WinInfo Short Takes: Week of March 3

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

Don't Believe the Press: Microsoft Is Looking at DVD-RW, Too
Except for my report in WinInfo Daily UPDATE, virtually every news story about Microsoft joining the DVD+RW Alliance misinterpreted the situation, so let me restate a simple fact. Microsoft's decision to join the DVD+RW Alliance doesn't mean that the company is backing DVD+RW exclusively. Instead, the company intends to continue investigating competing (and, frankly, superior) recordable-DVD formats--including DVD-R and DVD-RW--for inclusion in Longhorn, the next Windows version. Here's the official word: "Microsoft is a member of many, many standards bodies," a Microsoft representative told me earlier this week. "In joining the DVD+RW Alliance, Microsoft is demonstrating our effort to continually evaluate providing built-in support for writeable DVD and other media formats. As we announced at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference 2002, Microsoft plans to provide native support for Mt. Rainier (DVD+RW) in the next version of Windows, and we continue to evaluate providing native support for other media formats, as well (DVD-RW, DVD-R, and others)."

Microsoft Offers Windows Source Code to China
Software piracy might be common in China, but the country also has billions of potential customers and is the largest untapped market in the world. So it's not surprising that Microsoft announced this morning that the company will offer the Chinese government access to its source code so that the country can determine for itself that Windows is stable, secure, and ready for deployment. China will gain access to the source code for Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, Windows 2000, and Windows CE .NET (formerly code-named Talisker), the company says. And, noted Salah DanDan, Microsoft's worldwide Government Security Program (GSP) manager, "\[Microsoft has\] full confidence that the government of China will protect our intellectual property and will treat the Windows source code with utmost confidentiality." Sure, who wouldn't?

Is Windows Update Spyware?
This week, a mind-numbingly banal report on a German hardware Web site claimed that Microsoft's Windows Update Web site is basically spyware because it supposedly sends a list of the software installed on your PC to Microsoft. The report raises years-old concerns that Microsoft is spying on its users in a Big Brother scenario that's so easy to believe and yet so obviously not true. So why would Microsoft need (or care about) a list of software installed on your system? As the report notes, the Windows Update privacy statement states that the service "must collect a certain amount of configuration information from your computer" to determine which fixes you need. You mean Microsoft might actually provide its users with fixes that apply to certain third-party applications? I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Microsoft's done enough harmful things in the past that we don't need to make stuff up.

Tablet PCs Far More Successful Than Previously Thought
Sales of Tablet PC devices are far higher than anyone, including Microsoft, predicted, and market researchers who saw the machines as just a niche market are scrambling to make new predictions. Gartner, for example, reported last fall that Tablet PCs would garner less than 3 percent of the notebook market by the end of 2004, but sales reports suggest that the machines have already accomplished that goal and the devices continue to sell briskly. Toshiba's Portege 3500, the best-selling Tablet PC, is pretty much sold out, a fact that hit home for me when I couldn't get one from the company despite that Toshiba is sponsoring the Microsoft Mobility Tour in which I present information about Tablet PCs. Giga Information Group now predicts that 25 percent of all notebooks will include Tablet PC features by the end of 2004, thanks to corporate upgrades and a new generation of more capable devices. Whatever the final tally is, one thing is clear: Tablet PCs are here to stay.

Windows Is More Stable and Secure Than Linux. Well, Duh.
The mainstream press--which has historically over-inflated Linux's value, usage, and potential--is owning up to some facts that should be fairly obvious: Linux is more vulnerable, less secure, and less capable than Windows--a fact I've been stating for years. But how could it be otherwise? Windows has been in development for decades, scales from the smallest handheld devices up to the largest servers in the world, and has an unbelievably dedicated and complex development structure, as I document in my "Windows Server 2003: The Road to Gold" series on the SuperSite for Windows ( ). What Linux has had going for it is a lot of anecdotal stories about uptime and stability and not much else. Although Linux is certainly a capable and worthy OS for many situations, it's time to take stock of reality. In one indicative report published by the Aberdeen Group, we discover that, "Contrary to popular misperception, Microsoft does not have the worst track record when it comes to security vulnerabilities. Also contrary to popular wisdom, UNIX- and Linux-based systems are just as vulnerable to viruses, Trojan horses, and worms." Microsoft didn't sponsor the report, either, so get your mouse pointer off the Reply button. The report is based on publicly available data from CERT and concludes that Microsoft's lowered vulnerability rate last year is the direct result of the company's Trustworthy Computing initiative. We'll hear more of this kind of information in the months ahead; I guarantee it. So let me restate for the record: Nothing is wrong with Linux, per se. But blanket statements about the open-source rival besting Windows in the categories that matter most to enterprises are simply ludicrous.

Apple Finally Acknowledges Market Share Fall
Apple Computer made an interesting revelation this week, although I find it curious that none of the Macintosh Web sites bothered to notice. While speaking at Goldman Sachs Technology Investment Symposium this week, Apple's chief financial officer (CFO) Fred Anderson said the company had an "intermediate goal" of raising its market share from 3 percent to 5 percent. I can only assume he meant US market share because the company's global market share is much less than 3 percent. But the public comments about market share are interesting for several reasons. First, Apple has long held to certain figures about its installed base (which has supposedly hovered at exactly 25 million active users for about 7 years) and market share (which was always been exactly 5 percent; you might recall CEO Steve Jobs talking incessantly a few years ago about "reaching the other 95 percent"). My primary problem with Apple (the company makes great products) is that it constantly overstates its products' capabilities and thus, in general, is deceptive to customers. Publicly, Apple has always overinflated its market share, as well, and Anderson's admission (which is itself a bit overinflated) might mean the company is trying to be more realistic and, frankly, more honest. After all, Apple has lost market share--year over year--every year since Jobs took over the company. But what's next? Will the company finally admit that its high-end 1.25GHz Power MacĀ  G4 doesn't measure up to a Pentium III, let alone a Pentium 4? I don't see that happening any time soon, but I can dream.

And the World's Richest Man Is ... Bill Gates. Still.
Despite a slumping economy and dwindling stock prices, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates is still the world's richest man, with a fortune of more than $40 billion. Gates, who was once worth more than $54 billion, has really had to cut back over the years, I'm told, so I'm thinking of taking up a collection. Send me an email message if you want to contribute. Investor Warren Buffet, a Gates bridge buddy, is number two on the list with $30 billion, down from $35 billion a year ago. Man, it's a tough year to be a billionaire.

Sega: The Next Atari
And if I get one email message asking who Atari is ... Flailing video-game-maker Sega is apparently on the chopping block; Microsoft and Electronic Arts are considering absorbing the company. Sega, which was once a giant in the video-game arena, dropped out of the console market a few years ago and has concentrated on porting its game titles to a variety of systems. But the company hasn't performed well and is now a potential takeover target. In some ways, Microsoft would be the more logical choice, as the software giant is arguably partially to blame for Sega's woes. Sega bundled its last system, the Dreamcast, with a Windows CE-based runtime environment that third-party developers totally shunned. Shades of Xbox, you say? Yeah, pretty much. Like the Xbox, the Dreamcast was more powerful than the competition, but it sold poorly. Sega would give Microsoft better access to the crucial Japanese market, where the Xbox lags significantly behind Sony's PlayStation 2 and the Nintendo GameCube.

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