WinInfo Short Takes: Week of September 1

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

Allchin: We Might Listen to Customers and Reconsider Windows XP SP2 Schedule
In an interview with "Computerworld," Microsoft Group Vice President Jim Allchin said that Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) is still on track for early 2004. However, the company is evaluating the schedule, making me wonder whether all the pressure from users is finally making an impact in Redmond. "If we don't change our mind, \[that date is correct\]," Allchin said. "There are many things that can help drive that. In particular, the consent decree helped drive when we did SP1 ... We could decide to accelerate the service pack. It's not some hard-and-fast thing. We have a team. ... I don't want to get it locked down to a particular path, because something may come up. Something came up in the last couple of weeks. It's got a lot of focus here right now." Sadly, the big concentration should be on changing the service pack schedule. As I've said before, these releases need to ship every 6 months like clockwork.

Allchin: Bug Fixes, New Features, or Both? 
In the same interview, Allchin also helped clarify Microsoft's earlier "no new features" pledge for service packs--a clarification that might not please many Windows administrators. "I think it's very confusing about what's a feature, what's a bug fix," he said. "I mean, some of the wireless support that we produced just recently, we've already shipped it for Wireless Protected Access, for example. Was that a bug fix or was that a feature? Our general idea is that service packs are trying to be a roll up of the quick-fix engineering updates, as well as other things that we have found internally that we think are important to deliver to customers." Since the mid-1990s, people have been complaining about Microsoft adding features to service packs, but I think this approach actually makes sense. If the company updates the core OS at some point in its life cycle, that code should make its way into the next service pack.

MSBlaster Worm Author Arrested, Sort Of
The author of an MSBlaster (LoveSan) worm variant was allegedly arrested this morning, although reports were conflicting when I wrote this story. The FBI said it had identified an 18-year-old US resident as the author of MSBlaster.B, which came after the original MSBlaster, one of the most destructive attacks ever launched on the Internet. The FBI reported that the suspect had been under surveillance for an undisclosed time period before the arrest. According to the agency, the MSBlaster.B worm variant was the first to introduce the particularly malicious code that helped it replicate so quickly. I'll provide more information as it arrives.

Microsoft to Change IE in Wake of Patent Lawsuit
As a result of Microsoft's recent patent-infringement lawsuit loss, the company said this week that it will alter its dominant Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) browser. The changes, which Microsoft has yet to disclose, could affect a huge number of Web sites, according to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), a standards body that oversees Web technologies such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and HTML. The changes could be highly disruptive because IE controls about 96 percent of Web traffic, and the patent-infringement lawsuit involved hyperlinks, which are pretty much the Web's core technology. I'll be in constant communication with the Web masters at to ensure that this change, whatever it is, doesn't disrupt the Web's most important destination.

Microsoft's California Settlement Payout Begins
The California court system approved Microsoft's $1.1 billion antitrust settlement, so the payments are set to begin. Thanks to the settlement, lucky consumers in that state who purchased Windows and Microsoft Office products will be able to collect cash vouchers good for refunds on future computer software and hardware purchases. Two-thirds of the unclaimed settlement money will go to the California Department of Education, which will use the funds to purchase computer products for the poorest public schools in the state. California consumers can request their claim forms on the Web or by calling 1-800-203-9995. Enjoy!

Gateway Enters Digital-Camera Market
PC maker and budding consumer electronics giant Gateway released its first digital cameras this week, honoring the company's pledge to expand into the more lucrative digital-lifestyle market. Gateway now offers two tiny camera models--a 2-megapixel version that retails for $130 and a 5-megapixel version that costs $399. The company is also offering larger cameras with different prices and features, including a 4-megapixel version for $199 and a 5-megapixel camera for $249. Each camera includes a USB connection and a 3x optical zoom lens. The camera introductions are part of a planned 50-product rollout for 2003. Competitors such as HP are also getting into the digital-lifestyle game with similar "PC-plus" releases.

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