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Sunday, March 2, 2008

How Google and eBay Act Like Nations

Silicon Insider: How Google and eBay Act Like Nations
These Companies Have Such Immense Power That They Now Take on Governmental Roles.
Great truths can sometimes be found in unlikely juxtapositions.

For example, take two very different news stories that came out of Silicon Valley this week. One is of considerable public interest, the other: one of those infrastructure announcements that most readers typically ignore. But together, they have interesting things to say about the changing role of companies vis a vis their customers, the public and the government.
The first — and more-reported story — was the eight-day boycott against eBay organized by some of the company's own "power sellers." The boycott, which began on Feb. 18, was in protest of fee increases and rule changes that eBay announced in January.

On Wednesday of this week, eBay spokesman Usher Lieberman proudly announced that based upon traffic numbers, "We definitely, numerically, didn't feel an impact from the strike" — then he added, as an apparent sop to the boycotters, "but we certainly heard from our sellers and are listening to them."

But apparently listening was the only thing eBay was doing: Lieberman closed by saying that the company had no plans to abandon any of its new price/rule changes.

On paper, at least, the eBay boycott appears to have failed — at least in the numbers that the company was willing to release. The company said that it only releases traffic data in quarterly SEC filings for its shareholders. eBay would only say that there had been no appreciable change. Meanwhile,, an independent service that tracks eBay, said that the company's listings on Monday, about 10.5 million, was roughly equal to that of a month and a year before.

eBay's at War
But those placid figures hide a much more complicated story. On Feb. 13, less than a week before the boycott was to begin, eBay announced a special two-part promotion that both cut listings to just 20 cents each (down from as much as $5) and modified the pricing plan for sellers of such high-volume items as DVDs and books.

In other words, eBay took the extraordinary step of going to war against its own — depending upon how you characterize them — customers/partners/employees. That raises unanswered questions of whether Monday's traffic numbers actually meant that the boycott had no effect, or whether any damage it did do to the company was camouflaged by the residual effects of the big promotion. Nor did eBay release revenue numbers during the boycott, which were likely heavily affected by the replacement of boycotting high-ticket items with low-priced junk.

world is possible where robots could substitute for living dogs and help people

visitor looks the robotic dog "Aibo" in the exhibition " The robots come" at the Museum for Communication in Frankfurt, Germany

Study Finds Dogs, Robots Cheer Elderly
Study Finds Robots -- and Rover -- Equally Decrease Loneliness in the Elderly
Dogs may have a hard time wrapping their paws around this one: Robotic competition is nipping at their heels in the man's-best-friend department.

A study by Saint Louis University found that a lovable pooch named Sparky and a robotic dog, AIBO, were about equally effective at relieving the loneliness of nursing home residents and fostering .

The study, which appears in the March issue of the Journal of The American Medical Directors Association, builds on previous findings by the researchers that frequent dog visits decreased loneliness of nursing home residents.

Andrew Ng, who leads Stanford University's team in building a home-assistance robot and was not involved in the study, said the strength of the research is very encouraging.

If humans can feel an emotional bond with robots, even fairly simple ones, some day they could "not just be our assistants, but also our companions," he said.

To test whether residents responded better to Sparky, a trained therapy dog, or the Sony-made robot dog, researchers divided 38 nursing home residents into three groups at a trio of long-term care facilities in St. Louis.

One group had weekly, 30-minute one-on-one visits with Sparky; another group had similar visits with AIBO; a control group did not visit with either dog. Their level of loneliness determined by residents' answers to several questions was tested at the beginning and near the end of eight weeks of visits.

Investigator Marian Banks delivered the dogs, but did not interact with the residents. In the end, both groups were less lonely and more attached.

Most of the elderly used Sparky, a 9-year-old, reddish-brown mutt with a white muzzle and floppy ears, as a confidant, telling him "their life story," Marian Banks said.

"He listened attentively, wagged his tail, and allowed them to pet him," said Banks, who adopted and trained Sparky after finding him in an alley behind her home seven years ago.

Those who visited with AIBO took a little longer about a week to warm up to the metallic creature. Over time, they grew more comfortable with AIBO, and petted and talked to him. He responded by wagging his tail, vocalizing and blinking his lights.

