WinInfo Short Takes: Week of April 10

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including Mark's 8th birthday, Boot Camp, LinuxWorld, Vista-Capable PCs, security patches, MSN Search, product branding documentation success stories, AOL, Dell, Firefox, and so much more...

WinInfo Blog

Short Takes
    - Microsoft Preps "Windows Vista Capable" PC Stickers
    - Microsoft Goes Linux ... Sort Of
    - It's That Time of the Month: Here Come the Patches
    - Microsoft Snags Its Biggest-Ever Smart Phone Contract
    - Microsoft Airs Documentation Success Stories
    - MSN Search Goes Offline and No One Notices
    - Microsoft Is the Strongest Brand in the World
    - Dell Ups Notebook Warranties
    - America Online to Rebrand Itself as AOL
    - It's Official: Firefox Tops 10 Percent of the Market

   by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

WinInfo Blog

My son Mark turns eight today. His birthday is always tinged with a bit
of retrospection because seven years ago, he almost died from bacterial
meningitis. Several long-time readers have periodically asked me how
he's been doing since then, and even given his complete hearing loss--
corrected in late 1999 with a cochlear implant--he's doing
terrifically. Every year about this time, we meet with the town to
assess his progress, and this year's meeting was the best yet: Mark is
doing extremely well in school, and has completely matriculated. He's
in second grade at the local elementary school and is outgoing,
sensitive, friendly, and intelligent. He has lots of friends and plays
at least one sport each season, in addition to karate and swimming.
It's all sort of astonishing. Somewhat naturally, as each year comes
around, we think back to how it all happened and wish things had gone
differently. But it's impossible not to look at this child each day and
see the miracle. With the implant, his hearing is incredible, sometimes
even shocking. It's not perfect, and he'll never hear like you or I do.
But it's better than we have any right to expect. Utterly amazing.

The big buzz in the tech world this week, of course, was Apple's Boot
Camp, which lets you dual-boot an Intel-based Mac between OS X and
Windows XP. I snagged a Mac mini on Thursday to test this software, and
it does work as advertised: I'll have a full review soon on the
SuperSite for Windows.

As I've documented my Boot Camp experiences on my blog 
(see URL below), I've been impressed by both the
discussions concerning this software and some of the intriguing
developments that have occurred. Barb Bowman, my tech guru, has figured
out how to get XP Media Center Edition 2005 to work on the Mac, and
with a TV tuner, no less. Mediafour suddenly has a new market for its
excellent MacDrive software, which lets users access Mac-formatted hard
disks from within XP. And most important, now we can all purchase
Apple's beautiful if eclectically configured hardware, secure in the
knowledge that it will run Windows just fine. This is a win-win
situation: Apple sells more hardware, and Microsoft sells its OS. Since
that's how both companies make money, there's no real loser per se,
although I can see some trouble looming for OS X. However, future
versions of Boot Camp will require Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard," no doubt.
And if I know Apple, Leopard will be the only version that supports
Windows Vista. Let the upgrading begin.

If you're still not convinced that Boot Camp is big news, consider that
it was reported on the front page of the New York Times on Thursday,
instead of in the business section, as you'd expect. And this morning,
the Times also dedicated an editorial to it. That's pretty incredible,
considering what's going on in the world today.

I visited LinuxWorld in Boston yesterday and wasn't overly impressed.
Attendance seemed very light, although to be fair it was the last day
of the show. The tiny show floor would have barely filled one of the
overflow tents you see at the Interntional Consumer Electronics
Show (CES) in Las Vegas. My guess is that Boston isn't a great venue
for this kind of show, despite the fact that there's a lot of
open-source development going on there. Overall, I expect this to be
the last Boston rendition of the show. It's clearly not clicking.

Short Takes

Microsoft Preps "Windows Vista Capable" PC Stickers

I wonder if Apple will start using these now. Microsoft is creating new
"Windows Vista Capable" stickers that PC makers can put on their PCs
this year, alerting consumers that the machines they buy today will run
Windows Vista tomorrow. The move is an attempt to offset disappointment
in Vista's interminable delays and to help ensure consumers that it's
safe to buy a new PC before Vista ships. However, I'd like to point out
the difference between "capable" and "kicking butt and taking names." A
"Windows Vista Capable" PC will be able to run Vista, yes, but for the
best experience--that is, the Aero Glass UI--you're going to want a
high-end 3D video card. Basically, any XP-capable PC can run
Vista, but to run it right, you need a good video card.

