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

Internet Explorer 5.01 released, IE 5.5 "next week"
This one is odd: Microsoft quietly released IE 5.01 Service Pack 1 (SP1) Thursday, which offers numerous bug fixes and updates to the latest version of IE (for now). But IE 5.01 SP1 also reportedly updates the Outlook Express (OE) component on Windows 2000 machines to IE 5.5 levels. Meanwhile, IE 5.5, which will ship "next week" according to company insiders I talked to recently, will not upgrade OE to version 5.5 if you're running Windows 2000. Other Windows OSes will get the full upgrade when installing IE 5.5. Confused? Explain to me why IE 5.5, which was literally completed a month ago tomorrow, isn't yet out. And explain to me why the IE 5.01 SP1 beta was so sparsely tested: According to beta testers, IE 5.5 and 5.01 SP1 were tested by the same group of people, but virtually no one chose to test 5.01 SP1. Would you trust your machine with a release like that when Microsoft can't be trusted to properly test its high profile NT 4 and Office 97/2000 service packs?

Intel cancels high-end Xeons
I never quite understood the point of the Xeon, which adds massive cache capabilities to the Pentium III processor, and it looks like Intel has finally noticed that no one else is interested either. The company quietly acknowledged this week that it has dropped plans to offer an 800 MHz version of the high-end processor, making some wonder whether the Xeon has hit the end of the road. But Intel says that its customers would prefer less frequent updates to the Xeon that feature larger performance gains. Currently, the fastest Xeon runs at 700 MHz.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend
Strange bedfellows indeed: Compaq Computer and International Business Machines (IBM) have teamed up to fend off Massachusetts upstart EMC, which is now dominating the high-end storage market. The companies will spend over $1 billion revving their storage products and have entered into an agreement where they will sell each other's storage products. With Sun Microsystems recently announcing its intension to expand its efforts in the storage market, it looks like EMC will have its hands full. But the company, which has enjoyed a heady growth rate over the past decade, is in a good spot to fend off its seemingly larger competitors. Plus it's a local favorite.

Microsoft in hot water over Mac Media Player
Relegated to the backwaters of the Microsoft Web site, most people don't even realize that the company makes a media player for the Macintosh. Unlike its high profile and feature-heavy Windows cousin, which is stomping all of the competition, the Mac Media Player barely registers in usage surveys. But Microsoft says that's going to change: Media Player 6.3 will ship this summer and then the company will work moving Windows Media Player 7, a major upgrade, over to the Mac. But Microsoft doesn't exactly have a lot of people working on the Mac Media Player, so this could take awhile.

Ellison hatches new Network Computer, no one notices
Larry Ellison is still chasing the network computing dream we all gave up on two years ago, and he announced the availability of a $200 Linux box this week that he calls the "New Internet Computer." The original Network Computer, which was announced in 1997, died almost as quickly as it was announced, due a new range of more manageable PCs that cost less than $1000. But the NIC, which costs over $375 with a 15" monitor, is dangerously close to low-end PC territory, making some wonder whether that won't cause potential customers to go the PC route. Didn't we first have this conversation three years ago?

Sometimes Barney Starts Playing Peekaboo on His Own
This one is almost too insane to believe: There's actually a Microsoft Knowledge Base article titled "Sometimes Barney Starts Playing Peekaboo on His Own" which describes a problem with the Microsoft Barney Actimate, a little animatronic toy that interacts with specially recorded videos. The thought of one of these things coming to life on its own is more troubling than I wish to describe. See it for yourself on the Microsoft Web site