MS protection offer has its share of fine print

As if managing IT resources isn't hard enough. Now, decision makers have to worry about their companies getting sued just because they bought a piece of software. It's enough to make you want to scream for a little indemnity.

Since the SCO Group decided to make a business model out of suing people, companies have had to start evaluating the technical and intellectual property merits of products, lest they leave themselves exposed to litigation. This week, Microsoft capitalized on these concerns by expanding its indemnification program to protect all customers from IP lawsuits, not just its volume-license holders.

The week's top headlines

How serious are the new XP SP2 flaws?

Microsoft indemnification move called strategic

Common sense dictates data center choices

Man charged with selling Windows source code

Microsoft fixes spoofing flaws in ISA, Proxy Server

Move from OpenMail hits connector snag

In a press release announcing the expanded coverage, Microsoft used a proxy to point out the limitations of Linux indemnification programs from the likes of IBM, Hewlett-Packard and others. But Redmond's offer includes plenty of fine print too, so be sure to have a good look.

The bottom line is that every company should stand behind its products, and if it gets into a legal beef with a rival, customers shouldn't have to suffer the fallout.

Elsewhere in the news

Speaking of intellectual property, an engineer with a Michigan-based nonprofit research center raised concerns about Microsoft IP claims in a letter he wrote recently to the IETF standards body. The engineer, Larry Blunk of Merit Network, said Microsoft's Royalty Free Protocol License Agreement, which was created earlier this year, appears to lay claim to 130 protocols. Among them is TCP/IP v4, the granddaddy of Internet protocols. In his letter he said, "… there is no reason to suspect that Microsoft has any patent rights to these early protocols." … Sometimes even friends have to say "no" to each other. This week, Microsoft announced that a version of Windows Server 2003 for clustered servers will not support servers running the Itanium 2 chip made by longtime partner Intel. Adoption of the high-performance processor by server makers has been slow, and Hewlett-Packard has dropped Itanium 2 altogether. … Microsoft's security bulletin board was nearly empty in November, after a record-breaking October. The company issued just one "important" security patch to close a spoofing hole in ISA Server 2000 and Proxy Server 2.0. There's been no word from Redmond about a possible off-cycle release of patches for the Internet Explorer IFRAME flaw that spawned three new variants of the Mydoom worm this week. … Government IT customers of Microsoft are getting a new freebie from the company. The software maker said it is giving away tools that will allow agencies to share technology, such as portal-creating programs, within or outside their organizations. The program is called the Solutions Sharing Network. … Enterprise software companies once condescendingly referred to SMBs as a "down market" opportunity. Microsoft, which got rich selling to the little guy, never saw it that way. This week, it showed it's still interested in this market with plans for new accounting and other business applications aimed at small shops. … A Connecticut man is facing up to a decade behind bars if he's found guilty of charges filed against him this week involving the theft of Windows source code. William P. Genovese, 27, is accused of trying to sell the prized code over the Internet to an undercover FBI agent for $20.

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