"AIBO is charismatic if you start to interact with him," said the study's author, Dr. William Banks, a professor of geriatric medicine at Saint Louis University. "He's an engaging sort of guy."

The research could mean that a world is possible where robots could substitute for living dogs and help people, William Banks said.

"They could be personal, not an intrusive crazy inanimate object," he said.

Sara Kiesler, professor of computer science and human-computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon University who was not involved in the study, said the results of the study are encouraging but not completely convincing.

The problem is inferring it was the robotic dog that reduced the loneliness, and not the human who brought him into the room, she said. She said another study could compare a visit from AIBO with someone stopping by with a stuffed animal or even just a candy bar.

Will Price Cuts save Windows Vista Fly Off The Shelves?

In an unexpected and quite surprising move, Microsoft announced it will slash the prices of Windows Vista versions as soon as Service Pack 1 will be officially released.
Microsoft Corp. is cutting the retail price of its Windows Vista operating system by as much as 20% in the U.S., but will slash at least some versions' price tags by more than 46% in both the U.K. and the European Union, the company confirmed today.

Late Thursday, Microsoft announced sweeping price cuts to boxed copies of Vista, saying then that the cuts would range from as low as 3% in developed countries to nearly 50% for some editions sold in poorer nations.

But by the numbers that Microsoft released today, even customers in Western Europe — France, Germany, Spain and the U.K., among others — will also see prices fall by nearly half.

"This is a perfect case of price elasticity of demand; this is Economics 101," said Chris Swenson, an analyst at the NPD Group Inc.

As you might already know, the retail copy of Windows Vista Ultimate will cost $320 instead of $399, while the upgrade version has been reduced from $259 to only $219.

Slashing the price of an operating system that has been introduced just one year ago is quite an unusual move, especially for Microsoft.

Officially, the company said the move is intended to speed up the Windows Vista adoption. It seems like after more than a year, Microsoft is still having hard times to convince users that the new OS is better than Windows XP.

Although Windows Vista is more technically advanced than its predecessor and it offers more features and advanced security options, it seems like the problems with the missing drivers for all kind of devices and the stiff hardware requirements are holding back users from migrating to Windows Vista. Microsoft is in a quite strange situation: it is competing against itself.

And as the Windows Service Pack 3 is on its way, it will remain to be seen how it will play out for Microsoft. From another point of view, Microsoft’s move to cut the price of its flagship product is not such a big surprise. The market dynamic in 2008 is very different from the one in 2001, the year when Windows XP was introduced.

Still 90 percent of the PCs are running Windows, but in the past years Apple’s Mac OS X and Linux have gained a lot of traction amongst consumers, partially because Microsoft’s repeated delays of its Windows Vista.

According to the Gartner’s estimated in the last year only 39 percent of the new computers were shipped with Vista pre-installed, while back in 2002 Windows XP was credited with a market share of 67 percent in the new computer sales. It is a clear sign that things are evolving.

The same company, Gartner predicted last month that by 2011, Apple will double its U.S. and Western Europe unit market share in computers.

“Apple's gains in computer market share reflect as much on the failures of the rest of the industry as on Apple's success. Apple is challenging its competitors with software integration that provides ease of use and flexibility; continuous and more frequent innovation in hardware and software; and an ecosystem that focuses on interoperability across multiple devices (such as iPod and iMac cross-selling),” the market research company said.

Let us not forget that the Windows Vista was launched with a delay of at least one year and selling as a premium a product which may have been a real revolution in 2006 is hard even for a big tech giant like Microsoft. So maybe the price cuts are only the price Microsoft should pay for its delays.

However, it is interesting to see if the price cuts will help Microsoft to reach its target of 200 million Windows Vista units sold until the end of 2008.

Wikileaks is back

""Public Citizen attorney Paul Levy, who had asked to intervene in the case on behalf of Wikileaks, speaks to reporters outside the federal courthouse in San Francisco after the judge hands down his ruling.""
SAN FRANCISCO-(24hoursnews)-Wikileaks is getting its domain name back.

