David Kirkpatrick

March 1, 2010

Microsoft and your privacy

Food for thought

What is the “Spy Guide”?

The Global Criminal Compliance Handbook is a quasi-comprehensive explanatory document meant for law enforcement officials seeking access to Microsoft’s stored user information. It also provides sample language for subpoenas and diagrams on how to understand server logs.

I call it “quasi-comprehensive” because, at a mere 22 pages, it doesn’t explore the nitty-gritty of Microsoft’s systems; it’s more like a data-hunting guide for dummies.

Which of My Microsoft Services are Affected?

All sorts. Microsoft keeps user information related to its online services. The data ranges from past e-mails to credit card numbers. The information is kept for a designated period of time, sometimes forever.

The sites referenced are:

  • Windows Live
  • Windows Live ID
  • Microsoft Office Live
  • Xbox Live
  • MSN
  • Windows Live Spaces
  • Windows Live Messenger
  • Hotmail
  • MSN Groups

January 15, 2010

Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard teaming for cloud computing project

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:27 am

To the tune of a quarter billion dollars. Pretty serious initiative, I’d say.

From the link:

“This is all about integrating technology and making things as close to ‘plug and play’ as we can,” HP CEO Mark Hurd said during a telephone conference call with Microsoft  and other executives, in which they announced a partnership that appears to represent another move toward consolidation in the commercial tech industry.

The two tech giants said they will collaborate in designing a full “stack” of data center , software management tools and other applications, as well as on Windows Azure, which is Microsoft’s operating platform for , in which customers can access data center services over the Internet.

Microsoft, which is a major provider of business software, said it will use HP hardware in the data centers that run the Azure platform. HP, which is a leading provider of data center hardware, said it will develop products that can be sold pre-loaded with Microsoft’s operating system, database program or other software.

“We’re driving ahead aggressively with Hewlett-Packard,” Ballmer said during the announcement. However, he also noted that both companies will continue to develop products in collaboration with other partners in the tech industry, such as Oracle and Dell.

Both executives also said their companies will continue to develop hardware and software that works with products from other tech vendors.

October 22, 2009

Third-party codecs and Windows 7

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:30 pm

Maybe we should all step back — well, not me since I haven’t joined the hosanna parade just yet — from lauding Windows 7. I’ve read a multitude of gushing reviews from a variety of sources, but nothing I’ve read has mentioned this little “feature.

From the link:

Windows 7 beta testers noticed that third-party codecs — video decoders for specific streaming media protocols, such as MPEG-4 — that ran fine under Vista became strangely non-operational under the new OS. It turns out that Windows 7 preempts third-party codecs, favoring codecs built into the OS, and Windows 7 has more built-in codecs than any previous Windows release. Users wanting their favorite third-party codecs to work again must perform some system configuration gymnastics to get them back.

October 20, 2009

Twitter, Google, Microsoft, data mining and dollars

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:30 pm

Whew, that’s some title up there and it’s the highly distilled — Twitteresque, even — news that it looks like Twitter is about to monetize in a very painless way. Most likely both Google and Microsoft’s Bing search engines will cut data mining deals with Twitter to leverage the power of Twitter’s real-time searchable information stream.

From the link (in bold is from me) :

The intense rivals (Google and MS) are in separate talks with the new online darling Twitter to set up their own data-mining deals , says a report from The Wall Street Journal ‘s AllThingsD Web site. The “advanced talks” are said to be over licensing deals that would allow them to integrate real-time Twitter feeds with their search engines, Google’s search and Microsoft’s Bing.

None of the three companies would respond to requests for information about the reported negotiations.

AllThingsD reported today that the individual deals could mean upfront payments worth several million dollars, or involve revenue-sharing plans.

“Ah, this could be a way for Twitter to make some money , and maybe more than just a little money,” said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Co.

“It finally means a business model for Twitter, or at least the beginnings of one. And, of course, it means real revenue, which is very important. Not just in licensing revenue from Google or Microsoft, but also in potentially getting a piece of the action on an ongoing basis. So there could be considerable upside here for Twitter,” Olds said.

