WinInfo Short Takes: Week of February 9

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

What's Up with IE and the Eolas Patent?
   When Microsoft announced last week that it wouldn't change Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) slightly to accommodate Eolas's controversial patent for Web browser add-ons, many readers asked me whether that decision means that Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) won't include any of the IE changes we've already seen in the SP2 beta. Here's the good news: In XP SP2, Microsoft will indeed update IE to include most of the changes we've already seen, including the pop-up ad blocker. Only the changes that the Eolas patent required, which involve the way IE handles add-ons, won't be included.

Microsoft Offers MyDoom Removal Tool
   Yesterday, Microsoft released a small, free tool that will remove the MyDoom and MyDoom.B viruses from computers running XP and Windows 2000. According to the company, "the tool automatically checks for infection and removes the worm(s) if found. If a machine is infected with MyDoom.B, the tool will also provide the user with the default version of the 'host' file and set the 'read-only' attribute for that file. This action will allow the user to visit previously blocked Microsoft and antivirus Web sites. After execution, the tool pops up a message describing the outcome of the detection/removal. The tool can be safely deleted after execution." You can find more information about the tool and grab the free download from the Microsoft Web site

What to Expect in Xbox Next
   Microsoft's next-generation Xbox console (Xbox Next in Redmond parlance) might still be more than a year away, but details about the product are starting to leak. According to reports, Xbox Next will feature three 64-bit IBM microprocessors, a next-generation ATI Technologies graphics chip and Longhorn-based graphics libraries, 256MB to 512MB of RAM, and a DVD or Blu-ray drive. The most important feature of Xbox Next, however, is its delivery schedule. For Microsoft to be successful with this release, the company must ship the console before Sony launches its eagerly awaited PlayStation 3, now expected in 2006. Also, Microsoft is reportedly wrestling with how to make Xbox Next compatible with the first generation of Xbox titles, given the changes to the underlying platform. Heads up, Microsoft: If Xbox Next doesn't run first-generation Xbox games, you might as well just pack it up and go home.

California Consumers Not Taking Advantage of Microsoft Settlement
   Microsoft settled a massive class-action antitrust lawsuit with the state of California months ago, giving residents in the state the chance to collect $1.1 billion worth of vouchers they can use to purchase computer hardware or software products of their choice. The settlement was a big win for consumer-friendly California, with just one caveat: To date, few Californians have actually taken advantage of the voucher program. "USA TODAY" noted that fewer than 1 million residents have responded, despite notification mailings to 17 million people. The deadline for filing a claim is March 15, and if Californians don't take advantage of the program, Microsoft will give a portion of the total settlement amount to the state's poorest schools and will keep the rest.

IE Changes Protect Users. What About Mozilla and Safari?
   This week, Microsoft disabled a standards-based Web browser authentication method that malicious attackers are using in so-called phishing operations to scam people into revealing their credit card numbers and other personal information. But other browsers, such as Mozilla and Apple Computer's Safari, still exhibit this behavior, and users of those products could easily be scammed. I wonder when other browser makers will start protecting their users. You can find more information about this tactic on the Microsoft Web Site.

Microsoft Heads to Trial ... In Minnesota
   Microsoft is facing a damaging antitrust trial again, but this time the US government or the European Union (EU) isn't squaring off against the software monopolist--the state of Minnesota is. Unlike many states, Minnesota hasn't settled a class-action lawsuit it brought against Microsoft for overpricing its products between 1994 and 2001. The case will go to trial March 1, with Minnesota seeking an estimated $285 million to $425 million in damages. Humorously, Microsoft says it has never overcharged for its software, but the company has already paid $1.55 billion to settle similar class-action lawsuits in nine other states and the District of Columbia.

Where Are All the Games We Were Promised?
   "Half-Life 2." "Doom 3." "Halo 2." The list of pulse-pounding, next-generation, first-person shooters many gamers had expected to be enjoying by late last year but have instead slipped into the nether regions of 2004 is expanding at an alarming rate. I have to wonder what's going on. Come on, guys, I can only replay "Medal of Honor" so many times.

Mike Rowe Cashes In on Microsoft Lawsuit ... On eBay
   Canadian teenager Mike Rowe might have folded like the proverbial stack of playing cards in the face of a legal challenge from Microsoft over his MikeRoweSoft domain name, but the plucky Xbox owner is making up for it in a different way--by auctioning his legal correspondence with Microsoft on eBay. Rowe reportedly earned more than $1000 for the paperwork, a far cry from the millions of dollars he probably could have earned for embarrassing Microsoft in court. Ah well.

Conflict of Interest? Microsoft Lawyer Joins Antitrust Panel
   Isn't this situation the same as the head of a beef council leading a panel on mad cow disease? In what can only be termed "News of the Bizarre," one of Microsoft's top lawyers will run a legal committee that will influence how much oversight US courts can exercise in antitrust settlements. Microsoft, you'll likely recall, was the benefactor of the softest antitrust settlement in US history, but the company isn't interested in ensuring that future monopolists get the same break it did. Instead, Microsoft will actually have a say in determining how the courts can oversee its current settlement, if you can believe that. This state of affairs isn't just ironic; it should be illegal.

Microsoft Wins a Patent Case--Really
   With all the gloomy legal news surrounding Microsoft lately (the previous blurb notwithstanding), you might be interested to hear that the company recently beat back a patent-infringement claim in a successful court case. This week, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said in a 2-to-1 ruling that the software giant didn't violate Multi-Tech Systems' patents. Based in Minneapolis, Multi-Tech holds various patents relating to transferring data, video, and voice through communications hardware, and the company had previously (and unsuccessfully) tried to sue Compaq, Dell, and Gateway. Companies like this are an embarrassment to the industry. Shame on you, Multi-Tech.

IIS Number One Among Top Internet Sites
   This statistic might sound like an April fool's joke, but a new survey of the top 1000 Internet sites--which researchers at Port80 Software say is a meaningful way to measure actual Web server product use--says that Microsoft IIS, not Apache, is the most-often-used Web server product in the world. Port80 Software says that IIS controls 43.1 percent of the top 1000 sites, compared with 39.7 for Apache and 8.7 percent for Netscape. Port80 Software is a privately held company and, no, Microsoft didn't instigate or fund the survey. 

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