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WinInfo Short Takes: Week of August 8

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including some fun controversies, a Windows Vista "not slip," the IE 7 Beta 1 download, a new sync tool from Microsoft, the Wal-Martisation of Microsoft, and so much more...

WinInfo Blog

It's been quite a week. Thanks to the release of Windows Vista Beta 1 last week, I've been inundated with email messages, many of which I haven't been able to reply to yet. I'll keep trying. But summer is usually a slow time, and as I've mentioned before, my family tries to spend as much time as possible at the beach during July and August. I wonder how ridiculous I'd look sitting on the beach with a laptop.

I expected that my Vista Beta 1 coverage would generate a lot of activity--and it did--but one thing that really took me by surprise was the reaction to my "Boycott IE" comments in an otherwise pretty mundane article about Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7.0 Web standards support. I told Microsoft's Gary Schare and Chris Wilson that I frequently don't think through the effects my words can have. I know that sounds disingenuous, but it's true. I honestly thought nothing of the article; I've been recommending Firefox over IE for years. My mistake. Apparently, I'm leading a crusade now. Note to self: Think, then write.

On a related note, on Tuesday a minor post on my personal blog, the Internet Nexus, brought Microsoft down on me like a lead hammer. This incident, too, was completely unexpected. I can't discuss the post per se, but I will discuss Microsoft's interaction with me during this event because it was so silly. After demanding that I remove the post, which appears on a free blog read by about 12 people, I was told that I had violated a nondisclosure agreement (NDA--I hadn't) and that the information I had posted--in all its vagueness--was a Microsoft trade secret. I was also told that various people at Microsoft were "very upset" with me, although none of them contacted me directly. And yes, they have my phone number. So... I'm not sure what all this means. But like I said, it was quite a week.

Short Takes

Windows Vista Hasn't Slipped to Late 2006
   I love the media--and not because I have the dubious distinction of living within its outer fringes. This week, I saw several reports noting that the release of Windows Vista had slipped yet again, this time to late 2006. I'm particularly amazed at the lack of research that went into those reports. At the annual Microsoft Financial Analysts Meeting a week ago, Microsoft Senior Vice President Will Poole noted that Vista won't ship until holiday season 2006, which places the release in the October 2006 to December 2006 time frame--exactly when the company said the OS would ship the last time it publicly discussed the date. However, some people saw this announcement as a slip from the "second half of 2006" time frame the company has also mentioned. News flash: Vista has been expected in late 2006 for quite a while now. This "news" isn't new.

Download IE 7.0
   Although Microsoft intended to ship Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7.0 Beta 1 only to private beta testers and Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) and TechNet subscribers, the browser began appearing on a variety of download sites this week, and Microsoft doesn't seem to be doing anything to stop the downloads. So if you're really interested in getting IE 7.0 Beta 1, here's your chance. Just don't say I didn't warn you. The browser overwrites IE 6.0, is buggy, and has compatibility problems with certain plug-ins. Still interested? OK; go nuts.

Microsoft Releases SyncToy Beta for Windows XP
   This week, Microsoft released a beta version of a new PowerToy called SyncToy, which lets you synchronize files between PCs, digital cameras, portable media players, and other devices. In some ways, it's a modern equivalent of the Briefcase tool that Microsoft first shipped in Windows 95 and hasn't updated since. It uses a nice wizard-like interface that automatically synchronizes the contents of two folders, regardless of their locations. The tool looks pretty cool, although you must have Windows XP to use it.

First Windows Vista Virus Appears
   Just a week after Microsoft shipped Vista Beta 1 to the world, the fledgling OS has been blessed with its first virus. OK, maybe blessed isn't the right word. (Come on, Paul. Think, then write.) An Austrian hacker has released a virus that uses Vista Beta 1's new command shell (code-named Monad) and actually includes a tutorial about writing other Monad-based viruses. "Monad will be like Linux's BASH \[shell\]," the hacker noted. "We will be able to make as huge and complex scripts as we do in Linux." The virus is categorized as proof-of-concept only and doesn't do anything harmful. But it raises some interesting concerns.

At Least 60 Percent of Windows XP Installed Base Now Running SP2
   Almost a year after Microsoft shipped XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), 60 percent of the XP user base is finally using the update. According to Microsoft, the company had distributed almost 220 million copies of XP SP2 by the end of June. Meanwhile, IDC analysts estimate the XP installed base at more than 371 million users. Do the math, and it works out to about 60 percent of XP users now running SP2. But the actual installed base is likely much higher because companies typically deploy a single downloaded version of software updates to numerous machines.

Wal-Mart Executive Becomes Microsoft COO
   Microsoft announced this week that it hired Kevin Turner, formerly CEO of Wal-Mart's Sam's Club warehouse stores, to be the software giant's COO. Microsoft hasn't had a COO since 2002, when Rick Belluzzo (no, I don't remember him, either) left the company as quietly as he came. Given the fact that Microsoft is basically the Wal-Mart of the PC industry, I'm sure Turner will feel right at home. Just a note, Kevin: The big guy's name is Bill, not Sam.

Microsoft Quietly Becomes Largest Blogging Company
   The geeky losers who started the blog craze might criticize MSN Spaces, a free blogging tool for consumers, for being too fun and friendly. But don't mistake easy with simplistic. MSN Spaces has struck a chord with users who want to self publish on the Web, and now it's one of the most popular blogging services on the Internet. When MSN Spaces launched in April, Microsoft reported that 4.5 million users had created a blog, and 170,000 of them were updating their blogs daily. Microsoft now reports that there are more than 15 million MSN Spaces blogs, with more than 500,000 of them being updated every day. Yikes. That's an awful lot of newbies.

HP Pulls Out of One-Sided iPod Deal with Apple
   HP has canceled its deal with Apple Computer to resell the iPod. The deal was one-sided for HP and highlights how desperate ex-CEO Carly Fiorina was to make HP look cool. Instead of the promised Windows Media Audio (WMA) compatibility and customized blue case that HP was supposed to offer, HP got ... nothing. The company was forced to sell Apple's iPod--with no modifications--and was unable to do a thing to make Apple's proprietary Protected Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) format (which Apple iTunes Music Store songs use) compatible with the many PCs and devices HP sells. So the deal is off, thanks to new CEO Mark Hurd. Good for him.

Time Warner Sets Aside $3 Billion to Settle AOL Claims
   Ah, the fruits of victory. Time Warner announced this week that it will set aside $3 billion to settle fraud claims by shareholders who are still angry that the company merged with AOL. Most of that money will be used to settle the class-action lawsuits that cropped up in the wake of the merger, which has proven to be a financial disaster for Time Warner. The company is now considering spinning off or selling AOL if it doesn't stop floundering. My guess is that it won't stop.

Newsflash: Apple Ships a Multibutton Mouse Device
   And the company is touting it as the innovative wonder it would have been ... had Apple released the device in 1986, not 2005. More than 20 years after the first two-button mouse device appeared for the PC, Apple finally started shipping a device that sports more than one button. Dubbed the Mighty Mouse (yes, I'm serious), the new device looks almost exactly like the company's existing optical device, except it has a curious gray nipple that's actually a scroll wheel. Why is this information of any particular interest? Actually, it isn't. I'm not even sure why I mentioned it.


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