An often irreverent look at some of the week's other WinHEC 2004 news...

 

Microsoft Releases Longhorn Build 4074 to WinHEC Attendees and MSDN
   This week, Microsoft finally released an updated pre-alpha Longhorn build--build 4074--to Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) 2004 trade show attendees and to Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Universal customers (through a download). The first two of what will likely be many Longhorn build 4074 screen shot galleries are available now on the SuperSite for Windows, and I'll post a full review as soon as possible. 

Microsoft Verifies, Updates XP Reloaded Plans
   Various Microsoft representatives verified this week that XP Reloaded will be a marketing campaign designed to rejuvenate consumer excitement about Windows XP, a product that has evolved dramatically since its initial release in October 2001. Set to run from October to December 2004, XP Reloaded will concentrate on new XP versions such as XP Media Center Edition (XP MCE) 2005 and XP Tablet PC Edition 2005, as well as various product updates that will ship in late summer and early fall, including XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), the next major version of Windows Media Center, and add-on products such as Portable Media Centers and Windows Media Center Extenders. Microsoft has changed its original plan for separate XP SP2 and XP Reloaded marketing campaigns; instead, the company will now market SP2 as part of the XP Reloaded campaign.

Microsoft Pumps 64-Bit Computing, Asks Partners for Drivers
   Calling 64-bit computing the "future of mainstream," Microsoft representatives, including Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates, used this week's WinHEC 2004 trade show as a platform to get developers excited about the 64-bit Windows versions that will ship late this year, including XP 64-Bit Edition for 64-Bit Extended Systems and Windows Server 2003 64-Bit Edition for 64-Bit Extended Systems. Both OSs will target systems based on AMD64 and Intel x86 64-bit technology and will for the first time offer all the features of their 32-bit brethren (earlier 64-bit Windows versions dropped features such as Windows Media Player--WMP). However, these new 64-bit OS versions will have one major limitation that will--for the time being--limit their appeal. Hardware driver support will be minimal until third-party manufacturers step up to the plate with 64-bit drivers (today's 32-bit drivers won't work). And that means 64-bit systems will be pretty useless for mainstream users, at least for the short term.

Microsoft Refutes Palladium Rumors
   This week, Microsoft refuted a CRN.com report that the company is dropping support for its Palladium technology (also known as Next Generation Secure Computing Base--NGSCB). "NGSCB is alive and kicking," a Microsoft representative said. The technology will still be an optional piece of Longhorn and will require specially made PCs that include security-oriented chipsets. Sorry, rumormongers.

WinHEC 2004: Microsoft Focuses on the Future, Not the Worm-Riddled Present
   As many pundits have accurately noted, this week's WinHEC 2004 trade show was long on sweeping, long-term changes that Microsoft executives would like to see happen to the PC platform but short on information about the problems facing today's PCs, including the seemingly unrelenting series of electronic attacks we endure. Part of the problem, I suspect, is the constant delays Microsoft faces with XP SP2, which was original due in the first half of 2004 but was recently rescheduled for late summer 2004 (although I've also heard that July might be the new date). XP SP2 will solve a lot of security problems--and supply a host of compatibility problems--but like Longhorn it's still mired in "future technology" territory as I write this. How about shipping it sometime this century, Microsoft?

HP's Updated Athens PC Concept Continues to Impress
   At the WinHEC 2003 trade show, Microsoft and HP introduced the Athens PC with a prototype design that combined hardware and software in ways that hadn't previously been tried. Then, in November, the companies showed off a second-generation Athens PC design that used real-world HP hardware, demonstrating that the prototype was on the way to becoming a reality. This year at WinHEC 2004, the companies displayed Athens PC generation three, dubbed Troy, which now features a Longhorn UI but still retains the prototypical elements of past designs, such as a breakout box for currently unassigned functionality that's similar to a docking bay for a PDA. Microsoft and HP also previewed a Hermes mobile PC prototype, basically a notebook version of the Athens design. These designs are cool stuff and a nice future for business computing if they ever come together.

Know Why Microsoft Doesn't Improve IE? It's Your Fault
   For months I've fretted about Microsoft's refusal to improve Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) by embracing modern Web standards and adding user-requested features such as tabbed browsing, and I think I've finally figured out the problem. Microsoft won't fix IE as long as it's still the most-often-used Web browser and its nearest competitor has only Macintosh-like market share. And that's the problem, folks. By continuing to use IE, you're letting Microsoft continue its policy of ignoring a product that, frankly, needs a lot of work. So if you're serious about seeing Microsoft improve this aging clunker, maybe the best solution is to start using something else. I recommend Mozilla Firefox.

DOJ Fines Gates $800,000
   Microsoft icon Gates has agreed to pay an $800,000 fine for failing to disclose an investment in ICOS, a Seattle pharmaceutical company, according to a US Department of Justice (DOJ) announcement. Because Gates is on the company's board of directors, he's required to comply with federal antitrust premerger-notification requirements. In case the situation isn't clear, this fine has nothing to do with Microsoft's antitrust woes, although people often seem to have trouble separating Gates from the company. Here's how you can tell the difference: Gates is the James Bond villain, and Microsoft is the death ray he uses to threaten humanity.

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other WinHEC 2004 news...

