WinInfo Short Takes: Week of January 7

What Ever Happened to the Windows XP Pro Step-Up?
If you've been following my Windows XP coverage, you'll recall that I reported on an XP Professional Edition Step-Up product, that would let XP Home users upgrade to Pro on the cheap. But since then, the Step-Up version has been nowhere to be seen, and I've gotten a lot of questions about it. According to Microsoft, the XP Step-Up program is available only with the purchase of a new PC at retail, and is valid for just 30 days after purchase. So customers who buy a new PC with Windows XP Home Edition pre-installed may then buy a copy of Windows XP Professional within 30 days of purchase of their new PC and receive a $75 rebate at point of sale (POS) for those retailers set up to deliver an instant rebate; all other retailers will distribute coupons for the customer to redeem directly from Microsoft. This program is being offered until February 28, 2002 in the US only.

IDC: 75 Million Windows XP Licenses to Sell in 2002
According to market research company International Data Corporation (IDC), Microsoft will ship 75 million Windows XP licenses this year, giving the new OS an installed base of almost 85 million users by this time next year. Other predictions from the company include a "hype peak" for .NET this year, well before the technology is ready to go mainstream, and a "breakout year" for Linux (which means this is probably the third straight year they've predicted that).

FBI Reverses Advice: Microsoft's XP Patch Works
Ahem. Well, as I suspected, the XP security patch issued late last year to address vulnerabilities in Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) works after all, causing the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) to reverse its advice. The NIPC issued a warning in December cautioning XP users to disable the UPnP services in XP even if they had installed the patch, but after a thorough review of the problem, the agency has determined that such draconian steps are not necessary. On a related note, I'll be discussing the entire timeline of this overblown and misreported event in next week's Windows & .NET Magazine UPDATE. Virtually everything you've read about the UPnP vulnerability--and Microsoft's response to this problem--outside of WinInfo Daily UPDATE is wrong.

Study: Users Perform Windows Upgrades At Their Own Pace
Contrary to Microsoft's desires, it seems that most Windows users aren't jumping on every OS upgrade and are instead upgrading at their own pace. That could be a problem for Windows XP and the upcoming Windows .NET Server family, the latter of which is but a minor upgrade to an already daunting upgrade, Windows 2000 Server. How users' desires can be brought in line with Microsoft Licensing 6.0 is unclear, since reviews of the oft-delayed licensing scheme has corporation worried about escalating costs and upgrade cycles.

On the Other Hand, Maybe Upgrading is a Good Thing
On the other hand, it's possible to upgrade too infrequently. Consider the advice of James Carpenter, a senior programmer working at a division of Ticketmaster. Carpenter told InfoWorld recently that Windows 2000 was just fine, thank you very much. "The Windows 2000 desktop is good for 20 years," he said. "Why upgrade to a new system every two or three years?" 20 years, he says. I want you to close your eyes for a second and recall the first generation IBM PC that went on sale 20 years ago: We're talking the model 5150 here, with a 4.77 MHz 8088 processor, a single 160K floppy drive, 16 to 256 K (not MB, Kilobytes) of RAM, and a nice green screen CGA monitor. Now imagine using that box today. Maybe a happy medium between "never upgrade" and "always upgrade" is in order here.

Microsoft Uses Passport to Warn Users
In an effort to warn as many people as possible about a serious Internet Explorer security patch, Microsoft recently turned to its Passport database and mass-emailed over 25 million users a short message about the problem. It's hard to argue that such a mailing wasn't prudent, but then maybe IE should be set up to auto-download its own security hotfixes: It is the consummate online tool, after all. Wouldn't this be an obvious feature?

Apple Plays the Rumor Mill
If you're not familiar with Apple fan sites, then consider yourself lucky. But the short story is that these sites tend to ply the rumor trade in a way that would make otherwise similar Windows and Linux sites blush. And for a relatively small company with relatively few users, Apple also gets an amazing amount of press, both legitimate and otherwise, thanks to high profile fans who write for important news agencies like Newsweek, the New York Times, Business Week, and the LA Times. What this all adds up to is a heightened sense of excitement for Apple's trade events, such as MacWorld expo, which is being held next week in San Francisco. What's different this time around, however, is that Apple is over-promoting all the cool (but still secret) stuff they'll be introducing at the show, sending fan sites (and sadly, even legit news agencies) into a tizzy. It's funny to watch, but sad when you realize how compromised those news agencies have become: I mean, a rumor piece in Business Week? Yes, it's there). Anyway, Apple is sure to pull out all the stops, and I think we can expect new flat panel iMacs, 1 GHz G4 processors, and some sort of new digital media hardware device. Should be interesting.

Gates Keynote to Jumpstart CES
Of course, the real news next week is the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), not MacWorld. That's because CES encompasses thousands of companies, and not just one. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates will kick off the week-long event Monday night with his standard keynote address, an event which caused Apple to move Steve Jobs' MacWorld keynote from Tuesday morning back to Monday morning in order to preempt Gates. You gotta love the way these companies just get along.

2.2 GHz Pentium 4 on Tap for Next Week
Next week, Intel will unleash its next Pentium 4, a 2.2 GHz speed champion that includes support for faster Double Data Rate (DDR) RAM. The new Pentium 4s run on a smaller and cooler 0.13 micron process, so they can be shrunk dramatically, leading to lower manufacturing costs. The new chips also include double the amount of on-chip cache, 512 KB, compared to the older versions. I've been sort of down on the P4's performance since the chip shipped, but this new version--code-named "Northwood"--seems to address the complaints. It might be time for an upgrade...

Hacker Defends Handling of AIM Vulnerability
The 19-year old student who discovered the recent security vulnerability in AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) this week defended his decision to publish not only information about the bug, but a program to exploit it, by saying that he had emailed AOL but never received a response back. I've got a newsflash for this child and his compatriots, who by the way, have a security pseudo-company called w00w00 (yes, seriously). What you did is childish, immature, and wrong. What the heck is wrong with this world? On a related note, AOL has fixed the afore-mentioned security problem, which affected about 29 million active AIM users (out of a potential 100 million total AIM users).

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