This week, Leo and I recorded another episode of Windows Weekly, which should be up any time now. In a humorous way, we're skipping Episode 13, so this episode will be Episode 14. Presumably, we'll get to the "lost episodes" after the podcast has run its course.
This coming week is a school vacation week here in the northeast United States, so I'll be taking off the first half of next week to spend time with my family. There will be no WinInfo on Monday because of Presidents' Day. (Which, incidentally, I had to look up: Presidents' Day is a curious amalgamation of Abraham Lincoln's and George Washington's birthdays, which used to be separate holidays. Apparently, we're overloading holidays now to make space.) On Tuesday and Wednesday, my good friend Karen Forster will be doing WinInfo for me. See you next Thursday.
Microsoft Wants You to Focus on Vista, Not Vienna
In response to recent speculation about the next version of Windows, code-named Vienna (aka Windows 7)--and, presumably, my story about how recent Vienna news reports weren't actually providing any new information--Microsoft issued a public statement. What the company's statement boils down to is that Microsoft would prefer for its customers to focus on Windows Vista right now. The company plans to begin discussing Vienna later this year. Apparently, Microsoft has forgotten how the enthusiast community works, however, so I've posted a Vienna FAQ on the SuperSite for Windows, which presents the short list of details we know so far about this upcoming release. Someone had to do it.
Blogger Reveals First Office 14 Details
And speaking of first details about an upcoming Microsoft release, this week, Stephen Chapman published the first report about the next version of Microsoft Office, Office 14 on the AeroXperience forum. (Office 2007 was code-named Office 12; apparently Microsoft is skipping 13 for superstitious reasons.) According to the report--which is pretty general because the product isn't due for more than two years--Office 14 will focus on individual impact (i.e., productivity), communication and collaboration, enterprise content management, business process and business intelligence, the Office platform (i.e., Office for developers), manageability, and security. This information is based on an internal Microsoft presentation that Chapman came across somewhere in his travels and is clearly the real deal. (If you've seen one Microsoft slide deck, you've seen them all.) The only concrete information in the presentation is the schedule: Microsoft expects to ship Office 14 Beta 1 in the first half of 2008, Office 14 Beta 2 in the second half of 2008, and the final version of Office 14 in the first half of 2009. Maybe it's time for an Office 14 FAQ, too.
Russian Court Throws Out Microsoft Piracy Case
A Russian court has thrown out a software piracy case against a school principal who was accused of installing pirated Microsoft software on school computers. The case gained international attention when former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev personally appealed to Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, asking him to intervene in the case, which was clearly the result of an honest mistake and not an attempt to pirate software. However, Gates and Microsoft said they couldn't intervene because the company hadn't filed any civil action against the principal and was therefore not involved. The judge in the case ruled that the prosecutor's case was "trivial." Even current Russian President Vladimir Putin described the case as "utter nonsense." I guess we can all get on with life now and focus on the real piracy problem in Russia: The AllOfMP3 Web site apparently lets users download pirated music for as little as $1 per album. (The Web site claims it pays royalties in accordance with Russian law, however.) Not surprisingly, Russia is the second-worst market for pirates in the world after China.
Microsoft Issues Daylight Savings Warning
It's like the global warming warning and Y2K, only this time it's real. This week, Microsoft warned its customers that a federally mandated change to daylight saving time (DST) in the United States-- which calls for switching to DST three weeks earlier than usual to save energy--could wreak havoc with computer systems that are expecting the change to occur in April instead of in March. The change will affect PCs and mobile device-based personal information managers, such as Microsoft Office Outlook and Pocket Outlook, as well as any other software that relies on an understanding of time changes. You can imagine the pandemonium: Everyone will be showing up for meetings an hour late, missing appointments, etc. But look at the bright side: At least you'll have a handy excuse. The new DST switchover, by the way, happens March 11. Microsoft said that fixes are already built into Vista and Office 2007; however, users of other systems will need to download software updates. (You can get Microsoft patches via Automatic Updates.)
Microsoft, IBM Square Off Over Open Formats
Things are starting to get ugly in Microsoft's bid to open up its OpenXML document formats as open standards. The company is now charging IBM with interfering with the ISO standardization process. (OpenXML has already been accepted as a standard by ECMA.) Microsoft said that IBM is trying to promote the OpenDocument format over OpenXML. "This campaign to stop even the consideration of Open XML \[by ISO\] is a blatant attempt to use the standards process to limit choice in the market place for ulterior commercial motives--without regard for the negative impact on consumer choice and technological innovation," Microsoft alleged in a letter posted on its Web site. OpenDocument, incidentally, has already received ISO certification, leading some to wonder if IBM is simply backing the more "open" of the two formats.
