Microsoft, Mobility

Microsoft, Palm, Crackberry, iPhone – Gogglephone calling. It’s for you!

29 Aug , 2007  

It’s rumored that Goggle may announce a new Linux-based phone operating system after Labor Day. As a web 2.0 user and enthusiast I say "wonderful" on several accounts. First, any opportunity for someone to enter the scene and put Windows Mobile Smartphone (what runs on my Motorola Q) to a quick death would get my vote. Even a swift kick might be helpful.

I’ve had Windows Mobile on two phone platforms and nothing could be more painful to endure; the phone reboots itself several times a week, hot keys suddenly go on a Microsoft veteran sabbatical, and I still haven’t figured out how to do a simple 3-way call. I live for the day Verizon carries a viable alternative, like the current Blackberry Pearl. Could a Googlephone be in Verizon’s future? That would be a blessing.

What’s even more exciting about a possible Googlephone is having an open mobile platform in which applications can truly be integrated and interoperate with network web 2.0 apps. Maybe then I could do a 3-way call too. I know, I know – all the iPhone-ers will say get an iPhone but compromising on call quality with Cingular/ATT’s network, and paying the $200 drop charge plus $600 for the phone doesn’t exactly fit into the empty-nester / 2 kids in college gadget budget.

Go Googlephone. I’m excited to see what they have.

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Symantec whines about Microsoft Windows Live, again

29 Aug , 2007  

More whining by John Thompson, CEO of Symnatec, that Microsoft is using anti-competitive practices by pricing Windows Live at $49.99 for three PCs. Symantec’s own product Norton 360 is priced substantially more at $79.99, with what’s been described as having slightly more features than Microsoft.

Is Windows Live a lost leader for Microsoft? Well, the product line probably isn’t profitable yet but Microsoft wouldn’t be doing anti-virus just to squeeze out the current AV players. Better integration into the OS has got to be an important goal down the road for Windows Live. Net-Net: Symantec needs to become at winning rather than whining about Microsoft in the desktop software market.

UPDATE: Windows IT Pro magazine wrote about this too, and how Thompson brought up the dreaded "M"-word, monopoly. Get a life John T! Nobody likes a crybaby.


Microsoft’s rubber, GPLv3 is glue, everything you say…

29 Aug , 2007  

Back in early July, Microsoft thumbed it’s nose at the Free Software Foundation, claiming that even if software Novell included contained the GPLv3 license, the GPLv3 would not apply to software under their agreement with Novell. In effect it appears Microsoft basically said their agreement with Novell somehow supersedes the GPLv3. It’s tough to see how this is the case. Now, the free software foundation lobbed a volley back Microsoft’s way calling bull on Microsoft’s claims of GPLv3 immunity.

Are we at the beginning throws of a FSF/GPL vs. Microsoft war of words? Or worse, will a legal battle ensue? Certainly Microsoft has the legal resources and cash reserves to take on such a battle, but others are likely to line up behind the FSF with their own cash to help keep the fight alive. Or will it even come to that. But unanswered legal questions don’t help Microsoft appear legit in their dealings  with Novell and distributing certificates for Novell’s SUSE. I  believe Microsoft will bring down not only the wrath of the industry and customers, but also potential anti-competitive practices (you can hear the EU ruling now, can’t you?). Lets hope that cooler heads prevail and Microsoft decides some other course than making up their own rules.


Open Source Licenses: Copyright or Contract Law?

28 Aug , 2007  

We’ve had one of our first interesting rulings on an open source license violation that if upheld, could have interesting ramifications to the open source industry. Whether good or bad, it depends on where you sit and what you expect to gain or restrict through an open source license.

Robert Jacobsen, member (and I assume contributor) to the Java Module Railroad Interface Project, sued Matthew Katzer of Kamind Associates for violating federal copyright law, in this case the Artistic License. Jacobsen failed to include the notices specified in the license.

What’s interesting here is not whether Jacobsen was guilty of infringing on the license but the remedy, and possible precedence set for other copyright based licenses (such as the GPL.)

There are two important aspects of the judge’s rulings. Below are two excerpts from Kevin Fayle of REG Developer (he put it very well, so I’ll let him summarize it).

  • The court held that Jacobsen had implicitly promised not to sue forcopyright infringement by distributing the source code under anonexclusive license.
  • The license was subject to certain conditions -which the defendants may have violated – but any transgression was abreach of contract, not a copyright violation, according to the court.

There’s a lot more to the story so if you want more info/background, here’s JMRI’s history of events.

Net-Net: If software is distributed under a non-exclusive license that is copyright-based, then violating the terms of the license is a contractual issue, not a copyright issue. In this case an injunction was denied because copyright law was deemed not to be the governing law related to the stipulation in the license that notifications be included with the software. Jacobsen is left with seeking monetary remedies but his status as the copyright holder does not allow him to prevent Jacobsen from further distributing the software.

