WinInfo Daily UPDATE, February 23, 2004

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In the News
- Microsoft Posts InfoPath 2003 SP1 Preview
- Microsoft Strikes Back at RealNetworks

==== In the News ====
by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Microsoft Posts InfoPath 2003 SP1 Preview
Today, Microsoft provided a free preview of Microsoft Office InfoPath 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP1), which will be part of Office 2003 SP1 (previously called Service Release 1--SR-1). According to Microsoft, the InfoPath 2003 SP1 preview release includes improved programming tools, page-layout controls, and schema and digital-signature support, making the first-generation information-gathering program more powerful.
"With a wide variety of companies already using InfoPath for their organizations, we are delighted by the reception InfoPath has received," Rajesh Jha, InfoPath general manager, said. "The enhancements that will be delivered as part of the forthcoming Microsoft Office System service pack will provide organizations with enhanced stability and security and will equip developers with a robust environment to create solutions that can adapt to the ever-changing needs of today's businesses."
The InfoPath 2003 SP1 preview is fully backward-compatible with the original InfoPath 2003 release and can be mixed into existing environments. SP1 comes with a wide range of improvements over the original release, including
- better security--improved support for digital signatures so that users can sign individual portions of a form and verify their intentions even after future changes are made to the form
- better reliability--enhanced document recovery, data-submission and filtering controls, and stability-related enhancements that are based on data gathered from users through Office 2003's automated error-reporting tools
- better technology integration--improved handwriting support for Tablet PC users and simpler email-attachment support, which lets users send InfoPath forms to one another through Outlook
- better programming environment--richer page-layout controls that will help developers and technical users more easily create new forms, integration with Microsoft BizTalk Server 2000's workflow-automation functionality, customizable capabilities accessible through professional programming environments such as Visual Basic .NET and Visual C#, and more extensive support for XML schemas and XML Schema Definition (XSD) language data sources

Office 2003 SP1 will also include dramatic changes to other applications, including several expected changes to Office OneNote 2003, Microsoft's new note-taking application. Microsoft says it will release Office 2003 SP1 in June. You can download the InfoPath 2003 SP1 preview from the Microsoft Web site.

Microsoft Strikes Back at RealNetworks
Microsoft issued a legal response Friday to digital-media giant RealNetworks' charge that Microsoft illegally leveraged its OS dominance to gain market share for Windows Media Player (WMP) and its other Windows Digital Media products. Microsoft argues that its behavior "constitutes permissible competitive activity" and is therefore legal; the company also accused RealNetworks of launching its antitrust lawsuit to gain its own market share. RealNetworks filed its lawsuit against Microsoft in December, accusing Microsoft of predatory conduct.
"The digital-media marketplace is characterized by intense competition and a continual stream of new technology and innovations and companies entering the market each week," Microsoft's statement said. "This is a case where a leading firm is seeking to use antitrust laws to protect and increase it market share and to limit the competition it must face." Earlier, Microsoft also complained that RealNetworks filed its antitrust suit in San Jose, California--in the heart of Silicon Valley, where most of Microsoft's competitors are based--and not in Washington, where both Microsoft and RealNetworks are based. Microsoft has asked the court to move the case to a less hostile environment.
RealNetworks' complaint centers around the suddenly age-old argument of product bundling. The company says that by bundling WMP with Windows and making it a feature that users can't remove, Microsoft is violating the terms of its antitrust settlement with the US government and unfairly making it difficult for competitors such as RealNetworks to make headway in the digital-media market. Microsoft's legal response noted that users can hide WMP, if desired, by using a new feature the company introduced in Windows XP Service Pack 1 (SP1). Microsoft also argued that integrating digital-media technologies in Windows has fostered rapid innovation and hasn't harmed competition. Microsoft's response indicates that the company intends to defend its ability to bundle digital-media technologies in Windows, although Microsoft faces a similar legal battle in Europe, thanks to an antitrust fight that also revolves around the company's media player. The European Union (EU) recently shot down a Microsoft settlement attempt that would have required PC makers to include RealNetworks' media player and other competitive products on a separate CD-ROM with all Windows PCs. The EU argued that consumers rarely use such CD-ROMs and that including a CD-ROM with new PCs would thus do little to reverse Microsoft's ill-gotten market share.

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