An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news...
Here Comes Windows 2003
Microsoft completed Windows Server 2003 development this morning, setting the stage for the product's April 24 launch in San Francisco. If you want to get an early start on Windows 2003, Microsoft has published the deployment kit in PDF format, and it's available now for free from the company's Web site . In addition, next week, I'll post part three of my Windows 2003 review and part three of "Windows Server 2003: The Road to Gold" on the SuperSite for Windows.
Microsoft Antitrust Settlement in Question
The US Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, has agreed to hear two appeals in the Microsoft antitrust case, a situation that could spell trouble for the software giant. Last week, the court agreed to hear Massachusetts's and West Virginia's appeal of Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly's November 1 ruling that largely approved Microsoft's settlement with the US government and nine US states. And this week, the court also agreed to hear an appeal from two trade groups, the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) and the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), which argue that Judge Kollar-Kotelly's ruling isn't in the public interest. Judge Kollar-Kotelly, you might recall, handed Microsoft a resounding and somewhat inexplicable legal victory late last year, rejecting the so-called nonsettling states' efforts to inflict tougher punishments on the company than those the federal government sought. After her ruling, seven states ultimately decided to agree to the settlement.
Microsoft: Houston, We Have a Problem with Windows XP SP1
In a Microsoft article released last week, the company admits that Windows XP Service Pack 1 (SP1) includes a bug that can cause the system to slow down dramatically. The bug affects XP's memory-management subsystem, and applications that use large amounts of RAM can take as much as 10 times longer to perform operations in XP SP1 as they take to perform identical operations in pre-SP1 XP releases. So far, Microsoft hasn't released a generally available fix for the bug, which affects both XP Professional Edition and XP Home Edition, although the company says it's working on one.
Yawn. Microsoft's SMB Version of Office
I was sort of surprised to see a lot of news stories this week about a small and midsized business (SMB) version of Microsoft Office 2003, because this product is discussed in the Office 2003 Beta 2 Kit that 500,000 testers received a few weeks ago. But the SMB version of Office 2003 probably won't be the only difference, SKU-wise, between Office 2003 and Office XP. I hope that Microsoft will release a low-cost consumer version, then we'll finally have something to cheer about. Another big question: What's the deal with Office InfoPath 2003 and Office OneNote 2003? Will they be included in any of the Office 2003 product versions? I guess we'll have to wait and see.
Computer Pioneer Adam Osbourne Passes Away
Adam Osbourne, the pioneering inventor of the portable computer, died in his sleep earlier this week at the age of 64 after a long illness. Osborne made a name for himself in 1981, when he released the world's first portable computer, a 23-pound luggable, PC-compatible unit. The company he founded to sell the device, Osbourne Computer, experienced the early 1980s version of the dot-com boom, with a rapid rise to prominence and wealth and an equally rapid decline into bankruptcy just 2 years later. Osbourne could also be credited with the massive price-cutting we now take for granted in the PC industry; he responded to the first competition in the portable market by immediately halving his prices. He was also an early purveyor of vaporware: His too-early announcement of the company's second-generation portable PC, which was much smaller and lighter than the original but materialized much later than announced, killed sales of the first-generation product and ultimately doomed his company.
Here Comes Red Hat Linux 9.0
On Monday, Red Hat will release version 9.0 of its desktop Linux OS to members of its Red Hat Network and will issue the product to retail stores a week later, the company announced this week. Red Hat Linux 9.0 includes new threading technology that will help it achieve better multitasking, performance, scalability, and stability. The product also supports integrated support for the Common UNIX Printing System (CUPS), an updated Bluecurve UI, new versions of Mozilla and OpenOffice.org, and a variety of core component updates. Unlike earlier versions, Red Hat Linux 9.0 targets individuals, including students and home users, in addition to the technically savvy enthusiasts who typically use such a product.
