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EU launches antitrust probes of IBM

The European Commission on Monday launched two formal antitrust investigations against IBM over two alleged infringements of EU antitrust rules about abusing a dominant market position, the commission said in a statement (PDF).

The first case is in response to complaints by software vendors T3 and Turbo Hercules over the tying of mainframe hardware to the mainframe operating system. The second is an investigation launched by the commission itself over alleged discrimination toward competing suppliers of mainframe maintenance services, the commission said.

IBM said the claims, which the company said were the result of a campaign of competitors led by Microsoft and its “satellite proxies,” have no merit, according to a Bloomberg report.

Source: CNET

Ruling Lets Owners Alter iPhone Software

Apple Inc.’s control over its iPhone and other devices via its iTunes store was undercut Monday by a federal ruling legalizing jailbreaking, or altering the devices to install unapproved software, a practice used now by a small number of customers.

The Library of Congress, which helps oversee copyright law, removed a legal cloud over altering of iPhones, iPads and iPods, to install and run software not purchased from Apple.

Jennifer Granick, civil liberties director at Electronic Freedom Foundation, the digital-rights organization that pushed for the change, said the ruling could open the door for third-party app stores. “Innovators now know that there will be customers for them,” she says.

It’s unclear how many companies will take advantage of the ruling, which affects a law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. By one estimate just 8% of iPhones have been altered to allow such downloads.

“I don’t think it’s that big a deal,” said Charles Golvin, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. “The mainstream iPhone customer isn’t complaining about apps they can’t get because of Apple’s restrictive policies.”

Apple has reviewed and maintained veto power over apps for the iPhone since it opened the device to outside developers in 2008. These apps can only be downloaded from Apple’s App Store. Monday’s ruling applies to other smartphone makers but only Apple now restricts what apps can run on its devices.

Computer experts have found ways to get around the code that tethers iPhones to the App Store, however, allowing device owners to download and run programs that haven’t been approved by Apple. The legality of the practice was not clear, so it hasn’t caught on widely.

Mario Ciabarra, president of Rock Your Phone Inc., which sells apps for jailbroken iPhones, says close to $2 million worth of about apps for about four million iPhones have been downloaded from his store. He said the company felt that what it was doing was legal, but was not eager to argue that point in court. What this ruling does “is make it very clear that it is okay,” he said.

Apple, which says it has sold about 50 million iPhones worldwide, has discouraged jailbreaking. A spokeswoman did not address the ruling directly, but explained the company’s policy.

“Apple’s goal has always been to insure that our customers have a great experience with their iPhone,” she said, adding that “jailbreaking can severely degrade the experience” of the iPhone and that it “can violate the warranty and can cause the iPhone to become unstable and not work reliably,” she said.

In 2008 the EFF, asked the Library of Congress to authorize jailbreaking, arguing that the rights of Apple and other smartphone makers wouldn’t be infringed because any changes to the devices are for the personal use of the phone owner. Apple disagreed, arguing that jailbreaking its iPhone would open up consumers and Apple to harm and that the practice was a violation of the law.

The U.S. Copyright Office, a unit of the Library of Congress, on Monday said that Apple’s objections appeared to be rooted partly in the potential “harm to its reputation” which isn’t protected by copyright law.

It said that phone owners have the right to run whatever legal programs they want on their devices and that “modifications that are made purely for the purpose of such interoperability are fair uses.”

The action was in the form of a final rule, which would require a legal challenge to overturn.

The Library of Congress also ruled that it was legal to modify software on a used phone so that it can run on a different carrier’s network, although other technical barriers make it difficult to use an iPhone with networks other than that of AT&T Inc., the sole carrier authorized by Apple in the United States.

The government said the use of snippets of DVDs and other videos for use in universities and schools have fair use protections under the law. However, it rejected other applications for fair-use protections, including a request that consumers be allowed to use their own software to access streaming online video from Netflix Inc. or other providers.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Apple to sell iPhone 4 unlocked in Canada

When the iPhone 4 goes on sale in Canada on Friday, it will bring with it something relatively new for Canadian wireless customers — the ability to pit the big three service providers against each other.

Apple on Monday said it will sell its wildly popular device to customers online and through its own retail stores, as well as through Bell, Rogers and Telus.

