WinInfo Daily UPDATE, February 21, 2003


As first reported in WinInfo Daily UPDATE, Microsoft planned to internally release Microsoft Office 2003 Beta 2 in February, then issue a wide public preview program in March. This week's temporary prerelease of the product to the MSDN Universal Downloads Web site was a mistake, the company says, and beta testers can still expect to see the product early next month. "Microsoft inadvertently posted Office 11 Beta 2 on MSDN," the company wrote in a statement. "Some level of education is critical to the program's success, and that means providing materials that ensure a productive and valid evaluation process for Microsoft and its customers. Once these materials are ready, we will ship Beta 2 to our customers ... in March. We apologize for any confusion or inconvenience this may have caused." However, make no mistake: The products that Microsoft posted on MSDN are, in fact, the beta 2 versions.


Ah, yes, I love the sound of sputtering in the morning. That's the sound of Macintosh fanatics, in case you're wondering, and the reason you're hearing all the noise now is that the same people who blasted Microsoft for implementing Digital Rights Management (DRM) in its Windows Digital Media technology now have some comeuppance on the way. Apple Computer--you know, the company that cares about consumers, not content providers--is now working to add DRM technology to MPEG-4, the company's standards-based, if technically deficient, alternative to Windows Media 9 Series. I predicted this outcome last year when the "Microsoft is evil because of DRM" hype was at its apex, but what can you do? Welcome to the real world, folks.


I find the response Microsoft has received from the Mac crowd about the company's purchase of Connectix's virtual machine (VM) technologies surprising. On the Mac rumors sites, the buy is seen as a direct attack on the Mac's 2.5 percent of the market, as if that market share is somehow more important to Microsoft than the lucrative server-consolidation and Windows NT-upgrade markets that the company is targeting. It's time for another reality check, folks.


Microsoft somehow landed at number seven on Forbes' list of most-admired companies, just ahead of Fed-Ex (number eight) and Starbucks (number nine). Wal-Mart topped the list this year, followed by Southwest Airlines, Berkshire Hathaway, Dell, General Electric, and Johnson & Johnson. Interestingly, Forbes bounced chipmaker Intel off the list this year because of the PC sales slump, although that reasoning doesn't explain why Dell and Microsoft are in the top 10.


A supposed new Windows XP vulnerability apparently isn't an XP problem. It turns out if you boot an XP system with a Windows 2000 CD-ROM, you can use the Recovery Console feature to gain access to the XP system without using a password. That scenario sounds pretty ominous me, but security experts, typically the first group to jump all over Microsoft, are begrudgingly admitting that virtually all OSs have this problem. If the machine's physical security is compromised, the system's security features are moot. As Microsoft notes, this vulnerability involves letting an attacker gain complete physical control over a machine and, at that point, the intruder can implement several attacks. And, yes, this deficiency exists in Linux, UNIX, Mac OS X, and virtually any other OS you can think of.


They say you can never go back, and when it comes to my teenage years, I guess they're right. This week, I tested threedegrees, Microsoft's peer-to-peer (P2P) application for the kiddie market, and it's ... interesting. The application lets you establish groups of friends and share music, photos, and virtual winks, which are annoying animated Microsoft Bob-like characters that appear on screen and give you anything from kisses to ... well, less gracious demonstrations. I suppose the attention-deprived teen crowd will be all over this product, but I found that it quickly became annoying. The music-sharing features are pretty interesting, although the product has to slowly download each track your friends add, which can delay initial playback. Microsoft says it will publicly post the threedegrees beta next week.


The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia will hear Microsoft's appeal in the Java antitrust case on April 3, the court announced this week, and both sides will get a full 20 minutes to present their cases. That doesn't sound like a lot of time, frankly, but I'm sure Microsoft and Sun Microsystems can fairly succinctly summarize their viewpoints on the issue of Java bundling in XP. This appeal applies only to the preliminary injunction that Judge J. Frederick Motz handed down last month. If Microsoft wins, the company won't need to immediately add Sun's Java to XP. If Microsoft loses, it'll need to do so. In either case, Microsoft and Sun are still headed back to Judge Motz's court to determine whether Microsoft must permanently add Java to XP and future Windows versions.


Last week, niche browser-maker Opera complained that Microsoft was purposefully breaking its MSN Web sites so that Opera users couldn't get the full experience, despite the fact that the Opera browser is technically capable of correctly viewing the sites. So last Friday, Opera released a new Bork edition of Opera 7 for Windows that changes the MSN Web site into gibberish inspired by "The Muppet Show's" Swedish Chef. "This is a joke," an Opera spokesperson said. "However, we are trying to make an important point. The success of the Web depends on software and Web site developers behaving well and rising above corporate rivalry." Good point and good stuff, and yet Microsoft still hasn't fixed the problem.


An appellate court handed Palm a partial respite in its legal battle with Xerox, ruling that the PDA maker can appeal a decision that determined Palm infringed on Xerox's patent for handwriting-recognition software. The court upheld the original ruling, which said that Palm's Grafiti software violated Xerox patents, and gave the company one last chance to prove that Xerox's patents are invalid. Palm continues to sell PDAs with the Grafiti software, thanks to a $50 million bond that will cover any potential damages during the time Palm fights the ruling. If Palm loses, however, the company will have to stop providing the Grafiti software to customers.


Apple currently faces several lawsuits related to false promises because the company overstated the performance and/or delivery times of its products. But the company's recent announcement about 17" PowerBook notebook computers might end up being the most embarrassing vaporware announcement Apple has ever made. Apple launched the new machines with much fanfare in January, when CEO Steve Jobs promised that the computers would ship in February, a month that's rapidly coming to a close with nary a 17" PowerBook in sight. Users who ordered the machines on the announcement date are now reporting that the predicted ship date has slipped to mid-April, or about 2 months later than originally promised. Given the grief users have heaped on the company for pre-announcing products, I find it odd that Apple is still doing so.

NEW LOW-COST NOTEBOOK WILL RUN LINUX will soon release a new low-cost notebook computer that runs the open-source Linux OS. The $800 Lindows Mobile PC features a 12" XGA screen, a 933MHz Via C3 microprocessor, 256MB of RAM, a 20GB hard disk, a nice allotment of ports, and a low weight of 2.5 pounds, but no optical drive. has seen limited success with the low-cost desktop computer that the company sells through Wal-Mart, but the notebook is somewhat intriguing. Most low-cost notebooks weigh considerably more than the Lindows machine, although they often feature larger screens and better hardware.

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