WinInfo Short Takes: Week of April 11

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including a test of Microsoft's EULA, iPod Halo effect vs. reality, XP SP2 upgrades, Burst settlement, Windows 2003 Cluster @#$% Edition, and so much more

Paul Thurrott

April 7, 2005

8 Min Read
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An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news...

First Cracks Appear in Microsoft's Hidden EULA
   My guess is that you're going to hear a lot more about this case in the weeks ahead. The short version goes like this: Microsoft sued an Ohio college student last year for selling two pieces of unused Microsoft software on eBay. Microsoft has won numerous cases like this in the past by default (who wants to square off against Goliath?), but University of Akron student David Zamos decided to fight back. He won--or at least settled after Microsoft realized the danger--but there's a lesson to be learned from this story. Zamos argued, quite effectively, that he couldn't agree to Microsoft's sales and licensing terms because the company wraps its End User License Agreement (EULA) inside the unopened software. I expect this bit of legal chicanery to be tested again in the future. In the meantime, this is a bellwether case that all Microsoft customers should be aware of. The "Cleveland Scene" ran the full, and interesting, story

Ex-Microsoft Employee Fined, Given Jail Time for Theft
   Speaking of Microsoft's legal concerns, an ex-Microsoft employee was sentenced to 2 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $5 million in restitution for stealing software from the company and selling it on the side. Richard Gregg admitted to ordering more than $13 million of software from Microsoft's internal ordering system, selling it on the street, and using the proceeds to purchase luxury automobiles and pay off his mortgage. Gregg was fired in late 2002 after his activities were discovered. Gregg's sentence was considerably reduced because he agreed to work with prosecutors during their investigation. Can you imagine what his sentence would have been had he not cooperated?

Microsoft: iPod Halo Won't Protect the Mac
   Cynthia Crossley, who heads the Windows Client Division at Microsoft UK, told this week that the software giant isn't worried that Apple Computer's success with the iPod will lead to more Macintosh sales and, thus, impact the PC market. "We haven't seen it yet," she said. "We're not happy about losing any market share. [But] we worry less about 'losing share' and more about what else we can get into ... we want to do it all." That's an interesting understatement. But going back to the iPod stuff, thinking that iPod users will buy Macs in volume is a stretch. I don't recall any studies that discuss how Sony Walkman users moved right up to $2500 Sony LCD displays, for example. It's sad that every little success at Apple renews talk of a Mac revival. First it was Mac OS X's success. That prediction was wrong. Jaguar? Nope. Hmm. How about the iPod? No? Well, maybe Mac OS X Tiger will do it. Or the Mac mini. Seriously, how about ...

Slow Business Upgrade to Windows XP SP2? Or Just a Slow News Week?
   A Canadian asset-tracking firm called AssetMatrix reported this week that only 24 percent of corporations have installed Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), leading to Chicken Little stories describing how Microsoft's latest update is floundering with enterprises. But this report isn't really a story. First, Microsoft says that more than 180 million PCs have been upgraded to XP SP2 since the update first became available in August 2004. Second, as the company so ably explains, the 24 percent figure, if true, is right on target with Microsoft's internal expectations for large corporations. That's because enterprises take as long as 18 months to evaluate and deploy major software upgrades. Furthermore, Microsoft notes that 77 percent of its enterprise customers have told the company that they plan to deploy XP SP2 in the next 6 months. Exciting stuff, eh?

Microsoft Finalizes Burst Settlement
   If you've been crossing your fingers and holding your breath, give your body a much-needed rest. Microsoft has finalized its Burst settlement. You might recall that Burst sued Microsoft for stealing its digital media-streaming technology and that the case came to a close a month ago when the two companies reached a tentative settlement. Still at issue at that time, however, were several questions about the company's plans and its use of the settlement proceeds. Microsoft will pay Burst $60 million to license Burst's patent portfolio, but Microsoft can't sublicense the rights. Burst doesn't plan to change its current business model, which, as I read it, is to sue large companies for using technology that's even remotely similar to Burst's. Don't believe me? Here's how Burst describes it: "Burst envisions that going forward, it will focus almost exclusively on the aggressive enforcement of its patents in the markets previously described and the maximization of licensing revenues." Sounds like a great group of guys.

