An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news...
Microsoft Continues to Lose Passport Partners
Once envisioned as the ultimate single sign-on solution for Internet users, Microsoft's Passport system has fallen into massive disuse on non-Microsoft Web sites and services, and this week, one of the company's few remaining partners dropped the technology. Online auctioneer eBay announced this week that it would stop supporting the Microsoft Passport sign-on service, forcing Microsoft to acknowledge that Passport has been a failure. The software giant also revealed that it would stop trying to persuade sites to use the technology. Contrary to some reports I've read, competition from Sun's Liberty Alliance--which proposes a Passport alternative--had absolutely nothing to do with Passport's demise. Instead it was customer apathy and a general distrust of using a Microsoft service to contain private information that doomed the service. In typical Microsoft fashion, the company tried to drive Passport use by bundling the service with a popular product--in this case, MSN Hotmail--but few customers actually used Passport for anything valuable and the service languished. I don't think I'm alone is bidding Passport adieu without any sense of regret whatsoever. It was a solution in search of a problem.
Now Available: Exploits for Those Unpatched Windows Flaws
And just in the time for the holidays, too! Symantec warned its customers this week that Chinese hackers have exploited two of the three recently revealed Windows flaws, paving the way for potentially devastating online attacks against virtually all Windows users. I think I've already compared our attitude about these kinds of events to the British during the London Blitz during World War II, so I won't belabor the point again. But maybe we could get a patch ahead of the regularly scheduled monthly security update cycle?
Sirius, XM Both Add Subscribers
Satellite radio suppliers Sirius and XM Radio both hit new subscriber records in December, thanks to part to wider-than-expected holiday sales. Sirius surpassed the 1 million subscriber mark, a figure the company promised it would hit by the end of the year. And XM Radio now has over 3.1 million subscribers, making it the most popular service for now. While these numbers are impressive, I think the success of satellite radio speaks to a much more general trend in music consumption. And that is that consumers are increasingly turning to subscription-based services over a la carte music downloads. Once consumer awareness of these schemes become more pervasive, I expect subscription services to ultimately kill off most music sales.
What Microsoft is Doing in 2005
Stephen Bink has compiled a cool list of the products that Microsoft plans to ship in 2005, including Windows Server 2003 SP1, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, Longhorn Beta 1, and so on. You can find the full list on Bink.nu:
AOL Members: What Spam?
Say what you will about the noobs that use America Online (AOL), but they probably get less spam now than you do. AOL this week revealed that it has seen a marked decrease in spam traffic on its email network, due largely to a concentrated effort to end spam both technologically and legally. By late 2004, AOL says that it was blocking over half of the spam that tried to reach its users before it ever hit the internal email network. And the number of spam messages diverted to AOL users' spam folders fell 60 percent when compared to the same time period a year earlier. Overall, AOL email traffic has improved 22 percent thanks to the company's spam-fighting tactics. And while AOL users reported 11 million spam messages to AOL in November 2003, only 2.2 million were reported in November 2004. My goodness. Is it possible that AOL will go from being the most ridiculed ISP in the country to being the most revered? No, it isn't possible.
Commodore Brand Sold Yet Again
Will the humiliation of my most beloved computer brands never end? It's bad enough that Amiga has changed hands more often than an email chain letter. But Amiga's one-time parent company, Commodore, is now seeing a similar fate. This week, Netherlands-based Tulip Computers, which purchased the Commodore brand a few years ago, sold the brand to a
Microsoft Cancels Itanium Version of Windows XP
Neowin (http://www.neowin.net/) that Microsoft is canceling its plans for the Itanium version of Windows XP (the last time I spoke with Microsoft about this, the company was still planning to release a service pack for the existing version). "Because Windows on x64 systems delivers excellent flexibility and choice, while also enabling a smooth migration from 32-bit to 64-bit applications, Microsoft believes Windows for Itanium-based systems is a stronger offering in the high-end server market. As such, Microsoft has made the decision to focus its investments in research and development on this new x64 (64-bit extended) architecture and discontinue further investments in the Itanium architecture for workstations," the software giant told Neowin. I'm sure the 6 guys running the Itanium version of Windows XP are going to be really upset about this.
Happy New Year!
Sorry for the short ... Short Takes ... this week, but it's been a slow news week in addition to being a short week, plus I'm on vacation. In any event, WinInfo will be back in full force next week, and I'll be heading to Las Vegas for a week with Keith Furman to cover the epic Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2005, which promises to be the biggest trade show we're ever attended. Be safe over the holiday weekend. --Paul