Live forecast: another Microsoft Hailstorm?

Yes, once again Chairman billg has had a Grand Vision of the Future. It's called Microsoft Live actually, and it's big, very big but bit of a yawner really.

Top Stories

- Live forecast: another Microsoft Hailstorm?

- $sys$Sony steps on Digital Rights mine

- Telecom’s broadband numbers are up

TradeMe goes Ferrit

Sam and Co show that they get the internet and Telecom doesn’t.

- Google search for “Ferrit” (check out the sponsored link at the top of the page)

Geek love

“It began its life as a joke about online dating, but when people started using it to actually find dates, we got serious.”

Hmm. Are Warwick and the Xtra-ordinary awful cliché geeks on that site somewhere?

- Consumating: Hot nerdy girls and indie rock boys! With glasses!

Live forecast: another Microsoft Hailstorm?

Yes, once again Chairman billg has had a Grand Vision of the Future. It’s called Microsoft Live actually, and it’s big, very big but bit of a yawner really.

That Live is big doesn’t mean it’ll actually happen, or, if it does, in the form that is now envisaged. Just like Hailstorm .NET initiative, which Gates described as “a key milestone to deliver on the Microsoft mission to empower people through great software, any time, any place and on any device," back in 2001. Umm, yeah. As with just about every MS announcement recently, Live is horrendously pre-release. Some bits are in beta currently, but others like Office Live won’t appear until sometime next year. I see that the next version of Microsoft’s instant messaging program has already leaked out on the ‘Net… Windows Live Messenger 8 it’s called. Looks good, but it’s very unstable apparently.

Microsoft Live is under the command of Ray Ozzie, a.k.a. The Man Who Created Lotus Notes and seeing that he thinks Google’s advertising engine “clicks on all eight cylinders” makes you wonder if Microsoft Live will ever get its motor running.

Either way, I’m not keen on the idea of ad-supported software, even if Microsoft gives it to users for free. From experience, the temptation to “target” advertising using intrusive technology will be irresistible for marketers. If Microsoft indeed intends to supply software over the internet only in the future, it also means that the “ecosystem” of third party Windows vendors and integrators is about to die. Such a move can only weaken Microsoft.

Anyway, see for yourself what it’s all about at the Microsoft Live beta site. Dragging and dropping RSS feed objects on a webpage is fun for a whole five minutes, honest. Oh, and Firefox support isn’t ready yet.

- Microsoft launches Live

- Microsoft Live beta

$sys$Sony steps on Digital Rights mine

This week Sony showed us why we should always distrust any form of restrictive technology. The electronics and entertainment giant was caught shipping a so-called rootkit on music CDs. In this case, the rootkit was a Digital Rights Management (DRM) application that installs if you use the supplied media player on the disc, without warning. Once installed, it remains hidden from not only users but Windows itself and cannot be detected by security software. The rootkit also cannot be removed very easily as it modifies operating system functions to remain invisible and according to Mark Russinovich who first discovered it, is so badly written that if users try to take it off their systems, their CD drives will become inaccessible.

Needless to say, the PR fallout from such an underhand move has been enormous for Sony. People are angry that their systems have been compromised and some are talking legal action against Sony under computer crimes laws.

In an incredibly lame attempt at undoing the damage done, Sony is now offering an update to the rootkit which removes the cloaking but doesn’t actually remove it. That point of that being what exactly?

Meanwhile, enterprising individuals have started using the Sony rootkit’s cloaking capabilities to hide stuff from obtrusive anti-cheating systems deployed by online gaming houses. That pretty much blows away Sony’s argument that the rootkit can’t be used for other purposes than DRM, including malicious ones.

- Sony ships sneaky DRM software

- Sony’s DRM rootkit update

- World of Warcraft hackers using Sony BMG rootkit

- Mark’s Sysinternals blog: Sony, Rootkits and Digital Rights Management Gone Too Far

Telecom’s broadband numbers are up

The first quarter numbers for Telecom dropped arrived via email earlier. The earnings are looking pretty healthy, as expected, on the back of broadband and mobile phone revenue – yes, two areas where Telecom has little or no competition.

Telecom is patting itself on the back for having reached the self-imposed 250,000 residential broadband customers target two months before the deadline. However, it is keeping very schtumm about a target it looks set to miss, namely that one-third of the residential connections should come from other ISPs through wholesaled unbundled bitstream service (UBS) than Telecom Xtra.

At the end of September, the tally is 19.3 per cent, which is nowhere near the 1/3rd goal. In fact, the amount of wholesale connections may be lower than a fifth of the total because we don’t know if Telecom counts the so-called Wholesale Broadband Solution (WBS) ones in it. The Commerce Commission seems to think that WBS connections are resale ones, so we’ll see what their wholesale tally is once the report arrives (last thing today, no doubt).

That Telecom has been able to reach the 250,000 figure early shows that there is demand for broadband in NZ. As Telecom says, that’s about three times as many as last year. If the current rate of growth continues, Telecom may hit 300,000 by the end of the year. To reach the one-third wholesale connections target, 100,000 of those would have to come from non-Telecom ISPs. The chances of that are pretty slim because TelstraClear has said it won’t start selling its UBS service this year even though the determination on its application will be out soon.

Predictably enough, ISP reaction to the broadband figures has been sour. Martin Wylie at Callplus says the figures are “no cause of celebration for the country” and points to the UK and Australia, where the incumbent telcos sell two-thirds of connections through wholesale.

Ihug’s Mark Rushworth reckons it’s unlikely that Telecom will get the 83,333 wholesale sales necessary to avoid government intervention and says the figures illustrate that real competition is not alive and well in this country.

TelstraClear spokespiece Grant Forsyth slams the broadband numbers as “disappointing” and “depressing”. He says they reflect the poor state of the wholesale market and the lacklustre UBS product, which customers aren’t interested in, no matter how hard it is promoted.

We haven’t heard any official comment on the figures yet – and where’s the statement from ISPANZ? – but it will interesting to see if the government rattles the regulatory saber, or just says “ah well, good on ya Telecom for hitting the 250,000 target early”.

- Telecom press release: Telecom powers past 250,000 broadband milestone

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