Here's a warning the chaps at Palm should pay attention to: Microsoft is the clear victor in the browser war which has seen Netscape fall from the 90% market share it enjoyed in 1996 down to less than 30% and falling today. MS Internet Explorer, on the other hand, now owns 91% of the browser market. They may not make the first product, they may not make a good product until the third or fourth version but once they've fixed their eyes on your fries you'd better be worried. Palm users take note: here comes the Pocket PC.
But having sewn up the browser market by insisting that IE was part of the operating system and couldn't be taken out (even after the utility website www.98lite.net introduced the IEradicator, a 50Kb file that did just that) Microsoft now doffs its cap to the folks behind the bench at the Appeals Court and is offering to include IE in the "add/remove programs" list on Windows XP. The court is upholding some of the decisions made by the lower court last year, although it is overturning the decision to split Microsoft in two.
"See, we've learned our lesson," says the software giant piously. Now they've crushed Netscape they're happy to unbundle IE from the operating system.
This isn't the only change they're allowing. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will be allowed to customise the desktop look and feel - something they've never been allowed before - to include icons or make changes to the "start" menu.
A cynic might be, well cynical about it. Fortunately the MS spin doctors are in complete control and managed to convince both the Herald and Stuff that they were being good guys on this case. Admittedly, a lot of other sites bought the news too - New York Times, BBC, even CNN ran the story from the "Microsoft allows OEMs to change the operating system" point of view.
Interestingly quotes from Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, are identical with quotes made later in the day by local man Terry Allen.
"We recognise that some provisions in our existing Windows licences have been ruled improper by the court, so we are providing computer manufacturers with greater flexibility and we are doing this immediately so that computer manufacturers can take advantage of them in planning for the upcoming release of Windows XP," Ballmer/Allen say in separate statements.
MS surrenders! IE not integrated with WinXP after all - The Register
In other Microsoft news, Instant Messenger was out of action for a week, MS announced it would work with security certification company VeriSign on its .NET strategy and users were having problems getting the all clear to use the XP beta.
Hacker Case in court
The case against alleged hacker Andrew Garrett is expected to wrap up this week - Judge David Harvey will sum up on Monday. If that name rings a bell you'd be right. Harvey was the judge at the centre of the "millionaire smuggles marijuana into New Zealand, gets name suppression but all his details are available online" case. Harvey is well versed in IT issues and is one of few New Zealand judges to get his name mentioned internationally in conjunction with the internet and judicial systems. His papers can be found online and include such topics as "computerisation of law resources" and "law via the internet". He's not likely to get the wool pulled over his eyes in such a case as this.
This case in particular is important as New Zealand has no anti-hacking legislation at the moment. Government is trying to implement its Crimes Amendment Bill (number six) but it has included a range of exceptions that have many people up in arms. This case will help set precedent for other cases to follow.
Garrett is accused of 10 counts of fraud, forgery, wilful damage and threatening to damage property. He is supposed to have used an application called Back Orifice to steal the passwords of ISP customers and then use those for free internet access.
Garrett's defence rests on the idea that his PC was infected by some third party and that he had no control over its actions. He also claims, through a defence witness, that he was part of a ring of volunteers working to help remove Back Orifice from users' PCs.
More interestingly a second defence witness, Auckland IT manager Mark Foster, raised the issue of the chain of evidence, questioning discrepancies between copies of Garrett's hard drive and information presented in forensic reports from police.
This is an interesting area - how can police, or investigators in general, assure a court they have an un-tampered version of an email or a file or a hard drive? Text files are easy enough to change and if I received an email from you, change the text around and print it out could the police tell if the bomb threat/extortion note I had written was real or not?
Jurors witness hacking demonstration - NZHerald
Computer hacking trial opens - NZHerald
Telecom: Better, Stronger, Faster
Vodafone announced pricing for its new cellular network (GPRS) last month - $30 per megabyte at the basic level. Telecom has countered with the launch of its CDMA network with a series of seven different pricing plans, two for consumer and five for business users, a range of phones and the claim that CDMA is better quality for voice, higher speed for data and allows Telecom to stuff more calls down the phone line (so to speak) than Vodafone can with its new network.
All that remains to be seen. Both Telecom and Vodafone are launching their networks at a fairly slow speed, barely faster than current speeds, and won't go to warp speed (somewhere around 60 to 100Kbit/s says Telecom) until the end of the year.
But the first round must go to Telecom which launched with handsets - Vodafone claims it's had its network in place since October but hasn't got a handset in the shops yet. It doesn't matter if your network is more robust, faster, cheaper, covers the whole country or just your bedroom, if you can't connect to it you can forget it.
Telecom's pricing is also aimed at a spectrum of users, from the casual data-curious beginner to the high-end corporate road warrior. Vodafone has one pricing plan aimed at the business end of the market and I think that might prove to be a mistake. End users tend to be a bit tentative about these things - remember when the first handheld PCs arrived in your office?
I do - we were mocked and shunned by the unwashed masses. Once the boss bought one they gained more respectability and eventually we started to think about a way of introducing them to the network that wouldn't cause anyone any problems. With Telecom's CDMA an individual can buy a phone and start with baby steps into the world of fast internet access. Under Vodafone you're either in or you're out and that's not too good.
But it's early days yet, and there's bound to be more copy to write in the coming months.
Gloves off as big two get mobile - NZHerald
A story from 1997 that makes for interesting reading