No Blog Today
   Because I've been blogging extensively this week from Microsoft Professional Developer Conference (PDC) 2005, I assume everyone's up-to-date on my comings and goings. The week has been an amazing, if tiring, experience. And seriously, I have no more thoughts in my head. None. If you haven't already read my PDC 2005 blog for day three, click here.

Microsoft to Combine MSN with AOL?
   In news that proves that Microsoft will do absolutely anything to beat Google, various news agencies reported this week that the software giant is in ongoing talks with rival AOL to combine the two companies' Internet assets. Yes, that's right. We could see a combination of MSN and AOL if this all works out. Key to the deal, I'm sure, is Internet search. Currently, both AOL and MSN get at least some of their search results from Yahoo!, but any combination of the two entities would likely migrate completely to MSN Search, giving that upstart service a leg up on search-engine-king Google. To be fair, none of this will probably happen, and even if the two companies do come to an agreement (I have to think that Time Warner would unload AOL right now if it could), such an agreement would likely fall under an exhaustive US Department of Justice (DOJ) antitrust review. I guess we'll see what happens.

Microsoft to Change Software Development After Vista
   Admitting that, yes, Windows Vista development has taken too long, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer pledged this week to make deep-rooted changes to ensure that this kind of fiasco never happens again. "We attempted something that was beyond the planning and conceptualization of the system," he told "The Financial Times" this week. "The product cycle has been longer than it should have been." As a result, future Windows versions will be less ambitious, and Microsoft will change the way it develops software to meet the new requirements. "In the last year and a half, we've done a lot of revamping of the engineering and the processes," Balmer added. These changes are obviously needed and arguably a long time coming. That Vista has taken this long to come to market is astonishing.

Microsoft Cancels Major SQL Server 2005 Feature
   What do you do when you can't hit a release date target? Drop features, of course. And this time, the feature Microsoft decided to drop is a doozie. Amid all the hoopla of PDC 2005 this week, Microsoft quietly--oh so quietly--dropped a major bomb on its enterprise customers. The oft-delayed Microsoft SQL Server 2005 product line, which will ship in November--come hell or high water, is losing one of its most compelling features so it can meet that ill-advised release date. The feature, SQL Data Mirroring, would have let SQL Server 2005 boost performance by mirroring databases on remote servers. Microsoft now hopes to ship the mirroring feature in mid-2006, the company says. What I find amazing about this change is that it comes so late in the product's development schedule. You've got to be kidding me.

Microsoft Announces Major Changes to Microsoft Software Assurance
   In sharp contrast to the previous news item, here's a bit of good news for enterprises. This week, Microsoft also announced major changes to the Microsoft Software Assurance (SA) program, which lets enterprises amortize software costs over a several-year subscription period. The new changes include exclusive Windows versions, such as Windows Vista Enterprise, and Windows Foundation for Legacy PCs, previously code-named Eiger, which is a stripped-down version of Windows XP that's designed for low-end legacy computers. SA customers will also get access to Virtual PC Express, a version of Virtual PC that supports just one virtual machine at a time and is designed for enterprise users who need access to legacy applications that run only on older Windows versions.

Dell Drops Itanium Like a Bad Habit
   In yet another indication that the Intel Itanium microprocessor is doomed, Dell, the world's largest PC maker, revealed this week that it's phasing out its Itanium-based servers. Referring to the move as an "Itanium transition," Dell said that it will no longer promote Itanium servers and will instead push customers toward Intel Xeon-based alternatives. To be fair, Dell isn't a big seller of high-end servers and tends to concentrate on high-volume markets, not on a market that, frankly, requires a lot in the way of support. But the change also speaks volumes about the market resistance to the Itanium. A Dell executive was recently quoted as saying that demand for the Itanium is "effectively zero."

Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere Targets PDAs, Macs
   We've come a long way since Vista was supposed to include a lot of exclusive technologies, including Windows Presentation Foundation (code-named Avalon), Windows Communication Foundation (code-named Indigo), WinFS, and WinFX, all of which Microsoft is now back-porting to Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1 (SP1) and XP with SP2. But although it's understandable that Microsoft might want to move these technologies to platforms that already reach hundreds of millions of users, apparently even that major change wasn't enough. This week, the company announced some admittedly vague plans to port parts of Windows Presentation Foundation to non-Windows devices. This subset, called Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere, will give developers a way to generate XAML and JavaScript-based applications on any device that supports JavaScript, including, surprisingly, even Apple Computer's Mac OS X. Microsoft says that it's also targeting Windows Mobile-based PDAs and Smartphones with the technology and will likely even support Linux, although company representatives only hinted at that possibility. Are we living in Bizarro World all of a sudden?

Nintendo Goes Back to Basics with Revolution Controller
   Apparently, Nintendo's customers need more simplicity, so the company is dispensing with the complexity of a two-handed hand controller and will give users of the upcoming Nintendo Revolution video game system a new wireless controller that looks exactly like a remote control. And let's face it; we all know how to use a remote control. The device will feature motion-control technologies that will help players control on-screen action by waving the controller around like a wand, an activity that will sadly pass for exercise for many Revolution owners.

Hilton Hacker Heads to Juvie
   Paris (famous for being famous) Hilton, predictably, has had her revenge. The Massachusetts teenager who accessed the T-Mobile phone account of the, uh, actress and posted its contents online will serve 11 months in a juvenile detention center for his crimes. Actually, his crimes weren't limited to embarrassing Hilton, who, let's face it, has no trouble doing that all by herself. Apparently, the kid also pleaded guilty to making bomb threats in two US states. Cute. Anyway, one final bit of irony: When the sentencing was announced, Hilton couldn't be reached for comment. Why? Because she was traveling in a country in which her cell phone didn't work.

Lenovo Aims High
   Lenovo Group, the PC giant that recently purchased the ThinkPad line of products from IBM, has its eye on the biggest prize of all: complete dominance of the PC market. Yes, the "new" Lenovo has big plans. "I expect the new Lenovo will become the most competitive PC company and the most famous PC brand in the world," said Lenovo Chairman Yuanqing Yang. "This means our market share will be significantly higher than now. We will be very healthy and profitable." To achieve these goals, Lenovo will first concentrate on growth, he said, and move the company toward new markets, including sales of ThinkPads that are designed for consumers. This week, the company showed off a long-awaited widescreen ThinkPad, the ThinkPad Z series, which will ship later this month. Sweet.

Microsoft Posts Improved Version of Win2K UR1
   Microsoft finally posted the long-overdue "fixed" version of Windows 2000 Update Rollup 1 (UR1) that fixes several serious problems in the original version of the rollup, which shipped in June. Win2K UR1, you might recall, is a replacement of sorts for Win2K SP5, which jumped the shark last year when Microsoft decided to bag Win2K support in lieu of more profitable ventures, such as forcing customers to upgrade to new product versions. Yeah, yeah ... I understand that Win2K is on some sort of extended life-support scheme, but let's face facts. Your business is in business to make money, and so is Microsoft's. And Microsoft makes more money when you upgrade. So enjoy UR1, Win2K holdouts. It will be the last major upgrade you'll ever see. Until you upgrade to Vista, of course.