Microsoft: No Longhorn Until 2006...at the Earliest  

In an interview with "Computerworld," Microsoft Senior Vice President Bob Muglia revealed that the next major version of Windows (code-named Longhorn) won't ship until 2006 at the earliest, confirming the opinions of analysts and others familiar with the company's problem of shipping products on schedule. "2006 is the earliest time frame we're looking at \[for Longhorn\]," Muglia said, suggesting that perhaps 2007 is a more accurate date. "\[The client and server versions of Longhorn\] will ship at different times. Clients need slightly less bake time than servers do." He also presented an interesting summary of the features Microsoft plans for Longhorn. "There are three major pillars for Longhorn. One is the new user interface pieces in the Avalon UI, the graphical UI. Another is WinFS. And the third is the Web services infrastructure in Indigo."

Microsoft's Plan to Fight the EU Decision Revealed

According to a report in "The Wall Street Journal," Microsoft's plan for countering the antitrust remedies that the European Union (EU) imposed this week will be to accuse European regulators of unfairly giving away the company's R&D. Furthermore, the company plans a standard appeal to Europe's Court of First Instance but will also petition the United States to challenge the EU ruling at the World Trade Organization (WTO), although the United States probably won't agree to such a tactic. "\[The EU's ruling will result in\] the broadest compulsory license of intellectual property since the European community was founded," Microsoft Senior Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary Brad Smith said, adding that European and international laws that protect corporations' intellectual property will likely be the company's strongest defense.

Massachusetts Praises EU Decision

And speaking of the EU antitrust case, Tom Reilly, the attorney general of Massachusetts, praised the EU ruling against Microsoft--a predictable response when you consider that Massachusetts is the only holdout state among the original states that sued Microsoft for antitrust abuses alongside the US government 6 years ago. "It's another continent but somebody finally decided to deal with Microsoft, which is something the Department of Justice avoided in the latest round," Reilly said this week. "The \[EU\] seems to have the will to deal with this situation." Reilly also noted that the EU decision validated Massachusetts's belief that Microsoft should be forced to offer a Windows version without bundled middleware.

Microsoft Rolls Out Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition

In what can only be described as the company's most low-profile OS rollout since Windows Me, Microsoft released Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition this week, not that anyone running a Pocket PC today will be able to get the OS anytime soon. Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition (or WM2K3SE, as I affectionately call it) adds several key features to compatible Pocket PC devices, including support for VGA (640 x 480) screens and landscape-display mode. But in what is becoming an increasingly frustrating and familiar strategy, Microsoft isn't shipping the OS to customers directly but is letting its hardware partners do so--with an associated fee. So we'll likely wait months for companies such as HP and Toshiba to release the update, and many customers will be disappointed to eventually discover that their particular devices won't be updated at all. Adding insult to injury, representatives of Dell, HP, and Toshiba were flashing users' devices to the new OS at the Microsoft Mobile Developer Conference (DevCon) 2004 in San Francisco this week at no charge, including mobile devices that...ahem...won't be officially upgradeable. Shame.

Dell Won't Upgrade Axim Users to Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition

According to a statement on ActiveWin.com attributed to a Dell representative, "Dell will deploy Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition in future Axim products \[only\]. We have no plans at this time to offer Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition updates for current Axim X3 or Axim X5 products." That news is pretty upsetting but hold on to your hats, Axim owners. In the previous blurb, I mentioned that Pocket PC makers are flashing devices to the most recent OS. Among those devices are, yep, Dell Axims. I can't believe it, either.

HP Files Patent-Infringement Suit Against Gateway

 HP filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Gateway this week, alleging that Gateway is shipping notebook and desktop computers that infringe on six of HP's patents. Those patents cover technologies such as improved password functions and power management, according to HP, which is asking Gateway to stop shipping systems affected by the suit. That, Gateway says, isn't going to happen.

Microsoft Admits It Missed Internet Search Opportunity

Let me get something straight: First, Microsoft missed out on the whole Internet boon by shipping a lackluster, proprietary online service then called The Microsoft Network just as the Internet was starting to take off. Now, the company is admitting that it blew it big time again by missing out on providing a world-class Internet search service, letting an unknown company called Google take off. "People say that Microsoft does it all, but this is the case where we didn't do it all," CEO Steve Ballmer said, describing the company's missteps with Internet search as its "biggest mistake." Ahem. This kind of talk reminds me of Microsoft's use of the term "bet the company," which it carts out at virtually every product launch. I guess this scenario is "bet the company's" antithesis.

Comcast Picks Up Some Cable Baggage

In a strange move, cable giant Comcast picked up struggling cable channel TechTV this week for $300 million. Comcast will merge TechTV with the equally unappealing G4 channel, which concentrates on video games. From what I can tell, TechTV is apparently available today to more than 43 million homes but probably has an actual viewership closer to 7 or 8 people in the Midwest. The channel always lacked focus and seemed unclear about exactly who its viewers were; maybe this move will reenergize what could be a killer cable channel. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: No one got the computer-channel thing right since MSNBC's The Site went off the air years ago...and became TechTV. Good luck, guys.

Apple Delays iPod Mini Rollout, Cites Hard Disk Shortage

This week, Apple Computer delayed the worldwide rollout of the iPod mini from April to July, citing problems getting enough of the miniature hard disks the devices require. Apple released the iPod mini in the United States last month--sort of--but made only a limited number of devices available, leading me to wonder if the "soft" rollout was a bit of a charade. Regardless, Apple is still touting the 100,000 preorders it received for the iPod mini, although whether that number has changed or how many of those preorders have actually been filled is unclear. This situation is just the most recent example of Apple pre-announcing a product, then not fulfilling its promised shipping schedule. In the most notable case--the Power Mac G4--Apple shareholders sued the company for overpromising and underdelivering.

BuyMusic.com Will Roll Into Buy.com: First Casualty of Online Music War?

Buy.com alerted customers that it will soon roll its online music service, BuyMusic.com, into the Buy.com Web site, casting doubts on whether the service will survive. Since launching last summer, BuyMusic.com has been overshadowed by Apple's excellent iTunes Music Store and a host of PC-based rivals including Musicmatch Downloads, Napster 2.0, and Wal-Mart Music Downloads and will probably be overshadowed by expected services from Microsoft, Sony, and Virgin, as well. Odd Digital Rights Management (DRM) restrictions always hampered BuyMusic.com's success, especially in light of the fact that every other music service on the planet offered vastly superior rights. I'm all for choice, but BuyMusic.com doesn't make sense to me because of this one problem, and I can't believe it hasn't been resolved.

HP and Microsoft Relationship on the Wane?

This week, HP announced that it will ship Novell's SUSE LINUX as an option on some PCs in various markets. Coupled with the company's earlier decision to ship Linux in Asia and Eastern Europe and its recent iTunes deal with Apple, you might wonder whether HP's formerly rock-solid relationship with Microsoft--which dates back decades to relationships with the previously separate HP and Compaq--is on the ropes. I think that a rejuvenated PC giant is flexing its muscles a bit. When you consider these moves in light of the way Microsoft was able to make giant PC companies such as IBM cower in the mid-1990s, the tide has clearly turned a bit. Maybe the US antitrust case against Microsoft wasn't a complete waste of time after all.