In a Microsoft Minute: Product Delays Expected
Gates may no longer technically run the company, but let's face facts here; he's the heart and soul of Microsoft. So when the geekiest guy on the planet issued an email memo last week exhorting the troops to "get" security in a big way, it was taken seriously. Very seriously. As of now, virtually every software developer at the company has been ordered to drop whatever they're doing and get trained on the latest security techniques. So you can expect some serious delays in upcoming products, most notably Windows .NET Server, which will likely slip well past its current mid-2002 deadline.

Lawsuit: Lobbyists Affected Microsoft Settlement
So the antitrust group suing Microsoft and the DOJ is now saying that secret political contributions and lobbying efforts might have affected the company's settlement, which makes this story a whole lot more interesting than it was before. And here's a kicker: Senator John Tunney, after whom the Tunney Act is named, says that Microsoft's lobbying disclosure filing falls well short of what's required by law, boosting the allegations. And who would know better than Tunney, right? It turns out Microsoft failed to disclose some pretty high-level lobbying, including its many efforts with Congress and a White House meeting last year between CEO Steve Ballmer Dick Cheney, the Vice President of the United States. Thumbs down to Microsoft for continuing to snub its nose at the justice system. You do want this legal nightmare to end, right?

Browser Wars? How About the AOL/Microsoft Wars!
What is it about AOL and Microsoft, circling each other and hissing, that reminds me of King Kong and that Tyrannosaurus Rex in the 1934 black and white movie classic? The two companies are locked in a death grip of sorts, trying to choke each other out of various markets, and it's fun to see the backroom hatred just erupt publicly. This week alone, AOL sued Microsoft for its role in destroying the market for Netscape's browser, and Microsoft complained to Judge Kollar-Kotelly that AOL was "stalling" in delivering documents related to the Microsoft antitrust case. It's bad enough when we've got one 800 pound gorilla in this industry, but it seems that we now have two, and they're interested in protecting their territory. My advice: Settle it on Celebrity Deathmatch.

Apple's Market Share Falls Below 3 Percent
Apple has a lot of friends in the press, and in their gushing, glowing reviews of the new iMac, everyone seems to have overlooked one crucial fact: The company's worldwide market share has only fallen since Steve Jobs took the helm and no amount of coolness or design savvy can change that. Apple's share of the PC market fell from 3.3 percent in 2002 to less than 2.9 percent at the start of the year, though it controls about 5 percent of the US market, unchanged from the previous year.

More Job Cuts at Apple Computer
And speaking of Cupertino, quietly doth the axe fall when you're a media darling. To hear the Mac advocate sites tell it, Apple is doing a lot better than most PC companies. But the truth is that Apple is a lot better at keeping a secret: In a recent SEC filing, Apple was forced to report that it had cut jobs throughout the company in the most recent quarter, and some of the cuts reportedly came from the Mac OS X team. Job cuts at companies such as Gateway and Toshiba make headlines, but how come we never hear about this stuff from the Charles Haddads and Walter Mossbergs of the world?

Dell Surges, Takes 27 Percent of US Market
The number one PC maker isn't just bucking economic trends, its shredding them and using them for confetti at its victory parade: Dell Computer now sells more than 27 percent of all PCs in the United States, and it racked up sales of over $8 billion this holiday season. And despite problems at consumer-oriented companies such as Apple and Gateway, Dell is seeing the biggest gains with its consumer products, which have grown at a rate of 50 percent, year over year.

Amazon.com Gets its Own Christmas Present
Amazon.com surprised just about everyone by posting its first profitable quarter ever, thanks to a better than expected holiday season. The online retailer posted a modest $5 million profit, which will go a small way toward covering the billions of dollars it's sucked up over the years. But the company also posted yearly sales of $3.1 billion, suggesting that there's a way to make money in its business plan somewhere. If they could just double profits every quarter, I predict that Amazon will pay back all of its losses and investments by 2165 or so.

