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Would SEC Shift Toward Corporate Blogging Eventually Affect Microsoft?

As SEC Chief Responds to Sun's CEO, Bloggers Raise Implications of the "Non-Exclusionary Access" Question

Once the SEC accepts that corporate blogs are a valid channel for making material disclosures, will Microsoft have to make changes to its website so that users can access such information without being compelled to use IE? That's the question raised recently by a reader of Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz's industry-leading blog.

Writing in an entry titled "One Small Step for the Blogosphere..." Schwartz (pictured) explained how he'd written to SEC Commissioner Christopher Cox proposing that the SEC starts accepting corporate blogs as a valid channel in which to make the material disclosures historically made in 8-Ks, press releases and conference calls. The current situation, he argued, was anachronistic in the age of the web:

"Unfortunately, Reg FD doesn't recognize the internet, or a blog, as the exclusive vehicle through which the public can be fairly informed. In order to be deemed compliant, if we have material news to disclose, we have to hold an anachronistic telephonic conference call, or issue an equivalently anachronistic press release, so that the (not so anachronistic) Wall Street Journal can disseminate the news."
Cox, replying in the same feedback thread, basically said he's willing to discuss it, adding:

"assuming that the Commission were to embrace your suggestion that the 'widespread dissemination' requirement of Regulation FD ["Regulation Fair Disclosure"] can be satisfied through web disclosure, among the questions that would need to be addressed is whether there exist effective means to guarantee that a corporation uses its web site in ways that assure broad non-exclusionary access, and the extent to which a determination that particular methods are effective in that regard depends on the particular facts."

Schwartz reported that he and Sun's general cousel Mike Dillon, "have had enough interaction with the Chairman (and read enough of his writings) to know he understands the utility of the internet to inform investors - but until we see a formal revision or clarification to FD, we'll still be limiting what we disclose via blogs and the internet."

But this prudent course was not enough for Mr Lee Hepler. Taking full advantage of Schwart'z blog-feedback facility he used the opening to press the anti-Microsoft advantage, suggesting in the feeback to Schwartz's blog that no corporate web site should "require the use of a closed proprietary web browser (i.e. IE) to view its FD information" and that data files should "be available in an open non-proprietary royalty-free format."

Hepler wrote:

"We should stop allowing the patent and subsequent control and licensing of both data formats and communication protocols to enable free and open commerce and competition. It is time to stop allowing these impediments to open competition."
Hepler also recommended that the FD section of any corporate web site should be indexed by Google and Yahoo!

Currently 30 Fortune 500 companies are publishing corporate blogs.

Copyright (c) 2006 Client Server News Additional reporting by SYS-CON Media's Java News Desk, with thanks to Sun Microsystems.

More Stories By Java News Desk

JDJ News Desk monitors the world of Java to present IT professionals with updates on technology advances, business trends, new products and standards in the Java and i-technology space.

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