WinInfo Short Takes: Week of May 23

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including the Short Takes Blog, a new Bill Gates book, the Google portal, SBS 2003 SP1, Xbox 360, IE 7 tabs, Netscape 8, Internet telephony vs. 911, and so much more!

We Love You, Bill. Just Stop.
   I think it's time for an intervention. Microsoft Cofounder and Chairman Bill Gates (I refuse to use the lame title Chief Software Architect) revealed this week that he's working on his third book, which, like the other two, will no doubt be penned by real writers. His earlier titles were notable because the first book forgot the Internet existed (a curious thing to miss in a book titled "The Road Ahead") and the second book was excruciatingly boring. What will Gates discuss this time? Innovation. OK, I'll give you a second to stop laughing. There yet? Now? OK ... a bit more time. There you go. Wipe the tears from your eyes. It's OK. Well, actually it's not OK. Why can't Gates just write a romantic-adventure book in which an intrepid software developer saves the day by rescuing the girl from the evil clutches of the renegade Silicon Valley megalomaniac? Now that's a Bill Gates book I'd like to read.

Gates Waxes Philosophical on ... Work?
   And speaking of Gates's writing and why he needs to stop, Gates wrote an email message this week to his customers--I'm talking to you, planet Earth--in which he extolled the "New World of Work." Yep, only Gates could try to make work sound more desirable, and his new software will, get this, let us work even more. Maybe I'm getting jaded, but things like video games, digital media, and, God forbid, leisure time are becoming more and more interesting to me as I get older. I'm tired of working so much. I want technology that lets me hide from people occasionally, not let them find me no matter where I am. Speaking of which, how did Gates get my email address?

Google Moves Into Portal Space
   Move over AOL, MSN, and Yahoo!: Search giant Google is moving into the portal space, confirming reports that the company is branching out to embrace nonsearch Internet services. This being Google, its initial portal work, which is really just a slightly customizable version of the Google home page, looks rather Spartan and isn't nearly as feature-complete as the competition. If you use Google as your home page, however, you can find the new Personalized Google Home Page feature on the Google Labs Web site. It's certainly worth checking out.

Microsoft Releases SBS 2003 SP1
   This week, Microsoft finally shipped the Service Pack 1 (SP1) update for Windows Small Business Server (SBS) 2003. What's new in SBS 2003 SP1? First, it includes the latest service packs for Windows Server 2003, Exchange Server 2003, SharePoint Services 2.0, SQL Server 2000, and ISA Server 2000 (and an upgrade to ISA Server 2004 if you use the CD-ROM fulfillment option). It also includes several fixes that are specific to SBS 2003. The SP1 version of SBS 2003 will be included on new machine installations going forward, Microsoft tells me. But if you'd like to upgrade now, check out the Microsoft Web site.

Windows Server 2003 SP1: One Million Downloads and Counting
   Speaking of Windows 2003, the SP1 release of that product has been downloaded more than 1.1 million times since it became available last month, Microsoft tells me. According to IDC, Windows 2003's installed base numbers 6.73 million machines, so about 15 percent of them have upgraded.

Can't Afford an Xbox 360? Just Dew It!
   Although we still don't know how much the new Xbox 360 will cost when it goes on sale in November, the price is sure to be more than the current console. If you're not sure how you're going to afford the next leap toward video game nirvana, Microsoft and Mountain Dew maker PepsiCo have a possible solution: Starting in August, the companies will give away an Xbox 360 every 10 minutes over the course of 9 weeks, for a total of more than 9000 Xbox 360s. Mountain Dew bottle caps will contain codes that you can enter on a contest Web site. If you're not into drinking Mountain Dew, fear not. It makes good antifreeze as well.

Sony Embarrasses Microsoft at E3
   This week's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2005 in Los Angeles has provided a lot of food for thought. I've complained in the past about how lame Microsoft can be when it tries to "out-cool" the competition in the video game space, and this was never clearer than during this week's E3. But I'm not the only one who noticed it this time. Reports from around the gaming industry cite the same problems. Sony "outclasses" Microsoft. The Microsoft Xbox 360 events were "embarrassing" and full of "hyperbole," whereas Sony's facts-only approach was lauded for its clarity and stunning displays of technology. There's a lesson to be learned here, and it's no more complicated than "you're not as cool as you think you are." That's a shame, because the Xbox 360 is amazing, and I think its PC-integration features are really exciting. Which brings me to ...

