WinInfo Short Takes: Week of February 27

WinInfo Short Takes

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including the Windows Vista February CTP, Microsoft's EU response, more antitrust allegations, Google and China, Google Page Creator, Apple's 1 billion song sales, Lenovo PCs, and so much more...

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Greetings from Ireland. We travel a lot, but this is the first time the kids have come along to Europe, and the first time they had to fly overnight. They did about as well as expected. Both of them slept for most of the flight, and then they proceeded to fly during virtually every moment in the rental car. They slept more than 12 hours the following night. Today, finally, was sort of a normal schedule.

That said, we haven't done all that much yet. We visited the Rock of Cashel on Day One, and then made our way to Dublin. We hit a lot of the major Dublin sites the first day and visited the Guinness Storehouse the next morning (or, as we might think of it, the morning I wrote this). Most of the vacation, thus far, has been about food. On that note, it's been a smashing success.

Tomorrow, we're driving to the west side of the island to visit Galway for a few days, and then Limerick. And that's all she wrote.

By the way, thanks to everyone who wrote in with suggestions about what to see--I always appreciate them. It's kind of weird being here with kids, but so far so good.

Short Takes

What You Need to Know About the February CTP

I've been rather surprised at the lackluster news reports about Microsoft's release of the February 2006 Windows Vista Community Technology Preview (CTP). It's important to understand how the CTP process has changed Microsoft's release schedule. According to the company, the February CTP represents, for businesses, what used to be called Beta 2, while an April CTP, which Microsoft will ship to the public as well, will represent Beta 2 for consumers. I've also heard the April CTP referred to as release candidate 0 (RC0). During the summer, Microsoft will ship more CTPs (which used to be thought of as release candidates) and then finalize the code. Also, regarding the briefly revealed Vista product editions, Microsoft promises to clear up "very, very soon" which product editions it will ship. So stay tuned, I guess.

Microsoft Posts Response to EU on Web

In an unusual move, Microsoft on Thursday posted its entire formal response to European Union (EU) regulators to the Web, providing the public with an unprecedented glimpse inside the software giant's latest antitrust controversy. The formal response varies from Microsoft's previous public comments about the case only in scope: In the response, the company complains that the European Commission (EC) "ignored key information and denied Microsoft due process" while railroading the company toward an expensive daily fine. Contrary to EC assertions, Microsoft says, the company has fully complied with the technical documentation that the EC demanded it supply to competitors in 2004. Although it can't necessarily be described as interesting reading, Microsoft's formal response is available at the URL below.

Web site

Microsoft Foes Open New Front in EU Antitrust Battle

And speaking of Microsoft's EU antitrust woes, chances are the software company could face other antitrust problems there, if its rivals have their say. This week, the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS)--whose membership reads like a Who's Who of Microsoft competitors--filed a complaint with the EU accusing Microsoft of continuing to engage in illegal monopolistic practices. The complaint, backed by companies such as IBM, Oracle, Nokia, RealNetworks, and Sun Microsystems, says that Microsoft is bundling Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology in Windows Vista, is failing to make its Microsoft Office document formats compatible with other productivity solutions, and has been advancing a proprietary technology called Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML) as a possible replacement for the standards-based HTML language. Microsoft, of course, says that its competitors are choosing to litigate rather than innovate, which is a nice quip and pretty close to the mark. But the complaint should also serve as a warning to Microsoft that its competitors are ready to jump down the only competitive path that's ever really worked for them, which, sadly, involves the courts and not the open market.

Google Bows to China But Won't Cough Up Anonymous Search Records in US

One thing I don't get about Google is how it's able to reconcile its decision to work with China, one of the world's worst totalitarian governments, with its "do no evil" mantra. Now, the company is taking hypocrisy to the next level by refusing to provide the US government with search query records from which no individuals could ever be identified. The reason for this hypocrisy, it turns out, is that fulfilling the US Department of Justice (DOJ) request for the search records could force Google to publicly reveal details about the way its search engine works, which could put it at risk with competitors. Meanwhile, Google's decision to work with China harms only those individuals who wish to discover the evil acts their government has done. Hey, whatever helps you sleep at night.

Google Tests Web-Based Web Site Creator

And speaking of Google, everyone's favorite totalitarian stooge (oh wait, that's Yahoo!) launched yet another beta service, dubbed Google Page Creator, that will let its users create their own Web sites and Web pages using a Web-based tool. The fledgling service, which is based on the same Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX) Web technology used by Windows Live Mail, Apple Computer's .mac service, and other Web services, is suffering from a bit of a capacity problem right now, however, so you'll have to sign up to be notified when it's ready for public consumption. Some reports have described Google Page Creator as a "FrontPage killer," but that's ludicrous. Instead, I see this service as being aimed more at blogging tools (and yes, I know Google already owns Blogger). For more info, check out the Google Page Creator Web site.

Google Page Creator Web site

IBM Advances Chip Making

And I thought these guys were good only for making video game microprocessors. This week, IBM researchers described a new method of microprocessor creation that will result in chips less than one-third the size of today's microprocessors. The new microprocessors will be denser, storing far more data in the same amount of space as today's chips. You'll see hardware become smaller, better performing, and cooler running. However, remember we're talking about IBM, where there's a big gap between research and real-world applicability. It will be interesting to see which companies actually best take advantage of this technique.

Apple Celebrates 1 Billionth Song Sale on iTunes

Apple Computer this week celebrated the sale of the one-billionth song from its iTunes Music Store, the most successful online music service in the world. If I understand the royalties that Apple must pay the recording companies, this means Apple has cleared at least $17 in profits from the iTunes Music Store so far. Another couple of hundred billion sales, and it'll be able to buy an iPod.

Lenovo Starts Selling Branded PCs in US

Hey, if we'll buy Daewoos and Kias, we'll buy just about anything. Chinese PC giant Lenovo, which recently purchased the ThinkPad and ThinkCentre PC business from IBM, says it will soon start selling Lenovo-branded PCs in the United States. As in China, Lenovo PCs sold in the United States will be aimed at the low end of the market, with desktops that start at just $349 and laptops that start at $599. I got a peek at Lenovo's notebooks at the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, but I haven't seen the desktops yet. Truth be told, the notebooks look pretty good. I figure companies such as Gateway-eMachines are shaking in their boots. It's unclear whether Dell or HP should worry yet, however.

Windows Surpasses UNIX in Server Market

I thought this happened years ago, but apparently new Windows Server sales surpassed those of UNIX-based servers for the first time ever in 2005, according to IDC. The company reports that vendors sold $17.7 billion worth of Windows Server-based servers last year, compared with $17.5 billion worth of UNIX servers and $5.3 billion worth of Linux servers. The overall server market grew 4.4 percent during this time period, IDC says. If these figures are true, I have to assume that the slow climb of Windows in the server market can be pinned at least partially on Linux, which gave UNIX users a UNIX-like system that runs on industry-standard PC server hardware. Otherwise, I suspect we would have seen Windows Server squash UNIX like a bug a long time ago.

Apple Promises Fun, New Products

Well, duh. Apple promises to release "some fun, new products" next Tuesday yet refuses to even hint what those products might be. My money is on a new family of iBook computers (which should be renamed MacBook if I understand the company's new naming system) and perhaps a true video iPod alongside full movie downloads from the iTunes Music Store. Some are also expecting the first Intel-based Mac minis, which might include the long-awaited digital video recording (DVR) software that Apple is supposedly developing and will certainly include the Front Row software and remote control that currently ship with iMacs and MacBook Pros. Either way, Apple's news on Tuesday should be pretty interesting.

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