £48.1m in the first half of 2006 to £108.8m in the same period this year.

APACS said fraudsters were being driven overseas, copying mag stripes to create counterfeit cards they could use in countries that have yet to upgrade to Chip and PIN.

Save the internet, lose your rights

Meanwhile, the man who served as a special adviser on cyber security to George Bush unveiled a five point plan for saving the internet at a conference in Santa Clara University. Calling the net "a place of chaos in many ways, a place of crime in many ways", Richard Clarke proposed biometric IDs, government regulation, an industry wide standard for secure software and a closed internet.

He admitted "a lot of these ideas go against the grain" and revealed that 35 per cent of all US citizens would rather shoot themselves than carry a national ID card. Which leaves us wondering if that's the case, how long would it take for support for a national ID card to become total?

RIAA seeks $705 a song from defendent

On the subject of the internet, a 30-year-old single mother of two appeared in court in Minnesota this week accused by the Recording Industry of America of illegally sharing 1,702 songs on the Kazaa file-sharing network.

Jammie Thomas rejected offers to settle with the RIAA because she refused to be bullied. The RIAA is seeking over $1.2m in compensation. Thomas' counsel, Brian Toder, says the record companies haven't proven she shared the songs.

We could have left this one out but it was close at hand

We started this week's weekly with the undead and now it's time to visit the unborn with the news that the new Palm OS has been delayed by a year until the end of 2008. The big question is whether there will be enough users to bother about it when the OS finally arrives.

Two we couldn't leave out

We conclude with two fantastic pieces of research that manage to illustrate all too clearly the benefits that science brings to humanity in the early 21st century.

First to Stanford University where a PhD student has published research indicating the low numbers of women in science, maths and engineering-related fields is linked to the blokey environment in these fields.

If you thought that was good, the best news of the week for many people came from New Zealand where researchers at the University of Auckland found that moderate daily alcohol intake conferred "heightened cognition". A study of rats found that those with the equivalent of two or three pints a day outperformed the heavy drinkers and the teetotallers. We'll drink to that... ®

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