WinInfo Short Takes: Week of April 8

An irreverent look at some of the week's other news...

Office .NET Revealed?
An amazingly well-produced Shockwave animation making the rounds on the Web this week purports to reveal the next version of Microsoft Office--Office .NET, reportedly code-named Office NGO. According to the animation, Office .NET will include updated versions of Word, Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access. The animation also claims that the product suite will integrate with several online services, including a secure My Office Web site; a consolidated email account with Web-based Inbox; Office .NET Notifications; online scheduling with a sharable calendar; Meeting Workspaces for viewing agendas, pending tasks, and related documents; SharePoint Team Services-based Team Workspace for sharing information with team members; and a set of online content such as templates, online training, and communities. Is this animation accurate? Is Office NGO really a sneak-peak at Office .NET? It's hard to say. Although some of its UI inconsistencies make me think that the animation is an April Fool's prank, I will say this: If it's fake, it's the most elaborate fake I've ever seen. I'll look for official confirmation but in the meantime, check out the SuperSite for Windows, where I've posted a complete overview of this fascinating animation.

My Theory About the Apple/Microsoft Pact
People have been speculating about Microsoft and Apple and their software-development pact, which is set to end later this year. You might recall Microsoft's stunning $150 million bailout of Apple 5 years ago, when an Orwellian Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates appeared on a massive screen via satellite during Apple CEO Steve Jobs' MacWorld Boston keynote address. Next week, Microsoft's Mac Business Unit will explain its future Mac strategies, which could include information about which parts of Microsoft .NET, if any, Microsoft will port to the Macintosh. Here's my theory: You might also recall another little corporate bailout that Microsoft performed when it purchased $135 million worth of Corel stock in October 2000. Part of that bailout required Corel to port Microsoft's .NET software to FreeBSD, which seemed like an odd choice at the time. (Why not port the software to a more popular choice, such as Mac OS 9 or Linux?) Flash forward a year and a half, and the requirement makes more sense: Apple has moved its product line from OS 9 to OS X, which happens to be based on--you guessed it-- FreeBSD. Does this mean we can expect a full .NET environment for Mac OS X? I hope so.

More Fun with UNIX, Anti-UNIX Web Sites
I was amazed at how much time people spent this week (mis)analyzing the Microsoft and Unisys anti-UNIX Web site, which originally ran on (chuckle) FreeBSD, then quickly switched to Windows Server after word leaked out (hee-hee). This kind of behavior is typical of Microsoft, and to be fair, Microsoft didn't host the site; it farmed out the site to a hosting company. But after the site went up on Windows, it mysteriously disappeared for a few days (cackle) and, my oh my, didn't the Linux sites just eat up that development? The site's back up now, however. And here's a little flipside for you, courtesy of reader Alex Boge: An anti-Windows Web site runs on Windows 2000 (hahaha). Let the flame wars begin!

Microsoft's Storage Plans Unsettling for Some
Microsoft has been slowly revealing its plans to jump into the storage-software market, a move that must be causing sleepless nights over at EMC, a major Microsoft partner that stands to lose the most if Microsoft is successful. The thought of Microsoft muscling in on yet another market while the company is still in court for remedy hearings to deal with its predatory behavior might be ironic to some, but let's face it, we're talking about Microsoft. You don't think the company is going to get all soft and cuddly, do you?

AOL Time Warner, Microsoft: You Want to Control the Internet; No, You Want to Control the Internet!
I've reported IT news for years, and nothing brings a smile to my face more quickly than the sight of two corporate giants pointing fingers at each other and acting like children. Case in point: This week, AOL Time Warner executive John Borthwick spent an uncomfortable couple of days in court testifying at the aforementioned Microsoft remedy hearings, answering questions about his written testimony, in which he described Microsoft as a predatory monster that must be stopped (or words to that effect; I believe Borthwick used slightly stronger language). Borthwick then had to deflect charges from a Microsoft lawyer who said that AOL Time Warner, not Microsoft, unfairly leverages its market power to gain control of the Internet. I think we should let these companies duke it out on Celebrity Deathmatch: AOL Time Warner CEO Steve Case versus Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The match would be the battle royale of the decade.

