An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news...
Longhorn Aero UI Won't Debut Until PDC 2005
Although attendees of the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) 2005 in April will be the lucky recipients of the first public Longhorn build in the 5xxx series, we'll have to wait until this fall before we see the debut of Longhorn's futuristic Aero UI. In an otherwise innocuous blog posting this week, Longhorn evangelist Robert Scoble suggested that the software giant will include Aero, along with a few other surprises, in the prerelease Longhorn build that the company will hand out at the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in September. It must have been a long year for Scoble. Microsoft last shipped a public prerelease Longhorn build almost a year ago and has been quietly retuning the product while it concentrated on such things as Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) and Windows Server 2003 SP1. With those products completed--Windows 2003 SP1 will be finalized within 10 days--the company is finally starting to take on Longhorn full force. It's time to take Scoble out of hibernation.
EU: Microsoft Isn't Complying with Antitrust Order
The European Union's (EU's) regulatory arm, the European Commission, announced last night that Microsoft isn't complying with its order to open up technical information about Microsoft's server products to competitors. "We have ... some strong doubts," a Commission spokesperson said. "The ball is now in \[Microsoft's\] court." The Commission's opinion of Microsoft's compliance came after the Free Software Foundation (FSF) complained that Microsoft's technology licensing terms make it impossible for open-source software (OSS) makers to compete. Microsoft had planned to charge licensees as much as $600 per server for its server protocols. That cost, the Commission says, is much too high and doesn't comply with the spirit of the order. Microsoft representatives pledged to continue working with the Commission to resolve the matter. That's a wise decision: The Commission can fine Microsoft as much as 5 percent of its average daily sales--every day--until the company complies.
EU: Microsoft Ruling by Mid-2006
Speaking of the EU, the judge in charge of Microsoft's antitrust case said this week that he expects the case to wind down by mid-2006. Judge Hubert Legal (seriously, that's his name) said, "I envisage a hearing will take place between October and November. I have high hopes that a ruling will be given toward the middle of next year." That schedule is as approximate as Microsoft's product shipment plans and could change. I can't imagine anything that would delay legal proceedings, however. Ahem.
If Windows XP Gets WinFS, Does That Mean It Will Be Just as Good as Longhorn?
Back to Longhorn. The analysts are fretting about rumors that WinFS will be back-ported to XP, wondering whether the move will further dilute Longhorn. That's silly. What the analysts don't get, in this case, is that the "three pillars of Longhorn," as announced at PDC 2003 a year and a half ago, also include Avalon and Indigo (and, tangentially, WinFX) and describe just the developer-oriented foundation of Microsoft's next-generation OS. End users won't deal with these features directly. Moving them to Windows 2003 or XP simply means that developers will be more apt to adopt the technologies quickly because the potential market size will be so much larger than it would be if they were Longhorn-only technologies. For end users, the unique new features in Longhorn--including Fast Search, the Aero UI, and more pervasive end-to-end digital media solutions--will never be back-ported to XP. These features, and many others like them, will not only differentiate Longhorn but will also make it a viable, exciting, and desirable major upgrade for all Windows users. To find out more about some of the features Microsoft is planning for Longhorn, be sure to check out my "Road to Windows Longhorn 2005" showcase on the SuperSite for Windows. You don't buy milk from the butcher, so don't try to get accurate information about upcoming Microsoft products from analysts.
Motorola Lashes Out at Apple Over iTunes Phone
Apple Computer's only iTunes partner is pretty upset with the company this week because of Apple's inability to launch new products. Motorola was supposed to show off a new cell phone at the CeBIT 2005 trade show this week; the new phone features a mobile version of iTunes that lets you use the device to purchase and listen to music from Apple's popular online store. There's just one problem: The device was never shown at the show, which resulted in numerous questions. And Apple fans aren't going to like Motorola's answers. Apple, Motorola says, is the reason behind the delays. Motorola President Ron Garrigues said that the two companies have different philosophies about how to announce and deliver products. "Apple CEO Steve \[Jobs'\] perspective is that you launch a product on Sunday and sell it on Monday," he said. Basically, Apple prevented Motorola from showing the phone until Motorola is ready to ship it. The comments end rumors that service carriers were behind the delay. They also show that Apple has no sense of irony; the company often announces products, promises to release them on a certain date, then misses that date by several weeks, or, in the case of the iPod Mini, by several months. And you thought having Microsoft dominate a market was tough.
Heads Up, Guys: The Office Team Is On to You
In a bit of manufactured news, the Microsoft Office team has released statistics that show that traditional office workers around the world waste 2 days out of every 5-day workweek. The statistics come from a survey of 40,000 people in 200 countries. Here are some stats: Workers average 45 hours of work per week, although 17 of those hours are considered unproductive time. In the United States, survey takers cited procrastination as the biggest time waster, followed by lack of team communication, ineffective meetings, and email. Microsoft didn't perform this study out of the goodness of its heart. The company would like to sell you Microsoft Office software, which it thinks will make you more productive. I have to be honest: Whether through familiarity or better design--I honestly don't know--I'm more productive with Office than I am with rival suites such as OpenOffice.org or Corel's WordPerfect. But these things are hard to measure and quantify. And I'm pretty sure that someone who grew up with WordPerfect could make a compelling case for using that product instead of Office. What does this all mean? I don't know, but I do like surveys.
Microsoft Delays Windows XP Starter Edition for India Until June
Microsoft has delayed the India release of XP Starter Edition from first quarter 2005 to mid-2005, citing problems in adapting the product for local users. "We are still working on providing Indian language capability," a Microsoft executive in India said this week. "You can't underestimate the huge development work involved." News of the delay came amidst a bit of bad news for XP Starter Edition, which is allegedly off to a bad start. The product started shipping in Thailand in October 2004 and in Malaysia and Indonesia in February 2005 but hasn't received the widespread support from systems makers that Microsoft expected. That's a problem because XP Starter Edition, like XP Tablet PC Edition and XP Media Center Edition (XP MCE), is sold only with new PCs. The bigger problem in these markets is piracy: You can get an illicit copy of XP Professional Edition for as little as $5 in these places. Linux is attractive in emerging markets as well. Emerging markets are so cute.
Linspire Goes Five-Oh
The OS formerly known as Lindows has turned 5. This week, Linspire announced the release of a new Linux distribution that's designed for typical users. Linspire Five-0, as the company annoyingly calls the release, allegedly includes more than 1200 improvements, which means we can also credit the company for trying to out-hyperbole Apple. I grabbed a copy of Linspire Five-0 and have been unsuccessful, thus far, installing it on a virtual machine, but I'll take another look at it this weekend.
Yahoo! Opens Up to Firefox
Internet services giant Yahoo! will henceforth support the open-source Web browser Mozilla Firefox 100 percent in all its products and services, a dramatic move that provides further credibility to the Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) challenger. Going forward, Yahoo! won't ship any new products or services that don't work equally well on Firefox and IE, the company said this week. "Due to the explosive popularity of the Firefox browser, it has now been added to our suite of browsers to test our products against," a Yahoo! representative said. "All new products that Yahoo! develops will be tested against Firefox." And, although the company couldn't deliver a timetable, all its existing products and services will be made Firefox-compatible as well. If you're still looking for Firefox momentum, folks, this is it.