The difference with buying the phone directly from Apple is that it will be unlocked and contract-free, so customers will be able to shop around for a service plan with the big three.

The iPhone 4 is compatible with all three companies’ networks, so customers would only have to pop in a Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card, which carriers generally sell for between $5 and $10, to make it work.

Customers will also be able to switch providers whenever they like and use the phone in other countries with SIM cards from local carriers, which will allow them to avoid roaming charges from Canadian providers.

Industry analysts say Apple’s move puts a higher value on the iPhone 4 in Canada than in the United States, where customers currently have only one carrier, AT&T, as an option for the device.

Not only does AT&T have an exclusive deal with Apple to sell the iPhone, but its network technology is also incompatible with most of the other big U.S. service providers.

“The offers or plans of the big three Canadian carriers might look similar, but for some customers who know how to bargain on a specific service or within a bundled backdrop, there may be some opportunities for cost savings,” said Amit Kaminer, an analyst with The SeaBoard Group telecommunications consultancy.

“And, having no contract? Some might say that you can’t put a value on freedom.”

Source: CBC News

Wi-Fi WPA2 Vulnerability Found

BobB-nw sends along news based on yet another press release in advance of the Black Hat conference: a claimed vulnerability in WPA2 Enterprise that leaves traffic open to a malicious insider. “…wireless security researchers say they have uncovered a vulnerability in the WPA2 security protocol, which is the strongest form of Wi-Fi encryption and authentication currently standardized and available. Malicious insiders can exploit the vulnerability, named ‘Hole 196’ by the researcher who discovered it at wireless security company AirTight Networks. The moniker refers to the page of the IEEE 802.11 Standard (Revision, 2007) on which the vulnerability is buried. Hole 196 lends itself to man-in-the-middle-style exploits, whereby an internal, authorized Wi-Fi user can decrypt, over the air, the private data of others, inject malicious traffic into the network, and compromise other authorized devices using open source software, according to AirTight. ‘There’s nothing in the standard to upgrade to in order to patch or fix the hole,’ says Kaustubh Phanse, AirTight’s wireless architect who describes Hole 196 as a ‘zero-day vulnerability that creates a window of opportunity’ for exploitation.” Wi-Fi Net News has some more detail and speculation.

Source: Slashdot

HP and Microsoft to launch tablet computers in 2010

Hewlett-Packard will team up with Microsoft to come out with a tablet computer for the enterprise business market this year, a senior HP executive said Thursday.

HP executive vice president Todd Bradley said the U.S. computer giant was developing tablet, or slate, computers using the WebOS operating system of newly acquired Palm but had not abandoned the U.S. software giant.

“I think you’ll see us with a family of slate products, clearly Microsoft for the enterprise, and a WebOS product,” he said at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference here.

“Our focus is working with still our largest software partner, Microsoft, to create a tablet, a slate, for the enterprise business,” Bradley said, adding that the device was expected to hit the market this fall.

“Slates are going to be an enormous category,” he said of touchscreen tablet computers like Apple’s popular iPad. “This is just in its infancy.”

Bradley added that HP, the world’s top computer maker, is “still Microsoft’s largest customer.”

“We have a deep partnership with them, from distribution to development that we’re very, very deeply committed to,” he said.

Bradley’s remarks came amid speculation that HP had dropped plans to produce a tablet computer with Microsoft in favor of devices using the operating system from Palm, the U.S. smartphone maker acquired by HP earlier this year.

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said earlier this month that the technology titan is teaming up with nearly two dozen hardware makers to release Windows-based tablet computers.

The list of potential Windows 7-based tablet partners given by Ballmer included HP, Lenovo, Asus, Dell, Samsung, Toshiba, and Sony.

Apple has sold more than three million iPads since it went on sale in April and Microsoft and other technology giants have been seeking to develop products to rival the touchscreen device from the California gadget maker.

Speaking at the same Fortune event, Jon Rubinstein, Palm’s former chief executive who is now a senior HP vice president, said an HP tablet computer would be able to run Flash, the popular video software from Adobe which Apple has barred from the iPad.

Source: The China Post

Motorola sues Huawei for trade secret theft

U.S. mobile phone maker Motorola Inc (MOT.N) has sued China’s Huawei Technologies Co (HWT.UL) for alleged theft of trade secrets, highlighting the fast-growing Chinese firm’s difficulty in shaking the nation’s reputation for piracy.
In an initial suit, filed in 2008, Motorola sued five of its former workers for allegedly sharing trade secrets with Lemko, which was also named in the suit and has a reseller agreement with Huawei.