Unbeatable? Dell Comes On Strong in Current Quarter
Dell announced this week that its earnings for the current quarter will be slightly higher than previously expected, an announcement that probably drew envious glares from CEOs of other PC makers. CEO Michael Dell says that the company gained ground during weak economic conditions by switching its focus to consumers instead of tight-walleted corporations. You've probably seen the "Dude, You're Getting a Dell" ads and so, apparently, has half of America: Dell's consumer sales skyrocketed recently, thanks in part to that tow-headed teenager everyone loves to hate. Yep, we're all getting a Dell, I guess.

Dude, HP Mess Means More People Will Get a Dell!
And speaking of Dell, Dell CEO Michael Dell says that his company, Dell, will benefit from the Hewlett-Packard (HP) merger mess, causing more people to choose Dell computers. Dell. Dell, Dell, Dell. Where was I? Oh yes, Dell says that customer uncertainty about the HP/Compaq merger is causing many HP customers to flee to other PC companies. Companies like Dell.

Carly Gets a Raise
And speaking of HP, CEO Carly Fiorina stands to make some big bucks if the merger goes through. Fiorina already makes about $1 million a year; now she's looking at a $1.25 million performance bonus if the merger goes through. And you know what that means: She can afford to buy a Dell!

Coming This October: Gates 3.0
Bill and Melinda Gates revealed this week that they're with child for the third time, and Gates 3.0, (as the budding family member is cutely code-named) will arrive in October. The new child will join the rest of the family members, who are lost somewhere in Gates' palatial estate, which boasts 24 bathrooms, 6 kitchens, a 120-person dining room, an underground parking garage, and other amenities normally found in the lair of a villain from a James Bond movie.

Pocket PC Shenanigans in Court Reveal All
Yes, he's just doing this for the money, and yes, he's a clown. A down-on-his-luck entrepreneur is continuing his legal battle over rights to the name Pocket PC, which Microsoft currently uses to describe a line of handheld computers. But in the 1980s, Ken Belanger, the type of inventor usually found in a bad John Hughes movie, sold a silly little "Pocket PC" novelty gift that consisted of a wooden box and a coin you could flip to make decisions. Despite the fact that he abandoned the product more than a decade ago, he decided to sue Microsoft over the Pocket PC domain and name. If there was ever a sign that our legal system needs to be overhauled, this clearly is it. The judge should have heard his complaint, then opened a trap door in the floor beneath Belanger and moved right on to the next case.

Microsoft Wants Rehearing of Lindows Complaint
After getting trounced in the first round of its complaint against Linux seller Lindows, Microsoft is back with a request that the court reconsider its verdict. Microsoft says that the Lindows name is too close to Windows and will cause consumer confusion. The court, however, said that such a thing would never happen and, besides, the Windows name is too generic to trademark, casting doubts on Microsoft's rights to the name. Microsoft, in turn, says that it does own the trademark, regardless of the judge's opinion, and that he didn't consider the correct questions when he reached his verdict. Expect Microsoft to officially appeal the ruling soon.

Xbox Sales Sputter
International Xbox sales aren't hitting the expected numbers, causing some analysts to speculate that the budding game system is in trouble. Japanese sales, in particular, are far lower than expected; Microsoft has sold about 190,000 units since late February, far less than the expected 250,000 units. European sales are also less than expected, although the Xbox continues to outsell the Nintendo GameCube in Europe and in the crucial US market. In the United States, Microsoft has sold about 1.5 million Xboxes, compared to Nintendo's 1.3 million GameCube units. So is Xbox a failure? I think it's too early to tell, but any thoughts that the Xbox would come rushing out of the gates and dominate the market are over: Market-leader Sony sold more than 4 million PlayStation 2 units in the same time period.

Is Anybody Out There? Microsoft Releases UltimateTV Upgrade
Microsoft finally released the UltimateTV upgrade that it promised at January's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week, but questions linger as to whether the service--which is limited to certain satellite TV customers--is on its last legs. The new upgrade adds better UI performance, automatic show recording based on user preferences, better grouping of similar recorded shows, easy recording management, and better searching options. Whether these enhancements will be enough to save the service is unclear. Unfortunately, Microsoft hasn't signed up even one cable carrier for UltimateTV, which is too bad because, quite frankly, it's a really cool service.

TechEd to Be Held Next Week in New Orleans
Next week in New Orleans, Microsoft will hold its first developer show since Visual Studio .NET's release, and the show promises to be a big one. TechEd 2002 will focus, of course, on .NET and .NET-related technologies, as well as new security-related information. Stay tuned for more news from the show.

 

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