Blackcomb Scrapped as Microsoft Heads to Vienna - 23 Jan 2006

Blackcomb Scrapped as Microsoft Heads to Vienna
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==== In the News ====

- Blackcomb Scrapped as Microsoft Heads to Vienna
- Microsoft Reworks Its Image
- With Feds, Google Balks, But Microsoft Talks
by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Blackcomb Scrapped as Microsoft Heads to Vienna

Although it's not changing the focus of the product, Microsoft has changed the code name for the version of Windows that will follow Windows Vista from Blackcomb to Vienna. However, the final product won't be called Windows Vienna.

The Vienna code name marks a return to city code names. In the past, Microsoft used such code names as Cairo, Chicago, and Detroit for its Windows products. A Microsoft spokesperson noted that the company's new code-name strategy for OS products is to use names for "the kinds of places we all want to see \[and\] experience and that capture the imagination. Vienna fits with this concept." So did Blackcomb, although it's a picturesque ski resort in British Columbia, not a major city.

My guess is that Microsoft wanted to divorce itself from a code name that, because it followed Vista's "Longhorn," was associated with constant delays. Although Microsoft never made any concrete promises for Blackcomb's release, Blackcomb and Longhorn are linked--if Longhorn is delayed, then Blackcomb is delayed. And if Longhorn loses features, as it has, then presumably those features will appear in Blackcomb, as each upcoming Windows version tends to become a dumping ground for features that don't make the current product version.

Microsoft has promised to accelerate the development of future Windows versions in the wake of the Vista fiasco, so one might expect Vienna to arrive more quickly than its predecessor. Also, according to the company's product road map, Vienna will be a minor update, not a major release like Vista.

Microsoft Reworks Its Image

Microsoft is spending $120 million this year on an advertising campaign that's designed to soften its image as a "huge American company." The huge American company will use print, television, and Internet advertising in a bid to turn public opinion.

"We are often perceived as a huge American company," Microsoft Group Advertising Manager Mike Lucero said in an interview late last week, noting that the software giant would be highlighting its worldwide education and economic development projects in the advertising campaign. "We wanted to be very specific about what we are doing in each country in education, innovation, economic opportunity, and security."

Microsoft, which might accurately be described as a huge American company, dominates the software market with its Windows OS, Microsoft Office productivity suite, and Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) Web browser. The company posted revenues of $39.8 billion in fiscal 2005 and has more than 63,000 employees, 63 percent of whom are in the United States.

With Feds, Google Balks, But Microsoft Talks

Internet search giant Google made news last week for resisting a US Department of Justice (DOJ) subpoena demanding that it turn over user search activity on its service, but Microsoft has decided to work with the feds. In a blog posting late last week (see URL below), MSN Search General Manager Ken Moss admitted that Microsoft turned over MSN Search user search activity logs to the DOJ. The company joins AOL and Yahoo! in agreeing to the legal demand.

"Let me start with this core principle statement: privacy of our customers is non-negotiable and something worth fighting to protect," Moss writes. "Over the summer we were subpoenaed by the DOJ regarding a lawsuit. The subpoena requested that we produce data from our search service. We worked hard to scope the request to something that would be consistent with this principle. The applicable parties to the case received this data, and the parties agreed that the information specific to this case would remain confidential."

Moss writes that the data Microsoft sent to the DOJ reveals only how frequently certain query terms appeared. It doesn't provide IP addresses that might be used to identify users who searched for certain terms, and it doesn't identify users who performed two or more specific queries.

The question, of course, is whether this subpoena signals a downward spiral toward decreased privacy in the United States. According to Microsoft, it doesn't. But privacy experts are concerned less with this specific event than with its implications for the future. Clearly, it's something to watch.

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