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March 30, 2007

Microsoft Weekly Miscellany, March 30, 2007

Posted by David Hunter at 8:02 PM ET.

A variety of Microsoft news items from this week that did not find a post of their own.

EU Asks Microsoft Rivals About Word, Excel Dominance:

European regulators are questioning Microsoft Corp.’s competitors on whether the company is using its dominance in word processing and spreadsheets to thwart rivals, weighing whether to open a new front in the antitrust dispute.

Danger, Will Robinson! Related: EU Extends Microsoft’s Deadline to April 23 to Answer New EU Charges on Licenses.

Yahoo ups the ante for free email with unlimited storage offer. Maybe they make it up on volume? Perhaps more importantly, they also opened up the Yahoo mail APIs to third party developers.

Microsoft warns of zero-day Windows bug. Even worse, it’s a drive-by for all Windows versions including Vista with tainted Web sites or email causing an immediate infection. The problem is due to a glitch in animated cursor handling and third parties are already releasing their own fixes while waiting for Microsoft. A fake IE7 download email is also making the rounds. I got one and was flattered that wrote to personally ask me to download IE7 when I have been avoiding it like the plague.

Microsoft’s announcement of the Xbox 360 Elite was rather an anticlimax after all the leaks. The key point is that the targets for the Elite are the upscale gamers and home entertainment users courted by Sony with the PS3 while Microsoft disdains those “childish” gamers buying the Nintendo Wii. (That’s Nintendo you hear laughing all the way to the bank.) There’s also another opinion that the primary target is really Wall Street, but I digress.  Meanwhile, Sony’s PS3 looks to be getting a new 80GB hard drive and apparently sold well after its European launch.

Zune finally got its 1.3 update and Zune market share slipped again in February.

BizTalk 2006 R2 Beta 2 will be available on Monday.

Microsoft added Netflix founder Reed Hastings to the board of directors and maintained the dividend at $0.10.

Microsoft beta tests Tahiti, yet another collaboration application, this one apparently destined for Office Live.

SoftGrid roadmap: SP1 for 4.1 expected in April/May and along with a tech preview of 4.2. 4.2 RTM and availability “some time around July.”

The PowerShell admin scripting language will ship in Windows Server Longhorn.

Filed under Antitrust, Application Virtualization, Argo, BizTalk, Coopetition, Financial, General Business, Governmental Relations, IE7, Internet Explorer, Legal, Microsoft, Nintendo, OS - Client, OS - Server, Office, Office Live, PowerShell, Security, Servers, Sony, Technologies, Trojan Horses, Virtualization, Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista, Word, Xbox, Yahoo, Zune

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March 29, 2007

Dude, you’re getting a penguin!

Posted by David Hunter at 9:43 PM ET.

With apologies to the Dell Dude, what better way to title the news that Dell will be offering PCs with Linux preinstalled:

Since launching Dell IdeaStorm [Dell's new customer suggestion site - ed.] a little more than a month ago, one idea has risen to and stayed at the top: better support for Linux.

Dell has heard you and we will expand our Linux support beyond our existing servers and Precision workstation line. Our first step in this effort is offering Linux pre-installed on select desktop and notebook systems. We will provide an update in the coming weeks that includes detailed information on which systems we will offer, our testing and certification efforts, and the Linux distribution(s) that will be available. The countdown begins today.

Many of you posted comments to our Direct2Dell blog, indicating that you were less concerned about a specific distribution than you are about support at the kernel level and open driver support. We are working on this too, and you can read more about our efforts in today’s Direct2Dell post.

You may recall that Dell rather tentatively offered kludgey “open source” PCs back in 2005, but this seems like it will be the real deal with full support. It’s not like they don’t have experience – back in June of last year, Dell claimed that 25% of its servers ran Linux.

Filed under Coopetition, Dell, Linux, Microsoft, Open Source

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Microsoft teases mobile users with Deepfish

Posted by David Hunter at 8:58 PM ET.

Antone Gonsalves at InformationWeek reports that Microsoft has unveiled a prototype mobile browser with a zoom-in feature to get around the problem of Web pages not formatted for mobile users:

The company introduced Deepfish this week at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference in San Diego as a limited technology preview. The software is available by invitation only to a small number of beta users.

Developed by Microsoft Live Labs, the browser has a zoom in/out feature that makes it different than similar software used on phones today. Rather than offering a reformatted version of a Web page, Deepfish captures and delivers the full layout in an as-designed view. Using the software’s joystick, the user can navigate through a page and zoom in and out of portions. The browser doesn’t support Web sites with Ajax, animation, Javascript, cookies, or ActiveX controls.

Since that lets out an incredible number of Web pages, it seems that Deepfish is a trifle on the limited side. However, the basic idea is interesting as described by Jacqui Cheng at Ars Technica:

Most full web pages typically require lots of time to load on a mobile phone due to their having been designed for a computer. Deepfish attempts to get around this problem and minimize bandwidth usage. When it loads the overall thumbnail of the page, Deepfish is not loading the entire page, but rather a smaller, more bandwidth-friendly snapshot of it. And when the user zooms in on certain parts of the page to read, Deepfish only renders that part of the page instead of the entire thing.

Microsoft says that Deepfish can do all of this through the use of a server-side technology, instead of the typical client-side approach that most mobile phones are forced to take, leaving users with less-than-stellar web browsing experiences.

In a nutshell, the server browses the Web for the user and delivers the part of the full screen image the user wants and can fit on his mobile device. I don’t know that it is really a substitute for Web pages designed especially for mobiles, but it might be a good second place for all the pages that aren’t. You can see a video demo (with terrible audio) at Microsoft’s or head over to Live Labs to download the alpha version for your Windows Mobile phone. It’s limited availability, of course, since they have to provision the necessary servers.

Filed under Beta and CTP, Microsoft, Windows Mobile

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Agere sues, says Microsoft swiped secrets

Posted by David Hunter at 5:55 PM ET.

John Letzing at MarketWatch reports that Agere Systems Inc. has sued Microsoft for allegedly misappropriating trade secrets related to VoIP technology:

In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania on March 15, Agere claims that Microsoft gathered confidential information during meetings in 2002 and 2003 related to Agere’s sound technology used for Internet videoconferencing, because Microsoft was interested in licensing and acquiring that technology.

Just prior to the anticipated signing of a licensing and transfer agreement, however, “Microsoft abruptly terminated the negotiations, proclaiming it had a ‘breakthrough’ in its own undisclosed development effort,” Agere says in the complaint. Agere says the “breakthrough” was made by Microsoft researchers who had reviewed proprietary Agere materials, and was later used by Microsoft to develop its own products.

Microsoft had no comment and an Agere spokesman offered the observation that Microsoft may be infringing on Agere patents as well.

Filed under Agere, Coopetition, Legal, Microsoft, Patent Lawsuits, Patents, Technologies, VoIP

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