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

XP MCE 2005: Based on XP Home or XP Pro?
   A lot of people are speculating that Windows XP Media Center Edition (XP MCE) 2005 is based on XP Home Edition, not on XP Professional Edition, as earlier releases were. Their reasoning is that XP MCE 2005 drops a few key XP Pro features, such as the ability to log on to a domain, Group Policy Editor (GPE), and Encrypting File System (EFS) support. But XP MCE 2005 does include many key XP Pro features, such as Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) 5.1. So what's the truth? Honestly, people are asking the wrong question because all XP versions are based on the same code base. The key question is why XP MCE has changed at all. And the answer is simple: As supersets of XP Pro, earlier XP MCE versions cost more money for PC makers and thus for consumers. For this reason (and others), the product didn't sell very well. Microsoft is now positioning XP MCE 2005 as the premium XP consumer OS. So the company removed some features that home users won't need in a bid to differentiate XP MCE 2005 from XP Pro and to justify a lower cost. (Think about it: If you could get all the XP Pro features, plus the Media Center UI, for less than XP Pro costs, why would you buy XP Pro?) Consumers can now get Media Center PCs for far less than before, both because of the OS price drop and because white-box PC makers are now selling them.

Microsoft Updates Windows Mobile Strategy
   Speaking at the CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment 2004 conference this week, Mike Wehrs, director of technology and standards for Microsoft's Mobility Division, said that the company will release the Windows .NET Compact Framework 2.0 by the end of 2004, dramatically improving the programmable features in Windows Mobile-based Smartphones and Pocket PCs. The next version of Compact Framework supports several features that Microsoft is targeting for its next wave of Windows Mobile-based software, including DirectShow graphics, Voice over IP (VoIP) support, and wireless Access Point (AP) roaming. The company is also looking at intelligent power-management features that will automatically set screen brightness and other features based on when the user last recharged the device. Windows Mobile 2005 is expected to ship in late summer 2005.

EU to Object to Microsoft, Time Warner Joint Venture
   The European Union's (EU's) European Commission will reportedly send a list of objections to both Microsoft and Time Warner next week, warning the two companies not to pursue a joint takeover of ContentGuard, a maker of digital copy-protection software. The Commission is worried that Microsoft will use ContentGuard's technology to further Microsoft's expansion into other markets. Microsoft and Time Warner had asked the Commission to grant them permission to acquire a 50-50 ownership of ContentGuard, which, like Microsoft and Time Warner, is based in the United States. However, because the companies do a large portion of their business in Europe, the Commission reviews such transactions to protect European consumers.

EU Ruling on Microsoft Appeal Due Mid-November
   And speaking of the EU, an EU judicial ruling concerning Microsoft's attempt to stay the penalties in its antitrust case pending appeal is due by mid-November. Judge Bo Vesterdorf, president of the EU's Court of First Instance, will rule on the appeal after spending 6 weeks weighing the arguments. For 2 days in late September, Microsoft and EU lawyers faced off in front of Vesterdorf, and we've been waiting ever since for the wisps of smoke to appear from the judge's chambers. But the wait for this ruling will seem like a pittance compared with the expected length of the full Microsoft legal challenge, which could drag on for 5 more years. Good times.

Microsoft Works on XP SP2 Automation Tools
   Almost 3 months after delivering XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) to an unsuspecting world ("What? It makes my computer ... more secure?"), Microsoft will finally deliver some tools to make XP SP2's deployment to businesses more automated. The first tool provides application compatibility, which is said to be the number-one deployment blocker in large companies. To deal with that concern, Microsoft will soon ship a new version of the Windows Application Compatibility Toolkit (version 4.0) that's compatible with XP SP2. Hey, that's great. But explain to me why this toolkit wasn't ready in mid-August. Complaining that more companies aren't deploying XP SP2 is disingenuous when Microsoft waited so long to deliver the tools companies need to make sure the deployment works correctly.

Microsoft, Others File More Antispam Lawsuits
   This week, AOL, EarthLink, Microsoft, and Yahoo! filed three new lawsuits against spammers in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. "Collectively, these four Internet service providers continue to change the economics of spam by identifying and targeting top alleged spammers," Aaron Kornblum, Microsoft's Internet safety enforcement attorney, said. "Microsoft alone has supported more than 100 legal actions worldwide, including 75 lawsuits in the United States, against those who strain our consumers' inboxes with unwanted and deceptive email, many carrying and transmitting malicious code, spyware, and links to phishing sites." Although I applaud the companies' actions, the number of email messages I've received this week about Rolex watches--and, curiously, fake Rolex watches--suggests we still have a long way to go.

Apple Shares Soar to $50
   Say what you will about Apple Computer, but the one-time computer giant and sudden consumer-electronics giant is one of the few technology companies that's making a killing in the stock market. After releasing what are honestly pretty lame upgrades to its iPod line this week, Apple's stock rocketed to more than $50 a share. I wonder when the good times will end for Apple stock. Probably when people figure out that the stock should be trading at about half its current levels. But in the illogical world of stock trading, this is the way things go. And Apple should milk the good news for as long as possible.

Firefox Hits 1.0 Release Candidate
   The Mozilla Foundation inched one step closer to the all-important 1.0 release of its surging Firefox Web browser this week when it shipped Firefox 1.0 RC, a so-called release-candidate build that fixes 250 bugs from this summer's Preview Release. The company says that Firefox 1.0 should ship sometime in early November and will celebrate the release with a full-page ad in "The New York Times" that its supporters will pay for. (Full disclosure: I'm helping to pay for the ad, and I think you should, too. See the Spread Firefox Web site at http://www.spreadfirefox.com for details.) In the meantime, check out Firefox 1.0 RC. It kicks the bejeezus out of Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) and is more secure to boot.

Boo! Happy Halloween!
   Sunday is Halloween here in the United States but some even scarier events are coming up in the days ahead, including the presidential election on Tuesday and the holiday buying season. I won't bore you with my political views, but I will say this: Depending on how the election goes, I could be looking at property in Canada on Wednesday. In the meantime, I'm Paul Thurrott. And I approved this message.