WinInfo Short Takes: Week of April 3

THOUGH WINDOWS MILLENNIUM Edition ("Windows Me") is on the fast track for release this summer, continual delays in the Beta 3 release have finally affected the final ship date of the operating system, which slipped one week to June 6. Various localized versions of Millennium will also ship over the summer, including French, German, and Spanish on June 16, Brazilian, Italian, and Latin American on June 23, Dutch and Swedish on June 27, Japanese on July 2, Danish and Norwegian on July 12, Traditional Chinese, Finnish, Korean, and Portuguese on July 17, Simplified Chinese on July 22, Arabic, Czech, Hebrew, and Polish August 16, Thai on August 21, Hungarian and Russian on August 26, Greek on August 31, Turkish on September 5 and Slovak and Slovenian on September 10. Meanwhile, one of Millennium's core components--Internet Explorer 5.5--will ship on Windows Me's original ship date, May 26th. Localized versions of IE 5.5 will also appear throughout the summer.

MICROSOFT CORPORATION PERFORMED yet another internal reorganization, with some major changes to the Windows and Developer divisions, which are now consolidated into a single division reporting directly to Microsoft president and CEO Steve Ballmer. The division will be co-headed by VPs Paul Maritz and Jim Allchin, leading me to wonder when one of them is going to retire. This is easily the most boneheaded organizational change the company has made in recent years; expect it to be reversed in the next reorg.

NETSCAPE COMMUNICATOR 6.0 Beta 1 will debut April 5, according to reports, but Beta News got it first, with an advanced build of the Netscape 6 Preview Release that the site revealed this past week. I was able to download and evaluate the release thanks to the mention on Beta News, and it's an interesting take on the Mozilla open source project, featuring an ultra-fast rendering engine but a curiously fragile user interface and architecture, which seemed to crash every few minutes and consume numerous resources on my Windows 2000 system. I suspect that Linux users will feel right at home with the homespun user interface, but Windows users aren't going to be interested in something this inelegant. In any event, the underlying browser technology is excellent: Hopefully, someone will wrap a real Windows application around it soon. Also nice: The mail component finally supports multiple POP accounts, a first for Netscape.

THANKS TO PABLO for the tip: A monthly computer magazine in Spain recently gave away a copy of Windows 2000 on CD-ROM; it was supposed to be the 120-day evaluation version, but Microsoft mistakenly gave out the real thing and 118,000 copies of the software was distributed before the gaff was corrected. Microsoft Spain actually recommended that people who bought the illicit copy give them a call to arrange for a switch, but it's unknown how many actually took them up on it.

THERE'S NOTHING LIKE a multinational sales strategy to keep you on your toes, and Microsoft has certainly run into enough localization problems over the years. A recent example: Microsoft France stopped the production of the French version of Word 2000 because the grammar checker sometimes proposed an Arab-related "racist correction," angering customers. Thanks to Christian Ista for the tip!

THANKS TO CHRIS POPP for tipping me off to a cheap way to get a low-end PC. Apparently the new $100 iOpener Internet appliance can be easily tweaked into a full-fledged PC using $35 worth of parts. And because it's such a low-end box, Linux users have rallied around the device, causing "brisk" sales of the iOpener at Circuit City locations across America. Interested in the hack? Head on over to the Linux Hacker Web site and feast your eyes.

SONY'S TROUBLED PLAYSTATION 2 launch got a bit more embarrassing this week when the company finally issued a disk-based fix for a software glitch that caused the device's DVD drive to incorrectly (and illegally) read overseas-formatted DVD disks. The company is going to have to issue 1.25 million copies of the disk to Japanese customers, and it will correct the U.S. version before the unit is made available here in the fall.

A COUPLE OF readers noted that last week's Whistler mention in Short Takes contained an egregious error in my mention of the famous "Wherefore art thou" line from Romeo and Juliet. Contrary to a modern reading of the phrase, "wherefore" means "why" not "where" (English majors everywhere are now nodding their heads). But my misuse of the line transcends the typical gaff one might expect: I didn't mean this to read as "Where are you Whistler" at all; I meant it to read, "Are you real Whistler, do you really exist?" When I mess up, I go for the gold

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