WinInfo Short Takes: Week of May 5

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

Longhorn Preview on the SuperSite
I've written the most detailed preview yet of Longhorn, the next Windows version, detailing changes found in the latest leaked build. "Longhorn Alpha Preview 3: Build 4015," available now on the SuperSite for Windows, discusses never-revealed Longhorn features such as libraries, pivot views, the new Carousel shell view, and stacks. Confused? Information about Longhorn should start heating up now that Microsoft can publicly discuss it more often, and I'm expecting much more in the coming weeks. For the most recent information, check out my exhaustive preview on the SuperSite for Windows.

Advanced Athens PC to Debut Next Week
Next week at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) 2003 in New Orleans, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard (HP) will unveil a new prototype PC design code-named Athens. The Athens PC is designed as a platform for collaboration and communications and sports advanced voice, video, and text-message capabilities, the companies say. HP and Microsoft will debut the Athens PC during Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates's WinHEC keynote and will tout the product in press briefings during the week. I'll have more information about this design soon.

Rambus Faces Antitrust Investigation
Oft-reviled memory-maker Rambus has another detractor--the federal government. This week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) began its antitrust case against the company, claiming that Rambus deceived competitors and partners into adopting its RAM design so that the company could illegally gain a monopoly in key computer-chip technologies. As a result, Rambus is set up to earn billions of dollars in undeserved fees, the FTC says. "Rambus seeks to cling to a potential fortune in royalties that it acquired, not through competition, but through deception," FTC Deputy Competition Director Sean Royall told a federal judge this week. Rambus says it simply wants fair compensation for its inventions. Here's what happened: After patenting its RDRAM memory type in the mid-1990s, Rambus joined an industry standards body that was working to standardize a then-new memory type called SDRAM. Armed with knowledge of the discussions about the competing memory type, Rambus secretly began applying for patents that covered the technology SDRAM used. After SDRAM, not RDRAM, took off in the market, Rambus started approaching SDRAM makers about royalties. And now, unsurprisingly, the company is in court. I've never liked Rambus for various reasons (the company's RDRAM has always been overpriced and offered questionable performance), but these secret tactics make Rambus seem even more appalling. Shame.

Microsoft Preps .NET Passport Upgrade
This summer, Microsoft will unleash a new version of its Microsoft .NET Passport Internet authentication system. Currently, .NET Passport uses old-world Web technology such as cookies, HTML Redirect, and JavaScript to handle authentication automation, but the new version will use XML-based Web services standards such as Web Services Security (WS-Security), which offers encryption and digital-signature functionality. And using XML to expose .NET Passport functionality will let developers seamlessly integrate applications and services with .NET Passport authentication, a process that currently is possible but somewhat difficult. Furthermore, developers will no longer need to worry about security and user-identification concerns when dealing with .NET Passport. The new .NET Passport version will also signal the arrival of TrustBridge, Microsoft's upcoming authentication server, which will let enterprises bind internal users on Active Directory (AD) with Internet-based authentication schemes such as .NET Passport and with other enterprises on different networks.

US Lawmakers Take on Spam Crusade
Our buddies in the US government have finally turned their attention to the growing spam menace. This week, two lawmakers announced that they will introduce tough antispam laws. Why the sudden desire to fight spam with legislation? "You've got people with higher visibility now complaining about all this unwanted email, and that's what it took," Montana Senator Conrad Burns said. Joining Burns is Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, who says spam has reached a "critical mass" and believes that Congress could pass antispam legislation this year. Meanwhile, in Virginia, Governor Mark Warner recently signed into law two bills that make that state's antispam laws the toughest in the country (which, frankly, wasn't difficult). Virginia can now seize the assets of spammers who are convicted of sending misleading spam to consumers. However it all shakes out, one thing is clear: We need to do something about spam, and we need to do it now. I'm happy to see some legal stirrings.

