Summer arrived early on Monday, Memorial Day, and the Boston area saw temperatures in the upper 80s. We went to the beach, and it was kind of odd sitting there in the sweltering heat as the kids went swimming, since it seems like it was just last week that we were working our way through torrential downpours, flooding, and lower-than-usual temperatures. This is what New England is all about, as they say. Maybe it will snow this weekend.
I've been selling off some tech toys on my blog (http://www.internet-nexus.com) for the past few months, and this week, I started a related project that is also aimed at reducing the clutter around La Maison Thurrott. I'm giving away a ton of books. All I ask is that people receiving the books pay me back for postage. The first batch is pretty much gone, but I'll have a second collection up by mid-next week. There are computer books, novels, and nonfiction titles available, with more on the way for the next several weeks at least.
TechEd is coming. Since I live near Boston, I'll be going to the show in some capacity. I'll also be presenting a talk about Windows Vista Beta 2 at the Windows Technical Forum at the Microsoft offices in Waltham, Massachusetts, near Boston, on the night of Tuesday, June 13, which is during TechEd. If you're coming to town and can make it to the talk, please feel free to do so. More info here:
Microsoft-eBay Talks Stymied by Antitrust Concerns
According to a report in the "New York Post," which, let's face it, we all turn to for the hottest business news, Microsoft's recent attempts to purchase online auction giant eBay were eventually stymied by antitrust concerns. Apparently, talks between the two companies are still active, but the thought of a protracted antitrust battle isn't very appetizing to Microsoft, given its recent history.
Microsoft Needs Two Executives to Replace Steven Sinofsky
Man, I knew Sinofsky was good, but I didn't realize he was *that* good. This week, Microsoft finally revealed who would be taking over for Steven Sinofsky in the Office group, since Sinofsky is moving into the Windows Division to take control of future Windows client development. What's interesting is that two people will replace him. The first, Antoine Leblond, will oversee the Office client teams and shared services, and the second, Kurt DelBene, will control the Office Business Platform group. Microsoft announced that Sinofsky was moving from Office to Windows almost three months ago. It's unclear why the company waited so long to name his successors, but Sinofsky actually appeared at Office reviewers workshops less than a month ago, so it's possible that Microsoft wasn't sure how it would replace him.
After Bizarre Comments from Exec, Microsoft Does Xbox 360 Damage Control
One of the big promises Microsoft made with the Xbox 360 is that the company would release monthly patches over time to make older Xbox titles compatible with the new console. Since November 2005, however, the company has released only two sets of patches, and users are starting to freak out. So you might expect that Microsoft would extend an olive branch of sorts and explain what's happening. You'd be wrong. Instead, Xbox boss Peter Moore told UK game site Kikizo that Microsoft was ending its compatibility efforts. "Nobody is concerned anymore about backwards compatibility," he said. "We underpromised and overdelivered on that." OK, try to stop laughing, or crying, depending on your mood. And then relax: It turns out Moore's comments were a bit off. Microsoft employees, posting on the Gamerscore Blog, said that Xbox emulation work was ongoing. "Rest assured, we're not done yet," the posting reads. "We know for a fact that there are lots of people who continue to care about backwards compatibility, including the 'Emulation Ninjas' who are working full time on the updates. Stay tuned for more information about the upcoming update."
Vista's Graphics Changes are Just the Start of a Larger Transition
At the WinHEC 2006 trade show last week, Microsoft revealed that the version of the Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) graphics driver it will ship with Windows Vista is only the first in a series of dramatic improvements to the way that Windows displays images onscreen. Future revisions to WDDM will appear in subsequent Windows releases, Microsoft engineer Steve Pronovost revealed, and those updates will improve the way that Windows schedules graphics tasks in the graphic card's graphics processing unit (GPU). Given Microsoft's problems moving Windows to WDDM 1.0 in Vista, my guess is that it will be at least three years post-Vista that we have to worry about WDDM 2.0, which will require not-yet-released graphics hardware from ATI and NVIDIA. Weird how things just keep getting better.
