[Homestead] Microsoft vs the world

Tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Thu Sep 23 15:16:10 EDT 2004


I used to worry about the Microsoft monopoly which they still keep 
trying to maintain long after it went into a steep decline., abandoned 
in Asia and most of Europe.

Almost anything you can do in Win 98 or XP you can do in Linux, and with 
IBM pushing it heavily on desktops as well as servers, there is no 
reason to stay long-term with Microsoft software.  Or go to the mush 
superior Apple OS. that puts Microsoft to shame anyway.


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  Microsoft to secure IE for XP only

By Paul Festa <mailto:paulf at cnet.com> CNET News.com September 23, 2004, 
4:00 AM PT

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*If you're one of about 200 million people using older versions of 
Windows and you want the latest security enhancements to Internet 
Explorer, get your credit card ready.*

Microsoft this week reiterated that it would keep the new version of 
Microsoft's IE Web browser available only as part of the recently 
released Windows XP operating system, Service Pack 2. The upgrade to XP 
from any previous Windows versions is $99 when ordered from Microsoft. 
Starting from scratch, the operating system costs $199.

That, analysts say, is a steep price to pay to secure a browser that 
swept the market as a free, standalone product.

"It's a problem that people should have to pay for a whole OS upgrade to 
get a safe browser," said Michael Cherry, analyst with Directions on 
Microsoft in Redmond, Wash. "It does look like a certain amount of this 
is to encourage upgrade to XP."

Microsoft affirmed that its recent security improvements to IE would be 
made available only to XP users.

"We do not have plans to deliver Windows XP SP2 enhancements for Windows 
2000 or other older versions of Windows," the company said in a 
statement. "The most secure version of Windows today is Windows XP with 
SP2. We recommend that customers upgrade to XP and SP2 as quickly as 
possible."


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The Internet's security mess has proved profitable for many companies 
<http://news.zdnet.com/2100-1009_22-5200588.html?tag=nl>, particularly 
antivirus firms. Microsoft has declared security job No. 1.

By refusing to offer IE's security upgrades to users of older operating 
systems except through paid upgrades to XP, Microsoft may be turning the 
lemons of its browser's security reputation into the lemonade of a 
powerful upgrade selling point.

That lemonade comes in the midst of a painfully dry spell for the 
company's operating system business.

Three years have passed since Microsoft introduced its last new 
operating system, and its upcoming release, code-named Longhorn, has 
been plagued by delays. Microsoft last month scaled back technical 
ambitions for Longhorn in order to meet a 2006 deadline.

While Wall Street anxiously awaits an operating system release that can 
produce revenues until Longhorn appears, Microsoft is eyeing the nearly 
half of the world's 390 million Windows users who have opted to stick 
with operating systems older than XP, including Windows versions 2000, 
ME, 98 and 95.

*"Ancient history"*
Microsoft denied it was deliberately capitalizing on the Internet's 
security woes to stimulate demand for XP.

"Microsoft is not using security issues or any security situation to try 
to drive upgrades," said a company representative. "But it only makes 
sense that the latest products are the most secure."

Microsoft has maintained that the browser is part of the operating 
system, a point of contention in its antitrust battle with the U.S. 
government.

Last year, the company ruled out 
<http://news.zdnet.com/2100-3513_22-1012943.html?tag=nl> future releases 
of IE as a standalone product. This week, the company reiterated that 
stance.

"IE has been a part of the operating system since its release," said the 
Microsoft representative. "IE is a feature of Windows."

When asked about IE's origin as a free, standalone product, the 
representative said, "You're talking in software terms that might be 
considered ancient history."

Microsoft promised "ongoing security updates" for all supported versions 
<http://dw.com.com/redir?destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fsupport.microsoft.com%2Fdefault.aspx%3Fscid%3Dfh%3B%255bln%255d%3BLifeWin&siteId=22&oId=2100-3513-5378366&ontId=3513&lop=nl_ex> 
of Windows and IE.

The ongoing security updates do not, as Microsoft points out, include 
the latest security fixes with Service Pack 2, released last month 
<http://news.zdnet.com/2100-3513_22-5300317.html?tag=nl>. Those include 
a new pop-up blocker and a new system of handling ActiveX controls and 
downloaded content.

And it's those more substantial changes, rather than the bug fixes that 
come with routine upgrades for supported products, that security 
organizations have lauded for addressing IE's graver security concerns.

Now it's unclear whether even half the Windows world will have access to 
the shored up IE.

"It's particularly bothersome if a product is in mainstream support, 
because what does mainstream support mean then?" said Directions on 
Microsoft's Cherry.

