November 2006 News

In this Issue:


The Dark Side of the Microsoft-Novell Alliance

Last month we noted that Microsoft had executed an apparent U-turn in their attitude to Linux and other Open Source software. Now a more sinister side to that announcement has emerged.

At a Microsoft SQL Server conference in Seattle last month Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer revealed Microsoft’s true intentions behind the deal. Speaking in a Q&A session, he stated that Linux: "...uses our patented intellectual property...". [Here we are picturing a menacing Darth Vader (Ballmer, obviously) saying to a worried Lando Calrissian (Novell): "I am altering the deal... pray I don’t alter it any further".] According to a letter from Microsoft "Microsoft and Novell have agreed to disagree on whether certain open source offerings infringe Microsoft patents".

Previously Microsoft helped (see also here) support SCO’s attempt to frighten Linux users (especially large corporate users) into believing that they could be sued for infringing IP rights - something that SCO eventually quietly allowed to die a death, pursuing its claims against IBM instead.

We find it hard to see exactly what patent rights Ballmer and Microsoft could be alluding to. As is the form in such cases, they have failed to mention any specifics, making their ploy much more effective, since if nobody knows what "patented intellectual property" they are referring to, there is much less chance that they can be refuted. This is key to the FUD strategy and is similar to the approach adopted by SCO in their attempts to muddy the Open Source waters. Windows™ and Linux are technically very different routes to achieving broadly similar overall products, so it is hard to see how any actual software technology written for Windows™ could be hiding inside Linux. As an alternative, it might be that some overall "mechanisms" - we are thinking of things like the Task Bar or the Start Button, although neither of these as key words produce results on a search of Microsoft’s IP - that are used in some Linux systems might be covered by Microsoft patents, especially in the US, where it is possible to patent things that are not considered patentable in Europe and elsewhere.

Overall it now seems clear that Microsoft’s intentions in striking this deal were to use it in this way. Another of Ballmer’s statements - "Anybody who has got Linux in their data center today sort of has an undisclosed balance sheet liability" - is clearly designed to strike directly at the risk-averse natures of corporate boardrooms, who might be taken in by this kind of bluff and block adoption of Linux in their organisation.

Although this kind of scare tactic is right out of the standard Microsoft play-book, the fact that they are using it now would seem to indicate that they, for one, don’t think the release of Windows Vista™ is going to be enough to halt the rise of Linux in the marketplace.


Mertech release latest Flex2SQL

Mertech has announced the availability of their latest version of Flex2SQL Migration Database Migration utility. This new MS Vista tested version contains a number of new features and enhancements, especially the introduction of a new command line migration utility, as demonstrated at the recent Destination Curacao conference.

Other new features include:

The new version is not a major upgrade and can be installed from download if you have a valid registration code.


HR Matters - Christmas Parties

Many organisations find themselves with problems on their hands over the Christmas period, particularly the fall-out from the office party. And the answers are not always as simple as managers may think. What if an employee who has clearly drunk too much at the office party is planning to drive home, who is responsible? You may be surprised to learn that the company is responsible.

As an employer you have a ’duty of care’ toward your employees and as it’s the company’s party, you need to take some responsibility. Think about travel arrangements and maybe end the party before public transport stops running. Or provide the phone numbers for local registered cab companies and encourage employees to use them. Hiring minibuses to take staff home is another option which would probably be greatly appreciated. Make sure that you advise your employees in writing, not to Drink and Drive.

Finally, remember even going to the pub before the office party counts as an extension of work and so all the laws covering discrimination still apply. Make sure the company has policies in place on bullying and harassment and discrimination and that everyone knows what they are and what the penalties are for ignoring them.

We hope that you find our hints and tips on topical HR issues are helpful. One of the features of our on-line Human Resource and Benefits solution, Octopus, is that your company’s policies are always available to your workforce. Octopus has been designed primarily for SMEs and can help you to automate many important HR functions. For more information on how your company can benefit from using Octopus, call us on Tel +44(0)118 988 8709.


Diary Dates

DISD 25-27 January 2007 - The DISD (DataFlex International Software Developers) conference, held each year in the winter season is scheduled for January 25-27 in Carson City, Nevada, USA. In recent years the event has started with a training day and this year Microsoft will be showing how to configure a Windows server for web applications.


Unicorn InterGlobal - new contact details

Just to remind you that Unicorn has moved and our new contact details are: Priory Court, Wood Lane, Beech Hill, Reading, RG7 2BJ Tel: +44 (0)118 988 8709.

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