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WinInfo Short Takes: Week of March 14

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

Gates: Longhorn Gets Its Groove Back
   During a press conference describing Microsoft's acquisition of Groove Networks, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates said yesterday that Groove's collaboration technology will be integrated into Longhorn, the next major Windows release. "We will bring together the peer-to-peer and authentication capabilities Groove has built into its application with the equivalent things we have been incubating at Microsoft to strengthen the platform," Gates said. "Clearly, a big thing with Longhorn is its peer-to-peer capabilities, and Groove will help us pull that together. Groove has some fantastic and unique features we want to fit into the entire Office offering \[as well\]." Longhorn will feature simple ad hoc networking features and new "castle" functionality, which Microsoft describes as "domains for the home." For more information about upcoming Longhorn technologies, check out my recently updated "The Road to Windows Longhorn 2005" showcase on the SuperSite for Windows. 

Microsoft Won't Confirm WinFS on Windows XP Rumors
   Various Web rumor mills have been reporting that Microsoft is going to backport its WinFS storage technology to Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), just as the company has decided to do with the Avalon and Indigo technologies. Microsoft refuted those claims, however, stating that the company is simply investigating the feasibility of such a move. Because WinFS won't ship in final form until early 2007 at the earliest--compared with a mid-2006 release for Avalon and Indigo--supporting XP SP2 might not make much sense. WinFS is a relational database-backed storage engine that sits on top of the NTFS file system. Its exclusion from Longhorn, however, doesn't mean that Longhorn won't feature instant desktop search features. In the aforementioned SuperSite showcase, I describe exactly which search features Longhorn will include.

Microsoft Settles Case
   Microsoft settled a 3-year-old lawsuit yesterday. The suit alleged that the software giant stole digital media technology and trade secrets from Burst in a bid to improve the Windows Media products. Terms of the settlement haven't been revealed and likely won't be, but Burst's complaints and evidence were pretty compelling. According to Burst, Microsoft courted the company for 2 years, then simply integrated its technologies into Windows Media Player (WMP) without paying for them. During the trial, a controversial email destruction rule that Microsoft Senior Vice President Jim Allchin instigated was revealed, casting further doubts on Microsoft's case. Now that the case is settled, one can only wonder about the outcome. My guess? Microsoft indeed ended up paying for Burst's technology.

US Government to Get Windows Patches First
   Microsoft said this week that it will give the US government priority when it comes to disclosing and fixing security flaws in Windows and other software. The company will give the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) versions of critical software fixes up to a month before they're publicly released, according to reports. Then the DHS will distribute the fixes to other government agencies. It seems like a great plan, and I'm sure the government will stay one step ahead of the hackers as a result. Ahem.

AMD Takes on Centrino with New Turion Line
   AMD has revealed its 64-bit answer to Intel's Centrino chipset, which powers mobile computers from virtually every notebook and Tablet PC maker on earth. Dubbed the Turion 64 and designed for the thin and light notebook market, the new 64-bit chipset is compatible with AMD's x64 processors, and companies such as Fujitsu, Packard Bell (it's still around?), and Seimens will be early adopters. The Turion 64 also includes support for ATI and NVIDIA graphics, 802.11g wireless networking, and the AMD PowerNow technologies, which can reduce notebook power consumption by as much as 75 percent.

Microsoft Unveils New Video Game Development Tools
   At the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco this week, Microsoft revealed that it's creating a new IDE for Xbox 2 video game developers called XNA Studio. Based on the company's popular Visual Studio .NET products, XNA Studio seeks to help video game development workflow proceed more quickly and efficiently, bringing together tools that content creators, programmers, management, and quality-assurance staff need into one ball of spaghetti code so complicated that only an MIT graduate could even launch the installer. But, seriously, because video game development now rivals the process Hollywood companies use to make big-budget movies, Microsoft felt it was time that the tools met that challenge.

Microsoft Seeks Patent Reform
   Speaking of challenges, Microsoft noted this week that it's seeking sweeping reforms from the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). In a speech to the American Enterprise Institute, Microsoft Senior Vice President and General Counsel Brad Smith said that although Microsoft has "benefited substantially as an industry and a country from patent protection ... the long-term health \[of the US patent system\] is threatened unless we take this opportunity to reform it." According to Microsoft, patent applications have more than tripled in the past few years as companies have started to use patents as legal hammers. The result is classic America--an overly litigious environment in which companies constantly sue each other for violating the vaguest-worded patents imaginable. For example, 30 companies are now suing Microsoft, an admittedly huge company, for patent violations. Yikes.

