Up front: The Microsoft legal battles never end
Miss the '90s? Peace and prosperity and the dot-com bubble and whatnot? The European Union is here to help, dragging on the interminable antitrust suits against Microsoft. (Don't look so shocked; it worked out well for Mississippi, which just got millions of dollars for making a sustained cranky noise. More on that in What's Next.) Meanwhile, the world has moved on -- to open source, to Google (which ought to be taking notes for future reference), to a plethora of browsers and much higher awareness among the general population of how to acquire and use them. At the end of a thrilling week (let's all gasp in unison), it's not all that comforting to see that some things never change.
Microsoft and EU still at odds
Morning of June 12, 2009, Brussels time • Is there any pleasing the European Union when it comes to Microsoft? Yesterday, Microsoft announced it would take Internet Explorer out of versions of Windows sold in Europe, hoping to address complaints that bundling the browser deprived consumers of choice. In thanks, the European Commission suggested that the move could be harmful to consumer choice, the CEO of Opera claimed that Microsft is trying to set its own rules for compliance (translation from the Norwegian: but we wanted a copy of Opera and all the other browsers on Windows, because there's not enough stuff gumming it up!), and the EU said it would pursue an antitrust case against Redmond anyway.
Rambus victory in US finally leads to Rambus victory in EU
Afternoon of June 11, 2009 • Here's another clue that the European Commission gets stuck on antitrust issues: It sounded so good to say that big, bad Rambus -- the memory technology company whose greatest offense, historically speaking, was probably RIMM -- withheld vital schematics from memory standards body JEDEC in order to subject its members to countless years of royalties. It sounded good to say this, especially if it were true. Problem was, JEDEC may have had some issues of its own, as a US Federal Appeals Court ruled way back in April 2008.
So that's the end of it, no? Of course not, not in Europe where antitrust lives on like kimchi your grandmother buried under the back porch. But at least this one time, it's the European Commission that has decided to call it a day (perhaps it's too busy trying to think of new bad things to say about Microsoft). Rambus announced yesterday that the EC is ending its action against it, and that Rambus will not have to pay a fine. In exchange for receiving €0 (which on the foreign exchange rate scale this morning translates to bupkus), the company will agree to cap its royalties for IP related to SDRAM and GDDR modules, with rates between 1.0% and 2.65%, scaling down over the years to come. What's more, Rambus is allowed to say it did nothing wrong, and the EC can't correct it.
Yahoo's got a brand new bagman
Thursday, June 11 • Short a CFO ever since Blake Jorgensen resigned (just after Carol Bartz's arrival, not a coincidence), Yahoo has filled that spot with the hiring of Timothy Morse, previously CFO of Altera and a 15-year manager at GE.
Yahoo naturally issued a press release, and various news outlets chimed in after. The San Jose Mercury-News mainly sticks with the announcement and its context. In contrast, from his own new home at mbcbayarea.com, former Valleywag maestro Owen Thomas suggests that the hiring of Morse, who has no dot-com experience, is proof that "Carol Bartz is not too fond of webheads." Morse starts next Wednesday and takes the CFO title on June 30; Jorgensen, who has been serving in the interim, moves along to Levi-Strauss with a lovely $1.8 million severance check in hand.
Friday's tech headlines
SiliconValley.com (San Jose Mercury-News)
• A business coalition of tech firms has acronymed their way to iAwful, a list of the ten worst (for tech businesses) pieces of proposed state and local legislation currently under consideration. The name stands for "Internet Advocates' Watchlist for Ugly Laws," and you can see it for yourself on the group's site.
• It seems sometimes as if the Valley does nothing but pitch itself on the Next Big Thing, but Scott Duke Harris makes a case for this week's Launch: Silicon Valley providing aspiring tech visionaries reasonably good bang for the buck.
• Chris O'Brien's column is a continuing source of joy on our Now/Next rounds. This week he lights up Wired's print cover package (set of articles, featured on the cover) concerning "the new new economy." Bull, says O'Brien, and he makes his case well.
• The P-I's Nick Eaton runs the Microsoft Blog -- yes, that's its name. Today he flags Microsoft's release of a large slab of documentation for Bing, explaining the fledgling search engine's take on SEO. Good stuff.
• Also on The Microsoft Blog, Eaton notes a blog post by Microsoft product manager Scott Barnes, taking a wonderfully frank look at what Redmond has learned in the past three years from Apple (and, to a lesser extent, Adobe) about product design. Fascinating stuff and a great catch for the P-I blogger.
• If you're not in the Seattle area, Monica Guzman's post on a Seattle coffeeshop with special plans for tonight's Facebook land grab is fun, and might inspire you to find something similar in your own community. If you're a Seattleite, walk on by. In fact, you should probably wait 'til Saturday to do your registration. Nothing to see here, people, move along.
• DVD Jon is CEO of a company now! His doubleTwist has serious VC, but he's still yanking the chain of mainstream companies and making your paid-for content more accessible. Wired covers his efforts to put up a huge ad for his new software -- "your iTunes library on any device in seconds" -- near the Apple store in San Francisco. It did not go so well.
• Ryan Singel has a meaty article on what the national broadband plan might mean for the future of the country and which constituencies are hoping to shape its course. He quotes The Onion, but by the end of the article he's earned that privilege.
• In the UK, prime minister Gordon Brown has nominated Sir Tim Berners-Lee to advise the government on how to make public information -- that is, information that should be public -- available as widely as possible online.
• Cade Metz covers the recent revelation that a longtime Wikipedia contributor was offering her edit services on the site for money. Is that a problem? Heck if Wikipedia can decide.
• Meet the chip of the phone of the future: The Radio Frequency Cochlea -- yes, it really is based on the structure of the ear -- resides on a tiny chip and can receive mobile-phone, wi-fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and FM radio signals. Rahul Sarpeskar, one of the MIT scientists showing it off this week, says it's 50 times more power-efficient than the receivers you currently find in mobile phones.
The iPhone meets its Doom
Next week > Gaming legend John Carmack announced on Thursday that Doom Resurrection will be available for the iPhone starting next week. What does it say about this week's WWDC that this is far and away the most impressive iPhone announcement?
Dean Takahashi at VentureBeat has an excellent writeup of the announcement itself and assorted details on the gameplay. GameInformer has a lengthy writeup and some good-looking screen grabs. And over at Technologizer, Jared Newman is thinking out of the box, or at least out of the online shopping cart: Wouldn't this be a great time to resurrect shareware games?
MS to MS: Microsoft and Mississippi make a deal
By July 21 > The Magnolia State has a nice budget-balancing windfall on the way -- not from ARRA, but from a settlement with Microsoft over alleged anti-competitive sales practices in the '90s. Mississippi will get $40 million in cash and up to $60 million in vouchers from the deal. Local papers were pleased; both the Jackson Free Press and the (Jackson) Clarion-Ledger mentioned that this can only help the state's budget right now, with the Free Press crowing that Mississippi actually got more than the other 20 states that were its co-plaintiffs in the suit. Meanwhile, Ina Fried at CNET has details on the vouchers, which (depending on which Microsoft packages you bought) will be for either $5 or $12.