An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news...
Outlook 2003 Beta 2 Users: Here's the Fix for All the Instabilities
As I noted in my review of the Microsoft Office System Beta 2 Kit, Microsoft Outlook 2003 beta 2 is surprisingly crash-prone. But fear not, beta users, because Microsoft has a fix that brings Outlook right back to its expected level of stability. In fact, Microsoft has two fixes, but the second fix applies only to Microsoft Exchange Server accounts. (If you're using Exchange and the tip listed here doesn't work, drop me a note and I'll forward the Exchange-specific instructions.) To fix Outlook 2003 beta 2, you must delete your current Outlook profile and create a new one. The problem is that when you delete your profile, you essentially lose all the information in your local folders (e.g., email, calendar, contacts), so note all your email account settings and back up your local folders before beginning the fix process. (I usually just export the relevant folders to individual .pst files, but--again--drop me a note if you need help with this process.) Then, to delete your profile, right-click Microsoft Outlook in the top of the Windows XP Start Menu (or open the Control Panel Mail applet), then click the Show Profiles button. Select your current profile (it will probably be the only profile), and click Remove. Remember: You MUST back up your data before deleting the profile. Click Add to create a new profile, supply a name, and, if the new profile is the only profile, choose the option "Always use this profile". When you restart Outlook, you'll need to reenter your email account information and import all the data you exported. I've been testing this fix for 2 weeks, and I haven't had many hard crashes; every once in a while, Outlook hangs briefly but then springs back to life. In the past, the beta crashed every hour or two. The fix is a huge improvement, and yes, the problem is already fixed in post-beta 2 builds internally at Microsoft. Let me know if you have any questions. And, please: Back up before you apply this fix!
Microsoft Files First Antitrust Status Report
In a court filing with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) this week, Microsoft outlined the steps the company is taking to comply with the legal settlement in its antitrust case, something the software giant might be doing regularly for the next several years. This first filing is essentially a status report, letting the courts know how the company is changing its behavior and meeting the other requirements of its settlement. Internally, Microsoft says it's now training employees to ensure that they understand how to avoid antitrust problems and comply with the settlement. An antitrust compliance committee on the company's board of directors and a compliance officer are overseeing these activities, Microsoft says.
Intel Bumps Pentium 4 Processor - M to 2.5GHz
Intel's mobile performance champ, the Pentium 4 Processor - M, got a slight performance boost this week when Intel released a new version that runs at 2.5GHz. This fastest Pentium 4 Processor - M design slightly outperforms the previous champ, which runs at 2.4GHz, and--like its brethren--is targeted at the desktop-replacement notebook market. For mainstream notebooks, Intel recently released the confusingly named Pentium M processor, which runs at lower clock speeds (up to 1.6GHz) than the Pentium 4 Processor - M but offers significantly better battery life and comparable performance. The Pentium M is a completely new design, whereas the Pentium 4 Processor - M is based on the Pentium 4 desktop processor.
Microsoft Research Touts the Future of Computing
At a mini-trade show this week on the Microsoft campus, Microsoft Research (MSR) members showed off some of the James Bond-like technologies the company is investigating, including a gesture-based computer interface straight out of the Tom Cruise flick "Minority Report," in which users move onscreen windows by flicking their wrists. Dubbed GWindows (for Gesture Windows), this technology could see the light of day within a few years, Microsoft says (although I'm sure Apple Computer will ultimately take credit for it). Other technologies that Microsoft showed off this week include MyLifeBits, a new personal information database that takes advantage of storage gains to record all of life's audio, video, photo, and written memories digitally; SkyServer, an astronomy database; PageTurner, which incrementally checks Internet searches to find updated information; and No Spam @ Any Speed, which attacks the spam problem with an interesting cryptographic puzzle solution. If most of this stuff sounds kind of pie in the sky, you've forgotten how fast the computer industry moves. And if the past is any indication, you'll soon be reading yet another story about how Microsoft never innovates.
IDC: Dell Is Number One Again
According to market researcher IDC, Dell is once again the number-one PC maker, surpassing Hewlett-Packard (HP), which wrested the crown after its merger with Compaq. Dell owns 17.3 percent of the worldwide PC market and experienced a 20 percent sales boost, IDC says, compared with HP, which owned 15.8 percent pf the market in the quarter ending March 31. Third-place IBM commands just 5.4 percent of the market, highlighting the vast gulf between the two major players and the rest of the industry. This quarter's sales figures are particularly important because they indicate that the PC industry is again growing at a decent clip. Year-over-year sales were up 2.1 percent, with 34.6 million PCs sold, IDC says, although Gartner is even more enthusiastic, stating that sales have actually grown 5.5 percent worldwide.
Apple Posts a Profit, But Sales, Market Share, Profits Are Down
This week, Apple posted a quarterly profit of $14 million on sales of $1.475 billion, but the good news pretty much ends there. Year-over-year profits were down 65 percent; machine sales, at 711,000, were down from 740,000 in the same quarter a year earlier. Most alarming for the company is that Apple's sales are falling in a quarter when the overall PC market is growing. Given the 34.6 million PCs sold in the quarter, the company accounted for just 2.05 percent of PC shipments. Apple touted its notebook computers, which garnered a record 40 percent of all Macintosh sales in the quarter, but I think this irregularity is overshadowed by the equally important fact that the company significantly updated its notebook computers this quarter, whereas minor desktop improvements led to often dramatically lower sales of the company's desktop products. Another oddity in Apple's earnings is that the company made more money from the sales of peripherals and software than it did from any one Mac product line. One thing Apple might have gotten right, however, is its belief that 2003 is the year of the notebook. Toshiba, which came in fifth place overall in worldwide market share, makes only notebook computers. And, hey, Apple's certainly doing better than Gateway.
Gateway Stumbles, As Predicted
Struggling PC maker Gateway posted a $197 million loss in the first quarter, as expected; sales declined 15 percent. The loss was Gateway's ninth in 10 quarters, and the company is in the middle of a corporate restructure that will see Gateway move from concentrating on PCs to becoming more of a branded technology retailer. The company has a long-term plan to return to profitability, but sadly that plan involves losing a lot of money during the next few quarters and closing numerous retail locations.
Here Comes the Windows 2003 Launch
I don't like going to launch events because they're usually lame and devoid of usable content, but I'm attending the Windows Server 2003 launch next week in San Francisco because some coworkers basically coerced me into going and I'm a sucker for free giveaways. But seriously, folks, the launch of a product this important is a big deal, so I'll try to stay awake and not snork at all the stupid stuff I know I'm going to hear. No, I'm not cynical. OK, maybe just a little.