An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news...
Microsoft Wins $4 Million Judgment in Spammer Case
A federal judge in California awarded Microsoft $4 million in a case against a spammer. The spammer was found to have illegally sent a massive number of junk email messages to Microsoft's MSN and MSN Hotmail customers, deceiving email users into downloading a malicious Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) toolbar. Judge Manuel Real of the US Central District Court of California ruled that the spammer violated several federal laws and, in addition to paying the fine, would have to refrain from ever emailing people at various Microsoft-owned domains. Presumably, Microsoft will be passing along the $4 million payment to the Hotmail users who suffered at the hands of this spammer. Ahem.
Xbox Live Hits 1-Million-Subscriber Mark
This week, Microsoft announced that its Xbox Live online video game service had reached the 1-million-subscriber mark, a major milestone that establishes the Xbox as the premier video game system for online play. Microsoft first launched the service in late 2002, or about one year after it first shipped the Xbox, the first video game system to be designed from the start for broadband-based online play, thanks to its integrated Ethernet port. And with mega-game-maker Electronic Arts (EA) now signed on to ship Xbox Live games this year, things should continue to look up for the service going forward. Maybe being number two--the Xbox significantly trails market leader Sony PlayStation overall--isn't so bad after all.
Microsoft Opens Enterprise Messaging to AOL, Yahoo!
In an unexpected announcement, Microsoft revealed this week that it's opening up its corporate-oriented Live Communications Server instant messaging (IM) server product to IM competitors Yahoo! and AOL. The three companies will work together to ensure that their products all interoperate in businesses, but, in a bit of bad news, the companies revealed that they're still a long way away from making AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), Yahoo! Messenger, and MSN/Windows Messenger interoperate for consumers. Guys, seriously, we've been asking for this functionality for half a decade.
Microsoft Acquires Email Search Program
Microsoft announced this week that its MSN subsidiary is purchasing Lookout Software, which makes a highly regarded email search tool for Microsoft Outlook 2003 (in a bit of irony, Outlook detractors have often referred to Outlook as Microsoft LookOut). It's unclear how MSN will leverage the Lookout technology (MSN isn't responsible for Outlook), but I expect to see the technology integrated into future versions of the MSN email client and, possibly, MSN Hotmail. However, Microsoft has announced that the Lookout Software team will be working with the MSN Search folks, which also makes me wonder if this deal is about more than just searching email.
Fiat, Microsoft Sign Wireless Deal
Italian car maker Fiat has signed a deal with Microsoft to create a flexible telematics system for Fiat and its Lancia and Alfa Romeo brands in Europe. This system will compete with General Motors' (GM's) successful OnStar system, which provides subscribers with roadside assistance, stolen vehicle recovery, and other similar services. Though the financials are still a secret, this deal is the biggest ever for Microsoft's Windows Automotive unit and unique because it's the first time a company has agreed to use Microsoft automotive technology across all its brands and product lines.
Microsoft Finally Updates Reader for Windows Mobile 2003 SE
I've been testing an excellent Dell Axim X30 for a while now, and this new Pocket PC features the most recent version of Microsoft's handheld OS, Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition. One of the neat features of Windows Mobile 2003 SE is a landscape display mode that lets you rotate the Pocket PC's display 90 degrees to give you a sort of widescreen mode. Unfortunately, applications that support the new mode have been rare. Even Microsoft Reader, one of my most often used applications, inexplicably didn't support SE's new landscape display mode. Well, this week, Microsoft finally released an update to Microsoft Reader, version 2.3, that features screen rotation support and adds another cool feature: pan and zoom. You can download it from the Microsoft Web site.
MSN Hotmail Begins Scanning All Email for Viruses
Unaccompanied by a lot of fanfare, MSN Hotmail recently began using a McAfee antivirus solution to scan all incoming and outgoing email for viruses. This means that Hotmail-generated and -received email will be a lot less dangerous than it used to be, which is good news. Emails found to be delivering malware will be cleaned, Microsoft says. The previously announced Hotmail storage upgrade to 1GB is still pending, however.
Gates: DVDs, Media Will Be Made Obsolete by Electronic Delivery
In a bit of obvious forecasting, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates this week declared that DVDs and other legacy media distribution systems would soon be rendered obsolete by digital delivery via networks. "DVDs will obsolete in 10 years at the latest. If you consider that nowadays we have to carry around film and music on little silver discs and stick them in the computer, it's ridiculous. These things can scratch or simply get lost." Gates also offered up his thoughts on TV in the future. "TV . . . will simply show what we want to see, when we want to see it," he said. "When we get home, the home computer will know who we are from our voice or our face. It will know what we want to watch, our favorite programs, or what the kids shouldn't be allowed to see."
PC Sales Continue Strong Growth
Strong PC sales in the second quarter are causing researchers at IDC and Gartner to forecast a strong 2004, with growth hitting double digits. Major PC makers shipped 42.8 million PCs in the second quarter, a 13.3 percent gain over the same quarter last year. Dell retained its number one spot for the quarter, followed by HP, IBM, Fujitsu, and Acer.