Microsoft Broadens Vista Search

One of Vista's spiffy new features, Instant Search, has already irked competitors -- especially Google, which maintains that it restricts users' choice and competitive opportunity. Google filed a complaint last December with the Justice Department (which must've built a special wing by now just to handle Microsoft matters) alleging that the way it was set up was unfair to potential search utility competitors.

Currently, Vista's Instant Search lets users enter a search query that returns a listing of all items stored on their hard drive that include the search term -- pretty straightforward stuff, except that it drops you right into Vista's search function with no real easy way to use anything else.

Microsoft agreed yesterday to open up the search function and give users a chance to first select a default search utility. Microsoft also agreed to add links within Internet Explorer and the "Start" menu to make it easier for users to launch their preferred default desktop search.

The company will also give third-party developers greater access to architectural and technical specifications to help them optimize desktop search performance. These updates will come in the already eagerly awaited service pack 1, expected later this year.

Microsoft made the announcement late yesterday afternoon as part of a joint report it filed with the Justice Department and the U.S. District court that is monitoring Microsoft's compliance with the infamous 2002 antitrust consent decree.

Another example of Microsoft's monopolistic practices? More overzealous Microsoft hounding from competitors and the feds? What do you think? Search your feelings and let me know at llow@redmondmag.com.

HP Scoops Up SPI Dynamics
Another installment in the ongoing chronicles of Big Fish Gobbles Little Fish: HP has signed papers to acquire SPI Dynamics, known for its Web application security utilities and services.

SPI Dynamics' technology is already integrated into HP's Quality Center software and has been for some time, so this acquisition takes their existing partnership one step further. Once the acquisition is complete, SPI Dynamics' business will be rolled into HP's Technology Solutions Group.

The previously privately-held SPI Dynamics is based in Atlanta. Its customer base is primarily government, financial services and health care -- industries in which Web security is at a premium.

"For more than five years, we have partnered with HP," said Brian Cohen, SPI Dynamics' CEO. "I am very pleased to be joining forces to better serve our customers and partners."

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

How are you handling Web application security? Are you using a combination of products or a single suite from a larger vendor? Log on and let me know at llow@redmondmag.com.

Yahoo Switches CEOs
What investors want, investors usually get. In this case, Yahoo investors have been eager for a changing of the guard in the company's upper management. Chairman and CEO Terry Semel is stepping down as CEO, but not completely away from the company; Yahoo named Semel non-executive chairman of the board.

Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang will take Semel's place at the helm of the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based search engine company. Former CFO Susan Decker will be bumped up to president.

Yahoo investors have pressured the company for the change, criticizing Semel for not moving quick enough to challenge search engine juggernaut Google. Lately, Semel has also drawn criticism for his response to sites like Facebook and MySpace.

"This is the time for new executive leadership, with different skills and strengths, to step in and drive the company to realize its full potential," Semel said in a prepared statement. "It is the right thing to do, and the right time is now."

Does this shakeup affect you? What's your preferred search engine? Do you see more heated competition coming in the search engine wars? Find me at llow@redmondmag.com and let me know.

Learn Not To Burn
If you have a laptop, exercise caution so you won't have to stop, drop and roll. Sony has a massive recall underway that involves lithium-ion battery packs that could overheat and start fires.

The recall affects more than 10 million battery packs used in certain laptop models by Dell, Lenovo, Apple, Acer and Toshiba.

Recently, there have been three instances of Toshiba laptops starting blazes that have been linked to the suspect battery packs. Toshiba e-mailed owners with a warning, and urged them to replace the entire units. The company is currently negotiating reimbursement expenses with Sony.

If you think your laptop may be affected, check your manufacturer's Web site or Sony's Web site for recall details. It's worth the time to ensure your safety.

Has this massive recall affected you? Have you been involved with any other technology recalls? Let us know at llow@redmondmag.com.

Mailbag: Vista vs. Leopard, Microsoft and Open Source, More
This Monday, Doug asked readers which side they fall on: Vista or Leopard. Here's what some of you said:

I make my living supporting Microsoft technologies, but honestly, once my wife convinced me to buy a Mac, I haven't looked back. I'm SO excited about Leopard.

I installed Vista when it was released in early December only to realize my brand-spanking-new laptop had no support for it and the manufacturer said they wouldn't support it until after the "official" release. I had numerous problems getting it to work with anything that wasn't Microsoft-related. Soon, I just went back to XP. It works, and I don't have to hit "allow" 100 times a day.

I'm SUPER excited about Leopard. I've been using my Mac as my main computer now. I have remote desktops and Parallels installed, so I have full functionality of my PC within my Mac, and I've never been happier. Now, I'm just excited about the fun new features of Apple's new OS.
-Linnie

Regarding the choice between Vista and Leopard, since Vista's a shipping product and Leopard is a promised product, I'd have to say Vista's got the lead. Vista looks nice, has fair application and hardware compatibility, and is something I could see using as my main OS. Leopard, by contrast, would require me to buy all new hardware and apps (or use Parallels or VMware), so it's a choice that wouldn't be made without a LOT of consideration. There is a third way, however.

I've got a system at home that has 4GB of RAM and an Athlon 64x2 processor. I've got swappable hard drives, so I can run either Vista or XP, depending on my whim at any given moment. I also, however, have one hard drive with the 64-bit version of Ubuntu 7.04 installed. It's THIS hard drive and OS that I find I really like. Ubuntu actually has better hardware compatibility than Vista (a TV tuner card that doesn't work under Vista works fine under Linux), it's fully 64-bit (so I see all 4GB of my system RAM), and everything that I can productively do with Vista I can equally well do with Ubuntu. At the moment, my XP installation is my main OS on this machine; that will probably remain the case because of my workspace requirements and so forth. For personal use, however, I could switch to Ubuntu in a heartbeat -- it looks good, it's compatible, it's secure, and it's fast.
-Dennis

Dennis has a few more words to say about Apple's move into the browser wars with Safari:

On the matter of Safari for Windows, the reason that Apple has made it available is obvious to me: It's a PLATFORM, for both developers and market growth. Look at how pervasive QuickTime is -- do you doubt that Apple would like to make Safari as ubiquitous? Will it happen? I don't know -- it has a lot of catching up to do, but I guess we'll see.
-Dennis

As for Microsoft's pledge to be more open to open source, Dennis takes a "wait and see" attitude there, too -- while Tom just thinks Doug's getting his leg pulled:

As far as Microsoft's dealings with the open source community goes, I think the proof will be in the pudding. Even if they are becoming more interested in working productively with FOSS developers, they have several years of hostile messages regarding open source software to get past. This new message from Microsoft won't overcome the bad blood overnight, but given time, it might indicate a truly new approach to dealing with non-Microsoft technologies. If it's serious and sincere, I believe that everyone could wind up winning in the end. But again, we'll just have to wait and see.
-Dennis

You have been "Microsofted." I thought Redmond magazine and you were the Consumer Reports of the computer industry! By writing this kind of article, you have basically advertised for them! That may be like American Cancer Society sponsoring Marlboro!
-Tom

Let us know what you think! Comment below or drop a line at llow@redmondmag.com.

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