In the amended complaint, filed on July 16 in a federal court in Chicago, Motorola claimed an engineer shared information about a Motorola transceiver and other technology with Huawei founder, Ren Zhengfei, a former officer in China’s People’s Liberation Army.

Motorola claimed a string of emails tagged “Motorola Confidential Proprietary” showed that “Huawei and its officers knew they were receiving stolen Motorola proprietary trade secrets and confidential information without Motorola’s authorization and consent,” according to the suit.

Huawei said the lawsuit was groundless.

“Huawei has no relationship with Lemko, other than a reseller agreement. Huawei will vigorously defend itself against baseless allegations,” the company said in an emailed statement.

Cases like these are hard to prove from an evidence point of view, said Connie Carnabuci, a technology, intellectual property expert and partner at Freshfields in Hong Kong.

“Cases involving misappropriation of proprietary information are usually very difficult cases to run,” Carnabuci said.

“This case is being brought in the courts of the United States, one thing interesting is that decisions of the U.S. courts are not enforceable in China,” she added.

Schaumburg, Illinois-based Motorola accused Huawei of various violations including threatened or actual misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of fiduciary duty and usurpation of corporate opportunity.

Since at least 2006, Motorola had required its engineers to sign a confidentiality agreement, according to the filing.

Motorola spokeswoman Jennifer Erickson said: “We don’t comment on pending litigation, but will continue to vigorously defend our IP (intellectual property).”

Lemko could not be reached for comment.

DIVERGING FORTUNES

Huawei and Motorola were once fierce rivals in China’s fast-growing telecoms market, but their fortunes have diverged in the last few years.

Over that time, Huawei has risen to become the world’s second-largest seller of wireless telecoms equipment, notching major sales not only in developing markets but also in lucrative Western Europe markets.

Motorola, meanwhile, has seen its networking equipment business struggle in recent years as its mobile phone business also lost ground. It now looks poised to exit the networking equipment business, announcing earlier this week it would sell the unit to Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN.UL) for $1.2 billion.

Motorola’s ongoing case against Huawei comes as the Chinese company is trying to push for legitimacy in the global arena despite wariness from Western politicians over Ren’s government and military ties.

In 2008, Huawei’s bid to buy U.S. firm 3Com fell through after opposition from U.S. lawmakers.

The Motorola lawsuit has echos of another lawsuit Huawei faced.

In 2004, Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O) agreed to drop a drawn-out lawsuit against Huawei after the latter agreed to make some product changes.

“There is a lot of attention amongst Chinese companies and (multinational companies) doing business in China where people are looking at their business practices and ways to minimize unauthorized leakage of information,” Carnabuci said.

(Additional reporting by Helen Chernikoff and Sinead Carew in NEW YORK; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Lincoln Feast)

Source: NEW YORK/SHANGHAI (Reuters) / Yahoo!

Fred Wilson: Apple is evil and Facebook is just a photo-sharing site

Twitter and Foursquare investor Fred Wilson shrugged off Facebook’s open graph, the social network’s strategy for mapping the web via people’s relationships and tastes, and called Apple evil for its increasing control over devices and the mobile ecosystem.

“Facebook is a photo-sharing site, really. Maybe with some chat attached to it,” Wilson said at the Geo-Loco conference in San Francisco today. “I don’t think the open graph is important. Everybody’s got a social graph. Every large-scale web app has a social graph. I don’t think Facebook’s social graph is anything to be scared of.”

That said, Wilson did call the social network, which just crossed 500 million users today, a “juggernaut” in a word association game he played on-stage with Federated Media chief executive John Battelle.

[Update: Fred commented below this story (you can read his full thoughts there). He says he was trying to be fun and controversial on-stage. “I do believe, at least in some way, in everything I said. But please understand that I was consciously trying to be on the edge.”]

Wilson said that neither Google nor Twitter would probably ever rely on Facebook to power or socialize its web apps, both for strategic reasons and because the two companies already effectively have their own social graphs.

He decried Yahoo for increasingly relying on Facebook, which now can show visitors status updates from their friends on its homepage.