Microsoft Goes Linux ... Sort Of

At the LinuxWorld trade show in Boston this week, Microsoft carted out
Bill Hilf, the lead program manager of its Platform Strategy
organization, to tout the company's new interoperability initiatives,
which include--I'm sure--not constantly FUD about the Linux competition.
Hilf promoted a new Microsoft Web site, Port 25, which is designed to
foster communication between Microsoft and the open-source community.
(Port 25 refers to the default server port for sending email; when port
25 is open, a server is said to be "listening." Get it?) In any event,
I expect Microsoft, Port 25, and the company's new interoperability
pledge to receive a healthy dose of distrust from the Linux guys.
But I do like the name.

It's That Time of the Month: Here Come the Patches

Next Tuesday, Microsoft will provide its regularly scheduled shipment
of monthly security patches. April's batch includes five security
bulletins, and at least one will be tagged as critical. Among the
patches is a fix for a recently discovered bug in Internet Explorer
(IE). I'm a bit miffed, however, that this bug was exploited weeks ago,
and that Microsoft is making users wait until next Tuesday to get the
patch to fix it. I realize that fixing security problems is time
consuming, but there has to be a faster way to do this.

Microsoft Snags Its Biggest-Ever Smart Phone Contract

For years, I've reported on Microsoft's lackluster performance in the
smart phone market. This week, all that changed when the company
snagged an order for 500,000 smart phones from the US Census Bureau.
That's the biggest-ever mobile phone contract the software giant has
made to date, and Microsoft is now reporting that it expects its
Windows Mobile software to ship as many as 20 million handsets in 2007,
which will double the number that will ship this year. Microsoft also
expects its mobile unit's sales to triple to more than $1 billion
within three years. I'm sure there are all kinds of reasons these
optimistic forecasts will never happen, but I'll let this one sit for
now. Let's face it: Microsoft could use some good news.

Microsoft Airs Documentation Success Stories

Speaking of good news, this week Microsoft published several quotes
from companies claiming to have had great success using the server-
interoperability documentation that the European Union (EU) claims is
"useless." Microsoft's partner EMC reported that the documentation is
"appropriate and helpful," and Network Appliance claimed that the
documentation has "steadily improved over time." These types of
sweeping endorsements are really making me reevaluate my opinion about
Microsoft's compliance with the EU antitrust ruling. No, I'm not

MSN Search Goes Offline and No One Notices

On Thursday, Microsoft's MSN Search went offline for four hours. What's
humorous about this outage is that the company is still trying to
figure out what caused it. My guess is that someone actually attempted
to use the service, thereby triggering a crash. OK, I'm kidding.
Seriously, I love MSN and only poke fun because I know the company can
handle it. Please, guys, don't hand-tailor all the "Paul Thurrott"
searches to go to a porn site. We're all friends here.

Microsoft Is the Strongest Brand in the World

According to research firm Millward Brown, the company with the
strongest brand in the world is--ta da!--Microsoft. Microsoft? Yep,
that's what the data says. Microsoft is followed by General Electric
(GE), Coca-Cola, and China Mobile. China Mobile? OK, this whole thing
confuses me. GE has a strong brand? People actually like Microsoft? Who
the heck is Millward Brown??

Dell Ups Notebook Warranties

Responding to complaints that its customer service is lousy--mostly
because the Indian guy on the phone is claiming to be from Iowa and can
barely speak English--this week Dell announced that it would increase
the warranty on its Inspiron notebook line from 90 days to a full year.
That gives you another nine months to call a sun-starved Indian
gentleman and converse uncomfortably about the fact that your computer
no longer works. Which reminds me of a restaurant giving you a coupon
for a future free meal after you've had a lousy experience. I'm
actually a big fan of Dell, and although I salute the longer warranty,
the company isn't really getting to the heart of the problem.

America Online to Rebrand Itself as AOL

My editors insisted on renaming America Online "AOL" years ago, and now
it's finally official: This week, Time Warner announced that its
America Online subsidiary will be renamed AOL. The reason? AOL is
simpler than America Online, it doesn't contain the word "America," and
AOL "long ago accomplished the mission implied by our old name,"
according to AOL CEO Jon Miller. Plus, it's vaguely reminiscent of KFC,
which--as many of you know--has been welcomed with open arms around the
world. Oddly enough, AOL is actually the third name for this company,
which started off as Quantum Computer Services in 1985. I can barely
recall using the Quantum Link service with my Commodore 64, but I'm
still scarred by my experiences using AOL in the early 1990s.

It's Official: Firefox Tops 10 Percent of the Market

And finally, Mozilla's open-source Firefox Web browser topped 10
percent of the market this week, marking the first time an IE
alternative has snagged a major chunk of market share away from
Microsoft. According to Web audience measuring firm NET Applications,
10.05 percent of all Web surfers used Firefox in March, up from 9.75
percent in February. Meanwhile, 84.5 percent are still using IE. (The
remaining 5.45 percent are all over the place: 1.05 percent of surfers
use a Netscape browser, 0.54 percent use Opera, and 0.34 percent use


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