WinInfo Short Takes: Week of January 26

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

Exclusive Longhorn Interview Starts Today on the SuperSite
   I spent much of this week talking to folks at Microsoft's Redmond campus, and I'll post part one of this eagerly anticipated interview later today on the SuperSite for Windows. In the first half of the interview, Microsoft user-experience gurus Hillel Cooperman and Tjeerd Hoek discuss Longhorn, user experiences, Microsoft corporate culture, the Professional Developers Conference (PDC), and other fun topics. Stay tuned.

Microsoft Quarterly Revenues Hit Record $10 Billion Mark
   Microsoft beat financial expectations yet again, posting quarterly profits of $1.48 billion on record sales of $10.15 billion. However, thanks to a one-time $2.2 billion charge for a new employee stock-compensation program, the company's profits were actually down 17 percent, year over year. Sales were up 19 percent, however; Microsoft surpassed the $10 billion mark for the first time in its history. And here's a sobering thought: Microsoft is now averaging sales of $100 million a day, every day, and the company has almost $53 billion in cash or liquid assets--$1 billion more than when the quarter began. Demand for PCs was better than expected in the quarter ending December 31, pushing Windows XP licenses to new heights, the company reported, whereas sales of its core products--Windows, Microsoft Office, and server products--were up 20 percent in the quarter. Overall, all of Microsoft's businesses, save one, saw their fortunes rise in the quarter; only the Home & Entertainment Division, which is responsible for the Xbox, saw sales fall--by 5 percent.

Early SPOT Adopters Cite Problems with Watches
   I purchased Smart Personal Object Technology (SPOT) watches for two friends the day the devices first shipped during the 2004 International Computer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, and maybe they weren't the great gifts I imagined they would be. According to reports from early adopters, including one of the two people I mentioned, the Fossil Abacus watches have some problems. Users are reporting that the watches intermittently stop working, don't connect to services for weird amounts of time, and have problems with static electricity. In a humorous vein, a time-honored Microsoft tradition--rebooting--seems to fix most ills, at least temporarily. And you thought Microsoft would have problems entering the consumer-electronics market.

Looking for a Windows Desktop Killer?
   Reports of companies that are looking for inexpensive Windows alternatives on the desktop always amuse me because the one thing these folks never seem to realize is that they're not really willing to give up all the amazing functionality they take for granted on Windows. And functionality is where alternatives such as Linux fall short. Although Linux offers the stability and reliability desktop users expect, the OS's mind-boggling series of little problems and huge functionality holes will befuddle the average desktop user. So if you're looking for a next-generation Windows replacement, one that offers everything that Windows has plus more, Microsoft is working on that replacement right now--it's called Longhorn. And if the company is smart it will take the bold move of not rehashing the somewhat tarnished Windows name and go with a new name. I thought said that abandoning the NT name for the company's NT-kernel-based products was a mistake. Maybe, with Longhorn, Microsoft can reverse that mistake.

Most Recent Microsoft US Antitrust Developments Sure to Affect European Case
   The recent quarterly update report from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the so-called settling states wasn't good news for Microsoft, but the report is even worse news when you think about its wider ramifications. Another Microsoft antitrust case is going on right now in Europe, and regulators there are sure to take notice that the United States' weak settlement with the company did absolutely nothing to curb its voracious activities. European regulators will surely keep an eye on developments in the US settlement as they prepare to render a final verdict and craft their own remedies.

Microsoft Wants RealNetworks Antitrust Trial Moved Out of Silicon Valley
   When RealNetworks recently accused Microsoft of antitrust abuses, RealNetworks was careful to log the complaint in a Silicon Valley courtroom to ensure that an eventual jury would be made up of residents of the one area of the country that has an axe to grind with the software giant from Redmond. Not amused, Microsoft wants the trial moved to a less hostile location. "Many of Microsoft's fiercest competitors are based in Silicon Valley," Microsoft noted in a court filing this week. "For this reason, RealNetworks likely perceives the jury pool in this district to be the most hostile to Microsoft of any jury pool in the country." A hearing is scheduled for March. RealNetworks says it will appeal any move. Naturally.

Microsoft Quietly Posts New Baseline Security-Analyzer Tool
   Security mavens will want to download the most recent version of Microsoft's security-analyzer tool, Microsoft Security Baseline Analyzer (MSBA) v1.2. The tool, which runs on Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, and Windows 2000 systems, now includes support for Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 and all BizTalk versions. MSBA v1.2 scans for common security misconfigurations on a long list of products. You can download MSBA 1.2 from the Microsoft Web site.

Just What We Need--Yet Another Programming Language
   I hope you've have mastered C# because Microsoft is working to replace it with yet another C-like programming language. Dubbed Xen (previously X#), the new language melds C# with XML and SQL Server support. To be fair, if Microsoft develops the new language correctly it will be a superset of C#, prompting me to wonder whether the company should market Xen as a new C# version. Otherwise, Microsoft risks alienating C# users as the company alienated Visual Basic (VB) users when it moved from the simple VB 6.0 language to the more complicated Visual Basic .NET.

IE Commands 94.8 Percent of Web Usage
   In news that should surprise no one, Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) dominates the Web with 94.8 percent of all Web usage worldwide, according to market researchers at Broken down into specific versions, IE 6.0 is number one with 68.1 percent of the market, followed by IE 5.5 (13.8 percent), IE 5.0 (11.8), Mozilla (1.8), Opera 7.0 (0.8), IE 4.0 (0.7), and Apple's Safari (.48). Humorous note of the week: MacCentral's coverage of this event was titled, "Safari global usage nearly doubled."

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