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WinInfo Short Takes: Week of August 29

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including a miserable cold, Microsoft's anti-phishing plans, Virtual Server 2005 R2, XP vs. Zotob, Halo: The Movie, MSN Messenger 7.5 vs. Google Talk, PC revenues, TiVo earnings, and so much more...

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What a miserable, forgettable week. And no, I'm not just talking about the nonevent that was the 10th anniversary of Windows 95. After a wonderful start (I caught a 38-inch striped bass off the coast of Cape Cod Sunday morning), the week devolved into an epic--but ultimately losing--battle with a nasty summer cold. I feel like I haven't gotten anything done all week, largely because, well, I haven't.

That includes, sadly, a long comparison of Windows Vista Beta 1 and Mac OS X Tiger that I had hoped to post on the SuperSite for Windows this week. Although it's easy to simply blame my cold (I can usually bang out those type of articles in a few marathon writing sessions), the sheer difficulty of the comparison wasn't apparent when I started it. Because so many people have been asking to see this write-up, I'll post the first part later today and parts two and three (yeah, it's going to be long) next week. Sorry for the delay.

I've received a lot of questions about the Verizon Fios fiber-optic Internet access system, which offers blazingly fast transfer speeds for the same price as cable modem. I don't have the connection installed yet, but I did get some details from Verizon, which has had employees up and down my street doing mysterious things to the phone lines all week. It turns out that when you get Fios, Verizon actually removes all the copper lines to your house. Because the company also provides phone service through the Fios link and that link runs off your home's electricity, Verizon has to install a battery backup in the event of a power loss (so your phone will still work--for 4 hours, anyway). Although this service won't be available until next year, Verizon will also offer a cable TV-style TV service over Fios. It's pretty exciting stuff, mostly because there's so much headroom on the connection.

Short Takes

Microsoft Phishing Filter to Ship Ahead of IE 7.0
   We complain when Microsoft restricts certain features and functionality to only the latest product versions, so this report should be seen as good news. Although Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7.0 will include Phishing Filter, a feature that helps protect users from scam Web sites, Microsoft believed that the feature was important enough to make it available to IE 6.0 users (via a plug-in for the MSN Search Toolbar) before IE 7.0's release. (It's due any day now, I'm told.) If you're not into the MSN Search Toolbar but want antiphishing features, check out Netcraft Toolbar, which is what I use. There's also a version for Mozilla Firefox.

Virtual Server 2005 SP1 Becomes Virtual Server 2005 R2
   Microsoft revealed this week that it will can its planned Service Pack 1 (SP1) release for Virtual Server 2005 and instead ship a more comprehensive update called Virtual Server 2005 R2 (for release 2). Virtual Server 2005 R2 will be an entirely new product version that, sadly, won't be free for existing Virtual Server users. The product will contain a bunch of new functionality, however, most of which is currently unknown. One major change should please customers, however: Starting with Virtual Server 2005 R2, Microsoft will officially begin supporting Linux guest OSs, a marked change from the previous policy. Let's hope that the company adds this feature (back) to a future Virtual PC upgrade.

Zotob Worm Also Affects Windows XP
   So much for those "Windows 2000 only" claims, eh, Microsoft? This week, everyone's favorite software giant admitted that some variations of the Zotob worm do, indeed, affect some versions of Windows XP, contrary to earlier reports. "We are now aware of a very narrow and limited case on Windows XP SP1 whereby an unauthenticated attack might be possible," Debby Fry Wilson, director of the Microsoft Security Response Center, wrote in a blog posting this week. "We are providing an advisory as a precaution." I love the smell of backpedaling in the morning, but to be fair, most corporate XP installations won't have this problem because you have to be part of a workgroup, not an Active Directory (AD) domain, for the flaw to be exploited.

Halo Movie Coming in 2007
   Microsoft's wildly successful Halo video game franchise will soon be turned into a Hollywood movie blockbuster intriguingly named "Halo: The Movie." The epic story of Master Chief will be brought to the big screen as the major summer 2007 release for both Universal Pictures and 20th Century Fox, which are producing and distributing, respectively, the movie. But you won't have to wait until summer 2007 to see a first-person video game shooter on the big screen. This October, The Rock will star in a film adaptation of id Software's eerie DOOM 3, which will oddly enough simply be called "DOOM: The Movie." It looks hokey, but I'm intrigued by its actual use of first-person perspective in some scenes, which should please fans of the genre.

