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July 31, 2002—In this issue:
1. NEWS AND VIEWS
- Windows 2000 SP3 Finally Released
- Microsoft, AT&T in Wireless Alliance
- Welcome to Microsoft Licensing 6.0
- Microsoft Updates Windows CE .NET
- Win a Free Digital Video Recorder from SONICblue!
- Windows & .NET Magazine Is Even Cooler in a Digital Version
3. CONTACT US
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
1. NEWS AND VIEWS
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, [email protected])
Microsoft alerted me Tuesday afternoon that it had finalized Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 (SP3), a long-awaited collection of bug fixes and minor functionality improvements. The company says that it has issued Win2K SP3 to its Premier Customers and will release the product to the general public Thursday.
"SP3 is a well-tested collection of updates that focuses on a variety of customer-reported concerns with the Windows 2000 family of operating systems," a Microsoft spokesperson told me. "In many ways, SP3 is a traditional service pack in that it includes enhancements to improve upon Windows 2000's reliability, compatibility, and security. In addition, Microsoft is fulfilling its commitment to implement the changes required by the consent decree signed with the \[US Department of Justice\] and nine settling states."
Like Windows XP SP1, which will ship in late August, Win2K SP3 includes a new Set Program Access and Defaults component, which lets users configure third-party middleware to replace some of Microsoft's bundled applications. Starting Thursday, Win2K SP3 will be available for public download from Microsoft's Web site at the URL below. Microsoft will also make SP3 available on CD-ROM.
Microsoft and communications giant AT&T announced early this morning a strategic alliance that aims to simplify the way corporations provide integrated wireless data services to their customers. Under terms of the agreement, the companies have been codeveloping end-to-end solutions for Pocket PCs, Smartphones, and laptops, giving customers wireless access to email, information, and applications from behind corporate firewalls. These solutions have been in the works for months and are almost complete. AT&T also has agreed to carry new Microsoft .NET location-based mobile services on its wireless network, using Microsoft MapPoint .NET mapping and location services and the Microsoft .NET Compact Framework.
"Today's workers often do business far from the office, which is why they need access to information any time, any place, and on any device," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in an early Wednesday conference call. "Not only will mobile workers and their companies benefit from this alliance, but developers will quickly discover that smart devices, high-speed wireless networks and .NET technologies are powerful building blocks for future innovation. Working with AT&T Wireless, I'm confident that we will create the best wireless data solutions for today's corporations."
The announcement puts the spotlight on Microsoft's resurgent Windows Powered devices, such as the Pocket PC and Smartphone 2002, which are based on Windows CE technologies. To bolster the product line, AT&T will ship a voice-enabled Windows Powered PDA that uses Microsoft's new Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition software. The device, which will ship later this year, will include integrated support for the Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM)/General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) voice and data calling capabilities. The device also will include Pocket PC-like features such as a color screen; access to contacts, calendar, and email inbox; a Web browser; and support for digital media content. AT&T will also sell cellular phones running Microsoft Windows Powered Smartphone 2002 software. Microsoft and AT&T will launch these products and services in fourth quarter 2002.
Beginning tomorrow, Microsoft will institute its Licensing 6.0 scheme, the oft-delayed and -maligned new software-purchasing program for corporations. The program is the first major change to the way that Microsoft sells software to occur in half a decade, but many of the company's customers remain unimpressed with the plan, which has come under criticism for requiring that companies opt into lengthy software contracts. Microsoft, however, says that the move to Licensing 6.0 was necessitated by the complexity of its previous volume licensing practices, which awarded large customers with steep discounts. According to some reports, Licensing 6.0 effectively raises prices by 33 to 107 percent over the previous scheme. This sad state of affairs has predictably alienated many of the software giant's customers, some of whom are now actively researching Linux and other open-source alternatives.
Microsoft maintains that Licensing 6.0 is simply misunderstood, and though the company twice delayed the start of the program to ease the transition, the midnight deadline tonight is final. Starting tomorrow, Licensing 6.0 is Microsoft's only option for corporate customers. "The fact that our customers probably didn't understand our licensing as well they might have earlier makes the transition and the perceived pain higher than it actually is," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said during last week's annual financial analysts meeting at the company's Redmond campus.
Under a Licensing 6.0 option called Software Assurance, corporate customers can sign up for regular, subscription-like payments over a 2- or 3-year period. This option gives customers access to the most recent Microsoft software whenever it's released and provides Microsoft with a steadier income stream. Alternatively, customers can opt to simply pay full price for software on their own schedule. Many companies that have evaluated the plan have found that they will pay more than before regardless of which option they choose. And they complain that Microsoft is trying to smooth its financials by essentially forcing customers to upgrade more regularly, raising future sales figures for cyclic products such as Windows and Office in the process.
Regardless of opinion, Licensing 6.0 will likely prove very successful for Microsoft. After all, what other options do its large customers have? Of course, the new licensing plan might have the opposite effect: Instead of being forced into more frequent upgrades, tight-fisted corporate buyers might opt to use older technologies longer, effectively lengthening the time between upgrades. For more information about Licensing 6.0, see the Windows & .NET Magazine articles by Kathy Ivens, "License 6.0: The New Deal," InstantDoc ID 24032, and Michael Otey, Editorial, "Licensed to Thrive?" InstantDoc ID 21999.
On Tuesday, Microsoft announced Windows CE .NET 4.1 (code-named Jameson), a major update that adds support for IP version 6 (IPv6) and speech technologies, Microsoft Office document compatibility, and various performance improvements. Windows CE .NET is Microsoft's embedded OS for next-generation mobile and small-footprint devices.
"Windows CE .NET continues to be the platform of choice for building 'smart,' connected mobile devices that require rich applications and services," says Todd Warren, general manager of the Embedded and Appliance Platforms Group (EAPG) at Microsoft. "This update underscores our commitment to quickly deliver the latest technologies to our Windows Embedded customers. We're excited to see strong momentum in the embedded marketplace with rapid adoption by top OEM customers of Windows CE .NET, with many customers cutting their development time in half."
Specifically, Windows CE .NET 4.1 includes support for IPv6 networking technology; Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft PowerPoint document viewing; Adobe Acrobat document viewing; the Microsoft Speech API (SAPI) 5.0; and an updated version of the Microsoft .NET Compact Framework, which enables developers to write .NET applications and services for CE .NET-targeted devices. Microsoft says that performance improvements range from 15 to 20 percent for Web browsing, remote desktop display through the Remote Display Protocol (RDP), and Windows Media Video (WMV) playback. Companies such as ViewSonic, Samsung, Hitachi, and NEC will include Windows CE .NET 4.1 technologies in Windows Powered Smart Displays (code-named Mira) and other devices coming later this year.
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