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March 31, 2009

Microsoft fishes in Google’s and IBM’s troubled legal waters

Posted by David Hunter at 10:07 PM ET.

Steven Levy asks Who’s Messing With the Google Book Settlement? and answers "Hint: They’re in Redmond, Washington."

Last October, Google settled the lawsuit brought against it by book publishers and authors concerning its massive book-scanning project. The $125 million deal gives Google the right to store digital copies of the books, include them in its search results, sell online versions and license its book-scans to libraries. It also allows millions of "orphan" works (books still under copyright but whose copyright-holders can’t be found) to be included in Google’s program.

The only obstacle remaining for the settlement to take effect is final court approval. Given a case of this scope, it’s not too surprising that a number of interested parties might lodge objections or ask for changes. Nor is it terribly surprising that at least one party nudging its way into the settlement is an internet-issues-oriented group from New York Law School.

But what does raise an eyebrow is the source of New York Law’s funding on this matter: Microsoft.

Hit the link for the details – I liked the part where the chief investigator of the New York Law School project is James Grimmelmann who used to be a Microsoft programmer.

At a conference in February, Grimmelmann was discussing his views of the book settlement with a policy specialist of his former employer, and the Microsoft exec reminded Grimmelmann that the company has had a continuing interest in funding academic efforts.

And a timely reminder it was too, I’m sure. The hilarity is somewhat tempered by the uncertainty as to what the New York Law group will actually say in their brief, but I expect that their promise to request that the Court "solicit the opinions of the Anti-trust Division of the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission" gives more than a hint.

Microsoft gave up their own book scanning aspirations last May, but providing a little legal trouble for competitors is a time honored tech industry pastime. For another recent Microsoft example see Ashlee Vance’s article on IBM’s legal troubles over mainframe technology with Platform Solutions and T3 Technologies who were/are financially supported by Microsoft.

Filed under Antitrust, Coopetition, Google, IBM, Legal, Microsoft

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Microsoft pulls the plug on Encarta

Posted by David Hunter at 11:51 AM ET.

The CD-ROM encyclopedias killed the printed versions, then the online encyclopedias killed the CD-ROMs, and now the free online encyclopedias (primarily Wikipedia, but also Google’s Knol) are killing off the paid online encyclopedias like Microsoft’s Encarta as Emil Protalinksi discovered:

When I first saw this, I had to do a double take. I made sure it wasn’t April 1 at least three times before I conceded. While looking around Encarta’s homepage today, I stumbled on a message that Microsoft was getting rid of MSN Encarta completely: "On October 31, 2009, MSN Encarta Web sites worldwide will be discontinued, with the exception of Encarta Japan, which will be discontinued on December 31, 2009. Additionally, Microsoft will cease to sell Microsoft Student and Encarta Premium software products worldwide by June 2009." Looks like employees at Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica will be throwing parties tonight.

The Britannica employees would be better served by sprucing up their resumes. A Microsoft spokesman mostly said that it was an evolutionary step, which indeed it is, and would not reveal if there were any layoffs. See the Encarta Wikipedia entry (naturally) for more on Encarta’s history.

Filed under Coopetition, Home Software, Microsoft, Wikipedia

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March 30, 2009

Microsoft and TomTom settle patent dispute, including Linux infringement

Posted by David Hunter at 2:28 PM ET.

Microsoft and TomTom, a maker of car navigation systems, today announced a settlement of their patent dispute which has broader interest because of Microsoft’s claims related to Linux:

Microsoft Corp. and TomTom N.V. today announced that they have settled the patent infringement cases brought by Microsoft before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington and the International Trade Commission (ITC) and by TomTom in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The cases have been settled through a patent agreement under which TomTom will pay Microsoft for coverage under the eight car navigation and file management systems patents in the Microsoft case. Also as part of the agreement, Microsoft receives coverage under the four patents included in the TomTom countersuit. The agreement, which has a five-year term, does not require any payment by Microsoft to TomTom. It covers both past and future U.S. sales of the relevant products. The specific financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The agreement includes patent coverage for Microsoft’s three file management systems patents provided in a manner that is fully compliant with TomTom’s obligations under the General Public License Version 2 (GPLv2). TomTom will remove from its products the functionality related to two file management system patents (the “FAT LFN patents”), which enables efficient naming, organizing, storing and accessing of file data. TomTom will remove this functionality within two years, and the agreement provides for coverage directly to TomTom’s end customers under these patents during that time.

While Microsoft has downplayed it in this case, those file management patents are the ones that raise the Linux infringement specter. The "open source community" will undoubtedly have a lot to say shortly much as they did over Microsoft’s Novell deal that Microsoft claimed recognized Linux infringement on their patents.

Filed under Coopetition, Linux, Microsoft, Open Source, Patent Lawsuits, Patents, TomTom

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March 24, 2009

Microsoft releases Windows Home Server Power Pack 2

Posted by David Hunter at 1:45 PM ET.

From the Home Server Team Blog:

We are pleased to announce Windows Home Server Power Pack 2.  Power Pack 2 fixes known issues and adds new features to improve the Windows Home Server experience.  Enhancements include: Improvements to remote access configuration, enhanced functionality for computers running Windows Media Center, and content streaming support for Windows Media Center Extenders.  Power Pack 2 adds Italian language support on new home servers.

Power Pack 2 will be made available via Windows Update.  Users need to have Windows Home Server with Power Pack 1 already installed on their home server. Power Pack 2 will automatically install as part of Windows Update if Automatic Updates is enabled on the home server.

The English version release date is today, March 24 with other languages available before the end of April. Follow the link for more details on the new features.

I am an enthusiastic user of Windows Home Server for backup only for which it is invaluable. If you have a home network and would be upset if you lost all the data on your PC, then it is hard to beat as a turnkey, "hands off" backup solution. The remote access and media serving features are of no use to me, but likely have their own fans.

I do wonder though whether WHS is making any money since it is a product that only techies or at least power users could love which eliminates the bulk of the home market. I would hate for it to disappear.

Filed under Microsoft, OS - Server, Windows Home Server

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