WinInfo Short Takes: Week of September 29

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

Longhorn RTM: August 15, 2005? It Doesn't Appear So recently predicted that Windows Longhorn would see release to manufacturing (RTM) on August 15, 2005, but a Microsoft representative tells me that date is no longer correct and is in fact from an old schedule. I chatted briefly with one of the folks at about the date before I heard from my source, and although the site is reliable, its reporters seem to be getting out-of-date information in this case. Honestly, I'm not sure what to believe at this point, but Microsoft, which has never hit even the vaguest deadlines for major projects, probably wouldn't announce a specific date for Windows Longhorn 2 years in advance, especially given the way that company executives have been downplaying release-date expectations all year. I guess we'll find out. With Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2003 less than a month away, Longhorn fever is building to a crescendo.

Iglatinpay in OnghornLay UildBay 4029: What's the Story?
   I've received a lot of questions about the bizarre pig latin that appears in the desktop version string in Windows Longhorn build 4029. Surely this is a fake, right? No, it isn't. According to a source at Microsoft, the company was simply testing its new version-identification scheme, which Microsoft is using to dramatically simplify the way it provides the product name and version number in its OSs. By changing the Windows version string to pig latin, Microsoft can be sure it's correctly propagating to all the places in the UI in which the information is displayed. In earlier Windows versions, changing the product name or version number, as the company did repeatedly with Windows Server 2003, caused a lot of problems because the information had to be changed manually in dozens of locations. Now the company can make fast changes because the information appears only once in the Windows code. If you're interested in Longhorn 4029, I've posted a second screen-shot gallery on the SuperSite for Windows.

Next Windows XP Media Center Coming Tuesday
   On Tuesday, Microsoft will launch the next version of Windows XP Media Center Edition, and I'll post my usual massive write-up about the new release and its accompanying new software and services on the SuperSite for Windows that day. Stay tuned for some exciting news about the future of Windows-based home entertainment. This release will offer significant improvements over the existing version. 

Coauthor of Security Report Fired
   The lead author of the controversial report about Microsoft security risks, "CyberInsecurity: The Cost of Monopoly," found himself sans job yesterday when his employer, @stake, discovered he promoted his company credentials when he wrote and publicized the report. According to @stake, Daniel Greer, the company's former chief technology officer (CTO), "is no longer associated" with the company; @stake also noted that "the values and opinions of the report are not in line with \[@stake's\] views." Conspiracy theorists will ignore the fact that both Microsoft and @stake said the software giant had nothing to do with Greer's firing, but bigger concerns are at stake than just one man's job. Because Microsoft's largest competitors sponsored the report, how valuable or accurate the report can therefore be is unclear. Sponsoring a report that touts the competitive advantages of your own product is one thing, but pushing competitors' opinions on governments that are in a position to dramatically alter the competitive landscape is another thing entirely. In the meantime, the accusations are going to fly.

Security Report: Is Complexity Really the Enemy of Security?
   Reader Chris Munger had an interesting (and valid) take on the aforementioned "CyberInsecurity: The Cost of Monopoly" report. "If 'complexity is the first enemy of security,' then standardizing on a single OS would seem to support the \[government's\] move to standardize on Microsoft's platform. Or is the Computer & Communications Industry Association really seeking a ban on using any Microsoft software, thereby allowing \[the government\] to pursue homogeneity, as long as it's not on a Microsoft platform?" Munger asks a great question.

Microsoft Wins Legal Battle over Smart Tags
   A US District Court has handed Microsoft a summary judgment that clears the company of violating HyperPhrase Technologies' patents. The Wisconsin company claimed that the Smart Tags feature that Microsoft debuted in Microsoft Office XP infringed on three of HyperPhrase's patents, one of which the company filed in mid-2000. But Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that Microsoft's Smart Tags technology works in a different way than the technology HyperPhrase owns and threw out the case. Microsoft has had mixed results in the many patent-infringement cases with which it has been involved during the past few years, winning some and losing some, the most recent loss being the suddenly high-profile Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) infringement case involving Eolas Technologies.

Nintendo Drops GameCube Price to $99; Xbox Won't Follow
   This week, in a bid to jumpstart sales, Nintendo dropped the price of its struggling video game system, the Nintendo GameCube, to just $99; the system previously cost $149. Competitors Microsoft and Sony, which sell the Xbox and PlayStation 2 consoles, respectively, for $179 each, said no price cuts are forthcoming, and Microsoft officials noted that the price of the Xbox is tied to the market-leading PlayStation 2, not the GameCube. Indeed, Nintendo's sales have been so slow that the company actually shut down GameCube production this past summer. Meanwhile, Xbox sales have experienced something of a resurgence. Despite trailing the PlayStation 2 by a wide margin, the Xbox is doing well and is dramatically outselling the GameCube.

MSN Chat Rooms Closure: The Right Thing or Contrived PR?
   Microsoft's decision this week to close some of its MSN Chat Rooms brought sweeping condemnations from the company's chat competitors, which accuse the company of cynically citing its desire to protect children when, in fact, the decision had more to do with money than anything else. We might never know the myriad reasons that went into this decision, but one thing is clear: Kids are going to chat online whether Microsoft facilitates it through MSN or not, so how this decision helps anything is unclear.

Uh Oh. PC Shipments Fall
   That much-vaunted IT rebound might be on the ropes again. This week, a US Department of Commerce report noted that shipments of PCs and associated products dropped 10.5 percent from July to August. The report put an immediate damper on the PC industry, which was hoping for, and expecting, some good news. However, PC sales did rise in both June and July, so August might have been just an aberration ... or the beginning of a tech apocalypse. Your choice.

Intel Adds Hyper-Threading Technology to Notebooks
   This week, Intel announced the availability of new Pentium 4 processors for notebook computers. The new processors support Intel's Hyper-Threading Technology, which lets one processor appear and perform as two processors in many situations. The Mobile Intel Pentium 4 Processor - M runs as fast as 3.20GHz, the top speed for Intel's desktop processors. With chips like these, the phrase "desktop replacement" suddenly sounds more believable.

Why Fi Zagat? Wi-Fi Hotspots Get Their Own Guide Book
   In a bid to be even more annoying than the "Dummies" books, Zagat is partnering with Intel to release a guide that lists the top wireless Internet hotspots in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. Zagat, which is famous for its restaurant guides, is reportedly considering adding wireless access to its criteria for rating restaurants. You know, the synergy between restaurant guides and Wi-Fi, the 802.11b wireless standard, is almost as strong as that for, say, AOL and Time Warner. I smell success.

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