Microsoft Waiting on Adobe Antitrust Suit
According to a report in "The Wall Street Journal," Microsoft is expecting Adobe to file an antitrust lawsuit any day now, because Microsoft will distribute technology in Office 2007 that lets Office applications export documents in Adobe PDF format. Adobe wants Microsoft to remove the feature and make it available separately for a fee. Contrary to popular opinion, PDF is not an open format, but Adobe does generally make it available freely, and Apple uses it in the Mac OS X OS. My guess is that Adobe is less concerned about Microsoft's PDF competitor, called XPS--XML Paper Specification--which, in Microsoft's words, only does about "10 percent of what PDF does." Sounds like a barn burner.
Microsoft Rebrands Vista IE 7 as IE 7+
Users who installed Windows Vista Beta 2 got a mild surprise when they checked out the "About" box for the Vista version of Internet Explorer (IE) 7: The browser has been rebranded IE 7+. It turns out Microsoft wanted a way to differentiate the version of IE 7 in Vista from the XP/2003 version, because the Vista version includes a couple of key unique features, such as Protected Mode and parental controls. You may recall that Microsoft significantly updated IE 6 for Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) but then didn't uniquely identify it, so everyone was forced to refer to it as "the version of IE 6 that's included with XP SP2." Now, we have a simpler and more obvious way to talk about the version of IE 7 that's included with Vista. Nice.
Google: No Plans for a Web Browser
It's good to know there's at least one online market Google isn't interested in entering. Google CEO Eric Schmidt this week said that his company wasn't interested in making its own Web browser because there were so many decent IE competitors out there. "We would not build a browser just for the fun of building a browser," Schmidt said, apparently forgetting that's pretty much Google's business plan in a nutshell. Google, of course, has no qualms about getting involved with other browsers, however. The company is actively promoting Mozilla Firefox and has complained to antitrust officials in the US and Europe about a search bar feature in IE 7. My guess is that Google's just too busy with these projects to make its own browser. Well, that and Google Talk.
Dell is Google's "Secret Weapon"
And speaking of Google, Ben Charny over at "eWeek" this week opined that Dell was Google's "secret weapon" against Microsoft, which I kind of enjoy. Google, you may recall, recently signed a deal with Dell that will see Google's software deployed on millions of Dell PCs and notebooks. And this, when you think about it, negates any need for Google to build its own browser. That's because Google's search engine will be installed as the default on most of the PCs distributed by the world's biggest PC maker. So even if IE 7 ships with MSN Search as the default, Dell will ship future IE 7-based PCs with Google as the default. "It's a win-win," Google CEO Eric Schmidt says. "\[We're\] so happy." Hey, we're all happy.
Sun Could Cut Up to 5000 Jobs
Sun Microsystems this week said it will axe as much as 5,000 jobs this year as part of a restructuring that will save up to $590 million in annual costs and, hopefully, put the struggling company back on track. The job cuts will pare Sun's workforce by as much as 13 percent over the next six months, but analysts say it might not be enough. Ten years ago, Sun's expensive server products were riding high as the dot-com boom began in the age of "irrational exuberance." But when the boom turned to bust, Sun's servers started stacking up in abandoned offices faster than Herman Miller Aeron chairs, and the company (Sun, not Herman Miller) started losing money fast. Other factors contributed to the situation, of course--Microsoft's server OSs really caught up, and Linux stole UNIX market share at an alarming rate--but whatever the cause, Sun is now a shadow of its late 1990s self. Will the company recover? You know, I kind of hope so.
OpenOffice Hit by First Virus
I'm not sure if the folks at OpenOffice.org should be scared or proud, but this week saw the release of the first virus that specifically targets the organization's open-source office productivity suite. Researchers at Kaspersky Labs say the Stardust macro virus is fully capable of infecting all 16 active OpenOffice.org users out there by using Sun's StarBasic macro language and going old-school on your PC. You know, we don't see a lot of macro viruses these days, though they used to be all the rage. Like Madonna and pogo sticks.
Ubuntu Linux 6.06 Released
Ubuntu this week announced the release of Ubuntu 6.06, the latest version of the organization's highly regarded Linux distribution. Ubuntu 6.06, which is marketed with the awful moniker Ubuntu 6.0 LTS (Long Term Support), is being made in separate desktop and server versions. It's my favorite Linux distribution and, if you're curious, it's definitely the one to check out.