WinInfo Short Takes: Week of February 11

What? You Mean the Public Doesn't Approve of the Microsoft Settlement?
Here's a shocker: Apparently, most of the 30,000 public responses that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) received about its antitrust settlement with Microsoft were negative. As a result, both Microsoft and the DOJ have asked Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly for a 1-day hearing in which they can suggest small changes to the agreement. This hearing request appears to be an attempt to prevent the judge from throwing out the proposed settlement, but that's exactly what she should do. It's not as though we don't have another settlement proposal to consider.

Microsoft Comes Down Hard on Its Programmers
And speaking of problems in Redmond, Microsoft has put its Windows developers and testers through an intense security-training program that will probably affect Windows XP and the upcoming Windows .NET Server products in dramatic ways. Microsoft says that the effort is serious and will forever change the way the company codes products. Michael Howard, program manager for Microsoft's Secure Windows Initiative, says that Microsoft is asking program managers a question that should be music to any Windows user's ears: "Are 90 percent of your users using this feature? If not, then you better have a good reason for enabling that feature by default." Security code fixes for XP will ship in Service Pack 1 (SP1), which Microsoft has delayed. The initial version of .NET Server, now due in the second half of the year, will be more secure out of the box than it would have been previously.

Microsoft Office v. X Includes New Windows Feature: A Security Problem!
Even Microsoft's Mac products aren't safe. Microsoft's recently released Office v. X for Mac OS X includes a feature that Windows users are familiar with--a security vulnerability that leaves users open to potential data loss. The company has issued a fix for the flaw, which ironically would never have happened if Microsoft's Mac Business Unit had used the Product Activation code from Office XP. Yikes.

Ballmer: It Isn't Just Security, It's Privacy, Too
In an interview with ZDNET, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer reiterated that his company's latest war is against security vulnerabilities but also stressed that the initiative includes privacy issues. The most important aspect of the change, however, is rallying his employees and making customers realize that Microsoft is serious about fixing the problems. "Does it really hurt you to delay a product for a month, 2 months, 3 months?" Ballmer asked. "If your customers are a lot happier, they're much more inclined to buy \[the products\]. They are more inclined to deploy if you don't have so many support costs behind \[the products\]. I don't think it hurts our bottom line. I think it's entirely consistent with our bottom line."

Video-Game Sales Hit Record in 2001
Video-game hardware sales raced to an all-time high in 2001, thanks to new product introductions from Microsoft and Nintendo and a strong product line from market-leader Sony. US sales of video games and related hardware hit $9.4 billion in 2001, far more than the previous record of $6.9 billion in 1999 and the record $8.4 billion that Hollywood movies earned in 2001. And those record sales, my friends, explain why Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates has his hands in this pie.

Don't Like Windows? Sun Has an Alternative ... Linux?
Making an abrupt strategy shift, Sun Microsystems revealed this week that it will embrace Linux in several markets, including an unexpected new distribution that the company will produce inhouse for low-end, Intel-based servers. Sun is also expanding its line of Linux-based Cobalt servers and building better Linux compatibility into its proprietary UNIX version, Solaris. The company expects to pay back its deal with the devil by 2031.

Gates: No Economic Recovery for You!
Dampening hopes that we'll see an economic recovery any time soon, the man who couldn't spend all his money if he tried said this week that we're going to be mired in a recession for the rest of the year. Bill Gates made the comment at the World Economic Forum in New York, and although his opinion was at odds with those of most other presenters, do you really want to bet against Bill Gates on this one?

HP Co-Founders Run Anti-Merger Ads
The families of the Hewlett-Packard (HP) co-founders have taken their argument against the proposed HP and Compaq merger public with full-page ads in national newspapers. Walter Hewlett's ads in The Wall Street Journal and San Jose Mercury News this week state, "A $25 billion mistake is not the HP way. Don't bet the company on Compaq. It's mired in manufacturing PCs--low margin, money-losing commodity products." Yikes. Hewlett's ads follow similar ads from David Woodley Packard that appeared last month. HP shareholders are expected to vote on the controversial merger March 19 and 20.

Breakable: Oracle 9 in Predictable Security Embarrassment
You had to see this coming. After practically begging hackers to go after his Oracle 9i product line by proclaiming it to be "unbreakable," CEO Larry Ellison has some explaining to do. This week, a security researcher announced that he had found several vulnerabilities in the Oracle 9i database; these flaws affect a range of the product's subsystems. Oracle has released patches for the flaws but has yet to figure out a way to get that egg off Larry's face.

Bizarre Infighting Rocks Linux Community
As if my email this week wasn't telling enough, some bizarre infighting in the Linux community is threatening to irreparably damage one of Linux's most promising desktop environments. After stating that future versions of the GNOME desktop environment should be based on Mono, an upcoming Linux-compatible version of certain Windows .NET components, GNOME/Mono creator Miguel de Icaza found himself on the outs with open-source god (and maniac) Richard Stallman. De Icaza explained his position quite eloquently in a long technical piece, but his explanation didn't interest the Slashdot crowd, who continued to beat him up for relying on Microsoft technology. The debate is still up in the air, but this kind of petty bickering doesn't help anyone. I think de Icaza made some good points, and if his critics were thinking clearly, they'd agree.

Red Hat: We Won't Beat Windows
Speaking of problems in Linux land, Red Hat Chairman Bob Young said this week that he's amended his position about Linux beating Windows on the desktop. He used to tell open-source crowds that Linux would never replace Windows on the desktop, but then they'd boo him off the stage. So now he says that Linux will never replace Windows on the desktop but will instead be "successful" on the desktop. What successful means, I don't know. But if Linux can beat Apple's 3.5 percent of the market, I'd consider that a success.

Microsoft Releases Biztalk Server 2002, and No, I Don't Know What It Is, Either
I remember falling asleep during a BackOffice presentation years ago; something about the name BizTalk Server triggers the same reaction in me. BizTalk 2002, which Microsoft released this week, "adds additional support for orchestrating Web services through Visual Studio .NET; revolutionary new seed technology for rapid business-partner connectivity; and new tools for advanced management, monitoring, and deployment capabilities within the enterprise." Can you feel it? I can feel it. Zzzzzzzzz ...

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