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WinInfo Short Takes: Week of December 6

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

MCE 2005: Is It Based on Windows XP Home or Pro?
   I spoke this week with Windows Product Manager Tom Laemmel to, among other things, clear up the continuing confusion about whether Windows XP Media Center Edition (XP MCE) 2005 is based on XP Home Edition or XP Professional Edition (earlier versions of XP MCE were a superset of XP Pro). Tom told me that Microsoft developed XP MCE based on XP Pro because XP Pro is the premium version of Windows available today. However, the company did remove two corporate-oriented XP Pro features--credential manager and domain logon--because it wanted to price the new XP MCE version below XP Pro's price and didn't want to cannibalize XP Pro sales, especially for corporations. With XP MCE 2005, Microsoft is trying to reach a much wider audience, and part of that effort involves lowering the product's cost, so something had to give. All other XP Pro features--including the Encrypting File System (EFS) and Microsoft IIS--are available in XP MCE 2005, Laemmel said.

Microsoft Files 7 Spam Lawsuits
   Microsoft filed seven lawsuits yesterday against spammers who violated the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act of 2003 antispam law's "brown paper wrapper" provision by sending offensive email messages to unsuspecting recipients. The provision requires that emailers include a label indicating that the message contains explicit material in both the subject line and the initially viewable area of an email message.

Microsoft and Sun, Sitting in a Tree ...
   Remember the good old days, when Microsoft and Sun Microsystems hurled insults at each other like rival school bullies? Well, those days are long over. And in the boring, less puerile present, we have instead two big companies that are falling all over each other so that they can work together. This week, executives from Microsoft and Sun got together in a little Kumbaya moment to share details about their new relationship and discuss how well things have gone for the past several months. "As a relationship goes, this is a 180-degree U turn," Sun Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Greg Papadopoulos said. "Nine months ago, we were slashing each other's tires. Now we're helping each other fix each other's flats." Then he batted his eyes and gave Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates a big hug. I can feel a scream coming on.

Microsoft Finally Patches the IE IFRAME Vulnerability
   The infamous IFRAME vulnerability in Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), which led to an exploit known as the Bofra bug, has been unpatched since early November. Now, suddenly and inexplicably, Microsoft has patched the vulnerability, denuding Microsoft critics of their latest ammunition. This week, the company issued an IE patch that fixes the flaw and ends potential banner ad-based attacks on the Web, which Microsoft calls the "IE Elements flaw" (sort of like Adobe PhotoShop Elements, I guess). You can get the patch from Automatic Updates and Windows Update, unless you're running XP SP2, in which case you're already protected.

MSN Spaces: Does This Mean Blogs Are Going Mainstream?
   Microsoft entered the blogging market this week with the release of MSN Spaces, which means that blogging must be going mainstream, right? Sort of. Despite the best efforts of the tech elite, only a small percentage of people who use the Web actually start blogs, and a much smaller percentage of those people make any effort to keep their blogs up-to-date. Microsoft has clearly taken the blog concept and made it more workable for typical people. If MSN Spaces is successful--and, frankly, it looks like good stuff--most blogs will simply evolve into what they should have been in the first place--simple personal home pages with links to things such as photo collections and music lists. Microsoft's strength is in making the technical more approachable, so I suspect MSN Spaces will be widely used. And it will ultimately further alienate the geeky guys who maintain "real" blogs.

McAfee: Microsoft to Enter Antivirus Market in Mid-2005
   Antivirus vendor McAfee expects Microsoft to enter the antivirus market in mid-2005, leading credence to rumors that the software giant will offer its antivirus wares earlier than the previously announced Longhorn time frame. McAfee says that although it has a deal with Microsoft to give MSN 9 customers antivirus solutions, Microsoft has yet to contact McAfee about extending the contract to include the upcoming MSN 10. For this reason, McAfee expects Microsoft to first offer its own antivirus solution through MSN, not generally to all XP users. I'm interested to see what happens. I have yet to hear anything personally from Microsoft about any pre-Longhorn antivirus plans.

Microsoft Announces Winner of Tablet PC Developer Application Contest
   Microsoft announced that Ambient Design, the creator of ArtRage, won the $100,000 grand prize in the "Does Your App Think in Ink?" contest. Microsoft designed the contest to let developers create solutions with the latest version of the XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 software development kit (SDK), which targets new features in XP Tablet PC. ArtRage is a cool application that emulates real artist tools such as pens, paints, and canvas. To find out more about the winning entries, including ArtRage, visit the PC Magazine Web site.

Is IBM Selling Its PC Business?
   According to a report in "The New York Times," IBM is trying to sell its entire PC business--including its lucrative and highly rated ThinkPad line--for $1 billion to $2 billion. If true, the move would mark an unprecedented milestone in the history of the PC market because IBM is the company that started the market in the first place. IBM is reportedly in conversations with China-based Lenovo Group and another unnamed potential buyer. Today, IBM is the world's third largest PC maker, although it falls far behind market leaders Dell and HP and makes little money from its PCs. In the most recent quarter, IBM sold 5.6 percent of all PCs worldwide, compared with 16.8 percent for Dell and 15 percent for HP. I find it odd that the company is abandoning this market when its PC products are high quality and its award-winning ThinkPad line is inarguably the most desirable line of laptop computers available today.

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