Exclusive: Windows XP Interface Continues to Evolve
After fending off attacks last week from Macintosh zealots (most of whom haven't used Mac OS X, let alone Windows XP's new Whistler interface), I was somewhat amused to discover that Microsoft has already corrected the number-one complaint about its new UI. The company considerably shunk down the default size of the toolbar and its icons from the versions shown at the Experience Music Project (EMP) event. Build 2428, the build that Microsoft belatedly gave to technical beta testers last week, contains the older, larger toolbar. Beta 2 will feature the new toolbar, which will still sport large and small icon modes, and it's already available in Microsoft's internal builds of Windows XP.

Microsoft Ships SMS 2.0 SP3
Last night, Microsoft alerted me to the release of Systems Management Server 2.0 (SMS) Service Pack 3 (SP3). A collection of enhancements that have shipped since SP2, SP3 isn't considered a critical update; you should apply it on an as-needed basis. SMS 2.0 SP3 includes graphics acceleration support for remote control of Windows 2000 desktops and servers using SMS, substantially improving speed. For more information and the free download, head over to the Microsoft Web site.

EMC Succumbs to Industry Downturn . . .
This week, EMC dropped a bomb when it announced that its sales for the year could be as much as $1 billion less than previously expected. The Massachusetts-based storage giant blames a weak dot-com sector and slowing growth at larger corporations. Until this week's announcement, EMC was one of the few companies in the tech sector that hadn't been affected by market drops. But as EMC's customers begin to feel the pinch, sales of the company's high-end storage products drop as well, and now it seems that no company is immune from the slowing economy.

. . . As Does Sun
Speaking of the slowing economy, this week, Sun Microsystems had some bad news of its own when the company warned that its third-quarter earnings will miss estimates. Like EMC, Sun blames its problems on a general spending slowdown. Sun plans to buy back as much as $1.5 billion of its stock on the open market. And why not? It's available at fire-sale prices these days.

SQL Server Wins eWeek eXcellence Award
This week, Microsoft announced that its SQL Server 2000 product trounced its competitors in eWeek's 2001 eXcellence competition, winning the award for best enterprise systems development. Microsoft notes that SQL Server was so far ahead of the competition that no other database products were even in the running. Take that, Oracle.

Liberate Succeeds While Microsoft Snoozes
This week, interactive TV set-top box maker Liberate revealed that sales of its units are rising despite competition from Microsoft and doubts about the future of interactive TV. Of course, the fact that Microsoft's software has been in a continual state of delay has helped, too, although those very delays have been the prime reason for industry doubts surrounding the technology. A series of tests went well for Liberate, and the company says it expects to see interactive TV take off in the United States sometime in 2002, a full year behind Europe.

Someone Has to Say It: Apple's New iMacs are Silly Looking
This week in Tokyo, Apple unveiled its new iMac models, and I have to tell you--they're horrible. It has nothing to do with technology, although the iMacs are still saddled with yesterday's G3 technology and a weak 15" screen. No, the problem here has nothing to do with the typical iMac problems; it has to do with the colors. This time around, Apple introduced two ridiculous new looks, Flower Power and Blue Dalmatian, that do nothing less than further constrict the market for an already marginalized product. For a company that does design so well, it's amazing to seem Apple stumble this badly. The new iMacs stink.

Intel to Demo Next-Generation Itanium
Intel has completed the design for its second-generation Itanium processor for servers (code-named McKinley), which the company will highlight next week at the Intel Developer Forum. The McKinley processor won't appear until 2002, but due to constant delays of the first-generation Itanium, it will probably end up marginalizing its predecessor, anyway. Most analysts had already written off the first Itanium in favor of the more powerful McKinley; news that McKinley is fairly close to production should cast even more doubts on the first-generation Itanium.

Starr: Break Up Microsoft
Former Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr is now working for anti-Microsoft forces at the Progress & Freedom Foundation, and he called for the company's breakup on the eve of the first Appeals Court hearings. Starr is calling for the government to reorganize Microsoft because of its violations of and disdain for federal antitrust laws. Microsoft will be in court Monday to voice its disagreement with this opinion.

Microsoft Blasts Oracle's "Hollow" Claims
And speaking about disagreements, Microsoft says it's sick of Oracle's overblown claims about the 9i database product when compared to Microsoft SQL Server. The company is hopping mad about Oracle's third "$1 million challenge," in which Oracle will purportedly pay customers $1 million if they get better performance out of SQL Server than Oracle's software. Oracle, meanwhile, says Microsoft is just threatened by Oracle's e-business software. Something tells me we haven't heard the end of this one.

Get the Xbox Video Card on Your PC
Contrary to Apple's claims, the Mac won't have the GeForce 3 first. Instead, the video card will be released on the PC and Mac simultaneously. But what's interesting about this new card is that it's the same video device that will be used in Microsoft's upcoming Xbox video game system. GeForce 3 cards will ship by the end of March, according to NVidia, and only Microsoft's DirectX 8 multimedia libraries will be able to take advantage of its new features right away. First on the Mac, indeed.

Book of the Week: "Rebel Code"
While this book clearly has an agenda, I find it impossible not to recommend "Rebel Code," which tells the inside story of various open-source software products, such as Linux, Sendmail, Apache, and Mozilla. A very readable and interesting book, "Rebel Code" suffers from a doe-eyed adoration of everything open source, so while we're treated to stories about all the sudden millionaires from the Linux craze a year ago, author Glyn Moody conveniently skips over the stock market drop that has brought all these people and their companies back to reality since then. Moody also plays loose with the facts when it's convenient, and Microsoft is the target. But if you look past these faults, you'll find what I consider to be the first truly good book about the open-source phenomenon (I don't consider "The Cathedral and the Bazzar" to be a book, per se). On that note, I wonder anew how Microsoft will ever be able to fend off open-source competition. Read it, and you'll wonder, too.