WinInfo Short Takes: Week of October 23 - 20 Oct 2006

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including Ed Bott's cry for help, the Vista EULA, McAfee vs. Microsoft, IE 7 vs. a known vulnerability, XP SP3, PlayStation 3 launch titles, Google, HP vs. Dell, Apple, and so much more...

WinInfo Blog

There was a lot of silliness online about Windows Vista licensing this past week, with one of my more vitriolic colleagues, Ed Bott, taking me to task for publishing an article that relayed Microsoft's official position on the Vista EULA (End User License Agreement). After explaining that this was the wrong thing to do, and claiming he had all the facts, Bott then later published an email Q & A he had with Microsoft himself a few days later, because he was "still trying to understand the confusing new licensing terms." Memo to Mr. Bott: It's OK to ask when you don't have all the answers. Just don't complain when someone else does a week earlier. But maybe he should have just read the content of my original licensing article more closely and not read some non-existent personal attack into it: None of the questions he asked Microsoft are particularly difficult to answer given what I wrote last week about the new licensing terms.

One thing that maybe I could have communicated better, however, is that I'm no fan of the Windows EULA. You don't own the software you buy, and I can't believe the Windows EULA hasn't been challenged in court already. My guess is it will be. It can't happen quickly enough.

While I'm on the subject, one of the more ironical aspects of my day job is that I can write an article like my EULA piece or, say, a positive review of Internet Explorer 7, and I get the occasional email where someone accuses me of being the Mouth of Sauron. "What's it like to be in Microsoft's back pocket?" one guy asked me of my IE 7 review. The fact that I've been a Firefox user for years and have exhorted readers to choose Firefox over IE repeatedly was apparently lost on this drive-by reader. Maybe he should start blogging.

But seriously folks. It's the weekend. Lighten up and enjoy it.

Short Takes

McAfee Continues Insane Microsoft Bashing
I haven't seen insane Microsoft bashing like this since the last time I stood in line at an Apple Store on the day a new version of Mac OS X was released. This week, security firm McAfee said in a statement on its Web site that it was "greatly disappointed by the lack of action" Microsoft had taken to respond to its complaints about Windows Vista. "The community of independent security companies that consumers rely on for computer protection has seen little indication that Microsoft intends to live up to the promises it made last week," a McAfree spokesperson said, just days after Microsoft issued APIs to security companies to help them better integrate their products into Windows Vista.

Microsoft Lashes Out at McAfee Complaints
Well, two can play at that game. This morning, Microsoft issued a statement in which it said McAfee's complaint was "inaccurate and inflammatory." And they have the facts to back it up. Check out this time table: "We've already taken a number of steps to provide McAfee and our other security partners with the information they need," Ben Fathi, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Security Technology Unit said. "On the short-term issue of allowing third-party security alerts to replace our Windows Security Center alerts, we made the documentation and sample code available to our security partners at 6:05am Monday, October 16th. At McAfee's request, we emailed a copy of all materials to a senior McAfee executive at 9:48am Monday, October 16th. At McAfee's request, we also emailed a second copy of the materials to a senior McAfee engineer at 2:07pm Tuesday, October 17th. We followed-up by providing the new builds of Windows Vista with this functionality on Wednesday October 18th, and we held a conference call with McAfee personnel at noon on Thursday October 19th to answer any remaining questions. We believe McAfee and all our other security partners have the information they need to replace our alerts with their alerts, and we are completely available to answer any questions." I have a question. What the heck is up with McAfee?

First IE 7 Vulnerability Appears ... Or Does it?
This would be huge news, if it were just true: On Thursday, less than a day after Microsoft released Internet Explorer 7, its first new Web browser in 6 years, reports surfaced of the first IE 7 security vulnerability. "These reports are technically inaccurate," Christopher Budd, a security program manager with Microsoft, argued in a posting to the Microsoft Security Response Center Blog. "The issue concerned in these reports is not in Internet Explorer 7 (or any other \[IE\] version) at all." Instead, the flaw is a previously disclosed vulnerability in Outlook Express, and it hasn't resulting in any attacks. Once again, while controversy can be fun, it's usually just silly.

Windows XP SP3 Delayed till ... 2008???
Thanks to for first reporting on this astonishing issue: Microsoft, for some reason, this week changed the ETA for Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) to the first half of 2008. Previously, it was expected in the second half of 2007. What I don't get is that SP3 will just be a collection of hot-fixes. Why can't they just release it now? In fact, why can't Microsoft bundle XP hot-fixes as new service packs every 6 months or so? This is ridiculous. Oh wait, I'm a Microsoft shill. Let's see... I'm sure this is part of a concentrated effort at Microsoft to ensure that Microsoft releases the highest quality service pack possible.

Sony: 21 PS3 Games at Launch, Free Online Service
A month from now, Sony will finally join Microsoft in the next generation video game arena with the launch of its PlayStation 3 (PS3) console. And this week, Sony revealed that it will have 21 PS3 games at launch. That's not too shabby: Microsoft's Xbox 360 launched with 18 titles, though the 360 will have over 160 games available by this holiday season. Sony also verified that it will offer PS3 users an online service for free, compared to Microsoft's Xbox Live, which is $50 a year for the high-end version (a version with no online multiplayer support is free). Sony also said that the first 500,000 PS3 units sold in North America will include a Blu-Ray version of the comedy movie "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby." Well, let me just get in line for that one.

Sony Confirms PS3 Production Issues
On a darker note, Sony also admitted this week that it will likely not meet its PlayStation 3 shipment target for the year, despite already lowering that target previously. Sony blames a Blu-Ray parts shortage, meaning that this expensive new technology is now responsible for at least two product delays and two shipment target delays. Hey, I'm sure it's ready for prime time. "The honest answer is \[that Sony's 2 million unit goal is\] more of a \[shipment\] target,' says Jack Tretton, co-chairman of Sony Computer Entertainment America (SEC). You know, kind of like how the Pirate Code in "Pirates of the Caribbean" is more a set of guidelines than requirements.

Google Financial Success Continues ... Can Anyone Stop Them?
Google continues to confound financial analysts, with the company raking in $733 million on revenues of $1.6 billion in the quarter ending September 30. That means its sales have doubled while its revenues are up 70 percent. "We had an excellent quarter in all respects, especially including international," said Chief Executive Eric Schmidt. 60 percent of Google's revenues come from ad sales off its search engine.

HP Surpasses Dell in Quarterly PC Sales
In a stunning turnaround, HP has wrested the PC maker crown from Dell, selling more PCs in the third quarter of 2006. Though the figures are slightly different, both Gartner and IDC agree that HP is now the top PC maker in the world. Following the companies are Lenovo, Acer, and Toshiba in the top five. Averaging the Gartner and IDC figures, PC makers sold a total of 58.05 million PCs in the quarter, with HP selling about 9.75 million units, compared to 9.67 million for Dell.

Apple Roars to Strongest Quarterly Mac Sales Ever
They may be an also-ran in the PC market with just 2.7 percent of worldwide PC sales, but Apple's market share is up, its Mac and iPod sales are up, and its financial picture is decidedly rosy. So if you're still writing off Apple for some reason, maybe it's time to start reevaluating things. For the quarter ending September 30, Apple sold 1.6 million Macs--it's most ever--and 8.7 million iPods. While Apple's desktop Macs barely moved, the company couldn't keep up with demand for portable machines, no doubt because of the back-to-school selling season. And despite analyst fears that iPod sales were peaking, that obviously isn't happening either. It's amazing that this company was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and abject failure just a decade ago. Today, they're showing the rest of the tech industry how to be cool and profitable (and yes, a bit arrogant) at the same time.

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