An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news...
License Changes in Windows XP SP1 Explained
Microsoft licensing guru Allen Nieman dropped me a note about the licensing changes in Windows XP Service Pack 1 (SP1), which will ship soon. Here's Allen's succinct one-paragraph version of the announcement: "Microsoft will introduce additional technological measures in Service Pack 1 for Windows XP aimed at ensuring legally licensed customers receive the full benefits of owning their valid license. These changes include denying access to the Windows XP SP1 updates for PCs with known pirated installations, product key validation during activation, and the repair of cracks to activation. Additional features have been added to provide a better customer experience including an additional three-day grace period to re-activate after significant hardware changes and the ability for volume license customers to encrypt their volume license product key in unattended installations." I'll have a full write-up of the changes in an update to my Service Pack 1 review on the SuperSite for Windows later today.
Visual Studio .NET Updates Will Sync with Other Releases
Microsoft announced this week that it will start synchronizing updates to its Visual Studio .NET development tool with its Windows OS and other product releases, beginning with the release of Windows .NET Server later this year. So the first VS .NET update, code-named Everett, which ship simultaneously with Win.NET Server and feature support for Visual J#, the .NET Framework 1.1, which ship with Win.NET Server, and the final version of the .NET Compact Framework. And future VS .NET releases will synch with such products as SQL Server 2003 ("Yukon"), Office 11, Windows "Longhorn" and other programmable products like future versions of Windows CE .NET and the Pocket PC. A full roadmap through 2005 will be available Monday on the Microsoft Web site.
Borland Looks to Galileo to Compete with VS .NET
And speaking of Visual Studio .NET, developer tools maker Borland isn't resting on its laurels either, and will soon ship a competitive software development suite of its own. Code-named "Galileo," the new suite will ship early next year and offer programmers a new version of Delphi (Object Pascal) and other as-yet-unannounced programming languages (Some predict that C# and Java will be included). Regardless of which languages are used, Galileo will work with Microsoft's .NET Framework and Common Language Runtime, meaning that developers can use the suite to build .NET-based applications and services.
Microsoft Reveals Critical New Office, IE Flaws
Microsoft announced yesterday that its Office and Internet Explorer (IE) products contain critical security flaws, and the company recommends that users of these products immediately download patches that fix the problems. The Office vulnerability exists in the Office Web Components in Office products from versions 2000 and XP/20002. Users of IE versions 5.01, 5.5, and 6.0 are affected by that product's flaw.
- IE patch
- Office patch
Microsoft Drops Free Outlook XP with Pocket PCs
And speaking of Office, Microsoft recently decided to stop providing new Pocket PC purchasers with a free copy of Outlook 2002, the latest version of the company's Email and Personal Information Management (PIM) product, which also ships in Office XP. Apparently, the Outlook team felt that giving away the product diluted its value to users, so Pocket PC users will now receive Outlook 2000, an older version, instead. Outlook 2002 is currently available as a standalone product and as a component of Office XP. Since most Pocket PC users probably already have an existing copy of Outlook, I can't imagine this is a huge problem, but I bet the decision was made in order to help drive sales of Office/Outlook 11, which features a radically different user interface. Office 11 will ship in mid-2003.
MSN 8 Heading to the Mac Too
Microsoft's upcoming MSN 8 Internet software, formerly known as MSN Explorer, will ship in a version for Mac OS X in early 2003, the company announced yesterday. MSN for Mac OS X will offer most of the features found in MSN 8 for Windows, including a cool new interface, Web services integration, and compatibility with the MSN online service as well as other ISPs, though the latter will bring an additional monthly charge. Internet Explorer, the company's standalone Web browser, will remain free on both Windows and the Mac, Microsoft says.
Taiwan Latest to Investigate Microsoft
Taiwan's Fair Trade Commission is investigating Microsoft for unfair trade practices in Taiwan, the agency announced this week. The investigation comes after complaints about Microsoft's new licensing policies, which require Taiwanese companies to sign contracts with Microsoft Singapore that restrict the company's abilities to switch local software purchasing agents. Microsoft denies the claim, stating that its corporate clients in the area can change clients at any time, though they must notify Microsoft first.
AOL/Worldcom Deals are Focus of Investigation
AOL Time Warner, which runs everybody's favorite online service, continued to track its way through the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) doghouse this week with revelations that the company improperly booked almost $50 million of advertisements paid for by WorldCom, another SEC darling. Apparently the two companies developed a close relationship over the past few years, with Amercia Online (AOL) becoming Worldcom's biggest customer and paying over $900 million last year for Worldcom to carry most of its Internet traffic. Then, in July 2001, Worldcom agreed to pay more than $200 million to AOL for advertising across AOL's various online properties, in an effort to keep AOL Internet traffic on Worldcom's networks. Not coincidentally, Scott Sullivan, Worldcom's CFO, was charged by the SEC for securities fraud, and his company is currently in bankruptcy court, with over $7.2 billion in inappropriate accounting charges. Sadly for AOL, its relationship with Worldcom can only harm AOL's already flagging fortunes and reputation, which has taken a beating in the days since the AOL/Time Warner merger was finalized.
AMD: Megahertz Myth Megahurts the Industry
Microprocessor maker Advanced Micro Design (AMD) is continuing its fight to replace chip megahertz (MHz) ratings with a more realistic performance rating that will make its products more competitive with market leader Intel. Last year, AMD stopped using MHz ratings for its processors, and instead began marketing them with names that suggested the products relative performance with comparable Intel chips. Now, AMD would like all chip makers to agree to a new measurements that will accurately reflect overall PC performance. Even today's performance benchmarks are not adequate, the company says, because benchmarks only tell part of the story. What's needed, according to AMD, is a way to easily identify a PC's overall performance. "Lightbulbs have better information about them at the point of sale than PCs," says AMD vice president Patrick Moorhead.
Jaguar Roars: Mac OS X Hope or Hype?
This weekend, Apple will release its long-anticipated 10.2 update to Mac OS X, code-named Jaguar. The release will finally bring Mac OS X into the mainstream, where prior updates focused on ease of use and performance upgrades. Now, Mac OS X should offer adequate performance on even mid-level Macs, and with more and more applications being written for the platform, an even higher level of compatibility. Of course, from a technical standpoint, Apple is simply providing features and technologies that Windows users have had for some time, and the company still has no valid response to Windows XP's innovative, task-based user interface. But Jaguar should answer complaints from the Mac crowd that OS X was too slow and incomplete. I'll be reviewing Mac OS X 10.2 for Connected Home EXPRESS soon.
Jaguar Not Enough? How about Panther?
And speaking of Mac OS X, if the Jaguar release isn't enough for you, how about the next version, code-named "Panther," which will ship next year? Formerly code-named Pinot, the next Mac OS X release will reportedly block booting into older versions of Mac OS, including OS 9, but few features are known. One cute side-note: The code-name for the initial Mac OS X release was "Cheetah," which is humorous given its performance issues, while last year's Mac OS X 10.1 release was "Puma" and Mac OS X Server 10.2 was "Tigger." Meow.