More Monkey Business at Microsoft, and Getting Chatty in the Friendly Skies

Things have been fairly light so far this week — perhaps recovering from all the drama that played out last week — but we here at Breaking News have found a few interesting bits to share, so we might as well get down to it.

First up is the continuing saga of Yahosoft, and its rapid decent into unbridled aggression. As we mentioned on Saturday, Microsoft has begun brandishing ultimatums, a not-altogether unexpected move considering their limited repertoire of business tactics. It seems to have worked, however, despite the significantly-diminished value of the deal, as Yahoo was quick to announce their willingness to make a deal, just for more cash. Analysts, who presumably know much more about these things than we do, have been arguing over whether Yahoo is really worth more money, though a 10-point, 47% increase within two months seems pretty good to us.

Meanwhile, the Chief Microsoftie was out stirring up the media with vague pronouncements about the future of Windows. While answering questions at a talk on corporate philanthropy, Gates made a comment that the mainstream media outlets have jumped on as an announcement of the next version of Windows. "Sometime in the next year or so we will have a new version," he said, and the world was abuzz with reports that Bill Gates had just announced that Windows 7 would be released in 2009. The Microsoft press machine was quick to point out that what he really meant was that development versions would be out in 2009 — indeed, they're already out to certain high-dollar vendors — and that nothing had changed with Windows 7 development.

In other news, the OOXML drama continues, with three European governments announcing that they won't adopt the format, and the advisory body for a fourth chiming in with calls for caution when handling the new "standard." First was the German Foreign Ministry, declaring that it wouldn't even consider OOXML unless it becomes platform-independent and is implemented in an Open Source, unrestricted, and Linux-friendly manner. Rolf Theodor Schuster, the Foreign Ministry's IT head, even called out Novell — known for their patent-agreements with Microsoft — by name, saying "It is not good enough if only Novell will offer it on Suse Linux."

Next up were Belgium and the Netherlands, with the Belgian IT body announcing that under Belgian federal rules, OOXML will have to be compatible with ODF before it can be considered for any government implementation. The Dutch Economic Affairs ministry has already stated that a government commission will have to approve OOXML before it can be used for government purposes, noting that "ODF is a very important standard." Then came Becta, the British agency that oversees technology in schools, which already gave Microsoft a good hiding over the deficiencies in Windows Vista. Becta's announcement advises schools against deploying Office 2007 or using OOXML file formats until more is known about OOXML interoperability, and specifically raises the issue of the European Commission's investigation of Microsoft interoperability.

Finally, in non-Microsoft news, the friendly skies will soon become the chatty skies, as the European Commission has cleared the way for mobile phone use on flights in EU airspace. A number of European airlines, including ultra-low-cost airline Ryanair, Air France, and bmi will be equipping their planes to offer the service, and have announced plans to have the service up and running within the next few months. Reaction from airline passengers has been mixed, with many, particularly business travelers, supporting the move, while others believe it will only add frustration to the often unpleasant experience on-board. A saving grace of the proposal may be that the technology will limit the number of passengers who can use the technology simultaneously, and the pilot will have the ability to switch it to internet and text-only if necessary.

Now we must go, as the people behind us in coach want us offline so they can use their cellphones.

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