“It’s a shame,” he said. “It’s capitulation.”

The company he said he worries most about at night as an investor is Apple.

“I think they believe they know what’s best for you and me, and I think that’s evil,” he said.

While Google’s Android operating system is on track to power anywhere from two to four times as many devices compared to Apple’s iOS, Wilson said developers weren’t yet migrating en masse to create apps for Android-based phones.

Wilson said Google was “challenged.”

“It’s been a long time since they have released anything that has been truly transformative for the web,” he said. “The last thing may have been Gmail. They should buy somebody. YouTube was a great move. They weren’t getting video done and then they bought YouTube.”

“They should buy Facebook,”  he said to laughter in the audience. But as an investor in Twitter, he wouldn’t comment on whether the search giant should buy the company.

He also talked about the rapidly changing venture capital industry. Wilson’s firm, Union Square Ventures, has carved out a niche for itself by doing early-stage investments in New York’s blossoming tech scene. He said other legacy firms may struggle as they come to terms with smaller fund sizes.

“A lot of great practitioners of the venture business in the 1980s and 1990s are retiring. Venture firms are really about the people who are in them. It’s not that common that firms can survive the succession from generation to generation. So the new firms that are coming up that will be different from the top tier firms of the 1980s and 1990s.

The industry is much more capital efficient now so you have to be able to write a $1 million check now so you can be there to compete in the first round. I don’t think that’s true in life sciences and cleantech. Fund sizes [for consumer Internet startups] will need to get smaller.

The venture business is pecking order driven. It’s a lot like music. If you’re one of the top venture firms, you’ll see the best deals,” he said “There was a fairly static list of top-tier venture firms for 20 years and that’s what’s changing now. It’s causing a lot of hand-wringing.

Wilson, whose firm was an early investor in Foursquare, said the firm wouldn’t have made much of a return if its co-founder Dennis Crowley had decided to sell the company to a buyer like Yahoo. He said at that time, Union Square had only invested a half-million in the company.

“In terms of my own financial interest, [selling] would not have been the outcome I would have wanted,” he said. “Dennis didn’t really care about what was right for his own pocketbook. He cared about what was right for the service.”

“When you talk about entrepreneurs and their companies, it’s their baby. They want their baby to be the best it could ever be.” For Foursquare to become a company with a user base on the order of 100 million people, Wilson said, the company just needed time.

Wilson also talked about Twitter’s stability problems following a rough month for the company with significant downtime during the World Cup. Twitter oAuth tokens were down earlier this week, crippling startups who rely on the platform to power their log-ins.

“Twitter was built kind of as a hack, and they didn’t really architect it to scale,” Wilson said. “Then it started to scale, and they’ve never been able to catch up.”

But he added that now that the company has raised more than $100 million in the last year, it has the resources to attack its infrastructure problems. The company has more than 100 engineers now and recently hired away Michael Abbott, Palm’s head of software and services, to be its vice president of engineering.

Finally, Wilson gave his thoughts on a number of companies in the mobile space. He said prospects for Research in Motion, maker of Blackberry phones, weren’t good. He said it was “tough being the second fiddle” for Gowalla, another location-based social network that is a rival to Foursquare. He said the HP-Palm deal was a “great acquisition” for the company.

Source: SocialBeat

Firefox, Thunderbird security fixes released

Mozilla published security repairs for Firefox and Thunderbird on Tuesday, which included updates for the legacy versions of both.

Firefox 3.6.7 for Windows, Mac, and Linux fixes 14 security bugs, including eight listed as critical, two high-level bugs, and four moderate ones. The critical bugs addressed problems such as DOM attribute cloning and remote and arbitrary code execution vulnerabilities in plug-in parameters, dangling pointers, and other miscellaneous memory safety hazards. Several stability repairs were also made. Full release notes for Firefox 3.6.7 are available.

Firefox 3.5.11 fixes the same bugs that were addressed in Firefox 3.6.7, although note that Mozilla encourages users to upgrade to Firefox 3.6.7.

Thunderbird 3.1.1 for Windows, Mac, and Linux repairs one critical bug that would crash the e-mail client, and five other bugs across the three platforms. The legacy version of Thunderbird was also upgraded to version 3.0.6, and addresses several critical-level bugs. As with Firefox, Mozilla advises users to upgrade to Thunderbird 3.1.1.

