WinInfo Short Takes: Week of December 25

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

Mr. Heat Miser, meet Mr. Cold Miser
There hasn't been a meeting of the minds this controversial since the cast of the Partridge Family met the cast of the Brady Bunch in the early 1970's. Or maybe I'm thinking of Reagan and Gorbachev. Well, anyway, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison met with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer earlier this week at Oracle's headquarters to discuss ways to make Oracle's database software run better on Windows NT/2000. It was the first time Ellison had met with a Microsoft CEO in over a decade, though you'd think the guys would be pretty familiar with each other, given all the potshots they take at each other's products constantly. In any event, I've always said that it's best to talk things out. Hopefully, we'll be entering a new era of "compassionate competitiveness," if I may warp a phrase from our soon-to-be Commander in Chief.

Microsoft buys Great Plains (the company, not 1/3 of the U.S.)
What costs $1.1 billion and makes accounting software? If you had asked me this question a couple of weeks ago, I would have answered, "nothing," but apparently the correct answer is "Great Plains Software," which was bough by software giant Microsoft this week. Anyway, the move is seen as a way to increase Microsoft's presence with small and medium-sized businesses, which is certainly an understandable goal for a company that seems to target gamers and high-end enterprise users almost exclusively.

3dfx bites the dust, victim of greed
A couple of years back, 3D chipset maker 3dfx screwed over its OEM partners and decided to market video cards based on its technologies itself, leaving companies like Diamond and Creative Labs in the lurch. Well, those companies and others all turned to NVIDIA for 3D technology, and now they're doing just fine, thank you very much. And in case you're wondering about the villain in this particular story, have no fear: 3dfx was just dissolved in a deal that saw all of its core assets transferred to, yup you guessed it, NVIDIA. 3dfx had other problems of course--it couldn't seem to deliver high-end versions of its latest chipsets on time, for example--but the truth is that the world has just passed them by. The day and age where 3dfx "Glide" compatibility is required to make a successful game is well past us, and 3dfx really has no one to blame but themselves. Merry Christmas indeed.

Microsoft, Adobe launch WMP7 skin design contest
Microsoft and Adobe announced a "Gimme Some Skin" contest this week for users interested in winning prizes for creating new skins for Windows Media Player 7 (WMP7). I had rather hoped that the inclusion of Adobe in this particular contest meant that the company had created some excellent, easy-to-use tool for creating WMP7 skins, as the current method is unbelievably convoluted, but it wasn't meant to be: Instead, users can simply download Microsoft's WMP7 SDK and muddle through it themselves. It's hard to understand how Microsoft couldn't have made this easier. For more information, please visit the Adobe Web site.

Need RAM? Now's the time!
Has anyone else noticed how low RAM prices are right now? If you're running Windows 2000 and want an instant performance boost, adding RAM is the way to go, and now might just be the time to do it. For example, I purchased a 866 MHz Dell Dimension 4100 a few months back, and this particular system uses 133 MHz SDRAM, so I had them include a 256 MB RAM stick with the system, assuming it'd be a while before I could upgrade it. But with an identical stick selling for as low as $125 (check out the Chip Merchant, a highly recommended site for such purchases) it was impossible to say no to more RAM. Experts say the glut in RAM could last until mid-2001, so prices may be in the cellar for at least a little while. Take advantage while you can.

Oracle posts free Web services
Oracle has delivered on its promise of Web services with the release of the Oracle 9i Dynamic Services software kit, which can be used to create, catalog, and manage, eBusiness Web services in enterprise portals. The Dynamic Services will run on any platform--NT/2000, UNIX, Linux--and are available today. Why wait two years for .NET, as Oracle notes, when you can get Dynamic Services today? Check out the Oracle Web site for details.

