EU To Chase Google for Antitrust

The would-be do-gooders in the European Union who have given Microsoft such fits over the years are getting serious about going after another American target: Google.

And what incriminating stuff does the EU have on Google? Well...none, actually, but the European governing body is pretty darn sure that Google has been evil somehow. Check out these allegations leveled against the company, taken from the article quoted above:

"1) Rankings: Google allegedly lowered the ranking of unpaid search results of competitors that specialize in services such as price comparisons. The firm has also allegedly given preferential placement of its own search services in order to shut out competitors.

2) Sponsored Advertising: Google allegedly lowered the 'Quality Score' for sponsored links of competing vertical search services. The Quality Score is one of the factors that determine the price paid to Google by advertisers.

3) Advertising Obligations: Google allegedly forced exclusivity obligations on advertising partners, preventing them from placing certain types of competing ads on their Web sites, as well as on computer and software vendors, with the aim of shutting out competing search tools.

4) Data Portability: Google allegedly restricted services from transporting advertising campaign data to competing online advertising platforms."

Huh. So, Google allegedly earned -- against a lot of competition -- a near-monopoly on a platform, search in this case, and then used its position of power on that platform to promote its products over those of competitors. Well done, Google! If all of this is true, then you've followed the Microsoft business model to a T. Seriously, congratulations. And EU, leave Google alone. Google got the loot. That's business.

Oh, and Microsoft, you could stand to be a little less giddy about this whole thing. We're sure that you're more than willing to help a competitor get whacked in Brussels the way you did, but you have to admit that Google beat you at your own game here -- allegedly.

What's your take on Google's alleged antitrust misdoings? Which do you trust more, Google or Microsoft? Answer at [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on December 01, 20104 comments

Google Offers Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office in Beta

You probably won't be able to use it yet, but the missing link between Google Docs and Microsoft Office (from the Google side, anyway) is in beta.

Posted by Lee Pender on December 01, 20100 comments

New Formats Threaten Microsoft's Way of Life

We read (and write) it all the time: Microsoft is behind the curve in developing for new technology formats. Redmond's smartphone operating system is an also-ran. Microsoft has no tablet strategy. Google, Apple and RIM are just killing the old dinosaur in those areas.

But so what? Microsoft is still raking in money, and there's still a Windows laptop on almost every...well, lap, we suppose, or desk. The company's server products are going like gangbusters, and even Dynamics is settling into a niche. No big deal, right? Tablets, trick-pony phones and all those toys can take a back seat to real technology.

Actually, that's what we'd like Microsoft to say: that it's going to focus on enterprise technologies, operating systems and the cloud for business and leave the more consumer-oriented stuff behind. But that's not Microsoft. That's not Steve Ballmer. The company wants to be everything to everybody, so it has some sort of presence in just about every technology market in existence.

But Microsoft's roots are still in the old-fashioned desktop OS, and that's becoming a bit of a problem as users increasingly turn to smartphones and (for reasons we still don't understand) tablets, and away from laptops and especially desktops. If Microsoft wants to be everything to everybody, it's going to need to pick up its game big time.

Early returns on Windows Phone 7 suggest that, despite some clever but confusing (are we not supposed to look at our phones?) advertising from Redmond, Android is just crushing. Microsoft's mobile OS. One UK retailer says that Android sales are outpacing those of WP7 at a rate of 15 to 1. Ouch.

But the news gets worse for Microsoft: Gartner recently cut its forecast for worldwide PC shipment growth in 2011, noting that the popularity of tablets is actually cutting into PC sales. And which tablet is the most popular of them all? Well, the iPad, of course. There's not a Windows machine to be found in the tablet market right now, at least not one that's garnering any serious interest.

The tablet thing is especially disturbing because it hits Microsoft right in the financial gut -- sales of Windows on PCs. And, frankly, we at RCPU really didn't see that coming. Everybody's talking tablets now, and not just for reading books on the subway. Businesses are increasingly adopting them, and they're buying iPads. Why? We're honestly not sure, but it's happening.

So, while Microsoft tries to please all of the people all of the time, it's letting Apple (of all companies -- seriously) make a dent in its core revenues. Maybe it's time for Microsoft to shift its focus from phones -- which have never been a massive moneymaker in Redmond, anyway -- to tablets. And it's definitely time for Microsoft to stop trying to win every technology contest and figure out which areas it needs to develop -- and protect -- in order to maintain its position at (sorry, near) the top of the technology heap.

What kind of interest do you have in tablet computers? Have your say at [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on November 29, 20106 comments

Supreme Court To Hear Microsoft-i4i Case

The Supreme Court is going to hear Microsoft's appeal in the patent case that led to an injunction on sales of Microsoft Word. We kind of like Microsoft's chances here given the pro-business nature of this court. Don't hold your breath for news on this, though -- the Supremes, with or without Diana Ross, hope to reach a decision by the end of June.

Posted by Lee Pender on November 29, 20100 comments

Microsoft Rolls Out New Security Baselines

We thought this had something to do with tennis, but evidently not.  