August 12, 2009

Microsoft and Nokia join forces to take on BlackBerry

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:54 am

First Google hints at using Android to challenge Research in Motion’s BlackBerry for business mobile dominance, now Microsoft and Nokia announce a partnership for the same purpose.

Industry insiders have been speculating BlackBerry is sitting at an absolute peak and has nowhere to go but down. Looks like a lot of players have decided to enter the business mobile fray and put some of the speculation to the test.

From the second link:

Microsoft Corp and Nokia announced an alliance on Wednesday to bring advanced business software to smartphones in a bid to counter the dominance of Research in Motion Ltd’s Blackberry device.The alliance between the world’s largest software firm and the largest cellphone maker means the latest online versions of Microsoft’s Office suite of applications, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint, will be available on a range of Nokia handheld devices.

The two companies, at one time fierce rivals in the mobile telecommunications business, expect to offer Nokia phones running Office sometime next year, targeting the lucrative market for business users.

“This is giving some of our competitors — let’s spell it out, RIM — a run for their money,” said Nokia executive vice president Robert Andersson, in a telephone interview.

August 7, 2009

Microsoft cooks Bing search results

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:18 pm

Disappointing and potentially lethal to the popularity of Bing, Microsoft’s reworked and rebranded search engine. The ad campaign was working, the Yahoo deal complete and it looked like Microsoft was doing something right in the search space.

And now this.

From the link:

Case in point: a search on Bing for the phrase, “Why is Windows so expensive?” returned this as the top link….

“Why are Macs so expensive.”

That’s right. You’re not hallucinating. That was the top response on Bing to a question about the price of Windows.

But it’s not just the top link. The rest of the links on the first search page don’t get much better. There is one link about the price of vinyl windows (actual windows that you look out), one on why Windows hosting providers are so expensive, and one about fish. The five other links on page one are about the expensive price of Macs. The Windows client OS is not even mentioned.

If Microsoft is going to resort to blocking and self-protection with their search engine, they could at least be subtle. This is about as subtle as a machine gun.

Also from the link:

The first of the search results about the Microsoft Word question linked to a page about how expensive Manhattan is (Is Microsoft competing with Manhattan now?). The top responses to the “Is Microsoft Evil?” question were, get this, a link to a New York Times story about whether or not Google is considered evil, a link about proxy servers, and a link to a story about Microsoft being charitable. Wow.

To be fair Microsoft has responded search results are based on an algorithm, blah, blah …

The results found in the linked article are more than fishy, and Microsoft is under a pretty heavy burden in public perception to avoid looking like, well looking exactly as the Redmond behemoth does right now.

May 29, 2009

Microsoft announces Bing as new search engine

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:18 pm

Bing is the latest incarnation of Microsoft’s search engine space efforts. I really don’t see how this latest rebranding will do anything in terms of market share for the Redmond behemoth, but I guess it won’t do any real harm either. Google is just dominant and the brand new engine with brand new tech in Wolfram Alpha will continue getting all the buzz.

Just on timing and the overall feel we’ve seen this before, I’m going to say this is another misfire from Microsoft.

From the link:

Microsoft’s latest vehicle for achieving the elusive goal of Web dominance is Bing. Previously known as Kumo while in development, Bing replaces Microsoft’s Live Searchbrand and carries forward the company’s strategy for taking on Google and Yahoo. Besides introducing a new look to Microsoft’s search interface, Bing adds a spruced-up navigation for search results, including a new left-hand navigation bar, a hover feature that lets users preview Web pages before visiting them, and a categorized search feature that groups search results by topic category.Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer publically demonstrated Bing for the first time Tuesday at the D: All Things Digital technology conference. Bing goes live to the public beginning on June 3; it will be phased in over the course of several days.

April 15, 2009

No rush to monetize Twitter …

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:06 pm

… according to co-founder Biz Stone. The buzz and profile is skyrocketing, but at some point that will max out. This should be an interesting rollout to keep your eyes on because at some point some serious money will change hands for an open API application that lets people send 140 characters at a pop. Think about that for a second and then realize there is no way to predict what will hit next in the online universe.

