Short Takes: News briefs

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Critical Flaw Strikes All Windows Versions
Well, it's only a matter of time before we get a ridiculous quote about Trustworthy Computing from yet another so-called security expert, but in the meantime, Windows users need to be aware of a critical security flaw, which could let hackers take over a system and run code. This one is pretty serious, as it affects virtually all modern Windows versions, including Windows 98, Windows 98 SE, Windows Me, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000 and Windows XP. Newer OSes can grab the patch from Windows Update or Critical Updates, but if you're the download and save type, you can find the patch on the Microsoft Web site as well.

Microsoft on Longhorn Server: Just Kidding!
Within hours of Microsoft senior VP Brian Valentine's comments about the company rethinking its plans for a Longhorn Server product, Microsoft went into damage control mode, with various executives making statements contradicting Valentine. "Brian was just thinking out loud," Windows Server group product manager Bob O'Brien told tech reporter Mary Jo Foley. "But there are no plans for a Longhorn Server. That is not on the boards." What Microsoft is considering, however, is a Limited Edition release of Longhorn Server that would basically upgrade Windows Server 2003 to a few Longhorn capabilities, such as the SQL Server-based file system. Hold on to your seats, folks, the Longhorn story is probably going to change pretty regularly from here on out, as Microsoft figures out exactly what it's going to do.

Much Ado About Nothing: Windows Server 2003 RTM
For the past few weeks, there's been a bizarre buzz on the Windows enthusiast sites about the pending release to manufacturing (RTM) of Windows Server 2003, a product that pretty much has nothing to do with any of the sites getting so excited about it. Folks, it doesn't matter when the exact RTM date is, or what exact build number it is. Microsoft says it is on track to launch Windows 2003 on April 24, as scheduled, and that's pretty much all that matters. Whenever Windows 2003 does RTM, I'll have a full review available, of course, but for the guys excited about XP, Longhorn, and other client technologies, Windows 2003 just isn't very relevant, so I'm confused by all the drama.

Behind Opteron Support in Windows Server 2003
Despite reports to the contrary, Microsoft has never publicly stated that it will ship Windows Server 2003 versions April 24 that support AMD's upcoming 64-bit platform, the Opteron. However, Microsoft will, of course, be supporting the Opteron, leading to speculation about how that support might unfold. According to sources, Microsoft is still unsure if the Opteron will require an all-new, Opteron-specific Windows version, or whether the chip can be supported by an add-on for the existing 32-bit versions. Pricing is another issue, of course: If Microsoft does release an add-on for existing versions, what will it charge? My expectation is that Microsoft will initially support the Operton through a Limited Edition release of Windows Server, in order to gauge demand and mollify early adopters. So despite the fact that NT architect Dave Cutler is a huge Opteron fan, let's face facts: Cutler has cut back dramatically in recent days and doesn't really factor heavily in Microsoft's plans these days. Furthermore, the company isn't going to harm its relationship with Intel in order to appease one man.

Cisco to Buy Linksys
Networking giant Cisco will purchase networking giant Linksys in a blockbuster deal worth $500 million, the companies revealed this week. Both companies have unique strengths--Linksys is popular with home users, while Cisco remains a stalwart of the enterprise crowd--but they struck the deal specifically to target the home wireless networking market. Linksys will continue as an independent unit, Cisco said, suggesting that the important Linksys brand will not be dropped. But if Cisco is looking for the perfect spokesperson, I have just the guy. Yep, you guessed it: Frank Stallone.

Gateway Closes Stores, Lays Off Staff
PC maker Gateway will axe 1900 jobs and close an additional 76 retail stores as part of its latest restructuring plan, the company announced this week. The struggling company says that the tough but necessary" changes will save $400 million annually and help Gateway return to profitability. Gateway now says that it will have positive operating cash flow by the end of the year and will finish fiscal 2003 with over $1 billion in cash or liquid assets. The closing retail stores will be shuttered by March 24, leaving the company with about 190 retail locations country-wide.

IDC Lowers Forecast for PC Shipments
Shipments of PCs worldwide will rise 6.9 percent to 145.6 million units in 2003, according to researchers at IDC, slower than the company's previous prediction of 8.3 percent growth. Last year, PC shipments worldwide were up just 1.4 percent year-over-year, and looking forward, IDC gets pretty optimistic, stating that PC shipments will increase 10.6 percent in 2004. The big problem in the short term is that pesky war with Iraq and the overall economy, both of which are keeping businesses away from the checkbook. However, IDC credits Microsoft's Tablet PC and Media Center PC launches with adding "some zest to the PC market" while noting that the sales volumes of these systems still can't make up the losses felt in other parts of the market. Both Tablet PCs and Media Center PCs, however, will likely command a healthy percentage of the market by the end of 2003, IDC says.

Motorola: Linux Not Secure Enough
Mobile phone maker Motorola made news in February when it announced that it would be the first to deliver a cell phone based on Linux. However, those plans have changed dramatically. Just one month after making that announcement, Motorola now says that Linux isn't secure enough to support a market for third-party applications that target the phone. "The phone's operating system must be made secure so that, for example, badly written or malicious code cannot power up the modem and rack up charges on your bill," a Motorola spokesperson wrote recently. So for the foreseeable future, the company will use Java as the delivery vehicle for software on the phone, and Linux will take a back seat. Of course, outside the insular Linux community, no one really cares what software is behind the phone, they just want it to work. And that, incidentally, is a problem faced by Microsoft with its Smartphone initiative as well.

Think Obsolete: Apple Discontinues Original iMac
The candy-colored gumdrop we all loved to ridicule is finally gone. This week, Apple dropped non-education sales of its original iMac, which shipped in a variety of bright colors and saddled users with low-end laptop parts, the worst mouse ever created, poor performance, and a lousy, inexpensive CRT screen. The iMac, however, was quite successful for the company, selling an estimated 10 million units, and contributing to Apple's ability to avoid bankruptcy in the late 1990's. Current iMacs are much more exciting, if less sales friendly, featuring beautiful LCD screens mounted on an innovative arm. But the original iMac will always be an iconoclastic product for the Cupertino company.

No, I Don't Know Where You Can Download Longhorn
And finally, I've been getting a lot of email asking where people can find and download the Longhorn beta. Please stop. I have no idea where you might find it, and no, I can't send you a copy either, sorry.

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