After spending more than three hours hearing arguments from a raft of attorneys--two representing the Swiss bank that fought to get the site's plug pulled and about 10 who have been trying to get the site back online--a federal judge here has ruled in favor of Wikileaks.

Wikileaks, which uses as its primary domain, is a whistle-blowing site that focuses on posting leaked documents.

"The court denies the motion for preliminary injunction, and the court hereby dissolves the injunction against (domain name registrar) Dynadot, and the litigation may now proceed," said U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White, who had called a brief recess around 11:40 a.m. PST, indicating that he was inclined to revisit his order from earlier this month that effectively pulled the plug on the domain name.

Free speech advocates immediately hailed as a victory the decision on Friday of a federal judge to withdraw a prior order turning off the Web address of the site But the reasoning of United States District Judge Jeffrey S. White also means that the court may dodge having to grapple with some of the meaty First Amendment questions posed by the case and touched on repeatedly at a lengthy hearing in San Francisco.
The lawsuit, brought by a Swiss bank and its Cayman Islands subsidiary against Wikileaks and Dynadot, the San Mateo, Calif., company that is the registrar for the domain name, became a cause célèbre for organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, Public Citizen and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Such organizations responded with a barrage of court filings in the wake of an order signed by Judge White last month that required Dynadot to disable the address, making it more difficult – but far from impossible – for Internet users to get to materials published by Wikileaks.
The bank, Bank Julius Baer & Co., claimed that Wikileaks had displayed confidential, personally identifiable account information of its customers, as a result of possibly criminal actions by a former employee. Lawyers for the bank on Friday repeatedly told Judge White that Julius Baer clients had a right to keep their account information private and that there was no compelling interest to justify their disclosure. In this way lawyers for the bank set up a conflict between freedom of speech and the right to personal privacy.
“All of this is private info that is not newsworthy,” said William J. Briggs, one of the lawyers for the bank. If one of the affected customers had been Ken Lay, the late, disgraced former chief executive of Enron, then perhaps there would be news value, Mr. Briggs continued, but that was not the case here.
“Here there have been absolutely no targeted individuals identified,” Mr. Briggs said. “There’s just been wholesale leaking of private banking information.”
Judge White questioned lawyers about the possibility of redacting names from the documents. But Joshua Koltun, a lawyer for a graduate student whom the bank said was an “officer” of Wikileaks, warned that the names could prove to be essential information.
“That’s how you identify who’s been salting away money in accounts,” Mr. Koltun said, drawing laughter from reporters in the courtroom. (The laugher in turn drew a rebuke from Judge White, who said sternly, “I won’t tolerate that.”)
The judge and the lawyers also struggled mightily to define Wikileaks, which defines itself as an organization “founded by Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and startup company technologists, from the U.S., Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa.”
Traditional entities, like companies and individuals, have citizenship status that can determine when they are subject to a particular court’s jurisdiction. But what is Wikileaks, which has not been represented by a lawyer throughout these proceedings?
“Whatever this entity is, it has not filed a response,” Judge White observed.
Paul Alan Levy, a lawyer for Public Citizen in Washington, argued that the bank had brought more publicity to the documents on Wikileaks than ever by filing its lawsuit and obtaining the order affecting the site’s domain name. Under such circumstances, Mr. Levy asked the judge, “Should you give them any relief to help them unring the bell?” The question implicitly was whether the victims of public disclosure on the Web have any shot at redress.
After hours of discussion that suggested the judge’s level of concern with reaching the correct outcome, Judge White looked unhappy that he could not think of a way to help the bank customers affected by the release of the documents. But he said that he feared the initial order suspending raised serious questions of unjustified prior restraint on free speech, and that in any event, once the documents were online, the court might well be powerless.
“Maybe that’s just the reality of the world that we live in,” Judge White said. “When this genie gets out of the bottle, that’s it.”

Claims or innuendo from Google executives regarding the enterprise fitness of its cloud-based applications

Google on Thursday plans to introduce Google Sites, a new addition to its Google Apps suite that provides simple, intuitive tools for collaborative Web site creation.
Google Sites is based on the wiki technology developed by JotSpot, which Google acquired in October, 2006. The word "wiki," however, appears to have been lost during the move.

