WinInfo Daily UPDATE, April 14, 2003

MICROSOFT TOUTS ANTISPAM, ANTIVIRUS FEATURES IN EXCHANGE 2003

In San Francisco this week for RSA Conference 2003, Microsoft announced that Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, the upcoming release of the company's messaging server, will include pervasive antispam and antivirus features. The new antispam technology will let Microsoft partners integrate their own antispam products into Exchange. The company has also updated Virus Scanning API (VS API) to version 2.5, adding new features that will further secure the product. Microsoft recently issued Exchange 2003 Release Candidate 1 (RC1) to testers; the final version will ship mid-year.

"We know customers' pain," said Kevin McCuistion, director of marketing, product planning, and business development for Exchange Server. "Security and privacy are more important than ever right now and, as an industry leader, we know Exchange and its industry partners have to offer an end-to-end solution to customers that will help fend off security threats at the gateway, on the mailbox server, and at an end user's mailbox. Microsoft's philosophy is to stop viruses and spam at the network perimeter, keeping end users focused on the task at hand. We have provided a solid baseline of functionality in the core Exchange 2003 product and now with these two tools partners can provide an additional layer of security."

In a bid to stop spam at the network perimeter, Microsoft is adding an extensible antispam tool to Exchange 2003 that will let partner solutions scan incoming email messages and apply a Spam Confidence Level (SCL) score to each message; Exchange will forward messages to a global junk-mail folder according to a threshold that the Exchange administrator sets. In addition, the antispam features in Exchange 2003 will work directly with the new junk-mail filter in Microsoft Office Outlook 2003, the upcoming release of Microsoft's premier messaging and personal information manager (PIM) client. Outlook 2003 users will be able to store their Safe and Block Senders lists on Exchange 2003 so that the lists are available from Outlook Web Access (OWA) or any other Outlook 2003 client.

VS API 2.5 scans email at the network perimeter, preventing virus-infected email messages from reaching users' Inboxes or being sent outside the firewall. Antivirus solutions written to VS API 2.5 will also have options to delete infected email and send warning messages when infected email messages are sent or received.

NEW TERMINATOR 2 DVD TO SHIP WITH HIGH-QUALITY WMV 9 VERSION

Microsoft's stunning new Windows Media Video (WMV) 9 format has been used to digitally project movies, and now the format has caught the attention of major Hollywood movie studios. When the upcoming "Terminator 2: Extreme Edition" DVD hits stores this June, it will include a High Definition (HD) version of the film encoded in WMV 9 Professional format. The WMV 9 Pro version of "Terminator 2" features 1080p resolution (1920 x 1080) and a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX audio track, and will require at least a mid-level Pentium 4-based PC for playback. But the WMV version's quality far outstrips the standard DVD version--it's encoded and presented in about six times the resolution.

Late last summer, during a Windows Media 9 Series technical workshop, Microsoft demonstrated various theatrical releases, such as "The Mummy Returns" and Disney's "Dinosaurs," rendered in 1080p WMV 9 Pro, and the display's quality was stunning. As I wrote in my review of the technology last September (see the URL below), WMV 9 significantly raises the quality bar for encoded movies, although few WMV-capable DVD players are on the market, meaning that most users will have to use a PC or notebook to play back the superior versions. But hardware support is on the way, and of course Windows XP Media Center users can take advantage of these new discs now.

Another interesting note is the way that anti-Microsoft sites such as Slashdot are reacting to this technology. In a recent posting to that site, one of Slashdot's maintainers noted that "it looks like Microsoft has been busy developing a new video-compression method that can show high-quality HD video at bitrates similar to current DVDs ... Myself and many others have watched it, and most of us feel this is significantly better looking than MPEG-4/DivX HD video of the same bitrate. This technology is causing some excitement, as the 'T2: Extreme Edition' DVD package will include a DVD containing T2 in HD, compressed with this technology. Anyone with a fast PC will be able to watch T2 in \[HD\]." I'm happy to see the rest of the world picking up on this fact, even if it took them a while to catch on.

MICROSOFT, AND NOW APPLE, CONSIDER UNIVERSAL MUSIC PURCHASE

The recent revelation by "The LA Times" that Apple Computer is considering purchasing at least a piece of Universal Music is interesting news in light of Apple's plans to unleash an online music store, but here's a fact most of the articles about this event have conveniently overlooked. Apple isn't the first high-tech company to consider purchasing Universal Music, and it isn't the most serious about the potential purchase. Microsoft first looked into buying the company; it wasn't until that deal fell apart that Universal Music owner Vivendi approached Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

Here's what really happened. Plagued by debt, Vivendi has been trying to sell parts of its business, including Universal Music, for months. On a few separate occasions, the latest as recently as last fall, the company entered into discussions with Microsoft over an outright purchase of Universal Music, a partial purchase, or an investment in the company. However, those talks all ended without a deal. This weekend, as news of Apple's interest in Universal Music surfaced, speculation ran rampant on the Internet that Microsoft was once again looking at purchasing Universal Music. No legitimate news sources have corroborated these reports, however.

Discussions between Apple and Vivendi have been less than fruitful, if you'll pardon the pun. The two companies discussed Apple purchasing as much as a third of Universal Music, but sources close to the companies have described the talks as "exploratory" only, and they apparently never went very far. This month, however, Apple will release a new online music store that provides songs from all five major music companies, including Universal Music, for roughly 99 cents a song. The store will initially require Mac OS X and Apple iTunes, although Apple will eventually add Windows compatibility to serve the other 97 percent of the market.

Vivendi's desire to unload Universal Music at this time makes some sense when you consider that audio CD sales have plummeted 25 percent since 2000, thanks largely to online piracy. Apple's new store hopes to curtail that piracy by making legitimate music available inexpensively, according to sources. However, Apple's stock nose-dived 8 percent Friday when rumors about the talks with Vivendi surfaced, suggesting that investors aren't too keen about Apple picking up the struggling music giant.

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