From the link:

“It’s not tough for us because we have a lot of money in the bank and patient investors [and a] patient board,” said Stone, adding that the company first wants to focus on growing the network, increasing its user base and adding new features to the site. “We want to focus on this before profit. If we focus on profit, then we take people away from focusing on features.”

Online pundits and bloggers have been closely eyeballing Twitter and criticizing the company’s lack of a business plan, doling out dire warnings about the future of the microblogging site unless it comes up with a viable strategy for making money sometime very soon.

A Wall Street Journal blog post written by Kara Swisher on Thursday is whipping up the rumor mill again.

About a week after rumors flew saying that Google Inc. was in talks to buy Twitter, Swisher’s post led to reports that Google and Microsoft Corp. are sparring to grab a piece of Twitter’s potential search advertising revenue.

In other Twitter news, hit this link for information about the Twitter worm and how to combat the virus.

Find me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/davidkonline.

April 1, 2009

Conficker bust?

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:08 pm

The end of the internet as we know it? Not so much. Maybe the black hats responsible for the worm got cold feet after Microsoft put a quarter million dollar bounty on their head.

From the link:

Malicious software installed on millions of computers has yet to wreak havoc on technology systems worldwide as some fear, but researchers warned that the “Conficker worm” could still strike in the future.

Also known as Downadup or Kido, Conficker turns infected PCs into slaves that respond to commands sent from a remote server that effectively controls an army of slave computers.

Researchers feared that the network created by Conficker might be deployed on Wednesday for the first time since the worm surfaced last year because its code suggested it would seek to communicate with its master server on April 1.

They formed an industry-wide task force to fight the worm, bringing widespread attention that experts said probably scared off the criminals who command the army of slave computers, known as a botnet.

“The Conficker-infected machines attempted to call home to get new commands from their master but those calls went unanswered,” said Joris Evers, spokesman for security software maker McAfee Inc.

March 19, 2009

Recession helps PCs …

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:18 pm

hurts Macs.

From the link:

Recession-weary consumers and Apple played another game of chicken last month, and once again consumers didn’t budge and Apple swerved off the road. Mac sales fell 16 percent year over year in February, according to research firm The NPD Group.

The Mac sales drops in February were a 10 percent decrease from the month before. Sales of Windows PCs, however, increased 22 percent in February year over year, helped along by surging sales of lightweight, inexpensive netbooks, according to NPD.

February 17, 2009

Microsoft v Adobe — catfight!

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:51 pm

Um, this whole issue is just dumb. MS seems a tab tad oversensitive these days.

From the link:

Microsoft is crying foul over recent comments made by an Adobe executive that Silverlight has “fizzled” as a competitor to Adobe’s Flash.

In his blog, Tim Sneath, director of the Windows and Silverlight technical evangelism team, accused Adobe Executive Vice President and CFO Mark Garrett of “living in a fantasy world” if he thinks that Silverlight adoption is waning.

“The idea that Silverlight is in anything other than rude health is more to do with what Adobe would like to be the case, rather than what actually is the case,” he wrote in the blog posting. “The suggestion that ‘Silverlight adoption has fizzled out in the last 6-9 months’ is pretty risible, in fact. For starters, Silverlight 2 shipped four months ago, and in just the first month of its availability, we saw over 100 million successful installations just on consumer machines. That doesn’t sound like ‘fizzling out’ to me.”

February 5, 2009

Ballmer lectures XP users

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:46 pm

This time he’s targeting enterprise — read: corporate — users of XP who heretically refuse to upgrade to Vista, plus he’s reading tea leaves to assume they also aren’t going to upgrade to the currently beta-only Windows 7.

I’m sure Steve is doing this because lecturing from on high has worked so well in the past for Microsoft. And home users have totally abandoned XP as an operating system and clamor for the latest and greatest from the Redmond behemoth.

… er, maybe not.

From the link:

In an interview at a New York City event Tuesday to mark the extension of Microsoft’s collaboration with EMCto help IT pros improve virtualization, security and content management, Ballmer touched on the progress of Windows 7, stressing that its faster performance, longer battery life and simplified security settings will be “a pretty good step forward in terms of what users care about.”

