Somewhere, someone out there is saying "Told you so!" The reason? Oracle has begun charging $90 per user on a plug-in for Microsoft Office that Sun Microsystems used to give away for free.
The tool makes it so Word, Excel, and PowerPoint users can read, edit, and save documents in the ODF (Open Document Format), the same one used by OpenOffice. Oracle's only selling the plug-in in quantities of 100 or more, which works out to $9,000 per order, at least for the perpetual license. Oracle also offers 1-5 year licenses ranging in price from $18 to $63 per user, which are also only available in quantities of 100 or more.
If that weren't enough of a 'gotcha,' customers who wish to receive upgrades in the future must also purchase a support contract.
In a blog post on Friday, Microsoft announced it has reached the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) milestone for the next version of Office, which includes Office 2010, SharePoint 2010, Visio 2010, and Project 2010.
"RTM is the final engineering milestone of a product release and our engineering team has poured their heart and soul into reaching this milestone," said Takeshi Numoto, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Office. "It is also an appropriate time to re-emphasize our sincere gratitude to the more than 5,000 organizations and partners who have worked with us on rapid deployment and testing of the products."
Numoto went on to say that over 7.5 million people have downloaded the beta version since it went public in November 2009, which is more than 3 times the number of 2007 beta downloads.
Office 2010 will land in retail stores in June, though U.S. customers can already place preorders through the Microsoft Store. Pricing has been set to $150 for Home and Student, $280 for Home and Business, and $500 for Professional.
With applications becoming increasingly vital to a mobile platform's success, it makes perfect sense to lure developers to your platform early in its development cycle. It is something Microsoft is trying to accomplish using the Windows Phone 7 Series emulator, which was released earlier this week at its Mix10 event.
The emulator presents a fantastic opportunity to developers looking to learn more about developing apps for the upcoming platform. There is one caveat, though: The emulator only provides limited access to the mobile operating system's features. With hackers not shy to take apart expensive gadgets to get past any exasperating limits, it was always going to be a matter of time before an ingenious developer unfettered this free emulator.
A developer named Don Ardelean announced today that he has successfully “unlocked the ROM image in the emulator CTP.” The task only snatched 6 hours from his life. Ardelean was quick to publish an unlocked version of the emulator, which he later pulled down in as much haste. “I have decided to take down the link because Microsoft could get upset and I don't really want that (if someone at Microsoft will tell me that it doesn't bother them I will put it back),” he wrote on his blog. Besides unlocking all features demoed by Microsoft, Ardelean's hard work also yielded the first glimpse of the Office Apps for Windows Phone 7 Series.
It hasn’t been a good week for Microsoft’s updates to Office. Today, Microsoft came clean on some problems with a recently released seven-patch update for Excel. Apparently, users are seeing Chinese where they’d normally expect to see English. This comes on top of an early faux pas in an update for Office 2007 that caused it to crash under certain circumstances.
Says Microsoft about the most recent snafu: “We have received reports from some of our Excel 2003 and Excel 2002 customers that after installing update KB978471 or KB978474, they are seeing non-English text in the 'Add or Remove Programs' tool (Win[dows] XP) or the 'Programs and Features' --> 'Installed Updates' view (Vista, Win[dows] 7).” Continuing on, Microsoft says if you really need English text uninstall Tuesday’s Excel update, then download and install a corrected version of the patch.
The earlier problem, acknowledged by Microsoft yesterday, involved a non-security hotfix that added support for .Net 4.0 to Office 2007. This caused versions of Office 2007 running on Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows Server 2008 with Terminal Services to crash. Some users also claimed the update would cause Internet Explorer 8 to crash, when being used with SharePoint 2007. Microsoft has already replaced the offending update with a corrected version.
More bad news for Microsoft, who again was found guilty of willfully infringing on i4i's patents, this time by the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals.
Microsoft is quickly running out of avenues. This latest verdict is the second time an appeals court affirmed i4i's patent win, which requires Redmond to fork over more than $240 million in damages, as well as remove a feature in versions of Microsoft Word 2007 that lets people create custom XML documents.
"A reasonable jury could have concluded that Microsoft 'willfully' infringed the 449 patents based on the evidence present at the trial," the judges wrote. "Similarly, there is no evidence Microsoft ever made a good faith effort to avoid infringement, internal emails show Microsoft intended to render i4i's product 'obsolete' and assure 'there won't be a need for [i4i's] product.'"
So is it time to throw in the towel? Not quite. According to InfoWorld.com, the panel will now circulate the document to the rest of the judges on the appeals court, who will then decide whether honor Microsoft's request for an en banc review. If the request is approved, all 12 appeals court judges will reconsider the case.
"From our perspective, there are only so many more avenues for appeals for them," said Loudon Owen, chairman of i4i.
