WinInfo Short Takes: Week of December 18 - 15 Dec 2000

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

Microsoft patches Office 10 Beta 2
Microsoft provided Office 10 beta testers with a Beta 2 Patch this week that fixes a number of bugs in Outlook 10 and Word 10. These bugs include problems with Active Sync for Windows CE devices, but the patch is also expected to improve the general stability of Word 10 and Outlook 10 by up to 40 percent. The 6.5 MB patch is only available to Office 10 technical beta testers and can only be applied to the English version of Office 10 Beta 2. Furthermore, the patch is designed for end user only and should not be applied to an Administrative install image created with a beta version of the Office 10 Setup Manager.

Microsoft loses the battle of the temps
Microsoft settled a legal battle with temporary workers this week, and will pay $97 million to workers that were hired to do full time work, but never given any benefits. The case affects about 10,000 people that the company hired through temp agencies between 1992 and 1999, and has forced the company to rethink the way it deals with people who are not permanently hired. Microsoft issued a curiously sunny statement about the issue: "Microsoft continues to be a great place to work and we value everyone who contributes to our products and services," the company said in the statement. "Our company continues to grow and create new jobs. We currently have thousands of job openings." And now the people that do those jobs will get the compensation they deserve, presumably.

Compaq is latest victim of consumer PC sales decline
Compaq Computer joined Intel, Gateway, and other PC companies this week, stating that its revenues in the fourth quarter would miss projections. The company blamed slowing sales to U.S. consumers and businesses, and said that it would miss projections by about 10 percent. Compaq says it now expects to make between $11.2 and $11.4 billion this quarter. Of the big PC makers, only Dell has yet to make an announcement concerning lowered expectations. I'll light a candle.

Oracle counters .NET with Dynamic Services
Oracle fired a shot across the bow of Microsoft's .NET strategy this week when it announced its own Web-based services strategy, called Oracle 9i Dynamic Services, which will offer a variety of services, such as travel booking and currency translation. The software will be included free with Oracle 9i when it's released early next year. The company will also include two new free tools with the database, Oracle Portal Online Studio and Oracle Mobile Online Studio, which can be used to build portal and wireless applications. Oracle expects half of its revenues to be derived from online services within three to five years.

Microsoft loses in two court cases
Microsoft's problem with the so-called "permatemps" wasn't the only setback the company faced this week. The Arizona Superior Court ruled against the software giant twice, placing that state alongside California in certifying class action lawsuits on behalf of consumers that might have been overcharged for Windows 98. Numerous class action lawsuits were brought against Microsoft in the days after its guilty verdict in the antitrust trial, but most of the cases have since been thrown out because of state laws protecting companies against customers who didn't directly buy products from those companies. However, consumer protection laws in both California and Arizona allow the suits to continue, placing Microsoft in the legal hot seat again. Think you got overcharged for the copy of Windows that came with that new PC? If you live in California or Arizona, you just might be getting a refund someday soon.

Go figure: Microsoft to keynote Macworld next month
I haven't seen cooperation this unlikely since Glasnost: Microsoft's Rob Burgess, who runs the company's Macintosh Business Unit (MBU), will provide a keynote address at the MacWorld Expo in January. Mac users have always distrusted Microsoft somewhat, despite some excellent products recently. Something tells me that the George Orwellian video appearance of Bill Gates a few years back didn't exactly help matters much.

I've got a question, Jeeves: When are you going to make some money?
The "Ask Jeeves" search engine is going to have to start searching for some more money, as the company laid off 25 percent of its workforce this week in a bid to save $45 million annually. Ask Jeeves lost over $127 million through September 2000, and hopes the reorganization will get it back on track. It even demoted its CEO, which is the corporate equivalent of getting a "timeout," something my two year old would appreciate. Then again, he's never managed to lose $127 million, but he's working on it.

HotOffice not so hot after all
Speaking of once-overvalued online properties, Web-based productivity application provider HotOffice.com will cease operations next week because of an "inability to raise capital in the current market conditions." In other words, you can't just put the word "Internet" in an IPO and expect to get rich anymore. HotOffice is now recommending that its users look to Intranets.com as an alternative, but if the consolidation in the banking industry has taught us anything, that site will likely disappear soon as well. When will Amazon.com start offering these services? Yes, I'm kidding.

Oracle counts 400,000 Linux users
According to a very short news release from Oracle, over 400,000 Linux developers have downloaded "one of the many Oracle enterprise software products available for Linux." These products include the Oracle 8i database and development tools and the Oracle 9i application server, which normally cost big bucks, but are free on Linux. It's sort of unclear what this all means, of course, but the idea of getting a leading edge database--for free--running on a free OS is tantalizing.

Sun jumps to second spot in server market
And speaking of our non-Windows buddies, server maker Sun Microsystems jumped up two places to secure the number two spot in the global market for computer server products. IBM is number one, while Hewlett Packard and Compaq Computer come in at third and fourth place, respectively. Sun's server sales rose 63 percent in the quarter, with unit sales rising 100 percent. But the news for number one IBM was even better: Sales of IBM servers grew faster than even Sun's products. Not bad for an industry that was declared dead just a few years ago.

GNOME on Windows? Sure, how about MacOS X on Intel?
Here's a weird one: A New Jersey company called Global Technologies is porting the GNOME desktop environment, which is currently used on Linux systems, to Windows. The project is complex, as you can't simply run GNOME for Windows, you also have to install an X Window server and a UNIX-to-Windows compatibility layer called U/WIN. So why would anyone be interested in this Frankenstein's monster? Well, Global Technologies says that GNOME for Windows will allow IT developers to target UNIX as well as Windows, and not exclude the UNIX markets because its easier to simply develop for the number one platform. I need to mull this one over for a bit, but isn't it still easier to just develop for the number one platform?

Oracle edges expectations ...
Database maker Oracle announced this week that it had just beat expectations for its second quarter, with revenues of $2.7 billion, up from $2.3 billion in the same quarter a year before. But Oracle also issued a bold statement about the future, saying that it would not stumble financially in an economy that is causing problems for so many other high tech firms. Oracle says that its business will jump 66 percent this year "barring a major recession." You guys know that George W. Bush was just elected president, right?

... But Red Hat not so lucky
And speaking of financials, Red Hat software announced a net loss of $21.4 million for the quarter ending November 30. Revenues were $22.4 million, compared to $10.5 million for the same quarter a year before. It's still unclear how these Linux companies hope to make money, but Red Hat president and CEO Matthew Szulik remains positive. "We are seeing increasingly strong demand for Red Hat leadership solutions," he said. I guess it depends on how you define leadership: Red Hat's stock is trading in the $8 range these days.

If you want a slower processor, just get a PowerPC
Intel will unveil a 1.3 GHz Pentium 4 microprocessor in January, apparently fulfilling demand for a product that's not as fast as its current 1.4 and 1.5 GHz products. Additionally, the company will release an enhanced Celeron chip, running at 800 MHz, that features a 100 MHz front-side bus, a first for the low-end chip. So explain to me again why a 500 MHz PowerPC is better: Even Intel's bargain basement chips are outpacing the best that Motorola has to offer these days

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