$11.8 million, to be exact! Microsoft’s shenanigans have gotten them into a legal squeeze with Bundeskartellamt, an independent federal authority assigned to the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology in Germany.
According to a report filed by Bundeskartellamt, “The product in question was heavily advertised in the autumn of 2008 in stationary retail outlets. Amongst others, a nationwide active retailer advertised the product with financial support from Microsoft. Even before the launch of the advertising campaign in mid-October 2008, employees of Microsoft and the retailer in question had agreed on at least two occasions on the resale price of the software package 'Office Home & Student 2007’.”
Sadly, price fixing has become common amongst larger companies as a way for them to show off their financial prowess (most notably amongst memory companies, who have been known to set industry-wide price points).
According to Microsoft spokesman Jack Evans, “We will use this case as an opportunity to review our internal commercial processes and ensure that we are in full compliance with German law.”
If you haven't been impressed with Microsoft's latest browser -- or just haven't felt compelled to give IE8 a spin and kick its tires -- you're not alone. Despite a significant speed increase, better web compliance, and a handful of new features, IE8 hasn't been attracting the kind of response Microsoft had probably hoped for, at least not if market share data from Net Applications is any indication. At last count, IE8 made up for a little over 4 percent of the browser market share, taking away from IE7 at a conservative pace. The solution? Throw IE8 into the Automatic Update queue as a 'High Priority' update.
"Last week, we released IE8 via Automatic Update to users still running pre-release versions of IE8 (Beta 2 or Release Candidate 1). The goal was to make sure users who chose to install IE8 have the latest up-to-date version," Microsoft wrote in a blog post. "Starting on or about the third week of April, users still running IE6 or IE7 on Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003, or Windows Server 2008 will get will get a notification through Automatic Update about IE8."
Microsoft went on to say that the rollout will start with a narrow audience and expand over time to include its entire userbase. IE8 will be labeled as an 'Important' update for those running Vista and Server 2008, and 'High Priority' for XP users. However, IE8 won't automatically install; users will still have to opt-in.
Oh my, what wondrous (and perverted and unscrupulous and devious and all kinds of other nasty adjectives) possibilities suddenly open up when your necktie doubles as a video recorder, complete with a remote control! Ready for the best part? This thing actually exists!
Credit goes to Thanko for the spy tie, which conceals a video camera with 4GB of storage space. On a full charge, Thanko says you can expect about four hours of on-time, or about one hour of shooting before having to recharge, which takes about two hours. Videos are recorded as AVI files with a 352 x 288 resolution and can be transferred to your PC via USB. Oh, and Thanko warns not to try and wash the tie, at least not while the camera is inside.
We don't know that this one will ever make it to the U.S. market, but you can pick one up in Japan for ¥12,800, or about $128USD.
Keeping the likes of Razer and OCZ on their respective toes, Microsoft today added to its gaming mouse lineup with the addition of the Sidewinder X3, an entry-level rodent that won't chew through your wallet. Sporting an ambidextrous design, Microsoft's latest Sidewinder looks to sway budget gamers with a respectable feature-set, including a 2,000 DPI laser with on-the-fly sensitivity switching.
"Our research shows that in-game comfort continues to be the main consideration for PC gamers," said Bill Jukes, product marketing manager for Microsoft Hardware. "We designed this mouse to be ambidextrous and small in size, providing comfort to a wider variety of people and making it ideal for gaming as well as everyday use."
The Sidewinder X3 also comes with five programmable buttons (eight buttons in all), a wide, detented scroll wheel, and wide-glide feet "for smooth handling and a light, balanced feel."
Microsoft says the Sidewinder X3 will ship in May for about $40.
According to news and rumor site DigiTimes, Foxconn appears to be the frontrunner to produce smartphones for BlackBerry developer Research in Motion (RIM), or so say the site's un-named sources within the Taiwan handset industry.
RIM, who currently works with EMS firms Elcoteq and Celestica, wants to ramp up its output to meet its expanding global market share, DigiTimes reports. Should Foxconn snag a partnership deal, it will become the most comprehensive OEM smartphone maker on the planet, capable of producing smartphones that run on every major handset OS, including Windows Mobile, Android, Web OS, iPhone OS, and BlackBerry OS.
The deal would give second-ranking smartphone vendor RIM, who holds an 18 percent market share, a boost in its bid to compete with Nokia, the No.1 smartphone vendor.
