An irreverent look at some of the week's other news...
Safe Computing is Trustworthy Computing for Families
Microsoft is working on a strategy to meld its Trustworthy Computing initiative into a form that will be palatable to families as well as businesses. So the consumer-oriented initiative will be called Safe Computing, and will include a "compelling consumer pitch," according to documents I saw this week. This pitch, apparently, includes a safety quiz, holiday shopping tips, spam control tips, Microsoft products safety features list, and the like. Expect a sneak preview in June or July, with a full rollout during Microsoft's fiscal 2003 (they mark years July to June).
Antitrust Experts on Microsoft: Kick 'Em While They're Down
Six noted economists, all of whom held the post of chief economist of the antitrust division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) at one time or another, have filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Microsoft's antitrust case, exhorting Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to seek the most far reaching remedies available to curb the software giant's behavior. The experts reject a Microsoft argument that remedies must be confined to a limited set of activities that the DOJ sought to punish, because the non-settling states specifically rejected that tact, and Microsoft was found guilty of a wide range of illegal behavior. "Preventing future violations calls for making it harder for Microsoft to interfere with market choice of new middleware now and in the future," the experts write in their ten-page filing. One of the experts, Tim Bresnahan, who is now a professor of technology and the economy at Stanford University, said the filing presents "a centrist consensus that pretty much everyone who does antitrust economics agrees to." Microsoft, predictably, will petition the judge to reject the filing, because it was submitted too late in the process.
Iowan Windows 98 Users to Get Refunds
And speaking of Microsoft antitrust woes, thousands of consumers who purchased Windows 98 in the state of Iowa, which is one of the non-settling states in the Microsoft antitrust trial, may soon be getting a refund. Microsoft, you may recall, was found guilty of price fixing, where it artificially kept the price of its Windows products high, since the company has no viable desktop OS competition. So this week, the Iowa Supreme Court reinstated a lawsuit that argues that consumers who purchased Windows 98 at retail, or received it with a new PC, are entitled to a $40 refund. A representative for the Iowa Attorneys General office called the ruling "a momentous decision that helps consumers." What's nice about this ruling is that it nicely bypasses a brain-damaged federal law that prevents consumers from suing the maker of a product they indirectly purchased. That's because, under Iowa law, consumers who are "injured by conduct prohibited under \[the state's competition laws\] may bring suit." Common sense prevails.
Microsoft to Add DynaZip Compression to XP
The next version of Windows XP (which I assume means Longhorn and not XP SP1) will replace the current Compressed Folders feature with the compression technology used by Inner Media DynaZip. "This agreement further validates DynaZip's high-performance, reliability and compatibility with the standard PKWare ZIP file format," said Inner Media's president Neil Rosenberg. And, as any XP user could tell you, the Compressed Folders feature isn't exactly a great performer, so I'm sure DynaZip's technology will be faster. Good news, Windows fans.
Gates Sells $400M in Microsoft Stock
When the world's richest man needs a little weekend spending money, he doesn't head to the ATM machine like you or I, no, he sells a little bit of Microsoft stock. And this month, Bill Gates did just that, selling over $400 million worth, with more to come in the near future. The sale represents about 8 million shares, with another 2 million shares (worth almost $100 million) expected soon. Don't worry about Bill's financial holdings, though: He currently owns over 5.4 billion shares of Microsoft stock, or about 12 percent of the company. That's almost $300 billion worth.
Microsoft Drops the Ball on High-Speed Wireless
Microsoft admitted this week that it would not be backing the new 802.11a high-speed wireless networking standard, at least for the short term, because it's not compatible with the popular, but much slower 802.11b. Makes sense, right? Actually, no, it doesn't. 802.11b's 11 Mb of shared speed isn't bad for browsing the Web and sending email, but it blows up with big file transfers and heavy multimedia use, not to mention more than a few users. But 802.11a, which can operate at speeds up to 5 times that speed, and with less interference, opens up a new world of possibilities. Microsoft's argument is somewhat typical, since the company owes much of its success to backwards compatibility. Break the chains, Microsoft, and go for speed.
PC Market on the Rebound
According to a recent IDC market research report, the PC market will bounce back slowly this year and then make double-digit gains in 2003. Worldwide sales of new PCs should be up 4.7 percent year over year in 2002, IDC says, up significantly from its original 1.8 percent forecast. Gartner is even more upbeat: It says that worldwide PC sales will be up 5.4 percent year over year this year. Of course, almost anything could change these forecasts, but it's nice to think that we're actually through the worst of it. Maybe if we just click our heels together ...
AOL 8 Beta Features IE, Not Mozilla
This week, America Online (AOL) beta testers got their first peak at the next version of the online service, imaginatively titled AOL 8, and received a little surprise: Contrary to expectations, AOL 8 still includes Internet Explorer (IE), and doesn't use the Gecko rendering engine from Mozilla. However, AOL has hinted that future betas might make the change. "We just began beta testing \[AOL 8\]," an AOL spokesperson said. "The current beta only includes a few new features." Of course, every new AOL version only includes a few new features, so arguably the product is very close to completion. But seriously folks, don't be surprised if Mozilla technology ends up in AOL 8: AOL hates Microsoft with a passion and has been working to sever its ties with the software giant for years.
Mozilla 1.1 Alpha Already Posted
And speaking of Mozilla, those busy beavers at mozilla.org aren't resting on their 1.0 laurels, I guess. Just days after shipping the final version of their .. first browser ... or something, mozilla.org posted the first alpha of the next version, which will be called Mozilla 1.1. This version includes a number of desirable new features, such as a true Download Manager, HTML-messages-as-text in Mozilla Messenger, DHTML rendering performance improvements, new browser tab functionality, better drag and drop support, and more. If you like living on the edge, check out the Mozilla 1.1 alpha on the mozilla.org Web site.