One thing that has clouded the GPL, and why there isn’t much case law around it, is it’s always been believed that copyright law governed the license. Now that doesn’t look so cut and dry. Many have been "afraid" to be the guinea pig and find out what the courts would have to say about a copyright-based software license. Without any precedence we’ve been left to rely on the copyright holder’s interpretation and enforcement, a lot of fuzzy and conflicting legal opinions, and zealous discussions on forums, email lists and blogs.

Now I’m no lawyer, but I did stay in a Holiday Inn last night, so you’ll have to take my reading of this with a big caveat. (It’s certainly not anything close to what you’d call sound legal advice, so shame on you if you take it that way.) Here are some thoughts on the pro’s and con’s of this ruling, should it stand up over time through the test of the legal process:


  • Clear enforcement and remedy: copyright based licenses work just like any other license. Contract law applies and everyone generally knows the paths to enforcement that are available. It’s much more clear for the vendor, user and abuser.
  • Open source end users would be more at ease, and so would their lawyers. Copyright law is much less of an issue. Normal contract law applies and lawyers know how to interpret software licenses.
  • Less fear of being the guinea pig in the court system. Unless we see a rash of obscure challenges, ambulance chasers, etc., trying to argue some nit or fine point of copyright law, everyone will have a better understanding of the license and its correct application.


  • Confusion in the open source community. Are contributors’ contributions protected and licensed in the ways they expected? If not, then license would need adjusting and I don’t think any of use want to go through a GPLv4 process anytime soon.
  • If it ain’t in the license, it doesn’t apply. Copyright holders wouldn’t be able to argue on their email lists or forums that the GPL means whatever they want it to just because they are the copyright holder. It makes the license more black and white (as much as a legal document can) than the current environment of "interpretation by copyright holder".
  • Would the GPL still provide the benefits intended by it’s creators? If not, why not just use a non-copyright based license.

It’s early in the life or death of this court ruling so we’ll have to see what happens through the legal process. I’m sure my interpretation of events will evolve and change over time as this plays out. For the most part, I think this kind of a ruling will benefit everyone as it takes a lot of the copyright mystery out of the equation, making it more clear for everyone how to interpret many open source licenses.

I’m a big supporter of the GPL and many other open source type licenses – they are a great innovation for our industry, but the lack of understanding around interpretation and enforcement has led to a confusing array of uses, abuses and FUD about open source licenses. Anytime we can add more clarity it is better for everyone. I look forward to seeing how all this plays out.

UPDATE: Slashdotters had a bit to say on the subject.


Own more of the value chain. But is it good for the customer?

23 Aug , 2007  

Much ado about Cisco and Microsoft this week – are they cozy competitors, are they friends, etc. Now IBM has jumped into the fray by purchasing online web conferencing company WebDialogs. Looks like IBM isn’t taking Cisco’s acquisition of WebEx lying down, though arguably WebEx was much more of a name brand than WebDialogs (I’ve never used them anyway.)

Both IBM’s and Cisco’s move to scoop up web conferencing services take a page right out of Microsoft and Oracle’s book: own the trees, the mill, the lumber yard, be the builder, and sell you your furniture. Don’t just diversify, but own multiple pieces of your value chain. Michael Porter created the value chain concept in the 1980’s.

In some ways this approach helps you create your own future by creating the products and services that your other businesses utilize and visa versa. Smart move in many cases and allows you to take more of the pie rather than divvying it up with others. And if you are smart about it, you can help enable the future you want to create… as long as it’s really where the customer and the market want to go.

Cisco is a networking hardware company. They’ve announced they want to become a software company. With WebEx they also want to deliver products and services on the hardware and software they create. This also helps realize the 3G Voice/Video/Data vision Cisco proscribed.

Can IBM stop that from happening with web conferencing and Lotus Notes? That’s probably an over simplistic way to look at it, but moves like IBM’s are important so that elements of the value chain aren’t simply handed over or abdicated to Cisco. Cisco doesn’t need to be a bigger monopoly than it already is.


Put virtualizaiton in your name, quick sell the company

16 Aug , 2007  

OMG, VMware’s IPO created a landslide. How big of a landslide and how long it lasts, we’ll have to see.

Citrix buys XenSource: First, Citrix is purchasing XenSource, a virtualization company akin to VMware but built around the open source Xen software. Am I surprised? No. But I’m shocked at the price; $500M, which is 50 times their 2006 earning revenues of $10M. How many startup companies out there would like that multiple? Answer: ALL.

Matt Asay pumps up the open source message by claiming the high purchase price is because Xen is open source. I’m just as interested as the next guy in wanting an open source product or company to do well, but I have to be honest and say that the open source aspect of XenSource wasn’t likely much of a real driver in bringing in the $500M sale price. Timing, category, and supply/demand of available companies to buy are what most likely made this deal a whopper. Open source might have been the gravy but there are few other virtualization companies like VMware and XenSource (other than Virtual Iron Software) with legs in the virtualization space, so the supply of companies to gobble up are pretty limited.

F5 buys Acopia: Last week F5 announced their plans to acquire Acopia, virtualization for multiple types of file storage subsystems. F5’s acquisition follows purchases of similar technology company by Cisco, Brocade and EMC. Cisco is making a strong move to become more than just the network within the data center and many are protecting their interests by ensuring they have a file storage virtualization technology to compete.

