WinInfo Short Takes: Week of March 5

IE 6: Still Shipping With Windows XP Beta 2
Never mind the rumors about a February release of Internet Explorer (IE) 6. As previously (and first) reported in WinInfo Daily UPDATE, the first public IE 6 beta has always been scheduled to ship concurrently with the Beta 2 release of Windows XP, now due in mid-March. Of course, the comments about a February release are a bit moot, now that it's March 2, but I wrote this Monday, honestly. You know, when it was still February. Never mind.

Windows Media 7 Resource Kit Beta 3 Available
Thanks to the many people who wrote me about the release of Windows Media 7 Resource Kit (WM7RK) Beta 3, which Microsoft quietly released to the Web earlier this week. WM7RK is a collection of tools and utilities for digital-media content creators who work with Windows Media technologies. The kit includes a wide selection of tools both new and old; new, updated tools include the Windows Media Encoder Batching Utility, the WMCap video-capture utility, the Windows Media Advanced Script Indexer, and a lot more. Check it out on the Microsoft Web site.

Visual Studio 6 SP5 Coming Soon
A lot of people wrote about this item, but I have to single out Dieter De Preester for alerting me to this release before it happened and then again the moment it actually did happen. Microsoft has released a massive update to its aging Visual Studio 6 product, aptly titled Visual Studio 6 Service Pack 5 (SP5). SP5 is a recommended release for anyone who uses Visual Studio 6; it upgrades major components, including Visual Basic (VB), Visual C++, Visual InterDev (may it rest in peace), Visual J++ (ditto), Visual FoxPro, and Visual SourceSafe. SP5 addresses issues with, among other things, new Office and Windows updates, a problem I've experienced. For more information and access to the massive (but free) download, head over to the Microsoft Web site.

Famous Apple Evangelist Touts IBM ThinkPad
Eventually, they all come around, even the famous ones. Former Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki, he of the Macintosh-based self-help books, is now shilling for IBM and this week used an IBM ThinkPad to deliver a presentation at an IBM trade show. "This is a historic moment," Kawasaki said. "If Steve Jobs could only see me now." Indeed. Kawasaki's move to the dark side began a few years ago when he started the venture that was funded, in part, by, yup, you guessed it, Frank Stallone. Actually, Microsoft partly funded it; Stallone is still hording his "Hudson Hawk" millions.

Gateway Problems Worse Than Expected
Gateway was forced to cut its earnings expectations for the first quarter and warned investors that the company will take a big charge this quarter related to potential cutbacks in its retail operations. Gateway, which is the number-two direct seller of PCs behind Dell, says it expects an Apple-like shortfall of $150 million to $275 million and will likely return to profitability in the second half of the year. It's been a bad half-year all around, but Gateway, like Apple, was one of the hardest hit.

Mac OS X: Let the Backpedaling Begin
Ah, yes, I love the smell of hedging in the morning. After suffering through 2 years of Mac OS X promises, in which the upcoming Mac-only OS would do everything from slice bread to displace Windows as the desktop OS of choice, Apple is finally owning up to the fact that its 1.0 release will fall a bit short. With Mac OS X due to be finalized any day now, it's not surprising to hear that the initial release of this wunderkind OS won't include DVD playback or authoring features, native versions of iTunes (MP3 audio playing) or iMovie (home movie acquisition and editing), analog video-capture capabilities, power management on portables, 3-D graphics support for newer Nvidia and ATI cards, full multiprocessor support, and other features you might expect in a new release. And Mac OS X's version of the Sherlock search engine will only support case-insensitive searches, due to a limitation in the Mac file system. Can you imagine what would happen if Microsoft released Windows XP with these kinds of problems?

Microsoft OK After Earthquake
You probably heard about this week's huge earthquake in Washington State, but fear not--Microsoft is OK. Despite being hit by a near 7.0 magnitude earthquake, damage to the Seattle area was relatively minimal, and only a handful of people suffered serious injuries. I talked to a couple of people at Microsoft that day and was happy to hear all was well. As one Microsoftie humorously told me just hours after the quake, "I figured I could either go home and check on the safety of my family or stay here and talk to you about this new product release, so I stayed here." Now that's dedication.

