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January 13, 2003—In this issue:
1. NEWS AND VIEWS
- Microsoft Settles with State of California
- Jobs Wows Faithful at Macworld, Ignores Switch Failure
2. SHORT TAKES: SPECIAL REPORT FROM CES
- What Gates Didn't Say
- SPOT Success Unclear
- Don't Get Too Excited About Future Windows Technology
- Microsoft Sells Smart Displays Home
- Crowds Continue to Dominate
- Being the Butterfly Isn't Better
- And the Show's Theme Was ...
- Don't Forget Convergence
- Question of the Week
- The Microsoft Mobility Tour Is Coming Soon to a City Near You!
- Windows Scripting Solutions for the Systems Administrator
4. CONTACT US
See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
1. NEWS AND VIEWS
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, [email protected])
Microsoft announced late Friday that the company had reached a settlement in the largest class-action lawsuit to arise since the guilty verdict in Microsoft's federal antitrust case. The case was originally scheduled to go to trial next month. According to the settlement's terms, Microsoft will pay 13 million California plaintiffs more than $1.1 billion in vouchers they can use toward any future computer hardware or software purchases.
"This is a good resolution for all sides, and we're especially pleased by the opportunity to help thousands of schools all across California get the computers and software they need," said Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith. "This settlement allows us to focus on the future and building great software, and avoids the cost and uncertainty of a lengthy trial." Lawyers representing the California plaintiffs apparently agreed. "This settlement represents a significant portion of the amount that Californians paid to Microsoft for its \[OS\] and key applications software over a 7-year period," said Lead Counsel Richard Grossman. "It is a tremendous result for California's businesses and consumers and will also benefit our schools at a time when that help is desperately needed."
Consumers, schools, or businesses that purchased any Microsoft software between February 1995 and December 2001 are eligible to file claims in the case and have 4 years to use the vouchers, the value of which will be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the cost of the Microsoft software purchased. Businesses and other organizations that bought Microsoft software in quantity are expected to reap the largest benefits. Microsoft will let California customers search the company's software registration database to determine the value of the Microsoft products they purchased.Although Microsoft faces other class-action lawsuits, the California case is unique. First, the case involves Microsoft products other than Windows and Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), which were the subject of the federal antitrust case. The case also involves the largest number of potential plaintiffs, and California has the most favorable consumer-protection laws.
JOBS WOWS FAITHFUL AT MACWORLD, IGNORES SWITCH FAILURE
Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs knows how to get the Macintosh faithful in a near-religious frenzy, and he put on a bravura performance last week during his Conference & Expo San Francisco 2003 keynote address. Jobs introduced new laptops and some interesting new software that lessens his company's reliance on Microsoft. Jobs's keynote, however, conveniently skipped over some basic market realities that now face Apple, the most damaging of which is that the company's high-profile Switch ad campaign, in which real people discuss their moves from Windows to Apple's Mac OS X, has been a complete failure.
Nevertheless, Jobs surprised the crowd with new hardware and software, virtually none of which the hype-heavy Apple press, which had been eagerly anticipating Macworld, predicted. The new hardware includes two new PowerBook G4 laptop computers: a 12" model that's virtually identical to the consumer-oriented iBook line and a mammoth 17" model that's apparently the laptop equivalent of the Ford Excursion. Both new PowerBooks eschew the build-quality-challenged Titanium casing of previous PowerBooks for a new aluminum-based design. Both computers are also available with optional AirPort Extreme wireless networking, which uses a preliminary version of the 54Mbps 802.11g wireless specification; Apple also introduced an AirPort Extreme base station.
On the software side, some of Jobs's announcements seemed more designed to anger Microsoft than fill particular product needs. For example, he announced an Apple-branded Web browser called Safari that's based on KHTML technology from the Linux K Desktop Environment (KDE)—even though the Mac OS X already has several available browsers—and Keynote, a presentation package that focuses on Microsoft PowerPoint.
But not all of Apple's new software announcements are superfluous. Jobs announced a new $50 digital-media suite called iLife that bundles iTunes 3 with new versions of iPhoto, iMovie, and iDVD, all of which will be available with new Macs for free. Apple iPhoto 2 includes new one-click photo enhancements, a Retouch tool, photo archiving to CD-ROM or DVD, and email integration. Apple iMovie 3 features a completely overhauled interface, new special effects, and a way to add DVD chapter marks to movies. Apple iDVD 3 adds 24 new pro-quality themes, integration with iMovie 3's chapter marks, and new theme customization features. The iLife package will be available January 25, as will free downloads of iPhoto 2 and iMovie 3.
