Microsoft and Lock-In

An entertaining assessment of current Microsoft moves over at eWeek: No More Microsoft Support For You

It will be two days before Christmas, and all through the world, not a creature will be stirring except Microsoft employees taking many programs off the Microsoft sales racks.

[…] What Microsoft is really doing is forcing business customers to upgrade their operating systems to XP and Server 2003 and their application suites to Office XP and Office 2003. I think the company is doing this to kick up corporate XP sales. (Both Server 2003 and Office 2003 have had disappointing sales.)

In a way, I can’t blame Microsoft for this move. As IDC’s Kusnetzky told me, Microsoft has already supported its programs long after most companies would have pulled the plug.

[…] Worse still, if you take a close look at Microsoft’s current generation of software, you’ll quickly see that it’s all designed to lock you into Microsoft products, from your desktop to your server.

Take, for example, Office 2003. Unless you use its groupware and presence functionality, it’s really little more than a cosmetic improvement over Office XP. To use those new tools, though, you need to upgrade your server to W2K or Server 2003 so you can run Exchange 2003, SharePoint Portal Server 2003 and Live Communications Server 2003. Oh, and if you haven’t moved from domains to Active Directory, you’ll need to do that, too.

[…] From where I sit, Microsoft is not only bullying customers into upgrading, it’s making it so pricey to do so that even people who love Microsoft must start thinking about alternatives.

Speaking of Internet Policy

Phone Service Over Internet Revives Talk of Regulation

In an interview on Thursday, Michael K. Powell, the chairman of the F.C.C., said he had not made up his mind on that question. But he was not at all shy about stating his preliminary view – that Internet-based calls are fundamentally different from traditional phone calls and ought to be regulated cautiously, if at all.

Mr. Powell noted that while Internet-based calls might serve the same function as calls over conventional phone lines, the underlying technology was different enough that it would not make sense to subject them to “100 years of judgments” and regulations. “Let’s get this thing right and define it as truer to its real nature,” he said, referring to the new technology.

His views are far from universally supported, given the many complex political and financial interests at stake.

What is clear is that the existing telephone infrastructure is heavily regulated, on both the state and federal levels, with intricate rules intended to keep phone access universally accessible and affordable.

Gene Kimmelman, the senior director for public policy at Consumers Union, said those regulations existed to satisfy important public policy concerns. He contended that goals like universal access would be gravely threatened if the world went to Internet-based services that were unregulated.

A Look At Internet Policy

No recovery for the Internet

The Internet industry, which once led the economy and set new levels of productivity for the nation, is stagnant. The stagnation is due primarily to the incoherent, conflicting and threatening policies of the federal government.

At the Federal Communications Commission, regulators are still whimsically pretending that broadband carried over a cable company’s copper wire should be treated differently than broadband carried over a telephone company’s copper wire. Wireless Internet is barely considered at all; satellite Internet is ignored; and policies that could spur investment in voice over Internet Protocol may finally get some consideration–next year.

Internet policy is an even bigger mess in Congress. After years of concerted effort, there is still no national policy for the release of broadband or for the protection of private information on the Internet. Efforts to cut away unnecessary regulation and spur investment are hopelessly stalled. The U.S. Congress cannot even–after five years of flailing–manage to pass a federal law to make spam illegal.

Logical Extension of the 2600 Decision?

From Wired news: Studio Warns Kung Fu Site

For the past three years, Mark Pollard has been writing reviews and posting news on his website Kung Fu Cinema.

But while he’s used to feedback from fellow fans of Kung Fu movies, Pollard was caught by surprise recently when he heard from a new correspondent — Miramax Film Corporation. In a letter drafted by its legal affairs department, the studio demanded that Pollard stop selling copies of a Chinese film for which it owns the distribution rights.

Pollard said he found the letter particularly shocking given that Kung Fu Cinema does not sell films. It merely links to websites that do.

“It’s pretty hard-core as far as I’m concerned,” said Pollard, a Seattle bookstore employee. “I don’t sell anything except my Kung Fu Cinema T-shirts.”

