WinInfo Daily UPDATE, February 25, 2005

IE 7.0 Will Have Tabbed Browsing 

According to a source close to Microsoft, the company is internally testing a build of Microsoft Internet Explorer IE 7.0 that features tabbed browsing. Last week at the RSA Conference 2005, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect, Bill Gates, revealed that the company is working on IE 7.0 but mentioned only some of the security oriented functionality that the browser will include leaving open questions about other often requested features. Since the show the company has been notably silent about planned IE 7.0 features and is fending off press requests until it gets closer to the early summer beta 1 release. Why the silence? My guess is that Microsoft is concerned about tipping off the makers of open source browser Mozilla Firefox, which is currently stealing IE market share at an alarming rate. If Microsoft revealed all the IE 7.0 features now? The Mozilla Foundation could simply pick the best features and implement them before IE 7.0 Beta 1 hits.

Dell CEO Longhorn Will Help PC Sales Only Temporarily

Dell CEO Kevin Rollins said this week that Microsoft's mid 2006 Longhorn release will only temporarily lift PC sales and won't result in the continued sales upturn that Windows 95 created 10 years ago. "There could be a slight surge, but I don't think it's going to return to the type that we saw in the 90s," Rollins said. "The PC market is already healthy and growing steadily, however, and Dell is extremely successful." But don't blame Longhorn for lackluster expectations. Rollins says that market maturity has taken away the rollercoaster-like ride that the PC market used to follow when every Intel processor release or new Microsoft OS caused a spike. "Longhorn," Rollins said, "will resonate with consumers because of its pervasive digital media capabilities and support for dual core processors."

EU Considers Microsoft Fines After Companies Complain 

The European Union (EU) is reportedly considering fining Microsoft after complaints from many of the company's rivals alerted them that the software giant isn't meeting the requirements of the EU antitrust ruling against it. If the EU does seek fines those fines will be assessed daily and can be as much as 5 percent of Microsoft's daily earnings. Microsoft, however, says that it's serious about meeting the requirements of the antitrust ruling and will work with the EU to make sure it's in line. The big question is what Microsoft did wrong. Apparently some of the current complaints stem from the version of Windows XP without Windows Media Player (WMP) that the company was supposed to ship by now. Originally and foolhardily called Windows XP Reduced Media Edition, the product has been delayed so that the company can find a more attractive moniker that won't instantly turn off customers. Other complaints regard the requirement that Microsoft share technical server information with competitors. Why do I get the feeling that Microsoft's competitors are viewing this EU fracas as an excuse to go for the jugular?

Microsoft Releases MSN Remote Record for XP MCE 2005 

Microsoft has quietly debuted its long awaited MSN Remote Record service for users of XP Media Center Edition (XP MCE) 2005. According to the MSN Web site, MSN Remote Record lets you schedule your Media Center to record TV shows from anywhere you can access a computer with an Internet connection. It sounds great! I've been waiting for this service to debut since November and my repeated requests since last September for information and beta access have been completely ignored, so I have no further information at this time.

Tablet PCs Don't Get Passing Grades in School Test 

Tablet PC proponents will tell you that these next generation notebook computers can transform the way people interact with information giving them a computing platform that's both comfortable and familiar. However, a recent study of Tablet PC use in a Georgia high school reveals that the Tablet PC isn't bearing out those lofty ideals. In 2003, 28 freshmen at Houston County High School in Warner Robins Georgia were given Tablet PCs and monitored throughout the school year. As you might expect, the study found some interesting changes. Students with Tablet PCs were better organized and interacted electronically with teachers. Their multimedia projects were more sophisticated than those of other students. So what was the problem? The Tablet PCs had horrible battery life and were dead by midday, giving the students the technical equivalent of a Flowers for Algernon experience every day. The Tablet PCs were unreliable with one or two breaking down every week. Students wasted time in class chatting via Instant Messenger (IM) or browsing the Web. And teachers weren't properly trained to understand how to best interact with the devices. The long and the short of these results is that Tablet PCs will get there but we're still in the nascent stages of what will be a painfully long process of moving people to more casual computing.

Microsoft Patches BSOD Problem in Windows XP SP2 

Microsoft issued an out of schedule security patch for XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) users this week. The bug that the patch fixes the bug also affects Windows Server 2003 can cause a rare Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) which halts the machine with the message Stop 0x05 INVALID PROCESS ATTACH ATTEMPT. Apparently a little Flash animation of Nelson from The Simpsons points at you and says "Ah ha!" Such an animation would be appropriate anyway. The patch is available at all the usual places including Automatic Updates and Windows Update.