For these reasons and others, Ballmer warns, enterprises that stick with Windows XP too long they will hear about it from impatient users who have been using newer computers running Vista and Windows 7 at home.

Says Ballmer: “If you deploy a four or five-year old operating system today, most people will ask their boss why the heck they don’t have the stuff they have at home.”

January 29, 2009

Advice for Microsoft …

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:02 pm

… from CIO.com. Here’s a list of five changesthe Redmond behemoth should implement to remain viable in the coming years. I don’t think Microsoft is all that bad off in big scheme, but there’s some sensible advice there for any tech company. And some that just applies to MS.

From the link:

For the past few years, we’ve kept hearing that Microsoft is in financial trouble. But until now, for all the books and articles foretelling Microsoft’s demise at the hands of Google, the numbers really didn’t support that conclusion. Windows and Microsoft Office still sold in the billions; and businesses kept paying ridiculously high rates for collaboration software like SharePoint.

Today’s quarterly earnings call, coupled with the news that Microsoft will lay off 5,000 workers across multiple departments, shows that some of the worries about Microsoft were true after all. The Operating system, and all the software that runs on top of it, is moving to the Web. This isn’t about the recession. It’s about Microsoft’s paralysis.

So, Microsoft, if I’m speaking to you directly, here are steps you can take to build a bigger and brighter future, one where you can avoid the mistakes made by industries that have not adapted well to the Web (newspapers and magazines come to mind).

December 17, 2008

Microsoft releasing security patch for IE today

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:19 am

Microsoft is putting out an emergency patch for Internet Explorer today. If you don’t have automatic update turned on and you use IE (particularly IE7) go and get the “critical” patch.

From the Technology Review link:

Microsoft Corp. is taking the unusual step of issuing an emergency fix for a security hole in its Internet Explorer software that has exposed millions of users to having their computers taken over by hackers.

The “zero-day” vulnerability, which came to light last week, allows criminals to take over victims’ machines simply by steering them to infected Web sites; users don’t have to download anything for their computers to get infected, which makes the flaw in Internet Explorer’s programming code so dangerous. Internet Explorer is the world’s most widely used Web browser.

Microsoft said it plans to ship a security update, rated “critical,” for the browser on Wednesday. People with the Windows Update feature activated on their computers will get the patch automatically.

Thousands of Web sites already have been compromised by criminals looking to exploit the flaw. The bad guys have loaded malicious code onto those sites that automatically infect visitors’ machines if they’re using Internet Explorer and haven’t employed a complicated series of workarounds that Microsoft has suggested.

December 16, 2008

XP downgdrade fees equal bad business

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:12 pm

Dell charges $150 for customers who want Windows XP over Vista. The fee is mandated by Microsoft and is based on a process where anyone who prefers XP must first upgrade Vista to Business or Ultimate from Vista Basic and then back to XP. Utter stupidity from the Redmond behemoth.

Here’s some analysis from CIO.com.

From the link:

Industry analyst Rob Enderle, president of tech consulting firm the Enderle Group, says the XP downgrade fees will ultimately be counter-productive and possibly disastrous for Microsoft because they trade off short-term revenue for long-term customer loyalty.

“The fix for this should be to focus like lasers on demand generation for Vista but instead Microsoft is focusing aggressively on financial penalties,” Enderle says. “Forcing customers to go someplace they don’t want to go by raising prices is a Christmas present for Apple and those that are positioning Linux on the desktop.”

December 8, 2008

Cyberthieves – 1, everyone else – 0

Cybercriminals are staying ahead of security experts and software developers.

This is a problem on many fronts. One, they are stealing money, information and data. They are criminals after all. Two, their activity clogs the “tubes” of the net. Three, because software experts spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with these nutbags, they have less time to spend developing new applications to get to the next generation of computing.

From the link:

Internet security is broken, and nobody seems to know quite how to fix it.

Despite the efforts of the computer security industry and a half-decade struggle by Microsoft to protect its Windows operating system, malicious software is spreading faster than ever. The so-called malware surreptitiously takes over a PC and then uses that computer to spread more malware to other machines exponentially. Computer scientists and security researchers acknowledge they cannot get ahead of the onslaught.


