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Good Morning Silicon Valley

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Posted on Fri, Feb. 27, 2004
R E L A T E D    L I N K S
 •  Roles altered at VC firm
 •  Microsoft's Toyko office raided as part of antitrust probe
 •  Optimism grows in fight against torrent of spam
 •  Oracle faces huge hurdle
 •  Action commendable but puzzling
 •  Jurors rule for IBM in toxics suit
 •  U.S. sues to block Oracle offer

Verisign sues for right to route all Internet traffic to itself

It's a tough battle to take sides in -- like a cage match between Darl McBride and John Ashcroft -- but that's what we're being asked to do today. On Thursday VeriSign filed suit against the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), accusing the organization of overstepping its contractual authority and improperly attempting to regulate VeriSign's business. VeriSign argues that ICANN, in an effort to transform itself into the "de facto regulator of the domain name system," has stifled VeriSign's attempts to introduce new services the company says would benefit Internet users. Among those "services," Site Finder, which hijacks Web users who misspell domain names and sends them to a directory full of advertising operated by VeriSign. ICANN forced VeriSign to shutter Site Finder last fall after the service disrupted the Internet (see "SiteFinder flap puts ICANN ineptitude to the test"). VeriSign says ICANN didn't have the authority to do that. And now the two entities will argue either side of that issue in court, most likely at our expense. As Lauren Weinstein, co-founder of People For Internet Responsibility, aptly notes, this is "a 'Godzilla vs. Mothra' battle, where the Internet -- and its users -- will likely take the brunt of the collateral damage."

Q  U  O  T  E  D

"On the more exciting front, you can imagine your brain being augmented by Google. For example, you think about something and your cell phone could whisper the answer into your ear."

-- Google co-founder Larry Page accidentally reveals the company's plan for world domination

DOJ forgets punchline to old "What's the difference between God and Larry Ellison" joke: Conventional business wisdom says that when the U.S. Department of Justice challenges your hostile bid for a rival, it's time to pack up and go home. But Oracle and its mercurial CEO Larry Ellison have never been ones to follow conventional business wisdom. So when the DOJ filed suit to block its tender offer for PeopleSoft, the company responded by challenging its decision, setting the stage for another high-stakes, high-profile legal battle. "We believe that the government's case is without basis in fact or in law, and we look forward to proving this in court," said Oracle spokesman Jim Finn. In challenging the suit, Oracle will likely contend that the department's claim that there are only three players in the market for business-applications software is mistaken. But that's going to be a tough argument to make. While it's true that there are a number of other vendors in the market, it's readily apparent that for many large companies the only viable choices are SAP, PeopleSoft and Oracle. Indeed, in its court filing, the Justice Department included a 2002 quote by Oracle Co-President Charles Phillips -- who then worked as an industry analyst for Morgan Stanley -- saying that the "back-office applications market for global companies is dominated by an oligopoly comprised of SAP, PeopleSoft and Oracle." Clearly, Oracle has an arduous legal battle ahead of it, and one it is not likely to win. Companies rarely fight such Justice Department decisions, and when they do, they almost never prevail. "I don't think they (Oracle) do a lot for their image by continuing to fight this battle," Forrester analyst Paul Hamerman told ZDnet. "It appears to be obsessive at this point. They should really walk away from this thing and focus on building their own application business, which is a pretty substantial business for them."

Latest Longhorn delay goes gold: Microsoft's Longhorn operating system, the long awaited successor to Windows XP, isn't likely to arrive at market until 2007, two years later than the 2005 date Microsoft announced last May. And that's given Microsoft cause to consider resurrecting "Shorthorn," the interim Windows release it was prepping a few years back as a stop-gap between XP and Longhorn. "Shorthorn equals XP plus (XP) service pack 2, plus maybe the new WMP (Windows Media Player) with iTunes-inspired features," a developer with close ties to Microsoft told Microsoft Watch. "MSN and others want to compete with iTunes, and for that they need the new WMP that Microsoft is working on that can be rebranded and do all kinds of other things. It won't be ready until June. But Microsoft can't wait until 2006/2007 to get that out there."

MS technology chief awarded Nobel Prize for FUD: You know that momentary sense of vertigo you get when you hear something so utterly counterintuitive that it shakes your basic beliefs about how the universe works? That sensation may have rippled through the audience at a British e-crime conference this week when David Aucsmith, technology chief at Microsoft's security business and technology unit, declared that software patches lead to hacking exploits, not the other way around. Hackers, he said, are so lame and lazy that they wait until a fix for a flaw is released, then reverse-engineer the patch to understand the vulnerability. "We have never had vulnerabilities exploited before the patch was known," said Aucsmith. So Windows has flaws, but they're not dangerous until they're fixed, which means if Microsoft wants to make Windows safer, it should stop trying to secure it and leave it full of holes. Head ... hurting ... must ... stop ... now.

Off topic: Mario Brothers: A Deviation: Part I, II, and III (Thanks Fred)

Anybody have Comcast DVR service yet? Let me know at

Good Morning Silicon Valley is written and edited with the able assistance of John Murrell.

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