by CIO Staff

Top 10 IT News Stories of the Week: Challenges for Microsoft

Mar 24, 20065 mins

A challenging week for Microsoft. The software giant dominated the headlines this week, particularly around the company’s decision to delay its Vista operating system. In other news, Gates Inc.’s Internet Explorer was hit with more security concerns, the vendor tried again to cozy up to the European Commission, and rumors circulated about a new secret Microsoft project.

1. “Microsoft Bumps Vista Launch to Jan. ’07,”, 3/22. Gates Inc. has pushed back broad availability of its Windows Vista client operating system from November until early next year, meaning that PCs with consumer versions of Vista pre-installed won’t ship in time for the holiday season. The delay is related to an unspecified quality issue and was requested by Microsoft’s partners. Gates Inc. also reshuffled its platform and services division, creating a new group to watch over Windows and Windows Live services development.

2. “Microsoft to Update IE After Bugs,”, 3/22. In the wake of the discovery of three unpatched vulnerabilities in its Internet Explorer Web browser, Microsoft announced it’s working on an update to the software that could appear as early as April. Two of the bugs are considered critical vulnerabilities because they could each potentially be exploited by hackers to take control of a user’s PC. The third bug is less serious, but does cause Internet Explorer to crash.

3. “Attack Hits Sun Public Grid Service on Day One,”NetworkWorld, 3/23. Not a very auspicious start for Sun, with the company’s public grid service hit by a denial-of-service (DoS) attack on its very first day in operation. Sun had hoped to turn on the grid last year, but delayed the rollout a number of times due to issues ranging from security to development obstacles. The DoS attack forced Sun to take down a third-party text-to-speech application hosted on the grid.

4. “Laptop Theft at Fidelity Exposes Data on HP Workers,”NetworkWorld, 3/23. There were some red faces at Fidelity Investments this week as the company confirmed a laptop containing confidential information on more than 196,000 current and former Hewlett-Packard employees had been stolen. So far, the stolen information, which includes Social Security numbers and workers’ compensation details, doesn’t appear to have been misused. The laptop was stolen from Fidelity staff who brought it to a business meeting outside of the company’s office.

5. “Google to Launch Financial Website,”, 3/21. The search company released a financial news and information website, Google Finance, which will compete with established similar offerings from Yahoo and Microsoft. Unlike other sites, Google Finance allows users to search for stock information by company name and executives instead of having to enter a ticker symbol. The move is one more step in Google becoming a Web portal, according to analysts.

6. “Microsoft Tries to Placate EU…Again,”, 3/22. Gates Inc. pledged to offer free and unlimited technical support to licensees of its workgroup server protocols, upping the previous offer of 500 hours of such support. It’s the latest attempt by Microsoft to try to assure the European Commission that the software giant has complied with the body’s 2004 antitrust ruling. Microsoft and the commission have continually locked horns over the issue of compliance with the ruling, with the commission maintaining that the documentation Microsoft has supplied remains insufficient.

7. “Apple Blasts Proposed French Law,”, 3/22. My, how times have changed. Apple used to proudly fly the Jolly Roger flag at its headquarters, but now it’s accusing France of “state-sponsored piracy.” At issue is a proposed French law that would force companies including Apple to sell digital music that is compatible with any music player. At present, a user purchasing a song from Apple’s iTunes store can play that music only on Apple’s iPods. Should the legislation become law, analysts expect Apple will exit the French digital music market.

8. “A Chill in Oracle’s Hot Numbers,”BusinessWeek, 3/21. While Oracle executives seemed pleased with the company’s fiscal third-quarter results, investors and analysts were concerned over an ongoing disappointing performance by the software vendor’s database business. While sales of Oracle’s applications surged, much of that growth was due to recently purchased companies including Siebel and PeopleSoft. Databases remain vital to Oracle, accounting for 75 percent of the firm’s revenue.

9. “Microsoft Readying PSP Challenger, Reports Say,”PC World, 3/21. No sooner did Microsoft reveal its Origami project than the software giant appears to have another secretive endeavor up its sleeve. This time, instead of a mini tablet PC, Gates Inc. is rumored to be working on a handheld gaming device that can also play music and video. Microsoft has assembled a team of engineers from its Xbox gaming division to work on the project over the next year or two. The device would allow Microsoft to compete with Sony’s PlayStation Portable (PSP).

10. “Dell Goes High-End And Hip,”BusinessWeek, 3/23. On the lookout for ways to kickstart growth, Dell announced plans to acquire Alienware, a maker of high-end computers for gamers. The move is interesting since Dell rarely purchases other companies and because Alienware uses chips from Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). Dell remains an Intel-only shop, but rumors keep circulating that the company will move over to also selling computers powered by AMD. Acquiring Alienware gives Dell a back door into selling machines running on AMD processors, according to analysts.

-China Martens, IDG News Service