An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news...
Sometimes wishful thinking for the underdog can get in the way of common sense. In fact, when you think about it, wishful thinking has been Apple Computer's Macintosh strategy since Steve Jobs returned to the company more than 8 years ago. This week, several online reports touted the upcoming "OS war" between Mac OS X Tiger--which is due as early as next month--and Microsoft's ever-delayed Longhorn system, which by most accounts will ship shortly after the US presidential election in 2164. From what I can tell, Tiger will be a big success for Apple, but only in the sense that the earlier Mac OS X versions have been big successes. In other words, Tiger will sell a few million copies and do absolutely nothing to change the Mac's market share, which is now less than 2 percent (although the el cheapo Mac mini might help Apple's market share). Longhorn, meanwhile, will sell in the hundreds of millions of copies in its first couple of years of availability and, like Windows XP, will continue the dominance that Windows has enjoyed since the mid-1990s. I'm not trying to argue that Longhorn will be better than Tiger; I'm just being pragmatic. Microsoft sold more copies of XP while I wrote this blurb than Apple will ever sell of Tiger. That's just how the market is. And anyone who tries to turn the releases of these two systems into some sort of market competition just doesn't get it.
Microsoft Finalizes Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP x64 Versions
Microsoft declared Wednesday evening that the company will use build 1830 of the x64 editions of Windows Server 2003 and XP for the final (i.e., golden master) versions of those systems. Microsoft actually created build 1830 a few days earlier, on Saturday, March 26, then vetted the build through the company's extensive finalization process throughout the week. Microsoft will launch the products to customers in late April, perhaps at Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) 2005 in Seattle. At that show, not coincidentally, Microsoft will also release its first public Longhorn build since last year's WinHEC show.
Dell, HP: Sorry, EU, But XP N Stands for Nonstarter
It will still sell more copies than OS X Tiger, but what a waste of time. This week, representatives of Dell and HP, the world's two largest PC makers, downplayed the effects of the European Union's (EU's) requirement that Microsoft ship special N versions of XP that don't include Windows Media Player (WMP). Dell says it won't offer the products on its PCs. HP said that it will offer XP Home Edition N and XP Professional Edition N but that it expects little demand from customers. HP noted that because the N versions cost the same as the XP versions that include WMP, consumers have little incentive to consider the products. Well, duh.
Microsoft Goes Fishing, Nets 117
Microsoft has filed lawsuits against 117 people the company accuses of launching phishing attacks against consumers. In phishing attacks, the attackers send email messages to unsuspecting users that purport to be from institutions such as banks, credit card companies, and retail stores. The messages attempt to trick recipients into visiting specially made Web sites and providing credit card information or other private data. Phishing attacks are growing dramatically. The number of such attacks has increased more than 25 percent each month since July 2004. Microsoft announced the lawsuits with officials from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the National Consumers League, which are touting today as April Phool's Day in a bid to educate consumers about these scams.
Google Bumps GMail to 2GB, Exciting Its 16 Users
This news item might sound like an April Fool's Day joke, but Google announced today that it's immediately raising the storage limit of the GMail email service from 1GB to 2GB and will raise limits again over time as its capacity increases. "Our goal is to make sure storage is no longer an issue for Web mail users," a Google spokesperson said. Hey, that's great. But most people still can't get a GMail account because the company has yet to open the service to the public in a typical, widespread manner, even though GMail supposedly launched a year ago. Google, tear down that wall, and your GMail announcements might be more relevant.
Microsoft Pushes Passport II for Longhorn
Microsoft will implement in Longhorn an identification technology called info-cards that will give users a way to control their personal information when shopping at online retailer stores and other Web-based services. If you're thinking that this technology sounds a bit familiar, you're right. For the past several years, Microsoft has been trying to foist an unwanted and similar technology called Passport on its users. Despite its integration with Windows, Passport has been a resounding failure, and my guess is that info-cards are simply another attempt at making a go of Passport. The info-cards technology is a bit more sophisticated than Passport, however; it stores personal information on a user's PC, not on an online server that Microsoft owns. And that information is encrypted so that only trusted Web sites will be able to decode the information.
Going ... Going ... COMDEX Skips Out on 2005
MediaLive International has canceled the once-mighty COMDEX trade show for the second year in a row, creating doubts that the show will ever return. According to company representatives, COMDEX needs at least another year of tweaking before it's ready for primetime. "COMDEX will not be returning to Las Vegas in 2005," a MediaLive representative said this week. "We hope to produce another COMDEX in 2006." Part of the problem might be availability. The Las Vegas Convention Center, which has hosted COMDEX for several years, is almost completely sold out for November. But the truth is that COMDEX has been on the decline for many years. My guess? We've seen the last COMDEX, and if it returns it will be a shadow of its former self.
Firefox 1.0.2 Released
In last week's Short Takes, I noted the release of Thunderbird 1.0.2, adding that the 1.0.2 release of Firefox was imminent. Since then, Firefox 1.0.2 has shipped. The new version includes several security fixes and is a highly recommended upgrade. You can find the new Firefox version on the Mozilla Foundation Web site.
Sometimes Embarrassment Is Enough
Microsoft agreed this week to drop the $500,000 fine against Jeffrey Lee Parsons, the unfortunate Minnesota teenager who released a version of the Blaster virus that infected 50,000 PCs in 2003. Instead, Parsons will serve 225 hours of community service over 3 years after he finishes serving 18 months in prison. Parsons, you might recall, was caught because he stupidly added the name of his online persona, teekids, to his worm's source code. He's since been vilified as one of the dumbest virus writers ever. What this kid really needs is some parenting. Sadly, it's probably too late for that.
Office Will Be Microsoft's Vietnam
Microsoft will soon ship versions of XP and the Microsoft Office productivity suite that have been localized for Vietnam, the first time the company has produced Vietnamese-language products. To make the transition to Vietnamese and, eventually, other localized software products in other markets, Microsoft is using a new Local Language Program in tandem with local and regional governments. This strategy will lead to a range of specially designed XP and Office 2003 products that are custom tailored to specific markets. The move is seen, cynically (and, as it turns out, correctly), as an effort by the software giant to stave off open-source threats such as Linux and OpenOffice.org, a free office productivity suite. How dare Microsoft try to compete?
January Patch Strands Windows Me, Windows 98 Users
A security patch that Microsoft issued in January for Windows Me and Windows 98 might still leave users' computers "open to attack," or, in other words, about as secure as they ever were. There's a certain irony in the thought of a security patch not working on Windows Me and Win98 because those systems can't be secured by any means. The company is working on a patch for the patch, however, which must burn the guys in the Microsoft Security Response Center because, as I noted, the whole plan is pointless. If you're still using a Win9x-based OS, I apologize for this rough assessment, but it's time to upgrade.
A heartfelt thanks goes out to Mark Joseph Edwards, who covered for me earlier this week while I was in Ireland. And thanks to everyone who asked about my trip. It was fantastic, as expected, although I'm still recovering from the expected jet lag. I should be back to full speed by the end of the weekend.