Short takes: Week of 16 February

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

Debunking the rumours: XP SP2 will not be "XP SE"
A number of people emailed me after they had heard that Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) would be rolled into a new release of XP called Windows XP Second Edition, or Windows XP Special Edition. I spoke with a Microsoft representative with direct responsibility for Windows XP and was told that wasn't the case, and that XP SP2 will instead be delivered in a manner similar to other service packs. One aspect of SP2's delivery that's still up in the air, however, is retail packaging: The company is still mulling over whether it should replace retail boxed copies of XP with new versions that include SP2 by default.

Debunking the rumours: Windows Server Longhorn will not include BizTalk orchestration
A number of reports recently noted that Microsoft would be adding the business process orchestration features from its BizTalk Server product to the next Windows Server version, which will allegedly be part of the Longhorn wave of products. However, I spoke with BizTalk representatives, who said that's not true. Instead, Microsoft is looking at pushing some of BizTalk's workflow integration technology into the core server OS, as it could be generalised for use with other processes. "Orchestration features from BizTalk are not being discussed, contrary to reports," Steven Martin, the lead product manager of BizTalk, told me. "But whatever happens, it's not a done deal yet, it's just a discussion. If they did build our workflow integration features into Windows Server, a future version of BizTalk would then run on top of that."

Gates heads to pretrial questioning
Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates will submit to pretrial questioning from lawyers from Burst.com and Sun Microsystems in preparation for two separate antitrust trials the software giant will face. US District Judge J. Frederick Motz has ordered Gates to make himself available for three hours of questioning, though no date was set. Burst.com is suing Microsoft for abusing its market power to muscle into new markets for internet-based audio distribution. Sun, meanwhile, is suing Microsoft for harming the development of its Java software development platform.

Microsoft patents XML script automation technique
Open source backers had been circulating rumours for months that Microsoft would attempt to patent its XML technologies, thereby negating the interoperable benefits of moving to that format. This week, the company confirmed their worst fears, though the patent the company received isn't nearly as damaging to the cause as it could have been. Instead, Microsoft received a patent for unpacking multiple scripts contained within an XML file or, to use the wording in the actual patent, "systems, methods and data structures for encompassing scripts written in one or more scripting languages in a single file. The scripts of a computer system are organised into a single file using Extensible Language Markup (XML)." Still, to curb any potential criticism, Microsoft issued the following statement. "Microsoft, like other software companies, frequently files patents to protect innovative ideas. In the area of XML, Microsoft has contributed significant resources to develop XML as an industry standard and it has partnered with many companies to promote the standard's broad industry success. While the XML standard itself is royalty free, nothing precludes a company from seeking patent protection for a specific software implementation that incorporates elements of XML. This does not, in any way, change the royalty-free nature of the XML standard itself." And it certainly doesn't mean that Microsoft is "patenting XML," so relax.

France says viva la open source
The French government revealed this week that it will utilise desktop-based open source software as part of its Project ADELE, a three year plan that will result in the computerisation of the country's governmental administration. Backed by celebrities such as Jerry Lewis and, yep, you guessed it, Frank Stallone, France will migrate up to 15 percent of its PC desktops to open source software based on Linux, compared to its 100 percent reliance today on proprietary software, mostly from Microsoft. On the other hand, France isn't exactly dumping Microsoft: The country plans on using its economies of scale to get a better deal on its next large-scale Microsoft software licence.

Microsoft serves Thailand with new XP version. Just don't call it XP Lite
Numerous reports last week suggested that a special XP version Microsoft made for the Thailand government will lead to a new XP version some are dubbing "XP Lite." That's not the case, Microsoft says. Instead, the company says it is simply meeting the needs of unique markets. In the case of Thailand, Microsoft has supplied the country with a version of XP that strips out certain unnamed components, and includes a bundled copy of Office XP Standard Edition. But the real kicker is the price: The XP bundle will cost Thailand just US$38 per desktop, a far cry from the US$725 or so that bundle would set back consumers in the US. Microsoft did admit that they aren't yet developing any other custom Windows versions for other countries, but that the company would examine such requests on a case-by-case basis.

Windows Server 2003 and Match.com
Last week, Microsoft issued a somewhat humorous press release in which it touted the benefits of Windows Server 2003 and Visual Studio .NET 2003 to the development of Match.com, a dating service that was ramping up for the Valentine Day's traffic. "We partnered with Microsoft because we knew they'd be there to support us," Match.com chief technology officer Mike Presz said in a statement, sounding suspiciously similar to a testimonial a customer might give on, say, Match.com. Well, here's to many romantic nights between Match.com and its technology. I just don't want to read about the morning after.

Microsoft cancels Mythica
This week, Microsoft cancelled development of the game Mythica, which had become embroiled in a legal fight with Mythic Entertainment, a company that (ahem) makes games just like Mythica, go figure. "Our goal with Mythica was to create a truly innovative massively multiplayer online role-playing game," Microsoft wrote in a statement. "While the game looked ready to deliver advancements to the genre, after careful evaluation of the [gaming] landscape, [we] have decided to ... [make] fewer investments in this genre. After a rigorous review of current and future projects, the decision was made that Mythica would not be one of the projects we would continue to invest in." I'm sure the lawsuit had nothing to do with it.

Frivolous lawsuit of the week
And speaking of lawsuits, with all the various lawsuits Microsoft finds itself in, both as the accuser and the accused, I could probably highlight a different silly lawsuit every week and never run out of material. Last week TV Interactive Data (TVI, and no, I haven't heard of them either) sued Microsoft for infringing on a patent which it says covers the "auto-play" feature in Windows. Auto-play, as you probably know, lets Windows automatically trigger specific functionality when removable storage and other devices are connected to the PC; for example, when you turn on a scanner, you might see a Camera and Scanner Wizard that will let you scan pictures. TVI says it has patents that cover a "host device equipped with means for starting a process in response to detecting insertion of a storage media

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