An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including Vista SP1 RC1, non-Windows Microsoft flaws, Exchange Server 2007 SP1, a Windows Mobile update, iPhone 3G silliness, Facebook stupidity, video game sales, and much, much more...
It's been two weeks since the last Short Takes, thanks to last week's four-day Thanksgiving break. Coming back to work after that much time off is tough, and I spent much of this week complaining to myself about all the work I had to catch up on. That work is ongoing, but it promises to be a busy weekend now as well. Surely, I'm not the only one who noticed that November seemed to come and go in a flash. I can't possibly be this far behind on holiday shopping already?
Leo was off traveling this week but we recorded an extra Windows Weekly podcast last week, which should be up by the weekend. This time around, we talk with Windows Live's David Fortin about Microsoft's newest online services. We'll be back again next week.
Vista SP1 RC as Early as Next Week
According to beta testers, Microsoft will released the release candidate 1 (RC1) version of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) as early as next week, fulfilling its promise to ship that release by the end of 2007. Vista SP1 RC1 will be available to the public, the first time Microsoft has made an SP1 build available that broadly. A preview of the RC1 build was shipped to customers earlier this month; the final RC1 build is expected to be almost identical.
A Huge Jump in Microsoft Flaws? Really?
A security tracking firm called Qualys (no, I haven't heard of them either) claims that the past year has seen a massive increase in the number of Microsoft software vulnerabilities. The key word, here, I believe is "Microsoft": Most of the increase is actually coming from non-Windows products, most specifically Office. Between 2006 and 2007, there has been a 300 percent increase in Office-related flaws, which I believe is tied to an emerging trend where hackers turn to applications as OSes become more secure. And since Office is, by far, the most often used set of applications on earth, it makes sense to target that platform. Naturally, Office isn't alone. Hackers are going nuts on such technologies as Apple QuickTime and Adobe PDF as well.
Microsoft Adds Office 2007 Compatibility to Windows Mobile 5, 6
It's not the sought-after Windows Mobile 7 "Photon" release that we were hoping for, but Microsoft this week divulged information about an interim update to Windows Mobile that will add support for the new Open XML file formats introduced in Office 2007 on the PC. Dubbed Office Mobile 6.1, the update applies to both Windows Mobile 5 and 6 and includes a few other enhancements, such as the ability to view and extract ZIP files.
Exchange Server 2007 SP1 Hits the Streets
Microsoft this week shipped the first service pack for Exchange Server 2007, its messaging server solution. Exchange 2007 SP1 adds support for Windows Server 2008 as well as some Office Communications Server 2007 integration pieces. Also improved in the SP1 release is Outlook Web Access (OWA), the Web-based Outlook client. With SP1, OWA gains back access to public folders and improved the UI a bit, with monthly calendar views. Exchange 2007 SP1 is available from the Microsoft Web site.
Patent Ruling Against Microsoft Upheld
A federal appeals court in Michigan has upheld a ruling against Microsoft and Autodesk that requires the companies to pay millions of dollars in fines for patent infringement. As a result, Microsoft will have to pay $115 million to z4 Technologies, which sued the company for patents related to activation technology and anti-software piracy technologies. Now that Microsoft's product activation technologies have officially caused everyone, even the company itself, to suffer, maybe it's time to simply back off and admit it was all just a big mistake. Yeah, I'm serious. Sarcastic. But serious.
Xbox 360 Continues to Trail Wii, Kick PS3 Butt
Well, the post-Thanksgiving results are in and the Nintendo Wii continues to run roughshod over the rest of the video game competition. Nintendo sold 350,000 Wii devices last week (along with 653,000 DS portable game devices), its best Thanksgiving week in history. This compared to 310,000 units sold for the Microsoft Xbox 360 and a paltry 155,000 units sold for Sony's struggling PlayStation 3. Sony disputes these numbers, though it refuses to supply its own, preferring to wait for NPD estimates, which are due in two weeks. However, the company strongly denies that it was outsold by the 360 by a two to one margin. From what I can see, Sony's recent PS3 price drop has helped sales, but it still trails the Wii and 360 regardless of the margin.
But... One Sign of Hope for the PS3
On the other hand, there is one interesting sign of hope for the PS3. No, they still don't have a decent game for the console, but Sony reported this week that its PS3 console outsold the Wii in Japan for the first time ever in the first four weeks of November, with 183,000 units sold compared to 159,000 for the Wii. Microsoft's 360 continues to fair poorly in Japan, having sold just 35,000 units in that time period. Apparently, the PS3 price cut has had a huge effect in Japan. Whether they can carry over that success to the rest of the world remains unclear.
Yet Another Reason Facebook is a Freaking Joke
I have to admit to a certain bias here. I hate Facebook and its ilk, hate it with a burning disdain that is hard to clarify but easy to feel. So the news this week that Facebook has been messaging users' friends about the purchases they've made, to me, is just another indication that these over-hyped and well over-valued social network sites are just a flash in the pan as I've always suspected. Facebook has already responded to huge public outrage over this issue--which many claimed ruined their holidays when presents they purchased online were broadcasted to the intended recipients--but you know, it's too. And frankly, anyone who relies on a site like Facebook almost deserves to be punished. Here's why: Complaining that a personal information sharing site is violating your privacy is a little far-fetched. If you don't want Facebook sharing your private details, don't sign-up and provide them.
But Wait, There's More
Most of my disdain for Facebook arose out of news that the founder of the site literally stole the idea for the service from other students with a nearly identical service while he was a student at Harvard University. Contrary to Facebook's claims--that founder Mark Zuckerberg and various early employees constructed the service "through their own ingenuity and hard work"--the truth is a little more damning. And now Facebook is actually suing to hide that fact. This week, Facebook filed two court motions attempting to prevent an independent Harvard alumni magazine from publishing information about this theft online. Facebooks says the information was sealed by the court as part of a lawsuit from these former Harvard students, who watched Zuckerberg go public with their ideas and become fabulously wealthy as a result. But I'd like to know what the status of this lawsuit is. From what I can tell, the only original ideas Facebook has ever had--like publishing users' purchased items online--haven't been particularly compelling.
AT&T Confirms 3G iPhone Next Year
Just when iPhone early adopters were starting to get their self-respect back, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson this week reminded everyone of yet another reason why seeking to buy your way into coolness never works: Apple will ship a new version of the iPhone in 2008 that is compatible with AT&T's 3G wireless network, effectively eliminating the number one complaint about the current device, its reliance on the lousy "2.5G" EDGE network. Using EDGE, as any iPhone user will tell you, is like using a balky 14.4 modem connection in Eastern Europe during the mid-1990's, a frustrating affair akin to watching bread toast or grass grow. The big question, of course, is whether current iPhones can be upgraded to support 3G. LOL. You guys still don't get what's happening here, do you? Maybe another open letter from Steve Jobs will make you feel better about buying into immediate obsolescence.