 

Microsoft releases Longhorn Build 4074 to WinHEC attendees, MSDN

Microsoft finally released an updated pre-alpha build of Longhorn to testers this week, build 4074, which went out to Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) 2004 attendees and MSDN Universal customers (via download) this week. I've got the first two of what will likely be many Longhorn build 4074 screenshot galleries available now on the SuperSite for Windows, and of course I'll have a full review as soon as possible.

http://www.winsupersite.com

 

Microsoft Verifies, Updates XP Reloaded Plans

Various Microsoft representatives verified this week that "XP Reloaded" will be a marketing campaign aimed at rejuvenating consumer excitement in Windows XP, a product that has evolved dramatically since its initial release in October 2001. Set to run from October to December 2004, XP Reloaded will focus on new XP versions such as Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 and Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005, as well as various product updates that will ship in late summer/early fall, including XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) and the next major version of Windows Media Center, and add-on products like Portable Media Centers and Media Center Extenders. What's changed is that Microsoft originally planned to have separate marketing campaigns for XP SP2 and XP Reloaded; now SP2 will be marketed as part of the XP Reloaded campaign.

 

Microsoft Pumps 64-Bit Computing, Asks Partners for Drivers

Dubbing 64-bit computing the "future of mainstream," Microsoft representatives, including chairman Bill Gates, used this week's WinHEC 2004 show as a platform to get developers excited about the 64-bit Windows versions that will ship late this year, including Windows XP 64-Bit Edition for 64-Bit Extended Systems, and Windows Server 2003 64-Bit Edition for 64-Bit Extended Systems. Both OSes will target AMD-64 and Intel x86-64-based hardware, and will for the first time offer all of the features of their 32-bit brethren (previous 64-Bit Windows versions didn't, dropping features like Windows Media Player). However, these new 64-bit OSes versions will have one major limitations that will, for the time being at least, limit their appeal: Hardware driver support will be minimal until third party manufacturers step up to the plate and get going with 64-bit drivers (Today's 32-bit drivers won't work). And that means 64-bit systems will be pretty useless for mainstream users, again, at least for the short term.

 

Microsoft Refutes Palladium Rumors

Microsoft this week refuted a bizarre report in CRN that stated that the company was dropping support for its Palladium technology (also known as Next Generation Secure Computing Base, or NGSCB). "NGSCB is alive and kicking," a Microsoft representative said. The technology will still be an optional piece of Longhorn, and will require specially-made PCs, which include security-oriented chipsets. Sorry, rumormongers.

 

At WinHEC, Microsoft Focuses on the Future, Not the Worm-riddled Present

As many pundits have accurately noted, this week's WinHEC trade show was long on sweeping long-term changes that Microsoft executives would like to see happen to the PC platform, but it was short on information about the problems facing today's PC, including the seemingly unrelenting series of electronic attacks we suffer from on a regular basis. Part of the problem, I suspect is the constant delays Microsoft faces with XP SP2, which was original due in the first half of 2004, but was recently set back to late summer 2004 (though I'm hearing "July" might be the new date). XP SP2 will solve a lot of security problems--and bring a host of compatibility problems as well--but like Longhorn, it's still mired in "future technology" territory as I write this. How 'bout shipping it sometime this century, eh?

 

HP's Updated Athens PC Concept Continues to Impress

At last year's WinHEC, Microsoft and HP introduced the Athens PC, which a prototype design that combined hardware and software in ways that weren't previously tried. Then, in November, the companies showed off a second-generation Athens PC design that actually utilized real-world HP hardware, showing that the prototype was quickly on the way to becoming a reality. This year, at WinHEC 2004, the companies showed off Athens PC generation three, dubbed "Troy," which now features a Longhorn user interface, but still retains the prototypical elements of past designs, like a breakout box for currently unassigned functionality, like a docking bay for a PDA. There was also a "Hermes" mobile PC prototype, basically a notebook version of the Athens design. Cool stuff, and a nice future for business computing if it ever comes together.

 

Wanna Know Why Microsoft Doesn't Improve IE? It's Your Fault

I've been stressing for months over Microsoft's refusal to improve Internet Explorer (IE) by embracing modern Web standards and adding user-requested features like tabbed browsing, but I think I've finally figured out the problem: Microsoft isn't going to fix IE when it is still the most-often-used Web browser by far, with its next nearest competitor bringing in Mac-like market share numbers. And that, folks, is the problem: By continuing to use IE, every one of you are allowing Microsoft to continue its policy of ignoring a product that, frankly, needs a lot of work. So if you're serious about seeing Microsoft improve this aging clunker, maybe the best solution is to start using something else. I recommend Mozilla Firefox.

 

Gates Fined $800,000

Microsoft icon Bill Gates has agreed to pay an $800,000 fine for failing to disclose an investment in Icos, a Seattle pharmaceutical company, according to an announcement by the US Department of Justice (DOJ). Because Gates is on the board of directors for the company, he's required to comply with federal antitrust premerger notification requirements. In case it's not clear, this fine has nothing to do with Microsoft's antitrust woes, though people often seem to have trouble separating Gates from the company. Here's how you tell the difference: Gates is the Bond villain, and Microsoft is the death ray he uses to threaten humanity.