As more business and social life has moved onto the Web, criminals thriving on an underground economy of credit card thefts, bank fraud and other scams rob computer users of an estimated $100 billion a year, according to a conservative estimate by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. A Russian company that sells fake antivirus software that actually takes over a computer pays its illicit distributors as much as $5 million a year.

With vast resources from stolen credit card and other financial information, the cyberattackers are handily winning a technology arms race.

”Right now the bad guys are improving more quickly than the good guys,” said Patrick Lincoln, director of the computer science laboratory at SRI International, a science and technology research group.

October 22, 2008

Keep your computers safe, folks

Filed under: et.al., Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:25 pm

Some sobering information on “zombie” boxes.

From the link:

In a windowless room on Microsoft’s campus here, T. J. Campana, a cybercrime investigator, connects an unprotected computer running an early version of Windows XP to the Internet. In about 30 seconds the computer is ”owned.”

An automated program lurking on the Internet has remotely taken over the PC and turned it into a ”zombie.” That computer and other zombie machines are then assembled into systems called ”botnets” — home and business PCs that are hooked together into a vast chain of cyber-robots that do the bidding of automated programs to send the majority of e-mail spam, to illegally seek financial information and to install malicious software on still more PCs.

October 3, 2008

Microsoft gets scare as P&G considered Google Apps

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:28 am

This CIO.com article outlines the measures Microsoft went to in order to keep Procter & Gamble as a customer. P&G was seriously considering moving the entire company away from Microsoft products in favor of Google Apps after some in the company were using, and liking, the Google product.

From the link:

Microsoft is now taking the threat from Google quite seriously: In July 2008 COO Kevin Turner was dispatched to consumer-products giant Procter & Gamble to dissuade P&G from moving to Google Apps—and ditching Microsoft.

Back in February 2007, Google launched the Google Apps edition for businesses. Executives told media outlets that initial customers included a unit of Procter & Gamble. At some point in 2008, hundreds of P&G employees were testing Google’s e-mail, word-processing and spreadsheet applications as potential replacements for Microsoft products, according to a recent Bloomberg article about the P&G incident.

P&G execs viewed Google’s new tools as cheaper and more Internet-capable options than what Microsoft was delivering. (To read two stories of large organizations adopting Google Apps, see “Fighting Government Waste One Google App At a Time” and “Cost Savings Found When Microsoft Outlook Ousted for Gmail at British Construction Firm.”)

P&G, of course, is a massive consumer products goods company, with $84 billion in annual revenue this past year. To lose that kind of a customer—especially to Google—would have been catastrophic for Microsoft.

September 12, 2008

Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 sneak peek

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:09 pm

Here’sa CIO.com article on the latest iteration of Microsoft’s IE8.

From the link:

A lot’s riding on IE8. Microsoft’s share of the browser market continues to slip. Last month, it fell by nearly a percentage point, to 72.2%, according to data from Net Applications Inc. A year ago, IE accounted for 79% of all browsers.

Clearly, IE isn’t going away. But the newest beta, likely the last before Microsoft declares IE8 ready to ship, will be a crucial test. Naturally, we have questions, and the answers, needed to get you going with this latest browser out of Redmond.

Where do I get IE8 Beta 2? You can download the beta from Microsoft’s IE8 page, which sports separate links for Windows XP, Vista, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008.

IE8 will not be offered for versions of Windows older than XP, nor for non-Microsoft operating systems.

September 3, 2008

Yahoo trading at five-year low

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:47 pm

After all the Microsoft offer/takeover attempt, Yahoo is now trading below $19 per share. The move from Microsoft has cost Yahoo significant market share.

From the AccountantsWorld link:

By Tuesday’s closing bell, Yahoo YHOO shares had dropped 3.3% to close at $18.75. The drop was more pronounced than other tech stocks, which slipped in late-day trading tracking a turnaround in the broader market. The Nasdaq COMP closed the day down nearly 0.8% to 2,349. See Tech Stocks.

Yahoo has shed a large portion of its market value since early this year, when the company was a takeover target in a $47 billion offer from Microsoft MSFT.

