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WinInfo Short Takes: Week of September 5

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including Microsoft Office Vista, the PDC build of Windows Vista, Massachusetts vs. Microsoft, Mac mini test drive crash, an upcoming Firefox 1.5 beta release, the return of autumn, and much more...

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Ah September. It's that place where summer goes to die (at least here in the northeastern United States). I don't care what the calendar says. When September 1 hits, the beach starts closing early and the crowds thin. Then Labor Day comes---this coming weekend---and it's all over. Summer is dead, just like it never happened. Damn you, passage of time. Damn you.

On the other hand. While autumn is in some ways really just the awful transition between the wonders of summer and depths of cold of winter, there is a certain charm to the cool nights-pumpkin patch-apple tree-leaves falling ... stuff. Plus we're doing a bunch of traveling this autumn, which should make things interesting.

The first trip, of which, is Los Angeles for the PDC (Professional Developers Conference) 2005 in about 10 days. Are you going? Talk to me. No? Then stayed tuned to the SuperSite for Windows. If the pre-briefings I've already had are any indication, it's going to be quite a show. Office 12 UI. New Windows Vista build (see below). Lots more. This is the real deal, folks.

Short Takes

Microsoft Office Vista?
Microsoft is now referring to Office 12 internally as Office Vista, leading me to wonder whether that will be the official name of the product or whether this just indicates that this is the version of Office that will ship at the same time as Windows Vista. What's disturbing about this name, of course, is how obvious it is. If Microsoft does name Office 12 as Office Vista, then it may be the most telegraphed product name in Microsoft history. My guess--and yes, it's only a guess--is that they will call it Office Vista. Why wouldn't they?

Windows Vista Build 5219 Ready for the PDC
The Windows Vista code tree was recently forked between the version Microsoft will give out at the PDC (Professional Developers Conference) 2005 conference and the version that will become Beta 2. The current PDC build--build 5219--could very likely make it into the greedy little hands of attendees, and it's got a couple of interesting surprises: It includes the infamous and once-missing Sidebar and has the Tablet PC and Media Center functionality enabled. And fear not, people. You've been waiting to hear which product editions Microsoft will ship in the Vista time frame, right? That announcement is coming next week. Stay tuned.

Microsoft Freeze-Dries Vista
At TechEd Australia this week, Microsoft revealed that they are working on a new technology for Windows Vista that is codenamed Freeze Dry. Aimed at vastly reducing the number of reboots Windows systems need to perform when patches and updates are applied, Freeze Dry essentially saves application states so that when a system does have to automatically reboot after a patch, it comes up and restores all the running applications, a la Hibernation mode. Like all cool names at Microsoft, Freeze Dry is just a code name and will be changed into some boring by the time it's released. I'm shooting for something like Microsoft Windows Application State Restoration Foundation.

Yet Another Class Action Suit Against Microsoft Unfolds
A Manhattan judge has certified another class action antitrust lawsuit against everyone's favorite monopolist though, to be fair, it's been a while since the company was out abusing customers, partners, and competitors. New York State Supreme Court Justice Karla Moskowitz ruled that a class action was the appropriate way for consumers in that state to recover money lost from Microsoft's predatory pricing and deceptive business practices, as outlined in its 1998 US antitrust case. Ah, it's been a while since I've been able to type words like that. It's like riding a bike.

Intel Rebuts AMD
You may recall that AMD sued Intel last week, accusing the chip maker of antitrust violations. This week, the Empire Struck Back (Note: Send George Lucas $10 for appropriating that term). Intel filed a brief in which it accused AMD of blaming its own "anemic" business failures on Intel, and of contradicting its own evidence against Intel. AMD's complaint is a case study of legal dissonance," Intel writes in the brief. AMD, however, isn't exactly twisting in the wind. Intel is being investigated for antitrust abuses in both Japan and the European Union (EU), and AMD is quite obviously the company that would most clearly suffer from any Intel transgressions. "There is a reason that there is a global investigation of the illegal Intel monopoly," AMD vice president Thomas McCoy said in response to Intel's filing. "Nobody has to take our word for it." Ah yes, a war of words. Good stuff.

Massachusetts Turns Away from Microsoft ... Again
The State of Massachusetts has decided, again, to switch its workers off of proprietary Microsoft Office software and move, instead, to open document formats. On Wednesday, Massachusetts announced that, beginning in 2007, all electronic documents created and saved by state employees must use open formats. That leaves Microsoft in the lurch since, as you might have noticed, they're not very big on open formats. Massachusetts is proposing to use OpenDocument, which is used by the and Star Office suites, and Adobe's PDF, as their standard document types. Excuse me, but isn't PDF a proprietary document format too?

Test Drive a Mac mini ... Or Not
So this is sad and weird. Earlier this week, Apple launched a Test Drive program for its low-end Mac mini, offering consumers the opportunity to buy one between now and October 31, and then get their money back if they decided they didn't want to keep it within 30 days. The theory was simple: People would love the Mac mini so much that who in their right minds who return one? Well, Apple nixed the deal after just 24 hours and now they're refusing to comment on why they did so. The big question, of course, concerns those who purchased one that day specifically because they thought there would be no questions asked if they wanted to return it. Methinks there will be some questions. And no good answers.

Microsoft Looking for a Loft in Manhattan
In its bid to try and copy every single successful thing Apple has ever done, Microsoft this week revealed that it was shopping for retail store space in New York's Time Square. To be fair, Microsoft has tried retail before, with a failed venture in San Francisco. Apple, meanwhile, has hundreds of retail locations around the country (and a few internationally as well), and more are opening all the time. While many--myself included--had openly wondered what the point of these stores were, they have clearly paid off, promoting Apple brand awareness and giving people local places to buy iPods and see Macs in action. Can Microsoft replicate this success? First, they're going to have to have products that are as cool as Apple's. Otherwise, Microsoft store will simply be the electronic equivalent of a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, not The Gap.

FireFox 1.5 Beta 1 Due Next Week
The Mozilla Foundation plans to ship the first beta version of Firefox 1.5 next week. Previously codenamed Deer Park, the upcoming Firefox release will boast a number of new features, including streamlined product update functionality, faster browser navigation thanks to cached versions of recently visited pages, drag and drop tab reordering, and improved pop-up blocking. Firefox 1.5 was originally due in late summer, but was delayed for various reasons, and will now likely ship in late 2005, around the same time as IE 7. A Beta 2 version is due in October.

Microsoft Offers Windows Server 2003 R2 RC0 for Public Download
It's not getting a lot of press, but Microsoft is quickly finishing up work on Windows Server 2003 R2 (for release 2), its first major upgrade to Windows Server 2003. In anticipation of the final release, Microsoft recently shipped the first release candidate (RC0) version of R2 to testers, and now they've made it available to the public as well, in a 180-day time limited version. To use this version of R2, you'll need a functioning copy of Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition (Microsoft provides a download link to a time-limited version of that as well). There are x86 (32-bit) and x64 (64-bit) versions available for download.

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