WinInfo Short Takes: Week of October 9 - 06 Oct 2006

WinInfo Short Takes

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including Windows Vista RC2, Vista holiday coupons, the Vista release schedule, Microsoft pay cuts, XP SP1, Virtual PC 2007, Apple iTunes, Mozilla vulnerability stupidity, and so much more...

WinInfo Blog

My Windows Weekly podcast with Leo Laporte got off to a great start, hitting number 6 on the iTunes Top Podcasts list this week, which is nice. I'm astonished at how skewed Podcasts are because of the technical audience: Though Windows Weekly was the only tech-oriented podcast in the top 10 over the past week, I recognize that the audience for these things, for now at least, is almost solely comprised of tech-savvy people. But it was a weird feeling to enjoy being briefly atop the list with notables such as National Geographic, NPR, ESPN, "Grey's Anatomy," VH1, and even "The New York Times." You know, for 15 seconds.

Because of Leo's travels to Ontario, California, for the Podcast and Portable Media Expo, we won't be recording another podcast until next week. But we should be moving into a steady weekly gig after that.

Microsoft plans to ship Windows Vista Release Candidate 2 (RC2) sometime today; unlike RC1, however, RC2 won't be made available to the general public. This will be the final public interim build before Microsoft completes Vista later this month. I won't be reviewing RC2, but I will supply some screen shots on my SuperSite for Windows. Look for an epic, multipart final review of Vista by the end of the month. I'm guessing its conclusion will surprise a lot of people.

Short Takes

Merry Christmas, Microsoft Fans: Microsoft Preps Holiday Vista Coupons

Later this month, Microsoft will publicly unveil a program called Express Upgrade that will allow customers who purchase Windows XP-based PCs between October 26, 2006, and March 15, 2007, to get a copy of Vista at a reduced price or for free. The program, naturally, is designed to ensure that PC sales won't suffer during the crucial holiday-selling period, since Vista is arriving in January, or about a month after the holiday selling period ends. Under terms of the program, customers who purchase a PC with Windows XP Home Edition will be able to upgrade to Windows Vista Home Basic for $49 or to Vista Home Premium for $79. Customers who purchase PCs with XP Professional, XP Professional x64 Edition, XP Tablet PC Edition, or XP Media Center Edition will get Vista Home Premium for free. Seems fair, and remember that customers who have Vista Home Basic, Vista Home Premium, or Vista Business will be able to upgrade to Vista Ultimate directly from within the OS.

Wall Street Comes Around on Vista Schedule

Ever since a surprisingly solid Vista RC1 dropped into my lap last month, I've known that Microsoft would confound skeptical analysts and make its late-2006 delivery schedule. Now, Wall Street is finally coming around as well. This week, Goldman Sachs sent a note to its clients stating that "Microsoft may send a final preview version of Windows Vista this week or next" (they must read WinInfo, since that's the only place that information could have come from) and will thus meet their Q4 2006 release to manufacturing (RTM) deadlines. Anyway, I'm glad that Goldman Sachs is reading WinInfo and waking up to reality: Vista is speeding toward completion, folks. Make no mistake, Microsoft will hit its deadline whether the product is ready or not.

And Then There was Gartner

Of all the analysts covering Microsoft, Gartner is "the boy who cried wolf." Gartner has been predicting further delays in Windows Vista since, well, the last delay, and even though Microsoft is steamrolling the OS toward completion, Gartner refuses to abandon its predictions. I guess it's a siege mentality: Once you've started down a certain path, it's kind of hard to backpedal, even when all the evidence is pointing elsewhere. (Now what government does that remind me of? Anyway...) This week, Gartner reiterated its belief that another Vista delay is "likely," and Gartner thinks that a May 2007 launch is about right. Curiously, Gartner says that Vista is on target from a technical standpoint, but that "aligning events" will cause the delay. Chief among these, of course, is the European Union (EU) antitrust fight. Microsoft is "getting a bit tired" of the EU stuff, a Gartner analyst said this week. Sure. Now, guess what we're getting tired of, wolf-boy.

