An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news...
IE 7.0 Will Have Tabbed Browsing
According to a source close to Microsoft, the company is internally
testing a build of Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7.0 that features
tabbed browsing. Last week at the RSA Conference 2005, Microsoft
Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates revealed that the
company is working on IE 7.0 but mentioned only some of the security
oriented functionality that the browser will include, leaving open
questions about other often-requested features. Since the show, the
company has been notably silent about planned IE 7.0 features and is
fending off press requests until it gets closer to the "early summer"
beta 1 release. Why the silence? My guess is that Microsoft is
concerned about tipping off the makers of open-source browser Mozilla
Firefox, which is currently stealing IE market share at an alarming
rate. If Microsoft revealed all the IE 7.0 features now, The Mozilla
Foundation could simply pick the best features and implement them
before IE 7.0 Beta 1 hits.
Dell CEO: Longhorn Will Help PC Sales Only Temporarily
Dell CEO Kevin Rollins said this week that Microsoft's mid-2006
Longhorn release will only temporarily lift PC sales and won't result
in the continued sales upturn that Windows 95 created 10 years ago.
"There could be a slight surge, but I don't think it's going to return
to the type that we saw in the '90s," Rollins said. The PC market is
already healthy and growing steadily, however, and Dell is extremely
successful. But don't blame Longhorn for lackluster expectations.
Rollins says that market maturity has taken away the rollercoaster-like
ride that the PC market used to follow, when every Intel processor
release or new Microsoft OS caused a spike. Longhorn, Rollins said,
will resonate with consumers because of its pervasive digital media
capabilities and support for dual-core processors.
EU Considers Microsoft Fines After Companies Complain
The European Union (EU) is reportedly considering fining Microsoft
after complaints from many of the company's rivals alerted them that
the software giant isn't meeting the requirements of the EU antitrust
ruling against it. If the EU does seek fines, those fines will be
assessed daily and can be as much as 5 percent of Microsoft's daily
earnings. Microsoft, however, says that it's serious about meeting the
requirements of the antitrust ruling and will work with the EU to make
sure it's in line. The big question is what Microsoft did wrong.
Apparently, some of the current complaints stem from the version of
Windows XP without Windows Media Player (WMP) that the company was
supposed to ship by now. Originally--and foolhardily--called Windows XP
Reduced Media Edition, the product has been delayed so that the company
can find a more attractive moniker that won't instantly turn off
customers. Other complaints regard the requirement that Microsoft share
technical server information with competitors. Why do I get the feeling
that Microsoft's competitors are viewing this EU fracas as an excuse to
go for the jugular?
Microsoft Releases MSN Remote Record for XP MCE 2005
Microsoft has quietly debuted its long-awaited MSN Remote Record
service for users of XP Media Center Edition (XP MCE) 2005. According
to the MSN Web site, MSN Remote Record lets you schedule your Media
Center to record TV shows from anywhere you can access a computer with
an Internet connection. It sounds great. I've been waiting for this
service to debut since November, and my repeated requests since last
September for information and beta access have been completely ignored,
so I have no further information at this time.
Tablet PCs Don't Get Passing Grades in School Test
Tablet PC proponents will tell you that these next-generation
notebook computers can transform the way people interact with
information, giving them a computing platform that's both comfortable
and familiar. However, a recent study of Tablet PC use in a Georgia
high school reveals that the Tablet PC isn't bearing out those lofty
ideals. In 2003, 28 freshmen at Houston County High School in Warner
Robins, Georgia, were given Tablet PCs and monitored throughout the
school year. As you might expect, the study found some interesting
changes. Students with Tablet PCs were better organized and interacted
electronically with teachers. Their multimedia projects were more
sophisticated than those of other students. So what was the problem?
The Tablet PCs had horrible battery life and were dead by midday,
giving the students the technical equivalent of a "Flowers for
Algernon" experience every day. The Tablet PCs were unreliable, with
one or two breaking down every week. Students wasted time in class
chatting via Instant Messenger (IM) or browsing the Web. And teachers
weren't properly trained to understand how to best interact with the
devices. The long and the short of these results is that Tablet PCs
will get there, but we're still in the nascent stages of what will be a
painfully long process of moving people to more casual computing.
Microsoft Patches BSOD Problem in Windows XP SP2
Microsoft issued an out-of-schedule security patch for XP Service
Pack 2 (SP2) users this week. The bug that the patch fixes (the bug
also affects Windows Server 2003) can cause a rare Blue Screen of Death
(BSOD), which halts the machine with the message "Stop 0x05
(INVALID_PROCESS_ATTACH_ATTEMPT)." Apparently, a little Flash animation
of Nelson from "The Simpsons" points at you and says, "Ah-ha!" (Such an
animation would be appropriate, anyway.) The patch is available at all
the usual places, including Automatic Updates and Windows Update.
