WinInfo Short Takes: Week of February 9, 2009

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including Microsoft's Windows 7 UAC flip-flop and history rewriting, Microsoft's secretive smart phone plans, a look back at the effectiveness of Microsoft's 2008 ads, celebrity pimping, and more...

WinInfo Blog

The bitter cold we've been experiencing continued all week--my car even died temporarily due to the cold--but it looks like this weekend will finally get up above 40 degrees, which has been rare this winter. But I can't recall a cold spell like this, not to mention the six-plus weeks of a foot or more of snow on the ground. It's like Narnia up here. What happened to all that global warming we were promised?

Leo and I recorded an extra-long episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on Thursday as usual, covering the Windows 7 SKU announcement as well as a bunch of other stuff. It should be up by the end of the weekend as always.

But wait, there more. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter, Friendfeed, and the SuperSite Blog.

Short Takes

Microsoft: Did not, did too on UAC switcheroonie
Microsoft this week pulled a John Kerry-esque flip-flop maneuver, alternating between not changing and then changing a so-called flaw in the Windows 7 version of User Account Control (UAC), and then pretending that the change in question was coming all along anyway. Explaining this is almost too difficult in such a confined space, but the mile-high view is this: Bloggers complained about what they saw as a security deficiency in Windows 7 UAC. Microsoft denied there was a problem. Microsoft then reversed its previous stance and said they'd fix it. But oh, by the way, that fix was planned all along: You blogger guys never really influenced that particular decision. You know, this kind of thing almost makes you pine for the transparency of, say, the Kremlin in the mid-1970s.

Is Microsoft making a smart phone? That depends on your definition of 'doing'
And in another stunning example of Microsoft double-speak there's been a lot of persistent rumors lately that Microsoft would soon announce their own smart phone design, perhaps one based around its Zune software. What's most amazing about these rumors, of course, is that Microsoft has flatly denied these rumors, stating explicitly that the company will not be making its own smart phone. As in, literally, "Microsoft is not doing a phone." But this is really just a matter of semantics. Microsoft is, apparently, "doing" a number of smart phones of its own designs. It just won't sell them directly to the public but will instead hand them off to partners so they can sell them. See how that works? ZD blogger Mary Jo Foley says that Microsoft is doing, er ah, making so-called smart phone reference platforms that its partners will sell as Zune Mobile phones as well as other Zune-powered devices. Makes sense, when you think about it: With rare exceptions, Microsoft forays into building its own hardware devices hasn't exactly resulted in blockbuster success. Let the partners take the fall. We can call it the "do-ening."

Microsoft's Windows Mobile road map
And speaking of Mary Jo Foley and Microsoft's mobile phone strategy, the former has come up with a roadmap of sorts for the latter as well. According to Foley, Microsoft will ship Windows Mobile 6.5 (which the software giant has never officially acknowledged) in April 2009, meaning we won't see the first 6.5-based devices until September. (You gotta love the speed of the smart phone industry.) In November 2009, the company will then issue Windows Mobile 7.0 ... to testers. The official release of that oft-delayed Windows Mobile isn't expected now until April 2010. These dates have nothing to do with the company's Zune Mobile plans apparently. Hey, if you're going to have a "do-ening" you may as well do it up.

Survey: Microsoft's "I'm a PC" ads were effective. Seinfeld/Gates? Not so much
According to a survey by "The New York Times," last year's "I'm a PC" ad campaign was highly effective, making Microsoft seem cooler and hipper to those that viewed the ads. But the company's companion ads, featuring comedian Jerry Seinfeld and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, were not as well received. "After seeing the \[Seinfeld ads\], both Apple and Microsoft users had a more negative perception of Microsoft in the areas of innovation, technology, trouble-free design, and warranty and pricing," the paper concluded. "The \[Seinfeld ads\] failed miserably with consumers."

Ex-antitrust chief: Any Microhoo deal would be closely analyzed
Former US Department of Justice (DOJ) antitrust head Thomas Barnett told Reuters this week that any deal between Microsoft and Yahoo! would be closely analyzed by government regulators. "A 'three to two merger' would require a significant investigation," he said, noting also that any lesser deal between the companies would also lead to an investigation because of the market ramifications. And he would know: Barnett last year led the investigation into the Google/Yahoo! advertising deal and he was instrumental in scuttling it to the disbelief of Google, which until then thought it was somewhere between God and holiness in the eternal pecking order. (Now they're just somewhere between holiness and man.)

Microsoft pimps celebrities
I'm not trying to say that Microsoft is *too* diversified, but let's be honest here: When their latest product is a celebrity Web site, maybe it's time to take a step back and have a deep discussion about what it is, exactly, that this company is all about. This past week, Microsoft's MSN division (yes, they're still around for some reason, like the Nazi zombies from a bad 70's horror movie) unveiled a new celebrity oriented web site called Wonderwall that is, well, just about as wonderful as you can imagine. (It has insipid sections like "Top Celebs" and, seriously, "LOL Pics.") I'm trying to think about something I can less about than celebrities, but I have say, I'm coming up short.

Security experts: Over 90 percent of Microsoft flaws could be fixed with one small change
Developers at BeyondTrust examined all of the security vulnerabilities that Microsoft disclosed in 2008 and came to a startling conclusion: Over 90 percent of them could have been completely mitigated if Windows users simply ran under normal user rights instead of with administrative privileges. "This speaks to what enterprises should be doing," BeyondTrust CEO John Moyer says. "Clearly, eliminating administrative rights can close the window of opportunity of attack." Looked at in a product-by-product comparison, 69 percent of Windows flaws in 2008 could be have completely averted by users running under non-admin privileges, as could 89 percent of IE flaws and 94 percent of Microsoft Office flaws.

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