Thursday, September 01, 2005

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Published: Thursday September 1, 2005

Ballmer, get your butt out to Boston, and for heaven's sake stay away from the beans

By JOHN PACZKOWSKI

Microsoft officials are no doubt descending en masse on Massachusetts today now that the state has announced plans to back OpenDocument, an open file format for saving office documents such as spreadsheets, memos, charts, and presentation. In an announcement made Wednesday, state representatives said that to ensure their wide accessibility in the future, all government documents must be created in open formats by 2007. The proposal has vast implications, for the state and for open standards. "Given the majority of Executive Department agencies currently use office applications such as MS Office, Lotus Notes and WordPerfect that produce documents in proprietary formats, the magnitude of the migration effort to this new open standard is considerable," state officials wrote in a document laying out the new strategy. "Agencies will need to develop phased migration plans with a target implementation date of January 1, 2007. In the interim, agencies may continue to use the office applications they have currently licensed. Any acquisition of new office applications must support the OpenDocument standard." For Microsoft, whose Office suite accounts for as much as 30 percent of its revenues, news that a populous state dumping its software is decidedly unwelcome. "I think it would be pretty risky for the state of Massachusetts to go in a direction like this without a clear look at the costs first," Alan Yates, general manager of Microsoft's Office division, told the Financial Times. "It would seem to me that before taking such a big shift, they would look into it further."
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Q  U  O  T  E  D

"At first, we thought it was merely a game for a few mentally abnormal people. But as our research continued, we found the problem was much larger than expected."

-- China Youth Association researcher Liu Gang discovers nude Web chats.
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Capellas donates new wing to Golden Parachute Museum: Sharp guy, that Michael Capellas. When he left HP in 2002, he received $14.4 million in severance, plus a $1.9 million incentive payment and $9.6 million to cover his taxes on the payments. When he took over MCI, he received a $2 million signing bonus. Now comes word that Capellas is entitled to a $39.2 million payout when leaves MCI after its pending $8.4 billion merger with Verizon. According to an MCI proxy statement filed Thursday, Capellas will receive $11.3 million for three years' worth of salary and bonus; $18.5 million from a previously disclosed restricted stock grant; and $9.4 million in payments to cover the taxes on his exit package.
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What we need are Yaheaux and Göögle: French President Jacques Chirac just can't seem to get over the fact that the lingua franca of the Internet, ironically, is English. During a speech in Reims earlier this week, Chirac announced plans to fund "Project Quaero," an effort to develop a Eurocentric search engine to rival those of Google and Yahoo. "We're engaged in a global competition for technological supremacy," Chirac said. "In France, in Europe, it's our power that's at stake. It's time to go on the offensive."
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They weren't kidding about a mini promotion:

"We're so confident you'll love your new Mac mini, we'll let you test-drive it for 30 days with no risk. If you decide you don't want it, we'll take it back."
So much for Apple's "Mac mini Test Drive." The company ended the promotion, which allowed customers to return the machine for a full refund after a 30-day "test-drive" just 12 hours after launching it. Apple offered no explanation for the move, but many speculate Apple either sold out of minis, or became concerned that high return rates might leave it with far more refurbished units than it would like.
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High-def DVD cage match rescheduled for next year: Looks like the next-generation DVD wars won't likely begin in earnest until next year. Toshiba said Thursday it may delay the launch of its HD-DVD players until 2006, ceding the first-mover advantage over Sony's rival format, Blu-ray. The news follows an end to negotiations over the development of a single high-definition DVD format (see "What a forking mess"). "We are now in talks with Hollywood studios and large-scale retailers to seek the most effective timing of the launch and best way to launch," a Toshiba spokesperson told Reuters. "We originally aimed for the year-end launch in the United States. But we have not really decided on that."
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"Baywatch" remake to feature wacky computerized sidekick: A 10-year-old girl who lost consciousness and drifted unnoticed to the bottom of a busy public swimming pool today owes her life to an unlikely rescuer. A computerized pool monitoring system designed to detect swimmers in distress spotted the girl and alerted the lifeguard on duty, who pulled her from the water and resuscitated her. "The incident was what we would call a 'silent drowning,' " said Brian Evans, head of leisure services at the pool where the incident occurred. "The girl did not struggle or scream, and there was no visible occurrence that caused her to lose consciousness. She just jumped into the water and drifted down to the bottom, as if she was going to sleep. That is the worst case scenario for a lifeguard, and is exactly the sort of thing that Poseidon, our Third Eye, is there to deal with. The pool was very busy and the lifeguards were at full stretch. She may well owe her life to the system." An extraordinary series of events and one that has proven once again the system's usefulness as the lifeguard's friend. It has previously been credited with saving the lives of two swimmers in France and another in Germany.
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And it'll probably have only one button as well ... Steve Jobs better have more than one iTunes-capable phone in his pocket at Apple's much discussed Sept. 7 event (see "Apple raises CEO tantrum threat level from yellow to red"). Otherwise there are liable to be a lot of disappointed analysts. Sources who've seen the device claim it will store only 25 songs on its 128-megabyte Sandisk TransFlash memory card. Though that card could conceivably be swapped out for a larger one, the phone has reportedly been programmed to limit song storage to 25 songs, regardless of the size of its installed memory. As Forbes notes, there are all sorts of caveats to this speculation: The phone in question could be quite different from the one Apple plans to uncrate next week. Or it could be one of a number of such devices. We'll have to wait until next week to find out.
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Area Web designer had enough of your damn Onion quotes already: How does one approach satirical information design? An interesting question and one answered, to some extent at least, by Subtration's Khoi Vinh, who just finished up a complete redesign of America's Finest News Source. "The design challenge became somewhat more complex than creating a Web site for a weekly newspaper with a fairly low page count, but rather how to create a site that might pass for a legitimate news organization on the level of The New York Times or The Washington Post," Vinh wrote in a post to his Web log. "An enormous amount of thought and energy went into determining a look and feel that was unflinchingly 'newsy.' The writers run jokes that make perfect sense in the context of the The Onion's print edition, but online, they threatened to compromise the pretense of The Onion as an almost plausible Internet news source — unless we treated them with just the right care."
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Off topic: Overclocking yourself (Thanks Jerry) and Turlington's Lower Back Tattoo Remover

Send spring shoes to Jpaczkowski@realcities.com.

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

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