Microsoft £2.5m victory in parallel importing case

Microsoft finally have closure as the man behind the sales firm ITAC, Barry Omesuh, is sentenced to up to nine months in jail per sentencing and must pay £2.5 million in damages to Microsoft after an overwhelming battle against piracy.  The Manchester based distributor, ITAC, who are now out of business, were behind selling ‘grey’ copies of Microsoft’s software.

Omesuh was sentenced due to the fact that he was parallel importing by selling a software in a region that is actually intended for a different region, thus finding himself outside of his rights.  Omesuh was given 7 sentences which range between one month to nine months and he has been ordered to carry out his time simultaneously by the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Microsoft are clearing not taking any prisoners in their protection to their intellectual property and have proved that they will settle for nothing less than justice.  ITAC were originally made to pay out £1 million to Microsoft in 2006 for parallel importing, however the company continued on selling the software through an unauthorised company in the Middle East.  Microsoft have been battling against the company since 2004, and although they have won their battles in the past this victory is coming as great news for Microsoft as it should herald in the end of the illegal dealings through ITAC.

The High Court found Omesuh to be in contempt of court as he was found to have misled the court regarding the reality of the value of his assets.  When issuing her judgement, Mrs Justice Proudman highlighted how, “The defendant was a wholly unreliable witness who on his own admission told a number of bare-faced lies about relevant matters over a period of time.”

The anti-piracy attorney for Microsoft UK, Graham Arthur, has underlined Microsoft’s stance on piracy, saying, “This case against ITAC and Mr Omesuh shows that Microsoft takes a zero tolerance approach to anyone who undermines the level playing field for our retailer community.

“We are working hard, sometimes behind the scenes, to ensure the software reseller market is a place where all retailers can compete on an equal footing. We want to make sure that retailers caught cheating the system are held accountable for their damaging actions,” said Arthur.

ITAC can no longer damage Microsoft as the company went into administration in March 2008, however, Microsoft faces an ongoing battle against many other organisations around the world who continue to supply illegal copies of its software.  However, ITAC are one less organisation to worry about and Arthur continued to discuss how resolute Microsoft is about tackling the crisis.

“We caught ITAC trading illegally more than once which shows how determined we are to protect genuine, honest businesses from being undercut by unscrupulous traders.  In today’s climate, we believe this is more important than ever, particularly when the culprits blatantly persist in their unlawful trading,” continued Arthur.

DAB future is bleak as year-on-year sales drop 20 per cent below expectations

The future of DAB is in the balance as sales of the technology have been recorded to have slowed through 2008 according to figures recently released.  Unfortunately for the DAB technology sales in the digital radios fell by 10 per cent through the final three months of 2008 in comparison to 2007, marking the first recorded quarter that the digital radio technology has felt a drop in year on year sales since digital radio sales were first recorded six years ago.

Being market as a success throughout the middle-class homes in the country, the digital radio was set to take over from analogue radio in the same way that digital television is gearing up to take over from analogue television.  However, there has been no date set as yet as to when analogue radio will be completely switched off and this uneasiness is starting to ripple through the growth of the DAB market.

Still, the battle that DAB faces against the ongoing pressure applied by the popular internet radio platform rages on and could in the end derail DAB’s hopes for taking over the future of the radio waves.  The effects of Internet radio are being compared to what is being seen stunting the growth of Blu-Ray DVDs as video content is being delivered digitally.

The figures speak for themselves in this situation and clearly show the popularity of the DAB radio could simply have fallen into being labelled a ‘fad’.  More than 500,000 DAB units were sold through December 2008, however that figure is down by 10 per cent compared to December 2007 and has fallen well short of predictions made by the Digital Radio Development Bureau, falling around 20 per cent below the forecast.

The chief executive of DRDB, Tony Moretta, claimed that the figures were encouraging despite falling below the forecasted sales as the results could have been much worse in the wake of the economic recession.

“At the end of the day any forecast from any body a year ago would not have predicted what has happened to the economy.  There aren’t many industries or companies that have hit their targets for the year. We are still seeing growth. Despite lots of sometimes negative stories in the press, consumers are still going out and buying digital radios,” said Moretta.

Moretta felt that the outlook for the DAB device is bright and that these figures do not represent the country’s feelings on the technology.  “Consumer confidence in DAB remains high and it is important that retailers and manufacturers do not lose sight. At a time when other consumer electronics products are suffering declining volumes and value, DAB radio is holding its market position and growing its share versus analogue devices,” continued Moretta, who also blamed a “lack of stock” in many retail stores to be a key issue around the Christmas period.

