An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news...
Macintosh advocates descended on me this week like a biblical plague, quoting a "Wired News" article that "proved" that my contention last week that HP is working to add Windows Media Audio (WMA) support to Apple Computer's iPod is false. Apparently, no one actually read the article, in which an HP executive said, "We're not going to be supporting WMA for now." Notice that little caveat at the end of that sentence: "for now." That stipulation sounds more like an implicit verification that the company is, in fact, planning to add WMA support rather than the reverse. But two bigger matters arose during this episode. First, most of the people who complained about this topic were completely out to lunch. This week, I discovered such laughable myths as "Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) is open source" and "Apple's Protected AAC is an open standard if you just remove the Digital Rights Management (DRM) part of it." Second, I was surprised at how many people accused me of making up the WMA-on-iPod tidbit. As I noted last week, I got this information from a reliable HP contact who was familiar with the agreement between Apple and HP, and for whatever it's worth, I wasn't the only person standing next to her when she gave me this information. Life is too short to make up stories like this (and what would I gain?) unless, of course, I'm interested in writing for a high-tech equivalent of "The National Enquirer." From a reporting standpoint, using anonymous sources often presents problems, and reporters have to go with their gut feelings. Sometimes these things pan out; sometimes they don't. But the jury is still out on this story, folks, and whatever happens, nothing can change one simple fact: I was told what I was told, and I believed (and still believe) the disclosure was important enough to report. I stand by that decision and by my opinions of AAC and WMA. I've heard nothing this week that sways me from that stance. I will, however, follow up with a detailed article on the SuperSite for Windows that will compare AAC with WMA.
Some Comments About Mac Advocacy
In another vein, this week's controversy raises some other related concerns. When I reviewed Windows XP more than 2 years ago, I compared it with the then-current version of Mac OS X and lamented that things had changed. "In the good old days, I could write up an article about the Macintosh or its admittedly beautiful OS," I wrote, "and if it contained even the smallest hint of criticism toward ... Apple ... I could be sure that my Inbox would be flooded with vitriolic hate mail from every corner of the Mac community." Those days are back, although now my Inbox isn't getting flooded, the feedback form on the WinInfo Web site is. This fact casts both good and bad reflections on people in the Mac community who chose to participate. First, they clearly care about their platform and are willing to defend it, which is great, and I salute them for that. Second, most of the feedback was devoid of content, used out-of-date "facts" to back up arguments, or resorted to expletive-laden name-calling in lieu of facts. None of these things help the Mac cause, but they do harm the Mac community's credibility when it touts the Mac platform as superior. If people want to intelligently refute my article with facts, I'm listening, and I think I surprised several people this week by responding in point-by-point fashion through email as to why their beliefs are off base. In the end, we all love technology, and a middle ground does exist. But too often, people who feel strongly about a cause let emotions get in the way of facts. And no group feels more strongly about its cause than Mac advocates.
Microsoft Tests Longhorn Technology Names
From WinBeta.org: This week, Microsoft reportedly gave Longhorn developers an opportunity to vote for some possible names for technology platforms in the next Windows version. The names include
- Avalon (low-level graphics engine)
Windows Presentation Subsystem/Services
Windows Graphics Subsystem/Services
Windows User eXperience Subsystem/Services
- Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML--declarative programming)
Windows Markup Language
Windows Declarative Language
Windows Design Language
- WinFS (storage engine)
Windows Storage Subsystem/Services/Management Services
Windows Data Subsystem/Services/Management Services
Windows Information Subsystem/Services/Management Services
Windows File System
- Indigo (Web services infrastructure)
Windows Communication Subsystem/Services
Windows Network Subsystem/Services
- ClickOnce (software deployment)
Windows Deployment Subsystem/Services
Windows Distribution Subsystem/Services
Microsoft Bows to Courts, Will Modify Windows XP Music Links
Under pressure from the US Department of Justice (DOJ), Microsoft agreed this week to alter the behavior of one "Shop for Music Online" hyperlink in XP that launches Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) even when users have selected another browser as their default. The DOJ complained that this link violated Microsoft's antitrust settlement, in which the company said it would respect the rights of users to choose other browsers over IE. "While we differed in our interpretation of the consent decree, we are pleased that the changes we'll be making also address the government concerns about this feature," a Microsoft representative said. Why Microsoft even argued against this complaint is a mystery to me. Clearly the link violates the agreement.
