WinInfo Daily Update, September 17, 2004

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Short Takes

- Want Microsoft Security Fixes Early? Join the Exclusive Club ... If You Qualify
- AOL Walks Away from Microsoft's SenderID Scheme
- Microsoft Declares a Dividend
- Mozilla Firefox Continues to Gain Ground on IE
- German Information Security Office Warns Users to Avoid IE
- California Lawyers Get Half the Expected Fees in Microsoft Case
- Microsoft Releases SMS 2003 SP1
- Apple Charged with Ripping Off UK Customers

==== Short Takes ====

An often-irreverent look at some of the week's other news, by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Want Microsoft Security Fixes Early? Join the Exclusive Club ... If You Qualify

Microsoft is quietly giving its largest customers access to security warnings earlier than the company gives them to the general public. These customers gain access to Microsoft's monthly security bulletins 3 days early, according to the company, which says that customers can join the program only if a sales representative invites them. So far, 3500 companies have signed up for the early access, but I have to question this strange scheme of creating haves and have-nots. We're talking about security; everyone should be invited.

AOL Walks Away from Microsoft's SenderID Scheme

Just days after the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) shot down Microsoft's proposed SenderID scheme for eliminating spam, citing patent concerns, AOL has also given the plan the boot. AOL had aligned itself with Microsoft to promote SenderID, but AOL now says that it's backing out because of the IETF's reluctance. AOL will likely adopt a similar but competing scheme that Yahoo! offers, company officials said. I haven't seen this many people shoot down a proposed standard since Netscape introduced the Blink HTML tag.

Microsoft Declares a Dividend

Microsoft announced yesterday that its board of directors have declared a quarterly dividend of 8 cents per share that will be payable to shareholders on December 2. This quarterly dividend comes on the heels of Microsoft's one-time special dividend payment of $3 per share, which the company announced a few months ago. Microsoft offered its first dividend in 2003, 17 years after becoming a publicly held company. Something tells me that the $50 billion the company has in the bank and its lagging stock price both had something to do with this sudden fit of shareholder charity.

Mozilla Firefox Continues to Gain Ground on IE

Just 2 days after releasing the Firefox 1.0 Preview Release, the Mozilla Foundation says it's seen more than 500,000 downloads of the Web browser alternative. Better yet, various studies suggest that Firefox is gaining converts from the lackluster Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE). CNET.com reports that 18 percent of the people who visit its news site are using the Firefox browser, up from just 8 percent in January. And WebSideStory says that overall Firefox use stands at 5.2 percent this month, up from 3.5 percent in June. IE use, meanwhile, dropped from 95.5 percent to 93.7 percent in the same time period, the firm says. I'm happy to see nicely designed products doing well for a change. Usually, the technology I advocate--such as Borland Delphi or the Commodore Amiga--withers on the vine. Maybe my recommendations aren't the kiss of death after all.

German Information Security Office Warns Users to Avoid IE

And speaking of IE, Germany's Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) recommended this week that browser users consider alternatives to IE because the product is so insecure. "Microsoft products are the target of many virus writers," a BSI spokesperson said this week. "If computer users want to avoid viruses and Trojans, they may want to consider using alternatives to Microsoft software." BSI recommends Mozilla and Opera Web browsers instead of IE, which I think makes a lot of sense.

California Lawyers Get Half the Expected Fees in Microsoft Case

All those greedy, blood-sucking lawyers who helped the state of California negotiate a record payout in its antitrust settlement with Microsoft are going to be paid a lot less for their tireless work than they expected. The lawyers had requested $258 million in fees but will instead get just $101 million in fees plus $11.5 million for expenses. I'm curious, though. Because the lawyers didn't get Microsoft to actually pay a cash reward but instead succeeded only in getting the company to pay back consumers with vouchers, shouldn't the lawyers also be paid with rebate forms? Maybe they could get a 50-cent discount every time they purchase a California avocado or something.

Microsoft Releases SMS 2003 SP1

Microsoft released Systems Management Server (SMS) 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP1) this week, giving its premier software distribution and maintenance server native support for Windows XP SP2 clients and Virtual PC and Virtual Server clients and servers. SMS 2003 SP1 is also compatible with 64-bit Windows clients. I recommend that you download SMS SP1 ASAP.
http://www.microsoft.com/smserver/default.asp

Apple Charged with Ripping Off UK Customers

This news item would be funny if it didn't represent the new face of international sales. Apple Computer found itself under the gun this week for overcharging Apple iTunes Music Store customers in the UK by 20 percent. According to the UK Consumers' Association, Apple charges 79p per song in the UK but charges only 99 euro cents--the equivalent of 68p--in France and Germany. Apple's response is classic. The company noted that UK music fans are "accustomed to paying higher prices for music" and that its prices are comparable to what other online stores charge in the UK. Apple's opinion notwithstanding, the Consumers' Association is now pursuing a European Union (EU) competition-law violation against Apple with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). Isn't it amazing the kind of trouble a company can get into when it dominates a market?

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