WinInfo Short Takes: Week of June 21

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

Why All the Questions About a Microsoft Antivirus Solution?
   Articles have appeared in various publications this week asking whether Microsoft is planning to create a subscription-based antivirus service and even predicting that the company will do so. These speculations are actually public information; I first wrote about them in mid-2003. In fact, in July 2003, I wrote an editorial about why this plan was a bad idea and said that a free antivirus program should be bundled with Windows as one of many advantages of using the platform. So why is this even a question again?

Report: Windows Server to Own 60 Percent of Market Share by 2008
   IDC issued a report this week predicting that Windows Server will snare 60 percent of the server market by 2008, compared with just 29 percent for Linux servers. "There continues to be very strong growth in the x86 industry standard server market, particularly for Windows- and Linux-based solutions," IDC Research Director Mark Melenovsky said. "Growth has been strong for everything from standalone systems in small offices to several-hundred-node clusters in enterprise data centers." IDC also predicts that Windows servers will generate $22.7 billion in sales by 2008, compared with $9.7 billion for Linux servers. But the big-money winners, despite owning only about 10 percent of the market, will be large enterprise servers based on proprietary Linux. Even though that market is dying, such servers will account for more than 50 percent of all server revenue by 2008. But don't worry; after the switchover to the year 3000 takes place, those servers will also stop working.

Microsoft Must Reveal Information in Oracle/PeopleSoft Case
   A US District Court judge ruled this week that Microsoft must disclose the contents of more than 70 documents that the software giant has sought to keep sealed. The disclosure will come during the trial over Oracle's attempted takeover of PeopleSoft, which the US Department of Justice (DOJ) is fighting. Microsoft executives will testify for both the DOJ and Oracle during the trial, which is turning into an interesting case, albeit one with a slightly lower profile than Microsoft's epic US antitrust case. The motion to unseal the documents came after several media outlets petitioned the judge to see the document contents.

USPTO Agrees to Reassess Microsoft's FAT Patent
   The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently agreed to reexamine Microsoft's controversial FAT patent, which covers an aging version of the technology behind the Windows file system. The reexamination is courtesy of a petition from the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), which feared that Microsoft could use the patent to hobble Linux because Linux uses a free Windows operability tool called Samba, which needs access to FAT to read and write files to Windows systems. PUBPAT believes that Microsoft can use wrongly issued patents to harm the public by "making things more expensive, if not impossible to afford" and "by restraining civil liberties and individual freedoms." PUBPAT points to a Microsoft description of FAT that it says explains the reexamination: "FAT is the ubiquitous format used for interchange of media between computers, and, since the advent of inexpensive, removable flash memory, also between digital devices."

Urgency About Microsoft Cash Hoard Mounts As July Approaches
   Microsoft's self-imposed July deadline for dealing with its mountainous cash hoard of $56 billion is quickly nearing, and money managers around the country are busy advising the company what it should do with the money. The single most obvious bit of advice is for Microsoft to return the cash to its shareholders, who have watched the company's stock price mysteriously wallow amid a slightly tepid tech boom. The cash return could be in the form of better dividends than the company now offers or through share buybacks, which could dramatically increase the stock price. One thing I wouldn't expect from the company is a massive acquisition. With all the governmental oversight of Microsoft right now, the company probably won't be able to get federal approval for such a purchase.

Hey, Microsoft, Where's the IE Megapatch?
Last week, fervent warnings about four new Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) vulnerabilities made me hopeful that Microsoft would quickly address the problems and release a patch. As this week ends without such a patch, that hope has transformed to my usual sullenness about Microsoft security. The vulnerabilities are particularly problematic because they let malicious Web sites secretly install on your system adware IE toolbars and applications, which can then download other content to your PC. Microsoft, get busy. We need this fix sooner, rather than later, even if it means having to update the patch over time.

Red Hat Earnings Surge on Demand for Linux Products
   Linux distribution maker Red Hat saw its sales surge 53 percent in the most recent quarter as the company brought in net income of $10.7 million on sales of $41.6 million. But the positive earnings were somewhat marred by the sudden and unexpected departure of Red Hat Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Kevin Thompson, who said he's leaving the company to pursue other interests. Red Hat Chairman, CEO, and President Matthew J. Szulik said the company will find a replacement by this fall.

Intel and Proxim Promise WiMAX Hardware in Early 2005
   The high-speed follow-up to Wi-Fi, the 802.11b wireless standard, could debut as soon as early 2005 if Intel and Proxim can deliver on their new plan. According to the companies, they'll work together to ship certified WiMAX (802.16) wireless broadband equipment by early next year. WiMAX breaks down into two categories: 802.16a for fixed wireless broadband and 802.16e for mobile wireless. Compared with today's Wi-Fi products, WiMAX is a significant development, with a range of 25 miles to 30 miles, compared with Wi-Fi's several hundred feet. Also, WiMAX is faster, with an average bandwidth of 70Mbps and peak rates as fast as 268Mbps. I wonder whether the advent of WiMAX means I'll soon be accessing unprotected home wireless networks named "linksys" in the next state instead of just next door.

Norwegian City Drops Windows, Adopts Linux
   Sound familiar? The city of Bergen, Norway, revealed this week that it will replace Windows with Linux on servers used by city databases and schools and, later, on desktop machines as well. Bergen chose Linux because it costs less than Windows, is more reliable, is easier to manage, and doesn't come with a built-in lock-in to one vendor. The news of Bergen's move came in the same week that the city government of Munich, Germany, finalized its plans to move 14,000 desktop systems from Windows to Linux, the biggest Linux migration thus far. But a Bergen move to Linux desktop systems would surpass the Munich migration: More than 32,000 Bergen students and teachers use Windows 2000-based PCs.

Nokia Pumps Mozilla Full of Cash for Cell Phone Browser
   Nokia has infused the Mozilla Foundation with an unknown amount of cash and asked the organization to produce a version of its Web browser that will work on cell phones. The project, currently code-named Mini Mozilla (Minimo), has produced only a lackluster pre-alpha release thus far, and development had somewhat stagnated. But the Nokia infusion should change that situation dramatically and, ultimately, play a big part in changing the Web browser market as more people turn to connected devices such as cell phones to access Web content.

Mozilla Releases a Trio of New Products
   And speaking of the Mozilla Foundation, this week has been a big one for the organization, which issued three major software releases, including Firefox 0.9, its standalone Web browser; Thunderbird 0.7, its standalone email client; and, most recently, Mozilla 1.7, its integrated Web browser suite. All three products are fairly high quality, and although I generally use Firefox and Thunderbird full time, I should report that I've had several problems with Thunderbird 0.7, so proceed with caution. You can download all three releases from the Mozilla Web site.

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