Sony, Dell and Laptop Madness

If PCs are now trucks, as Steve Jobs suggests, then there have been some wrecks on the computing highway this week.

First, there's Sony, which is recalling half a million Vaio notebooks because they can, apparently, get hot enough to "cause skin burns". Ouch. Oddly, though, Sony has only received a handful of complaints about laptops overheating, and apparently a software download can actually solve the problem. So, this recall sounds like more trouble than it's worth.

And then there's Dell. This is quite a bit more serious. According to documents -- most of them internal Dell documents -- recently unearthed in a lawsuit, Dell allegedly not only knowingly sold millions of faulty computers but misled customers about why the computers were faulty and replaced bad computers with other bad computers.

The problem with the computers stemmed from their capacitors (which can cause very serious problems if they don't work properly), which Dell didn't actually make. But, according to the lawsuit documents, Dell allegedly knew that there were and would be problems with the computers and the capacitors in them but went on selling those computers, anyway.

Now, all of this is supposedly a few years behind us, and Dell, after a myriad of problems, has been trying to set itself back on track for the last five years. Part of Dell's revised strategy has been to open itself to the channel as never before. And while we have no reason to believe that Dell is currently trying to mislead anybody, revelations like the one about the capacitors are certain to make partners think twice about doing business with a company that they might not have trusted much in the past.

Hopefully the alleged capacitor issue is just one of those ugly incidents that happened in a company in crisis and won't happen again. But for Dell, a company that's trying to rebuild its credibility with a number of audiences, this week's news is an obvious setback -- a flat tire, perhaps (at least) on the road to recovery.

What's your take on Dell as a company? Do you trust Dell? Do you partner with Dell? Why or why not? Send your thoughts to [email protected]. Get your e-mails in soon, please, as we're going to start running reader feedback again imminently.

Posted by Lee Pender on July 01, 20102 comments

Microsoft Trots Out Network Monitor 3.4

The most recent version of the free network protocol analyzer from Microsoft is available, and its little nickname, "Netmon," gives it a wonderfully Caribbean feel. We can hear the reggae beat starting up already...

Posted by Lee Pender on July 01, 20100 comments

Goodbye, Passwords; Hello, Identity Ecosystem?

We at RCPU hate passwords, mainly because we can never remember them and end up getting locked out of our bank accounts (which is probably just as well in your editor's case...), so news this week that the government wants to replace passwords with something called an identity ecosystem sounded pretty good to us.

Then we read this (from the story above):

"The strategy identifies the federal government as 'primary enabler, first adopter and key supporter' of the identity ecosystem."

Oh. Now, we're not conspiracy-minded here at RCPU or anything (and we mostly try to stay out of political discussions), but the federal government in charge of the identity ecosystem, whatever that is? That's a cause for concern to say the least. Let's see how this thing plays out -- but a little vigilance might be in order here.

Posted by Lee Pender on July 01, 20101 comments

Google Just Can't Quit China

Back in January, Google took a stand. Fed up with the Chinese government's insistence on filtering search results, the company started automatically redirecting users in mainland China to its Hong Kong site, which remains as unfiltered as pond water.

This week, though, China fought back, threatening (according to Google) to pull Google's license to operate in the country if the Hong Kong hijack continued. Now Google has taken a very impressive stand on this whole thing up to this point...however, pragmatism is now creeping in.

Google is going to stop redirecting China's half a billion (a number that's rapidly growing) Internet users to Hong Kong and instead link them to a filtered site in mainland China that offers them the alternative of searching through Hong Kong.

Google doesn't seem just super thrilled about the move, but company officials recognize that half a billion users is a number too large to ignore. They say that they're trying to strike a balance here and keep a Google presence in China without completely submitting to the repressive whims of the Chinese government.

Here at RCPU we hope that Google's plan works. For all of its mistakes and occasional privacy breaches, Google has taken a pretty righteous stand on the whole China situation. We're impressed that the company isn't going to just completely back down in the face of threats from China's Communist government.

Furthermore, we're thinking that Google might be laying out a blueprint here for how to deal with China. Despite China's market reforms, the government there has essentially an absolute lockdown on everything. (That's what folks from China -- Chinese people who live there -- have told your editor, anyway.) It's already impossible to ignore China as a market, and it's going to become an even more critical territory as the number of Chinese on the Internet grows toward a billion and beyond.

But that doesn't mean that international firms should just accept the repression of the Chinese government. Many will, of course—probably most. But Google's hybrid approach seems like a reasonable way to handle the situation. Whether or not the Chinese government sees it as reasonable, though, remains to be seen.

How much business do you do in China? What challenges have you experienced there? Send your stories to [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on June 30, 20103 comments

Microsoft Preps IIS Express

There's a public beta coming of a lightweight, easy-to-install and (quite possibly) free version of Microsoft's IIS Web server coming soon. And, yes, it'll work with XP. Redmond columnist Mary Jo Foley offers more details.

Posted by Lee Pender on June 30, 20100 comments

SAP Target of Antitrust Claim

We at RCPU have always kind of wondered when this sort of thing would happen: A Texas-based company called Versata has filed an antitrust suit against SAP. What's interesting here is that Versata didn't file up the road in the patent-suit haven of Tyler, Texas, but instead is pursuing this claim with the European Union. Now, the EU has hit Microsoft pretty hard in recent years, and we've always suspected something of an anti-American bias in some of those rulings and penalties. How hard will the EU hit a German firm this time, if at all (assuming Versata even has a real case here)? Stay tuned...  