2009 will be a decisive year for the future of the DAB device which will be looking to make progress in a difficult economy.

AMD produce greener processor chips

AMD have announced that they are modernising their 45 nanometer “Shanghai” Opteron processors by creating new energy efficient chips that will be able to operate within thermal envelopes powered by as little as 55 Watts.  Advanced Micro Devices are hoping that the new, greener processor chips will wind up in servers such as Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Sun Microsystems.

There are five of the newly green processor chips each varying from the original Shanghai Opteron chips, running at a much lower power consumption than their predecessors.  Where the original Shanghai Opteron chips would run at an ACP (Average CPU Power) rating of 75 Watts, the newly updated chips run at a cooler 55 Watts.

“When we first came to market we brought out the standard power (Shanghai processors) because that’s where the bulk of our market is.  As always, we follow up fairly quickly with the HE, which are the energy efficient models, and the SE, which are the high-performance models,” announced the director of business development for server and workstation products at AMD, John Fruehe.

AMD are claiming that the rush to produce these high performance, low energy chips is to fulfil the need to compete with the massive amount of “computing cloud centres” that are popping up by the likes of Apple and Google who deliver cloud services.  Not so long ago these greener processor chips with their lower clock speeds would have been a flop on the market, however with the unexpected growth of the cloud computing market, AMD’s senior product manager, Steve Demski, is predicting that they will be seeing a high demand for these newly undated processor chips.

Fruehe continued to discuss the plans for the processors in the market through 2009, saying, “These processors basically fill out the 2P, 4P and 8P products.  We had the standard products that were introduced in November so this will fill out the line-up and give [customers] a standard model, a low-power and a high-performance part. 

“As we get into the later part of this year, you’ll see us bring out our ‘Istanbul’ product and those will be six-core processors and those will also fit in the same 1207-socket (Socket F) and so the customers that have a “Barcelona” [65-nm Opteron] system can also take advantage of a Shanghai part or the upcoming Istanbul processor,” said Fruehe.

However, AMD have also recently made the news headlines due to the fact that they have decided to cut down their processor production in an attempt to avoid creating “unwanted” chips that they won’t be able to sell.

“We’re slowing everything down quite a bit.  We think our CPU sales out of AMD will be less than consumption… our inventories will drain in Q1 – we’ll clearly be manufacturing below our shipment level,” announced the chief financial officer for AMD, Rob Rivet.  AMD are claiming that once the demand for their processors returns then they will return to their original rate of production.

PopeTube? The Vatican teams up with YouTube

The Pope is feeling a little left out as YouTube chugs on growing more and more popular, so the Vatican have decided to join in on all the fun.  The Vatican is expected to announce today that they have indeed made a deal with Google to create a channel on YouTube devoted to the Pope.

The move comes as the Vatican aims to appeal to the huge one billion Roman Catholic community around the world.  The channel will also be aimed at non-Catholics in an attempt to drum up some additional interest in the religion.

The Pope has even said to have specifically approved the move.  Monsignor Claudio Maria Celli has stated that Pope Benedict XVI is a “man of dialogue” and that he relished the chance to reach people and engage with them.  Celli also added that the Pope is “fond of new technologies” and the Vatican clearly see the potential of YouTube and the community that the site reaches on a daily basis.

The plans are to update the channel daily and will provide the service in Italian, German, English and Spanish.  The material for the channel will be made up from existing services such as radio and television that the Vatican already have in place.

A source at the Vatican said, “The faithful will be able to see the Pope and church events but we hope that those who are curious will also look.”

The director of the press room, television centre and Vatican Radio, Father Federico Lombardi, announced that the move was a  “real and tangible example of the Church’s commitment in the field of new technologies, to reach out to a global audience without regard for nationality or culture.” 

Other well known figures such as the Queen and President Obama use YouTube in a similar way and Google must be over the moon at the amount of attention that they will receive from such important backing.

The managing director of European sales and media solutions at YouTube, Henrique de Castro, highlighted how the website was a perfect way for the Vatican to reach the people that they wanted to.  “YouTube is a communications platform open to all, where users, institutions and content producers come together in a global meeting place.  We are honoured that the Vatican has chosen to use the site to communicate with people across the world, and delighted that our community will have access to the words of the Pope on some of the most important issues facing the world today,” said Castro.