Newton's third law of motion states "to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction," which might help explain why ISPs feel compelled to offer increasingly faster broadband, yet place bandwidth restrictions as low as 40GB/month. It hardly seems fair considering that streaming HD content is finally starting to take hold, along with downloadable games, an increased interest in Linux, and other ways to use up that monthly allotment. New York Congressman Eric Massa doesn't think it's fair either and has pledged to introduce a bill called the "Broadband Internet Fairness Act."
"I am taking a leadership position on this issue because of all the phone calls, emails, and faxes I've received from my district and all over the country," Massa said in a statement. "While I favor a businesses' right to maximize their profit potential, I believe safeguards must be put in place when a business has a monopoly on a specific region."
Massa was referring to Time Warner Cable (TWC), who said it plans to test tiered internet service in Rochester, New York, which resides in Massa's district. Even more startling is AT&T's plans to test its 20GB data cap in the same town where TWC began its pilot program.
It remains to be seen what, if anything, will come from Massa's proposed bill, but the lesson here is that if you take the time to write, email, or call your Congressman, someone just might listen.
Google this week released an 'early-look' version of the SDK for Android 1.5 with a smorgasbord of features to keep developers busy for quite some time. Google crammed so many goodies into its latest release that it would probably be easier to list what's not included, like no Microsoft Exchange sync, but where's the fun in that? Here's just a sampling of what's new:
On-screen soft keyboard
Works in both portrait and landscape orientation
Support for user installation of 3rd party keyboards
Video playback (MPEG4 and 3GP formats)
And the list goes on and on. But it's not just new features that find their way into Android, but several existing ones have been polished. Even the SDK itself has been tweaked and "introduces several new capabilities that enable you to develop applications more efficiently for multiple platform versions and locales."
If the PCGA’s having an in-office Opposite Day celebration, well, someone took it a little too seriously.
Over the weekend, eagle-eyed, bloodhound-nosed chimera readers of the PCGA website noticed that Activision’s name disappeared from the organization’s member list. As it turns out, Activision – as well as “a few others” – could no longer afford the decadent lifestyle a PCGA membership entails, so they quit.
"A few members have decided they cannot justify the budget (membership and staff) required to maintain an active role in the PC Gaming Alliance at this time," the PCGA told Kotaku.
Activision’s departure, of course, means that recent spouse Blizzard is also packing its bags. For those not in the know, Blizzard may very well be the biggest PC game developer in existence, and filling its cavernous cleats will likely prove impossible.
But here’s where things just get weird. The same list that lost Activision to miserly thrift recently gained a new member known as Sony DADC. Long story short, Sony DADC is the parent company of SecuROM, creator of the restrictive DRM that appeared in titles like Spore and Far Cry 2.
Yes, that’s right. An organization that claims to defend PC gamers’ interests has apparently taken a shine to public enemy number one. Um, what?
We’re hoping to learn the why’s and how’s of this strange turn of events from the PCGA soon. In the meantime, though, we’re off to coax the pigs down from the rooftop. Ever since they grew wings, they’ve been completely inconsolable.
Oh no! The sky is falling; PC gaming is doomed; they cancelled Firefly again, etc. After essentially tasting, feeling, and smelling like a multiplatform developer for a couple years, id Software – this time through the mouthpiece of CEO Todd Hollenshead – has finally come out and stated the obvious.
"There's no question that our roots are in PC gaming. And when I play a first-person shooter, keyboard and mouse is the configuration that I want to play on," Hollenshead noted. "But we feel like, in terms of your triple-A, big-budget, big-market title, that you really have to be cross-platform to be successful, unless you're a first party."
"As an independent developer, we feel like we have to be on all the relevant platforms. So we don't really view ourselves as PC first."
Is PC gaming The Future? Who knows – but multiplatform development is now, so excuse us while we don’t spit our cola onto the face of the nearest onlooker.
In other news, Hollenshead said that id will announce “some new stuff” at E3, and that Doom 4 will be like other Doom titles, but not – meaning that guns and demons are probably in, but that those of you who wanted conversation trees and complex interpersonal communication will probably be disappointed.
Read the full interview here, if you want. A word of warning, though: It’s long – and there aren’t many pictures.
The issue was brought up by Colin Kinney at ATL’s annual meeting. He referenced a Swedish research and the findings of some other European experts to justify his sense of alarm. “Have we the right to avoid the moral warnings simply for access to a few more computers?” he asked the attendees at ATL’s annual meeting.
He wants a long-time study to probe WiFi’s impact on heath. The teacher’s body has espoused Kinney’s concerns and resolved to prod the government into action.