WinInfo Short Takes: Week of October 15 - 12 Oct 2001

Madonna at the Windows XP Launch?
I've been told that we can expect to see Madonna performing at the Windows XP launch. Madonna, as first reported in WinInfo, is contributing "Ray of Light" as the Windows XP theme song, which will be used in TV, radio, print, Web, and billboard advertising for the product beginning next week.

.NET Code Names
You've probably heard that the awkwardly named .NET My Services was originally code-named "Hailstorm," but here are a couple of related .NET codenames. The business oriented version of Hailstorm is (still) called "Blizzard," while the .NET Common Language Runtime (CLR) was originally code-named "Lightning." Anyone seeing a trend here?

Yahoo, MSN in Traffic Jam
After gleefully announcing that its MSN service was the number one trafficked site on the Internet this week, rival Yahoo said Microsoft had pulled a fast one by using a custom report generated at its request. In fact, Yahoo says that Microsoft is also counting as hits those times that users mistype a Web address: In the past a generic error message was shown, but now IE users are forwarded to an MSN search page. "And they are counting those clicks," said Yahoo's director of global market research. In the spirit of "did not, did too," Microsoft says that the numbers come from Jupiter Metrix, not internally, however. And Yahoo responds that Jupiter's numbers only gather results from 13 countries, while Yahoo uses numbers from Nielson, which polls 29 countries. On and on its goes.

Microsoft Beats Up on License Offenders
Heaven help the poor sap that tries to sell an old copy of Windows on eBay: If it didn't come in a retail box, chances are you'll be hearing from Microsoft's legal department. It seems that Microsoft employees are monitoring eBay's auctions to ensure that none of Microsoft's OEM Windows versions--which are apparently not transferable--are being sold sans PC. What's bizarre, of course, is that most of this stuff is five year old copies of Windows 95 or Windows 98, software that is useless to people as they've moved on to more recent versions. I've thought about this a lot, and when you consider the company's attitude towards Windows Product Activation, its Licensing 6.0 fiasco, and other similar baloney, it seems to me that it's time Microsoft's licensing practices were examined in a court of law. Do we own this stuff or not? Are their licenses legally binding, or just mumbo jumbo we can ignore? It's time to tell Big Brother to buzz off.

Xerox Goes After Palm Jugular
Xerox announced this week that its years-old court case against Palm was continuing thanks to a recent decision that reversed an earlier legal loss. Xerox had sued Palm for infringing on its patented handwriting recognition technology, which the company says Palm uses in its Graffiti software. Graffiti allows users to write characters using single strokes, something Xerox patented for its Unistrokes software. Expect Palm to lose this one.

Ailing AMD Continues Assault on Intel
Microprocessor maker AMD fought back against market giant Intel this week with a new line of Athlon chips that compete well against the fastest Pentium 4s while offering a unique way of measuring performance. Dubbed Athlon XP for "eXtra Performance," the new chips are not being marketed by their specific gigahertz (GHz) rating as with previous chips. Instead, the chips are named to indicate their relative performance when compared with Intel's chips. So an Athlon XP 1800+, which really runs at about 1.53 GHz, compares roughly with a 1.8 or 2.0 GHz Pentium 4. Or something. Companies like Apple, which uses lower-clocked microprocessors from Motorola, have also been fighting the MHz/GHz battle, saying that these ratings don't mean much any more.

New Candidate for Ripley's Believe It Or Not
I saw a bizarre headline the other day that required a double take to ensure I had read it right. "OS/2 Will Run Windows Applications Again," the headline screamed. No way. And sure enough, it's not what it seems like. Instead of IBM its ill-fated Windows killer, what we're getting is Connectix's excellent Virtual PC product being ported to OS/2, so that people can run Windows or Linux inside a virtual machine environment under OS/2. Ah well... for a second there, I thought it was 1995 again.

Microsoft Downgrades Xbox Hard Drive to 8 GB
It will be interesting to see Microsoft spin this one into a positive: The Xbox hard drive was quietly downgraded this month from the expected 10 GB part to a smaller 8 GB unit in order, apparently, to save costs. There's been a lot of talk about this issue, but my favorite line comes from a Gartner analyst, who said, "Maybe Fry's had a sale \[on 8GB drives\]." Heheh. Nice.
Longhorn To Be So-So Release?
Microsoft surprised a lot of people by revealing that a "Longhorn" release of Windows would fall between Windows XP and Blackcomb, the kitchen sink of OSes, which is now expected in 2004-5. But though speculation on Longhorn continues, it's beginning to see that this is going to be a truly minor release with only small, Windows 98 SE-like change. At a recent Gartner conference, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer confirmed that the truly new stuff was still "two Windows releases away." In other words, Blackcomb will be huge. But Longhorn? I guess we'll see.

Microsoft Antitrust Settlement: No Progress Yet
Today marks the day that Microsoft and the DOJ will need to have a mediator assigned should they be unable to reach a settlement in Microsoft's years-old antitrust case. And since the chance of a settlement is hovering between zero and some negative number, I think we can expect a mediator announcement later today. Mediation in early 2000 didn't exactly reap any rewards either, however, so it's likely that Microsoft will eventually find itself at the mercy of the court. And I don't think the word mercy is going to be part of the remedy decision at that point.

McNealy Trumps for National ID
Sun CEO Scott McNealy joined Oracle boss Larry Ellison this week in calling for a national ID card in the face of the terrorist attacks that rocked the US last month. And like Ellison, McNealy isn't above shilling his company's technology to make it happen. "Absolute anonymity breeds absolute irresponsibility," he said. "We need a thumbprint Java card in the hand of everybody in the country." While I agree with the need for a national ID system, I think I see Java's end game right here in this statement. Some day, years from now, Sun will be able to describe Java as an absolute success story, after it's used in some vertical application in ATM machines, decoder rings, or now this new "thumbprint Java card." You know, just like they've been promising us since 1995.

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