This new development is truly an interesting move and should soon be adopted by many other important figures around the world.  It will be interesting to see what the next move will be after YouTube.  Perhaps PopeSpace or FacePope?  The Catholic News Service already has a presence on Facebook and runs regular news items and blogs and even has a message from the Pope dedicated to President Obama.

BT shares plummet 15 per cent as profits take a dive

BT shares have taken a harsh hit this morning as the company announces ongoing issues with their Global Services unit.  Shares in BT fell 15 per cent to 104.7p, causing BT’s market value to suffer a loss of £1.5 billion.

Between October and December of last year, BT’s Global Services unit was slapped with a £340 million charge due to financial reviews.  Profits for the unit were said to be significantly lower than the equivalent period the year before.  The third quarter to the last day of 2008 was expected to provide profits of around £17 million, however the same period of time a year earlier provided profits around £215 million.

The news follows an announcement by the company in November to cut the costs of its pension schemes and make 10,000 job cuts, 6 per cent of their overall workforce.  The announcement of job cuts will affect thousands in Britain, pushing the record breaking unemployment records even further towards the 2 million mark.  The Global Services arm of the company was said to be a means of growth for BT, however it is now proving to be a heavy weight pulling down the overall performance of the company significantly.

Ian Livingstone, the group chief executive, remains positive about the future of the company, stating, “BT remains committed to the success of Global Services, and I believe these changes will create a stronger business that can deliver positive cash flow and excellent customer service.  The performance of the rest of the group is ahead of expectations for the third quarter, but unfortunately this will be more than offset by the issues in Global Services.”

“The first job of the new management team in Global Services and the new group finance director has been to review the financial position of Global Services and its major contracts,” continued Livingston.

However, BT is not blaming the issue on the current economic downturn, but rather more simply on operational failures.  BT also claimed that they predict that the charges mentioned will be non-cash and the company’s final dividend would be promising.  BT is also predicting that the revenues for the Global Service arm of the company will rise by 15 per cent in the third quarter of this financial year.

“These ongoing reviews reflect changed circumstances and a more cautious view of the delivery of cost efficiencies and contract performance, particularly in the light of the current economic climate. We have also initiated a review of Global Service’s operations which will help us drive our cost savings initiatives.”

The other units belonging to BT that are expected to exceed expectations are the retail section, wholesale section and the Openreach unit.  These three units of the company are set to soar in the third quarter of this financial year.  BT’s share prices have more than halved within the last year when shares were priced at 245p.

Tiscali whips the broadband out from under 186k’s feet

186k, the broadband provider, have been cut off by Tiscali, as the two companies get enthralled in a legal fist fight.  Although it is not certain how many customers have been affected by the move, 186k have attempted to make it clear to their users that they are not closing down and everything should clear up.

However, Tiscali have a different view on the matter, and when 186k users attempt to contact Tiscali to migrate their internet connection to another ISP, Tiscali is telling them that 186k has “shut down” and is “no longer in the market”.  Who is telling the truth?

186k are adamant to have their clients know that they are still very much alive and have released a statement explaining so.  “None of these accusations has any foundation. 186k is a wholesale ISP with a customer base covering broadband, dedicated servers, collocation, leased lines, telephony and other information technology related services. Of its wholesale broadband customer base, only a small percentage was serviced by Tiscali, with the remainder provisioned with BT Wholesale,” said the statement from 186k.

However, Tiscali have released a statement saying, “The Wholesale Broadband Agreement with 186k has terminated. In consultation with Ofcom, Tiscali is providing continuity of service in the form of temporary access to all users that are on the Tiscali Network.

“We have provided MAC codes in bulk to 186k to enable it to move its reseller bases and we have also put in place a process to provide MAC codes to all direct customers. This process is in line with other wholesale providers within our industry,” continued the statement from Tiscali.

However, many customers are still waiting for the MAC codes, allowing them to migrate to another ISP, and many have attempted to get hold of 186k without any luck whatsoever.  The whole situation is sketchy and it seems as though the ones that are suffering are inevitably the customers.

186k’s statement went on to discuss how they could not go into any detail about the situation due to the legal nature of the issue, saying, “There is an ongoing legal dispute and High Court action between 186k and Tiscali which we cannot comment on further at this stage. It is unfortunate and unfair that end users have been inconvenienced by this dispute. 186k would like to reassure its customers that it is continuing to do everything possible to restore service to those affected by Tiscali’s actions.”

