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WinInfo Short Takes: Week of July 4

An often irreverent--and yet totally patriotic--look at some of the week's other news, including summer plans, Longhorn's Project M, Longhorn Beta 1 in July, Longhorn RSS, Microsoft and Intel antitrust stuff, Tablet PC success, and so much more...

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Despite the fact that I've been traveling for years and often spend weeks at a time away from my family, I don't travel well. I came back from Seattle feeling groggy and tired, and this past week has been a disaster of late mornings and missed deadlines. I'm finally starting to catch up: My Microsoft Digital Image Suite 2006 review and the Longhorn Really Simple Syndication (RSS) showcase are up on the SuperSite for Windows, and my most recent article--a 10,000 word discussion of the Xbox 360--will be available soon. It's already written, but I need to finish some fact checking. If part one isn't finished today, I'll post it on Tuesday (because Monday is a holiday). If you're even remotely interested in video gaming, I can pretty much guarantee you're going to want to read this article.

This weekend marks the official start of my summer schedule, which will last through August, barring any unforeseen business travel. I'll work mornings and early afternoons, then head to the beach with my family for the rest of the day. We do this every day unless the weather is lousy, so if I seem to be offline during the afternoons, that's why.

One exception to this schedule will be our family vacation in July. This year we're going to Quebec City, Quebec. It's supposed to be more French than France, which sounds great to me. I've been to Montreal but this will be my first time in Quebec City. If anyone has recommendations about what to do and see, I'm listening.

This year's summer movies have mostly underwhelmed me. Aside from "Star Wars Episode III," which was everything it needed to be, the rest of the summer blockbusters have been lukewarm at best. "Batman Begins" is no better than Tim Burton's Batman and unnecessarily treads over the same tired Batman story we already know too well. And "Land of the Dead," George Romero's curiously well-reviewed zombie movie, didn't even rise to the level of last year's "Dawn of the Dead" remake (which was quite good). It seems like reviewers felt guilty about trashing Romero for so long so they made up for it with good reviews of a clunker. I have high hopes for "War of the Worlds," having just reread (the excellent and highly recommended) HG Wells book. If this movie stinks, I give up.

Finally, I need to find a new email-hosting solution for my email account. If you have any thoughts about that, please let me know.

Short Takes

Exclusive: Has Microsoft Found a New Longhorn Shell in Project M?
   Sources close to Microsoft told me this week that the software giant has started a mysterious new software project called Project M, which might be a replacement for the Windows shell in Longhorn. Heading Project M is none other than Hillel Cooperman, the user experience guru who presented Longhorn's UI ideas to developers at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in October 2003. Cooperman reports directly to Chris Jones, who recently returned to the Windows client team. Jones, in turn, reports directly to Will Poole, senior vice president of Windows Client Business. Project M is described internally only as Windows "shell enhancements," a mysteriously vague description. The project is secret even to most people at Microsoft and won't likely be added to Longhorn until the beta 2 or even the Release Candidate 0 (RC0) release. One source theorized that Project M is to Longhorn as Luna was to Windows XP: Early XP (then known as Whistler) betas used a UI called Watercolor that Microsoft eventually dropped. The UI in today's Longhorn builds, which we'll soon see in beta 1, could likewise be pushed aside for something more visually impressive.

Longhorn Beta 1: Late July
   As for Longhorn Beta 1, that milestone release is still on track for "this summer," although Microsoft officially missed the original internal release date of June 30. My sources say that Microsoft now plans to ship Longhorn Beta 1 in late July. The beta 2 release is still scheduled for November. Internally, most Longhorn product groups have already shipped their beta 1 code to the Windows team, and Microsoft is now prepping various 5200-series builds (post-beta 1) for internal rollout and testing. My sources describe Longhorn Beta 1 as one of the most stable beta 1 OS releases in Microsoft history, although it will lack most of the UI niceties the company plans for future releases. Beta 2, I'm told, is going to be "incredible" and "far more impressive than people now realize." We shall see.

Longhorn RSS Is Cute, But What About Security?
   OK, so Microsoft announced that it's adding pervasive Really Simple Syndication (RSS) support to Longhorn. Great. But what about the security ramifications of this move? Surely, Microsoft has thought through this issue, right? Actually, the company has. At PDC 2005 in Los Angeles this September, Microsoft will host several sessions about RSS security in Longhorn. Here's the problem: Because Windows is so widely used, security experts expect hackers to try to embed Windows-based attacks inside RSS feeds. That's the difference between a niche technology (RSS today) and one that's part of the Windows OS.

