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Short Takes

- Analysts Meeting: Microsoft Shows Off Longhorn Search Technology
- Analysts Meeting: Ballmer Pledges to Compete with Google
- Analysts Meeting: Gates Talks Up Software Advances
- Analysts Meeting: No Silver Bullet for Security
- Apple and RealNetworks Face Off Over Harmony Technology
- New Zindos Virus Makes the Rounds
- Microsoft Launches Newsbot Test
- Microsoft Responds to Japanese Fair Trade Commission
- It's About Time: New Smart Watch Maker Comes on Board
- So Much for the Best and the Brightest: Microsoft Goes on Hiring Binge
- Intel Delays 4GHz Pentium 4 Processor
- Microsoft Releases New Version of MSN TV
- Have Blog, Will DNC
- More Longhorn Delay Rumors ... Will It Ever Ship?

==== Short Takes ====

An often-irreverent look at some of the week's other stories, by Paul Thurrott, thurrott@winnetmag.com

Analysts Meeting: Microsoft Shows Off Longhorn Search Technology

This week, Microsoft held its annual Microsoft Financial Analysts Meeting, which featured, as usual, a bonanza of new information about the company's plans. First among those plans is the new integrated search technology that the company is planning for Longhorn (the next-generation Windows release) and MSN. In a demonstration, Microsoft Corporate Vice President Yusuf Mehdi showed how the new search technology goes well beyond Web searching by searching local hard disks, the intranet, the network, and "deep Web databases" (whatever that means). But the best thing about the search technology is that it aggregates content from various data sources into a single set of search results. When you search on a word, the search engine returns local files such as Microsoft Office Word documents, Microsoft Office PowerPoint presentations, email messages, email message attachments, calendar items, and contacts. Mehdi noted that a range of product teams, including the Longhorn, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Research, and MSN Search teams, are working on the technology.

Analysts Meeting: Ballmer Pledges to Compete with Google

In his address at the financial analysts meeting this week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer talked about Google and how his company will compete with, not beat up, the competition. (What a concept!) "There's a lot of Google fascination out there, and we share it, and we're going to compete," he said. "We're going to compete very, very hard." Ballmer said that his biggest problem with Google is that Microsoft didn't get there first. "You always want to be first in the marketplace," he added. "If we're not first, we'll be a fast follower, but we really want to be first."

Analysts Meeting: Gates Talks Up Software Advances

Meanwhile, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Financial Officer Bill Gates discussed the role of software in Microsoft's future; not surprisingly, software is very much a part of that future. But despite past problems expanding into markets in which the company couldn't leverage its Windows dominance, Gates says that the future of Microsoft software might come from unexpected markets, such as cell phones and mesh networking, as well as from technologies that build off Windows, such as digital media, large-format displays, and document intelligence. I give the prophetic Gates credit for one comment, which seems to indicate a new, pragmatic way of looking at things. "One thing about innovation is we've got to make sure it maps to what the customer sees as value," he said. In other words, if people don't use it and Microsoft doesn't make money on it, the company isn't going to make it.

Analysts Meeting: No Silver Bullet for Security

Microsoft Senior Vice President Will Poole, who oversees Windows client development, told attendees at this week's meeting that security is a long-term problem that has no easy solution. "There is no silver bullet, and all we are doing \[now\] is just a step on that journey," he said. Poole noted that Microsoft feels good about Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), which will ship next month. "We'll get through the security issues and get through the next leg with the advances brought through XP SP2," he added, nothing that after XP SP2 ships the company can concentrate on Longhorn development.

Apple and RealNetworks Face Off Over Harmony Technology

Ah, yes, there's nothing like two industry titans facing off against each other. This time, the combatants are Apple Computer and RealNetworks, and they aren't very happy with each other. The trouble started when RealNetworks approached Apple about licensing Apple code that would let RealNetworks online music store purchases run on Apple's dominant iPod device. But Apple ignored RealNetworks' pleas, so RealNetworks went it alone. This week, RealNetworks released a beta version of RealPlayer 10.5, which includes the Harmony Technology that lets users buy music from the RealNetworks store and play it on an iPod, courtesy of a little of reverse engineering. Apple cried foul, issuing a snitty statement in which the company accused RealNetworks of acting like a hacker and threatened that future iPod software updates could undo RealNetworks' technology. RealNetworks responded with a caustic statement of its own. "Consumers, not Apple, should be the ones choosing what music goes on their iPods," the statement said. "Harmony follows in a well-established tradition of fully legal, independently developed paths to achieve compatibility. Harmony technology does not remove or disable any Digital Rights Management \[DRM\] system. Apple has suggested that new laws such as the \[Digital Millennium Copyright Act--DMCA\] are relevant to this dispute. In fact, the DMCA is not designed to prevent the creation of new methods of locking content and explicitly allows the creation of interoperable software." Although it's a shame that these companies can't work together, I have to grudgingly take RealNetworks' side in this case. I've tried RealPlayer 10.5, and it works as advertised. And it has exactly what many iPod users will want--a higher-quality selection of music, for the same price as Apple's music, that plays on their iPod systems. Good stuff.