The software titan offered to buy Yahoo for $31 per share in a half-cash, half-stock transaction on Feb. 1 — when Yahoo shares were trading just above the $19 mark. Yahoo rejected the offer as undervaluing its business, and the two companies spent the next few months battling over the proposed deal, with Yahoo reportedly holding out for a price closer to $40 per share.

In May, Microsoft upped its offer to $33, and then pulled the offer after failing to come to agreement with Yahoo.

Yahoo was heavily criticized by shareholders for failing to close the deal. The company was targeted in a proxy campaign by billionaire activist Carl Icahn, who eventually won three seats on the board under a settlement with the company. As part of a move to improve its market value, Yahoo struck a deal with search rival Google to outsource some of its search activity in exchange for a portion of ad revenue.

September 1, 2008

Google restarts browser war

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:24 pm

Interesting move from Mountain View:

Google Inc. plans to launch its own Web browser, people familiar with the matter said, in the latest twist in a battle with Microsoft Corp. over key Internet technologies.

The browser, called Google Chrome, is likely to be announced soon, according to these people. They say software is designed to make it easier and faster to browse the Web, by offering enhanced address-bar features and other elements that are very different from those on other browsers. The product will be open-sourced, meaning others can modify the code.

News of the project spread after an unconventional leak. Google Blogoscoped, a blog that follows the company, reported Monday that Google had sent it a comic book outlining the specifications of the browser – which include a new format for “tabs” and the ability to view Web pages as thumbnails.

The launch is a risky move for Google, which competes against Microsoft’s search service but has has so far refrained from taking on the near-monopoly of its Internet Explorer browser. While there has been speculation for years that Google has been working on a browser, the Internet company has preferred to focus on Web applications and supported other browsers trying to compete indirectly.

For the record, this move should not affect Google’s involvement with Mozilla/Firefox. The two groups recently extended their agreement to 2011.

August 18, 2008

Microsoft file format gets ISO standard nod

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:16 pm

Microsoft’s Office Open XML has been approved as an ISO standard.

From the link:

The decision ends months of wrangling over whether Microsoft’s Office Open XML format should be considered an open standard – a requirement for many lucrative government contracts.

Brazil, India, South Africa and Venezuela had complained that an international ballot held in April was poorly conducted and rushed them into a decision based on incomplete information.

Technical panels at the Geneva-based ISO and its sister organization, the International Electrotechnical Commission, considered the appeals but concluded that they lacked the necessary support of two-thirds of their membership.

The two bodies said it will take several weeks before OOXML officially becomes an international standard.

August 14, 2008

Wikipedia to enter web search space

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:12 pm

Currently 90% of all web searches are conducted through Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, wants to broaden the search marketplace, and take on some internet giants in the process.

From the PhysOrg.com link:

Wales said Wikia Search will run on an open platform, similar to the principles behind Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia in which entries can be made and edited by anyone with an Internet connection.

“All of the existing search engines are proprietary black boxes,” said Wales. “You have no idea how things are ranked and what’s going on.”

With Wikia Search, users “can participate in meaningful ways” when they browse the Internet, he said.

Coming soon — Online Privacy Bill of Rights?

New legislation is almost never a solution to any problem, real or perceived, but something along these lines might be necessary given the technology out there for collection and mining of data.

I’m not rendering any judgement on the idea of an “online bill of rights” being proposed by Representative Edward Markey (D-Mass.), head of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, since there are no real details to latch on to. One big problem with any legislation is little bits and pieces of odd law always end up in the body of the bill

There are plans to introduce comprehensive online privacy legislation in the next congressional session.

From the second link:

Dubbed the Online Privacy Bill of Rights, the law may require companies to get approval from consumers before collecting information about their Web-surfing habits, a process known as behavioral targeting that helps Web sites more strategically place ads. The legislation may also demand that companies disclose more information on how they collect and use people’s Web-use data. “There is a reasonable chance that we will see something in the next Congress,” says Michael Hintze, an associate general counsel at Microsoft (MSFT).

