THE BROWSER: Truth and rumors from the tech world
Microsoft's hard sell backfires
The software giant gets caught using scare tactics to drum up new deals. Plus: Spammer gets five-year sentence.
By Owen Thomas, Business 2.0 Magazine online editor and Oliver Ryan, Fortune reporter

SAN FRANCISCO (Business 2.0 Magazine) - Competitors are used to Microsoft's strong arm tactics, but it turns out that the Windows maker doesn't exactly apply a soft touch to customers, either. At least one Microsoft employee has used a sleazy scare tactic to attempt to get a customer to buy more Microsoft software.

When Auto Warehousing CIO Dale Frantz got an inquiry from Microsoft (Research) employee Janet Lawless about the company's software-licensing status, he politely replied that his Microsoft licenses were fine, thanks for asking. He got back a note from Lawless informing him that Auto Warehousing was at "significant risk." Frantz had to call his lawyer in to get Lawless to back off. Computerworld got wind of the situation and raised a stink, prompting Microsoft PR to claim that Lawless, an "engagement manager," was just helping a customer navigate the supposed complexities of buying software licenses from Microsoft. If that's what the engagement is like, we'd hate to hear about the marriage.

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Mass spammer faces long jail term

21-year-old Jeanson James Ancheta has been sentenced to five years in prison -- the longest term ever given to a virus writer -- for "building a network of 400,000 slaved PCs and using it to install adware and send spam," reports VNUNet. Ancheta's program took control of the PCs and then formed them into a spam-sending network known as a "botnet." Ancheta, who appears to have made a little more than $100,000 for all his troubles, may have overreached when he tried to enslave computers at the US Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, Calif. Ars Technica admits that the punishment "does seem severe," but also notes that "this is the first time that a hacker has faced criminal penalties for a botnet scheme, so the sentence sets an important precedent."

Samsung's copycat syndrome strikes again

It turns out that the graphic icons Samsung was recently caught ripping off from Apple (Research) and Microsoft aren't the only example of the Korean electronics giant's lack of design originality. A sharp-eyed Browser reader tipped us off to this clone of the Motorola (Research) Razr that Samsung makes for Vodafone's Japanese subsidiary. Perhaps Samsung's $1.25 billion deal to sell flash memory to Apple is the only thing keeping it from copying the iPod's design for its Yepp music players. chief launches Internet TV startup

Instant Media, the brainchild of controversial (Research) founder Scott Blum, launched its HDTV-over-the Internet service yesterday. Tech Living pronounces it "exciting and not-so-exciting all at once." The service, which requires users to download software so they can watch videos on their PCs, differs from the likes of YouTube and Google (Research) Video by storing video for faster, higher-quality playback. Users subscribe to channels and the video content is downloaded over the course of the day in the background. That leads to IM's biggest drawback: You can't just pick a video and start watching. In its lack of instant gratification, the effect is more TiVo (Research) than YouTube. Nice idea, but "a tough sell," says PaidContent. Instant Media will face big-league competition. Indeed, TiVo itself today announced an alliance with Web-video technology startup Brightcove to deliver programming to Internet-connected TiVo boxes. Top of page

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