To Sue or Not to Sue

By MSW Staff  |  Posted 2006-09-20

  • To Sue or Not to Sue: In the past week Microsoft has filed lawsuits against 20 resellers, but also issued promises that it could not sue developers for using Microsoft's Web services applications.

  • Comings and Goings: Microsoft Lures Another McAfee Security Guru; Former Microsoft Exec Joins XenSource; and Burgum Out, Nadella In as Head of Microsoft Business Solutions.

  • Commentary: Can the Browser Really Become an Operating System? eWeek Labs Director Jim Rapoza thinks so.

To Sue or Not to Sue

Microsoft's most recent legal maneuver is focused on a constant thorn in the company's side: software piracy. Microsoft announced on Sept. 19 that it is filing federal lawsuits against 20 resellers of Windows XP and Office versions that the company claims are illegal.

In the lawsuits, Microsoft claims that these 20 resellers either distributed counterfeit software or software components. The company also accuses some of the resellers of hard-disk loading—the practice of installing pirated software onto desktops and notebooks and then selling these computers to businesses and users.

The lawsuits were filed in federal courts in Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon and Texas.

Microsoft and the rest of the software industry have tried in recent years to clamp down on pirated software. On March 15, Microsoft filed lawsuits against several U.S. residents and a company for using eBay to sell counterfeit software.

Analysts say that the lawsuits are all about protecting the company's bottom line. "In the U.S., Microsoft's growth is slowing," said Joe Wilcox, a Washington-based analyst for JupiterResearch. "The market is already saturated with products, and any money lost is a great concern."

Earlier this month Microsoft vowed to keep Web services out of the courts, and issued a new "Open Specification Promise" regarding interoperability of Web services components.

This means developers "can use any patented technology Microsoft has that is necessary to implement these Web Services specifications," said Tom Robertson, Microsoft's general manager for interoperability and standards.

This the latest of several attempts by Microsoft to reach out to the open-source community to overcome the incompatibilities between software distributed under the GNU GPL (General Public License) and its own commercial software.

The promise is also similar in most substantive respects to the covenant not to assert patents that Microsoft issued in 2005 with respect to its Office 2003 XML Reference Schema, officials said.

Comings and Goings

The revolving door of employees this past week saw Jimmy Kuo, a research fellow at anti-virus software maker McAfee's AVERT Labs; and the promotion of Satya Nadella, the corporate vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions, to succeed Doug Burgum as the head of MBS. Burgum will move into a new role, serving as chairman of MBS.

Kuo is the latest of several high-profile security experts to join Microsoft. Kuo has been working in McAfee's AVERT (AntiVirus and Vulnerability Emergency Response Team) Labs since the group was started in 1995. Kuo's job will be to an anti-virus "guru-at-large" at Microsoft, which is rapidly expanding its security software business.

In August Microsoft hired veteran virus-hunter Vincent "Vinny" Gullotto to head up a new Security Research and Response team.

Meanwhile, a former Microsoft executive has moved into open source. Gordon Mangione's new job is senior vice president of product operations at XenSource, a Microsoft ally that develops infrastructure virtualization solutions based on the open-source Xen hypervisor.

Mangione was at Ignition Partners, a venture capital firm in Seattle, a position he took after leaving Microsoft, where he was a corporate vice president for the Security Business and Technology Unit.

The Browser as Operating System

In the early days of the Web browser, excited and optimistic entrepreneurs like Marc Andreessen predicted that the browser would make the operating system irrelevant. The were wrong then, writes eWeek Labs Director Jim Rapoza, but they may be right now.

Read his full commentary here.

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