WinInfo Short Takes: Week of January 1 - 29 Dec 2000

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

"I'm sorry, Dave..."
Ah, 2001. There's just something about a new millennium that makes me want to pump out top 10 lists and wax nostalgic about the good old days when Steve Jobs fell back to earth and Bill Gates and Co. were smacked around by a federal judge. But forgive me the reminiscing, because Year 2000 wasn't just about exorcising our demons, and some good stuff happened too. But I'll discuss all that next week, when I take a look back at 2000, and summarize the 540 WinInfo Daily UPDATE news articles that were written this year. Happy New Year, and please be safe.

Microsoft reports 118 percent holiday sales growth at MSN
Scrambling to issue a press release to match Yahoo's holiday achievements, Microsoft is reporting that Christmas 2000 was its most successful online holiday shopping season ever, with visits to MSN eShop up 118 percent. Oddly, the Microsoft release concerns itself largely with traffic rather than actual sales, but the company did mention that Poo-Chi, the electronic dog, was a particular favorite with shoppers. And 10,000 people bought reindeer costumes for their dogs. This reminds me, somehow, of the Fall of Rome. Is this really what happens to the Internet?

Sayonara, Barbie PC
Pity the young girls hoping to get a Barbie PC this Christmas, as Patriot Computer, which was making the ugly little purple plastic boxes, has filed for bankruptcy protection and many people who paid for one will likely never see a PC or a refund. The company also marketed a Hot Wheels PC for boys. Mattel, which had a licensing agreement with Patriot, owns both Barbie and Hot Wheels, and the company is quick to point out that it did not manufacture the computers for which people are still waiting. I think we can blame the success of Apple's iMac on this one: Back in 1999, when the iMac and its translucent blue plastic was all the rage, various PC makers toyed with systems featuring different colors and designs.

Users thumb noses at Netscape 6
Will the three satisfied users of Netscape 6 please raise their hands? OK boys, cuff 'em. It should come as no surprise to anyone who has actually tried to use Netscape 6 that the software is almost completely unusable, and many people are now wondering why AOL, Netscape's parent company, forced its release so quickly. Netscape 6 is based on the Mozilla open source project, and Mozilla won't release its 1.0 product until the first half of 2001. Netscape should have waited too: After taking years to fall into the browser market share gutter, this is no way to win back fans.

Egghead customers get nasty Christmas present
Online etailer Egghead had a nasty lump of coal for its customers this holiday season when the company revealed that a hacker had broken into its computer systems and could have stolen the credit card information for millions of its users. Egghead stepped up and did the right thing, notifying users and banks just in case, but the damage might have already been done. Expect more attacks like this in the coming months.

Sales of Sony Palm device nosedive
Sony revealed that sales of its Palm OS-based "Clie" handheld are slumping after a strong start when the unit was unveiled in early September. To jumpstart sales, the company will add a variety of features to the device, including color screens, music playback, and cell phone capabilities. Sony, which makes a wide variety of consumer electronics and computing devices, does a better job than almost anybody when it comes to integrating its products. But the company might have been better served targeting a higher-end market for its palm-sized devices. PocketPC, anyone?

Intel pushes USB 2.0
Intel announced that it will do the right thing with USB 2.0 and release the specification for its controller chipset, royalty free, in an effort to get the technology out to customers as quickly as possible. USB 1.0 is a defacto standard on PCs today, but it took a while for systems and software to catch up. USB 2.0 is up to 40 times faster than its predecessor (480 Mb, compared to 12 Mb for USB 1.x), but is still backwards compatible. If Apple had opened up the FireWire specification for free a few years back, USB would just be a bad memory today, but instead, we're saddled with a small amount of shared bandwidth per USB channel. USB 2.0 will fix this, but we won't see it in new PCs until late 2001. I'm sure we'll still be using serial and parallel ports then as well.

Guess what? ActiveX is a security problem!
Sometimes you need it spelled out for you before you understand the problem, as obvious as it may be. A report sponsored by the CERT Coordination Center security group states that security issues related to Microsoft's ActiveX technology, while often overstated, "could not be ignored." If you're interested in the group's recommendations for limiting your risks while using ActiveX, please head on over to the CERT Web site and read the report (which is in PDF format).

Nintendo apparently as uninterested in Sega as the rest of us are...
The rumor mill was abuzz earlier this week with reports that Nintendo was interested in buy besieged Sega, makers of the Dreamcast video game console. But Nintendo quickly squashed that rumor, saying, "We express with 100% certainty that our company will not buy out Sega." After dominating the video game market in the early 1990's, Sega has fallen on hard times due to competition, primarily from the Sony PlayStation. Sega has lost over $1 billion in the past three years.

... but Sega, like us, is interested in Nintendo GameBoy
While Sega wouldn't comment on the Nintendo buyout rumors, the company did reiterate its desire to port its massive library of software to other gaming devices and the PC. One of the systems Sega is most interested in is Nintendo's next generation GameBoy Advance, which will be launched in March. Nintendo has sold over 100 million GameBoy devices in the past decade, making it the VW Beetle of video games.

Sega: A Solution
So what will $2 billion buy these days? Well, it will get some lucky company the core assets of Sega, which makes the popular (but now dying) Dreamcast video game system and a number of popular video games. I think Microsoft should buy the company and sell the Dreamcast until Xbox arrives, and that the Xbox should include the $10 of hardware it would need to run Dreamcast titles. How about it, Microsoft? You could give millions of Dreamcast users a clear upgrade path and rescue the first Windows CE-based gaming system, all in the same stroke. And Microsoft could sell off those portions of Sega that it won't need. It's called a win-win.

Sorry Steve: FCC to miss year-end AOL/Time Warner deadline
Looks like the busy lawyers at America Online are going to be filling out a lot of paperwork in the coming weeks. AOL CEO Steve Case had his hopes dashed when the FCC revealed this week that it wouldn't be able to complete its review of the AOL/Time Warner merger by the end of the year. Case had asked the agency to give its OK by the end of 2000 so that his company wouldn't need to deal with the complicated SEC filings it will now face. And even though the FCC is expected to allow the merger, AOL rivals such as Microsoft continue to bombard the agency with complaints, in an effort to get some concessions.

Popular vote, general election, whatever
I mentioned yesterday that George W. Bush lost the "general election," but that of course, should have read "popular vote," my apologies for the error. I was rather dismayed that some people thought that that article reflected my political opinions, but it does not. Trust me when I say that you don't want to know what I think about George W. Bush

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