Watching what you watch

Legislative interest in ad targeting spiked amid recent hearings over a company called NebuAd, which makes devices that attach to the networks of Internet Service Providers and log surfers’ movements(BusinessWeek.com, 8/14/08). Lawmakers are particularly interested in the implications of NebuAd’s technology, known as deep packet inspection (DPI), one of the most comprehensive ways of keeping tabs on what people do online.

An examination of NebuAd prompted congressional staffers to look at ad targeting more broadly. On Aug. 1, Markey’s committee sent letters to 33 companies, including Google (GOOG), Yahoo! (YHOO), and Microsoft, asking each to outline its tracking practices.

Behavioral targeting has come into its own in recent years as companies crafted ever more powerful methods for combing through data. Internet companies have bolstered their ability to target ads through the acquisition of large ad networks able to amass their own information on consumers’ site-viewing habits. During the past year, Microsoft acquired aQuantive, Time Warner’s (TWX) AOL snapped up Tacoda, Google purchased DoubleClick, and Yahoo bought BlueLithium. The use of ad networks surged from 5% of total ad impressions sold in 2006 to 30% in 2007, according to a study released Aug. 12 by the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

Google’s Move Toward Transparency

Markey’s office says the legislation is still in the planning stages. For instance, it’s unclear what kinds of targeting would fall under requirements that companies let consumers opt-in to letting their data be collected and used. Opt-in clauses could apply to DPI only, or they could include less comprehensive targeting, such as the methods employed by companies such as Google and Yahoo.

The industry is already reacting to new scrutiny from Congress and the Federal Trade Commission in an attempt to avoid federal intervention. During the past year, Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL began allowing people to opt out of tracking on their sites. They also adopted policies for deleting or making search data anonymous after a certain time period. Updated policies were “long overdue,” says Jules Polonetsky, AOL’s chief privacy officer. “After behaving rather glacially, there has been a huge jump forward just in the past year.”

August 12, 2008

Zoho, Google and Microsoft

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:56 pm

This CIO.com story on Zoho is first I’ve heard of the software firm. It’s interesting because it’s taking a different approach to breaking into the big leagues. Zoho’s in the software as a service (SaaS) space, so its key competitors include Google and Microsoft.

(Total aside, if you’re reading much of the IT media world right now, SaaS comes up almost as often as cloud computing.)

An excerpt from the first link:

Here’s an interesting strategy for a new software company: create applications that place you squarely in the competitive sights of Google and Microsoft, bypass venture capital funding, and rebuff an acquisition offer from Salesforce.com, the surging software as a service (SaaS) company that delivers its products over the Web

That’s been the exact path of Zoho, a SaaS company launched in 2005 that offers a wide range of online software, including e-mail, a word processor, spreadsheets, wikis, and even a customer relationship management application that it sells to sales and marketing departments. In all, Zoho sells 17 productivity and collaboration apps, all for prices that, by traditional software standards, are dirt cheap.

For the whole lot of Zoho’s business applications, it costs a mere $50 per user per year (the same price that Google asks large enterprises for its Google Apps software). By contrast, the Professional Version of Microsoft Office, the popular software found on workstations throughout most of the corporate world, retails for as high as $499, the same price as some personal computers on the shelf at Wal-Mart.

July 17, 2008

Microsoft tops $60B in fiscal year

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:29 pm

Microsoft put up some impressive numbers this past fiscal year, breaking the $60 billion mark in revenue. It may be gigantic and hated in many corners, but MS is doing something right.

From the release:

Microsoft Corp. today announced revenue of $15.84 billion for the fiscal fourth quarter ended June 30, 2008, an 18% increase over the same period of the prior year.  Operating income and diluted earnings per share for the quarter were $5.68 billion and $0.46, representing growth of 42% and 48%, respectively, over the same period of the prior year.

For the fiscal year ended June 30, 2008, Microsoft announced revenue of $60.42 billion, an 18% increase over the prior year.  Operating income and diluted earnings per share for the year were $22.49 billion and $1.87, representing yearly growth of 21% and 32%, respectively.

The growth rates for operating income and diluted earnings per share were impacted by a $1.1 billion charge in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2007 related to the expansion of the company’s Xbox 360 warranty coverage.

