Is It the Beginning of the End for Evil Incorporated?
The end of something of any size doesn't usually come from a single event — yes, one iceberg sank the Titanic, and one wrong turn started World War I — but in general, the meltdown of a major entity is usually a chain of events that balloon towards an eventual end. With all the things going wrong for Microsoft, we can only hope that's exactly what's happening.
What's so bad? Well, first off, there's the Yahoo deal, which despite a lot of puffing and posturing, doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Yahoo reported its first quarter earnings yesterday — profits up 300% from a year ago, beating analyst estimates by $0.02 per share — and nobody seems to know what to make of it. Some are convinced that Microsoft will get nowhere without raising its offer, while others are equally convinced that it doesn't matter at all. Mr. Ballmer is certainly of that opinion, vowing not one penny more, though a certain Mr. Murdoch is still waiting in the wings, looking for a coalition option to surface. Despite the tough rhetoric — we half-expect him to start chanting "Fifty-Four Forty or Fight!" — it's also beginning to look like things may be slipping, as the Chief Microsoftie has started telling audiences that if things don't work out with Yahoo, Big Evil can just walk away.
Of course, Vista — a sinking ship if ever there was one — has failed to impress much of anyone, and now is coming back to bite them again. Microsoft appealed the U.S. District Court's decision to grant class-action status to the "Vista Capable" litigation, and the Court of Appeals just handed them a resounding "sod off." That means the flow of confidential emails revealing all of the Empire's deep, dark secrets has just been turned back on. We can't wait to find out what else they've been up to — maybe there will be an OOXML email or two...
Vista isn't the only software that's giving Ballmer and his buddies a headache — a "glitch" in their update system for corporate customers has given them plenty of reason to pop an aspirin or two. Somehow, last week a limited-area, trial-release of a new anti-piracy program for MS Office — basically Windows Genuine Advantage for Office — was "accidentally" pushed out to the Windows Server Update Services system, which provides updates for large-scale enterprise customers, was "inadvertently" tagged as critical, and wasn't "discovered" for a full twenty-four hours. The result? Tens of thousands of systems with legal, purchased copies of Microsoft Office are now hounding their users with pop-up notices about pirated software. The punch line? Once it's installed, it can't be removed. How convenient. Now, we're not saying it was a deliberate, underhanded, and fraudulent effort to strong-arm their biggest customers, including the U.S. Government, to buy new licenses for software they have already purchased — we're just saying that it's frightening that a company that has "accidents" like this is responsible for the software running on 90% of desktop computers.
It also looks like Big Evil is finally waking up to the realization that it isn't impervious to security breaches — a welcome change of pace given their habit of vehemently denying any vulnerability report. The Big MS has issued an open announcement that white-hat hackers are welcome to hack Microsoft sites to their heart's conent without fear of retribution. Now, we may be missing something here, but the fact that a) they have to make such an announcement, and b) that it's a huge departure from the position of most companies, is somewhat befuddling. Why in the name of the Great Green Arkleseizure should any company need to announce that they won't press charges against people who are trying to help them protect their products? At any rate, it's hardly likely to matter, as Microsoft's security team is apparently top-notch, having single-handedly broken up the Storm botnet, not to mention the spirit of it's operators. Said Securisoftie Jimmy Kuo: "[T]hey knew they were in our gun sights. And ultimately they gave up."
Finally, the ultimate sign that things are slipping down the drain: They're suing kids. Well, not technically kids, but a Dutch company — run by a concerned mother, no less — that makes software intended to keep kids' internet use safe and in check. Their great sue-worthy crime? Calling the software "MSNLock." Apparently, threatening the company into changing its name — it's now called Benzoy — wasn't good enough, so they're going after them for having the gall to register domain names with "MSN" in them. So, it's apparently okay to hack a Microsoft website, or to have your network hacked by unauthorized Microsoft brick-ware, but it's not okay to keep track of your kids online.
Surely the Horsemen must be saddling up.
Justin Ryan is a Contributing Editor for Linux Journal.
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