An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news...
The as-yet-unnamed quality-related problems that caused the delay of Wednesday's planned release of Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) continue as I write this, with Microsoft furiously working to ship the long-awaited major security update (which is probably still at build 2180). And although the online world continues to buzz in anticipation, Microsoft is trying to maintain a calm outward demeanor. "We're still on track to deliver Windows XP SP2 in August," a Microsoft spokesperson said yesterday. "We're focused on delivering a quality software release that meets all of our release criteria." In the meantime, Microsoft is advising XP users to enable Automatic Updates so that the company can efficiently distribute the massive update to users. Many paranoid users have elected to turn off Automatic Updates, which I think is a mistake. As I asked rhetorically during a security talk last year, who would you rather have installing software on your system--Microsoft or some script-kiddie from Eastern Europe?
Microsoft Antivirus Service Takes Shape
Microsoft has started testing of its upcoming antivirus service, which will be an option in Longhorn, the next major Windows release, and will also be available for XP users. First revealed last summer, the service uses "behavior blocking" technology to monitor events on the PC, then blocks events that are atypical or potentially harmful. The service acts like a firewall except that it targets local events, not network traffic. Microsoft told me that the company plans to offer an antivirus plug-in engine in Longhorn that third-party vendors can use to offer integrated products. The new antivirus service, which will come with a monthly or yearly subscription charge, will be just one of multiple Microsoft services that will use the engine.
Yahoo! Preps Desktop Search Tool
Does anyone remember Netscape's infamous (and ultimately bogus) Constellation project that would have replaced the Windows desktop with a Web-based front end? Well, the browser wars might be over (or they might not be--but that's a different story), but this year's big battle is over search technologies, although many people have assumed that the battle will be between Google and Microsoft. But that logic omits the number-two Web search player, Yahoo!, and this week Yahoo! announced an unexpected foray into desktop-based searching. The company says that it will soon ship a desktop search application that will let users quickly find data on their PCs' hard disks by using a content index to speed up searching. If this plan sounds suspiciously like Microsoft's plans for Longhorn, don't be surprised because Microsoft's plans for Web searching also sound suspiciously like Google's and Yahoo!'s plans. In other words, the gloves are off. May the best index win.
Nintendo Denies Microsoft Buyout Overtures
In the most recent bit of nonnews, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates set off a strange series of speculative news stories this week when he casually mentioned that he was still interested in buying Nintendo. Nintendo is one of his company's rivals in the video game market and the company he targeted in the mid-1990s as Microsoft's biggest competitor of the future (this was before the Internet took off, pretty much ending that fear). Gates's throwaway comment has just one problem: Nintendo isn't selling, and its biggest shareholder, Hiroshi Yamauchi, has no interest in walking away from the company. More importantly, perhaps, Microsoft officials have downplayed Gates's comments as nothing more than off the cuff and admiring in nature. The company has no plans to try to purchase Nintendo.
Microsoft Launches Blog Service In Japan
This week, Microsoft launched an interesting new blog service in Japan. But don't worry, folks, it's also coming to the United States, potentially as soon as late this year. "We are offering a service that can be used from both personal computers and mobile terminals in a seamless manner," MSN Japan General Manager Yoshie Tsukamoto said. "That differentiates our service from others." The new blog service lets blog writers (bloggers) update their blogs by using PCs or Web-enabled phones, which might indeed be a first for this kind of service. The service is free but includes advertising, and Microsoft will eventually charge for a premium version of the service. You might be wondering why Microsoft would bother with blogging, an activity in which less than 1 percent of Web users engage. It's simple: Search rival Google owns one of the better Blogging solutions--Blogger.com. And, right now, when it comes to Google, all bets are off. If history is any guide, Microsoft will destroy Google and then let Microsoft's blog service whither on the vine. Just a thought.
Microsoft Gets OK to Buy Former Eddie Bauer Property
This week, a Seattle-area judge approved Microsoft's bid to purchase Eddie Bauer's corporate campus, which is situated on 20 acres conveniently located right next to Microsoft's Redmond campus. Microsoft will pay Spiegel, Eddie Bauer's parent company, $38 million for the land, which now includes three office buildings that will no doubt have to be renovated or destroyed to match Microsoft's existing campus structures.
DOOM 3 Ships
The long-awaited id Software first-person shooter game, DOOM 3, shipped this week, ending 4 years of yearning in the online gaming world. Was it worth the wait? Oh yeah. Dark, scary, and technically brilliant, DOOM 3 ushers in a new age of sophisticated and realistic graphics. But we expect nothing less from id. DOOM 3 is amazing for the depth of its story line and its incredible interactive elements. The game is a landmark title and the first use of a graphics engine that will no doubt drive amazing games for the next several years. One bit of warning: DOOM 3 is excessively violent, and its dark and brooding environments are more than a little scary. So although it's not for kids, DOOM 3 is the first example I've seen of an entertainment software title that effectively combines the best elements of cinema and gaming into a cohesive experience that's a model that other companies will follow for years. In other words, it's a classic id Software product. Bravo.
AMD Touts Technical Lead Over Intel
Compared to industry giant Intel, chip-maker AMD used to be like that third cousin you didn't want to admit was really part of the family. But AMD's fortunes have changed dramatically in recent years, thanks to its x64 technology, which adds 64-bit capabilities to full-powered x86-compatible microprocessors. AMD's success with this venture has been so absolute, in fact, that Intel has essentially adopted the x64 scheme and is now shipping AMD-compatible x64 chips, a strange reversal. Forgive AMD executives, then, their moment of glee. "We are now being evaluated based on our trajectory; our customer-centric innovations, designs, and technologies; our ecosystem of customers and partners; and, finally, our progress," AMD Chairman and CEO Hector Ruiz said in an email to his employees this week. "We are in control of our own destiny ... it's more important now than ever to remain focused on delivering outstanding results and not slip into complacency." Although the memo never names Intel, the company that AMD is no longer following and is now leading down a path to the future of computing is pretty obvious. The technical lead is heady stuff for AMD, a company that used to make knock-off, low-priced Intel processor clones for budget-oriented mom-and-pop PC makers. And if you're still not sure that AMD is on top of the world, consider this blurb from a memo that Intel CEO Craig Barrett recently sent to his employees: "You have seen a lot of news about Intel lately that is disturbing and unsettling. This includes manufacturing issues, product delays, and changing roadmaps. There are many reasons for these but in the end the reasons don't matter because the result is less-satisfied customers and a less-successful Intel. I believe, as you do, that this is not the Intel we all know, and that it is not acceptable."
Munich Migration to Linux Grinds to a Halt
The world's largest migration from Windows to Linux ran into some snags this week, and the project has been put on indefinite hold. The city of Munich, Germany, had just started collecting bids on its migration of 14,000 Windows desktops to Linux when Alderman Jens Muehlhaus discovered 50 potential problems because of European Union (EU) patent laws and called a halt to the entire operation. The situation appears to be political, however, and city officials say that they're standing by their decision to migrate to Linux. An anxious open-source world awaits the outcome.