Posted by Lee Pender on November 18, 20100 comments

Reader Feedback: Microsoft Kin Do It

Just a note: RCPU has next week off, so you won't see this newsletter online or in your inbox. As we do every year (although I think we forgot to do it last year), we wish you our traditional Happy Thanksgiving from R-C-P-U!

Anyway, let's finish off the week by running some reader feedback. Although it's not exactly at the heard of our readers' concerns, we just love writing about (OK, making fun of) the Kin, which might be on its way back for a curtain call. Reader Michael, though, says that the Kin wouldn't necessarily be headed for failure again if it were to reappear:

"For kids who want legitimate music (their parents don't want them to pirate) and who don't need a smartphone, the Kin makes sense. My daughter has a cell phone and a Zune (my wife and I each have Zune HDs), but I wouldn't think of getting her a Droid or BlackBerry. It isn't worth $39 per month for data for either. But, a phone/Zune combo with a $15 data plan would be something that I'd consider. Having written that, Microsoft would be better off focusing on getting Windows Phone 7 on Verizon."

Michael, what you say makes sense, which is why we fully expect Microsoft to screw it up somehow if the Kin does come back. For whatever reason, Microsoft has proven itself to be maladroit in the mobile space for a while now. The Kin has the stink of failure all over it. Could it shake it? Actually, we'd love to find out.

Have a comment on anything you've read on RCPU? Send it to [email protected]. We'll get to it after Thanksgiving.

Posted by Lee Pender on November 18, 20101 comments

Microsoft Provides Missing Lync

Wednesday was the big launch day for Microsoft's revamped Unified Communications offering, Lync. The other members of the Mod Squad, as far as we know, were not in attendance. (Yes, that's at least the second time we've made that joke.)

Posted by Lee Pender on November 18, 20100 comments

Avaya Dumps Microsoft for Open Source

Version 6.1 of Avaya's IP Office communication platform says goodbye Windows, hello Linux. The company claims collaboration, productivity and cost improvements. We'll see.

Posted by Lee Pender on November 17, 20100 comments

Ballmer and Gates: Let's Stay Together

We can imagine that there were days of wine and roses at past Microsoft shareholder meetings. Champagne flowed, caviar gleamed and the whole affair had the feel of a huge gala dinner. OK, so maybe things weren't that fancy...but they were surely better than they are now.

The marriage between Microsoft and its shareholders, once so vibrant, has gone a bit...stale. Hence the decidedly not-party atmosphere at this week's shareholder meetings, in which rumblings and grumblings about the company's long-stagnant stock price drowned out whatever noise popping champagne corks might have made.

There were questions, some more burning than others, about everything from Windows Phone 7 to Bill Gates's sales of Microsoft shares to fund his immense charitable foundation. When pressed about why he was selling shares for charity rather than simply taking them off of Microsoft's books, Gates gave an excellent response, as quoted in the story linked above:

"I think the thrust of the question is, 'Are the current grantees of the foundation more deserving than turning the money over to Microsoft shareholders?' I've made the decision that that wealth is going to go into the foundation rather than being the reduction in the shares of Microsoft."

Good for you, Bill. Seriously. Nobody could ever accuse Bill Gates, of all people, of not being responsible to Microsoft's shareholders, and he should be able to use his shares for whatever purpose he chooses. The fact that he's selling them to pump money into his wonderful foundation is even more laudable.

That little exchange was just a sidelight, though, in the shareholder affair. The real bomb dropped when somebody asked Steve Ballmer about possibly breaking up Microsoft. Both Ballmer and Gates spoke to the topic, offerings answers a bit short on details and pretty long on, "Uh, no." And that's OK with us. (Check out the TechFlash link earlier in this paragraph for their full answers.)

We've never been proponents of a Microsoft breakup. We at RCPU do feel as though Microsoft should focus less on the futile pursuit of consumer hegemony and more on maintaining and expanding the company's enterprise empire. That's not tantamount, though, to saying that there should be multiple Microsofts. We're more interested in a more focused, less consumer-hungry Microsoft.

What we find interesting here is simply that the "break-up" question came up. Not much about what Ballmer or Gates said was surprising, but clearly there is some frustration boiling up from within the Microsoft shareholder base. We're guessing that shareholders are a long, long way from forcing a breakup of the company and will probably never get to that point. But if key players don't like the returns they're getting, they'll continue to make their voices hears.

Maybe the days of whine and thorns, then, have replaced the days of wine and roses in Redmond. Still, while the party might not be what it once was, it goes on -- as will Microsoft, as a single, still pretty darn strong entity. For now, anyway.

Should Microsoft break up? Why or why not? Send your answer to [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on November 17, 20104 comments

Redmond Has a Consumer Hit in Kinect

OK, so maybe Microsoft isn't a total loser in this consumer business. Not only is the Xbox actually pretty cool, but Microsoft has also, apparently, sold a million Kinect motion-controller add-ons... in 10 days. That's a high score that'll be tough to beat.

Posted by Lee Pender on November 17, 20101 comments