"We see Google Sites as bigger than a wiki," said Matthew Glotzbach, product management director of Google's enterprise group. "It's as easy to edit as a wiki, but looks as good as a Web site. ... One of the challenges of wikis, even though working with them is easier than working with HTML, is that they're built by IT for IT, and not with the end-user experience in mind."

With the elimination of the twee terminology, what remains is an application for quickly and easily designing group-editable Web sites. Google Sites users can put up Web sites in minutes and can, without any advanced technical skills, post a variety of files including calendars, text, spreadsheets, and videos for private, group, or public viewing and editing.

The launch of Google Sites has spurred closer examination of the Google Apps suite and of some of the claims or innuendo from Google executives regarding the enterprise fitness of its cloud-based applications.

Sarah Perez of ReadWriteWeb compiles a dossier from recent posts on ZDNet and other sites that strip bare the Google Sites bride. Google plays the backdoor game--IT isn't giving you solutions you can use, so raise the software pirate flag, and use Google Sites for free to manage projects:

Google is actually going about marketing to the enterprise market in a pretty ingenious way--they're not. Instead, they're bypassing the IT department (who would, in all honesty, probably laugh at the thought) and marketing their suite on the sly directly to the employees themselves: "Are the tools provided by your IT department too unwieldy to use? Is IT too slow to respond to your needs? Then forget IT and use Google Apps instead!" This is definitely a good plan for Google in the short term, but it's not one that is going to be good for them in the long run...especially when IT catches on to what their users are doing.
It's not good in the long run because sooner or later, IT and centralized control rear their heads. It's a cultural power struggle between IT and users that will go on forever.

Google is applying its guerrilla tactics, ingratiating itself with users and hoping that by the time it has more security, integration, service-level agreements, and less onerous terms of service, the battle to conquer the enterprise--and tweak Microsoft--will be won. It's not a short-term campaign
The marquee customer, among 500,000, touted by Google for Google Apps is Genentech. It so happens that Genentech Chairman and CEO Arthur Levinson is on Google's board. But that is beside the point.

Google Sites is not enterprise-class. It doesn't claim to be enterprise-class, unless you would define the category as wiki tools that:

• are not deeply integrated into corporate infrastructure

• lack service-level agreements

• require that you give the host a "perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and nonexclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display, and distribute any content which you submit, post or display on or through, the services"

(That last part is lifted from the Google Terms of Service. See also the Google Apps Standard Edition Agreement.)

The fact is that wikis, ranging from free, such as Twiki, to more enterprise-scale solutions, such as Atlassian, MindTouch and Socialtext, are spreading like wildfire throughout corporations.

Google, the 800-pound search elephant, is just making its appearance in this space, with an easy-to-use product for individuals, smaller businesses, and rakish departments of larger companies that is still under construction.

Open XML voting ends with both sides predicting victory

Both sides in the Office Open XML (OOXML) debate claimed victory Friday as a key international standards body meeting called to help determine the file formats' future wrapped up in Geneva, Switzerland.

Ironically, despite the two sides' posturing, the meeting's outcome does not directly determine whether OOXML becomes a ratified standard for document interchange or not. Instead, it starts the clock running for countries to change their votes – or not.

This week's meeting was held to resolve issues raised last summer by voting nations when they voted down a bid by Microsoft and European standards body Ecma International to get OOXML certified as a standard by the granddaddy of standards groups -- the Organization for International Standardization (ISO). Ecma already approved OOXML as its own standard in 2006 and is the organization submitting the formats to ISO.

pivotal meeting of international delegates to decide the fate of Microsoft's Open XML finished on Friday with advocates and foes of the standards bid predicting victory.

Brian Jones, an Office program manager at Microsoft involved in the process to standardize Open XML, posted a blog Friday saying that consensus among delegates at the meeting had been reached. Microsoft has been seeking standards approval for Open XML for two years at a joint committee of the ISO/IEC (International Organization for Standardization/International Electrotechnical Commission).

In an interview, Microsoft's general manager for standards and interoperabilty Tom Robertson on Friday said the "overwhelming majority" of comments and concerns raised by international standards bodies this week were effectively resolved.

