Microsoft Talks Windows Embedded Handheld

Microsoft's mobile strategy remains as clear as a Malian referee's vision at the World Cup. Last week Redmond started talking up its Windows Embedded Handheld business, which will be based on Windows Mobile 6.5 until a new line of phones comes out that's based on something called Windows Embedded Compact 7. There might or might not be an upgrade from WinMo 6.5 to WEC 7, and we have no idea how or whether Windows Mobile 7 fits into all this. Somewhere in all of this confusion, somebody was called for a phantom foul and the Americans had a winning goal disallowed. Boo. Seriously, though, is it any wonder that Microsoft is getting its lunch eaten in the mobile market? We think not...

Posted by Lee Pender on June 21, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


Will Dell Dump Windows for Google's Chrome OS?

Those of you who think that PCs are on their way out might want to think again. IDC says that PC sales will grow 20 percent this year, meaning that Microsoft's Windows cash cow should keep mooing and grazing for quite a while to come.

Unless Dell starts herding it toward the slaughterhouse. The Texas PC maker, not the powerhouse it once was but certainly still relevant, is talking to Google about running the Chrome operating system on its laptops -- rather than Windows, maybe. Now, this story hasn't gotten all that much play yet, but we at RCPU think that it could end up being a pretty big deal.

Everything's a bit sketchy right now -- all we know is that Dell is in talks with Google. We don't know how this will play out, whether Dell plans to ditch Windows or exactly which devices it might ship with Chrome OS installed. What we do know, though, is that Dell is apparently looking at running Chrome on laptops and possibly on its Streak mini-tablet, which is supposed to debut in the U.S. in July.

Why should partners care about this? Well, for one, a major PC manufacturer pulling away from Windows would represent a massive shift in the OS landscape. It would also signal a potential enterprise move away from Windows, which could threaten the services and applications a lot of partners provide.

Beyond that, Windows and Office are Microsoft's money products. They keep the wheels turning in Redmond. A big revenue hit in one of those areas -- like the one Microsoft experienced at the depth of the Vista debacle -- could have serious consequences for Microsoft, and therefore for partners, financially.

Still, it's really hard to imagine a PC maker just dumping Windows. It's so familiar and ubiquitous that consumers and enterprises (especially enterprises) are highly unlikely to just dump it cold turkey. Besides, it works with everything else in the Microsoft infrastructure, whereas Chrome OS is a bit of an unknown quantity in that sense. We can imagine Dell offering Chrome as an option, but not as the go-to OS for its PCs. And we can't imagine all that many customers buying into Chrome -- for now.

Microsoft, though, has finally had an enemy breach its most secure market-share perimeter. If Dell does start offering Google OS, we'll have to see whether it plays out better than, say, Linux-based machines have for PC manufacturers. And we'll also get a sense for just how strong Windows 7 and the Microsoft franchise really are.

Would you buy a PC with Chrome OS on it? Would you sell one? Send your thoughts to [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on June 21, 2010 at 11:56 AM12 comments


Microsoft, FBI, Bankers Launch Fraud-Reporting System

We know what you're thinking: What are they going to do, report themselves? Just kidding...sort of. We're kind of not kidding about the bankers. But we digress... What looks like something of a motley crew (as opposed to Crue -- and, no, you're not getting a video for this one) is actually out to report fraud on the Internet. We think that this is a great initiative, actually -- not only because it'll help people avoid being defrauded but also because it could turn into a nice source for running jokes.  

Posted by Lee Pender on June 21, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


Is Microsoft Office 2010 Worth the Money?

Partners have had their hands on Office 2010 for a while now, but the massive productivity suite just rolled out to consumers on Tuesday. It's not cheap -- depending on the version, it runs from about $150 to nearly $500.

Five hundred dollars? (It just looks so much more dramatic spelled out.) Granted, that's for the highest-end version of the software (Office Professional 2010), but your editor does much of his work on a netbook that only cost $350 -- and that was with an upgrade to 2GB of memory plus the cost of shipping. We at RCPU are still trying to figure out Office 2007 (at home -- not in the office). Why on earth would we move to Office 2010? Heck, Office 2003, like XP, still works just fine. Your editor is typing in Microsoft Word 2003 right now.