Palm Goes for the Gold in Europe
With sales falling steadily and the gap between its products and the Pocket PC line closely daily, Palm got a little good news this quarter when it was revealed that the company's Palm OS line is doing just great in Europe, thank you very much. Palm shipped over 300,000 PDAs in Europe last quarter, up from 120,000 units in the same quarter a year before. To put this in perspective, Compaq sold 140,000 iPaq Pocket PCs and HP sold 79,000 Jornada Pocket PCs in Europe during the same time period. Still, Europe can't heal all wounds for Palm: The company's overall shipments in 2001 were down 46 percent from the previous year.

Gateway on the Ropes
Ted Waitt's return to Gateway was supposed to be a Michael Jordan-like comeback, complete with come from behind victories and much fist pumping. But the company's quirky pony-tailed founder--you might know him as the cow confidante in those Gateway TV spots--has been unable to stem the financial bloodbath, and this week the company responded with massive job cuts and retail store closures. Gateway will cut 2,250 jobs and close 30 of its 296 Gateway Country stores, after posting a $94.3 million quarterly loss on revenues of $2.37 billion (this included a $187 million one-time charge, however). Gateway shipped just 700,000 PCs in the previous quarter, but it hopes to rebound by the end of 2002. I hope it does as well: The company makes good products, has the right personality, and has some interesting things coming down the pike.

Linux Game Company Bites the Dust
In another sign that the Linux desktop market is heading to oblivion, Linux game maker Loki is closing up shop and selling off its remaining inventory, which will be difficult since Linux users don't like paying for anything. The Loki closure echoes comments made last fall by gaming guru John Carmack of id, who said that Linux games weren't selling at all. And an employee of Hyperion, an alternative platform game software porting company,  reported this week that his company's Linux game versions bombed in the market, and they were actually outsold, consistently, by versions for the long-dead Amiga platform. The employee, posting in a Slashdot forum, said that Linux users refused to pay, but sent tons of email demanding that the company post free games for FTP download only. I guess you reap what you sow.
 
Linux Makes Strong Gains in Asia
But wait, it's not all bad news for Linux. According to a recent Gartner report, the Open Source OS is making big gains in Asia, where 15 percent of that region's companies have at least one server are running Linux. The biggest gains are in China and Korea, where the perceived lack of cost--often offset by a lack of applications--is key. The most widely deployed server OS in Asia, of course, is Windows, followed by Solaris. Linux is third.

Compaq Plays "What If"
So what happens when--I mean, if--the HP/Compaq merger falls through? It turns out that Compaq has a plan, just in case of course, which it will discuss with financial analysts in New York later today. The company will likely reaffirm its commitment to the HP merger and then present the analysts with "curtain number two," which is the backup plan. This plan includes a financial recovery, of course, and some sort of way to come out of this without looking like a jilted lover.

AMD vs. Intel in the Battle for the Planet of the Chips
"A Planet where chips evolved from Silicon? It's a mad house, I tell you, a mad house." Microprocessor competitors AMD and Intel duked it out again during the holiday season, with AMD seeing its percentage of the market raise by 4 points. But that can't offset Intel's commanding lead, which continues into 2002. Intel owns 78.7 percent of the market, compared with 82.2 percent a year before. Meanwhile, AMD rocked up to 20.2 percent, compared to 16.7 percent before. Both companies reported that demand for their chips--and therefore for PCs--was up dramatically in the last quarter. Other companies--like Transmeta and Via Technologies--account for just 1 percent of the market, unchanged year over year.
 
All's Fair in Love and Linux
As a USENET old timer, I sort of miss the days when I could write something about the Macintosh or OS/2 and be assured that my inbox would be flooded with vitriolic email from the Mac Marines or Team OS/2, two of the more historically insane advocacy groups. Those days are gone, but only sort of, because now I get the same kinds of email from the Linux camp whenever one of my Linux articles show up on Linux Today or a similar site. These people don't take kindly to criticism, even when it's valid, and they're certainly not above spewing electronic insanities in my direction either. What's sad, of course, is that the actual usage level of a given system is directly tied to the complacency of the audience. Windows users don't have much to say about platform wars, but the six guys successfully using Linux on a wireless laptop are quite vocal about their accomplishments (oddly enough, I'm one of them). But Windows users come from a place where things just work, so it's not an accomplishment, it's just taken for granted. When Linux is successful on the desktop, I won't be getting these kinds of emails. I'll let you know when that happens.