“Delivering $60 billion in annual revenue is an outstanding accomplishment and a testament to the powerful combination of great technology solutions and strong execution by our partners and global sales and marketing teams,” said Kevin Turner, chief operating officer at Microsoft.  “The outlook for fiscal year 2009 is positive given the breadth of our impressive technology portfolio and the expanding collection of online services we are bringing to market.”

This fiscal year marked the launch of Microsoft’s flagship server products: Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008. Revenue growth was primarily driven by continued customer demand for all products, including Windows Vista, which has sold over 180 million licenses since launch, the 2007 Microsoft Office system, server software, and Xbox 360 consoles and games.

“We had a strong finish in the fourth quarter, which capped off an impressive year for the company.  We grew revenue 18% for the year with earnings per share significantly outpacing that,” said Chris Liddell, chief financial officer at Microsoft.  “Looking forward, despite difficult economic conditions, we will build upon the momentum exiting fiscal year 2008 and expect to deliver another year of double-digit revenue and earnings growth in fiscal year 2009.”

The company is projecting revenues for next year between $67-68 billion.

July 8, 2008

Hostile takeover strategy? Replace the board!

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:27 am

Interesting CFO.com story on the hostile takeover strategy of replacing the board of directors that rebuffed the original effort to buy the company. Looks like this is going on with both Microsoft/Yahoo and InBev/Anheuser-Busch

From the link:

The hostile-acquisition strategy of getting a target’s shareholders to replace a resistant board came into sharp focus with announcements today in two of the biggest bids of the year: InBev’s offer for Anheuser-Busch, and Microsoft’s earlier-withdrawn bid for Yahoo.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Belgian brewer InBev NV asked St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch Cos. to set a record date for the $46.3-billion InBev solicitation, which Anheuser rejected last month as insufficient. InBev proposed replacing Anheuser CEO August Busch IV, along with other directors, in favor of a board containing Busch’s uncle, Adolphus Busch IV. The uncle, a great-grandson of the company’s founder, is described as supportive of the bid in a Bloomberg News report on the filing. August Busch, of course, is leading the opposition.

Bloomberg also quoted Wim Hoste, a KBC Securities analyst based in Brussels, as saying that it is “getting less likely that InBev will increase its offer.” He called the InBev bid to replace the board as “a way of keeping up pressure,” so that either the current board talks to InBev, of “a renewed board could be more positive.” He also said, however, that the approach “slows down the pace of the takeover project.”

February 16, 2008

Microsoft/Yahoo redux

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:46 pm

This is a very interesting take on the Microsoft offer for Yahoo.

The gist is MS might not be all that serious in wanting Yahoo (although I’m sure the offer is very real and MS would honor the offer with alacrity.) The Redmond behemoth might just want nothing more than to disrupt Yahoo (successful already, I’d say,) shake up the industry (very successful) and poach Yahoo employees in advance of the potential deal (have no idea about success there.)

The link goes to Slashdot with all those comments, plus additional links in the Slashdot post. Didn’t read the comments, and haven’t really lurked around Slashdot regularly for a long, long time. If it’s anything like it was years ago when I regularly read the site expect some rabid anti-MS action in the comments. Ought to be some decent insider information there as well.

February 1, 2008

Microsoft makes unsolicited offer for Yahoo

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:06 pm

This would shake the internet/tech business world up a bit.

The $44.6 billion bid ($31 per share) is a direct challenge to Google.

From the article:

In conference call Friday morning, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer indicated he won’t take no for an answer after Yahoo rebuffed takeover overtures a year ago.

“This is a decision we have — and I have — thought long and hard about,” Ballmer said. “We are confident it’s the right path for Microsoft and Yahoo.”

Besides the question of Yahoo’s acceptance, Microsoft’s bid also faces regulatory scrutiny in Washington and Europe. On Friday, the Justice Department said it is “interested” in reviewing antitrust issues. European Union officials declined to comment.

To underscore its resolve, Microsoft is offering a 62 percent premium to Yahoo’s closing stock price Thursday. If the deal is consummated, it would be by far the largest acquisition in Microsoft’s history, eclipsing last year’s $6 billion purchase of online ad service aQuantive.