It used to be that buying a new version of Office was just a given. Each version was pretty significantly better than the one before, and not much of anything else could seriously compete with it (fire away, StarOffice and WordPerfect fans). Now, though, there are lots of productivity-suite options not named Office, and some of them are free. For one, Microsoft recently released its own (limited) free online version of Office. Then there are OpenOffice.org and Google Apps (among others), both of which cost nothing for basic versions and are compatible with Microsoft Office.

We believe that the primary driver for sticking with Office is fear. Sure, Google Apps and other such suites are supposed to be compatible with Word and Excel, but...what if they're not? What then? Will people be able to open my files? Will I have to use some sort of weird adapter? It's all too scary to consider.

Free online suites are compatible -- Google Docs might be a bit clunky to use, but the brief process of transitioning a document from Docs to Word has been as smooth as silk in our experience. We use Google Apps every day and convert Docs documents to Word documents all the time. Still, the thought always persists: Is this really going to work? Better check Word just to make sure...And so Office rolls on, and so does the revenue for Microsoft, and for partners that's probably not a bad thing.

We have a comment on Office from RCPU e-mail legend Peter, who really wasn't too impressed by it:

“I went to the Office 2010 launch in Melbourne this week, and that was a major disappointment. What do they do with that $9 billion per year, anyway? The main presenter looked like he was about 12 years old. Office 2010 looks just like 2007 with a few fixes. Call me a Luddite, but I'm still on XP Pro and Office 2003. Microsoft folk actually seem to believe that their customers like that idiotic ribbon thing. They were not at all impressed when I told them repeatedly that I actually like Google!”

Peter, we like Google too, and we're still trying to get around Office 2007. The question is, though, would you go all-Google, all the time? We at RCPU aren't so sure that we would...yet. But free vs. $150 and up really does seem tempting.

What's your take on Office 2010? Is it worth the money, or are you ready to go Google (or OpenOffice.org)? Sound off at [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on June 17, 2010 at 11:56 AM23 comments


FBI Arrests iPad Hacker

The dude who might have (or might not have...) exposed the e-mail addresses of thousands of iPad users recently has just gotten himself into a whole mess of trouble with the FBI...over drug charges. This could be nothing, of course, but it's a slow news week. Anybody want to guess what kind of drug a 20-something computer geek might have just maybe allegedly had (although we don't know for sure)? We don't know -- but we're thinking of horticulture here...

Posted by Lee Pender on June 17, 2010 at 11:56 AM2 comments


Twitter Struggling? What a Shame...

Your editor is not a fan of Twitter, in case you hadn't picked up on that in recent months. So it was with a touch of glee that we read this week that Twitter isn't keeping up very well from traffic from the World Cup. We knew there was a reason why we were soccer fans... Maybe the World Cup will be the event that brings Twitter down once and for all. We can only hope. In the meantime, of course, you can follow RCPU at http://twitter.com/leepender, as always.

Posted by Lee Pender on June 17, 2010 at 11:56 AM2 comments


Attackers Exploit Windows XP Bug Exposed by Google Researcher

"Like sands through the hourglass, so are the Days of Our Lives..."

This one is playing out like a steamy summer soap opera. OK, maybe it's not that good, but it's not bad for the middle of June. Attackers are exploiting a nasty little vulnerability in XP that remains un-patched (although Microsoft has offered a workaround).

Boring, right? No need for the sands through the hourglass? Well, you only know part of the story. Here's the rest: The fellow who discovered this vulnerability is a Google researcher in Switzerland. He did the right thing and notified Microsoft of the bug. Then, a few days later, he did something else. He posted the bug to a popular mailing list called Full Disclosure -- along with instructions on how to exploit (and also mitigate) it.

It's that last bit that's so interesting. The researcher said that he had to include a potential exploit in his message or nobody would have paid attention to him. Hmmm…Would that have been such a bad thing? If nobody had paid attention to him, would anybody be exploiting the hole now? Maybe not. Would Microsoft be fixing it? That's a good question.

Ultimately, Microsoft is responsible for securing its products, particularly the world's most popular operating system. So, if there's no patch for this vulnerability -- which gives attackers a method of installing malware on computers through a browser -- then it's Microsoft's responsibility to create one and distribute it as soon as possible. This is Microsoft's problem, and any negative consequences that result from it are Microsoft's fault.