Source: CNET

Notebooks ‘able to hold off iPads in Asia-Pacific’

Notebook computers will be able to hold their own against Apple’s iPad and other tablet devices in the Asia-Pacific region, technology industry analysts IDC said Tuesday.

Regional personal computer (PC) sales in the second quarter this year grew 36 percent year-on-year, an IDC statement said, one percentage point below IDC analysts’ forecasts,

“Portable PC shipments in markets like China and Indonesia came in short of our aggressive forecasts this quarter,” said IDC analyst Bryan Ma.

Dipping notebook sales were offset by stronger-than-expected desktop shipments.

But Ma was convinced that notebooks would continue to drive regional PC sales and weather competition posed by tablets such as the wildly popular iPad.

Apple announced on Monday that the iPad will go on sale in nine more countries this week including Hong Kong, New Zealand and Singapore, after going on sale earlier in Australia and Japan.

“Heavy demand for notebooks will still be a key driver in the upcoming years despite potential competitive pressure coming from media tablets like Apple’s iPad,” Ma stated.

Chinese computer maker Lenovo continued to lead in the region with a 20.3 percent market share, while Hewlett-Packard continued its downward slide with 11.6 percent compared with 14.1 percent in the previous quarter, IDC said.

Dell held 9.6 percent market share and Acer garnered 8.7 percent, it added.

Source: Yahoo! News

Yellow alert over Windows shortcut flaw: ‘Wide-scale exploitation is only a matter of time’

Windows Shortcut’s zero-day attack code has gone public.

The development increases the risk that the attack vector, already used by the highly sophisticated Stuxnet Trojan to attack Scada control systems, will be applied against a wider range of vulnerable systems.

All versions of Windows are potentially vulnerable to the exploit.

Just viewing the contents of an infected USB stick is enough to get pwned, even on systems where Windows Autoplay is disabled. Maliciously-crafted Windows shortcut (.lnk) files might also to be able to push malicious code through other attack routes left open by the vulnerability, such as Windows shares.

The SANS Institute’s Internet Storm Centre has responded to the heightened threat by moving onto yellow alert status for the first time in years. “We believe wide-scale exploitation is only a matter of time,” writes ISC handler Lenny Zeltser.

“The proof-of-concept exploit is publicly available, and the issue is not easy to fix until Microsoft issues a patch. Furthermore, anti-virus tools’ ability to detect generic versions of the exploit have not been very effective so far.”

Microsoft has acknowledged the problem – and published workarounds deigned to guard against attack – ahead of a possible patch. Going by previous form, and given the seriousness of the flaw and the amount of platforms affected, Microsoft’s security gnomes will have their work cut out to release a fix as part of August’s Patch Tuesday much less any sooner.

The Siemens SIMATIC WinCC SCADA systems specially targeted by the Stuxnet Trojan use hard-coded admin username / password combinations that users are told not to change. Details of these passwords has been available on underground hacker forums for at least two years, Wired reports.

Worse still, changing Siemens’ hard-coded password will crash vulnerable SCADA systems, IDG reports. Siemens is in the process of developing guidelines for customers on how to mitigate against the risk of possible attack.

An overview of the vulnerability and its implications can be found in a blog posting by Rik Ferguson of Trend Micro here.

Source: The Register

Linux To Dominate Mobile Market By 2015

A recent study has predicted that by 2015, Linux-based operating systems will power the majority of mobile handsets except for high-end smartphones.

According to a report from market analyst ABI Research, entitled “Linux For Mobile Devices”, leading Linux-based platforms such as Google’s Android and Chrome OS platforms, as well as Nokia and Intel’s joint venture, MeeGo, and Palm’s webOS will be installed on 62 per cent of non-smartphone devices by 2015.

In a statement, Victoria Fodale, a senior analyst with ABI, said: “The number of Linux-oriented initiatives recently seen in the mobile industry indicates that Linux will be a key technology in the next generation of netbooks, media tablets, and other mobile devices.”

“Despite the growing number of Linux distributions in the mobile market, Linux has a unified base of upstream components, notably the Linux kernel.”

ABI explained that the mobile phone market may seem scattered, but as most products are based around the Linux kernel, the platform unifies the market.

Source: ITProPortal