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Microsoft joins ranks of those believing the government is conspiring against them

Jul 15, 20134 mins
Data and Information SecurityMicrosoftSmartphones

Microsoft has joined the the companies that believe the government is out to get them, claiming that U.S. Customs is "conspiring" with Google in "secret" meetings to allow "banned" Motorola phones into the U.S.

Microsoft has joined the ranks of those who think the government is out to get them, or at least “conspiring” against them. Moreover, Microsoft alleges that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has been having “secret” meeting with Google about continuing to import “banned” phones made by Google’s Motorola Mobility unit.

In May 2012, after concluding that “Motorola Mobility devices infringed a Microsoft patent for a way mobile phones synchronize calendar events with other computers,” the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington issued the import ban. Bloomberg reported that Microsoft filed a lawsuit claiming the “order isn’t being enforced.”

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who oversees CBP, is also named in the complaint that was filed in Washington on July 5. It states, “CBP has repeatedly allowed Motorola to evade that order based on secret presentations that CBP has refused to share with Microsoft.”

Microsoft Deputy General Counsel David Howard added, “Customs has a clear responsibility to carry out ITC decisions, which are reached after a full trial and rigorous legal review. Here Customs repeatedly ignored its obligation and did so based on secret discussions.”

CBP may not be overly concerned as the agency would rather “focus their efforts on terrorism,” according to patent lawyer Robert Stoll of Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP in Washington. “The issues related to intellectual property is not their concern.” Conversely, Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency loves to get involved with IP disputes; since June 2010, the feds have “seized more than 1,700 domains that allegedly breached intellectual property rights.” Wired reported that “Operation in Our Sites” [pdf] have averaged about “50 seizures a month” for the last three years.

Although Microsoft believes that all Android smartphones are affected by the ban, Google believes the ban should only apply to some Motorola Mobility Android phones. In fact, Google said shut up and stop complaining…OK, not exactly. Google spokesman Matt Kallman told Reuters, “U.S. Customs appropriately rejected Microsoft’s effort to broaden its patent claims to block Americans from using a wide range of legitimate calendar functions, like scheduling meetings, on their mobile phones.”

Former ITC chairman Deanna Tanner Okun added that U.S. Customs may not have the expertise to handle high-tech patent disputes. “Problems have increased. The system is outdated. They’re using practices and procedures that are 20 years old.”

Microsoft slashed prices to dump excess Surface RT tablets

Meanwhile, Microsoft slashed $150 off the Surface RT price tag yesterday, so the 32GB tablet now costs $349.00 and the 64GB tablet costs $449.00. If you are wondering why you would purchase a Surface tablet when so many people reportedly hate the device, then perhaps you might want one if you’re a big fan of Scotty [video] from Star Trek and peripheral devices?

Online rumor mill fueled by alleged Microsoft sources

Microsoft sources told The Verge that the company’s Surface Group is now testing smartwatch prototypes with a Surface connector. These smartwatches are running a “modified version of Windows 8, with a focus on integrating the device with other Windows-powered devices.” The display is rumored to be 1.5-inches and three to four times harder than glass; that’s because the display is made of oxynitride aluminum, better known as transparent aluminum. Thus the Scotty reference as he helped create the transparent metal to save the whales in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Microsoft sources told AmongTech the watch’s removable wristbands will be “available in a variety of colors Blue, Red, Yellow, Black, White and Gray.” The smartwatch prototype is “mostly based on cloud storage” and “won’t have to be connected to a smartphone” as the watch will have its “own 4G LTE and 6GB of internal storage.”

These smartwatches may be part of Microsoft’s corporate reorganization; CEO Steve Ballmer said Windows is now only a “shell” and that Microsoft will offer a “complete spectrum” of devices that he dubbed a “family of devices.”

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ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.