Discover Xbox 360 on the SuperSite for Windows
   If you haven't visited the SuperSite for Windows this week (and, really, shame on you if you haven't), when you do you'll see that I've decided to cover Xbox 360 as I do other Windows-related software releases. There are a few reasons for this. Xbox 360 is a super-powerful computer device that will act like the workhorse of networking technology in your den. Its PC-connectivity features are unsurpassed, including exciting new Media Center Extender technology. Its controllers will be PC compatible. And so on. Folks, Xbox 360 really is exciting. You can find out more about it in my Xbox 360 Activity Center, which will continue to track my Xbox-related articles--wherever they might appear--throughout the year.

Not News: Microsoft "Confirmed" IE 7.0 Tabs in March
   For some reason, some news outlets reported that Microsoft has "confirmed" that Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7.0 will have tabbed browsing. Folks, Microsoft confirmed that feature in March, more than 2 months ago. End of story.

Internet Phones Must Offer 911
   The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled this week that Internet telephone providers must offer users access to the 911 emergency service. The ruling is interesting for two reasons: First, this is the first time the FCC has issued a major ruling against Internet-based telephone providers. Second, Internet providers didn't offer 911? Seriously? What were you supposed to do in an emergency, Google it?

Gateway Founder Set to Retire
   Gateway Founder Ted Waitt resigned this week from the company's board of directors and will, at the tender age of 42, retire. Waitt served as Gateway's chairman for 20 years. During that time, he turned the upstart into a major PC player, only to run into trouble when the company's slew of retail operations went south. But don't feel bad for Waitt. He's still a billionaire, and that money goes a lot further in his native Iowa than it does in, say, Silicon Valley.

Feeping Creaturism: Netscape 8 Released
   I'm not sure why Netscape still bothers, but this week the company released the latest version of its Firefox-based Web browser, imaginatively titled Netscape 8.01. It's a strange beast, offering both IE and Firefox rendering modes, unique (but ugly) themes, and a bevy of buttons and options that are sure to bedevil even the most technical of users. So why even mention it? I just like the phrase "feeping creaturism."

Microsoft to Issue an Eiger Sanction: Separating the Facts from the Myths
   I've seen a lot of reports lately about an upcoming Windows XP release that's code-named Eiger. Most of these reports, which describe the release as a thin client version of XP, are wrong. First revealed by Steve Bink (see the URLs below), Eiger is, in fact, a low-resources version of XP designed for older PC systems. The idea is that XP still gets all the latest security patches, so this version will let you run the OS on systems that might otherwise not be able to handle the full versions of XP. For more information, check out Bink's articles below. 
   Exclusive: Microsoft Windows XP Codenames: Eiger and Monch
   More on Windows XP Eiger, the Lean Windows Client

Short Takes Blog
   I've waited almost 30 years for this moment. Friday night at midnight, I attended one of several initial viewings of Star Wars: Episode III. If you're a Star Wars fan--and our Windows IT Pro Industry Survey 2004 shows that you most likely are--you'll be happy to hear that Episode III is the movie you've been waiting to see. Sure, there's one lame and wooden scene between Anakin Skywalker and his wife Padme, but most of the movie is back-to-back action and has a driving plot, leading directly to the moment we've all waited to see: Anakin becoming Darth Vader. The movie is well done, even poignant. Don't miss this one, as it's one of the few movies that deserves to be seen on the big screen. It also deftly wraps up almost every dangling question separating the prequels from the original trilogy.
   Next week is my 15th wedding anniversary. I've had a lot of good luck in this life, but finding my wife was clearly my best moment.
   Yes, I'm still struggling with the Short Takes format. I have to say that, personally, I would prefer a freewheeling, completely conversational Short Takes. The problem with a precisely formatted, professional-looking format is that people tend to take it too seriously, and when I pop up with some barbed bit of sarcasm, people can take it the wrong way. I want you to understand when I'm being serious and when I'm not, but that's hard to convey with the written word. My sense of humor is so dry that it's sometimes difficult in person, too. But you get the idea. I'll keep fiddling.

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