WinInfo Short Takes: Week of July 5

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

Microsoft Addresses Download.Ject Attack
   Microsoft has released a "configuration change" for Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, and Windows 2000 that improves system resiliency against the Download.Ject electronic attack, which caused panic attacks among security consultants and IT administrators last week. The company will post the changes to Microsoft Windows Update later today and will release them through Automatic Updates. The changes are also available for direct download from the Microsoft Web site. 

XP SP2 to Ship Late July/Early August; Tablet PC Edition 2004 Is Complete
   A Microsoft representative contacted me yesterday to confirm that the final release of XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), the long-awaited XP security upgrade, will likely ship in late July or early August. Furthermore, Tablet PC users who are interested in getting the next version of XP Tablet PC Edition should download the current XP SP2 Release Candidate 2 (RC2) build because the release includes the final shipping version of XP Tablet PC Edition 2005. XP SP2 also includes several other product updates, such as XP Media Center Edition (XP MCE) 2004 (for existing XP MCE users only), Windows Update 5, Windows Media Player (WMP) Series, and DirectX 9.0c. To learn more about XP SP2, see my review on the SuperSite for Windows. 

Microsoft Pays European Antitrust Fine
   This week, pending the outcome of its appeal, Microsoft paid into an escrow account the $600 million antitrust fine that the European Union (EU) imposed. "It has been paid in full, not by bank guarantee," an EU spokesperson said. Microsoft representatives confirmed that the company has paid the fine, a small sum for a company with more than $55 billion in cash and cash-like assets.

Microsoft Complains About Removing Media Player from OS
   And speaking of Microsoft's European antitrust problems, in a conference call with the press yesterday, Microsoft Senior Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary Bradford L. Smith complained that removing WMP from Windows is "challenging" and that the company needs more details from the EU before it can comply with the EU's demands. "Our engineering team is working very hard on these issues," he said. "We absolutely appreciate that our first duty would be to comply with whatever order the court issues." He also said that Microsoft is confused about which files, exactly, need to be removed.

You've Got Cash: Minnesota Reveals Microsoft Settlement Deal, Vermont Gets Vouchers
   In a rare move, Microsoft will give class-action-settlement plaintiffs cash, not computer hardware and software vouchers, as the company has done in other cases. More than one million consumers in Minnesota will receive as much as $241 million from Microsoft, the state revealed this week; the state announced the settlement in April, although terms of the deal weren't revealed at that time. In related news, Microsoft will also pay as much as $9.7 million to settle claims that it violated Vermont's consumer fraud act. The Vermont payout will come in the form of the typical vouchers, however.

After Paris Evaluates Linux, Microsoft Gives City a Big Refund
   This strategy has worked for many large corporations, educational institutions, and governments: Reveal to Microsoft that you're evaluating Linux, then sit back and watch as the software giant stumbles all over itself to give you a massive discount on its products. Now that strategy is working for the city of Paris: Thanks to a cute but legal extortion maneuver, Microsoft is giving the city a massive discount--as much as 60 percent--to make sure that the city will continue to use Windows and Microsoft Office. Paris is in the midst of planning a $195 million computer and software upgrade over the next 3 years that will replace obsolete systems. The mayor of Paris said he began investigating open-source solutions such as Linux after hearing about other cities' plans to move to open-source products.

Oracle CEO: Microsoft Fear Led Us to Pursue PeopleSoft
   Oracle CEO Larry Ellison probably made a good point during his testimony this week at Oracle's antitrust trial with the US Department of Justice (DOJ), which is fighting Oracle's $7.7 billion hostile takeover of PeopleSoft. "The second Microsoft enters a market, prices drop like a rock," he said. "Microsoft's strategy is always to be the low-cost provider, up to and including zero. \[That strategy\] was fundamental to our decision to buy PeopleSoft." Ellison also revealed that PeopleSoft CEO Craig Conway suggested an Oracle/PeopleSoft merger. However, Conway thought that PeopleSoft should run the combined companies. "I thought that since we were going to be the majority owner, we were going to put more into it, and we should be the ones running it," Ellison testified.

Microsoft Chairman: Pirates Are Our Only Competition
   Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates said this week that software piracy is a bigger competitor than open-source software (OSS), a biting comment that nonetheless rings true. "You know what my toughest competitor is?" Gates rhetorically asked reporters in Australia this week. "It's pirated software. If you really look around, you'll find more pirated Windows than you'll find open-source software--way more." Expect this comment to generate some grumbling from the open-source camp.

Novel Announces First Version of .NET for Linux
   This week, Novell subsidiary Ximian shipped Mono 1.0, the first version of Microsoft .NET libraries for Linux. Mono includes a C# compiler, a .NET-compatible runtime engine, and two sets of APIs--one designed to interface directly with Linux and the other to emulate Windows .NET Framework 1.1, including support for such Microsoft-centric technologies as ASP .NET and ADO .NET. Novell has launched a new Mono Web site for developers who want more information about this intriguing development. 

Apple Quietly Releases Rendezvous Preview for Linux and Windows
   This week, Apple Computer quietly released an excellent bit of technology for Macintosh and Windows users, closing the gap between Mac OS X and other platforms. The company ported its Rendezvous zero-network-configuration technology and even released the source code for the technology, which will let developers write Rendezvous-compatible Java, Linux, UNIX, and Window applications. Rendezvous lets network devices automatically connect with PCs and other Rendezvous-compatible devices, similar to the much-maligned Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) technology Microsoft implemented in XP. "By supporting an open-standards process and providing open-source software that is available today, Apple is encouraging the rapid adoption of Rendezvous technology," Apple Senior Vice President Philip W. Schiller said. Bravo.

Some Constructive Criticism for Apple
   Many people think I dislike Apple, which isn't the case. In fact, I'm a fan and a customer. But what I don't like is the way Apple goes about its business. While touting its supposed innovation, the company often steals or borrows ideas from elsewhere and implements technologies that other companies have either completed or are actively working on, then doesn't give credit where credit is due. But Apple's problems are pretty clear: As a small company with an ever-declining PC market share (the Mac is down to an all-time low of 1.7 percent), Apple needs to bolster its perception among potential customers, not just glad-hand its installed base. Sadly, Apple executives--primarily CEO Steve Jobs--often lie or at least exaggerate and do so in Jobs's trademark smug fashion, tweaking the very competitors who often outperform the company. So here's my advice: Liars are always caught, so dispense with the baloney, and sell Macs as the often-excellent products they are. In other words, tout the fact that you can act quickly to move to technologies such as instant searching far more rapidly than slow-moving companies such as Microsoft, which is struggling to get Longhorn out the door. Push the areas in which you're innovating, and do so honestly. That means no more crazy claims, whether about performance or anything else that can easily be disproved. Then watch the people who really care about this kind of stuff--young people who are enthusiastic about technology for technology's sake--flock to your platform. Your digital-media technologies--the iPod and iTunes--were successful because people wanted to buy into that lifestyle. The Mac could be equally successful if you simply settled on a similar lifestyle strategy. Sadly, the only lifestyle I equate with the Mac today is one that's condescending and smug. It doesn't have to be that way. You're not embracing PC users; you're distancing them. But that's just my opinion.

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