Next Week: 11 Patches. And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Microsoft will ship 11 security patches next week as part of its regularly scheduled monthly security-patch release, according to a posting on its Web site. Among the patches will be six updates for Windows, four for Microsoft Office, one for the Microsoft .NET Framework, and, what the heck, a partridge in a pear tree. (No, it doesn't make sense. Move along.) At least one of the Windows updates will be categorized as critical, which shouldn't be a huge surprise to anyone. That Microsoft is releasing a bunch of security updates isn't particularly interesting, of course--it happens every month, after all--but there are a number of high-profile vulnerabilities out there right now, so there's been some speculation about whether Microsoft will be fixing them. Top items on the list are a bug in Microsoft PowerPoint and a set of serious Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) bugs.

Gates, Ballmer Get Pay Cut

Pity the high-profile executives at Microsoft. Chairman Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer each earned $616,667 in salary during fiscal 2006, but both received a 14 percent cut in their bonuses, which decreased to $350,000, compared with $400,000 in 2005. Since both men have plenty of money, they're not exactly cutting back to make ends meet. Gates, for example, owns $26.7 billion worth of Microsoft stock, while Ballmer owns $11.4 billion.

Windows XP SP1 Fades into the Sunset

On October 10, Microsoft will stop supporting Windows XP Service Pack 1 (SP1). Frankly, I find it hard to believe that anyone is still using XP SP1. But for those who are, Microsoft released a much-improved SP2 a whopping two years ago (has it really been that long?) and you might consider installing over the weekend. Just a thought.

Virtual PC 2007 Beta Up Next Week

This week, Microsoft revealed that it will soon offer the first beta version of its Virtual PC 2007 application, giving testers a sneak peek at the upcoming virtual machine environment. Virtual PC 2004, the current version, hasn't been updated in quite some time, and getting Vista installed as the virtual OS requires a series of Cirque du Soleil-like technical gymnastics. Like its predecessor, Virtual PC 2007 will be free, but other details about the application are few.

Starbucks Enters into Deal with Apple, iTunes

Northwest US coffee giant Starbucks this week said that it would sell its own music through Apple's online iTunes Store. The companies will create a Starbucks store-within-a-store in iTunes from which Starbucks can sell electronic versions of its Hear Music CDs and other titles. Apple and Starbucks will share the profit from music sold through the service. Makes a lot of sense. I mean, how idiotic would you have to be to go with an iTunes competitor at this point?

Dumb and Dumber: Best Buy to Field iTunes Competitor

Huh. Well, this answers that question. This week, electronics retail giant Best Buy announced that it was going to offer an iTunes Store competitor called Best Buy Digital Music Store that--get this--is based on the RealNetworks Rhapsody 4.0 music store and will integrate with SanDisk digital music players. It's almost like Best Buy lined up the companies it felt were least likely to succeed just to see if anyone would laugh. Best Buy describes the upcoming service as "Rhapsody 4.0 plus ... You get all the stuff that's \[on Rhapsody\] plus more exclusive content." Hey, that's what the kids are looking for: Yet another isolated, proprietary island of technology with a bit of exclusive content. Sounds like a winner.

Hackers Fake Zero-Day Firefox Exploit, Get Public Embarrassment They Deserve

This one is hilarious as is, but I'm surprised we haven't since discovered that Microsoft paid these two bozos to do it. This week, two presenters at the ToorCon 8 hacker conference claimed to have remotely compromised the Mozilla Firefox Web browser and then demonstrated how they did it. There's just one problem: The hack was fake. It turns out these two losers staged the event to be "humorous" and, although they were able to crash Firefox, they never figured out how to compromise the browser. Their claim of "thirty undisclosed Firefox vulnerabilities" was also, alas, completely bogus. Mozilla, for its part, treated the event very seriously and is still investigating the crash. Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Microsoft's Viral Marketing for Vista Is as Lame as Its Viral Marketing for Zune

If you think Microsoft is doing a bang-up job of marketing its iPod also-ran, the Zune, then you're absolutely going to love this one. If, however, you're like most people, you won't get it. Microsoft has started a viral marketing campaign for Vista, using the George W. Bush-esque name "Clearification," that utilizes the comedic stylings of "The Daily Show" contributor Demetri Martin. The Web site Microsoft built around this campaign is, well, lame. And though some of the rambling commentary by Martin is actually sort of funny (and surprisingly edgy, considering it's being published by Microsoft), the whole thing just falls flat. But hey, kill some brain cells and decide for yourself. Just don't ask me how to get back those 10 minutes of your life.

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