MS proposes three browser ‘ballot’ system for PCs

Got the idea while playing the slots in Vegas


MS on Trial Settlement talks between Microsoft and the Department of Justice would seem to be on again (sort of), and a couple of Microsoft offers have surfaced. They certainly indicate that Microsoft has been getting keener on cutting a deal, but they're clearly not enough to get the DoJ to back off. The offers seem to fall into three categories at the moment, one weird, one dubious and one fuzzy. Being a serious journal of record, we'll naturally deal with the weird one, the browser solution, first. Microsoft is suggesting a ballot screen that will allow users to select their browser of choice as the software installs, so during the installation process you'd get to choose IE, Navigator or Opera. This is weird for a number of reasons. First of all, if Microsoft really is suggesting this, it casts an interesting light on all those claims its witnesses (hiya Jimbo) have been making about how the browser is integrated into the OS and how you can't remove it without breaking features. Second, it leaves quite a bit of scope for the continuation of Microsoft's control over the installation and initial boot sequence of a PC. Microsoft could write bizarre contracts that forced its OEMs to ship all three browsers whether they wanted to or not, control the way the ballot was presented to the user, and then protest that its hands were tied because of the latest DoJ consent decree. The dubious one is to do with contracts. It's prepared to dump exclusive deals with ISPs, and to give PC manufacturers greater freedom in terms of bundling software from rival companies and doing their own deals with ISPs. That possibly implies that it's not suggesting dumping exclusive deals with PC companies, but written-down exclusives really aren't that important for Microsoft. Co-op marketing deals, soft dollars and discounts offered to PC companies and ISPs on the achievement of target shipments are rather more important. So you could see how Microsoft could work on the wording of a deal with a view to skating neatly round the edges after it's signed. Finally our fuzzy one is disclosure of Windows APIs. Microsoft already does disclose APIs - eventually, with timing depending on who you are - so the company will probably try to get away with vague promises to be good, and then to carry on more or less as normal with its groups of friends and enemies. But even if it really was good on APIs, that's not even the half of it. Control of the software platform means that Microsoft can grant and withhold information, depending on who you are, and can break rival software and consolidate its control over sectors via repeated upgrades and 'musical DLLs.' It's not entirely obvious that there is a solution to this one, considering we're dealing with a whole approach to develop and how it integrates with marketing and corporate strategy here. Maybe the DoJ should just insist that Microsoft just says sorry for Windows and shoots it (this is an exclusive Register MS Remedies suggestion). Overall, the offers don't go far enough, and are too vague to win over a DoJ which must by now be absolutely convinced it has Microsoft nailed. But tentative lines of communication remain open, and even if Microsoft's corporate mind doesn't get sufficiently concentrated over the summer, Judge Jackson's initial ruling, which will be a "finding of facts," not a full judgement, could induce it to up the bids. ® Complete Register Trial coverage


Other stories you might like

  • Apple's latest security feature could literally save lives
    Cupertino is so sure of Lockdown Mode it's offering $2m to bug hunters to break it

    Apple's latest security feature won't be used by most of its customers, but those who need Lockdown Mode could find it to be a literal life saver.

    The functionality, coming with iOS/iPadOS 16 and macOS Ventura, dramatically shrinks an iDevice's attack surface by disabling many of its features. It's designed to protect the small number of Apple users who, "because of who they are or what they do, may be personally targeted by some of the most sophisticated digital threats, such as those from NSO Group and other private companies developing state-sponsored mercenary spyware," Apple said in a statement. 

    Lockdown, thus, effectively reduces the number of potential vulnerabilities spyware could exploit to compromise a device, cutting the possible routes into surveillance targets' kit.

    Continue reading
  • Has Intel gone too far with its Ohio fab 'delay' stunt?
    With construction unceremoniously underway, x86 giant may have overplayed its hand

    COMMENT The way Intel has been talking about the status of its $20 billion Ohio fab project, you would be forgiven if you assumed that construction on the Midwest mega-site has been delayed in light of Congress struggling to pass a large subsidies package that would support new American chip factories.

    When Intel delayed a groundbreaking ceremony for the Ohio manufacturing site two weeks ago out of frustration over the subsidies inaction, some headlines may have given you the impression the semiconductor giant was putting off construction entirely.

    However, an Intel spokesperson made it clear to The Register and others at the time that the start date for construction had not changed.

    Continue reading
  • Hive ransomware gang rapidly evolves with complex encryption, Rust code
    RaaS malware devs have been busy bees

    The Hive group, which has become one of the most prolific ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) operators, has significantly overhauled its malware, including migrating the code to the Rust programming language and using a more complex file encryption process.

    Researchers at the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) uncovered the Hive variant while analyzing a change in the group's methods.

    "With its latest variant carrying several major upgrades, Hive also proves it's one of the fastest evolving ransomware families, exemplifying the continuously changing ransomware ecosystem," the researchers said in a write-up this week.

    Continue reading
  • What do you mean your exaflop is better than mine?
    Gaming the system was fine for a while, now it's time to get precise about precision

    Comment A multi-exaflop supercomputer the size of your mini-fridge? Sure, but read the fine print and you may discover those performance figures have been a bit … stretched.

    As more chipmakers bake support for 8-bit floating point (FP8) math into next-gen silicon, we can expect an era of increasingly wild AI performance claims that differ dramatically from the standard way of measuring large system performance, using double-precision 64-bit floating point or FP64.

    When vendors shout about exascale performance, be aware that some will use FP8 and some FP64, and it's important to know which is being used as a metric. A computer system that can achieve (say) 200 peta-FLOPS of FP64 is a much more powerful beast than a system capable of 200 peta-FLOPS at just FP8.

    Continue reading
  • Meta's AI translation breaks 200 language barrier
    Open source model improves translation of rarer spoken languages by 70%

    Meta's quest to translate underserved languages is marking its first victory with the open source release of a language model able to decipher 202 languages.

    Named after Meta's No Language Left Behind initiative and dubbed NLLB-200, the model is the first able to translate so many languages, according to its makers, all with the goal to improve translation for languages overlooked by similar projects. 

    "The vast majority of improvements made in machine translation in the last decades have been for high-resource languages," Meta researchers wrote in a paper [PDF]. "While machine translation continues to grow, the fruits it bears are unevenly distributed," they said. 

    Continue reading
  • Tracking cookies found in more than half of G20 government websites
    Sorry, conspiracy theorists, it's more likely sloppy webdev work rather than spying

    We expect a certain amount of cookie-based tracking on retail websites and social networks, but in some countries up to 90 percent of government sites have implemented trackers – and serve them seemingly without user consent. 

    A study evaluated more than 118,000 URLs of 5,500 government websites – think .gov, .gov.uk. .gov.au, .gc.ca, etc – hosted in the twenty largest global economies – the G20 – and discovered a surprising tracking cookie problem, even among countries party to Europe's GDPR and those who have their own data privacy regulations.

    On average, the study found, more than half of cookies created on G20 government websites were third-party cookies, meaning they were created by outside entities typically to collect information on the user. At least 10 percent, going up to 90 percent, come from known third party cookies or trackers, we're told.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022