WinInfo Short Takes: Week of October 14

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

Windows Powered Smart Displays Delayed Until 2003
Microsoft alerted me Thursday evening that the Windows Powered Smart Displays--code-named Mira--are now delayed until the first quarter of 2003. So if you've been pining for such a device, it's not happening this holiday season, sorry. I will, however, be reviewing some final Windows Powered Smart Display hardware by the end of the year. Stay tuned!

Want To Buy a Media Center PC? Here's Where To Find Them
Later this month, new Hewlett-Packard (HP) Media Center PCs will begin shipping in the US, and if you're in the market for such a device--which will retail for $1400-$2000--HP has announced the retail locations that will be selling them. According to HP, retailers Best Buy, Circuit City and CompUSA will offer Media Center PCs, and HP will also sell them directly from its Web site. My review of XP Media Center Edition (XP MCE) is currently available on the SuperSite.

Supreme Court Debating Copyright Extension: DRM Implications
This week, the US Supreme Court is debating whether a proposed Congressional extension of copyright periods is constitutional, and how the governing body should proceed in the future regarding copyrights. The current battle was touched off by Disney, which is in danger of losing its copyrights to Mickey Mouse and other cartoon characters in the years ahead. But the proposed copyright extension would also remove many creative works from the public domain, leading to the dispute. Given my recent defense of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies here in WinInfo, you might find a comment by US Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, who defends a 1998 law that extended copyrights 20 years, interesting. Testifying before the Supreme Court this week, Olson said that the 1998 law "favors the \[content\] creator, as opposed to the person who wants to copy. That is an entirely rational choice for Congress to make." In other words, the rights of the person or entity that creates content supercedes the rights of individuals who buy that content and wish to copy it. One's so-called fair use rights to make perfect digital copies of that content is very much debatable. I think it's clear that fair use is going to hit the courts again, and soon. And don't be surprised to see the infamous Betamax ruling--made in a day and age when the best copies we could make were on low quality video and audio tape--reversed or at least weakened. In such a future, DRM could end up being your greatest ally, not the boogeyman so many people make it out to be.

Ballmer: Yeah, Our Licensing is Too Complex. No, It's Not Changing
In Florida for a Gartner technology conference this week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer admitted that his company's latest licensing scheme, Licensing 6.0, has been a bust with customers. Designed to be less complicated and less expensive than previous licensing schemes, Licensing 6.0 is, in fact, too complicated and often more expensive. And while Ballmer agreed that the company would do something about the complexity, he stopped short of promising to make it less expensive. Maybe Microsoft could pull a George W. Bush and offer its customers a "Microsoft tax" rebate next Spring. Weirder things have happened.

Judge Jackson Issues Rebuttal
He's been vilified by the press, Microsoft, and the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, but Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who handed down Microsoft's most stinging legal defeat ever, is back this week with a rebuttal to the criticism. And while Jackson didn't specifically mention the software giant in an article filed this week in a "Legal Times," the judge quite clearly was referring to complaints that he spoke to the media during the trial and was personally biased against Microsoft. "Our life tenure is all the more reason for us to be able to communicate informally on occasion with a public that must live with our decisions, yet can never vote us out of office," he wrote. "One convention of federal judicial life to which I have never been fully reconciled is the notion that judges shouldn't ever comment publicly about their cases period." Jackson, you might recall, compared Microsoft to gangsters and then-CEO Bill Gates to Napoleon. But say what you will about the man, the US Court of Appeals still upheld his findings against the company. Besides, he was a lot more colorful than Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, that's for sure.

Sun Resuscitates Solaris on Intel
Ending months of speculation, Sun revealed this week that it would indeed sell a version of its Solaris 9 operating systems for Intel-based servers and workstations. Unlike recent versions, which were basically free or available at little cost, Solaris 9 on Intel will cost $100 a copy, and users can pay Sun for technical support if they need it. Previously, Sun had cancelled Solaris on Intel, but customer demand convinced the company to bring it back. And you thought that only happened with TV shows.

Sony Buys a Piece of Palm
Sony this week paid $20 million for a 6 percent stake of PalmSource, the Palm Inc. unit that makes the Palm OS, which Sony uses in its suddenly surging line of CLIE handheld devices. The investment comes as an ailing Palm struggles along with a fading stock price and lowered market share. However, Palm's Sony license is going strong, and the investment clearly makes sense for Sony, which can't afford to have its OS source weakened. Hey, at least they're propping up a partner. I'm used to Microsoft resuscitating competitors like Apple, Borland, and Corel, I'm not even sure how to report on this move.

