WinInfo Daily UPDATE, August 19, 2004

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In the News

- New Betas Available for 64-Bit Windows Server 2003, Windows XP
- Microsoft Refutes Windows XP SP2 Flaw Claims
- Eolas Handed Second Defeat in Browser Patent Battle with Microsoft

==== In the News ====

by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

New Betas Available for 64-Bit Windows Server 2003, Windows XP

A Microsoft representative alerted me yesterday that the company has issued new public betas of its upcoming 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP. In addition, the company revealed that it plans to change the names of these products to conform to AMD's x64 naming scheme.
"With development of a single Windows platform for x64, we will be officially changing the name of both x64 desktop and server offerings to Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, Windows Server 2003 Standard x64 Edition, Windows Server 2003 Enterprise x64 Edition, and Windows Server 2003 Datacenter x64 Edition," the Microsoft representative said. Earlier, the products used the moniker 64-Bit Extended Systems, as in Windows XP for 64-Bit Extended Systems. But now that Intel has joined AMD to produce compatible 64-bit CPUs that run on top of the 32-bit x86 processor architecture, Microsoft is now using the simpler x64 term to refer to software that runs on the chips.
Microsoft also revealed that the pricing for the new x64 products will be identical to the 32-bit pricing. "Windows XP Professional x64 Edition will be priced at the same level as Windows XP Professional (32-bit)," the representative told me. "Similarly, the Windows Server 2003 x64 will be priced on par with Windows Server 2003 (32-bit). There will also be an option for customers to participate in a technology exchange in which they'll be able to trade in their 32-bit licenses for 64-bit licenses when they're available." (I discussed this technology exchange in an earlier issue of WinInfo Daily UPDATE; see the first URL below.)
Regarding the x64 products' features, Microsoft noted that XP Pro x64 includes "near-feature parity with the 32-bit version" of XP Pro. Microsoft says that the new XP Pro x64 public beta includes support for Windows .NET Framework 1.1 and updates to the Luna UI, Power Management, Windows Messenger, Windows Media Player (WMP), Windows Movie Maker 2, the Bluetooth support infrastructure, and the wireless support infrastructure. The XP Pro x64 beta also includes language support for French, German, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Swedish, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese.
You can download the XP Pro x64 beta (see the second URL below) and the Windows 2003 x64 beta (see the third URL below) through the Customer Preview Program on the Microsoft Web site. Both betas will run on AMD and Intel x64-based systems.

Microsoft Refutes Windows XP SP2 Flaw Claims

Some German security researchers briefly held the spotlight yesterday after they claimed that they were the first to discover flaws in Microsoft's newly released and eagerly anticipated Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) update. But Microsoft was quick to dismiss the claims, arguing that the flaws are theoretical, not actual. By late yesterday, the researchers were forced to admit that they were wrong.
The heise Security researchers had claimed that XP SP2 contains two security flaws that could potentially let attackers execute code on users' PCs. They allegedly found the flaws in the new XP SP2 code that handles potentially malicious attachments and downloads.
Microsoft quickly issued a statement about the claims, noting that the company "has investigated these reports and is not aware of any instance in which an attacker could specifically bypass the service in email or a Web browser to allow a malicious attacker access to a user's system. This feature is one that is supposed to protect users against executable files from an unknown source or untrusted locations. As a best practice, users should always exercise extreme caution when opening unsolicited attachments from both known and unknown sources. We don't see these issues as being in conflict with the design goals of the new protections \[in XP SP2\]."
The heise Security researchers subsequently admitted that the flaws are theoretical only and that no software code exists to exploit them. And the company still recommends that users install XP SP2. Regardless, other security researchers are certain that XP SP2 flaws will eventually be found. A representative of vulnerability-assessment company PivX Solutions told that his company has alerted Microsoft to several problems, and eEye Digital Security says that it's still investigating XP SP2.
Microsoft has been quite upfront about the update's capabilities. Although the service pack will make XP more secure, it isn't a panacea and won't solve all security problems. "SP2 is a step along the way to better security," Windows Group Product Manager Greg Sullivan told me recently. "But it's only a step. We still have more work to do."

Eolas Handed Second Defeat in Browser Patent Battle with Microsoft

Microsoft has won a second victory in its Web browser patent battle with Eolas Technologies. This week, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) rejected a second set of claims from Eolas, which said that Microsoft (and, potentially, every company that makes a Web browser) infringed on its Web browser patent. Although the details are still scarce, in this second "office action," as the agency calls its decision, the USPTO rejected all 10 claims Eolas made about its Web browser patent. Microsoft was quick to praise the agency's action. "Today's action is another step in the USPTO's reconsideration of the Eolas patent," a Microsoft spokesperson said. "We've maintained all along that, when scrutinized closely, the Eolas patent would be ruled invalid."
The decision is the second time that the USPTO has shot down Eolas (the first time was in February), and the agency will soon issue an office action on a third claim. If the USPTO also denies that claim, as expected, Eolas will likely lose its browser patent and be forced to give up the legal battle against Microsoft. Earlier, a jury awarded Eolas $565 million in a patent-infringement decision against the software giant. Microsoft appealed, however, arguing--correctly, it now seems--that the Eolas patent was bogus.

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