McNealy, WUS and NT

The March issue of Redmond magazine has just hit the streets, which means a fresh batch of online content is available on this site for your perusal. Highlights include our interview with Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy. Trade press reporters used to love covering McNealy’s speeches and press conferences, because you’d always get a juicy one-liner to spice up your story -- and that’s hard to come by in this business. Of course, the barbs were usually at Microsoft’s expense, as you’ll see in our online sidebar. The nearly $2 billion settlement he got from Microsoft has softened Scott’s rhetoric, but not his competitive spirit. In our chat with him, McNealy tries to make the case that his Java Desktop System and Office alternatives make for better desktop environments than Windows. Judge for yourself how well he does.

Our McNealy interview is part of our continuing effort to bring top executives from Microsoft and its competitors to the pages of Redmond magazine. We’ve already tackled Steve Ballmer and Jeff Raikes. Feel free to let me know who else we should go after. I’m at pdesmond@redmondmag.com.

Also in our March issue, “Beta Man” Don Jones takes a look at Windows Update Services (WUS) Beta 2, which he reports is, “feature-complete, more polished and refined.” In addition to updating Windows as its predecessor Software Update Services did, WUS will be able to update Office, Exchange, SQL Server, ISA Server and eventually the entire Windows Server System lineup, Jones says. “WUS is so much more than its predecessor SUS, it's hard to believe Microsoft is still giving it away for free,” he says.

If you’ve still got some Windows NT kicking around your shop, you’ll want to check out our feature “Windows NT: Hard to Kill.” Veteran trade press reporter Stuart Johnston (who also contributes to our daily news coverage on Redmondmag.com) talked to a number of NT diehards to find out why they’re sticking with the venerable server OS and how they’re getting by now that Microsoft has eliminated virtually all support for it.

Windows Gets a New Chief
Microsoft yesterday announced it’s hiring a former AT&T Wireless and E*Trade executive to head up Windows product management. Michael Sievert will be leading the charge to Longhorn, overseeing marketing, product management and product planning for the next version of Windows. This guy sounds like a firebrand. He’s only 35, yet has already helped build E*Trade into what it is today and is responsible for moving AT&T Wireless away from its hideous “mLife” slogan, according to a report in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He was only available because when Cingular Wireless acquired AT&T Wireless (for $41 billion) it opted to keep its own marketing chief. It should be interesting to see what he does with Longhorn.

What’s Next for Office?
Microsoft isn’t saying much about what will be included in the next version of Office. But Scott Bekker, Redmond news editor who doubles as editor of our sister site ENTmag.com, put together a list of 12 things you can likely expect in “Office 12,” ranging from integrated anti-virus protection to collaboration improvements.

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Mr. Gates Goes to Washington
Bill Gates had some strong words for the nation’s governors at a two-day education summit in Washington, D.C., last weekend. ''Our high schools were designed 50 years ago to meet the needs of another age," Gates said in his keynote address at the event, according to a report in the Boston Globe. ''Until we design them to meet the needs of this century, we will keep limiting, even ruining, the lives of millions of Americans every year." This is no idle talk. Improving education in the U.S. is one of the primary goals of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has pledged nearly $1 billion to the cause of improving high schools alone, the Globe reports. I never cease to marvel at the incredible amount of good Gates is doing with his money.

By the way, Gates touched on the education issue -- along with everything from Microsoft’s biggest challenges to his personal reading habits -- in his interview earlier this month with Peter Jennings of ABC News. A full transcript of the interview is available here. It’s an interesting read.

$5 for All of Your Data
I thought it was a joke when I saw this piece on CNet’s News.com, but I checked it out myself and it’s on the up and up. Microsoft is offering you the princely sum of $5 should its AntiSpyware Beta damage your PC, according to the End User License Agreement that you have to agree to before downloading the software. Actually, to be more precise, $5 is the most you can recover -- it is by no means a gimme. I suppose this enables Microsoft to claim the limit to its liability is clearly spelled out in the EULA, so tough noogies if AntiSpyware blows away “potentially unwanted software” along with “documents that I wanted in the worst way.”

AIM-Outlook Integration
Here’s an item that’s sure to wreak havoc on productivity, at least for those firms that haven’t already outlawed use of public instant messaging systems. AOL is now enabling users of its AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) service to integrate buddy list information with Outlook.

When an Outlook user gets an e-mail from someone on his AIM buddy list who is online, the yellow AOL “running man” logo will appear in the “from” line of the e-mail -- presumably screaming at the top of his lungs, “Go ahead -- IM me! I’m not doing anything productive! Neither should you!” Presence will surely prove useful in the business environment, but this clearly isn’t intended for business use and serves as another reason to get your arms around an IM policy. In case you missed it, in last month’s Redmond Roundup we reported on some private IM products that offer more security and manageability.

SP2 Rolls Along
Perhaps lost amid all the security news that came out of the RSA Conference two weeks ago was the update Bill Gates gave on Windows XP SP2. By his latest count, Microsoft has distributed 170 million copies of the update, which may account for as much as 60 percent of all Windows users. There’s no telling how many of those have actually installed XP2, however, as Scott Bekker’s story points out.

By the way, the mechanism that allows you to disable automatic delivery of SP2 through Windows Updates and Automatic Updates will soon be shut down. The 240-day window that Microsoft allowed to enable folks to get ready for SP2 ends April 12, 2005, after which SP2 will be automatically delivered, like it or not. April 12 is a Tuesday. Tax returns are due the following Friday. What a fun week.

Your Security Thoughts Wanted
Between SP2, acquisitions of spyware and anti-virus technology, and Gates’ announcement-rich RSA keynote, there’s certainly been no shortage of Microsoft security news lately. With that in mind, I’m putting together a TEN column on the steps you think Microsoft should take to help improve security in its products -- and your network. Shoot me an e-mail at pdesmond@redmondmag.com or use our online form to send me your ideas. If e-mailing, please use the subject line "Security Thoughts." Thanks in advance.

Windows Server Blog Is Humming
Finally, make a point to check out the Windows Server Blog that Microsoft launched earlier this month. I venture to guess it’s about the only place where you’ll find useful info like where to go for x64 support mixed in with a story about a dream involving a car accident, 64-bit and Elvis.

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