Tiscali are struggling, as are many corporations, through the economic downturn, and they have made the news today as they have announced that they will be making 250 job cuts at its Italian unit.  However, the company are claiming that the cuts will be made in an attempt to improve their profitability.  The company are also in talks with BSkyB about selling on their British assets.

Belkin caught fixing Amazon reviews

It has emerged that Belkin, the computer accessory manufacturer, have been filling out fake reviews on Amazon in an attempt to boost sales and push a good business image to customers.  Belkin are claiming that the naughty activity can be blamed on one “rogue” employee who is said to have paid others to write the reviews, however, the admittance by the company comes after some denial.

The “rogue” employee who is responsible for the review fixing, Michael Bayard, is claimed to have paid people who don’t even own the product to write positive reviews on the Amazon website and to even go into depth about why they think the product was so great.

However, Belkin, in an attempt to spin the news to suit them a little better, have released a statement underlining the company’s ethics and surprise therefore on discovering the news.

“Belkin has always held itself to the highest standards of corporate ethics and its employees to the highest standards of personal integrity. Similarly, we support our online user community in discussion and reviews of our products, whether the commentary is good or bad. So, it was with great surprise and dismay when we discovered that one of our employees may have posted a number of queries on the Amazon Mechanical Turk website inviting users to post positive reviews of Belkin products in exchange for payment.

“Belkin does not participate in, nor does it endorse, unethical practices like this. We know that people look to online user reviews for unbiased opinions from fellow users and instances like this challenge the implicit trust that is placed in this interaction. We regard our responsibility to our user community as sacred, and we are extremely sorry that this happened,” said the statement.

Perhaps the biggest mistake the business development representative made was to post the job as an advert on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service.  Bayard advertised for people to “write a positive 5/5 review for product on website” – did he really think he would get away with that?

Bayard went on to say in his advert that he wanted people to use their “best possible grammar and write in US English only”, as well as to “always give a 100% rating” and to “write as if you own the product”.  How honest…

The news can’t be received very well at Amazon either, as the economic downturn has provided business around the world with a steep hill to climb in terms of sales and such bad advertising cannot be good news.  If Belkin can bend the rules, what is stopping every other company with a product on the Amazon website doing exactly the same?

Isle of Man want to tackle file sharing by legalising it?

It seems as though the Isle of Man have their own ideas on how to tackle illegal file sharing, and other such methods of downloading copyright content as the Isle of Man’s government has announced that they don’t mind if their citizens take up the act, as long as they pay a blanket tax in order to go about doing so.

The Isle of Man want their people to be able to download whatever they want, whether it be through a P2P client, or through a torrent website, or any other format, and just pay a monthly fee.  They are pitching the idea to rights holders and ISPs to get their feedback on the scheme, and it seems as though its up to the ISPs to make a deal with the larger record labels to see that this plan is going to work.

The Isle of Man is claiming that the proposal has come from years of attempts to tackle the issue as well as deal with the industry, and by getting the rights holders and ISPs on board is the only real way to go ahead with the scheme.

Ron Berry, the Isle of Man’s inward investment manager, says, “A blanket license for ISPs to allow their subscribers to download music for non commercial use as an intrinsic part of their monthly ISP or MSP charge is the way forward.  However, to enable this to happen, it needs to be a collaborative effort between rights holders, telecommunication providers and Internet service providers, and a supportive government.”

Berry went on to say, “At the end of the day, we are not going to stop piracy, so let’s embrace it.”

It comes as a fair old shock that those in the industry are actually backing the plan, and Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI, has announced that the move would actually be better for the industry.  “If ISPs take the position advocated in the Isle of Man, we’d be in an enormously better position,” claimed Taylor.

The music industry has faced tough times ever since the introduction of file sharing, such as P2P downloading and torrent websites and has been attempting to try different ploys that have been fairly ineffective, such as lowering the prices of music CDs and releasing music on USB sticks.

The former manager of Pink Floyd, Peter Jenner, underlines the necessity of the industry to come to terms with the current opposition they face, saying, “Let’s face up to it. We’re in a crisis, which is not getting better.  The last 10 years have consistently got worse. The reality is that people are downloading for free. We’ve got to compete with free. I can’t see that anything that’s going on at the moment with the record business is going to solve what’s happening.”

