An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news...
Exclusive: Microsoft's Plan for Antivirus Technology
I've nailed down Microsoft's plans for antivirus technology in Longhorn, the next Windows version, but I complained mightily to the company about those plans (and will do so again when I have the opportunity). I hope Microsoft changes its strategy. The company plans to add about a hundred new APIs to Windows so that third parties, such as McAfee and Symantec, can tie into the system at a lower level and make their antivirus products more integrated with Windows. Microsoft is also going to offer Windows customers the company's own antivirus technology at a low monthly cost, with regular virus signature updates through AutoUpdate. This is the part I have a problem with: Windows Movie Maker and Windows Media Player (WMP) are integrated, integral parts of Windows but antivirus technology isn't? That's nuts: Antivirus technology needs to be part of Windows, and it needs to be free. If Microsoft really cares about its customers, the company will make antivirus technology part of Windows and not worry about hurting third-party developers. In my mind, users come first, and companies that make competing antivirus products can simply build on what Microsoft creates to add value, or they can move on and plug other holes in Microsoft's products. Everyone complained when Microsoft added TCP/IP support to Windows 95, but that move revolutionized the product and made the Internet pervasive. No one would suggest that TCP/IP should be a third-party product today. Microsoft should repeat this strategy with antivirus technology.
SuperSite Updates: Coming Soon!
I've received some worried email messages about the SuperSite for Windows, which I haven't updated in more than a month. I haven't updated the site because of a rare combination of my traveling a lot lately and not much going on in the world of Windows. But fear not, I have some major updates in the works, including articles about Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, Windows Small Business Edition 2003, and the Microsoft Office System 2003 Beta 2 Technical Refresh. I'll post them as soon as I can.
Microsoft Games Vice President Calls the Kettle Black
Peter Moore, the Microsoft corporate vice president responsible for Xbox, was speaking at a gaming summit in London this week when he suddenly unleashed a scathing attack on Nintendo's product strategy, concentrating especially on its best-selling GameBoy device. "\[Handheld gaming\] is a very solitary, time-killing activity," he said, noting that Microsoft had no plans to enter this market. "We believe that the future is the social element of gaming, and that's going to be done through a console, not through a handheld gaming device." And who would know more about the gaming market than the man who loses $50 on every game machine he sells? After all, the Xbox isn't raking in the big bucks that the GameBoy is. Furthermore, someone should point out to Moore that gaming is the fastest-growing nonphone application for cell phones. Someone should force this guy to spend interminable hours alone on a plane, train, or bus.
Microsoft Asks Court to Reject New Sanctions
In a legal filing submitted Wednesday, Microsoft blasted Massachusetts and its attempt to pursue more extreme sanctions in its antitrust case. "Only Massachusetts and a couple of groups of Microsoft competitors are continuing with their efforts to impose over-reaching and punitive terms that the District Court has already determined would harm not just Microsoft, but the software industry and the economy as well," a Microsoft spokesperson noted. "Today's filing by Microsoft merely underscores what almost everyone now accepts as fact, that the District Court's thorough review and comprehensive rulings represent a fair and appropriate remedy in this case." Hey, 600 years ago everyone accepted the "fact" that the world was flat.
US Asks Court to Reject New Sanctions
On a related note, the US government also submitted a filing in the Microsoft case, asking an appellate court to uphold its settlement with the software giant. "The Microsoft settlement is in the public interest, and the Department \[of Justice\] remains committed to actively enforcing its terms," Assistant Attorney General Hewitt Pate wrote in a statement.
Massachusetts Asks Court to Accept New Sanctions
Not coincidentally, Massachusetts--the sole state still fighting Microsoft's historic settlement with the US government and numerous US states--asked the same court to throw out the settlement and require Microsoft to undergo more stringent punishments. "Microsoft has been found guilty of predatory practices, yet allowed to continue to crush innovation, competition and consumer choice in the computer software industry," Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly said recently. "This conduct harms consumers and companies all over the country, including here in Massachusetts."
West Virginia Won Big by Continuing Microsoft Fight
And speaking of states that once pursued Microsoft, cash-strapped West Virginia did pretty well for itself by seeking stronger sanctions for so long. Had West Virginia agreed to the settlement Microsoft struck with the US government, the state would have collected legal fees and little else. But by holding out, West Virginia was able to extract from Microsoft $21 million in software, computers, and cash and $300,000 to cover legal costs, thanks to a private settlement the state agreed to last weekend. Not bad.
Office 2003 Beta 2 Technical Refresh on Tap
The long-awaited Office 2003 Beta 2 Technical Refresh will be available to testers as a free download as early as today, sources at Microsoft told me this week. I've been working with an early build of the technical refresh for several weeks; it provides some graphical changes, including new icons and other elements, and some much-needed performance and stability improvements to Microsoft Outlook, which is the most dramatically improved product in the suite. The download will be huge, however--100MB to 400MB, depending on which packages you have installed--and requires 1GB of free disk space for installation.
Microsoft to Release Palladium SDK at PDC in October
Microsoft will provide more information about its Next Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB) technology in October, when the company unleashes the first NGSCB software development kit (SDK) at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2003. The NGSCB SDK will give programmers their first look at NGSCB code so that they can write applications and services that take advantage of this runtime environment's unique features. NGSCB will debut as an optional part of Longhorn in late 2005 and will require special, NGSCB-specific PCs.
Microsoft Falls to Third Place in Market Value
Microsoft is no longer the second-largest company on earth; the company fell to third place this week, thanks to strong gains by drug maker Pfizer. Microsoft didn't actually lose any value--the company is still valued at $279 billion--but Pfizer has seen its stock soar recently because the company has been buying rivals and releasing popular new products. Pfizer is now worth about $285 billion. Both companies, however, trail General Electric (GE), which is valued at $307 billion.
HP Releases $999 Media Center PC
This week, Hewlett-Packard (HP) unleashed a low-cost Media Center PC that brings Microsoft's multimedia-oriented Windows XP Media Center Edition to a much wider market. The HP m200 starts at just $999 and offers a range of add-ons so that users can custom-configure their systems. In some ways, the original Media Center PCs, which often cost $2000 to $3000, are niche items, but with pricing this low, this cool new system might finally go mainstream.
MSN Messenger 6 Clarification
I confused a lot of people by referring to MSN Messenger 6 as a "Real-Time Communications (RTC)" client, by which I meant it was more than just a simple Instant Messaging (IM) application because it supports audio and video chat, as well as file sharing and other features. What I didn't mean was that MSN Messenger 6 is a client for RTC Server--it isn't--and I'm sorry if I muddled matters. Sometimes I need to reign in my zeal to promote the use of new Microsoft marketing terms (such as RTC).