WinInfo Short Takes: Week of April 29

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

Microsoft and Others: Longhorn Isn't Delayed
Several people in and close to Microsoft wrote to tell me that the Windows .NET Server release dates that InfoWorld recently reported are incorrect. According to my sources, Microsoft is on track to ship the first release candidate (RC) build of Win.NET Server by the end of June; the release to manufacturing (RTM) date is set for the end of October. Microsoft still plans to ship Win.NET Server to customers in early 2003, however.

Ending the Opteron/Windows Confusion
Several news agencies and, thus, their readers have completely misunderstood the scope of Microsoft's support for the AMD Opteron processor, a 32/64-bit hybrid CPU that is backwards compatible with the x86-style processors we use today. AMD never said that Microsoft would release new desktop and server versions of Windows specifically for the AMD Opteron and, in fact, during a question-and-answer session with AMD executives, Microsoft denied any such plans. The company says it will build AMD Opteron support into several Windows versions in the near future. And that development will take place at Microsoft, not AMD, so presumably, Microsoft will make any future announcements about specific AMD Opteron/Windows product plans.

Intel Christens Itanium 2
And speaking of 64-bit computing, Intel's already-forgotten entry into the future of computing is getting an upgrade, sort of like Jason Vorhees did in the latest "Friday the 13th" movie. Intel will market its next-generation Itanium processor (code-named McKinley) as the Itanium 2 when it releases the processor this summer. Best of all, the Itanium 2 will offer at least twice the performance of its predecessor. What's two times dog slow?

AOL Time Warner Racks Up Largest Quarterly Loss in Corporate History
This news makes Apple Computer's 1997 loss of more than $1 billion look like a lemonade stand on a rainy day. Cable and Internet giant AOL Time Warner announced a quarterly loss of $54 billion (yes, billion); new accounting rules and a sharp decline in the company's stock price are responsible for the loss. I guess this is one of those "the bigger they are, the harder they fall" kind of things.

Microsoft Vice President: Business Drives Windows Changes
This week, Microsoft Vice President Chris Jones followed Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates on the stand in the Microsoft remedy hearings. Jones's testimony was a relatively subdued affair compared to the 3-day, media-hyped Gates appearance. But Jones experienced a couple of stressful moments in court, including an interesting exchange when the attorney for the nonsettling states and District of Columbia forced Jones to admit that business motives, not technology, drive most Windows changes and improvements. To be fair to Microsoft, all companies work that way. For some reason, it just seems more insidious when Microsoft does it.

And Speaking of Chris Jones...
Jones was also a little embarrassed (at least he should have been) by an email that he wrote to Gates in 1995, titled "How to get to 30 percent share in 12 months." Jones wrote, "We will bind the \[Windows'\] shell to Internet Explorer \[IE\], so that running any other browser is a jolting experience." The disclosure came after an amazing exchange with a nonsettling states lawyer when Jones refused to admit that IE is anything other than a Windows component. Of course it is, Chris. That was a business decision, wasn't it?

Microsoft to Automate Security
Microsoft President and CEO Steve Ballmer said this week that the company will release a new Microsoft Update this year. The new tool will randomly create new Microsoft executive organizations and write press releases. No, wait; that's not right. In truth, Microsoft Update will automate the company's process for posting and distributing product security updates. Microsoft will model the product on Windows Update, which presumably means that no one will know about or use the tool. Maybe the company should just integrate the product with the OS. That strategy seems to work.

Blackley Denies Xbox Rumors
This week, exiting Xbox creator Seamus Blackley denied rumors that his departure from Microsoft had anything to do with perceived problems with the device, which he says is doing just fine, thank you very much. In fact, Blackley is leaving to develop games for the console, he said. Blackley also noted that the Xbox sold more than 25 percent more units in its first 4 months of availability than the Sony PlayStation 2 (PS2), and that the unit's best-selling game, Halo, has shipped more than 1 million copies. Not to rain on Blackley's parade, but production problems hampered the PlayStation 2 for its first 4 months of availability, making it difficult for Sony to meet customer demand for the product. And consider this bit of news...

Xbox Nose-Dives
Microsoft's Xbox system is pounding sand, according to the latest US video-game sales chart. Only two Xbox game titles cracked the top 20 in March, and then just barely--positions 19 and 20. Contrast these results with February, when the Xbox had two top 10 titles. The top platform for March was the Sony PlayStation 2, which had 9 of the top 20 titles. Say what you will about the Xbox, software drives the video-game market. And if the Xbox can't post better figures than these, it's all over.

Carly Loses Composure on the Stand
Forced to defend herself and her company's attempted merger with Compaq in court, Hewlett-Packard (HP) CEO Carly Fiorina lost her composure this week after 7 hours of grueling cross-examination. "Sir, you are accusing the chief executive officer of a publicly traded company of lying," Fiorina exclaimed at one point, no doubt bringing a sardonic smile to the face of Walter Hewlett's lawyer; Hewlett is suing HP for improperly withholding information from shareholders before the HP/Compaq merger vote. Is it just me or does Fiorina come off as a little haughty?

So-Called Inventor Loses Pocket PC Battle
As if anyone ever doubted this outcome, the fellow who sued Microsoft over the name Pocket PC lost his small-claims court battle with the company this week but pledged to continue the fight. In the 1980s, the inventor created an unimpressive "Pocket PC" gag gift that consisted of a coin in a box--you flipped the coin to make decisions--but gave up on the product after sales fizzled. Flash forward 15 years: Microsoft uses the term "Pocket PC; this guy sues. Only in America.

OS X Theme Makes Its Way to XP
Thanks to Bob Kovacs for this tip: A cool UI theme that I've been using on Mac OS X for a few months is now available for Windows XP users. Check out the Sosumi theme, available for free download.

Office NGO Screenshots Available
Thanks to Steven Bink for forwarding some interesting screenshots of various Office applications, including a new one called Scribbler that's probably related to the Tablet PC. These shots represent an early alpha release of what Microsoft will call Office .NET (code-named NGO), and although they correspond nicely to the Office NGO presentation I discuss on the SuperSite for Windows, I've heard that the UI will change significantly from what's shown here. Check it out.


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