Patch Tuesday Focuses on Office

Today, Microsoft is releasing four patches rated as critical, all of which apply to all supported versions of Office. All of the patches fix problems involving hackers' ability to remotely execute potentially harmful code.

Microsoft rates these patches as critical or important across the entire range of Office releases, from Office 2000 to 2007. Mostly, they appear to focus on Outlook, Excel and Office Web components. Because of the ubiquity of Office and its increasingly widespread use in Web publishing, these seem like high-priority patches to get tested and installed.

Microsoft will release these four updates as well as five high-priority, non-security updates at the same time.

Apple Makes iPhone Business-Friendly
Partly, at least. Late last week, Apple announced several initiatives geared at making the iPhone more palatable to business users and enterprise IT departments, including Exchange support, an SDK that enables third-party service providers such as Salesforce.com to build their own custom apps, and better support in general for custom apps.

Businesses are likely to listen. Professionals, especially the younger and more highly mobile ones, are increasingly demanding to use new technology as a part of the silent but changing employer-employee contract.

Are you getting requests to support the iPhone? Do you have one yourself? Tell me your story at pvarhol@redmondmag.com.

IE 8 Blocks Windows Update
In preparation for my May Beta Man column in Redmond magazine, I downloaded and installed Internet Explorer 8 late last week. This week, in preparation for the upcoming Windows patches, I hit the Windows Update Web page. No dice; I got this message: "To use this site, you must be running Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 or later."

Turns out I wasn't the only one. The Windows Update page hadn't yet been, um, updated to recognize and support the new browser. Not a big deal, but you have to wonder why Microsoft teams can't communicate their needs to each other better.

Have you tried the IE 8 beta yet? What's your take? Let me know at pvarhol@redmondmag.com.

Weekly Podcasts Detail Database Issues
Redmond magazine freelance writers and reviewers Josh Jones and Eric Johnson, who also run an information technology consulting firm in Colorado, are giving weekly podcasts covering the latest in technology trends and news, and bringing you expert interviews with key members of the information technology community. I caught one recently; I think you'll find them informative and entertaining.

You can find out more about these podcasts by visiting http://www.cstechcast.com/.

Mailbag: The Mac Edition
Yesterday, Doug suggested that Microsoft should just buy the Mac OS. Is he nuts? Readers are mixed:

I have to say that I think you're nuts. If anything, Apple should buy Windows Vista; then maybe they could fix it. But seriously, competition is what will improve MS. If it has to start being concerned with turning out a competitive product to keep its market share, then maybe it will quit turning out buggy stuff that aggravates people to death.
-Vicke

I don't think you're nuts. However, I would approach this differently. Let's license the Mac OS as a dual-booting option for Vista machines (circa 86-DOS). Microsoft will be putting its OS out there with the competition right next to it. Running the two in parallel or in some type of live virtual machine would let users who want to use Windows apps still have access to the Mac interface.
-Anonymous

There's really a good reason why this would ultimately fail Microsoft. If it bought the Mac OS and brought it in-house, where would Microsoft get new ideas for future versions of their operating systems? Since it blatantly copies features from Apple today, it would not be able to innovate anything new in the world without Apple working on the Mac OS. Microsoft requires other companies to innovate and then it implements those ideas poorly into its own environments. Just look at Windows Live Search or Windows Live Mail; Microsoft can't think of any other way to do it than the way someone else thought to do it.

And Apple would never allow Microsoft to buy it; it has enough in its reservoir to fight a hostile takeover.
-Anonymous

I don't know -- it depends what you have in mind. The Mac OS and OS X don't do much for business users. I judge this from people working in IT shops that own Macs but use, and prefer to use, Windows at work. As a former IBM OS guy, I don't think until Vista/Server 2008 came along that either platform was playing with a full deck. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people judging these products don't know what is good or bad in this type of thing, or when something is just a bad implementation of the right idea. I'm not claiming to be an expert, but I was trained to understand the whats and whys of how IBM did OSes the way it did. Obviously, Windows 95 was where the marketing needed to be, but Vista is where the product needs to be (and OS/2 was in this respect) for today's world.
-Russ

Well, that would be a hoot. But you know it would NEVER clear antitrust. However, I've said numerous times that Apple should get smart, dump the hardware and just sell the OS. That could make Microsoft shake.
-K.L.K.

I don't care if Microsoft buys it or not, but if you can start a rumor that it's looking into it, it'll be the funniest thing that's happened so far this year. I grin just picturing the iSheep screaming and crying as if roasting on an open fire.
-Dave

And Richard wants to put to rest the old "Macs are expensive" line:

I'm surprised to see you propagating one of the oldest myths in personal computing: Macs are "horribly expensive." I've owned both Macs and MS-DOS/Wintel PCs continuously since both were first introduced and I've always found good reasons to own both. The purchase price of a Mac has always been higher than a comparable Windows system but the cost of ownership of my Macs have been lower than my Wintel PCs -- in my estimation, MUCH lower, since I value my time a bit above minimum wage.

The largest factor in personal computer cost of ownership in a business environment is not the purchase price; it is the support cost, and Macs simply require less support. Independent research reports from the likes of DataPro and others since the late '80s have noted this counterintuitive financial fact about Macs and Windows systems.

I believe that anyone who decides to make the Windows choice should do so with a clear view of the financial implications of that choice, and it is up to thoughtful and knowledgeable industry pundits (i.e., YOU) to spread the best information available. This will only mean something to you if you find the data yourself. It's not hard to find -- and as they used to say on the "X-Files": The truth is out there.
-Richard

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

About the Author

Peter Varhol is the executive editor, reviews of Redmond magazine and has more than 20 years of experience as a software developer, software product manager and technology writer. He has graduate degrees in computer science and mathematics, and has taught both subjects at the university level.

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