Vista SP2 Closing In

Vista wasn't a resounding success, so many turned to SP1 for help. But SP1 wasn't a resounding success either, as we reported in a cover story.

Now there are two possible solutions. One is Windows 7, which you all seem to like very much. There's also Vista SP2, which is now what Microsoft is calling a release candidate and I just call a late beta. This is a big baby, coming in at a hefty 300MB. Let's hope the download works better than SP1.

My dad is a Vista user (it came with his new laptop, so he didn't exactly volunteer). Vista SP1 decided to download itself and before he knew it, the laptop was more messed up than Lindsay Lohan at an all-night Hollywood party. We'll be anxious to see how much good SP2 actually does.

Have you downloaded the SP2 late beta? If so, how's it going? Send your reports to dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Windows 7 Beta Bettered
I've tracked the Windows 7 beta and the IE 8 beta. Windows 7 has testers excited, and anxious for the OS to ship. IE 8 has hosed more systems than the Boston Fire Department.

Microsoft, as I understand it, hasn't had a lot of Windows complaints but they've heard a few howls about IE 8, which comes with the new OS. Microsoft blames browser add-ins and updated the beta to fix it.

Excel Bug Bites
Excel is apparently vulnerable to remote code execution attacks, and Microsoft is trying to figure out why and how to fix it.

Symantec found the bug and came up the clever name: Trojan.Mdropper.AC. The attack works through a malicious spreadsheet that's masked by a legit file when the user opens it. Microsoft is working on a patch and points out the attacks have been limited so far.

Your Turn: IT Gone Good
Two-and-a-half years ago, I wrote a story about IT abusing its power -- blackmailing executives, spying, stealing and sexually harassing.

I'd love to do the opposite, to show where IT uses its power for good. Do you volunteer and use your skills for good? Does your organization itself do good and have IT systems to support those efforts? If so, tell me your tale at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Your Turn: Microsoft's Economic Stamina
Microsoft had a tough last quarter. Revenue and profits were down and the company announced 5,000 layoffs.

I'm working up an essay looking at how Microsoft technologies may see it through tough times. Do you think Microsoft has the stuff to make it through economic calamity? What are the strongest parts of its portfolio -- Azure, Live Mesh, SaaS, Visual Studio, Windows 7? Shoot your best supply-and-demand analyses to dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Your Turn: Green IT
Do you care about green technology? Is there pressure to save energy? Have you pushed any green initiatives, such as virtualization? Are there ways to use Microsoft software more efficiently and has Microsoft told you about them?

Help me spread the green word by writing dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Mailbag: Will Microsoft Make It?, Class-Action No Big Deal, More
Readers share more of their predictions for how Microsoft -- and the tech sector in general -- will make it out of the economic downturn:

Microsoft will need to do some product innovation of its own in order to survive this time around. I don't think it'll be able to steal another "Windows" from Xerox.
-Anonymous

For Microsoft, the future is clear. Windows 7 will replace XP Pro as the flagship Microsoft operating system. It is that good. Even so, its sales will fall short of desired market penetration. Microsoft's true hope for the future lies with a touch-based user interface for its Windows Mobile software and a new physical format that will replace smartphones and netbooks.

My prediction? Look for the next tech-business move to come from the past. Anyone remember Apple's Newton? That physical format, in landscape mode, supportd a virtual qwerty keyboard for speedy, touch-typing text input. In addition, it provided all the functionality of a Kindle, cell phone and workstation. Bonus: The larger, high-resolution screen means on-screen text can be larger (maybe I could even read it without my reading glasses), images display at the size of printed photos, and videos can be viewed without extreme eye strain. For end users, this is the ideal format size for tablet PC applications for hospitals, field inspectors, insurance adjusters and law enforcement officers. For Microsoft, the mini-pad format gives much-needed screen space for Windows Mobile. For Apple, it is the next logical evolution for the iPhone. Plus, Apple gets some vindication for part of its Newton product. The physical format was simply ahead of its time.

Speaking of being ahead of it's time, Trekkers will be quick to point out that this physical format, was predicted in the original "Star Trek" series.
-Dave

The problem is deeper than you imagine. You say Microsoft will be fine, but I don't believe anyone will be fine in the foreseeable future. Most people, especially in business and politics, don't seem to get how deep and painful this one will be.

What Microsoft will do is the same thing other tech companies will do: survive. It will eventually come back to one degree or another, but the old days are gone for good. Fine? I don't think so.
-Anonymous

After a judge ruled against giving the Vista Capable lawsuit against Microsoft class-action status, one reader wrote that it wouldn't have helped the plaintiffs much, anyway. Based on some personal experience, James agrees:

I have to agree with reader Earl about the class-action suit being a benefit only to the lawyers (of course, it probably wouldn't hurt Microsoft that much).

I bought a couple of iPods a few generations ago and got a postcard in the mail the other day. Somebody sued Apple because these particular iPods didn't have some kind of protection on them which allowed them to be scratched very easily. So if I fill out some form on a Web site, I can get either $15 or $25 back, depending on how badly they're scratched. OK, I guess I can fill out this form. Then the postcard went on to say that the total judgment is for $22 million. The lawyers get like $4 million for winning the suit and $200,000 to cover expenses. So who really wins on this one?
-James

Meanwhile, Sharon doesn't think the suit against Microsoft over Vista-to-XP downgrade fees holds much water:

I don't understand why someone would think that you should be able to get past versions of an OS after buying the new version. I realize that for some products, Microsoft allows corporate clients with broad licensing agreements to downgrade for the same price. Never for an end user, though. Should I be able to buy a 2009 car and, when I decide I don't like one of the features, take it back to the dealer and tell them I want an '08?

Applying this to software: Have you ever heard of any software downgrade that didn't require you to buy the older version? The latest version of Photoshop is more complicated than the version I learned. Should I get an older one for free if I bought the new one?
-Sharon

And Ben offers his answer to a reader's question last week about why the EU doesn't pursue Apple over bundling Safari the same way it does Microsoft over IE:

The reason for this is quite simple. The problem is not just that the browser is shipped with the operating system, but that Internet Explorer is integrated into the operating system itself, giving it an unfair competitive advantage over other browsers. When working on Windows, you can pretty much ignore whether you are in Internet Explorer or Windows Explorer.

Safari does not function as the file system browser or integrate with Mac OS in the same way IE does with Windows. I think there is often confusion with the use of the word 'bundled' in this situation, because it could be interpreted in different ways.
-Ben

Join the fray! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to dbarney@redmondmag.com.

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