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

Here Comes PDC 2003: Write Your Own Headline
   Next week's Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2003 almost has to underwhelm, given all the hype surrounding the event (that's just a joke, of course; PDC is going to rock). But, oddly, none of the hype is coming from Microsoft. Thanks to technical publications around the world, we've been swimming in headlines such as "Microsoft Offers Glimpse of the Future," "Microsoft PDC to Rope Longhorn," and "Developers Get First Taste of Longhorn." None of these articles offer any new information, but they do a lot to stoke (and milk) the building crescendo of PDC excitement. But the wait is now over, and PDC 2003 is here. Starting Sunday, stay tuned to the WinInfo Web site for constant live updates and the SuperSite for Windows for ongoing multimedia coverage of the event. Let's have some fun with this conference. My SuperSite PDC page is now available. 

Regarding Longhorn Build 4051 ...
   The 7000 PDC 2003 attendees will receive Longhorn build 4051 on Monday, so I'll provide screen-shot galleries and a full review as soon as possible. But don't worry about pirating the build. Microsoft will make it available online to one and all in November for a small fee, I'm told, and ship it to Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Universal customers in December. Hundreds of thousands of copies of this important pre-Beta 1 release will be floating around, and Microsoft wants your feedback, which will dictate the timeline for Beta 1 (due vaguely in the first half of 2004), the features that will change by the final release and, ultimately, when the final release occurs. According to my sources, the oft-delayed PDC build (it was originally due in early October but was held up because of a weird CD-ROM-drive incompatibility problem) is rock solid and quite usable, unlike the other alpha builds we've seen. And, as first reported in WinInfo Daily UPDATE, no, it doesn't include the Aero UI that the final Longhorn version will use.

Sun Crashes Office 2003 Launch ... Sort Of
   I was leaving the Microsoft Office 2003 launch event Tuesday and bumped into a guy in a raincoat handing out CD-ROMs that contained demonstration versions of Sun Microsystems' StarOffice 7.0. Cute. But if Sun really wanted to crash the party more effectively, the company could have set up a stand and provided the full version of StarOffice to anyone with an Office launch badge. A halfhearted attempt? Yes, that's apparently the Sun way these days.

Once Again, Microsoft Beats Financial Expectations
   Could anything be more boring than reporting Microsoft's quarterly financials? (Well, I could have to write about storage, I suppose.) Late yesterday, Microsoft announced its most recent quarterly results, and once again the company beat expectations. Microsoft posted a $2.61 billion profit on sales of $6.8 billion, a jump of 6 percent over the same quarter last year. But all wasn't rosy for everyone's favorite software monopolist: Windows and Office sales were flat, and the company saw its volume-licensed software revenue drop. Analysts attribute the drop to concerns about MSBlaster (LoveSan) and SoBig.F, electronic attacks that crippled Windows users in late summer. Don't feel too bad for Microsoft, however. Windows still contributed $2.81 billion to the company's sales, and Office added $2.29 billion. Even MSN did well, posting a 15 percent sales gain and its first quarterly profit.

Another Day, Another Lawsuit
   And speaking of Microsoft, who's sued the company lately? Today's plaintiff is At Home, which is accusing the software giant of violating its patent for linking documents with Web pages and email documents. At Home filed for bankruptcy in 2001 and ceased operations in 2002, so, like many companies, its only purpose now appears to be seeing its Microsoft lawsuit through to fruition. At Home charges Microsoft with "willfully and deliberately" using At Home's patented techniques in Office XP, a product that accounted for 29 percent of Microsoft's revenue in fiscal year 2002. Microsoft says it's reviewing the filing.

Gates: Jealousy Has Worked in Our Favor
   In an interview with MSNBC, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates made an interesting admission: Competitors' jealousy has been a huge factor in Microsoft's success. "Jealousy has driven more mistakes by my competitors than anything else," he said. "When people focus not on the next breakthrough, but on cutting off Microsoft, it's actually been quite a windfall for us." So many examples exist of competitors killing their companies while trying to hurt Gates (Novell's Ray Noorda is probably the best one) that it's hard not to chuckle at some of the boneheaded decisions we've seen over the years. And the Linux phenomenon raises an interesting question. As I've often suggested, the Linux community seems more concerned with copying Windows than working to create a unique and better OS. Is the Linux movement driven by jealousy of Gates, too?

Acer Blasts Microsoft over Tablet PC OS Fees
   Senior executives of notebook and Tablet PC maker Acer revealed this week that Microsoft is charging the company far too much for Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, the OS that powers Tablet PC devices. The result, according to Acer President Wang Chen-tang, is higher-than-necessary Tablet PC prices and lower-than-expected sales. According to the officials, Acer originally believed that Tablet PC sales would account for 20 percent of all its notebook sales, but the company has fallen far short of that goal, with Tablet PCs accounting for just 5 percent of sales a year after the devices first launched. Acer isn't alone. Poor Tablet PC sales have caused many companies, including HP and Toshiba, to delay the introductions of their second-generation Tablet PCs, an ironic event in some ways given that these machines address virtually all the shortcomings of the first-generation models, shortcomings that no doubt played a part in the units' poor sales as well. In any event, the price premium for Tablet PCs over typical notebooks is the number-one factor killing sales, Acer says, and almost all of that extra cash is going to Microsoft. "We have tried to negotiate the fee with Microsoft several times in vain," Wang said. "It's very regrettable. I hope the people in Redmond can hear us."

Microsoft Releases MSN Messenger 6.1
   A lot of readers noted that Microsoft quietly released MSN Messenger 6.1 yesterday. I've been using beta versions of this Instant Messaging (IM) client for a while now, and I highly recommend it. The new version features a more customizable UI, with new emoticons, and customizable background images, colors, and display pictures. The free download is available now from the MSN Web site.

Hey, It's the Night of the Panther!
   Do you think Apple Computer's unveiling of its most recent minor Mac OS X version, Panther (or Mac OS X 10.3), on the eve of Microsoft's Longhorn coming-out party (also called PDC 2003 in some circles) is a coincidence? I don't, but in the long run it doesn't much matter. By this time next month, more people will be running Longhorn build 4051 than Panther, thanks to Microsoft's decision to make this release widely available to customers for little cost. But just because Panther might spend its entire life cycle in Longhorn's shadow doesn't mean the little cat doesn't have some interesting advances to offer Mac OS X customers. This release features a refinement of the Aqua UI, modest application and utility updates, a new antiwindow-clutter technology called Expose, better performance, and the types of general refinements that befit a 0.1 update. Aside from the cost--a whopping $130 for most users--Panther is a great upgrade, and one that all 8.5 million Mac OS X users should consider. For the geeky, Apple is holding "Night of the Panther" events, starting at 8:00 P.M. tonight, at its retail stores across the United States. I'll be attending the event at the Cambridge, Massachusetts, Apple Store to bump elbows with the Macintosh faithful, something I try to do as often as possible.

Going to PDC 2003? Let Me Know!
   Are you attending PDC 2003? Drop me a note at thurrott@winnetmag.com and let me know.