WinInfo Short Takes: Week of March 30

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

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Short Takes

Microsoft Inadvertently (?) Reveals Windows 7 RC Release Date
Microsoft yesterday inadvertently posted a document about the Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC) build, the final pre-release version of the OS. According to the document—which was later taken down by the software giant—the Windows 7 RC will ship sometime in May. This is big news, I guess, but I'm more concerned about the posting of the document. In fact, I'm pretty sure it wasn't posted inadvertently but rather quite purposefully in sort of a passive-aggressive way so that Microsoft could communicate the RC release date without, you know, officially communicating the RC release date. I know, I know—conspiracy theories are fun and all. But this just feels like something the current administration in Redmond would do.

New Microsoft Ad: About Saving Money, Not Being a Loser
A new Microsoft "I'm a PC" ad featuring a laptop-buying woman named "Lauren" has generated some bizarre editorials around the web, with people supposedly misconstruing its message. In the ad, Lauren has a $1000 budget and wants to buy a 17" laptop. At her first stop, the Apple Store, she's shocked to discover that there's only one $1000 laptop and it features just a 13" screen (and is last year's model). "I would have to double my budget, which isn't feasible. I'm just not cool enough to be a Mac person," she says. Clearly, the message is about value and cost. But some people are looking only at the second sentence quoted above and (supposedly) wondering why Microsoft is marketing PCs as devices just for losers, people who clearly aren't cool. Wow. Some days, it just doesn't pay to get up. Let's get back to work, people. Seriously. Oh, and if you haven't seen the TV ad yet, here you go!

Microsoft Considers Issuing First IE 8 Security Patch
During the CanSecWest security conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, this week, hackers were apparently able to break in to Microsoft's just-released IE 8 web browser during a contest called PWN2OWN, leading some to wonder whether the software giant had a PR disaster on their hands. But let's not get too excited. As it turns out, the version of IE 8 that was compromised during PWN2OWN wasn't the version that shipped to the public last week. And Microsoft claims that the final shipping version doesn't include the vulnerability that made that compromise possible. According to the software giant, the PWN2OWN organizers had informed Microsoft about the vulnerability in a responsible manner ahead of time, allowing the company to make the flaw more difficult to exploit in the shipping version of IE 8. That said, Microsoft might still patch IE 8 in the future to cut off the vulnerability for good. If that happens, it will happen during the Microsoft's monthly security release cycle and not via an emergency patch. In other words, nothing to see here.

Sorry, Linux: Windows Dominates the Netbook, Too
For a while there about a year ago, it seemed as if Linux was going to see a small resurgence on the PC client, with netbook makers shipping the open-source OS on their systems to save money. But it's funny what feedback can do: As it turns out, most netbook buyers want Windows, and thanks to cost-saving efforts by Microsoft to supply netbook makers with a low-cost version of Windows XP, that's exactly what they can get. So now, in early 2009, over 90 percent of netbooks ship with Windows—not Linux. But, hey, it could be worse. A whopping 0 percent of netbooks ship with Mac OS X.

Open-Source Companies Try to Edge Microsoft Out of Cloud Computing Future
Speaking of open source, a cabal of companies—including Amazon, Google, IBM, and others—has drafted a secret manifesto called The Cloud Manifesto that calls for cloud computing interoperability. This goal seems logical enough on the surface. But Microsoft caught wind of the document, analyzed it, and saw something far more sinister. "\[While\] large parts of the draft Manifesto are sensible, other parts arguably reflect the authors' biases," Microsoft Senior Director Steven Martin wrote in a blog post, noting that Microsoft was never asked to participate in the creation of this document. "We welcome an open dialogue to define interoperability principles that reflect the diversity of cloud approaches. If there is a truly open, transparent, inclusive dialogue on cloud interoperability and standards principles, we are enthusiastically 'in.'" It's hard to know where to stand on this one. Microsoft, of course, is improving its interoperability at a rapid clip. But it shouldn't be surprising that the open-source world is rallying around cloud computing. I mean, someone has to use Linux.

Windows XP Gets Tighter Anti-Piracy Controls
Microsoft would like customers to move forward to modern Windows versions such as Windows Vista and—soon—Windows 7 for what are probably fairly obvious reasons. But one reason many overlook is piracy: Vista and Windows 7 are far more difficult to pirate than Windows XP is, and that alone might explain why the 8-year-old OS is still so surprisingly popular despite being largely technically outdated. To help combat XP piracy, Microsoft has introduced and then improved a set of anti-piracy controls through its Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) program over the years. And this week, Microsoft turned things up a notch yet again with a new update that affects only XP Pro, the most widely pirated version of Windows ever. "In addition to the usual updates to validation that improve WGA's ability to detect the latest stolen or fake product keys and other attempts to circumvent product activation, this release will also include a couple of other significant updates," Microsoft Senior Product Manager Alex Kochis explains in a blog post. "This update includes the latest validation information, including recently stolen or misused product keys and other information." The neverending arms race continues.

Microsoft Programming Guru Heads to Space Again
Charles Simonyi, a former Microsoft engineer who pioneered a programming style called Hungarian Notation, is in outer space for the second time. This, of course, is the type of perk that's available only to the super rich: Simonyi paid Russia $60 million to fly him into space twice, which sort of makes Southwest's cattle-call process seem a bit more reasonable. What's odd about Simonyi is that although he's famous in the tech industry for his work on such products as Word, Excel, and Multiplan, he's more famous in the wider world for a 15-year relationship with lifestyle guru (and former convict) Martha Stewart.

Tesla Unveils Electric Car. (Note that I Didn't Say "Thrifty" Electric Ca
Tesla Motors delivered its eagerly awaited all-electric Model S automobile this week, but the most shocking thing about the car is its price. The company is charging a whopping $57,000 for the vehicle—just $50,000 after tax credits—a bit less than twice the cost of an average car. Well, that's OK, right? I mean, you can probably make up the difference in gas savings. Not exactly: After factoring out the cost of gas, the typical Tesla driver will still spend over $35,000 on the car, which is almost completely silent and gets about 300 miles per charge. And hey, it has 3G wireless network connectivity. I wonder if the charge cable is USB

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