Microsoft Pays IBM $775 Million in Antitrust Settlement
   This morning, Microsoft and IBM announced that they have settled IBM's antitrust claims against the software giant to the tune of a cool $775 million. Like so many of the company's antitrust cases, the IBM suit arose in the wake of Microsoft's US antitrust trial, in which it was documented that Microsoft punished IBM with discriminatory Windows pricing and availability because IBM bundled its own Lotus SmartSuite, not Microsoft Office, with its PCs in the mid-1990s. I think that $775 million should be enough money to help fund a companywide move from Windows desktops to Linux desktops. Novell did it. Why not IBM?

GO Files Antitrust Suit Against Microsoft
   And speaking of Microsoft antitrust suits, the founder of GO, a company that tried to innovate with pen-based computing in the early 1990s but was shut out of the market when Microsoft preemptively announced a pen-based Windows product, has filed an antitrust suit against Microsoft. S. Jerrold Kaplan, former GO CEO, says that GO was forced out of business in 1994 when Microsoft perceived GO's OS, PenPoint, as a threat to Windows. Everyone pretty much knew why GO failed, but apparently new evidence has surfaced that Microsoft announced a pen-based version of Windows that didn't exist at the time and wouldn't for years, so the suit is on. Microsoft, characteristically, handled the news with its usual kid gloves. "These claims date back nearly 20 years," a Microsoft spokesperson said. "They were baseless then, and they are baseless now." But here's my favorite part: "Handwriting recognition had severe limitations in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and no company that attempted pen computers was successful." Ah, so that's all it was. I thought Microsoft's vaporware pre-announcement of Pen Windows, which caused support for GO to dry up, was the reason GO failed. My bad.

Microsoft in Talks to Buy Adware Maker
   Big Brother, anyone? What would you say if I told you that Microsoft is considering buying the leading purveyor of unwanted adware? Would you assume it's a joke? Would you try to defend Microsoft, assuming that maybe, just maybe, the company plans to shut down the adware company and give the Internet a big fat gift in the process? Nope, that's not the plan. Microsoft revealed this week that it's considering buying Claria, the company formally known as Gator. Microsoft wants Claria for its people-tracking technology. Yes, seriously. To be fair, some Microsoft insiders think that the Claria purchase will give the company (Microsoft, not Claria) a black eye. I give them credit for that realization. But if you read about anyone outside of Microsoft trying to defend this deal, well ... that person is troubled. No good can come of this.

Windows XP Starter Edition Heads to Cancun for the Summer
   Where does XP spend its summer? In Mexico, of course. This week, Microsoft Mexico launched the first Spanish version of XP Starter Edition, which is either the savior of computing in underdeveloped countries or a bald attempt to steal Linux's thunder, depending on whom you ask.

Intel Rejects AMD Accusations
   You might recall that earlier this week AMD filed an antitrust lawsuit against Intel. Not surprisingly, Intel isn't happy. In a statement, the company noted that it "strongly disagrees" with AMD's accusations, which is the professional way of saying that Intel CEO Paul S. Otellini is probably pacing Intel's corridors this week like a caged beast. For the record, Intel believes that it's competing fairly and that AMD's case is "full of excuses," whatever that means. I have to be honest. I have a morbid curiosity when it comes to corporate lawsuits. They always remind me of the scene in the original 1933 version of "King Kong" when Kong and that dinosaur menacingly circled each other in staggering stop-motion.

BT and Microsoft Sign Deal for TV Over Broadband in UK
   This week, BT, the UK's largest telecommunications company, selected Microsoft TV IPTV Edition software as the platform for its broadband TV efforts in the UK, which is that little slice of Europe that still refuses to move to the Euro. BT will begin an Internet protocol television (IPTV) trial in early 2006 and expects to deliver the service to consumers in mid-2006. Microsoft's TV efforts have been marred by low market penetration and an almost complete lack of interest from established infrastructure companies. They remind me of the company's smart phone efforts.

Gates Continues to Apologize for the Tablet PC
   And speaking of the technology that God forgot, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates said this week that he still believes in the Tablet PC. Despite slow sales of the devices--just 640,000, or about 1 percent of the portable computer market, were sold in 2004--Gates believes that the form factor will eventually take off. To be fair, he might have a point. Tablet PC sales are expected to exceed 1 million units in 2005, and IDC says that Tablet PC sales could hit almost 5 million units in 2007 and 9.7 million units in 2008. The key to this success is Longhorn, which will include numerous Tablet PC enhancements. You know ... if it ever ships.

No WinInfo on Monday
   Because of the Independence Day holiday in the United States, we won't publish WinInfo Daily UPDATE on Monday. Have a great long weekend!

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