WinInfo Short Takes: Week of June 19

Short Takes, an irreverent look at this week in computing...
NO OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT has been made yet, but Microsoft has finally completed the long-awaited Service Pack 2 (SP2) release for Systems Management Server. I've heard that the public release is expected this week.

THIS IS THE high-tech version of hiring Johnny Cochran from O.J. Simpson's "dream team," I guess: The DOJ's attorney that battled Microsoft in court has joined the legal team of Napster, now being sued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for copyright infringement and other violations. Napster, which makes a software program that allows people to easily pirate MP3 music files over the Internet, hired David Boies in a bid to bolster it's legal case; Boies won the DOJ a slam-dunk victory over Microsoft in its antitrust case.

SPEAKING OF THE Microsoft antitrust case--and we must be, since this is WinInfo--many people have asked why I've covered this case so extensively in the newsletter. And while I believe I'm sicker of this topic than just about anybody, I should at least explain: The Microsoft antitrust case is probably the single most important news story that has have occurred in the PC industry and it would be a mistake of epic proportions to downplay or ignore it. Sometimes--like recently--the news heats up and there's a lot going on. But often, it calms down and there isn't much to say. Hold on, because the hope is that we're entering a less dizzying time.

AND SPEAKING OF the Microsoft antitrust case (ahem), the software giant may talk tough but it's somewhat telling that several company executives have been offloading their stock in the company. For example, COO Bob Herbold sold $12 million worth of Microsoft stock on the day the final ruling was released. Mega-billionaire Paul Allen, who co-founded the company with Bill Gates, dumped even more than that: He sold $138 million in Microsoft stock the day before the ruling. Microsoft describes these sales as "prudent portfolio divestiture." Funny, isn't that the same word they use to describe the breakup?

AND SPEAKING OF Bill Gates (sorry), the world's richest man is still the world's richest man, but now it's only by the gruff of his chinny-chin-chin. Gates lost $40 billion on paper this year, but he's still number one with a paltry $60 billion. Flamboyant Oracle front-man Larry Ellison chimes in at number two with $47 billion, while Paul Allen (see above) is number three.

THE LAST TIME IBM rallied around an operating system like this, it became OS/2. The software giant announced that it was stepping up its support of Linux to include bundling the Open Source software on some of its Thinkpad portable computers. The Linux troops cheered the news, but one must wonder about IBM and its chances of not repeating the mistakes of the past. The company once chose OS/2 over Windows, and now that once-proud OS is a sad joke. Let's hope IBM isn't big enough to have the same effect on Linux too.

HEY, IF THIS software thing falls apart, he has something to fall back on: Thanks to a Japanese university, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates now has an honorary degree. Gates, who is possibly the most famous college dropout of all time, briefly attended Harvard University before starting Microsoft with Paul Allen. (Is it me, or does this issue of Short Takes sound suspiciously like the Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon?)

NOW THAT THE DOJ has slapped down Microsoft, it can turn its attention to other allegedly anti-competitive companies, like the MasterCard/Visa duopoly. The government is suing MasterCard and Visa for colluding to keep rivals such as American Express and Discover out of the lucrative credit card market, stifling innovation, and harming consumers. But the companies say that they've hurt now and have, in fact, added innovative features and services that benefit its users. Sound familiar? I guess the Microsoft trial was so successful that they're using it as a blueprint for similar trials going forward. I wonder if the judge in this trial hates MasterCard/Visa vehemently as well.

THIS IS HUMILIATING: I headed up to the wilds of northern New Hampshire for a long weekend with family and friends last Thursday and promptly discovered that I had no cell phone or Internet access, the latter causing me to miss an issue of WinInfo for the first time this year. After three frustrating hours of messing with long distance/calling card settings in Dial-Up Networking, I finally gave up. But the really bad news (modem-wise) is that I'm going to Maine this week. They have phone lines in Maine, right

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