WinInfo Short Takes: Week of August 18

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

Microsoft Isn't Killing Outlook Express
Contrary to reports you might have seen elsewhere, Microsoft isn't abandoning Microsoft Outlook Express, the company's free email client. Instead, the software giant will bundle Outlook Express with Windows (i.e., Outlook Express won't be available as a standalone product), which means that the next major update won't be available until Longhorn, the next version of Windows, ships in 2005. But don't expect any major changes in Outlook Express 7; Microsoft is more concerned with its income-generating products these days. For email, that means Hotmail, MSN email, and Outlook--not Outlook Express.

Security Experts Call MSBlaster "Amateurish" 
Security experts who have examined the source code behind the MSBlaster worm aren't impressed. Despite the fact that the errant bit of code compromised more than 250,000 PCs, the cracker who wrote the code is apparently an amateur of sorts. "A better version of this worm wouldn't crash any machines; it would work correctly every time, move faster, and delete or steal its victims' files," a security expert told "The Washington Post" this week. Sure, and a better version of the OS it compromises wouldn't be affected by this worm, right?

Windows Update Prepped for Weekend Worm Attack
And speaking of MSBlaster, Microsoft is battening down the virtual hatches for the worm's planned August 16 attack on the Windows Update service. Microsoft says it's working up some heightened defenses to protect Windows Update from the attack, but as of last night, the problems were already starting, and Microsoft's main Web site was refusing to load.

Microsoft to Change Firewall Default in XP
Microsoft revealed this week that the company will change the default setting for its Internet Connection Firewall (ICF) in Windows XP so that the service is on by default. The company is making the change in response to the MSBlaster worm's rapid spread, which users could thwart simply by selecting the check box that enables ICF in XP. How Microsoft will implement this change is unclear, but I expect to see it happen in the Service Pack 2 (SP2) time frame. XP SP2, by the way, will ship by the end of 2003.

US Power Outage Doesn't Affect the Web
Yesterday's massive power outage in the northeastern United States and parts of Canada didn't do much to disrupt the Web; all major Web sites were running. But the outage had other effects; geeky guys worldwide suddenly lost many of their Instant Messaging (IM) buddies. AOL, for example, saw its total simultaneous users dip from 2.4 million members to 2.1 million members when the power outage struck.

Booby Prize. Pyrrhic Victory. You Pick the Headline.
ATI Technologies beat out NVIDIA for the next-generation Xbox video-card contract; the Xbox 2 is expected in 2005. To be fair, the contract could be fairly lucrative if the Xbox 2 takes off, but if the new console is anything like the current one, ATI could have some problems, as NVIDIA did with the first Xbox. NVIDIA basically said that the Xbox 2 contract didn't make sense financially, given the problems Microsoft has had meeting sales predictions for the first Xbox. "We looked at the next-generation Xbox product, just as we do other OEM opportunities," an NVIDIA spokesperson said. "In order for us to engage, basically the economics have to make sense for both of us. In this case we were unable to reach an agreement." Yikes. Is this statement common sense or sour grapes? You be the judge.

Microsoft First to Launch Online Music Store in Europe
Microsoft has partnered with a British digital-music provider named On Demand Distribution (OD2) to launch Europe's first online music store, beating market-leader Apple Computer to what will no doubt be one of the most hotly contested music markets on earth. The service, called the MSN Music Club, offers more than 200,000 tracks from more than 8500 artists in Windows Media Audio (WMA) 9 format, which is quickly becoming the de facto standard for online music distribution. Like rival services iTunes Music Store and, MSN Music Club songs cost 99 cents each and don't require any subscription fees.

Project 2003 is First Office System Product Finalized
Microsoft Office Project 2003 is the first member of the Microsoft Office System family of products to be finalized; Microsoft will release the product to manufacturing Thursday. But Project 2003 won't be alone for long. Expect Microsoft to announce the release to manufacturing (RTM) of its other Office System products as early as today in anticipation of a late-October launch. Let's hope the power will be on in New York by the time that happens.

Caught in a Lie: Apple Forced to Refund Cost of Mac OS X to G3 Users
The Los Angeles Superior Court struck down everybody's favorite tech exaggerator this week and forced Apple to refund the cost of Mac OS X to disgruntled users. The problem? Apple claimed in its early Mac OS X advertising that the product was "fully optimized" for the aging Power Mac G3 processor, which it most certainly wasn't. Then, the company added a lot of features that work only with the faster Power Mac G4 chip. One class-action lawsuit later and California consumers who believe that Apple ripped them off can get a nice little $129 refund. Apple's been taken to court for its frequent indiscretions with reality in the past; shareholders have sued the company at least twice for overstating the performance of its systems.

Dell Financials, Market Share Surge Again
Dell continued to run roughshod over the rest of the computer industry in the most recent quarter, posting a 24 percent jump in profits on a 16 percent rise in income. The world's largest PC maker earned $621 million on $9.78 billion in revenues for the quarter ending August 1. The company says that most of the demand came from consumers and small businesses, not enterprises, which continue to pinch pennies. But Dell expects consumer and government sales to increase in the coming quarter, leading to another 24 percent gain in earnings. Shipments to home users were up almost 50 percent in the most recent quarter; consumer-oriented notebook sales were particularly strong.

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