News from and about Microsoft dominated this week from start to finish. But the dire situation caused by Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, where the ruling junta cares more about oppression and domination than early warning systems or getting aid to people, tended to put everything else into perspective.
1. Microsoft abandons Yahoo acquisition and Microsoft and Yahoo: Now what?: We ended last week with speculation that Microsoft was about to launch a hostile takeover attempt on Yahoo, only to get word over the weekend that Microsoft was instead bailing out on the deal. Microsoft's first bid came Feb. 1 and was then valued at US$44.6 billion, an offer that was sweetened over time to no avail. At least some Yahoo shareholders are said to be disgruntled by the turn of events, especially given that the company's share price was hammered, but directors and managers say they want to remain independent. Yahoo announced a variety of ambitious future plans and initiatives since February, with analysts noting in the aftermath of the bid that the company will now be expected to deliver on those plans.
2. Microsoft to appeal $1.3 billion EU fine: Microsoft is appealing the European Union's $1.3 billion fine for the company's failure to live up to a 2004 antitrust agreement. Microsoft filed an application with the Court of First Instance in Luxembourg seeking to appeal the E.U.'s Feb. 27 decision that imposed the latest fine on the company, which has been socked by almost $2.6 billion in fines in the E.U.
3. IT didn't fail Myanmar during cyclone, people did: The incredible disaster in Myanmar could have been lessened if people who lived in the path of Cyclone Nargis had been warned that it was coming, according to the head of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. An estimated 100,000 people are believed to have died so far and more than a million are homeless after the cyclone struck on May 2. However, despite warning technology, the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in late 2004 killed thousands and wreaked enormous damage. So, "in spite of the technology that we have, in spite of the power that we have, in spite of the network that we have, we still lose lives needlessly," said Surin Pitsuwan, secretary general of ASEAN, in a speech this week.
4. MySpace makes data portability move: MySpace rolled out a "data availability" initiative, lining up Yahoo, eBay, Twitter and Photobucket as partners, with the aim of letting site members share public profiles beyond MySpace. "Today, MySpace no longer operates as an autonomous island on the Internet, by allowing the data that creates the engaging and collaborative experience that is MySpace to now be shared across all the sites our users visit," CEO and cofounder Chris DeWolfe said at the news conference to detail the launch.
5. Sprint, Clearwire form $14.5B WiMax venture: Sprint and Clearwire are combining WiMax businesses to form a $14.5 billion mobile broadband company with the goal of deploying a U.S. WiMax network with 4G coverage. The new company, to be called Clearwire, also will offer wireless broadband to homes, businesses and government public safety services. The new company is expected to be up and running in the fourth quarter. Sprint will have a 51 percent stake, with Clearwire owning about 27 percent and give major investors -- Google, Intel, Comcast, Time-Warner Cable and Bright House Networks -- the remaining 22 percent.
6. XP SP3 cripples some PCs with endless reboots: Windows XP Service Pack 3 causes some PCs to get stuck in endless reboots, according to messages posted at a Microsoft support forum, where users are expressing their endless frustration.
7. Google grilled on human rights: Google's human rights record dominated discussion at the annual shareholder's meeting, where two proposals that called for the company to change its policies were nevertheless voted down. Google has been criticized for the way it conducts business in China, where it complies with government censorship. The company insists that is what it must do to have a presence in China and contends that it's better to do that and be able provide at least some information to Internet users in China than to be forbidden to do business there at all.
8. Intel, OLPC affordable laptop bout only hurts users: A little food for thought in the week, on the heels of the May 2 news that Charles Kane was named president and chief operating officer of the One Laptop Per Child Project, which has been beset with some level or other of turmoil and change for sometime now, including the acrimonious split of the Intel-OLPC partnership a few months back. As the project seeks to right itself and stay on track, columnist Ken Banks reminds us of the bigger picture -- a child in a developing country "doesn't particularly care where their laptop comes from, what principles were applied in its design or development or who's right or wrong in the 'battle of the paradigms.' All they want is an education, ideally aided by the occasional brush with computer technology in some shape or form. Sometimes, we just need to remind ourselves of the bigger picture." Can we get an "Amen" on that?
9. Microsoft grows DAISY for blind computer users, while Adobe wilts: Good news for the 1.5 million blind or visually impaired Americans who use computers -- Microsoft has released a plug in for Word 2007, 2003 and XP to save documents in the Digital Accessible Information System, or DAISY, XML format, which is the latest iteration of an old standard developed by a nonprofit group. Meanwhile, Adobe isn't yet doing anything to support the standard, but remains under pressure to do a better job when it comes to accessibility.
10. Vista as insecure as Windows 2000: Windows Vista is supposed to be the most secure Microsoft operating system with the least potential for vulnerabilities, but, alas, it still racked up 639 unique vulnerabilities over about the last half year. Windows 2000, on the other hand, had 586 vulnerabilities in the same stretch. That means Vista didn't have a whole lot more vulneratibilities than Windows 2000, but users may wish to cast this as either good news or bad news. As this week's news bears out -- it really is all about perspective.