WinInfo Short Takes: Week of March 27

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including details on the latest Windows Vista timeline, a Microsoft handheld video game in the offing, France vs. iTunes, Google's financial market push, Firefox 2 alpha, and much, much more...

WinInfo Blog

I probably discuss the weather too much, but I'm from New England, and here one always opens a conversation by discussing the weather. After a curiously snow-less winter, we've settled into colder-than-normal temperatures as spring dawns. But could it be? A winter with only one major snowstorm? Generally, the Boston area gets whacked by one late March blizzard every year, but it looks like we're really going to escape unscathed this year. Maybe global warming has a bright side.

If all goes well, I'll be in Paris by the time you read this. I know that sounds kind of snotty, but let's put it in perspective: We bought the tickets ages ago for next to nothing as part of an Air France special promotion. And flying from Boston to Paris is only about an hour longer than the Boston-to-Seattle flight that I take regularly. I catch a lot of smack from friends and family about these trips, but they're surprisingly economical. Plus, we're not bringing the kids--it's just a long weekend trip--so there's a whole level of responsibility we don't need to deal with.

I recognize that WinInfo isn't exactly the place for me to hold an online yard sale; however, I did want to alert readers that I'm selling off a bunch of my electronics in the next few months on my blog, Internet Nexus ( The only reason I mention this here is that next week or the week after I'll begin selling my collectable Windows versions, which some WinInfo readers might be interested in. I have original boxed copies of Windows 286, Windows 386, Windows NT 3.1 (the first version), Windows NT Advanced Server 3.1, and many similar products. The next batch will likely hit the Web in the middle of next week.

Short Takes

Here's the Latest Windows Vista Timeline

It's been a big week for Windows Vista news, and most of it has been bad. But for those who are looking for a little more clarity than what Microsoft has provided, I've got the details about the latest Vista release timeline. Think of it this way: Everything's been pushed back six to eight weeks. So the Beta 2, release candidate 0 (RC0), and next Community Technology Preview (CTP) release have been moved to May 24. The RC1 release, originally due in mid-July, is now set for August 25. And the release to manufacturing (RTM) DATE, originally August 25, is now October 25. One other little tidbit: I wrote last week that Microsoft would soon ship an interim Vista build (5342) to testers and Technology Adoption Program (TAP) members. That build will ship today or early next week.

Some Thoughts On the Windows Division Shake-Up

So Microsoft is finally shaking up the Windows Division and putting Office guru Steven Sinofsky in charge. Great. My advice to Sinofsky is simple: Shake the entire tree and get rid of the deadwood. Re-examine everyone involved with Windows, from current employees all the way down to beta testers and Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs), and ensure that all these people are valuable and productive and provide honest and timely feedback. This is the time to make the Windows division a lean, mean fighting machine that can rise to the challenges imposed by Apple's Mac OS X and Linux. History provides plenty of examples of what happens to former market leaders that get fat and lazy. Sadly, the Windows Division is one of them.

Microsoft Allegedly Working on Handheld Video Game

According to a report in the "San Jose Mercury News," Microsoft is developing a handheld video game that will compete with the Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) and Nintendo DS. The new machine, which will almost certainly be branded as an Xbox device, will also play music and videos, thus competing with Apple's iconoclastic iPod as well. I've always wondered why Microsoft didn't make a portable Xbox. It should be compatible with the original Xbox, but resemble an Xbox hand controller with a thin, circular DVD drive stuck on the back and a small screen mounted on the top. I'd buy one. Halo 2 on a plane, anyone?

Transmeta Working on Secret Microsoft Project

And speaking of Microsoft projects, Todd Bishop of the "Seattle Post-Intelligencer" reports that Microsoft is working with chipmaker Transmeta on a mysterious hardware project. There are few details about the project, but one must wonder whether it has anything to do with the aforementioned portable video game unit. This much is clear: If Microsoft evangelist Robert Scoble talks this one up, we'll all know it's not a big deal. Between Windows Vista and the sad little Ultra-Mobile PC, that guy's been the kiss of death lately.

France Introduces Copyright Tech Circumvention Law

This week, the French parliament proposed legislation that would require all legally downloadable music to be interoperable with MP3 players, PCs, and other devices. That decision has Apple Computer up in arms, however, because the company has latched onto a brilliant strategy that ties its dominant iPod music player to its dominant iTunes Music Store. That strategy could come undone in France because the new law would require Apple to let its customers load iTunes music onto non-iPod players and make its iPod play back music from Microsoft-oriented music stores. Faced with the legal requirement of competing, Apple will likely bail from the French market. On Wednesday, Apple referred to the proposed law as "state sponsored piracy" in a statement. "If this happens, legal music sales will plummet just when legitimate alternatives to piracy are winning over customers," the statement reads. "iPod sales will likely increase as users freely load their iPods with 'interoperable' music which cannot be adequately protected. Free movies for iPods should not be far behind in what will rapidly become a state-sponsored culture of piracy."

Google Enters Financial News and Data Market

This week, Google introduced yet another Web-based service, this one a financial news and data service that will compete with similar offerings from Yahoo! and Microsoft. Google Finance, as the service is imaginatively called, provides stock quotes and interactive charts, company news, corporate data, and other information you might expect. But Google says the service will differentiate itself from other offerings by using the company's secret information culling technologies. Certainly, Google is saving money in its typical way as well: Rather than hire experts to write editorial columns, the service simply links to articles from other services. As someone who actually creates content, I find this practice vaguely discomforting.

Mozilla Issues Firefox 2 Alpha

Mozilla has released the first alpha version of Firefox 2.0, dubbed Bon Echo during development. Firefox 2.0 Alpha 1 is aimed only at Web developers and testers, as you might expect, but it provides an interesting glimpse at the features Mozilla intends to add to the next major revision of its Web browser. The alpha version includes a new implementation of tabbed browsing, a new data storage layer for bookmarks and history, a new search plug-in format, and updates to the extension system and security features. Like Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7, Firefox 2 will combine bookmarks (Favorites in IE parlance), Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed subscriptions, and Web browser history in a single UI, dubbed Places in the Firefox version (IE 7 calls it Favorites Center). If you're interested in Firefox 2 Alpha 1, you can download the fledgling browser from the Mozilla Web site:

Dell Buys Alienware

It looks like the rumors are true. Dell this week announced that it would purchase Alienware, a PC maker that specializes in high-end machines targeted at gamers. Dell has pursued this market with some tenacity in recent years, and apparently the success of its high-end XPS line of PCs led to it looking for a suitable acquisition. Dell says that Alienware will be a separate subsidiary and, tellingly, will continue to offer AMD microprocessors; Dell is strictly an Intel shop. Maybe this acquisition will get Dell to make the switch as well.

Microsoft Probes New IE Bug

No huge surprise here, but Microsoft this week announced that it was investigating a serious new flaw in IE. I know, I know. You're thinking I just cut and paste these blurbs in here because they happen so often, and you know, it would make me more productive, but honestly, I'm not organized enough to do that. In any event, the new flaw could allow hackers to remotely control Windows PCs, and it affects IE 6 running on Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, and Windows 98. The hacker who discovered the flaw will publish a proof of concept after Microsoft fixes the flaw. If I understand the schedule, that could be any time between this April and 2008.

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