Posted by Lee Pender on June 30, 20100 comments

Microsoft: 150 Million Copies of Windows 7 Sold

Microsoft says that it has sold 150 million copies of Windows 7 in less than a year, making the operating system...yes, you guessed it, the fastest-selling operating system in Microsoft history! It seems as though we remember hearing similar claims about Vista and not believing them, but somehow just about everything attached to Windows 7 seems pretty credible. So, we'll believe these your editor types away on his XP laptop.  

Posted by Lee Pender on June 28, 20100 comments

Microsoft and Spar Over Patents

Last month, Microsoft finally stopped just ratting its patent saber and actually wielded it, filing a patent-infringement lawsuit against mouthy upstart competitor

So, what has done in return? Settled? Cowered? Prepared a defense? Well, maybe it's done the latter of those three, but it definitely hasn't done the first two. The "no software" cloud company fired a patent suit right back at Microsoft late last week, setting up untold riches for software patent lawyers everywhere.

It's interesting that Microsoft tipped its hand on patents by actually filing suit in the first place. Generally, Microsoft's tack has been to use patents as a big stick and then speak not so softly about patent-immunity shakedowns...sorry, agreements such as the one it signed with Novell a few years ago. Woe is the vendor that doesn't sign a patent agreement with Microsoft, for a lawsuit will come thundering down upon it…someday...eventually…maybe.

With, though -- a major competitor to Microsoft in the CRM space -- Redmond actually drew the sword, only to find that its smaller counterpart was also armed and ready to do battle. All of this will likely end in some undisclosed settlement and a lot more hot air (and legal fees) than anything else, but maybe now Microsoft' s patent-baiting tactics will seem like less of a threat, particularly to the open-source community, the main target of Microsoft' s infringement claims.

Here at RCPU, we're just hoping for some good quotes and hilarious revelations to come out of these suits. That's probably the best we can hope for in this situation. Marc Benioff ('s brazen CEO), don't let us down!

Who would you like to see win a legal battle between Microsoft and and why? Send your answers to [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on June 28, 20101 comments

A Peek into Windows 8?

A Microsoft enthusiast has posted on his blog what he says is official information about "Windows 8" -- the as-yet-unnamed (by Microsoft) successor to Windows 7. Facial recognition, much faster start times and super-whammy graphics are apparently in the offing. Actually, there's not a whole lot more to say than that, but the whole blog entry is here.

What do you want to see in Windows 8? Let RCPU (and maybe Microsoft) know at [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on June 28, 20105 comments

Microsoft Talks up Novell Linux Deal

The deal Microsoft struck with Novell that guaranteed interoperability between Windows and SuSE Linux (and supposedly offered Novell and its customers amnesty from Microsoft's patent wrath) lit the industry on fire when the two companies first announced it in 2006.

Then, it sort of went away. Oh, sure, every now and then some open source zealot would attack the pact or some Microsoft defender would...well, defend it, but most partners and folks in the industry seemed to more or less forget about it. Until this week. Now, Microsoft is talking about it again, and we're not really sure why.

Redmond went out of its way this week to trumpet the success of the SuSE deal, saying that more than 500 customers have bought into the program since November of 2006. Wow, 500 customers. That's...actually not all that impressive.

As always, we are big fans of interoperability at RCPU, so we like that aspect of the deal. We're not such big fans of the patent saber-rattling Microsoft has done over the last few years, given that the company has always done it without getting into any sort of specifics as to exactly which patents Linux supposedly violates. (Give us specifics, Microsoft, and we'll probably be on your side. Until then...)

Pundits say that it's the interoperability, not fear of patent lawsuits, which has attracted the customers who have bothered to sign up for the Windows-SuSE pairing. We can believe that. What we can't believe is that Microsoft, a company with more than half a million partners and many millions of customers, is touting the participation of a mere 500 companies in the Novell deal over a span of more than three years.

Surely 500 customers doesn't represent success by Microsoft's standards -- or even by Novell's. So why bring this touchy issue back up now? Does Microsoft want to send a message that it's still got a patent gun to Linux's head? (That's kind of what we suspect.) Is it trying to shore up Novell -- target of a recent failed acquisition attempt -- for some reason? Or is somebody in Redmond seriously stoked that a few hundred customers have bought into the Windows-SuSE model? The world may never know...

When is the last time you thought about Windows and SuSE Linux? Do you care anything about the deal? Have your say at [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on June 23, 20102 comments

Three Million iPads in 80 Days

It looks ridiculous, doesn't seem to have an obvious purpose outside of maybe storing lots of textbooks for college kids and still seems like an awfully expensive toy...but, gosh darn it, people like that iPad. Three million sold in not quite three months? The pace of sales seems to be quickening, not slowing. Microsoft, maybe you really did miss something with this whole tablet thing.

Posted by Lee Pender on June 23, 20101 comments

Ballmer Not Among Highest-Paid Execs

We're certain that he's not hurting for money, but we were surprised to read today that Steve Ballmer is not one of the 20 highest-paid the Pacific Northwest! Now, that is a shocker.

Posted by Lee Pender on June 23, 20100 comments