Microsoft Wins Big Ruling in Sun Antitrust Case
The US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit handed Sun Microsystems a stunning legal defeat in its antitrust battle against Microsoft when the court ruled that it won't accept the facts argued in the federal government's antitrust case against Microsoft. The decision means that Sun will have to reargue the facts themselves, a tactic that could prove both costly and time-consuming. But the appeals court didn't dismiss the case or any key findings, as Microsoft had hoped. So when will this epic battle be played out? Don't hold your breath. The case is set to go to trial in January 2006.
Munich Linux Rollout Hits a Snag
First Massachusetts and now Munich? Germany's "Computerwoche" is reporting that Munich's move to 14,000 Linux desktops is in trouble because of budgetary concerns and "technical issues," making the publication wonder whether the city will ever be able to complete its migration to the open-source phenomenon. Hey, no one ever said migrating to Linux was going to be easy.
Intel and Microsoft Improve 32-Bit Software Performance on Itanium
This week, Intel and Microsoft released an updated version of the software that lets Itanium processors run 32-bit Windows code, improving both the stability and performance of 32-bit Windows applications. The IA-32 Execution Layer (EL) will ship as part of the 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP1), due in late 2004, but the EL is available now for download . According to the companies, the EL improves 32-bit application performance so that applications run at 50 to 60 percent of the speed of native 64-bit applications, and Intel hopes to see this figure reach 70 percent.
Strong Earnings at IBM, Intel, Sun Hint at Tech Recovery
IBM, Intel, and Sun posted robust earnings in the most recent quarter, leading some analysts to again ponder whether the tech industry is slowly pulling out of its slump. Intel reported record earnings of $2.17 billion on sales of $8.74 billion, more than doubling its take from the same quarter a year ago. IBM earned $2.7 billion on revenues of $25.9 billion. And although Sun continued to lose money, its loss was far less than expected: The company reported a $125 million loss on sales of $2.89 billion, far better than its $2.28 billion loss a year ago.
HP Passes Dell in Fourth Quarter, but Dell Is Number One for 2003
Meanwhile, computing giants Dell and HP continue to circle each other like predators in a "Jurassic Park" movie, with HP surpassing Dell in fourth-quarter PC shipments to retake the sales crown and the number-one position. However, Dell retained the title for 2003, selling more PCs for the year than its close rival. HP shipped 7.52 million PCs in the final quarter of 2003, compared with Dell's 7.24 million systems. But Dell sold 25.8 million PCs worldwide in 2003, compared with HP's 25 million PCs. Gartner says that PC makers sold 168.9 million PCs worldwide in 2003 (IDC places the figure at 152.6 million). In the United States, PC makers sold 44.6 million PCs, a jump of almost 16 percent, according to IDC, with the top-five PC makers (HP, Dell, IBM, Fujitsu, and Toshiba) experiencing gains of 15 to 23 percent.
Apple's Music Technology Comes on Strong as Mac Market Share Falls
In another hopeful sign, Apple exceeded expectations for the quarter ending December 31, posting a $63 million profit on revenues of $1.9 billion (compared with a net loss of $8 million in the same quarter a year ago). Apple sold 733,000 iPods in the quarter, which is great news, but IDC cautioned that Apple's domestic market share of the PC market has fallen from 3.5 percent to 3.2 percent, whereas its worldwide market share slid to 1.88 percent, largely because of iMac and PowerMac G5 slow sales (the company sold only 829,000 computers in the quarter). The PowerMac sales are particularly disappointing, given that product's lavish launch and "fastest personal computer on earth" marketing campaign, but I've always felt that the G5 was far too expensive. Product-quality problems also plagued Apple during the quarter, including problems with iPod replacement batteries, PowerBook G4 displays, and iBook motherboards, all of which negatively impacted the financials because of larger-than-expected warranty-replacement costs.
Mozilla Foundation Ships Mozilla 1.6
Last night, the Mozilla Foundation shipped the most recent version of its open-source Web browser suite, Mozilla 1.6, which includes support for Windows NT LAN Manager (NTLM) authentication on Linux and Mac OS X, various improvements to the mail and news module, security fixes, and a host of other new features. For more details about Mozilla 1.6 and the free download, visit the Mozilla Foundation Web site.
We're taking Monday off for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday in the United States, but we'll be back on Tuesday. Enjoy the long weekend!