WinInfo Short Takes: Week of March 24, 2008

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including a possible XP SP3 release date, a pathetic Yahoo! revenue prediction, PlayStation 3 becomes a better Blu-Ray player, Microsoft buys anti-rootkit technology , Firefox 3 Beta 4, and more...

WinInfo Blog

It's Spring at last (here in the US anyway), though you'd never know it from the sub-arctic temperatures that continue to dog New England. Where's that global warming that Al Gore promised?

Leo and I recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast Thursday at a new earlier time, so I'd expect it to be online soon if it isn't already. We'll be back next week too--you know, in keeping with the "weekly" part of the name of the show--but might miss a few weeks after that while Leo is in Australia.

Short Takes

Dubious Report: Windows XP SP3 to Ship As Early As Next Week
Reporters look back fondly on such predecessors as Woodward and Bernstein and their decades-long protected source "Deep Throat," citing them as models of behavior to be admired. But my, how the mighty have fallen. In today's Internet-based world, the Fourth Estate is more like an embarrassingly unkempt outhouse where no story is too shoddy not to publish, even if the unnamed sources are, in this case, not even identifiable people to the reporter in question. Case in point: CRN published a story this week stating that, "according to at least one source," Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) would ship Monday, March 24. And you know, that could very well happen: As anyone who's used recent pre-release and release candidate (RC) builds will tell you, XP SP3 is in great shape. But it's CRN's source that I take offense with. First of all, it's not "at least one source," it's exactly one source. And that source is, I swear, "the file description notes" of a pirated file found using "BitTorrent search engine Mininova." In the notes for this file, it's claimed that "Microsoft will release the final version of XP SP3 on March 24." So who wrote these notes? It's a software pirate who also wrote such witticisms as "I was there when the black hawks came and wiped out the villages-(serial in the NFO) Dirka Dirka!!" in the same notes. There's also a cute ASCII art version of a burning heart. It's worth noting, too, that this "source" isn't even positive that this is the final build: The source adds a cautionary note at the end of the same file description note: "If \[this build\] does indeed be the final rtm build \[sic\], then you are set with this image." So there you go. Straight from the source. Or at least one of them.

Microsoft Search Continues to Tank
Microsoft's online search efforts continue to falter at the hands of market leader Google, which abused Microsoft with a 6-to-1 lead in search queries in February. Even Yahoo! is outperforming Microsoft, in that case by over a 2-to-1 margin. More telling, perhaps: Search queries on Microsoft's online search engine actually declined month over month. So what's a poor software giant to do? I guess purchasing Yahoo! is one option, and certainly that would cut Google's search query lead, using the February numbers, from a 6-to-1 advantage to a more manageable 2-to-1 lead. Still, one gets the feeling Google is only going up while Microsoft and Yahoo! decline. Well, it's not so much a feeling as it is a fact. Perceptions can really hurt, especially when they're true.

Yahoo: We're Worth More. No, Really. Seriously
No one was asking, but Yahoo! took it upon themselves to offer a financial outlook for the next three years, apparently in a bid to prove that Microsoft's $44.6 billion offer for the company is too low, as they've claimed. The way they formulate this argument is particularly humorous, however. For the rest of 2008, Yahoo! says that it will experience just modest growth, in line with what analysts have predicted. For 2009 and 2010, Yahoo! says that it will magically experience a 70 percent boost in revenues, well above even the rosiest of analyst expectations. And what will drive this growth, you ask, you budding financial genius, you? Well, that's more information than Yahoo! is prepared to provide. You just gotta believe, son. And I do. Yes, I really do. I believe that we've just been fed a bunch of horse pucky. I believe that Yahoo! is finally coming to terms with the inevitable. And I believe that this week's dog and pony show is simply a last ditch effort to wring every possible penny they can out of Microsoft. I most certainly don't begrudge them that opportunity. But it's let's just see this for what it is, shall we?

PS3 Turns Into First-Class Blu-Ray Player
One of the advantages of the Blu-Ray next-generation DVD platform, such as it is, is that the format's creators, mostly Sony, have pledged o update the format over time with new features. And sure enough, over the past year, Sony has added a number of features to Blu-Ray to make the platform more viable. The next major revision to Blu-Ray is something called BD-Live (sometimes called Blu-Ray Disc Profile 2.0), which will allow compatible Blu-Ray to download content via the Internet. Unlike most previous Blu-Ray updates, however, this one will require all new players, as the feature relies on a hardware part (an Ethernet port) that most current Blu-Ray players do not have. Most, that is, aside from Sony's PlayStation 3 (PS3) video game console, which does, in fact, already come with an Ethernet port. And just like that, the lowly PS3 has proven itself to be, perhaps, the ultimate Blu-Ray player. Not only has it been given all of the previous Blu-Ray updates, but now the PS3 will be the first Blu-Ray player updated to support BD-Live. Additionally, this update, which will ship later this month, will provide integration updates for the PlayStation Portable (PSP), allowing owners of both devices to swap digital media content between the two and use the PSP as a PS3 remote control. This, as we say, is "synergy." But it's also just pretty freaking cool. And yet another reason why owning a PS3 isn't such a bad investment after all.

Microsoft Buys Security Company
Microsoft this week announced that it would purchase a security company called Komoku, which is most famous for developing rootkit protection products. For the uninitiated, rootkits are hacker tools that malicious users use to gain access to and control other users' PCs. Thus a rootkit detection product maker might be seen as a decent investment, given the fact that Windows is hacked far more than any other platform. Microsoft says it will add Komoku's technology to its ForeFront and OneCare security products, which are aimed at the enterprise and consumer markets, respectively. Interestingly, Komoku's client list is pretty prestigious: they count the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) among those which have purchased its products.

Mozilla: Even in Pre-Release Form, Firefox 3 is Ready for Primetime
Mozilla recently shipped a Beta 4 version of its upcoming Firefox 3 Web browser, and the company plans a fifth beta sometime in the weeks ahead. But even in this pre-release form, the browser is ready for primetime, Mozilla says. And for the first time since the Firefox 3 betas began appearing, the company feels that it's ready even for regular users. (Previous betas were aimed only at developers.) Up for Beta 5 is some tweaking of the UI, which is admittedly horrible, and some stability tweaks. But it looks like Firefox 3 is heading into the home stretch. UI issues aside, I've found Beta 4 to be quite an improvement over Firefox 2 and certainly better than Microsoft's IE 7. Check it out.

A Better Question: Are Apple's Switcher Ads Libelous?
This week, CNET's Ina Fried asks whether Apple's "Switcher" ads are responsible for Microsoft's drop in brand ranking, according to CoreBrand, from number 11 in 2004 to number 59 in 2007. No offense intended, but I think this is a silly question because Microsoft has done enough to shoot itself in the foot during this time frame to warrant the drop. (I'll cite, off the top of my head, the innumerable Vista delays, Zune, and the Xbox 360 reliability problems as three obvious examples.) But let's turn our attention to those Switcher ads, shall we? Because I think there's a bigger issue there than Apple purportedly pointing out flaws in Windows and smarmily offering competitive advertising. No, I think the bigger issue with Apple's Switcher ads is that many of them are outright lies. Apple, for example, takes Microsoft's Vista to task for its User Account Control (UAC) security prompts, but this is a feature Apple's Mac OS X had years earlier (and it's just as annoying there, go figure). And don't get me started on the bogus "Leopard is faster than Vista" claims. I could go on and on, but I'm curious why Apple's advertising hasn't gotten more attention along these lines. Yes, they're cute and all, but I think the ads could be effective without stretching the truth. As they so often do.

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