Chess Freak Beats a Computer
Chess World Champion Vladimir Kramnik defeated the world's most powerful chess computer, Deep Fritz, this week. Kramnik defeated the previous champion, Gary Kasparov, in 2000; you might recall that Kasparov was previously defeated by Deep Fritz's predecessor, Deep Blue, in 1997. Sorting out the players here is like understanding the plot to a bad soap opera, but Krammik is clearly a genius of sorts, as Deep Fritz is capable of evaluating 3.5 million moves per second. Yikes.

MacWorld Coming Back to Boston, LinuxWorld Stays in New York
Well, their baseball teams might have exited prematurely this season, but the Boston-New York rivalry heated up again this week when IDG revealed that it was moving the lucrative MacWorld trade show out of New York and back to Boston. But New York was able to retain the LinuxWorld show, will continue to ply its wares at the Jacob Javitts Center. New York will host MacWorld next summer, and then it's on to Boston for at least three years, though the city has a three year extension possibility as well. MacWorld brings about 50,000 people and millions of dollars in revenues to its host city each year.

Apple to Demo OS X at LinuxWorld
And speaking of LinuxWorld, Apple Computer will field at booth at this year's LinuxWorld for the first time, in an attempt to woo Linux users to Mac OS X. You know, I hope Apple gets a better reception at LinuxWorld than I did. Of course, I was wearing a "Windows 2000 Magazine" badge at the time, which maybe wasn't a smart move.

Dell Enters the Pocket PC Market
Oh good. More Pocket PC models, just what we needed. Dell Computer will introduce a line of Pocket PC devices this fall, in 300 and 400 MHz variants. The devices, which are naturally completely indistinguishable from other Pocket PC devices, include SD and CompactFlash expansion, a 3.5 inch transflexive screen, and all the other stuff one expects in a Pocket PC device. Booorrrriiiinggggg.

Get Yer Windows Refund Heah! is planning a new Windows Refund Day, in New York, where activists can protest Microsoft's End User License Agreement (EULA), which users must agree to before installing Windows or running Windows on a new PC, despite the fact that users who don't agree to the agreement can almost never get their money back by returning Windows. Stung by PC makers who almost always refuse to refund the cost of Windows, users are now rallying to set legal precedents and make the process simpler for the end user. As an advocate for users' rights, I support this movement, and will appear at the New York event if my travel schedule permits it. Head on over to the Web site for more information.

Intel Working on Pentium 4 Updates, Pentium 5
Microprocessor giant Intel is now working on its successor to the Pentium 4, using a new chip architecture that will be substantially different from today's designs. Dubbed Nehalem, the new chip will include better power management, and a slew of secret features to be revealed at a later date, according to company insiders. Before that chips ships, however, Intel will release new Pentium 4 designs, including 2003's Prescott, which features the Palladium security subsystem, and Tejas, due in 2004. And you thought your wimpy little 2.5 GHz Pentium 4 was state of the art.

Judge: Intel Infringed on Patents to Make Itanium, Itanium 2
And speaking of Intel, Judge John Ward of the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas ruled this week that the company violated various Intergraph parallel processing patents while developing the Itanium and Itanium 2 processors. The ruling could force Intel to pay about $250 million to Intergraph, but Intel will ask the court to reconsider first. If that fails, they'll appeal.

MSNBC on Life Support?
Struggling cable news network MSNBC, a co-production of NBC News and Microsoft, laid off eight journalists this week, raising questions about the network's future. MSNBC started in 1996 amid much hoopla, and was originally supposed to be profitable by 2001. That plan, however, has been pushed back to 2005, and the company says that it is, in fact, hiring more ad salespeople in various US cities to drive demand. Most of the network's employees work in Redmond, Washington, however, the home of Microsoft. I used to watch MSNBC fairly often, and always liked it. But they lost me when they got rid of the tech show, The Site, which evolved into Tech TV, which is itself now being dropped from various cable networks. A sad day all around.

Paul Goes on the Road
Well, OK, I travel fairly frequently. But next week, I'll be appearing in New York and Chicago as part of Windows & .NET Magazine's Security RoadShow. If you live in or near either city, head on over to the Windows & .NET Magazine Web site for details, and then stop by and say hi if you'd like. A week later, we'll be appearing in San Francisco and Denver.

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