New Zindos Virus Makes the Rounds

A new worm called Zindos (the makers of which Microsoft will no doubt sue because the worm's name is too similar to Windows) is piggybacking on the MyDoom worm to launch Denial of Service (DoS) attacks on the software giant's Web site. The worm accesses the lists of infected machines and back doors that the MyDoom.M worm provided and uses those paths to launch its attack. Earlier this week, the MyDoom.M worm, which spread through mass mailings, launched a DoS attack on the Google and Yahoo! Web sites. Gosh, the Internet is fun.

Microsoft Launches Newsbot Test

This week, Microsoft launched a public beta test of the MSNBC Newsbot service, which is powered by MSN Search. Newsbot is a personalized online news service that aggregates content from a variety of MSN, MSNBC, and NBC properties, giving users a highly customized "personal newsstand" experience. "We want our users to be able to have a one-stop shop for their information-gathering needs, and the MSNBC.com Newsbot provides them with unlimited access in their quest for that information," Charlie Tillinghast, MSNBC.com general manager and publisher, said. You can access the beta version of the MSNBC Newsbot from the MSNBC News Web site.
http://newsbot.msnbc.msn.com

Microsoft Responds to Japanese Fair Trade Commission

As promised, Microsoft issued a formal reply this week to the Fair Trade Commission of Japan (JFTC), which accused the company of contravening Japan's Antimonopoly Act. The Microsoft response is fairly terse. "After careful examination of the contents of the Recommendation, Microsoft has decided that it is unable to accept the demands of the Recommendation and has today informed the JFTC of this decision," the statement says. According to the JFTC, Microsoft's software licenses impose undue restrictions on Japanese PC makers. Microsoft disagrees. So what's next? A hearing, of course.

It's About Time: New Smart Watch Maker Comes on Board

Microsoft's newest Smart Watch partner is a company called Tissot. You can be forgiven if you've never heard of this company because it makes expensive, high-end watches--er ah, timepieces--that "underline the sporting values of quest for performance, precision, and pushing oneself to the limit." Yes, seriously. Anyway, the Tissot Smart Watches don't come cheap; they're priced at more than $725.

So Much for the Best and the Brightest: Microsoft Goes on Hiring Binge

What do you do about a company that already has too many employees, has too many projects, and can't release a single product on schedule? You hire 7000 more employees, of course. That's the tactic that Microsoft is using, anyway. This week, the company announced that during the next 12 months it will hire almost 7000 new employees, 3000 of which will be based in the Seattle area. Microsoft currently employs more than 57,000 people--or almost three times the population of the Boston suburb in which I live. And, folks, it's overcrowded here.

Intel Delays 4GHz Pentium 4 Processor

Intel promised a 4GHz Pentium 4 Processor by the end of 2004, but the rapidly slowing hardware giant apparently will have to wait until first quarter 2005 to ship the chip, thanks in part to a slow ramp-up of its current speed champ, the 3.6GHz Pentium 4 Processor. In fact, 3.6GHz parts are so rare these days that Dell, the world's largest PC maker, dropped the option from its Dimension XPS gaming system. This situation is almost as embarrassing as the Motorola PowerPC delays were. Let's get with the program.

Microsoft Releases New Version of MSN TV

MSN TV is still around? This week, Microsoft unveiled a refreshed MSN TV set-top box that has a hip, modern vibe. Unlike the MSN TV of the past, which used a pokey dial-up connection and concentrated on getting mom and dad online, today's MSN TV recognizes that many people have broadband connections and might want a second Internet outlet on their TVs. So Microsoft retooled MSN TV to appeal to a more technical crowd, and the set-top box now includes some interesting functionality, such as the ability to stream photo slide shows and music from networked PCs. Priced at $199, the MSN TV box will go on sale in October. Pinch me; I'm actually interested in seeing how it pans out.

Have Blog, Will DNC

This week's Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Boston was notable for a couple of reasons, but I saw a story that made me wince. One of my gripes about computer trade shows is that any 15 year old who has a Web site can get a press pass--a situation that seriously affects the quality of attendees. Well, the same thing is now happening on a national level. Apparently, a bunch of bloggers--basically, people who have Web sites--were able to secure press passes to the DNC. Fortunately, most of them weren't children and, unlike the kiddie press corps I've complained about at trade shows, most of the DNC bloggers appear to know their stuff. Still, the situation raises an interesting question and further blurs the line between folks who have years of experience and are reporters by trade and people who think attending major events is fun.

More Longhorn Delay Rumors ... Will It Ever Ship?

And, finally, "InfoWorld" published a rumor this week that quoted unnamed Microsoft sources as stating that the long-delayed Longhorn is delayed yet again. According to the rumor, the early 2005 beta 1 release of Longhorn will now ship in October 2005 to correspond with the 2005 Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC). If the rumor is true, beta 2 won't ship until 2006, and the final Longhorn release will be delayed until 2007. XP SP2 is causing the delays, and this part of the rumor seems plausible because I've seen Microsoft's ship schedule, which clearly places precedence on XP SP2, followed by Windows Server 2003 SP1, which Microsoft just delayed from late 2004 to early 2005. So, sadly, rumors of a Longhorn delay make sense. But are they true? I hope not. Microsoft has delayed Longhorn so often that the OS has taken on mythic status--and not the good kind.

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