Because Jobs gave his Macworld address just days before Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates presented his 2003 International Computer Electronics Show (CES) keynote address, not comparing the two events is impossible. The most obvious difference is support: Apple appears to be interested in going it alone, even to the extent of creating applications that don't break new ground or introduce new product categories but instead compete with existing third-party applications. Meanwhile, Gates's address continually touted Microsoft's many industry partners, such as the hardware makers working on Media2Go and Smart Personal Object Technology (SPOT) devices, Media Center PCs, and Tablet PCs. All of Microsoft's initiatives appear to be collaborative efforts, whereas Apple is basically circling the wagons and seizing any lucrative (and in the case of Safari, nonlucrative) businesses for itself. Put simply, comparing the reality of these two companies with way the public perceives them is astonishing.
2. SHORT TAKES: SPECIAL REPORT FROM CES
(An often-irreverent look at some of the week's other stories, contributed by Paul Thurrott, [email protected])
Friday's edition of Short Takes covered some of the highlights from Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates's keynote address, but the speech was most interesting because of what Gates didn't say. For example, during an overview of the Microsoft-oriented hardware products that are now shipping or will ship soon, Gates conveniently skipped over the Windows Powered Smartphone devices, which have had disappointing support and have been slow to market. In the United States, AT&T has committed to the release of Smartphone devices by the first half of this year, but precious little other news is available, including which company or companies are making the phones and which carriers will support the system. Gates and company have been pushing Smartphones for 2 years, and Microsoft continues to tout this technology at every trade show I attend. Will it ever happen?
Aside from Microsoft's Media2Go devices, the Smart Personal Object Technology (SPOT) wristwatch platform, which at least three major watchmakers will support, was the company's big announcement. However, the SPOT watches are enormous, especially the first-generation devices that go on sale later this year, and how much SPOT services will cost is unclear. Those services will feature a new Microsoft-created one-way networking scheme called DirectBand that uses the extra bandwidth on FM frequencies. The network is already running in several US cities, the company said. Some of the SPOT watch scenarios, such as sports fans at live games getting other teams' scores, are pretty exciting.
At the end of his keynote address, Gates dragged out Steve Guggenheimer, cryptically identified as a Microsoft director, whatever that is. Guggenheimer, you might recall, gave the infamous MSN demonstration in mid-2001 at the Microsoft Financial Analysts Meeting that caused many rumor sites to excitedly publish what were purportedly Longhorn and Blackcomb screen shots and movies. Guggenheimer was at it again last week, demonstrating future UIs designed for home-networking interactivity. As with the earlier MSN demonstration, however, none of the UI features he demonstrated will appear in any future Windows product, and the company has been using similar UIs in the Microsoft Home project, which I recently visited again at the company's campus. In other words, if screen shots from this demonstration appear on the Web purporting to be Longhorn, I'm going to scream.
One of the most exciting demonstrations this year was the Windows Powered Smart Displays exhibit, which involved a house erected in the Las Vegas Convention Center's parking lot. And it wasn't a scale model: After visiting the home, I can tell you that it was a livable abode, and Microsoft said that a local contractor purchased the home and will erect it on a lot somewhere in town.
Unlike crowds at COMDEX, the CES crowds continue to get bigger every year, and long cab lines, fully booked hotels, and impossible-to-get dinner reservations dominated Las Vegas, Nevada, last week. CES remains a big show with big crowds.
A host of Microsoft people dressed as MSN butterflies plied the show floor with giveaway CD0-ROMs and MSN gear. This year, they weren't wearing roller blades, which was probably for the best, but you have to feel bad for the people who had to dress up in those skin-tight costumes.
TV. This year's CES was all about TVs. Big-screen TVs. Wide-screen TVs. High-Definition Television (HDTV) TVs. Flat-panel TVs. Plasma TVs. LCD TVs. Digital Light Processing (DLP) TVs. Wherever I looked, there they were: Screen after screen in an ocean of screens. TV technology is improving dramatically for the first time in many years. The sets I saw at CES featured amazing clarity; I overheard one attendee say, "It's like my eyes just got better." I couldn't explain it better myself. All over the show, crowds formed at each large-format TV display. The long-awaited HDTV technology will finally happen when people can see just how good these sets look.
Convergence was another big theme, with companies combining technologies in interesting new ways. Many companies featured combination DVD players and digital video recording (DVR) devices, for example, or set-top boxes with integrated HDTV and DVR capabilities. Toshiba announced a TiVo device with a DVD player, and Polaroid showed off a DVD player with hardware support for Windows Media Video (WMV) 9-encoded data DVDs. Cell phones are also going the convergence route; new models feature built-in digital cameras, digital photos, music, videos, and support for games.
Where was Sony? Last year, the company dominated CES with a huge booth and several side areas. I'm sure the company attended the show, but I never saw it, even though I walked the entire show floor.
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