Robertson stopped short of saying that Open XML will certainly become an ISO standard, but he said that the five-day meeting in Geneva has moved toward consensus as designed.

"I'm feeling very good about the process and the fact that what we have now at end of the week have a clear direction on how to address issue and concerns raised. Those changes should make the national bodies very happy," he said.

Meanwhile, advocates of rival standard, OpenDocument Format (ODF), said that the weeklong meeting is unlikely to provide the impetus needed to make Microsoft's Open XML an international standard.

The meeting in Geneva was held following a vote in September last year, when Open XML failed to get a sufficient number of votes to get the document format approved as an ISO-IEC standard.

During that vote, delegates from national standards bodies submitted comments about the 6,000-page specification, which were meant to be addressed during the Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) this week.

National standards bodies have until March 29 to change their votes based on the activity at the BRM. If enough votes are changed in favor of Open XML, it moves ahead in the standards process.

In his blog, Jones wrote:

"The objective of the BRM was to work with all of the National Body delegations in the room and improve the specification on a technical level--and that we did. There were many technical changes the delegates made to really get consensus on some of the more challenging issues, but all of these passed overwhelmingly once they were updated. The process really worked (it was very cool)."

But two people opposed to the standardization of Open XML said that technical issues were not sufficiently addressed during the BRM where delegates from 37 countries attended.

"I don't think the BRM changed enough minds that Open XML is any more interoperable or more open than it was before," said one advocate of rival document format ODF, who did not want to be quoted because no official results have been communicated. "Certainly this result should not change the minds of any delegates at the national bodies."

No official word has come from the ISO, whose media representatives did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

ODF advocate and standards expert Andrew Updegrove attended the meetings in Geneva this week and posted a blog with details of the proceedings based on his conversations with delegates.

He said that only a small fraction--about 20--of the 900 comments, or dispositions, were discussed. Updegrove concluded that issues concerning Open XML were not adequately hammered out.

However, during an expedited voting procedure in which dispositions were not actually discussed, many of those resolutions were approved, he said, which would lead people to conclude that the BRM was successful.

Updegrove drew the opposite conclusion and said that Microsoft is essentially trying to inappropriately push a complicated specification without sufficient consideration.

"Many, many, people around the world have tried very hard to make the OOXML adoption process work. It is very unfortunate that they were put to this predictably unsuccessful result through the self-interest of a single vendor taking advantage of a permissive process that was never intended to be abused in this fashion. It would be highly inappropriate to compound this error by approving a clearly unfinished specification in the voting period ahead," Updgegrove said.

Delegates from national standards bodies have until the end of March to revise their postions. At that point, final results on whether Open XML will be approved as an ISO-IEC standard should be known.

Apple To Control Applications Created With iPhone SDK

Apple Inc.'s iPhone boasts the power of a computer under its metallic-and-glass shell, including a stripped-down version of the software that runs Apple's Macintosh computers. Soon independent software makers will be able to harness that power themselves, in a development that could broaden the iPhone's appeal,

According to the latest rumors, Apple intends to establish some ground rules for the applications that will be created with the upcoming iPhone SDK.

According to iLounge, who is quoting a several sources familiar with Apple’s plans, the Cupertino company will distribute the application through its digital hub, iTunes.

As iLounge notes this could be a real advantage for the software developers, because the applications will benefit from iTunes traffic.

On the other hand, in controversial decision, Apple intends to approve all the applications that will made their way on iTunes.

“Our sources confirm that Apple will act as a gatekeeper for applications, deciding which are and are not worthy of release, and publishing only approved applications to the iTunes Store; a process that will less resemble the iTunes Store’s massive directory of podcasts than its sale of a limited variety of iPod Games”, wrote Jeremy Horwitz, Editor-in-Chief of iPod Lounge.

However, other sources, like Electronista, claim that the Apple’s approval will apply only to the commercial applications, while the free ones are not the subject to the same rules. But is still unclear if Apple plans to distribute the free applications through its iTunes. Electronista said that Apple will reportedly take a portion of the cost of each commercial application.

In addition, iLounge claims that the iPhone SDK will not allow the access to the dock connector, which means that the developers will not be able to develop additional accessories such as keyboards or add-ons.

