WinInfo Short Takes: Week of April 14

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

Trying to Clarify the Windows 2003 RTC Add-On
Assuming that I'm correctly translating the message I got from a curiously recalcitrant Microsoft representative yesterday, here's my understanding of what's up with the free Windows Server 2003 Real-Time Communications (RTC) add-on, which will accompany the RTC Server 2003 release late this summer. The add-on won't supply any end-user functionality, per se; rather, it will supply the underlying technology that developers need to write applications and Web services that target RTC Server. The idea is that you'll have an RTC Server or compatible server in your enterprise, but you might need to host applications or Web services on different servers. The first version of RTC Server is basically about presence, which in this release means whether a user is online or offline. Future releases will expand on that functionality.

Visual Studio .NET 2003 Available on MSDN Subscriber Downloads
Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) subscribers can now download Visual Studio .NET 2003, the most recent version of Microsoft's developer suite, which the company will launch in 2 weeks with Windows 2003. Which edition you can access depends on your subscription level: MSDN Professional subscribers get Visual Studio .NET 2003 Professional, MSDN Enterprise subscribers get Visual Studio .NET 2003 Enterprise Developer, and MSDN Universal subscribers have access to Visual Studio .NET 2003 Enterprise Architect. In addition, versions of the MSDN Library April 2003 edition are also available for download; this three-CD-ROM image set provides the online help for Visual Studio .NET 2003. 

Microsoft and Lucent in Legal Flap
In a complex lawsuit, Microsoft is suing Lucent on behalf of PC makers Dell and Gateway to determine whether 13 patents that Lucent owns are valid. Lucent had previously sued both Dell and Gateway, charging those companies with patent violations for functions such as touch screens, memory, voice and video, and stylus control--features those companies say Microsoft's software supplies. Microsoft says that the courts will need to decide whether Lucent's patents are valid and, if so, whether the way PC makers implement these features actually infringes on the patents. Although high-tech companies have filed many patent applications in recent years, Lucent's patents apparently were granted years ago to Lucent predecessor Bell Labs. Lucent has sued numerous companies for patent infringement, including a high-profile case against Cisco Systems a few years ago.

Windows 2003: Comparing the Product Editions
I've drawn up a nice table--available on the SuperSite for Windows--that compares the various Windows 2003 editions. If you're looking for a clear and (let's hope) accurate picture of the differences between the various product editions, this is it. The goal is to make this table the simplest way to quickly determine whether a certain edition has the features you need. I'm also looking for feedback: If any information is missing or incorrectly listed, please let me know. Thanks!

Windows 2003 Volume License Key Leaks, Piracy Runs Rampant
Within days of Microsoft releasing Windows 2003 product keys to its volume license customers, one of those keys has slipped onto the Internet, giving pirates a method to install the Web, standard, and enterprise editions of the product without requiring activation. This type of key leak also happened with Windows XP, leading Microsoft to specifically prevent systems installed with that key from installing Service Pack 1 (SP1) or other updates released after SP1, so I'm guessing that the company will do something similar for Windows 2003. But the key's early release, coming as it did weeks before the product is even launched, is a troubling sign for Windows 2003, which will now be pirated heavily. Microsoft says that it's researching which company leaked the key.

Xbox Modder Gets Jail Time
Do not pass go; do not collect $200 (per mod chip). A Virginia man has been sentenced to 5 months in jail and fined more than $28,000 for selling so-called mod chips that illegally modify Microsoft's Xbox video game console. The mod chips, which originate in Britain, the Far East, and other places, let Xbox users run pirated versions of Xbox games, which can be downloaded for free from the Internet. This case is interesting for another reason, however; it's the first case in which an individual has been convicted of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The man ran a popular pirate Web site and sold more than 450 chips to customers around the world.

Framework 1.1 Now Available
The most recent release of the Windows .NET Framework--version 1.1--is available for download from the Microsoft Web site. The Framework provides the runtime environment for Microsoft .NET applications and Web services; this version will ship with Windows 2003. Framework 1.1 is available for XP Professional Edition, Windows 2000, and Windows NT 4.0. New releases just don't get any more exciting than this!

Microsoft Finally Makes Hotfix Names Readable
Microsoft said this week that the company is reorganizing the naming conventions for its product hotfixes in a bid to make them more readable. The new naming convention, which will be consistent across all the company's products, will use a ProductName-KBArticleNumber-Option-Language.exe syntax. For example, WindowsXP-KB123456-IA64-ENU.exe is an XP hotfix, referenced in Knowledge Base article 123456, for systems running on Itanium, and in English. Simple? Hey, you should have seen the way Microsoft used to do it.

Microsoft Cuts Xbox Prices in Europe
In a bid to sell more than eight Xboxes in Europe, Microsoft dropped the price on its video game console by 20 percent this week. This is the third European Xbox price cut in a year, and it finally brings the unit down to a somewhat logical price point that more closely matches the product's price in the United States. British gamers can purchase the unit for 129 pounds; it will cost 199 euros on the mainland. These prices are less expensive than the prices of Sony's PlayStation 2 and the Nintendo GameCube. Shipments of non-PlayStation 2 game units are well below expectations. After setting a yearly goal of 10 million units, Nintendo has sold just 5.6 million GameCubes and Microsoft has hit 8 million units, short of its reduced 9 million goal. The PlayStation 2 has sold 300 gajillion units, or one quarter of a quatro-jool.

Resellers at Odds with Apple
Apple Computer isn't making nice with its resellers, so many of those resellers are simply refusing to sell Apple products. After Apple made sweeping changes to its reseller agreements, many companies, including Dell (which was selling Apple's iPod), have simply told Apple to forget it. In a strange move, Apple has counterattacked the bad press by explaining that these companies "are no longer authorized to sell Apple products" and that they make up less than 1.5 percent of Apple's worldwide revenues. Hey, 1.5 percent sounds small, but that number is also about the percent of computer users worldwide who use Apple's products. I guess it's all in how you look at it.

Deploy WMP 9 Series in the Enterprise
Responding to complaints that its Windows Media Player (WMP) 9 Series product is difficult to deploy in an enterprise, Microsoft has released the Enterprise Deployment Pack (EDP) for WMP 9 Series, which lets administrators package the tool in a way that's easy to deploy, manage, and configure. The EDP is a free download, available now from the Microsoft Web site.

Symantec Posts pcAnywhere 11 Public Beta
Symantec has posted a public beta of its pcAnywhere 11 application, which provides several interesting new features, including a new suite of remote-management tools, a completely redesigned UI, background file-transfer capabilities for improved performance, several security improvements, and a number of new deployment options. The public beta is available now from the Symantec Web site, and the final pcAnywhere 11 version will ship in June.

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