But how about this guy at Google who did the responsible thing by notifying Microsoft of  the bug but sure didn't leave much time before he gave instructions on how to use it to hack XP? The Forbes article linked above quotes a researcher from security firm Sophos as saying that the Google researcher's behavior was "utterly irresponsible." That's probably not much of an overstatement. And we're guessing -- just guessing -- that this guy from Google didn't mind opening a rival's hugely popular product to attacks...and to criticism.

As for Google itself, the company has its hands in the air in innocence like a World Cup soccer player who has just tried to break his opponent's leg and is trying to get out of a red card. Here's what a Google spokesperson told Forbes about the researcher: "His personal views on disclosure don't reflect the views of his colleagues or Google's stance on disclosure as a whole."

The Google spokesperson forgot to add, "But we still find this hilarious." OK, maybe not. But, just as is often the case in soap operas (from what we hear...) nobody is coming out of this situation looking all that good (except maybe Sophos).

What's your take on disclosure of security flaws? Did the Google researcher do the right thing, or was he reckless? Speak your mind at [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on June 16, 2010 at 11:56 AM5 comments


RIM Tests a Tablet

Another company is trying to come up with a tablet computer that will inevitably not be as cool as the iPad (although we still officially think that the iPad looks ridiculous). This time, it's all-business BlackBerry maker Research in Motion. We're still not sure why anybody would want a tablet computer, but those folks who do shouldn't lack for choice in the years to come.

Posted by Lee Pender on June 16, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


Bunker-V Could Improve Hyper-V Security

Code-named Archie, Bunker-V...nah, we're just kidding. It's not code-named Archie, but Bunker-V from Microsoft could end up being critical to Hyper-V security.

Posted by Lee Pender on June 16, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


Microsoft Offers Windows Azure Security Guidelines

This is kind of a developer thing, but it should be pretty interesting to anybody looking to build applications in Azure. Microsoft has released a set of guidelines on how to make sure apps built in Azure are safe. Guideline No. 1 (not really): Don't tell any Google researchers about any security flaws.

Posted by Lee Pender on June 16, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


AT&T Sorry for iPad Security Problem

There's a problem with the iPad, but it's not Apple's fault. Or there was a problem, anyway, when a hack targeted at service provider AT&T exposed users' e-mail addresses last week. Folks as famous as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had their e-mails exposed, and the FBI is now involved. So, this is kind of a big deal -- but as for the folks at AT&T, they're just so, so sorry that it happened. Really.

Posted by Lee Pender on June 14, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


Viewfinity Updates Cloud-Based Systems Management Package

Welcome to summer. Tech-Ed is over, and the E3 consumer-electronics show has left us with a dearth of enterprise-technology news. So, we're going to take this opportunity to talk about some vendors and subjects we don't often cover.

First up this week is Viewfinity, a systems management company that's taking on the likes of BeyondTrust with a cloud-based package that offers privilege management, patch management and operating-system deployment, among other functions.

Greatest among these, at least in terms of customer interest, is privilege management, says company president Gil Rapaport, who dined with your editor at lunchtime today. "Seventy-five percent of our pipeline and demand is privilege management," he said.

It's not hard to understand why. Most companies take a binary approach to issuing user privileges -- they either open the gates to PCs completely or lock them up tight. Viewfinity's goal is to let IT professionals find a happy medium -- for instance, users should be able to change the time zones on their machines, but letting them download music-sharing applications or large video files is something most administrators would like to avoid.

Version 3.0 of Viewfinity's suite makes that kind of balanced administration possible, and it does it using a native cloud platform -- the company has built its applications for the cloud from the beginning (although customers do have the option of using a purely vendor-hosted service or setting up a "private cloud" inside their own walls). That's a big deal, said Rapaport, who noted that a lot of vendors have trouble porting on-premises applications to the cloud.

He also noted that a cloud model lets Viewfinity get updates easily and quickly to mobile workers, whose numbers are increasing all the time. "With us, install an application and all the sales representatives will get policies within five minutes," Rapaport said.

Viewfinity is wading into some tough waters competing in a hot market, but its offering is intriguing. It's also looking for partners, so there's a channel angle here -- which is good given that RCPU is a channel-focused newsletter.

Partners, which interesting third-party vendors are you working with now? (PR folks, please resist the temptation to respond to this query -- we're looking for feedback from partners here. Thanks.) Send your responses to [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on June 14, 2010 at 11:56 AM1 comments