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WinInfo Short Takes: Week of February 21

Microsoft to Distribute New Longhorn Build at WinHEC
   This story isn't exactly news, per se, (it's pretty obvious when you think about it) but Microsoft confirmed this week that it will issue a refreshed technical preview build of Longhorn at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) 2005 trade show in April. The preview will be the first public build of Longhorn in a year, and a lot has changed, internally, since Microsoft moved Longhorn to a new component-based structure that will make the system easier to install and modify. Given Longhorn's schedule (available on the SuperSite for Windows), the WinHEC build will be a pre-beta 1 release. I think people will be surprised by the progress Microsoft has made (mostly because the company hasn't made any public mention of the work it's been doing). 

Microsoft Meets with DOJ, Discusses Longh orn
   Speaking of Longhorn, Microsoft representatives met with lawyers from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) yesterday to review the software giant's plans for its next major OS and to make sure the company doesn't violate the terms of its antitrust settlement. Neither the DOJ nor Microsoft will comment about the compliance meeting, but I suspect that the two groups discussed the technology that Microsoft is bundling into Longhorn. Two key low-level Longhorn technologies, Avalon and Indigo, will be available separately from Longhorn for Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP1) and Windows XP SP2 users, and my guess is that those technologies will come up in any future DOJ and Microsoft talks.

Which Company Will Capellas Give Away Next?
   Michael D. Capellas, the former Compaq CEO who saw HP swallow up his company in the worst corporate merger since AOL/Time Warner, jumped ship from HP after the merger and joined MCI as CEO and chairman. Now MCI's corporate rival, telecommunications giant Verizon, is devouring MCI. So what's next for the Man Who Would Be King? Nobody but Capellas knows for sure, but given his experience chopping up companies for would-be suitors, I have to think he'd be perfect for the top spot at HP, which recently (and unceremoniously) showed controversial ex-CEO Carly Fiorina the door. Capellas would be a perfect fit for HP, which frankly needs to start divesting itself of some money-losing technologies. Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs has also proven to be pretty good at dropping unnecessary technology and focusing on the moneymakers. Maybe HP can bring him in as an advisor. I hear he's not too busy these days.

As Expected, Massachusetts Gets Relaxed Format-Licensing Deal from Microsof t
   Folding under the weight of the moral high ground like a trailer park in high wind, the state of Massachusetts completed its walk away from the brink of technological legitimacy this week by brokering a format-licensing deal with Microsoft. Massachusetts, you might recall, made news last year when it announced that it would use only documents based on open standards. The move, presumably, would have cut Microsoft out of the loop because its Microsoft Office document formats are definitely not open standards. However, after a year of negotiations, Microsoft has relaxed its Office document format-licensing terms and, in return, Massachusetts has dropped the rhetoric and lowered its standards for what, ahem, constitutes an open standard. Microsoft, for its part, has ensured Massachusetts that its XML-based Office formats will remain "open" for all time. And Massachusetts has ensured Microsoft that the state hasn't found a pledge that it can't sidestep.

Microsoft Makes Windows XP x64 RC2 Available for Free Download
   Microsoft made the Release Candidate 2 (RC2) version of XP Professional x64 Edition available to the public this week. The release, which is identified as build 1433 (for those you who keep track of such things), will run only on x64-based PCs that use AMD Athlon 64, AMD Opteron, or Intel EM64T-based microprocessors. Microsoft expects to complete XP Pro x64 in March and make it widely available to customers in April, I'm told. When you think about it, that schedule makes a WinHEC 2005 final release of the product likely. 

HP Earnings Exceed Expectations
   When HP bounced CEO Fiorina onto the sidewalk, the company cited reduced earnings and a general Vision problem (that's Vision with a capital V, not vision). There's just one problem: HP just announced its earnings for the most recently completed quarter, and the company actually exceeded expectations. HP increased revenues by 9.9 percent to $21.5 billion, up from the $21 billion analysts expected. One quarter does not a successful company make, however, and HP has certainly spent the past 2 years failing to live up to the lofty financial targets ex-CEO Fiorina cited at the time of the HP/Compaq merger.

Windows Beats Linux in Live Security Contest
   During a live duel of sorts between backers of Windows 2003 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux during the RSA Conference 2005 this week in San Francisco, a surprising victor emerged. Based on the previously agreed-upon rules, Windows 2003 came out ahead, emerging as the more secure OS. How could this happen, you ask? After agreeing to terms, backers of both OSs evaluated the security-oriented performance of Windows 2003 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux during the past year, looking at such key criteria as number of reported security vulnerabilities and the amount of time that elapsed between the public disclosure of a security flaw and the release of a fix. But doesn't the open-source model practically guarantee that fixes are released more quickly than they are with proprietary OSs? I guess not. Results of the competition will be released next month, but here's the gist: Windows 2003 won every part of the competition. It had fewer flaws overall. The average time between Windows 2003 flaw reports and fixes was less than half that of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Less than half. Does this mean that Windows is more secure than Linux on the server? Not necessarily. But it certainly provides an interesting real-world example of why assumptions about Linux security are completely bogus, as I've often noted.

When It Comes to Talking to Kids, Microsoft has M4d Sk1llz
   This story is so silly I wish I were making it up, but I'm not. Microsoft has created a Web site that explains computer slang to parents. The site is sort of like those 1950s documentaries in which suit-wearing straights explained how "Mary Jane" and "weed" were corrupting America's youth, leading to a lifetime of dependency and crime. What sort of slang is available on the Internet today? How about warez or w4r3z, as in wares or pirated software? Or words such as kewl, woot, and--my favorite--noob. I have one thing to say to Microsoft: D00d, you noobs rox0rs. 

New Sun StarOffice 8.0 Beta Looks a Lot Like Microsoft Office 2003
   Sun Microsystems issued a public beta of StarOffice 8.0 this week for Windows, Linux, and other systems, and the product is a huge leap forward. Like earlier StarOffice releases, StarOffice 8.0 is based on the free office productivity suite, but StarOffice 8.0 includes a database application and several refinements and improvements over its free brethren. Chief among these improvements, in my opinion, is its new look and feel, which is modeled after Office 2003. That's right; despite some rough edges (the StarOffice 8.0 beta still has the insane and control-heavy configuration dialog boxes that earlier releases used), the product does a credible job of emulating the latest version of Microsoft's product. And those rough edges are all that separates this otherwise impressive product from its much more expensive competition. If Sun can fix the dialog boxes, the product will be a winner. For the free beta download, visit Sun's Web site

Firefox Downloads Hit 25 Million
   And speaking of alternatives to Microsoft products, everyone's favorite Web browser got even more popular this week. The Mozilla Foundation celebrated more than 25 million downloads of its Firefox 1.0 Web browser, a milestone it hit in less than 100 days. An average of 25,000 people download Firefox every week, which isn't too shabby. Firefox is free, of course, and is a much safer Web browser than Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE). I strongly recommend it.

See You Tuesday
   We won't publish WinInfo Daily UPDATE on Monday because of the Presidents' Day holiday in the United States, but if any major news happens, I'll post it to the Web site. Have a great long weekend, and we'll see you on Tuesday.

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