Rumor Busting: MSN Messenger Isn't a "Reaction" to Google Talk
   Geesh. If you ever wanted to understand the difference in the way the media handles Google and Microsoft, this week was a great example. Google shipped a bare-bones IM solution called Google Talk and was the toast of the town. But a few days earlier, Microsoft shipped MSN Messenger 7.5, a full-featured IM client with full-screen video capabilities and answering-machine-style audio recordings, and barely garnered a single write-up. The one major comparison I did see even went so far as to describe MSN Messenger 7.5--which had been in development for several months--as a "reaction" to Google Talk. Not that we need shed any tears for Microsoft, but give me a break. MSN Messenger 7.5 isn't a "reaction" to Google Talk. Instead, Google Talk is a reaction to the success of several IM clients and the lucrative IM market opportunity.

Gartner: PC Revenues to Flatline in 2005
   Everyone's pretty excited to see that PC sales are finally growing again--and at a decent clip. But there's a soft underbelly to that growth, according to Gartner analysts. Although PC sales are up 12.7 percent year over year, PC sales revenues are up only a piddling 0.5 percent. These numbers suggest that PC makers are selling far more bargain-basement models than ever before, as Dell's recent quarterly results indicated. Even Apple Computer, with its comparatively low-ball Mac mini, has entered the low-end PC sweepstakes. The results are a bonanza for PC customers but not so great for PC makers.

MSDN Subscribers Will Get Early Access to SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005
   Assuming these products actually ship this year (I'm hearing some weird rumors), MSDN subscribers will get early download access to SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 ahead of the products' projected November release dates. If you don't mind grabbing a near-final release, Microsoft is set to ship release candidate (RC) versions of both products just in time for September's Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2005. The RC versions will be feature-complete, Microsoft says.

TiVo Briefly Swings into Profitability
   Poor, beleaguered TiVo. The digital video recording (DVR) pioneer recently posted its first-ever quarterly profit, a gain of $240,000 on revenues of $39.3 million, compared with a loss of $10.8 million in the same quarter a year ago. Those numbers sounds good but, as TiVo CEO Tom Rogers noted, the company "faces a number of significant challenges." The problem, it seems, are subscribers. Specifically, there aren't many. The company has 3.6 million subscribers overall, but 2.1 million of them came from a partnership with DirecTV, which has since dissolved. Many of those customers will soon move to a competing DirecTV-based DVR system. Sales of standalone TiVo units were just 40,000 for the quarter, which isn't great. My advice is simple: Lower prices, and advertise aggressively. TiVo is a wonderful and simple service, and most US TV viewers can't yet get DVR through their cable systems. When they can, TiVo must have a much better service at a decent price if it hopes to compete. Today, TiVo is good but expensive.

Goodbye Dial-Up: Verizon Offers DSL on the Cheap
   And speaking of suddenly unnecessary technology, communications giant Verizon announced this week that it will begin offering a DSL-based broadband connection for just $14.95. That price puts the squeeze on dial-up offerings, which often cost in excess of $20 a month but offer much lower connection rates. Verizon's low-end DSL service, which mirrors a similar offering from SBC Communications, offers 768Kbps transfer rates, about 14 times the speed of dial-up.

Intel Goes Mac
   In the midst of Intel's high-profile microprocessor news from this week's Intel Developer Forum, one little tidbit escaped largely unnoticed, at least in the PC world. Thanks to Intel's recent deal to supply chips for Macintosh computers, Intel will soon begin offering Mac-based development tools that will help application programmers better target Intel-based Mac systems. Always the good citizen, Intel will provide highly optimized compilers and other developer tools that plug directly into Apple's XCode development system. "This is a whole new market for us," Intel Compiler Lab Director Kevin Smith said. Indeed. I'm sure the other 99.9 percent of your customer base will completely understand.

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