An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news...
Microsoft Downplays .NET in Win.NET Server 2003
Microsoft contacted me late yesterday to alert me to an interesting branding change for Windows .NET Server (Win.NET Server), which the company will now market as Windows .NET Server 2003. I'd heard rumors that Microsoft was going to start downplaying Microsoft .NET in its product branding, and this change surely is the first sign. According to the company, it often takes time to put the final finishing touches on the branding and marketing of its products during the release candidate stage. The company internally communicated this change to Microsoft employees on Tuesday, August 27, at the annual employee meeting and is now requesting that any references to the product use the new moniker. The new Win.NET Server 2003 family includes Win.NET Server 2003, Standard Edition; Win.NET Server 2003, Enterprise Edition; Win.NET Server 2003, Datacenter Edition; and Win.NET Server 2003, Web Edition.
Microsoft's Real Problem Is Hardware, Not Software
In October 1994, I evaluated Linux for the first time (using a 3.5" disk-based Slackware Linux Project distribution) and immediately wondered: What will happen when free OSs and office suites that offer most of the functionality that Microsoft offers appear? Years later, it's pretty clear that Linux--combined with OpenOffice or some of the other free or inexpensive office suites--represents a viable alternative to Windows and Microsoft Office. But it's equally clear that few users appear to be all that interested in making the switch. So it occurs to me now that I missed the boat on this particular epiphany: Cheaper PC hardware--not software--is what's going to hurt Microsoft. What is the company going to do now that you can buy a PC (sans Office, naturally) that costs less than buying Office at retail? Why would anyone pay $500 for a copy of Office alone when they can get a decent PC with an alternate suite for $400 to $800? Microsoft's pseudo-educational Office XP version (which costs about $100 and is technically available to anyone, including nonstudents) is one solution, although the company doesn't advertise it as such. And, of course, Microsoft Works Suite 2003, with its bundled Microsoft Word (also about $100) is another. But unless Microsoft adjusts its software pricing scheme, it might find that more and more vendors--and thus customers--are turning to solutions from Corel, Sun Microsystems, and others.
Go Corel, Go
After watching Corel's office productivity suite sit in the shadows for several years, I'm somewhat heartened by recent news that Dell and Hewlett-Packard (HP) have adopted the product for certain PC lines. Dell made its deal (which I hadn't discussed previously) before HP decided to bundle Corel WordPerfect with its Pavilion desktops; Dell agreed a few days earlier to include the product with its low-end Dimension 2300 desktops and Inspiron 2600 notebook models. It seems that Corel had been focusing solely on its creative software packages, but the sudden reemergence of WordPerfect is like unexpectedly seeing an old friend when you're on vacation in a different city. Here's hoping that the company's successes continue.
Windows Media 9 Series Web Site Debuts Early
Although the public won't get its first look at the Windows Media 9 Series products until next week's public preview, Microsoft has posted its Windows Media 9 Series Web site, which provides information about the upcoming Windows Media Player (WMP) 9 (formerly code-named Corona) and the other components that make up the product line. I'll post a full review of Windows Media 9 Series on September 4 on the SuperSite for Windows.
Microsoft Announces Major Windows Vulnerability
Microsoft announced this week that all Windows versions released since 1998 have a critical security flaw that can let intruders mount Denial of Service (DoS) attacks on Windows users. The flaw resides in the Digital Certificate technology in Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows NT 4.0, Windows Me, Windows 98, and Win98 Second Edition, the company says. According to Microsoft, "the vulnerability could be exploited via either a Web site or email. However, it is possible to configure Internet Explorer (IE) to defend against the Web site-based attack. Likewise, an email-based attack could not be carried out against customers who are using Outlook Express 6 or Outlook 2002 in their default settings, or Outlook 98 or 2000 in conjunction with the Outlook Email Security Update." For more information and the patch, visit the http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/ms02-048.asp.
Microsoft Bluetooth Stupidity
From the "you wouldn't believe it if it wasn't true" department, we present this month's winner: Microsoft, which is busy prepping a slew of new keyboards and mice. The new wired keyboards and mice feature all-new bright blue styling, whereas the wireless Bluetooth keyboards and mice feature all-new industrial gray styling. So let me get this straight. The Bluetooth products aren't blue, but the non-Bluetooth products are. Only from Microsoft, folks.
Xbox Customers to Get Free DVD Kit
Microsoft seems to be on track with its DVD Playback Kit, which gives Xbox users everything they need to interact with DVD movies using a remote control. Normally a $30 add-on for the Xbox, the DVD Playback Kit is now essentially free, as long as you buy it with a new Xbox; Microsoft is offering a $30 rebate to customers who buy both products. Good stuff and added incentive for those people that haven't yet gone Xbox.
Linux for Xbox Signed, Sealed, Delivered
Speaking of the Xbox, a German programmer has apparently done the impossible by making the Linux kernel run on Microsoft's game console. If the idea of a $200 Linux server doesn't excite you, at least consider the technical challenge involved: Various Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies--implemented in the hardware--prevent the Xbox from running unauthorized code. So getting Linux up and running on the device isn't exactly an easy chore. However, the programmer's Linuxpreview program does so, making it possible to use the Xbox as a super-cheap Web server. Work is progressing, of course, and more features are being added all the time. Nice!
Apple to Release Rendezvous Technology as Open Source
Apple Computer will open-source its Rendezvous technology, which lets devices on a local network automatically announce themselves to other devices such as PCs and present information about how they can be configured and used. Rendezvous is Apple's marketing name for Zeroconf; you might think of it as network-based Plug and Play (PnP). The goal is to get the technology embedded in as many devices as possible and help the standard take off. Potential uses include network-based printers, PDAs, phones, and other devices. Apple says the Rendezvous code will be available early next month.
A Reassessment of the Shatter Attack
Last Tuesday, I wrote about the so-called Shatter Attack and Microsoft's response , which I found reasonable at the time. However, after speaking with Shatter Attack author Chris Paget last weekend, I'm not so sure. Paget explained that intruders could easily take advantage of the flaw in numerous situations, such as at Internet cafes and libraries or in Terminal Server environments such as those in which Application Service Providers (ASPs) host Office applications, making it a serious risk. I agree and have asked Microsoft for a response, although its reaction, thus far, has been less than heartwarming. I expect a short response from Microsoft next week.