Who’s next?: Is the purchase of XenSource the culmination of a virtualization company buying spree or are their more cards to lay on the table? You have to ask if Virtual Iron Software is in play or will they be left with no date for the "startup exit prom"? And virtualization in the network, such as that offered by Cobia, are emerging as another type of virtualization which could represent another wave of venture / business purchases. When that might happen we’ll have to see.

The "wanna-be’s" and "klingons": Virtualization was already the buzzword of 2007. Now with respectable companies early to the virtualization game (VMware, Xen, Acopia, NuView, NeoPath, Rainfinity, etc.) getting gobbled up or doing an IPO, we will see many companies and products relabeling themselves as some type of virtualization product or with virtualization capabilities. This makes it much hard for the buyer, customers have to really look hard at who really has valuable virtualization technology, and who has just slapped the virtualization label on a non-competitive product or company they want to package up to sell.

Customers will have their work cut out for them. Get ready, as I’m sure it’s going to get thick.


Microsoft OSI approved licenses?

15 Aug , 2007  

Sounds like an oxymoron, right? Microsoft and open source. Death Star and Rebel Alliance.

LinuxToday is reporting that Microsoft has submitted to licenses to the OSI for certification (or whatever the OSI calls it) as OSI approved open source licenses. (It must be true, it was on the Internet, right?)

The two licenses submitted are the Microsoft Permissive License (Ms-PL) and Microsoft Community License (Ms-CL). I’m going to get a hold of these if I can and understand what the differences are and how they are written.

Maybe Microsoft really is serious about open sourcing some software. It will be interesting to see, 1) if the OSI approves either or both of these licenses, 2) do either of these licenses push the bounds of current open source licenses in use, 3) with what code, research, products or technologies Microsoft choses to use these licenses.


Has the cancer gene been found?

15 Aug , 2007  

My friend Wayne sent me an article that a Vancouver team of scientists at the B.C. Cancer Agency discovered a gene, HACE 1, which can suppress the growth of multiple types of human cancers.

Wow, if this is really true wouldn’t that be terrific? It would be earth shattering!

An article is slated to be publish in the next Nature Medicine. I’ll definitely be reading that one. Let’s hope there’s some true to this.


Ask the obvious, you get the obvious

15 Aug , 2007  

One of my Google alerts popped up a short online article today asking the question; "Are open source databases ready for production applications?".

Where_would_you_like_to_go_todayHuh?  At first I thought Vista Business must have implemented some buggy version of Time Machine (a Mac OS X feature) in it, zooming me back a decade or more. I had to check the date – published today, August 15, 2007. Whew, no disruption in the time-space continuum that I can detect. Hum, all time travel dials are set correctly. No measurable increase in tachyon emissions from the forward or aft nacelles. Could it be some new form of time-shifting cloaking device that creates a rift similar to the nexus? (Oooo, why did I have to bring up that bad Star Trek movie?!) Possible, but not likely. Something else must be at play here.

Are open source databases, such as MySQL, Ingres and Postgres, ready for production applications. I think we have a new reporter on the open source beat or something. Or maybe some interview went bad, and this was the only worthwhile content for which an article could be squeezed out. It’s a bit perplexing to know but those are a couple of guesses.

Obvious question. And obvious answer, Yes. Not only on websites and such, those open source databases are also built into and used in many commercial products and internal IT systems.

Okay, yes – I’m being a smart alack in this post. And they say there’s no such thing as a dumb question, but this article doesn’t seem to me to impart any great information that furthers the conversation about databases, or open source software. Then again, I’m sure there are those who would say the same about some of my blog posts too! Lol, 🙂


If a virtualization company IPOs, do you get real stock?

14 Aug , 2007  

Tuesday is set to be VMware’s IPO debut. Strike price is expected around $27 to $29 bucks. Today the stock soared up to $55 less than an hour after it came out. It’s great to see another tech company come out and IPO, this time with a very solid financial history. (I don’t think we’ll see the big revenue miss of some previous IPOs this year.)

As the saying goes though, a rising tide raises all boats. While a big boon for VMware (thought to raise as much as $1B from the IPO) and EMC, who purchased VMware, this will also help bring visibility to other virtualization players, such as XenSource. That’s good for everyone. Putting all the market hype aside, virtualization is one of the game changing innovations that is already transforming the IT server and computing market, and will also have a major impact on networking and security in my view.

In the long run, will the OS vendors/creators build virtualization into the OS, obviating the need for a product like VMware? Well, KVM (kernel virtual mode) is a very exciting addition to Linux (still early in its maturity) and Microsoft has some virtualization built into Vista, but the key to this market is the manageability of virtualization. That’s where VMware has really shined and despite what gets added into the OSs, VMware has a big lead in this area that’s not likely to disappear anytime soon.

Bottom line, congratz to VMware (a partner of my company, StillSecure, and used with our Cobia and Strata Guard products, btw) on what I’m confident will be a very good entry into the public markets.

Note: I don’t have any financial interest or insider info for hyping VMware’s stock IPO. Just excited to see it happen 🙂