[…] Nonetheless, Miramax contends that its decision to send a cease-and-desist letter to the Kung Fu Cinema site was a sound one.

“The letter served its purpose because Mr. Pollard stopped linking to the sites,” said Matthew Hiltzik, a representative for Miramax. “By removing these links, he’s making it more difficult for people to purchase these films, thereby allowing us to protect our interest in these properties.”

Update (5:40PM): Slashdot discussion — Miramax C&Ds Kung Fu Movie Reviewer

A Bet That Methods for Online Music Selling Is Established

CNet News reports that Loudeye is going to announce the availability of a set of software tools that will allow buyer to set up their own online music stores: Loudeye builds off-the-shelf music store. What’s particularly interesting about this article is the implict assumption that online music distribution is not about profit, but about cross-promotion — another indication of a return to sponsorship (corporate, in this case) as a basis for music development.

Under the program, Loudeye will work with Microsoft to handle the infrastructure and distribution for online music services branded by other companies looking to sell songs online or to enter the digital media business in some other way. Early customers of the service include AT&T Wireless and Gibson Audio, a division of Gibson Guitars.

[…] However, the profit potential for these services remains dim. Apple has stated that it does not make money from iTunes, relying instead on the service’s ability to drive demand for its iPod digital music player. Other industry executives have said that profits are possible, even if they are razor-thin.

Loudeye’s Cavins said there is room for an intermediary in the business despite the tiny profit margins. His company is looking for customers who are interested in digital music distribution as a promotional tool for another product or service, rather than as a standalone business, he said.

“There are a lot of companies that are not your usual suspects that will pay to have services that will drive cross promotion,” Cavins said. “What it comes down to is that there are companies that are learning that using digital media is a good way to cement a brand.”

Upcoming Metallica Documentary

From Billboard, a discussion of the upcoming "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster" — Metallica Film Filled With ‘Monster’ Revelations

An unflinching, warts-and-all look at the band, the film will be part of the 2004 Sundance Film Festival and will be released next year in theaters.

[…] Struggles with artistic credibility, the Napster controversy and accusations of “selling out” are presented for all to see. In one scene, manager Cliff Burnstein pressures the band to record promotional announcements for an unnamed radio conglomerate’s contest. When Burnstein explains that the company may retaliate by trying to ruin the band’s career, Hetfield’s anger and surprise inspires him to write the lyrics, “Wash your back so you won’t stab mine” for the “St. Anger” track “Sweet Amber.”

BBSpot Humor

God Considers Smiting Bible Pirates

God did not rule out smiting as a final measure against those who share his most famous work, the Bible, on the Internet. This marks the first time a deity has spoken on IT-related questions since Steve Jobs was temporarily Enlightened when touching the One True iMac some years ago.

[…] Since large portions of the Bible are many centuries old, many people believe the work to be in the public domain. Not so, said God. “Look, most copyright laws are based on something like the author’s lifetime plus, let’s say, 15 years. News flash: I’m still here.”

” I am a jealous God,” He said, “but I am by no means unreasonable. If the person will stop distributing My copyrighted materials, there will be no further consequences. Like I’ve said before: hate pirating, love the pirate.”

Ironically, some of those most likely to be hit by these measures are among God’s biggest fans. The Reverend Alfred Jackson is a minister at the church of St. Cecilia in Kansas City. In his spare time, he maintains the Bible study website “eChapter and eVerse,” which cross-references large parts of the bible with commentary from clergy and laypeople from around the world.

[…] Jackson said he had had several emails from someone claiming to be the Deity, but had first dismissed them as pranks. When he received the second ‘cease and desist’, Jackson contacted the EFF and asked for advice.

Marie Dang, an attorney with EFF said smiting was clearly an unreasonable response to alleged copyright infringement. “I realize that legal text often spells out all the details and ramifications right from the start. But mentions of smiting and damnation are hardly suitable for a first letter,” said Dang.

[…] When asked what His next step might be, God was reluctant to discuss specifics. He stressed that He would consider the effect of His actions on the meek. “Let’s make one thing clear,” He said, “I may be omnipotent, but I’m not crazy: It’s not like I think I’m Jack Valenti.”