Also, iLounge noted that at the Thursday’s event, Apple will unveil only a beta version of iPhone SDK, while the final version is scheduled to be released in June at Apple’s WWDC.

Earlier this week, Apple invited has sent invitations to the press for an event that will take place at its headquarters.

"Please join us to learn about the iPhone software roadmap, including the iPhone SDK and some exciting new enterprise features," reads the invitation sent to reporters.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, according to the analyst Shaw Wu of American Technology Research, the “new enterprise features” could mean a better support for Microsoft’s Exchange and IBM’s Lotus Notes.

But all the speculations and rumors about the future iPhone SDK should be taken with a grain of salt, as Apple didn’t release any official details about its real plans for iPhone SDK.

High time for Intel to get serious about graphics :E-mail: Microsoft 'botched' dealings with Intel, HP

When a high-ranking executive at your strongest partner openly thinks your technology "barely works," perhaps it's time to make that a higher priority.

A series of internal Microsoft e-mails discussing Intel's 915 and 945 integrated graphics chipsets in unfavorable terms made its salacious way around the Internet this week. Microsoft is currently being sued over its Windows Vista upgrade programs, which were designed with pressure from Intel, but over the objections of the PC industry, to include support for a graphics chipset that couldn't run Vista's Aero interface.

In February 2007, just after Vista launched, Microsoft's Steve Sinofsky told CEO Steve Ballmer that the 945 chipset, required for the "Vista Premium Ready" logo, could barely run Vista. And everyone (inside the PC industry, at least) knew the widely used 915 chipset that was awarded the "Vista Capable" logo couldn't even think about running the advanced display driver model used to deliver the fancy Aero interface, considered one of the major selling points of Vista.

Juicy stuff, for sure, but it's old news that Intel and Microsoft have been in engaged in "coopetition" for years. The real lesson is just how badly even Microsoft thinks of the current state of integrated graphics.

Intel likes to mention that it's the world's leading supplier of graphics technology. The only reason it can claim that mantle, however, is because people like bargains, and the way they get those bargains is through the use of integrated graphics chipsets.

Around 75 percent of the notebooks, and around 60 percent of the desktops, sold last year used integrated graphics chips. The rest use discrete graphics chips made by Nvidia and AMD that offer far more powerful performance for games and video.

The integrated graphics chips, usually thought of as "good-enough graphics," really aren't that good. Intel has had loads of problems with its graphics chipsets and their support for PC games or other intense graphical programs. Most of that software will run, but not in an ideal fashion, and lots of people expect that shiny new PC to be able to run PC games without fits and starts or jerky gameplay.

Intel has put the 915 and 945 chipsets behind it, but challenges remain. It still encountered problems with the release of the 965 chipset, and the G30 series has yet to make it into notebook PCs. This area represents arguably Intel's most glaring weakness at present.

The company has shown it's getting more serious about graphics, hiring more engineers and focusing some of its design prowess on projects like Larrabee. And it tried to take a big step forward in the performance of its 965-series integrated graphics chipsets by adding support for functions like transform and lighting. It had lots of problems delivering drivers for that chipset, however, and when those drivers arrived, they didn't deliver a uniform boost in performance.

Nvidia and AMD are way ahead when it comes to understanding how to build graphics chips. Nvidia has been doing this for years, and AMD recognized the growing importance of graphics when it acquired (for far more than it should have paid, however) ATI Technologies in 2006.

Graphics chips and CPUs like the Core 2 Duo are two very different beasts, but the wholesale embrace of multicore processor designs means that at some point, graphics technology becomes just a core on the main chip. AMD is well underway with planning for its Fusion processor and Nvidia seems to be eyeing broader uses for its high-powered graphics chips.

This is Intel's next great challenge, now that it has thankfully derailed the March of Itanium and soothed the burns from the Netburst architecture.

It needs to somehow get up to speed with Nvidia and the former ATI when it comes to graphics knowledge while keeping an eye on the rest of its business. Intel has found it difficult in recent years to break into new areas, such as flat-screen TVs or cell phones, that have very different processing requirements and architectures than the CPU.