Apple is Developing Windows iTunes
As numerous readers have pointed out, a job posting for a Windows iTunes developer on seems to indicate that Apple Computer will indeed develop a Windows version of iTunes, the digital-audio management tool that Apple supplies free to Mac OS X users. The question now, of course, is whether the Windows iTunes version will offer all the functionality of the Macintosh version or whether Apple will limit the product to simply accessing the iTunes Music Store and playing back the downloaded music. I hope the former is the case, not the latter: iTunes is one of the most elegant media players around, although it's become bloated and more complicated as Apple has added features. Still, iTunes is simpler than most media players and should provide decent competition for Windows Media Player (WMP) if Apple does Windows iTunes right and gives the product away for free.

Microsoft Antitrust Problems Aren't Over in Europe
Microsoft's never-ending antitrust problems are continuing in Europe, where a senior European Union (EU) official stated this week that the software giant has yet to resolve concerns the EU has about the way the company does business in Europe. Indeed, Philip Lowe, who runs the European Commission's (EC's) competition division, says Microsoft would have already faced a "negative decision" if the company had not agreed to talks. Europe, you might recall, is investigating charges that Microsoft's server and media-player software products violate antitrust laws. Originally slated for completion by August 2002, the Microsoft investigation has apparently spiraled out of control, and now EU regulators say they don't know when the investigation will end. If the EU finds Microsoft guilty of violating European antitrust laws, the company could be fined as much as 10 percent of its global annual sales, a figure that would exceed $3 billion. Thus, I believe that the company will eventually agree to a few concessions.

IBM Debuts First Itanium Server
Once derided as the "Itanic," Intel's 64-bit Itanium family is suddenly on a roll. This week, IBM announced the release of its first Itanium 2 server product, the eServer x450, which sports as many as 16 Itanium 2 (or, interestingly, 32-bit Xeon) processors and the new PCI Extended (PCI-X) bus technology. IBM offers the system loaded with Windows Server 2003, naturally, but the system's most interesting feature might be its support for both 32-bit and 64-bit architectures. "Intel and IBM are excited to continue working together to deliver highly scalable platforms for both 32-bit and 64-bit applications," said Mike Fister, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Enterprise Platforms Group. "The eServer x450 is ready for customers to deploy now and also provides ISVs a key industry reference platform for application development and tuning. Platforms based on the Intel Itanium 2 processor deliver outstanding performance, reliability, and scalability with added costs savings."

HP Debuts First XP 64-Bit Workstation
This week, HP announced the volume availability of the first-ever Itanium 2-based workstations running Windows XP 64-Bit Edition Version 2003. HP is offering two designs--the HP Workstation zx2000 and the Workstation zx6000, which offer support for one and two processors and 8GB and 24GB of RAM, respectively. As Microsoft notes, XP 64-Bit Edition Version 2003 is a high-performance platform that supports the next generation of powerful Windows-based applications for Itanium 2 workstations. The platform is designed to address the most demanding engineering, scientific, and digital-content-creation applications. And the platform is priced to match: The HP workstations start at $3300.

NT Kernel Guru: Command-Line-Only Windows Server in the Works
In a strangely revealing interview with ZDNet UK, Robert Short, vice president of Microsoft's Windows Core Technology group, revealed that the software giant is working on a command-line-only version of Windows Server. "That's something Linux has that's ahead of us, but we're looking at it," he said. "We will have a command-line-only version, but whether it'll have all the features \[of the GUI version\] is another matter. A lot of the tools depend on having the graphical interface. Printing, for example, requires all the graphics subsystems because we have the 'what you see is what you get' model. You need to have the whole of the display stuff to render it. It's a very tangled subsystem." Sounds pretty definitive to me.

Off to New Orleans for WinHEC 2003 ...
The name Windows Hardware Engineering Conference sounds like it would be the most boring trade show on the planet, but don't be fooled: WinHEC has turned into the must-attend event of the year, and this year's version promises to be the best yet, with numerous sessions detailing Longhorn, the next Windows version, and Microsoft's trusted computing platform (formerly code-named Palladium). In fact, because most of the Longhorn sessions are on the last day of the show, I just extended my visit by a day to make sure I can take it all in. See you next week in New Orleans.

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