WinInfo Short Takes: Week of August 12

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

Microsoft Puts Positive Spin On .NET Passport Settlement
This week has been one of the most boring news weeks in the history of WinInfo Daily UPDATE, but when news of a potential Microsoft .NET Passport settlement arrived yesterday morning, I shook off the cobwebs and rushed to figure out what was happening. By the time the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) teleconference began, I was hurriedly taking notes and preparing the story that ran in yesterday's newsletter. But I forgot about the Microsoft reaction, so yesterday afternoon I headed over to the company's Web site to see how Microsoft was reporting the news. And it's funny to see the positive spin the company put on this situation, where it doesn't seem at all like the federal slap-down that it is. "We have worked to provide the FTC with information about our policies and security measures and to answer their questions," said Microsoft Senior Vice President and General Counsel Brad Smith. "We are committing to not only meet a high bar for security and privacy for our service, but to prove that we are meeting the bar that has been set." Not worried that Microsoft's getting punished enough? I guess that's why they call it a settlement.

A Questionable Settlement? Why Does This Sound Familiar?
Even though I think the .NET Passport settlement is fair, some people don't view it that way. Just as the proposed Department of Justice (DOJ) and Microsoft settlement polarizes onlookers, the FTC settlement seems to be having the same effect. For example, the privacy groups that asked the FTC to investigate Microsoft last year point to criticism about .NET Passport requirements in Windows XP as an example of how the settlement ignored some aspects of the groups' complaints. "\[The settlement\] leaves the whole basic model very much in place," said Harry Hochheiser, a board member of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR), one of 12 privacy groups that petitioned the FTC. "It doesn't say anywhere that \[.NET Passport\] is a bad idea and collects far too much data about people and is far too privacy invasive." So what would the groups have changed? Primarily, users should be able to authorize how Microsoft uses their personal data, the groups say.

Sun Rips Into Intel Itanium
At an analysts' meeting earlier this week, Sun Microsystems ripped into the Intel Itanium sales disaster, calling the 64-bit competitor to Sun's UltraSparc line a "seriously bad" idea. "It's the most expensive disaster in the history of high tech," said Sun Vice President Shahin Kahn, who introduced his company's most recent UltraSparc processors. The processors run at 1.05GHz (about the same clock speed as the Itanium 2). Sun, of course, is wary of its competition in the server business that Sun now dominates and which generates billions in revenues each year, thanks to the high prices of the company's hardware, software, and services. Will Sun be able to hold off Intel? Probably not forever, but I see little in the Itanium 2 to generate much more customer interest than its predecessor did.

Halo 2. Coming to an Xbox Near You. Next Year. Sometime.
Only in WinInfo Daily UPDATE can we move from 64-bit computing to video games in the same breath, but what the heck. This week, Microsoft announced that it will unleash the long-awaited sequel to its most popular Xbox game, Halo, sometime in the distant future. Sometime, in this case, means late 2003, which is an eternity in the gaming world. But it could be worse. Project Gotham 2, the sequel to the second most popular Xbox title, won't ship until early 2004. You know, 2 years after Xbox 3 ships.

Licensing 6.0 Isn't Off to a Good Start
Microsoft unleashed the new Licensing 6.0 volume-licensing program on its customers this month, and the overall effect was predictably chilling. Giga Information Group says that 20 percent of Microsoft's customers can't afford the new program, which basically requires them to sign up for 2- or 3-year subscription terms. A total of 40 percent of Microsoft's former volume-licensing customers have simply opted to not sign up for Licensing 6.0. Gartner says the percentages are even uglier in other countries. In Australia, for example, as many as 50 percent of Microsoft's customers have bailed from Licensing 6.0. The best customer quote? "For frickin' sake, \[Microsoft has\] $36 billion in the bank, and they're trying to squeeze us." LOL.

New IBM Chips Might Keep Apple Off Intel
Industry giant IBM is developing a new generation of PowerPC chips that will deliver 64-bit processing and higher clock speeds to desktop PC systems including, of course, Apple's Macintosh line--assuming Apple is interested. There's been a lot of talk in the press lately about how Apple should move to Intel's x86 line or something similar, but the reality is that such a transition would be difficult or impossible: Apple has already jumped platforms during the past several years, as it did when it moved from the Motorola 68K to the PowerPC, but those systems were at least remotely compatible; the x86 is another beast altogether. If Apple does decide to adopt IBM's new design, its products will get a needed performance boost (up to 2GHz by late 2002), support for oodles of RAM, and, hopefully, full applications-compatibility with today's systems. What will Apple do? I'm guessing the company will take the path of least resistance, and IBM's PowerPC is it.

You Mean Desktop PC Chips Really Aren't Meant for Laptops? Huh?
In the weeks before Intel announced its high-end mobile Pentium 4 processors, Toshiba and several other PC makers launched new laptop models that featured Intel's desktop-based Pentium 4 chips, which are faster and, not coincidentally, much hotter than their mobile brethren. Some speed freaks might appreciate such a hack. But the reality is that the desktop Pentium 4s were never designed to run in mobile devices, in which cooling is a serious problem--such a problem, in fact, that Toshiba now faces a class-action lawsuit for building machines that run so hot that they easily break down. And then there's that burn mark on your thigh from using the darned things on an airplane. The PC industry needs to get over the "faster-is-always-better" mentality.

Apple Can't Use the Jaguar Name in Some Countries
On a humorous note, Apple is apparently banned from using the Jaguar name in certain countries, such as Australia, because it's Ford Motor Company's intellectual property. Ford, of course, owns the Jaguar automobile line, and Apple is using the Jaguar code name for Mac OS X 10.2 in its retail advertising and packaging. This sort of reminds me of the time when Pilot successfully sued Palm for using the name Palm Pilot, as if someone might mistake a 39-cent pen for a $300 PDA. But that's what happens when you let corporations own vague product names (such as, ahem, Windows), even when using those names in other markets couldn't possibly cause any consumer confusion. If Ford were smart about this, the company would avoid the bad press by launching a comarketed ad campaign that compared Jaguar cars to Apple's new OS. Of course, such an ad campaign might cause consumer confusion. Never mind.

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