Longhorn Gets HD DVD Compatibility 

Microsoft announced this morning that Longhorn, the company's next generation OS, will include support for High Definition DVD (HD DVD) the video playback format that's expected to succeed DVD. Microsoft's support of a next generation DVD format is key to that format's success; in the past, Microsoft's support of technologies such as various recordable DVD formats, USB, and Wi Fi (the 802.11b wireless standard) helped make them ubiquitous in the PC world.

HD DVD, which is only one of the competing formats vying to be the DVD standard, is backed by some of the industry's biggest players including NEC and Toshiba. HD DVD, which uses a blue laser that can read and store much more data than today's optical formats can, lets manufacturers store movie length HD recordings on a single disc. Blu-Ray, a competing DVD format, is backed by other industry heavyweights such as Philips and Sony. Microsoft could conceivably back the Blu-Ray format as well; earlier, the company announced that over time it will support various recordable DVD formats starting with DVD RAM.

Microsoft Launches Web Messenger Beta

Microsoft is beta testing a Web based MSN Messenger client that will let its hundreds of millions of users talk online with friends in real time by using only a Web browser. Microsoft created the client because certain companies block Instant Messaging (IM) traffic or lock down software installations on corporate PCs, and because many users want to chat when they're away from their highly configured PCs. The MSN Web Messenger client will work from any shared computer, Microsoft says, whether it's at school, work, a friend's house, or anywhere else users can't install the MSN Messenger software.

MSN Messenger is a fully featured instant messaging program that you install on your own computer or one you have permission to install on (a note on the company's Web site says MSN Web Messenger enables you to quickly and easily use basic instant messaging features on a Web browser on any computer without installing any software). The full version of MSN Web Messenger will ship later; this year Microsoft is currently soliciting feedback on the beta version and will make changes to the final version based on that feedback.

MSN Web Messenger requires Microsoft Internet Explorer IE 5.0 or later, Netscape 7.0 or later, or Mozilla 1.6 or later running on any modern Windows release. You must have a Microsoft NET Passport account and enable pop ups for the MSN Web Messenger Web site. For more information and to try the free beta, visit the MSN Web Messenger Beta Web site.

RealNetworks Reverse Engineers Apple's FairPlay DRM Scheme

RealNetworks announced this morning that it has essentially reverse engineered Apple Computer's FairPlay Digital Rights Management (DRM) scheme. RealNetworks' Harmony Technology will let customers load songs purchased from the RealNetworks RealPlayer Music Store onto Apple's successful but closed iPod portable audio player.

Apple refused to share the technical information RealNetworks needed to make this translation possible. Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, refused repeated requests from RealNetworks CEO, Rob Glaser. Apparently, RealNetworks got tired of waiting.

RealNetworks' Harmony Technology is a DRM translation system that the company says will help customers securely transfer legally purchased music to all of today's popular secure music devices including the iPod. "Compatibility is key to bringing digital music to the masses," Glaser said. "Before, Harmony consumers buying digital music got locked in to a specific kind of portable player. Harmony changes all that. Thanks to Harmony, consumers don't have to worry about technology when buying music. Now anyone can buy music, move it to their favorite portable device, and it will just work just like DVD and CDs work."

Harmony Technology breaks the lock in that has been a leading factor in the success of the Apple iTunes Music Store. The iPod outsells other players by a wide margin and iPod customers have been forced to use Apple's online music store because the iPod supports only the company s Protected Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) format. Now, iPod owners will be able to purchase music from the RealPlayer Music Store which uses a much higher quality format 192Kbps RealAudio 10 AAC.

Tomorrow, RealNetworks will demonstrate the Harmony Technology for the first time and the company will ship a beta version of the RealPlayer 10.5 software which supports the technology soon. Later this year, RealNetworks will also include the Harmony Technology in other products including the RHAPSODY subscription service.

Microsoft Ships SQL Server 2005 Beta 2

Today, Microsoft shipped the oft delayed Microsoft SQL Server 2005, code-named Yukon Beta 2 and added to the product a host of previously announced features SQL Server 2005 will ship in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions the company said and will support the Direct Connect Architecture feature in AMD Opteron processors.

"The AMD Opteron processor provides SQL Server 2005 Beta 2 testers with the investment protection of outstanding overall x86 performance in both 32-bit and 64-bit computing environments," AMD Vice President Marty Seyer said. "As enterprises transition from 32 to 64-bit computing they need the smooth migration path to 64-bit computing that AMD64 provides. We invite beta testers to experience for themselves how AMD64 with Direct Connect Architecture can help eliminate the bottlenecks inherent in a front side bus and improve overall system performance and efficiency."

In addition to support for the Direct Connect Architecture, SQL Server 2005 Beta 2 will contain numerous new features including:

SQL Server Management Studio. A replacement for various older SQL Server management tools, the SQL Server Management Studio will combine functionality from SQL Server Analysis Services, SQL Server Enterprise Manager, and SQL Query Analyzer into a single integrated tool.

New scalability and availability enhancements. Thanks to features such as Data Partitioning, Database Mirroring, Snapshot Isolation (SI), and SQL Service Broker, SQL Server 2005 will be more scalable and available than earlier versions.

Improved security. SQL Server 2005 will support database encryption which helps customers protect data privacy.

New SQL Server Editions. In addition to the standard SQL Server editions, SQL Server 2005 will include a new Express edition, which will replace the Microsoft Data Engine (MSDE) for developers, and a SQL Server 2005 Mobile Edition, which will replace SQL Server 2000 Windows CE Edition and will be designed for Pocket PCs, Tablet PCs, and Windows Mobile based Smartphones.

Integrated developer tools. SQL Server 2005 will integrate closely with Visual Studio 2005, Microsoft's upcoming suite of developer tools.

SQL Server 2005 Beta 2 will be available for download to all Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Enterprise Professional and Universal subscribers sometime today.