This upcoming Patch Tuesday won't be anything like the one last month, in which Microsoft plugged 26 security holes with 13 bulletins, some of which included critical vulnerabilities for Windows.
Those numbers are way down, according to Microsoft, who announced on Thursday it will issue two bulletins to fix just eight vulnerabilities, all of which are being rated as "important."
"We recommend that customers review the Advance Notification webpage and prepare to deploy these bulletins as soon as possible," Microsoft wrote in an official blog post. "To provide additional guidance for deployment prioritization, customers should note that both bulletins will address issues that would require a user to open a specially crafted file. There are no network based attack vectors."
In addition, Redmond said it is continuing to monitor a VBScript issue disclosed on Monday. The software maker said there are currently no known attacks, but is "encouraging" customers to apply the suggested workarounds in the advisory nonetheless.
Listen up Office users, Microsoft has made available a free tool to help you level up your productivity skills. It's called Ribbon Hero and it offers up different 'games' or challenges for Word, PowerPoint, and Excel 2007 and 2010.
"Ribbon Hero watches what features you do and don't use, and then it recommend challenges for you to play, to hopefully expose you to new features," Microsoft writes in an Office blog. "The first time you complete a challenge, you'll earn points. But then we want you to use those same features in the app (on another day) to prove you've mastered those features! You can max out a feature using it twice, on two separate days -- and one one of those times can you get points from playing the challenge."
Ribbon Hero also serves up Facebook integration so you can spam your friends' walls with PowerPoint updates right next to your latest Farmville achievement. Oh joy.
Microsoft today reported results for the second fiscal quarter ended December 31, 2009. It managed to churn out strong results during the quarter thanks mainly to Windows 7. Both its profit and revenue soared to record levels in this period. During fiscal 2Q, the company reported earnings of $6.66 billion, or 74 cents per share, on revenue of $19.02 billion. This is way better than what financial pundits had predicted.
Microsoft claims it has sold 60 million Windows 7 licenses. While the phenomenal consumer interest in Windows 7 is clearly propelling Microsoft's growth, the lingering parsimony among enterprises is a cause for concern.
The division that makes its popular Office productivity suite was particularly hit by lack of corporate spending, with its revenue dropping 3 percent. The entertainment division did not fare too well, either. It only sold 5.2 million Xbox 360 consoles, 13 percent less compared to the previous year.
Microsoft isn't yet finished fighting what it considers the good fight and has filed a second appeal in its patent case against i4i. According to Microsoft, the original judgment could set a dangerous precedent for future patent cases, TGDaily reports.
The dispute stems from August of last year, in which Microsoft was found guilty of violating an XML patent held by Toronto-based i4i. Microsoft was then banned from selling or importing into the U.S. any Word products capable of opening .xml, .docx, or .docm files containing custom XML. Microsoft would appeal, but lost its case in December.
In this second appeal, Microsoft contends that "the December 22 decision creates [significant conflicts] with established precedents governing trial procedure and the determination of damages, and we are concerned that the decision weakens judges' authority to apply appropriate safeguards in future patent trials."
i4i wasn't caught off guard by the latest appeal, saying "this next step of seeking a rehearing was anticipated."
Microsoft has been toying with ideas on how to increase revenue streams from its software offerings, both operating system and business productivity software. It’s suggested that Microsoft’s objective is a strategic response to pirating: if pirates act because software costs are too high, then find a way to lower those costs without giving it away. But Microsoft’s newly announced rental program seems more a modification of licensing to meet real world usage of Microsoft’s software, in a way that can generate a few more dollars.
From the description offered on the Microsoft Partner Network, it seems that rental only applies to owners of such software (i.e., you aren’t renting from Microsoft, but are renting from the legal software licensee.) According to the site: “Windows desktop operating system and Microsoft Office system licenses do not permit renting, leasing, or outsourcing the software to a third party...Rental Rights are a simple way for organizations to get a waiver of these licensing restrictions through a one-time license transaction valid for the term of the underlying software license or life of the PC.” Under Microsoft’s old licensing system this was technically ‘illegal' (but people were still doing it). Now, with the right payment, it is ‘legal.’
For example, the steps in rental, according to the Partner Network, consists of (1) obtain from Microsoft valid licenses for all machines to be rented; (2) acquiring rental rights for those PCs from Microsoft; and (3) finding customers to rent them. Same process holds true for renting Office, except, naturally, a license for Office must also be held. Rental rights are “perpetual”, but are permanently assigned to a PC and cannot be transferred.
What benefit there is to this isn’t all that clear. Microsoft analyst Paul DeGroot says it is a big deal, that it “could give a boost to Internet cafes, companies renting rather than buying computers.” Further, because renting only applies to current versions, it could “reduce the drag from ‘good enough,’ particularly for Office.” But put an end to piracy? DeGroot isn’t as certain--the price differential between legitimate and pirated, whether rented or not, is still to great to think there’ll be an impact.