Gates Looking for More Space in New House
The Howard Hughes of our generation is apparently looking to improve the admittedly squalid condition at home. Bill Gates has asked his town for permission to extend the size of his Lake Washington house to add another child's bedroom, due to the fact that the house was designed when Gates was single and a family now occupies it. Yeah, I know the feeling. I'm living in a shoebox in an overcrowded Boston suburb, and I often think about adding on. I'm not sure where I'd fit the 28 parking spaces, though. Or the full-sized movie theater. Or the digital wall hangings. Or the lake.

Oracle Warns of Lower Earnings
This week, database giant Oracle joined the high-tech hit parade and announced that slowing sales will force the company to lower its third-quarter earnings report. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison blamed the problems on delayed IT spending due to the current economic slowdown and general executive uneasiness about the situation. Ellison said sales will pick up in 30 to 60 days, however. "I'll gladly pay you tomorrow for a hamburger today," one customer reportedly said.

Intel: Copper Runs Out at 12GHz...
At this week's Intel Developer Forum (IDF), the microprocessor giant outlined some key trends for the future, including the interesting observation that today's copper-based chip designs will run out of steam at about 12GHz. For this reason, the company is working on a third-generation I/O scheme for PCs that will extend the devices beyond this ceiling. I'm sure this is thrilling news to all of us who are stuck with aging Pentium II chips and first-generation Celeron processors, but it's nice to see Intel looking ahead.

Lotus Eliminates 183 Positions
IBM-run Lotus will eliminate 183 positions in the Boston area, giving employees 60 days to find other jobs at the company. In what can only be described as a high-tech version of musical chairs, in 2 months anyone left standing without a new position is out of luck. Maybe this situation is the start of a new trend in high-tech consolidations; I can see companies thinning the herd in a variety of ways, including Quake death-match tournaments (you get fragged, you find another job, bud) and maybe even local versions of "Survivor" (eat the bug, Bob). It's a dog-eat-dog world.

Sun Tests Low End with $1000 Workstation
Earlier this week, Sun Microsystems unveiled its cheapest-ever Solaris box, a $1000 SPARC workstation called the Sun Blade 100 that the company hopes will compete more effectively with Windows- and Linux-based PCs. But the Sun workstation is still more expensive than Linux-- which is, of course, free--and you can get cheap PCs for about $500. Still, Solaris is a rock-solid OS that Linux has sort of manhandled recently; it will be interesting to see how the Sun Blade 100 does in the market.

Microsoft Dances on Judge Jackson's Grave
Like a patient after a near-death experience, Microsoft is up and about and feeling as good as ever. This week, the company returned to past form as it celebrated 2 happy days in the appellate court, where it was practically handed the keys to the software kingdom by a panel of judges more concerned with Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's behavior than with the company's numerous and obvious antitrust violations (that's why we're here, right?). The company has gone back to threatening rivals by withholding key Windows technologies, snapping up smaller companies that make competing products, and the like. Yup, it's nice to have the old Microsoft back. You know, it's funny how time heals all wounds. Enough time has passed between the trial, when we heard about only 5 percent of the company's questionable business practices, and now, when a panel of judges with a personal grudge against the one man in the federal government who ever actually stood up to Microsoft, that the company has been vindicated. And the American public can gleefully go back to a life of bliss and ignorance. Breathe deep, folks; this is the democratic process in action.

Mo' Email Woes
Maybe you can help me with something, and no, I'm not talking about the mob hit that someone in the Redmond area probably just dialed in (see previous blurb). I've been testing the Release Candidate 1 (RC1) version of Microsoft Office XP, and although I'm very happy with it overall, I'm running into a lot of problems with Microsoft Outlook. Like many of you, I live through email, and the problems I've had during the past week or so have caused me to get pretty far behind in this category (so if you've written me recently and not heard back, I'm working on it). The long and short of it is that I'd be happy to move to a different email solution (there are plenty of good candidates), but the one thing Outlook has that I can't find anywhere else is its calendar functionality, which is crucial for a forgetful guy like me. So . . . does anyone have a recommendation? It can't be server- or Web server-based (that is, it must be a local Windows application), and it should support some sort of synchronization with the popular handheld personal information managers (PIMs) and be easy to back up. I'm going to look at Starfish's Sidekick 99 product, but it doesn't seem to have been updated recently, and I don't know of anything else that's comparable.

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