Dell Disses AMD Again 

Nothing in the tech world makes me sadder than Dell's Intel only stance when it comes to microprocessors. I'm a huge fan of Dell PCs and until recently purchased only Dell equipment. But Dell has refused to adopt AMD's microprocessors, especially the superior 64 bit Athlon 64 designs, deciding instead to stick with Intel despite the fact that Intel is only now more than a year later finally getting around to introducing 64 bit Pentium 4 chips. This week Dell CEO Rollins took yet another pot shot at AMD confirming that although Dell did examine the possibility of selling PCs with AMD chips, it has now moved firmly back into the Intel camp. That's bad news for AMD, which could use a high profile conversion from the number one PC maker to reverse its financial fortunes. And it's bad news for all PC users really because AMD, not Intel, is innovating and pushing us to a new platform. I'd like to see AMD rewarded for that especially after Intel's 64 bit mega flop the Itanium never even attempted to shoot for mainstream market glory.

Sony Completes Exit from PDA Market 

Sony announced this week that it will complete its exit from the PDA market by ending sales of its CLIE devices in Japan. Previously, Sony withdrew the CLIE from other markets including North America. The death of the CLIE leaves some questions about how Sony is going to fill the gap. Some observers suggest that the PlayStation Portable (PSP) game machine which will include basic personal information manager (PIM) functionality could do so, but that machine is too big, has lousy battery life, and isn't exactly corporate friendly. Other people suggest that a reworking of Sony's Walkman line of digital portable audio devices could make up some slack, but even the Apple iPod is useless as a PDA so that scenario is also unlikely. As recently as 2 years ago, Sony was the number one PDA maker, but the emergence of companies such as Dell and a surge in sales of Pocket PC based devices led to declining market share for Sony.

Microsoft Changes Windows XP Product Activation Policy for OEM Versions 

In a bid to stem piracy, Microsoft is planning to change the way certain XP Product IDs are activated. Previously, all XP Product IDs could be activated via the Internet semiautomatically whereas Product IDs that were preactivated required a painful phone call. Now Microsoft is disabling Internet activation for XP copies that are distributed by the top 20 PC makers worldwide. This change doesn't mean that you'll have to make a phone call when you buy a new Dell or HP, however, because the copies of XP on those systems are already activated for you. What this change will prevent is situations in which large numbers of Product Keys are stolen and sold with new PCs from smaller system vendors. Because those vendors can't preactivate the systems, customers will be faced with a phone activation request and will be told what happened. Then the inevitable legal battles can erupt as God intended.

Apple Introduces Improved iPod Minis 

Apple offered minor improvements to its iPod Mini line this week bringing the product down to the 200 sweet spot that I lobbied for last year. The company also lowered the price of the extravagant iPod photo devices which feature color screens. To lower the prices, sadly, Apple simply cut bundled features. The new iPod mini doesn't include an AC adapter or FireWire charging cable like the original version did. And the iPod photo now ships without the AV cable and iPod photo dock that the original version included. There's some good news, however. The iPod mini now has significantly better battery life. And the iPod photo, well, it still has a color screen and stuff. Ah well.

Firefox Gets Major Security Update 

Users of the excellent Mozilla Firefox Web browser are advised to download the latest release of the browser Firefox 1.0.1, which includes a major new security update. Firefox 1.0.1 fixes a bug in its International Domain Name (IDN) support and patches two other major security flaws that were recently discovered. Because wide numbers of users are finally adopting Firefox, more than 25 million people have downloaded Firefox 1.0 since November. It's starting to come under attack by hackers. How The Mozilla Foundation responds to these attacks will determine in part whether Firefox is a flash in the pan or the browser of the future. My money is on the latter.

A Microsoft Joke 

Bill Gates walks into a bar and the patrons, Microsoft customers, all turn to look at the world's richest man. He announces "I'm going to devote all my time to Longhorn!" Everyone cheers and lifts Gates to carry him around the room in a victory parade. Two years pass and Gates returns to the bar. Longhorn hasn't shipped, the project is horribly mismanaged, and it's now something of a joke in the industry. He announces "I'm going to devote all my time to security!" This time, he's met by silence. So is this joke, funny. Not in the classic sense. But that's what just happened, minus the bar of course. Something to think about.

Next Week

I'll be skiing in Breckenridge, Colorado on Monday and Tuesday so WinInfo Daily UPDATE will be in the capable hands of Keith Furman through Wednesday. See you Thursday!

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