Microsoft Spruces Up Office 2003

As if to remind users just what its best-selling suite of desktop productivity applications is, Microsoft yesterday made available for download service pack 3 for Office 2003.

While Microsoft is spending a lot of time and money this year pushing Office 2007, it's the 4-year-old Office 2003 that pays a lot of the company's bills. And given some of the early feedback from Office 2007 users, it may continue to do so for quite some time. Many users have complained that Office 2007's new ribbon interface, intended to make the desktop suite easier to use, is actually making it more difficult to use. Some have also complained about its lack of performance on older systems. This wouldn't be the first time Microsoft made something harder to use by trying to make it easier to use.

Some of the enhancements in SP3 include improved security; updates to make it work more efficiently with Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Internet Explorer 7; and new capabilities that exploit Windows SharePoint Services.

As we reported in yesterday's Redmond Report, Office 2003 did get a little unexpected competition from IBM as Big Blue launched Lotus Symphony, a suite of free desktop applications. The suite, now available for download as a beta from IBM's Web site, includes a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation programs.

It will be interesting to see what impact Symphony (a name IBM is recycling from 1984, when Lotus launched the first Symphony suite made up of five integrated desktop applications) will have, but Office 2007 still figures to be the only major rival to Office 2003 for the foreseeable future.

Microsoft Bulks Up Its Business Intelligence Lineup
Hoping to put a little shine on its business intelligence strategy, Microsoft has introduced its Office PerformancePoint Server 2007.

The idea behind the new offering is to help IT shops achieve greater performance by monitoring and analyzing their business through a single integrated offering. The products help move Microsoft's BI initiative forward by allowing end users to drive strategy development and alignment across the breadth of a company.

PerformancePoint Server has adopted the same interface as Microsoft Office, which company officials believe should cut down somewhat on training. They contend it's ideal for helping business managers build and manage plans as well as workflows and rules. It's also a good tool for IT managers to centrally control security and information.

Microsoft officials think there will be a lot of demand for the product based on the 10,000 organizations -- many of which were large U.S.-based or multinational companies with diverse computing environments -- that signed up for the Community Technology Preview program.

Yahoo Acquires Zimbra
The bad news is that another promising Web 2.0-style startup has been gobbled up by a larger, more established player. The good news, I suppose, is that at least Microsoft wasn't the one doing the gobbling this time.

Yahoo has acquired Zimbra, maker of a Web-based e-mail and collaboration software that was off to a jackrabbit start, for $350 million in cash and stock.

Zimbra -- which started in 2003 but didn't deliver its Web-based suite until 2006 -- sold some 4 million mailboxes at an average price of between $18 and $35 per mailbox, per year, in just its first three quarters of operation. This was significantly less than what Microsoft was offering with its Exchange/Outlook combination, something that small and medium-sized companies and universities were eagerly awaiting. It looked like Zimbra was about to put a scare into Microsoft.

This isn't to say that Yahoo can still accomplish that. As part of the deal, Zimbra will continue to sell its products separately and, according to Satish Dharmaraj, Zimbra's co-founder and CEO, will be able to sell them to a significantly greater number of people around the world.

According to market researcher comScore, Yahoo remains the top Web-based e-mail provider, attracting 181 million visitors just last month.

Mailbag: Getting It Straight on SCO, AMD vs. Intel, More
Readers share their thoughts on the SCO saga, which Doug reported on this Monday:

I almost never respond to newsletters. However, I could not ignore factual errors you made in your report on the SCO Group's bankruptcy filing. There has been quite a bit of "fuzzy journalism" to go along with the SCO Group's fuzzy math. The SCO Group intentionally muddied the waters by changing its name from Caldera to the SCO Group, to invite confusion with the Santa Cruz Operation (SCO), who changed its name to Tarantella when it sold its Unix assets to Novell. It certainly confused you.

You said "SCO was a major player in Linux back the day. In fact, Microsoft licensed SCO's software and sold it as Xenix." Did Microsoft license Santa Cruz Operation software, or did the Santa Cruz Operation license Microsoft's version of Unix (Xenix)? If memory serves, Microsoft wrote the code needed to run Unix on the 80286 processor, and Santa Cruz Operation licensed that from Microsoft. But then, how is it relevant to this story? The SCO Group never sold anything named Xenix. The only relevance is as a small section of a complete history, but your report does not provide that history.

You also said "Linux was derived from Unix, which is one of the reasons I often doubt the originality and creativity of the open source movement." Straight from the Stephen Colbert School of Truthy Reporting. Half-statement of (incorrect) fact, half-declaration of belief. "It feels true," but is it true? Like most things in life, it depends on context. Factually, no. It is not true. If Linux was derived from Unix, the SCO Group would have been able to present evidence to that effect, and would soon be enjoying the billions of dollars received from IBM and Novell as a result of its lawsuits. Instead, it is contemplating its navel prior to appearing in bankruptcy court.
-Lamar

In a recent posting you state, "Linux was derived from Unix, which is one of the reasons I often doubt the originality and creativity of
the open source movement."

I believe you are correct, but using "derived" can mislead people to think that Linux source code is a copy-and-change of Unix source code. If you were to instead same something like "a clean-room attempt to duplicate Unix," then you can avoid the Linux-copied-Unix-source code issues and instead concentrate on your very good point, seldom covered by anyone -- that you "often doubt the originality and creativity of the open source movement."

-Brent

When it comes to the ongoing chip war between Intel and AMD, Stephen falls squarely on AMD's camp:

Honestly, why does Intel think it has to be the ONLY chip maker for PCs? Doesn't that bring them into some kind of monopoly, and haven't we seen the effect of that with Microsoft to know it's a (really) bad idea? (For the consumer, that is.)

I used to automatically go Intel, but with the excellence of AMD's 64-bit duals being no longer ignorable, I'm looking at AMD for my desktop replacement and hoping (albeit against hope) for a Mac Book-Pro AMD 64. Maybe Apple has talked to AMD; maybe their contract with Intel forbids it. But in the interests of "really interesting technology," for which Apple is famed, the Apple-AMD hookup would get my bucks. A no brainer, indeed.
-Stephen

Finally, what do you look for in your search engine? Lafe asked, and here are some of your answers:

I have three search engines that I use: Google, Ask.com and Alltheweb.com. If I do not find what I am looking for in the first few pages on one of them, I will move on to another one. When I have questions, I try Ask.com and usually get a better hit ratio. When it comes to keyword searches, Google is usually pretty good, but you have to wade through a lot of junk to get to the good stuff. If I am doing a picture or video search, I seem to get better luck with Alltheweb. Of course, your mileage may vary.
-Raymond

I find that I am looking for a uncluttered interface as a starting point. Yahho.com.au and NineMSN lose straight away, and also the same with the hits returned. Using Yahoo, there is way too much going on. I would generally use Google as a first try and then Yahoo if the results were not what I had expected.
-Allan

Tell us what you think! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to escannell@redmondmag.com.

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