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WinInfo Short Takes: Week of September 20

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


Want Microsoft Security Fixes Early? Join the Exclusive Club ... If You Qualify

Microsoft is quietly giving its biggest customers access to security warnings about its products earlier than it does for the general public. These customers gain access to Microsoft's monthly security bulletins three days early, according to the software giant, which says that companies can only join the program if they're invited by a sales representative. So far, 3500 companies have signed on for the early access, but I have to question this bizarre scheme of creating "haves" and "have-nots." This is security we're talking about here: Everyone should be invited.


AOL Walks Away from Microsoft's SenderID Scheme

Just days after the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) shot down Microsoft's proposed SenderID scheme for eliminating spam email, America Online (AOL) has given the plan the boot as well. Previously, AOL had aligned itself with Microsoft to promote SenderID, but AOL now says that it is backing out because of the reluctance of the IETF, which cited patent concerns. AOL will likely adopt a similar, but competing, scheme to SenderID that's offered by Yahoo, company officials said. I haven't seen this many people shoot down a proposed standard since Netscape introduced the "Blink" HTML tag.


Microsoft Declares a Dividend

Yesterday, Microsoft announced that its Board of Directors had declared a quarterly dividend of 8 cents a share, which will be payable to shareholders on December 2, 2004. This quarterly dividend comes on the heels of Microsoft's one-time special dividend payment of $3.00 per share, which the company announced this summer. Microsoft offered its first dividend in 2003, after being a publicly held company for over 17 years. Something tells me the 50+ billion the company has in the bank, and its lagging stock price, both had something to do with its sudden fit of shareholder charity.


Mozilla Firefox Continues to Gain Ground on IE

Just two days after releasing its Firefox 1.0 Preview Release, the Mozilla Foundation says it has seen over 500,000 downloads of the Web browser alternative. Better yet, various Web site metrics studies suggest that Firefox is gaining converts from Microsoft's lackluster Internet Explorer (IE) where it matters most, with early adopters and technology influencers. CNET reports that 18 percent of visitors to its site are using Mozilla Firefox browsers, up from just 8 percent in January. And WebSideStory is reporting that overall Firefox usage is up to 5.2 percent in September, up from 3.5 percent in June. Usage in IE, meanwhile, has dropped from 95.5 percent to 93.7 percent in the same time period, the firm says. It's nice to see nicely designed products doing well for a change. Usually, the technology I advocate--like the Amiga, or Borland Delphi--withers on the vine. Maybe I'm not the kiss of death after all.


German Information Security Office Warns Users to Avoid IE

And speaking of IE, Germany's Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) this week recommended that browser users consider alternatives to IE because that product is so insecure. "Microsoft products are the target of many virus writers," a BSI spokesperson said this week. "If computer users want to avoid viruses and Trojans, they may want to consider using alternatives to Microsoft software." BSI recommends either Mozilla or Opera products instead of IE, which I think makes a lot of sense.


California Lawyers Get Half the Expected Fees in MS Case

All those greedy, blood-sucking lawyers that helped California negotiate a record payout in its antitrust settlement with Microsoft are going to be paid a lot less for their tireless work in promoting truth and justice (ahem) than they had expected. The lawyers had requested total fees of $258 million but will instead get just $101 million in fees plus $11.5 in expenses. I'm curious, however. Since the lawyers didn't, in fact, get Microsoft to actually pay a cash reward, but instead caused the company to pay back consumers through vouchers, shouldn't the lawyers have been paid with rebate forms? You know, maybe they could have gotten 50 cents off every time they purchased an avocado that was grown in California or something.


Microsoft Releases SMS 2003 SP1

Microsoft this week released Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Systems Management Server 2003, providing its premier software distribution and maintenance server with native support for XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) clients, and Virtual PC and Virtual Server clients and servers. SMS 2003 SP1 is also compatible with 64-bit Windows clients. I recommend you DL SMS SP1 ASAP. Try the MS.COM Web site for starters.


Apple Charged with Ripping Off British Customers

This one would be funny if it didn't represent the new face of international sales. Apple found itself under the gun this week for overcharging its iTunes Music Store customers in Britain by 20 percent. According to the UK Consumers' Association (CA), Apple charges 79p per song in Britain, but only charges 99 euro cents--the equivalent of 68p--in France and Germany. Apple's response is also classic. The company noted that British music fans are "accustomed to pay higher prices for music" and that its prices were inline with what other online stores charge in Britain. Apple's opinion notwithstanding, the CA is now pursuing an EU competition law violation against Apple with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). It's amazing the kind of trouble one can get in when one dominates a market, eh?


I'm Paul Thurrott, and I approve this message.

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