 

P2P file sharing to be targeted by new Government body – time to stop content piracy?

The government are planning on bringing out a new organisation that will be in place to tackle the on-going Internet piracy issues that have been disregarding the copyright laws for years.  The new organisation will be called the Rights Agency and will be aimed at those Internet users who use peer-to-peer networks to illegally download copyright content, such as movies, games and music.

The move comes after an attempt was made to voluntarily bring together the ISPs and those holding the rights to the content with a solution to suit each party.  However, this attempt was deemed a failure and so the Government has decided to take the matter into their own hands.

Along with the introduction of the new body, the Government will also be bringing in new codes of practice which will be coordinated with the Ofcom regulating organisation.

If the plans, drafted by Lord Carter, the UK communications minister, do come into effect, the effect will be that the ISPs  will be forced to regulate the use of illegal downloading and sharing by taking a deeper look at the activities and behaviours of their users.

However, ISPs are clearly not thrilled about the possibility of having to bear down on their customers, more than likely spending countless pounds in the process, with the possibility of alienating innocent users.

Orange have spoken out about how they do not feel as though it should be their responsibility to take action for such matters, saying that Orange as an Internet provider “does not accept that it has any existing legal obligation … to assist in the enforcement of private legal rights.”

“A fundamental flaw in the preferred regulatory option is that it seeks to cut the court – or any other independent review – out of the process and install the ISP as the arbiter of private rights as between the rights holders and users,” continued the spokesperson for Orange regarding the Internet piracy issues.

“Orange fails to see how a proper regulatory regime could even contemplate the imposition of the costs of enforcing private rights on innocent third parties – namely ISPs and consumers – which would be a courageous political move.”

However, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) has said that the reaction to the announcement has been very mixed, some for the solution and some opposing it.

The new body must, however, be able to judge between those breaking the law and those innocent users out there as the BBC programme, Watchdog, has recently uncovered how innocent users have been wrongfully accused of Internet piracy.  A new regulating body could aggravate this issue even further.

Steve Jobs takes a 5 month leave of absence due to “complex” health issues

Steve Jobs has announced that he is taking some private time away from the Apple spotlight in order to concentrate on his deteriorating health.  The CEO of Apple’s recent issues surrounding his health have now been classed as “more complex” than he had originally thought.

Rumours about Steve Jobs’ health have been bouncing around over the past few months and it is said that, although Jobs is only on a five month leave of absence, the problems may see Steve Jobs being forced into retirement.

In a letter to Apple employees on Wednesday, Jobs explained his reasoning behind his break from the company.  “In order to take myself out of limelight and focus on my health, and to allow everyone at Apple to focus on delivering extraordinary products, I have decided to take a medical leave of absence until the end of June,” said Jobs.

“As CEO, I plan to remain involved in major strategic decisions while I am out. Our board of directors fully supports this plan,” continued the Apple CEO.

Jobs had written an open letter on January 5, where he highlighted the main reasons for any decision he would take to look after his health, making the issues a priority.  “As many of you know, I have been losing weight throughout 2008. The reason has been a mystery to my doctors and me. A few weeks ago, I decided that getting to the root cause of this and reversing it needed to become my first (number one) priority,” said Jobs.

It is being rumoured that Jobs may be facing cancer, according to doctors in the United States.  Jobs had an operation, which removes sections of the pancreas, small intestines and bile ducts, similar to a Whipple operation, back in 2004.  However, fallout of the operation may mean that the pancreas could need be removed in order to avoid a pancreatic leak.

“You might have to take the rest of the pancreas out.  You’re on significant doses of insulin, and it’s not easy to manage. The person has the risk of severe diabetes,” said Robert Thomas, the head of surgery at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne.

Jobs went on to discuss in his letter to Apple employees, that, “Unfortunately, the curiosity over my personal health continues to be a distraction not only for me and my family, but everyone else at Apple as well.  In addition, during the past week I have learned that my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought.”

The move to take time away from Apple has cost the company a great hit in the share price department, as shares plummeted 7 per cent after Jobs’ announcement.  Jobs’ is well known as the face of Apple, throughout the world, and the announcement has worried shareholders.

In Jobs’ absence, Apple’s chief operating officer, Tim Cook, will be taking over, however Jobs’ has attempted to ease the worries of Apple’s investors by announcing that he will remain involved with decisions.