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

About those 8-inch Tablet PC "Rumors" ...
I humorously noticed this week some reports wondering whether Microsoft was "downsizing the Tablet PC." Apparently, some intrepid reporter discovered that Microsoft was testing 8-inch Tablet PC devices and figured they had a scoop. There's just one problem: Microsoft publicly revealed the existence of these devices a year ago at WinHEC 2004, and I wrote about it at that time and even published a photograph of the company's prototype user interface for the smaller Tablets. Here's a blurb from the SuperSite for Windows, dated May 2004: "For a new generation of small, 5-inch to 8-inch, Tablet PC devices that will begin shipping this year, Microsoft is developing a dashboard page that will provide access to PIM information that users need, all in a single, handy page. The Pen Optimized Skin presents time and calendar information, links to recently accessed documents and applications, the 7 most recent unread email messages, the most recent uncompleted tasks, and the links to your most often used applications. This skin is designed to sit on top of, and generally replace, the basic Windows user interface on devices whose screens are too small for a desktop UI." You can find out more, ahem, in two articles on the SuperSite for Windows:
WinHEC 2004 Show Report and Photo Gallery
WinHEC 2004 Longhorn Prototypes Gallery

More Details Emerge in Microsoft/Gateway Settlement
So this week, Microsoft and Gateway settled the antitrust differences most of us had forgotten they had, but at the time of the announcement, there were few details. Now, like so much sands in the hourglass, those details are emerging. Microsoft will take a $714 million charge against earnings to cover antitrust-related claims in its fiscal third quarter, which ended March 31. $150 million of that will be paid to Gateway over four years, while $550 million will be set aside to cover other upcoming antitrust-related payouts (RealNetworks, primarily). Gateway will use the money for marketing, R&D, and for testing Gateway hardware with upcoming Microsoft software, including Longhorn. Gateway executives say they are pleased to get that legal nightmare behind them, which makes sense, since they wouldn't exist if Microsoft stopped selling them software.

Microsoft Ships Response to EU
After all the excitement this week about Microsoft's delayed response to the European Union (EU) regarding a trustee who will oversee the company's compliance with the EU's antitrust ruling against it, you'll be happy to discover that the crisis is over. On Thursday, Microsoft officials delivered a response in writing to the EU. And hold on to your hats, because the EU now says it's "studying the response." Aren't legal matters exciting?

Microsoft Plans Itanium Version of Longhorn Server
With all the excitement about the x64 platform, which will likely usher in a new age of 64-bit computing for the masses, a lot of us have forgotten about that other 64-bit platform, the woefully underrated Itanium. Developed by Intel and HP, but since abandoned by HP (well, the development part, anyway), the Itanium has gotten a lot of flack for its expense, size, and lack of compatibility with 32-bit x86 applications. There's just one problem: The Itanium still scales to heights that are unheard of in the x64 world, and for enterprises that need the absolute best performance, there's simply no other choice. So Microsoft announced this week that it will support the Itanium with Itanium-based versions of Longhorn Server, which will allegedly ship in 2007. The idea, apparently, is prop up the Itanium and show the world that's still a great processor, really. Heck, Microsoft even purchased 1600 Itanium-based servers from HP to drive home the point. My understanding is that this purchase doubled the Itanium market share overnight.

Email Users Get Used to Spam
Here's some disturbing news: According to a survey by Pew Internet and American Life Project, email users in the US are getting used to spam and are no longer as upset about it as they used to be. 53 percent of survey takes said that they trust email less because of spam, but that figure is down from the 62 percent that reported the same a year earlier. "This shows some level of tolerance that people are manifesting," says researcher Deborah Fallows. "Maybe it's like other annoying things in life--air pollution, traffic--\[people\] are just learning to live with it." The good news? Pornographic spam is on the decline. The bad? It's been replaced by more dangerous phishing schemes that try to steal credit card numbers and other personal information. Isn't that just lovely?

XP Starter Edition Heading to Brazil
After the rampant success of Windows XP Starter Edition (ahem) in other parts of the world, Microsoft will launch a version for Brazil, the company said this week. The Brazilian version of XP Starter Edition will join other versions that are currently piloting in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Russia, and Thailand in being almost totally ignored by local PC makers and users. That's too bad, really, because XP Starter Edition is a great idea. I'd like to see Microsoft stick with it and expand the offering to other users, including those in first world countries like the US. Trust me: A lot of people still need a lot of help with PCs.

AOL Launches ... Enterprise IM Federation Initiative?
I don't know about you, but when I think of terms like "enterprise" and "federation," AOL just isn't the first company that comes to mind. Indeed, it's not even in the top 100. But that didn't stop the company from liberally lobbing those words around this week when it announced the AOL Federation Gateway, a new software interface that will translate AOL's proprietary instant messaging (IM) protocols into standardized, enterprise-based messaging protocols such as SIP/SIMPLE and XMPP. The idea, in a nutshell, is to let users of AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) interact with enterprise-based IM clients. It's sort of like using a Fisher Price play phone to call the president.

Firefox Popularity Continues to Grow at Ever-Faster Rates
The number of visitors hitting the Mozilla Foundation's Firefox Web site is growing rapidly, according to the Nielsen/NetRatings. In March over 2.6 million people visited the site, compared to 2.2 million in January and 1.6 million in February. By all accounts, Firefox now controls about 5 percent of the Web browser market, an amazing accomplishment for a relatively new product facing off against Internet Explorer, which hasn't faced any serious competition since about 1998.