Dell Disses AMD Again
Nothing in the tech world makes me sadder than Dell's Intel-only
stance when it comes to microprocessors. I'm a huge fan of Dell PCs
and, until recently, purchased only Dell equipment. But Dell has
refused to adopt AMD's microprocessors, especially the superior 64-bit
Athlon 64 designs, deciding instead to stick with Intel despite the
fact that Intel is only now, more than a year later, finally getting
around to introducing 64-bit Pentium 4 chips. This week, Dell CEO
Rollins took yet another pot shot at AMD, confirming that, although
Dell did examine the possibility of selling PCs with AMD chips, it has
now moved firmly back into the Intel camp. That's bad news for AMD,
which could use a high-profile conversion from the number-one PC maker
to reverse its financial fortunes. And it's bad news for all PC users,
really, because AMD, not Intel, is innovating and pushing us to a new
platform. I'd like to see AMD rewarded for that, especially after
Intel's 64-bit mega-flop, the Itanium, never even attempted to shoot
for mainstream market glory.
Sony Completes Exit from PDA Market
Sony announced this week that it will complete its exit from the PDA
market by ending sales of its CLIE devices in Japan. Previously, Sony
withdrew the CLIE from other markets, including North America. The
death of the CLIE leaves some questions about how Sony is going to fill
the gap. Some observers suggest that the PlayStation Portable (PSP)
game machine, which will include basic personal information manager
(PIM) functionality, could do so, but that machine is too big, has
lousy battery life, and isn't exactly corporate-friendly. Other people
suggest that a reworking of Sony's Walkman line of digital portable
audio devices could make up some slack, but even the Apple iPod is
useless as a PDA, so that scenario is also unlikely. As recently as 2
years ago, Sony was the number-one PDA maker, but the emergence of
companies such as Dell and a surge in sales of Pocket PC-based devices
led to declining market share for Sony.
Microsoft Changes Windows XP Product Activation Policy for OEM Versions
In a bid to stem piracy, Microsoft is planning to change the way
certain XP Product IDs are activated. Previously, all XP Product IDs
could be activated via the Internet, semiautomatically, whereas Product
IDs that were preactivated required a painful phone call. Now Microsoft
is disabling Internet activation for XP copies that are distributed by
the top 20 PC makers worldwide. This change doesn't mean that you'll
have to make a phone call when you buy a new Dell or HP, however,
because the copies of XP on those systems are already activated for
you. What this change will prevent is situations in which large numbers
of Product Keys are stolen and sold with new PCs from smaller system
vendors. Because those vendors can't preactivate the systems, customers
will be faced with a phone-activation request and will be told what
happened. Then the inevitable legal battles can erupt as God intended.
Apple Introduces Improved iPod Minis
Apple offered minor improvements to its iPod Mini line this week,
bringing the product down to the $200 sweet spot that I lobbied for
last year. The company also lowered the price of the extravagant iPod
photo devices, which feature color screens. To lower the prices, sadly,
Apple simply cut bundled features. The new iPod mini doesn't include an
AC adapter or FireWire charging cable like the original version did.
And the iPod photo now ships without the AV cable and iPod photo dock
that the original version included. There's some good news, however:
The iPod mini now has significantly better battery life. And the iPod
photo, well, it ... still has a color screen and stuff. Ah well.
Firefox Gets Major Security Update
Users of the excellent Mozilla Firefox Web browser are advised to
download the latest release of the browser, Firefox 1.0.1, which
includes a major new security update. Firefox 1.0.1 fixes a bug in its
International Domain Name (IDN) support and patches two other major
security flaws that were recently discovered. Because wide numbers of
users are finally adopting Firefox--more than 25 million people have
downloaded Firefox 1.0 since November--it's starting to come under
attack by hackers. How The Mozilla Foundation responds to these attacks
will determine, in part, whether Firefox is a flash in the pan or the
browser of the future. My money is on the latter.
A Microsoft Joke?
Bill Gates walks into a bar and the patrons--Microsoft customers,
all--turn to look at the world's richest man. He announces, "I'm going
to devote all my time to Longhorn!" Everyone cheers and lifts Gates to
carry him around the room in a victory parade. Two years pass, and
Gates returns to the bar. Longhorn hasn't shipped, the project is
horribly mismanaged, and it's now something of a joke in the industry.
He announces, "I'm going to devote all my time to security!" This time,
he's met by silence. So is this joke funny? Not in the classic sense.
But that's what just happened, minus the bar, of course. Something to
I'll be skiing in Breckenridge, Colorado, on Monday and Tuesday, so
WinInfo Daily UPDATE will be in the capable hands of Keith Furman
through Wednesday. See you Thursday.