WinInfo Short Takes: Week of May 20

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

MS Remedy Hearings: Judge Dumps on Microsoft Constitutional Argument
This week, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly provided some clues about her reaction to Microsoft's request to throw out the nine nonsettling states' case, which was made because the company feels that the states do not have any right to pursue remedies in a federal case. The judge cited three reasons why the states could pursue their own remedies, including an Appellate Court ruling that upheld the states' rights, the absence of legal precedents to the contrary, and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) endorsement of the states' rights, even though the agency had already struck a settlement deal with the company. And when Kollar-Kotelly asked Microsoft attorney John Warden to cite one court ruling by the US Supreme Court or any other federal court in which US states were barred from seeking antitrust remedies that would be nationwide, or even worldwide, in scope, he was unable to do so. Go figure.

Dude, You're Getting a Dell... Accessory!
In a bizarre fit of corporate hubris, Dell Computer has begun selling accessories labeled with the "Dude, you're getting a Dell!" tagline popularized by the company's 20-something spokesman, Steve (not his real name). You've probably seen Dell ads featuring the tow-headed youth, but it's unlikely that very many people are interested in advertising their own susceptibility to marketing by wearing t-shirts, caps or backpacks adorned with the clever catch-phrase. Then again, I do have a nice collection of Microsoft-branded polo shirts. Maybe I should just shut up.

Six More IE Bugs? Could This Be the Buggiest Software Ever?
In what seems increasingly like a regular event these days, Microsoft has released a patch for Internet Explorer (IE) versions 5.01, 5.5, and 6 that fixes several vulnerabilities, some of which the software giant describes as "critical." The patch is the fourth such release for IE this year alone. Good thing they integrated it with the underlying OS, eh? But wait, there's more: A group of security researchers says that the patch doesn't fix all the problems Microsoft says it will, leading to the possibility of a future patch for the patch.

Microsoft Puts RealNames Out of Business... Or Did They?
This week, a little-known company called RealNames charged Microsoft with corporate murder after the software giant refused to extend a licensing deal with the company, causing RealNames to terminate its entire staff. RealNames had been providing an IE feature that allowed users to type in ordinary words in the IE address bar in order to search for information on the Web, a feature Microsoft has described as unnecessary and, more importantly, one that was never actually used by many of its customers. To hear RealNames describe the situation, Microsoft stabbed them in the back and is secretly developing its own in-house RealNames-like technology. But the truth, of course, is a bit less one-sided. RealNames was offering a fairly unexceptional service that could be (and was) duplicated by any number of competitors. More importantly, companies that signed on to the RealNames services expressed outrage when RealNames' prices rose dramatically after the first year. The lesson here is obvious: Don't put all your eggs in one basket, especially if that basket is a software development monster with over 25,000 programmers just waiting to turn your entire business into a single bullet point on a PowerPoint slide detailing the features in its latest browser. Everyone loves to beat up on Microsoft, but the reality is that RealNames had a pretty tenuous business to begin with.

Napster Rides into Sunset
It's unbelievable that the company last this long, but the one-time king of illegal file-sharing is finally taking its final steps into the grave. Napster announced this week that its founder and four other senior executives have quit the troubled firm, which was repeatedly sued by just about every major record label in existence and will soon be forced into bankruptcy. As with RealNames (see above), you have to wonder about the Napster business plan, which amounted to developing technology that allows users to illegally share copyrighted music. After it was sued into oblivion, the company tried to launch a pay service, but of course, no one was very interested in that.

Office XP Sales Surge
Microsoft announced this week that its latest office productivity suite, Office XP, has sold over 60 million licenses in the year since it was released, 12 million of them in the Pacific Rim. The timing and scope of this information is interesting, since Sun Microsystems is launching their cheap, but full-featured, office suite alternative, StarOffice 6 and--surprise, surprise--it's expected to be particularly successful in the Pacific Rim. There's nothing wrong with a little good-natured competition, of course, but is anyone else surprised to hear that the company actually sold 60 million licenses to this rather lackluster release? Don't get me wrong, Office XP is the best Office yet, but it's not that much better than Office 2000. Why corporations would pay big bucks to get a minor upgrade is beyond me.

HP Profits, Stock Surge
Say what you will about the new HP (or HPQ as we like to call it), but it's already off to a flying start. In its last earnings report before the merger with Compaq, HP posted a $252 million profit, which is five times as much as it made a year earlier, indicating that the company wasn't distracted by a brutal shareholder battle that almost scuttled the deal. The new HP will hold an analysts meeting in early June in order to explain how the combined companies will report financials going forward, since HP and Compaq were on different fiscal cycles. How the new company will fare going forward is, of course, a matter of conjecture, but it seems like they've done the right thing regarding the final product mix, which combines the best parts of the old HP and Compaq catalogs.

Microsoft Issued Second Setback in Lindows Case
Seriously, guys: Give it up. A federal judge has denied a Microsoft request to bar a Linux distributor from using the name Lindows, which the company feels infringes on its trademark for the name Windows. Microsoft complained that the judge had a "fundamental misapprehension" of the issues at hand after the judge issued his original ruling, which questioned the validity of Microsoft's trademark, since Windows is such a common term. In his latest ruling, which amounted to "go stuff a sock in it," Judge John C. Coughenour said he made no legal mistakes and had properly upheld the test of generic use to the term Windows. The judge even pointed to Microsoft's own technical dictionary, which described the term in generic ways.

Mac OS X Usage Disappointing
It's hard to pin down the number of people that use alternative operating systems such as the Mac OS or Linux, but this week Apple CEO Steve Jobs admitted that the number of users upgrading to Mac OS X, his company's UNIX-based modern OS offering, is pretty disappointing. In an interview with C|NET, Jobs said that only 1 to 2 million people were actively using Mac OS X, though the company hoped to see 5 million active OS X users by the end of the year. Particularly damaging is news that at least half of the users that received new Mac systems so far this year--on which OS X was preinstalled as the default OS--switched back to the old OS 9 system upon getting their systems. But the biggest problem, of course, is that OS X will do nothing to raise Apple's market share, an increasingly frightening situation for a company grappling with

Sega Dumps Hardware, Makes a Profit
A year after the company dropped its video game console to focus on creating software for a variety of platforms, Sega has posted a profit, its first in two years. Sega made $111 million for the most recent quarter, thanks to sales of games such as Sonic the Hedgehog, World Series Baseball, and NFL 2K2, which now run on video game systems from Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony. If we ever needed further proof that the real money was in the razor blades and not the razors, this is it. Congrats to Sega, which has been in the dumps since its Genesis system dominated the market in the early 1990's.

Not Windows: Attack of the Clones
If you're a STAR WARS fan--and chances are, if you're reading this, you are one--be sure to see Attack of the Clones (AOTC) this summer, preferably on a digital projection screen if possible. This latest STAR WARS film combines the frantic fast pacing and comedy of the original series with a serious, surprisingly rich story, especially for long-time fans, who will appreciate the many in-jokes, references, and plot-twists. Like Titanic, we all know what happens in the end, but the plots twists alone make the ride worth experiencing. Lucas doesn't get enough credit for his storytelling: This is a must-see for any true sci-fi geek.

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