Humor of the Week: User Account Control Not About Security, Said Russinovich
This one is a bit convoluted, so it's unlikely I'll be able to address the many nuances in this particular story, but here goes. Microsoft included a security feature called User Account Control (UAC) in Vista that prompts users when they need to elevate their privileges to complete potentially dangerous tasks on their PCs. (On a side note, Many users find UAC to be annoying, but Mac OS X and Linux have included similar features for years, so it's really just a matter of familiarity. Trust me, UAC calms down over time.) After a security expert called UAC "a joke," Microsoft Technical Fellow Mark Russinovich jumped into the fray, noting that "Vista makes tradeoffs between security and convenience," which is logical enough. But Russinovich, who, let's face it, probably knows more about Windows internals than any human being on earth, took things a bit further: He alleged that UAC isn't really a security feature, because the underlying Vista technologies that make UAC possible (primarily integrity levels) are porous and thus "potential avenues of attack" by design. Russinovich said that if UAC is eventually compromised, it's "not a security bug." According to Russinovich, UAC is really designed to help Windows users migrate to a system where individuals run as standard users, not administrators. And certainly, despite compromises, UAC and the various related technologies are better than nothing, Russinovich added. I agree, although it amazes me that we're still debating UAC at this point.
Analyst: Vista will Harm Mac OS X's Market Share
Well, duh. So Microsoft just released a new OS that basically obviates every advantage--perceived or otherwise--in Apple's Mac OS X. What do you think that will do to that Macintosh resurgence that never actually happened? Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said that Vista will negatively impact Mac OS X's market share this year and cause Apple's market share to drop from 2.5 percent to 2.3 percent by the end of March. If that happens, it will be the second consecutive quarter in which Mac OS X will have lost market share to Windows, Munster noted. However, Munster thinks Mac OS X will "rebound" by midyear. Curiously, Munster maintained that the so-called iPod "halo effect" is alive and well, although if Apple's super-successful iPods were really affecting Mac sales, you'd think we'd see some indication of that.
Analyst: Vista Will Have Little Effect on Mac OS X's Market Share
Well, ... Huh? So Microsoft just released a new OS that basically copies every feature in Apple's Mac OS X. What do you think that will do to that Mac resurgence that's still in full swing? Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said that Vista will only temporarily impact Mac OS X, but that Apple's OS will rebound nicely by midyear and continue its stratospheric sales trends. The reason Munster believe Mac OS X will rebound: Of the retail stores that Munster polled, 80 percent reported that boxed versions of Vista weren't selling as well as expected. (Instead, new PC sales--with Vista prebundled--are surging, which obviously explains that curiosity.) Munster feels that renewed interest in PC buying--especially of notebooks--this year "could" cause consumers to consider buying Macs. And hey, let's not forget the iPod "halo effect": People must be buying Macs in record numbers! It's amazing how you can take the same story and report it in two completely different ways, isn't it?
DRM Debate Continues
Ever since Apple CEO Steve Jobs took his case for Digital Rights Management (DRM)-free music public last week, analysts, bloggers, and music industry executives have been hotly debating whether record companies should begin releasing digital music in unprotected formats. Warner Music Group's CEO Eric Bronfman Jr. said that "DRM and interoperability are not the same thing" and that consumers are really just looking for interoperability. (In other words, Apple should open up its FairPlay DRM format so that users of non-iPod devices can utilize the iTunes Store.) "We should all agree that intellectual property deserves some measure of protection," Bronfman said. Hey, maybe he's right. Years ago, when DRM-protected music began appearing, I argued that although DRM is bad, it's better than an alternative that doesn't make music and other content available digitally. However, I always felt that market pressures would ultimately result in interoperability. Instead, we have a monopoly (Apple's) that refuses to let its devices and service interoperate with similar products from competitors and partners. This scenario is the opposite of the system I envisioned and is sharply at odds with the needs of consumers. In a world where DRM is a necessary evil, interoperability is key. Plus, DRM enables scenarios such as subscription services, which I still think make sense: After all, we enjoy many heavily protected subscription services today, such as cable TV, cell phones, TiVo. It's time for a standardization of DRM so we can get this ball moving and gain digital access to whatever content we desire, regardless of the source.
PlayStation 2 Continues to Outsell All Other Consoles
With all the talk lately about Microsoft Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii successes and PlayStation 3 failures, we seem to have forgotten the real story in the video game market: Sony's previous-generation PlayStation 2, which was released more than six years ago, continues to be the best-selling console. In December 2006 alone, Sony sold more than 1.4 million PlayStation 2 units in the United States--far more than the PlayStation 3 (490,000 units). More important, over 111 million PlayStation 2 units have been sold worldwide (32 million in the United States). There are also more than 1300 games available for the system. And the price is right: The PlayStation 2 sells for just $129 in the United States (compared to $500-$600 for a PlayStation 3), and many games are now bargain priced. Oh, and unlike PlayStation 3 and the Wii (but like the Xbox 360), you can actually find PlayStation 2s in retail stores.
CNET Corrects a Snub, Sort Of
In late January, I revealed that the Upgrade versions of Vista could be used to perform a clean install of the OS, a capability the Microsoft Knowledge Base said was impossible (the information came from an internal Microsoft Knowledge Base article that explained the process to Microsoft employees). A few days later, I wrote up a nice description of how to do it on the SuperSite for Windows. So imagine my surprise two weeks later when I read about a Microsoft MVP on CNET's News.com who "discovered" this exact same process and was apparently all too willing to take credit for it. Cute. After an email from me setting the story straight, CNET amended its article to include a link to my original publication of the process, although it still credits the MVP with the discovery for some reason. Thanks, CNET.