WinInfo Short Takes: Week of April 5

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

 

More Delays: No Longhorn Beta in 2004
   During a series of meetings with Microsoft yesterday, I discovered that the company won't ship Longhorn beta 1 late this summer as previously expected. Instead, the company now plans to ship the release in early 2005. In a not-too-surprising reversal of the information Microsoft gave me earlier, company representatives told me that a renewed commitment to shipping a security-oriented Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) before Longhorn beta 1 ships caused the delay. Given Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates's recent comments about 2006 being a reasonable guess for the final Longhorn release, I suppose the new beta 1 date makes sense, but I'm still disappointed. I learned yesterday that the company will, however, ship an interim Longhorn build early next month at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) 2004 trade show. That build, like build 4051 from the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2003, will be developer oriented and won't include any new end-user features.

XP Reloaded Won't Be an Interim Release; Details Still Sketchy
   I also found out yesterday that Microsoft doesn't plan to ship XP Reloaded as an interim OS release (see my original article, "Windows XP...Reloaded "). Instead, the company is still wrestling with how to market and package an OS that's changed dramatically in the 3 years since the company first released it. Like Windows Server 2003, XP has had many excellent free (and nearly free) out-of-band updates in the past 3 years. By late 2004, those updates will include two service packs, two major updates to Windows Media Player (WMP), several major security enhancements and changes to wireless networking, and several Instant Messaging (IM) updates. Microsoft's plan for XP Reloaded is to reenergize XP from a marketing perspective to show consumers who haven't looked at the product recently that it isn't the same OS anymore. Before that can happen, however, Microsoft has to release XP SP2, which will ship in June. Plans for distributing SP2 to customers are still up in the air, however. For example, will the company replace the current XP retail boxes with XP SP2 boxes? I think so, although most XP licenses are sold with new computers. The plans for XP SP2 will affect XP Reloaded, and no one knows how Microsoft will spin XP as we get closer to the 2004 holiday season. Stay tuned.

Microsoft and Sun Kiss and Make Up
   Microsoft and Sun Microsystems announced a blockbuster cooperative agreement today in which Sun will drop all litigation against Microsoft and Microsoft will pay Sun $1.6 billion. The agreement erases all pending legal problems between the companies and sets them on a path of cooperation to develop technologies that will make their server products work better together. I get the idea that the companies waited until today to make the announcement so that no one would construe it as an April Fool's Day joke. On a more somber note, Sun also announced that the company plans to reduce costs by laying off 3300 people and restructuring.

Gateway Packs Up the Cows and Goes Home
   And speaking of restructuring, struggling PC maker Gateway announced that it will close all 188 Gateway retail stores by April 9. The company, which recently merged with eMachines, hopes the store closings will help it return to profitability, although how Gateway now plans to market its products is unknown. As a result of the store closings, Gateway will eliminate about 2500 sales and management positions. The company will announce a new strategy on April 29. Yikes.

Microsoft's EU Case Could End in Court-Ordered Compromise
   The European judge who'll determine whether Microsoft can suspend its European Union (EU) decision during an appeal said this week that he'd rather see the courts broker a compromise. That compromise, which would take effect during the appeal, could avoid the uncertainties of litigation, according to the judge. Interestingly, a court-ordered compromise would be far more damaging to Microsoft than a complete suspension, which would let the company continue business as usual while it ties up the courts with years of appeals. Once again, the Europeans seem to be doing the one thing the US justice system failed to do. Let's see if they can keep it up.

Google Launches Impressive Email Service
   Yesterday, search-engine giant Google announced Gmail, its long-awaited email service, and the new service looks impressive. Unlike most other free email services, which offer a paltry couple of megabytes worth of inbox storage, Gmail will offer a full gigabyte of storage space, a move that will likely cause major ripples among free services such as Yahoo! and Hotmail. If Google had simply introduced a me-too service, Gmail probably wouldn't have made much of an impact, but Gmail's 1GB storage allotment is turning heads. Not surprisingly, Gmail will feature killer email-searching capabilities, which the company will also tout in a bid to gain new users. For more information about the new service, visit the Gmail Web site

Apple's iPod UI Patent Attempt Proves the Company Can Learn from Past Mistakes
   This week, Apple Computer launched a patent request for its innovative and simple iPod UI, proving that the company has finally started to learn from past mistakes. In the 1980s, Apple tried to use copyright law to protect its Macintosh UI, ultimately losing a copyright-infringement case that the company launched against Microsoft. Given the historical record of patent-protection cases in the tech industry, using a patent to protect the iPod UI might set up a better defense against future iPod copycat devices--assuming, of course, that Apple is granted a patent. Some observers who've studied Apple's request believe that the company isn't trying to patent the iPod's look and feel--an abstract concept that wouldn't be covered by patent law, anyway--but is trying to patent the iPod's underlying functionality. And that functionality, it seems, had been in use on various devices for years before Apple launched the iPod. So what is that special something that makes the iPod unique--the underlying interface, the look and feel, or a combination of the two? Ultimately, device makers from around the world should be able to copy all the iPod's functional benefits--arguably, they already have--but whether anyone fully appreciates the pure style of Apple's designs (or ever will) is unclear.

Corel to Try Linux Again
   The on-again, off-again relationship between Corel and Linux is on again. The software maker announced this week that it will ship a "proof of concept" version of WordPerfect for Linux on April 15. According to Corel, this test version will help the company determine the feasibility of developing future Linux versions of WordPerfect (or the full WordPerfect Office suite). The last time Corel issued a WordPerfect version for Linux was back in 1998, when the company shipped WordPerfect 8 for Linux. Given the strength of OpenOffice.org and Sun's StarOffice, I'm not sure I understand the point of a new WordPerfect for Linux product but, hey, I'm all about choice. Bring it on.

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