As of June 25, MSN Calendar will no longer be free, according to a new message users received from Microsoft this week. The company is trying to encourage users to subscribe to its MSN 8 Internet service to take advantage of MSN's online offerings. The message promises improved calendar features for MSN 8 users, including better printing and offline-access capabilities. MSN Calendar joins MSN Photo, another service that will no longer be free starting May 22, as services that are exclusive to MSN 8 subscribers. The demise of MSN Calendar's free service marks another sign that the days of free Internet services are numbered. Surprisingly, companies have learned the harsh reality that giving away services isn't profitable. MSN 8 Internet Service is available for US$21.95 a month.
Digital rights add-on for IE beta released
Companies that want to prevent the leak of confidential information have a new weapon. Microsoft has posted a beta release of Rights Management Add-on for Internet Explorer, a new plug-in that will help publishers restrict how content is used. The add-on prevents unauthorized people from editing, forwarding, printing, or copying email messages, sensitive documents, and Web-based information. The release is part of Microsoft's Digital Rights Management (DRM) initiative, which includes new tools in the upcoming Microsoft Office 2003, and a new Windows Rights Management Service for Windows Server 2003, which the company will release later this year. You can download the add-on from Microsoft's Web site.
Industry urges USS Congress to create anti-spam law
This week, the high-tech industry went before the US Congress to urge lawmakers to pass tough national antispam laws. According to Brightmail, an antispam technology provider, 46 percent of all today's email messages are spam; by the end of the year, half of all email will be spam. The industry wants Congress to enact tough laws that will punish deceptive marketers. Microsoft proposed a plan that would let legitimate marketers apply to the government to become certified. Marketers who don't get certified would be required to label unsolicited commercial email (UCE) with the word "ADV," which would make it easier for users to delete the messages without opening them. As antispam technology has improved, marketers have continued to find ways to outsmart the technology. The industry push and the multiple proposals that are currently on the table mean tough national antispam laws will eventually be enacted. A national law is important; many states are working on their own laws to block spam, which will create a great deal of confusion for marketers because they won't know which law applies where.
Windows Media 9 powers Amazon.com music previews
Online retailer Amazon.com will soon offer its customers samples of music in Windows Media 9 format. The new service will offer Amazon.com customers and the company's partners "instant-on" streaming with virtually no buffering by using Windows Media's Fast Streaming technology. In addition to the main Amazon.com site, the feature will be available on powered-by-Amazon.com sites, including Borders.com, CDNOW, and Virginmega.com. Microsoft's partnership with the leading e-commerce site should help the company in its competition with RealNetworks and Apple Computer's QuickTime format. Amazon.com, which has worked hard to make online shopping easier, hopes that the Windows Media 9 technology will further enhance the company's online shopping experience.
Google users love 1998
Search engine Google offers its visitors information about search patterns and trends related to its search engine. One interesting fact in last month's report was statistics about which OSs people use to access Google. In April, the most popular OS was Windows 98, with 34 percent usage. The 5-year-old OS beat out Windows XP (31 percent) and Windows 2000 (21 percent). The statistics contradict a WebSideStory report that said XP was the most popular OS on the Web. Other OSs in the top five included Windows NT (4 percent) and Win95 (2 percent). The top search category for April was, yep, you guessed it--Frank Stallone. Actually, it was SARS.
PC makers introduce new desktops
This week, Intel released new processors and chipsets that bring increased performance to regular desktops. The new chipsets offer increased bus speeds (as fast as 800MHz) and Serial ATA hard disk-connection support, and add the Intel Pentium 4 3.0GHz processor's Hyper-Threading Technology to the 2.8GHz, 2.6GHz, and 2.4GHz Pentium 4 processors. Dell, Gateway, and IBM marked the release by updating their desktop lines to include the new technology. The technology, which was previously available in higher-priced workstations, is now available in many $1000 and less-expensive desktops.
WinZip 9.0 beta release
The people who make the popular WinZip compression utility have announced a public beta release of WinZip 9.0. The new version includes encryption, 64-bit extensions to the Zip file format, and improved compression. Recent versions of Windows include a Compressed Folder feature that makes .zip files act like folders, but WinZip continues to be a powerful and easy-to-use tool for compressed files. You can download the beta from the WinZip Web site.
Pioneer releases new DVD-R drive
The DVD-R format war took an interesting turn this week when Pioneer Electronics announced a new drive that supports both versions of the DVD-R formats. Pioneer, one of the original DVD-RW supporters, joins Sony in releasing a drive that supports both DVD-RW and DVD+RW formats. The confusion over which format will win has slowed the market's growth because consumers have been unclear about which format will win in the long run. Both formats have advantages; DVD-RW has the best compatibility with consumer electronic DVD players, and DVD+RW works better with data storage. Pioneer's inclusion of both formats shows that the ultimate solution might be support for both formats in all DVD-R drives. Microsoft announced that Longhorn, the next version of Windows, will support both formats.
pressplay to become Napster
Roxio, the developer of Easy CD Creator, has announced the acquisition of pressplay, an online music service. Roxio recently purchased Napster's assets and plans to use pressplay as the infrastructure for the next version of Napster. Roxio plans to launch the new Napster by March 2004. pressplay, which Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment previously owned, has distribution agreements with all five major music publishers, as well as many independent companies. pressplay is a subscription service that competes with many free, but illegal, sharing services and the recently launched Apple iTunes Music service. Unlike the Apple iTunes Music service, which charges only for each song download, pressplay charges a monthly subscription fee and includes many limitations on what users can do with downloaded music.