But those other bets were just that, bets. This time, Intel has no choice. Intel can't afford to fall behind as the PC industry changes; it's one thing to swing and miss when trying something new, it's quite another to miss the mark on your home turf.

By the time Windows 7 rolls around, Intel will need to do better than "barely works."


Internal Microsoft e-mails revealed through a federal class-action lawsuit arising from the troubled launch last year of the Windows Vista operating system have provided a provocative inside look at the software giant's machinations with Intel, HP and Dell.

The e-mails include an exchange in which one senior Microsoft executive described dealings with computer makers as "really botched." Another manager complained Microsoft was "caving to Intel" and "really burning HP."

The e-mails are included in 145 pages of documents unsealed by U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman in Seattle late Wednesday. They include internal reports and some handwritten notes that offer a rare look inside at the famed "Wintel" partnership, and touch upon the alliance's dealings with Hewlett-Packard, Dell and other computer makers.

They also may help explain how Vista has stumbled, generating numerous complaints and causing many consumers to question whether it is superior to its predecessor, Windows XP. The group Ars Technica, for example, has continued to recommend Windows XP "as we too believe that Vista is not yet capable of meeting the needs of our entire audience (particularly with regards to gaming)."

Microsoft unsuccessfully contested plaintiffs' motions to have their lawsuit certified as a class-action claim for buyers of computers labeled "Windows Vista Capable." Microsoft maintains that it never sought to mislead consumers.

But documents show that in early

2006, a full year before Vista's release, there was intense discord within Microsoft over its dealings with Intel, HP and others in preparing to roll out the new system.
The documents suggest Microsoft bowed to Intel's pressure in certifying certain chips as capable of running the new operating system to enhance sales. Intel declined to comment on assertions that it had pressured Microsoft. "It's private litigation between plaintiffs and Microsoft, and we're not a party to it," Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said.

Intel, Mulloy said, would comment only on a Feb. 26, 2007, e-mail from Microsoft general manager John Kalkman that Microsoft had acted "to help Intel make their quarterly earnings."

"Kalkman has no visibility - zero visibility - into Intel's internal financial performance or forecasts related to microprocessors, chipsets, motherboards or any other products," Mulloy said.

HP, which makes computers that run on Intel chips and Microsoft software, declined to comment.

At issue is whether Microsoft misled customers by labeling PCs carrying the Intel 915 chipset as "Vista Capable" when they were put on sale in spring 2006, ahead of the much-anticipated launch of the Vista operating system. Only computers

labeled "Premium Ready" carried the more advanced Intel 945 chip and could operate Vista's touted features, such as Aero graphics.
Microsoft spokesman David Bowermaster said he did not know how many "Vista Capable" computers were sold. However, he denied any misconduct by Microsoft, saying the company "led a comprehensive consumer education campaign through retailers, manufacturers, the press, and our own Web site."

But one dissatisfied customer was Microsoft's own Windows Product Management Vice President Mike Nash, who wrote this e-mail message to colleagues: "I personally got burned by the Intel 915 chipset issue on a laptop. I chose my laptop because it had the Vista logo and was pretty disappointed. I now have a $2,100 e-mail machine."

The e-mails reveal internal discord at Microsoft over how decisions were made in its dealings with Intel, HP and other companies. Delays in the Windows Vista operating system led to a "two-tiered" release that contributed to confusion.

An early 2006 exchange of e-mails suggests Microsoft executive Jim Allchin was blindsided by an agreement a colleague made with Intel after Allchin had made commitments to HP.

"We really botched this," Allchin wrote in an e-mail to eight colleagues. "I will support it because I trust your thinking through the logic. BUT, you guys have to do a better job with our customers than what was shown here. This was especially true because you put me out on a limb making a commitment. This is not OK."

Colleague Mike Ybarra replied: "Jim, I am passionate about this and believe this decision is a mistake. We are caving into Intel. We worked hard the last 18 months to drive the (user) experience. The (computer makers) are behind us here. . . . We are really burning HP."

Allchin spent 17 years at Microsoft before retiring Jan. 30, 2007 - the same day Windows Vista was released to consumers. He had been a member of Microsoft's senior leadership team, working with founder Bill Gates and Chief Executive Steve Ballmer in guiding the company's direction.

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