Short Takes: Week of December 24

Microsoft Patches Serious XP Vulnerability
Microsoft has issued a free patch to fix a serious security vulnerability in its recently released Windows XP OS, but this story is amazing because of the reaction it's getting in the press. Rather than lauding the company for responding quickly to the problem, every article I've seen on this topic derides XP for billing itself "as the most secure OS ever," as if Microsoft set the OS up to be impervious to attacks. Folks, give me a break. Just be happy that Microsoft fixed the problem quickly and download the patch, which you can find on Windows Update. If you've set up XP to automatically get Critical Updates, it's already been fixed. Geesh.

A Cool Code Name
Speaking of Critical Updates, XP's Automatic Updates feature, which lets you determine whether your system automatically downloads and installs Critical Updates, has a cool code name. It's known internally as Drizzle, because it works in the background and downloads updates slowly in a way that doesn't affect users when they're online. Good stuff.

How to Give a Pathetic Startup Press, Part One
Even the Linux community has generally derided a startup named Lindows that Microsoft thrust into the spotlight this week when it sued the small company for infringing on its trademark OS name. Microsoft says that the Lindows product's name (also, confusingly, named Lindows)--which will supposedly let some Windows applications run on an easy-to-use Linux version--will confuse the public. If this company can make Windows applications run seamlessly on Linux, they'll confuse more than the public, believe me. But Lindows is probably the most obvious vaporware I've seen since Atari stopped making ST computers a decade ago. The company doesn't deserve this press.

Controversial Antitrust Decision Delayed Until January
The federal judge overseeing Microsoft's controversial proposed class-action settlement has put off his decision until January, giving the two sides more time to reach a new compromise settlement. Microsoft had attempted to settle more than 100 class-action lawsuits that accuse the company with overcharging consumers for Windows, but the proposed agreement--which would see the company provide an alleged $1 billion worth of software and refurbished computers to the nation's poorest schools--hasn't gone over well with many people. Microsoft tried to amend the sweetheart deal--which is worth far less than the $1 billion value the company cites--but was unable to convince anyone.

Comcast Wins Bidding for AT&T Broadband
AT&T Broadband users will soon find themselves at the mercy of a different cable giant, thanks to Comcast's $47 billion purchase of the business. With Comcast's 22.3 million subscribers, the deal makes the company the largest cable supplier in North America, far larger than AOL Time Warner's 12.7 subscribers. And that, my friends, is the point of the deal, which Microsoft partially backed in a bid to ensure that rival AOL doesn't get a stranglehold in the important cable market. The new company will be called AT&T Comcast.

HP, Mastercard Join Liberty Alliance; Microsoft Next?
The Liberty Alliance gained two more key members this week--Hewlett-Packard (HP) and MasterCard--putting more pressure on Microsoft to give up its proprietary attempt to dominate Internet-based authentication. The Liberty Alliance, a group Sun Microsystems started that seeks to displace Microsoft Passport with a more open alternative, now consists of hundreds of high-profile companies with millions of customers. The problem, of course, is that the alliance doesn't have a product, at least not yet. You know, if Sun had just done this with Java, .NET might have never happened.

Email Volume to Grow 45 Percent in 2002, Mostly Spam
This story will warm the cockles of your heart, especially if you're already drowning in email, as I am. According to industry analysts, email volume will grow 45 percent in 2002, mostly because of unwanted spam messages. If a bright spot exists in all this, it's that email clients are becoming more sophisticated about filtering out such messages. But seriously, this spamming has to stop.

States Continue Microsoft Blitzkrieg
This week, the nine US states that continue to dog Microsoft in federal court listed the potential witnesses in their case against the company. The states would like to present the testimonies of representatives from AOL Time Warner; Sun Microsystems; Oracle; SBC Communications, a phone company; handheld-maker Palm; cell-phone maker Nokia; and Liberate, a Microsoft competitor in the nascent Internet cable set-top-box market. Also, former Netscape CEO James Barksdale and former Intel Vice President Steven McGeady, both of whom testified in the original Microsoft trial, have agreed to appear.

PlayStation 2 Will Win Holiday 2001
According to market-tracking reports, Sony's PlayStation 2 will outsell Microsoft Xbox and Nintendo Game Cube this holiday season. The PS2 sold 1.4 million units through December 8, compared to 934,000 Xboxes and 615,000 Game Cubes, and that trend should continue. Sony's box benefits from a wider range of software titles and peripherals because it's been on the market for so long. On the other hand, Sony is also racking up some sales from people who came into the store to buy an Xbox or Game Cube, only to find them sold out.

Apple Preps Another Revolutionary Product
Apple has hinted at yet another revolutionary digital-media product launch at next month's MacWorld event in San Francisco, the first launch since its iPod launch last month. Rumors abound about the new device, which Apple simply describes as "powerful, user-friendly, and eye-catching." If the company were smart, it would make a portable MP3 CD player/burner that you could plug into desktops and laptops and use as a normal drive, or unplug and take on the road like any other portable device. But given the iPod, it's unlikely that Apple will create another music device. Hmm ...

Palm Loses Patent-Infringement Case
Xerox has won its patent-infringement lawsuit against handheld-maker Palm, casting doubts on Palm's future. The software, which Palm uses in every device it's ever sold, lets users enter text using a stylus and quick, one-stroke motions. Xerox originally sued 3Com, which then owned Palm, in 1997. Next up for the companies: The courts will decide whether Palm can continue using the software and will address the issue of damages, which will be the sticking point for struggling Palm.

Windows XP: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
A hearty thank you to everyone who wrote with Windows XP feedback; you guys are the best. I'll post the results later today to the SuperSite for Windows as "Windows XP: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." I received thousands of responses, many of which were quite detailed, making this a truly impressive and worthwhile accounting of XP's successes--and defeats--in the real world. 

Happy Holidays; See You Next Year
WinInfo Daily UPDATE will be on vacation until January 2, 2002, but if you're interested in keeping up to date (or simply want to read next week's Short Takes), I'll update the WinInformant Web site next week as necessary. It could very well be a slow news week, but if anything of note happens, I'll be sure to cover it on the Web. In the meantime, please have a safe and happy holiday and thanks very much for reading.

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