Linux vs. Windows on Itanium
According to reports that have a way of popping up all over the Internet, Linux will be available when the 64-bit Intel Itanium ships in the first half of 2001, but Windows won't be. Microsoft now says that its 64-bit offering will be based on Whistler, and not Windows 2000, and this will arrive at the same time as Whistler, sometime in the second half of 2001. So there could actually be a 6-month period where Linux can run on Itanium and Windows can't? Guess what: It doesn't matter. Companies will wait for Windows, as most Linux installations are run by enthusiasts using white box computers, not enterprises running high-end, scalable servers. The release of Itanium will do nothing to change the relative benefits of Linux or Windows, and it certainly won't change the markets to which these OSes are sold.

Watch movies on your computer, you loser!
If you really don't get out of the house much, this one might be of interest: Microsoft is offering three full-length movies for streaming or download during the holidays. The movies include "The Chinese Connection" starring Bruce Lee, the horror classic "Nosferatu," and the 1951 version of "A Christmas Carol," starring Alastair Sim as Scrooge. While the thought of sitting in front of a computer, watching a movie is certainly attractive, one might suggest a little friend and family time over the holidays instead. Seriously.

PayPal debit cards on the way
I had heard that eBay represented about 99.99% of Web traffic, and I think this proves it. Online "digital cash" payment network PayPal, which caters largely to those people buying lawn figurines and poseable Star Wars action figures on eBay, will begin offering an actual (read: Not virtual) method of paying for bills, a MasterCard debit card. Of course, the biggest news here is that PayPal customers will be able to "untether themselves from their computer to make purchases." I couldn't have said it better myself (Reference: Previous short take).

Dell cuts notebook prices
Dell Computer has cut prices on its corporate notebook computers by up to 20 percent, citing lower costs for components. Curiously, the consumer-oriented Inspirons, which use many of the same components, have been price reduced about 0 percent, meaning they're still the same price. Which is bad for me, because I'd like to buy an Inspiron 4000, but good for you if you're in the market for a Latitude system. Head on over to the Dell Web site and see the virtual equivalent of Crazy Eddies if you're in the market.

And the hot video game this year? Yup, you guessed it: Nintendo's GameBoy
So much for the PlayStation 2. In the first holiday buying season since the release of Sony's much-vaunted PlayStation 2, the best selling system doesn't even attach to your TV. Nope, instead, the hand-held Color GameBoy unit from Nintendo is outselling Sony 3-to-1, and this with dated technology at best. GameBoys are huge with just about every demographic, even women, and they're pretty cheap. At about $70, they make a perfect socking stuffer. Nintendo says its sold over 110 million GameBoys since the original was launched in 1989. You know, back when the Amiga, Atari ST, and Apple II GS were still viable systems. Geesh.

NetDocs: The .NET poster child
ZDNN has got a great write-up on NetDocs, the next-generation software service that Microsoft will use to replace Office. According to Mary Jo Foley, NetDocs is a single integrated application that includes a full suite of functionality, such as email, personal information management, document authoring, digital media management, and instant messaging. But what sets NetDocs apart from today's solutions, of course, is that it will never ship in a shrink-wrapped box. Instead, it will be made available as a hosted Web service. For more information, please visit the ZDNN Web site.

Take that, you Muggle! Time Warner snags Potter domain names
Time Warner, which owns the rights to the Harry Potter children's book empire, recently won a massive cyber-squatter battle when 107 Potter-related domain names were handed over to the company after a ruling by the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organization. I'm not sure about all the fuss over Harry Potter, as this type of story has been done before, and better, in my opinion: I strongly recommend C.S. Lewis' excellent Chronicles of Narnia, which predate Potter by some 50 years.

Happy Holidays from all us here at CBS
Windows 2000 Magazine won't be publishing any of its email newsletters Monday or Tuesday next week in observance of the holidays, so I'll see you again next Wednesday. But if something important should come up in the meantime, such a Microsoft settlement with the government or similar, check the WinInfo Web site for interim updates. And if you're celebrating, please have a happy, fun, and safe holiday

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