Judge: Bloggers Aren't Journalists
   In a controversial move that has raised online outrage to new levels, a California state judge ruled this week that bloggers and representatives of blog-like Web sites aren't journalists and therefore aren't protected under the same laws that protects true journalists. The ruling is a blow to tiny, which Apple Computer is suing for revealing trade secrets., like many Apple fanatic sites, is literally run by a teenager from his college dorm room. But the big problem with this case isn't the kiddie sites and their methods of collecting secret information about their favorite company. The problem is the way Apple is handling this fiasco. Instead of creating a win-win situation--in which the company would simply promise to work more closely with its fan sites and give them information ahead of time under a nondisclosure agreement (NDA)--Apple is instead playing the lose-lose card. In this scenario, Apple loses even if it wins because, let's face it, a huge corporation beating up a college student in court isn't exactly an impressive victory that makes the company look good. If Apple could learn to work with the people who support it the most, the company would benefit greatly in the public perception while preventing those sites from prepublishing product information. Think Different, indeed.

OpenOffice 2.0 Beta Arrives. It's Free! has released a public beta of the eponymously named and free 2.0 office productivity suite. Now more Microsoft Office-like than ever, the free 2.0 beta suite is both free and, better yet, free. Yes, folks, that means that you can download this full office productivity suite for no cost. Or, put another way, it's free. It looks a lot like Office 2003 when running under Windows, which is kind of cute, and features most of the functionality of Office 97--or maybe even Office 2000. But it's free, and that has to count for something. You can download the free 2.0 beta from the Web site. The final version will also be free.

IBM's PC Business Sale Clears Government Hurdle
   A US government committee has finished investigating IBM's sale of its PC business to China-based Lenovo Group and has determined that the sale can go through if both companies make a few concessions to accommodate national security concerns. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) investigated the deal after some members of Congress questioned the sale of a US corporate asset to a company with close ties to China's "authoritarian" government. The deal is the first billion-dollar purchase in the United States by a Chinese company and will likely remain a milestone in China's modernization for quite some time. Now that the scrutiny is over, IBM says the deal will be finalized in second quarter 2005, as previously scheduled. And Lenovo presumably will move its Bond villain-like PC headquarters to Raleigh, North Carolina.

Linux Creator Switches to the Mac ... Sort Of
   The Macintosh community was agog this week at news that Linux creator Linus Torvalds has "switched" to the Mac, but the truth, as is so often the case, is so much less exciting than the rumors. Torvalds is indeed using a Power Mac G5 tower, but some unnamed corporation gave it to him as a gift. And he's running Linux on the box, not Mac OS X. "It obviously runs only Linux, so I don't think you can call it a Mac any more," Linus noted. "And ... I got the machine for free." So much for Apple's highest-profile switcher.

Mozilla Foundation Cancels Browser Suite
   The Mozilla Foundation confirmed rumors this week that it's abandoning the Mozilla Browser Suite and won't develop an official 1.8 version. Instead, the organization will now concentrate on the highly successful Firefox Web browser, as well as the standalone mail and calendar applications known as Thunderbird and Sunbird, respectively. This logical step shouldn't be seen as a bad thing. The Mozilla Browser Suite, which was a monolithic application that bundled Web browsing, email and newsgroups, chat, Web editing, and other functionality into a single executable, was an unwieldy beast. Three cheers for progress.

VB 6 Supporters Need to Get a Life
   Although it was released in 1998--a whopping 7 years ago--and is about to be replaced by a third-generation product successor, Visual Basic (VB) 6 still garners the kind of strange support that communities that back technologies such as FoxPro, the Commodore Amiga, and the Apple Newton seem to attract. And, like the people who still use those aging products, VB 6 users need to get a life. They're complaining that Microsoft is finally getting ready to kill support for the ancient technology, despite the fact that the software giant has already extended the VB 6 support deadline and offered numerous upgrade possibilities. VB 6 predates the Microsoft .NET movement and is thus simpler and much more limited than modern development environments. For this reason, it appeals largely to enthusiasts and amateurs, the type of people who used to litter the Web with badly written VB applications that featured humongous push buttons and other awful UIs. My advice is simple: Use VB 6 if you must, but spare us the complaints. It's time for an intervention.

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