WinInfo Short Takes: Week of December 10

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including Firefox vs. IE, Michael "Crazy Guy" Bay, the iPhone in Germany, a wireless spectrum auction, Bad Santa, PDC 2008, JetBlue and free Wi-Fi, Dell and Best Buy, and much, much more...

WinInfo Blog

With the holidays catapulting towards us at an alarming speed this year, I find that I'm behind yet again. And Microsoft isn't making it any easier: Just this week, the company shipped release candidate versions of Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista SP1, and Windows Server 2008, which, as you might imagine, makes life interesting for someone running a Windows-oriented Web site. Naturally, I'd be complaining if there was too little going on too. I'm a complainer.

Leo and I were able to record a Windows Weekly podcast this week, so that should be available by the weekend. The rest of the year is going to be tricky thanks to Leo's vacation schedule, but we're going to try and make up some lost time by pre-recording some Microsoft interviews as we did recently. I'll see whether I can line anything up.

Short Takes

Firefox vs. IE: Which is More Secure?
When it comes to competition, there's transparent baloney (most of Apple's Vista-oriented "I'm a PC" ads, for example, or those qualification-laden pharmaceutical ads), and then there's good, old-fashioned fisticuffs. This week, Microsoft and Mozilla engaged in the latter form of competition, with both sides claiming that their respective Web browsers are more secure than the other's. It all started when Microsoft security strategy director Jeff Jones blogged about a Microsoft study comparing IE 7 and Mozilla Firefox security vulnerabilities over the past year. (Guess which one won.) "Over the past 3 years, supported versions of Internet Explorer have experienced fewer vulnerabilities and fewer High severity vulnerabilities than Firefox," Jones said (in case it wasn't obvious). Mozilla, go figure, wasn't amused. And it countered that Microsoft was conveniently not counting all of the security vulnerabilities that have bedeviled IE 7 in the past year, throwing cold water on the claims: Microsoft, they say, actually bundles bug fixes into single packages, lowering the supposed bug count. Anyway. I suspect that both IE 7 and Firefox 2.0 are pretty secure. But please, for our enjoyment, do keep up the fight.

Movie Director Accuses Microsoft of HD DVD Bribes
Crazy Guy alert: Michael Bay, the man responsible for such onscreen silliness as "Transformers" and "Pearl Harbor," has had a slightly schizoid relationship with Blu-Ray and HD DVD, the two high definition disc formats that are competing to replace the DVD. Without getting into a complete history of his flip-flopping--this is "Short" Takes, after all--let's just say he's been all over the map, kind of the like the plots to one of his movies. His latest missive, however, is a bombshell: He claims that HD DVD backer Microsoft is handing out "$100 million checks" to studios to convince them to release movies exclusively on HD DVD. But that's not the truly crazy part. The reason Microsoft is doing this isn't to promote HD DVD. It's because Microsoft wants both Blu Ray and HD DVD "to fail so they can be heroes and make the world move to digital downloads. That is the dirty secret no one is talking about." LOL. Yeah, because when we think digital content downloads, Microsoft is absolutely the first company that comes to mind.

German Court Upholds T-Mobile/iPhone Cabal
In a surprising reversal this week, a German court has ruled that T-Mobile does not have to sell an unlocked version of Apple's iPhone communications device in that country, and can instead lock customers into an exclusive two-year deal. The ruling reverses an injunction that was granted last month to T-Mobile competitor Vodafone, which was apparently upset that it was unable to secure a deal for the iPhone in any of the biggest EU markets. So now only French consumers have the right to purchase an iPhone that is decoupled from an exclusive network contract, thanks to consumer protection laws there. Here in the US, of course, iPhone users are saddled with AT&T's lousy and expensive EDGE network, which runs a minimum of $70 a month after various fees and taxes are figured into the equation. You gotta love choice.

Google, Verizon, AT&T to Bid on Wireless Spectrum
And speaking of choice in the wireless market, Internet search and advertising giant Google confirmed thus week that it will bid for some of the most lucrative wireless spectrum to become available in the US in quite some time. The company will compete with telecommunications giants AT&T and Verizon for the spectrum, which is expected to fetch billions of dollars when the bidding commences in mid-January. According to the FCC, the spectrum must be opened up to allow for competing devices and services, and could result in a major shift in the way that wireless services are offered to consumers in the US. Stay tuned.

Microsoft's Santa has Been Bad this Year
This is what happens when Windows runs something truly crucial: A virtual Santa Claus that Microsoft was offering via its Windows Live Messenger service has been shut down after it was discovered that it was engaging in dirty talk. The AI-enhanced Santa bot was set up so that users could communicate with it via Messenger, using standard text chatting facilities. However, thanks to glitch of some kind, it was possible to trick the Santa bot into talking about oral sex, a decidedly un-holiday-like topic for the kids. Microsoft tried to clean up the language but wasn't confident enough in the changes, so the service was brought offline for good. This is the type of story that's just begging for a happy ending, but ... well, never mind.

Next PDC Coming in October 2008
Microsoft this week revealed that its next Professional Developers Conference, or PDC, will be held in October 2008 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The company had originally planned to hold a PDC in October 2007, but delayed the event earlier this year because there just wasn't enough new platform technology to discuss yet: The PDC tends to be pretty forward-looking, and the previous two shows focused on the products that became Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. My guess, and it's only a guess, is that the next PDC will focus on Windows 7, Vista's successor. To date, Microsoft has been awfully quiet about that release, and the PDC is a logical place to start the conversation.

JetBlue Bringing Free Wi-Fi to the Air
JetBlue said this week that it will be the first US-based airline to provide onboard Wi-Fi services on its flights, allowing travelers to access the Web, email, and other Internet-based services while in-flight. Best of all, JetBlue says, the service will be free. I have absolutely no problem with this, though I am considerably nervous about similar plans to allow fliers to chat on cell phones while in the air. This concern has nothing to do with supposed technical issues, and everything to do with overly loud blabbering. Say what you will about flying, but it's one of the few times you can really zone out and get away from the overly-self-important cell phone crowd.

Dell Heads to Best Buy
And finally, Dell is expanding its retail presence this week with a deal it announced with US electronics retail giant Best Buy. The PC maker will begin selling its notebook and desktop PCs in over 900 Best Buy locations in the US starting as early as late this month. That dramatically expands the company's retail presence, all the more impressive when you consider that Dell's machines were available only online and via the phone as recently as a year ago. You can also find Dells in Wal-Mart, Staples, Carefour (in France), and Gome, a China-based retailer. Whether these changes are enough to catapult Dell ahead of market leader HP is unclear. Indeed, HP seems to have only widened the gap between it and Dell in recent quarters.

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