Microsoft Cooks Up Yet Another Desktop Productivity Suite
It sounds like Microsoft is getting more than a little concerned about the
inroads being made by Google Apps and maybe one or two other free desktop productivity
applications. Over the last few weeks, rumors that Redmond is cooking up some
bundle of consumer-flavored desktop applications have been getting stronger.
And in fact, the company sent out a vaguely worded invite recently asking selected
beta testers about their interest in banging away on a product
What exactly Albany is, besides the capital of New York state, is unclear as
no one has actually gotten their hands on the code yet. Most of the various
reports swirling around have it consisting of Office Home and Student Edition,
Office Live Workspace and OneCare.
It's understandable -- and about time, many would say -- that Microsoft offered
something that was much lower-end yet still took care of 90 percent of what
desktop users do day-to-day. I mean, how many times have you complained about
the bloat of the full version of Office and how you use only 10 percent of its
But here's what makes this decision somewhat curious: What now does Microsoft
do with Microsoft Works, which is bundled on many PCs? Redmond has brought up
the prospect of an "advertising-funded" collection of apps in the
past that would look and smell a lot like Works, but not a lot has been said
about that recently.
Reports so far about how Microsoft would sell such a product are conflicting
-- either bundled or at retail (unless it's to be part of a SaaS strategy, which
means online delivery) -- but it's a good question. If Microsoft sells it at
retail, where Office Home and the Student version sell pretty well, Albany could
cannibalize sales of those products. If it goes for a bundling deal with PC
makers, Albany would run into Works.
Guess we won't know too much more until the first beta versions get released.
Then we'll see exactly the level of features it presents relative to Works and
the Home and Student versions.
Firefox 3 To Make Its Debut in June
Mozilla officials yesterday announced that they'll release the final version
3 in June. The first release candidate of the product will be in the first
half of May.
Currently, the product is in its fourth beta release and is spread among some
700,000 users. That's actually pretty tiny considering the product's total installed
base runs up to around 160 million. Right now, the company plans to ship beta
5 in the next week or two.
The encouraging news about the latest beta versions -- at least for those who
want to see more dynamic competition introduced to the marketplace -- is that
Firefox 3 continues to test favorably against Internet Explorer, Safari and
Opera. Over the past few months, according to Wired.com, the open source browser
has consistently reduced the amount of memory it consumes. It also demands markedly
less memory than IE 7 or Opera. This improved capability should go nicely with
some other performance improvements the company has made, including the way
it now handles multiple page requests.
To create a little bit more buzz around the upcoming product, Mozilla has also
announced a contest
challenging developers to build the best add-ons for it. There are two basic
categories: one for add-ons that exploit the newest features in Firefox 3, and
the other for existing add-ons that will be ported over to the latest version.
One of the prizes being offered is an all-expenses-paid trip to a "Mozilla
Developer Day" anywhere in the world the winner wants to go.
Not bad. I could see myself chatting it up with open source developers over
margaritas at Sloppy Joe's in Key West.
Not a Great Week To Take a Safari
Speaking of browsers, some programmers have uncovered what they're classifying
as a couple of "highly critical"
vulnerabilities in Apple's recently released Safari 3.1.
The first, according to a post on Secunia's Web site, is caused by an "improper
handling" of the buffer for long file names being downloaded. The other
vulnerability leaves the door open for...let's call them "phishing expeditions."
As of Thursday morning, there appear to be no workarounds available. There's
really only one preventative measure that can be taken right now: Make sure
you don't venture near funky Web sites.
This hasn't been a good week for Safari. This news comes right on
top of criticisms made about Apple's licensing terms for Safari as it's
used on Windows-based machines. According to the licensing terms, users can
only "install and use one copy of the Apple software on a single Apple-labeled
computer at a time." It goes on to say that users "may not make the
Apple software available over a network where it could be used by multiple computers
at the same time."
This seems like something out of the 1980s. Well, I guess this would be a problem
if people actually took the time to read licensing agreements on stuff they
downloaded. I am curious, though: When was Apple going to tell the public about
this policy? After a few million copies were downloaded onto Windows PCs? Maybe
Apple was waiting for a goodly number before it drops a lawsuit on them?
Mailbag: Microsoft Virtually Behind
Lafe asked readers yesterday
for their thoughts on virtualization. One reader thinks Microsoft has a ways
to go in that arena:
Until Microsoft's Hyper-V can do VMotion, they don't stand a chance against
Tell us what you think! Leave a comment below, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ed Scannell is the editor of Redmond magazine.