Microsoft Delays Windows Compute Cluster Edition
   Sit down; I know this news will shock you. Just a month after declaring that the next Windows version will ship in November, Microsoft is now delaying that product until ... yikes ... the first half of 2006. Fortunately, I'm talking about an esoteric server product called Windows Server 2003 Compute Cluster Edition, which is expected to rack up sales of at least eight units over the course of its lifetime. Aimed at the supercomputing crowd--which is allegedly still laughing at Apple's claims about the Power Mac G4 processor--Windows 2003 Compute Cluster Edition seeks to move supercomputing out of academia and into the commercial market. Eventually.

Sorry, AMD: Dell Reaffirms Commitment to Intel
   I hate it when my favorite companies can't get along. This week, Dell CEO Kevin Rollins reiterated that his company will continue to ignore microprocessor upstart AMD and work solely with Intel. Dell and AMD came frustratingly close to working together. After AMD pioneered the 64-bit x64 processor, Dell briefly considered moving to AMD but backed off when Intel jumped on board the x64 rollercoaster. "We saw Intel lagging a few months ago and expressed interest in AMD," Rollins said. "Since that time, Intel has really stepped up to the plate." The situation makes me wonder whether Intel's interest in x64 was driven, in part, by Dell's desire to move to that platform. Ah, well, we could play what-if games all day. In my favorite what-if scenario, Commodore's Amiga platform went on to dominate the computer industry.

Dell: We're In the Money, We're In the Money
   Speaking of Dell, the world's largest PC maker said this week that it has seen the future, and the future involves a lot of money. Dell expects its annual sales to grow from $49 billion to $80 billion within 3 to 4 years. The company also expects to retain its sales lead and growth figures, the latter of which hovered around 19 percent in 2004, well ahead of the industry average. Is there anything that can stop the Dell juggernaut? My guess is that even a well-placed asteroid would do nothing to stop Dell, which is just fine with me.

Microsoft CFO Exits Stage Right
   Microsoft CFO John Connors announced in January that he would be leaving the company but never specified an exit date. It turns out that Connors left the company on March 31 without even saying goodbye. When asked about Connors, a Microsoft spokesperson said, "He left?" Actually, the reply was a more diplomatic, "John leaves behind him a strong and capable team, and we are confident in the ability to continue to execute as we have during his tenure." Which is PR speak for, "We don't really have anything to say about this topic, but thanks for asking." I'll always remember Connors as a man who ... talked about money. And stuff.

Microsoft to Issue 8 Security Bulletins Next Week
   Microsoft will issue eight security bulletins on Tuesday, and three of the bulletins will include patches for critical security flaws. Those flaws occur in Microsoft Office, MSN Messenger, and Microsoft Exchange Server, the company says. You've been warned.

Sony Claims Strong Start for PSP
   Despite analysts' worries that the PlayStation Portable (PSP) is off to a slow start in North America, Sony says that the feature-packed portable device is doing just fine, thank you very much, with $150 million in sales in its first week on the North American market. Sony says that it has sold more than 500,000 PSP Value Packs in North America since the units first became available March 24. The company had predicted that it would sell 1 million units in that market by the end of March, however, so it's hard to tell what's going on. I was able to pick up a PSP from last week without any waiting, and PSP games are available in large numbers in stores such as Best Buy. My initial impression: The PSP is clearly superior to the Nintendo DS, and its gorgeous screen makes Portable Media Centers look sickly by comparison.

Vote for Your Favorite IT Products
   The ballot for Windows IT Pro's annual Readers' Choice awards is now live. Make your voice heard, and reward the companies that provide excellent products and the best overall service. The September 2005 issue of "Windows IT Pro" will feature the winners. To vote, click here.

About the Author(s)

Paul Thurrott

Paul Thurrott is senior technical analyst for Windows IT Pro. He writes the SuperSite for Windows, a weekly editorial for Windows IT Pro UPDATE, and a daily Windows news and information newsletter called WinInfo Daily UPDATE.

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