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

Yes Virginia, There is a Longhorn Server
Well, the internal debate over whether to deliver a Windows Server update in the Longhorn timeframe is apparently over. According to sources in and close to Microsoft, the software giant is now working on a version of Longhorn Server that will succeed Windows Server 2003 and precede Blackcomb. Longhorn Server will provide customers with the important core technologies from Longhorn, including a .NET-based user interface and graphics library called Avalon, a SQL Server "Yukon"-based file system add-on called Windows Future Storage (WinFS), and low-level anti-virus APIs, among other features. Currently, Longhorn Server is still considered a minor update, however, and not a major update like Blackcomb.

Gartner: Apple Benchmark Claims Raise Serious Questions
Research and advisory firm Gartner has determined that Apple Computer's claim about its PowerMac G5 being the "fastest computer in the world" raises some serious questions. Specifically, the firm notes that Apple ran the tests using lower-performing compilers that wouldn't provide the best results for its PC-based competition, "possibly slanting the test to favor the G5." Gartner also notes that Apple's multimedia benchmarks are "difficult to verify and include heavily optimized PowerPC code." As the company writes, "this type of benchmarking casts serious doubt on Apple's marketing claims," which, as I've noted, is a shame because it's G5 systems look solid. Gartner also says that Apple's customers are less concerned about speed, and more apt to care about "aesthetically exotic packaging and innovative technology, attributes for which its customers will pay premium prices." I'm not a huge Gartner fan, but this assessment pretty much nails the G5 controversy on the head.

Apple: No Notebook G5s Anytime Soon
Apple's PowerMac G5 is awesome, bogus benchmark claims notwithstanding, but it does lead to some interesting questions about the rest of Apple's product line. For example: When are we going to see an iMac G5? Or a PowerBook G5? Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president of Hardware Product Marketing said this week it wasn't happening. "Our partnership with Motorola is not going away. \[PowerPC\] G4s are in every other part of our product line. \[The G5\] is not going in a PowerBook anytime soon. \[G4 maker\] Motorola remains very important to us, but \[G5 maker\] IBM is the one that can take us to the next level." Of course, Joswiak is the one that attempted to stand behind Apple's bogus benchmarks, so maybe he isn't the most reliable of sources.

Pentium 4 Hits 3.2 GHz
And speaking of the fastest PC on the planet, Intel just ratcheted its performance champion Pentium 4 processor to 3.2 GHz, up from the previous fastest speed of 3.06 GHz. Like its predecessor, the 3.2 GHz Pentium 4 utilizes an Intel 875P chipset, an 800 MHz front-side bus, dual-channel 400 MHz DDR SDRAM, and 6.4 Gbps of bandwidth between the CPU and the chipset. Systems based on the new PC and its supporting chipset are now shipping from major PC makers like Dell, Gateway, HP, and MPC (the former MicronPC). Curiously, none of these companies held a major press event to announce the arrival of the fastest personal computers on the planet.

Office 2003 Beta 2 Refresh Now Available to One and All
Microsoft's Beta 2 Technical Refresh is now available to one and all Beta 2 customers. Here are the download URLs:
- Microsoft Office 2003 Beta 2 Technical Refresh
- FrontPage 2003 Beta 2 Technical Refresh
- InfoPath 2003 Beta 2 Technical Refresh
- OneNote 2003 Beta 2 Technical Refresh
- Publisher 2003 Beta 2 Technical Refresh
- Microsoft Office 2003 Multilingual User Interface Beta 2 Technical Refresh

NT 4 Support Bites the Dust
Next week, Microsoft will officially end mainstream support for Windows NT 4.0 Workstation, marking the end of an era and the beginning of a painful time period for those customers still using this system. NT 4.0 Workstation users can still access self-help support forums, of course, and those willing to pay high prices can still receive private support contracts from the software giant. But the end of mainstream support signals an end to software updates, security fixes, and other patches, which is pretty much the final nail in the coffin for this once proud OS. Windows NT 4.0 Server, incidentally, will remain supported through the end of 2004.

Another Microsoft Employee Caught in Theft Controversy
A former Microsoft employee was arrested this week and charged with stealing over $17 million worth of software by ordering it via an internal software ordering system and then selling it privately, keeping the money for himself. The thief, Richard Gregg, allegedly ordered over 5400 software products, and he was fired last December at the same time as Daniel Feussner, the infamous Microsoft employee charged with $9 million of Microsoft software and then financing a high-flying lifestyle that included classic cars and a boat; Feussner later died in hospital under mysterious circumstances. While I understand times are tough, and Microsoft hires aren't the instant millionaires they used to be years back, is this really a good way to make a living?

Supreme Court Drops Microsoft Antitrust Lawsuit
No, not THAT antitrust lawsuit. This lawsuit was filed by a company called Gravity, which charged that Microsoft colluded with PC makers such as Dell, HP, Compaq, and NEC to maintain its monopoly in desktop operating systems. The case was earlier dismissed by a lower court, but Gravity appealed to the US Supreme Court. This week, the highest court in the land ruled against Gravity as well, noting that Microsoft's agreements with PC makers didn't harm competition. Gravity's case, like many others, arose in the wake of Microsoft's historic antitrust case with the US government. But the Gravity case was unique in that the company cited collusion with PC makers. Now, it's just one of many such cases against Microsoft that's been shot down.

Microsoft Executive Shuffle Sees Flessner Demotion
Microsoft committed yet another corporate reorganization this week, combining its Developer and Platform Evangelism Business with the Windows Server Business, and the Enterprise Storage and Management Business, which will be overseen by senior vice president Eric Rudder. What's odd is that senior vice president Paul Flessner, who used to oversee Windows Server and the developer tools, is basically being demoted to run the Exchange, SQL Server, and eBusiness divisions and report to Rudder. However, Microsoft says its not a downwards move, as Flessner had wished to return to more engineering work. Microsoft reshuffles its executive deck fairly often, so this isn't exactly big news: Expect everything to change again in a few months.

Microsoft Rebrands Pocket PC as Windows Mobile, Intros 2003 Edition
To the collective cheers of tiny bands of pocket protector-wearing geeks worldwide, Microsoft announced this week that its Pocket PC 2003 software would be rebranded as … ta da! … Windows Mobile 2003 Software for Pocket PC, an exciting and dynamic name that matches the excitement and dynamism of the product itself. But seriously folks, the new Windows Mobile brand name was chosen to help customers more easily understand that the software running Pocket PCs and Smartphones is … um … mobile. Or something.