And You Thought Windows Support Stinks
And speaking of Red Hat, Windows Server users might be surprised to discover just how briefly Red Hat supports its products. The company will support Red Hat Linux 8.0, which is being replaced this week by version 9.0, and all 7.1 and newer versions of the product through the end of this year only; support for versions 6.2 and 7.0 end on March 31. Going forward, the company will support its products for just 1 year. Although I understand that Linux is evolving quickly, this policy seems a bit misguided, especially when you consider that Microsoft has extended support for its enterprise products twice in recent days. Is Red Hat essentially handing Microsoft yet another differentiator for customers to consider when comparing Windows and Linux? I think so.
SONICblue to File Bankruptcy, Will Shatter Product Lines
Consumer electronics maker SONICblue announced this week that it will seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and sell its three most important businesses to other companies. The company will sell its ReplayTV digital video recording (DVR) and Rio digital-audio player businesses to D&M Holdings, a Japanese company, for $40 million. SONICblue's GoVideo Dual-Deck VCR business will go to Opta Systems for $12.5 million. SONICblue's passing is a tough loss; the company was working to integrate and expand its various products. Ah well.
NGSCB Demonstration Scheduled for WinHEC
At Microsoft's annual Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC), held this year in New Orleans in early May, the company will unveil the first prototypes of PCs running the company's next-generation secure computing base (NGSCB) technology. Slated for inclusion in Longhorn, the next Windows desktop version (although I think by now we realize that all bets are off), Palladium involves integrated hardware and software components and will thus require a new type of PC, Microsoft says. The system is designed to protect PCs from malicious code and protect user privacy and security. Despite reports to the contrary, NGSCB isn't Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology, a way to usurp your control of the PC, a way to prevent you from running your own applications or your own music, or a way for Microsoft to gain control of Western civilization.
Microsoft Pulls "Hacker" Ad
South African regulators have asked Microsoft to pull a print ad in which the company implied that software "hackers" would soon join the dodo, the woolly mammoth, and the saber-toothed tiger in extinction because of the company's secure software. The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa said that the ad, which would have found absolutely zero resistance in the US ad market, wrongly created the impression that Windows 2003 would end attacks. "The secure software claims are currently unsubstantiated; the visual representation, which creates the impression that Microsoft software is secure, is misleading," the agency wrote in its ruling. I wish the ads I'm inundated with daily in TV, print, and the Web were held to such high standards.
Dell Enters Printer Market
Dell announced its entry into the printer market this week, just months after entering the PDA market--two markets historically dominated by, yes, you guessed it, Frank Stallone. Actually, Hewlett-Packard (HP) dominates these two markets, but Dell hopes to slowly gain on its toughest rival, which also recently secured Dell's former title of number-one PC maker. Dell's printers are, predictably, low-cost and high-quality and run the gamut from a $140 multifunction printer-scanner to a $900 network printer. Will Dell succeed in these new markets? Duh.
I've heard from a few readers who reportedly were invited to join the MSN 8.5 beta, and they're wondering which features this release will include. I haven't heard, but the impending availability of an MSN 8.5 release suggests to me that MSN 9, originally due this fall, isn't happening under the original schedule. I've seen a lot of MSN 9 prerelease imagery, but when Microsoft executives announced that the company had canceled the Office Lite product it was working on, I wondered how that move would affect MSN 9, as most of the features I knew about in that release were tied to MSN and Office Lite integration. Will MSN 8.5 basically include all the non-Office Lite features from MSN 9? It sounds like it, but let me know if you've heard anything different.
Mac vs. Windows--Readers Show Balance
Ever since the early days of WinInfo Daily UPDATE, when the mailing list was basically a way for instructors and students at Scottsdale Community College to keep up-to-date on computing topics, the Macintosh-versus-Windows debate has been a hot topic. Over the years, I've suffered blistering personal attacks from Mac lovers, especially since Steve Jobs took over Apple Computer. However, I'm happy to say that most of the responses I received regarding this week's Macintosh and Windows performance story were decidedly even-tempered, even from people who completely disagreed with the piece (although most appeared to agree). Do these responses reflect a new age in Mac and PC relations? If I can maintain a Mac and PC household, anyone can. Peace.