Microsoft currently commands about 94 percent of the worldwide operating 
system market measured by software shipments, according to IDC. (That 
number factors in revenue-producing copies of the open-source Linux 
operating system, but not free ones).

Of Microsoft's approximately 390 million operating system installations 
around the world, Windows XP Pro constitutes 26.1 percent, Windows XP 
Home 24.7 percent, IDC said.

The remaining 49.2 percent is composed of Windows 2000 Professional 
(17.5 percent), Windows 98 (14.9 percent), Windows ME (6.5 percent), 
Windows 95 (5.4 percent), and Windows NT Workstation (4.9 percent).

That 49.2 percent of Windows users are left out in the cold when it 
comes to significant updates to IE and other software.

People running Internet Explorer without SP2 face an array of security 
scenarios, many of them linked to lax security associated with the 
ActiveX API, or application programming interface.

SP2 also brought IE up to date with its competitors with a robust pop-up 
blocker.

"Although I can understand the reasons why Microsoft would like to 
simplify its internal processes, I'm not in favor of bundling security 
patches, bug fixes and new features into one package," said IDC Vice 
President Dan Kusnetsky. "Organizations wanting only security-related 
updates or just a specific new feature are forced to make an 
all-or-nothing choice."

*Firefox in the hunt*
While organizations and individuals weigh the merits of all and nothing 
with respect to Windows and IE, a competing open-source browser may 
benefit from Microsoft's decision to reserve SP2's browser upgrades for 
XP users.

The Mozilla Foundation's Firefox browser is potentially eroding 
<http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9588_22-5368302.html?tag=nl> Microsoft's 
overwhelming market share even prior to its final version 1.0 release. 
Last week's release of the first preview release of Firefox 1.0 blew 
past <http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9588_22-5371875.html?tag=nl> its 10-day 
goal of 1 million downloads in just more than 4 days.

Firefox, Apple Computer's Safari browser and Opera Software's desktop 
browser together command a mere sliver of market share. But features 
such as tabbed browsing and earlier adoption of pop-up controls have won 
them adherents among potentially influential early adopters and 
technology buffs.

Even some Microsoft bloggers 
<http://dw.com.com/redir?destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fblogs.msdn.com%2Fshawnmor%2Farchive%2F2004%2F07%2F13%2F181831.aspx&siteId=22&oId=2100-3513-5378366&ontId=3513&lop=nl_ex> 
have admitted 
<http://dw.com.com/redir?destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fradio.weblogs.com%2F0001011%2F2004%2F09%2F15.html%23a8209&siteId=22&oId=2100-3513-5378366&ontId=3513&lop=nl_ex> 
to liking Firefox.

With Longhorn still years away, Microsoft is feeling the heat to produce 
a browser.

That heat has come in many forms, from grassroots campaigns 
<http://news.zdnet.com/2100-3513_22-5322759.html?tag=nl> by Web 
developers urging people to switch from IE to Firefox and other 
alternatives, to Mozilla's own marketing push 
<http://dw.com.com/redir?destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.spreadfirefox.com%2F&siteId=22&oId=2100-3513-5378366&ontId=3513&lop=nl_ex>, 
to a steady drumbeat of lacerating Web log and newsgroup posts decrying 
IE's years of stagnation 
<http://news.zdnet.com/2100-3513_22-5304259.html?tag=nl>.

"I've always wondered what the problem is with the IE team," one 
respondent wrote in a feedback thread 
<http://dw.com.com/redir?destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fblogs.msdn.com%2Fdmassy%2Farchive%2F2004%2F08%2F05%2F209428.aspx%23FeedBack&siteId=22&oId=2100-3513-5378366&ontId=3513&lop=nl_ex> 
on IE evangelist Dave Massy's blog. "I mean, it's just a browser. You 
need to render a page based on well-documented standards...and that's 
it! You've opted to not have tabbed browsing or any other 
personalization. It's just a window shell and the browser content...I 
wonder if there are only like four people who work on IE or something? I 
seriously don't get it."

Massy and others have defended the company by explaining that recent 
development efforts have been geared at security improvements.

A representative for Firefox, which will face security scrutiny of its 
own <http://news.zdnet.com/2100-3513_22-5366108.html?tag=nl> should it 
make good on its competitive threat to IE, said any pressure it was 
exerting on Microsoft to update IE was evidence of its success.

"IE users need all the help they can get," said Mozilla Foundation 
spokesman Bart Decrem. "And we're trying to help them. If Microsoft will 
help them, all the better. At the end of the day, the mission of the 
Mozilla Foundation is to provide meaningful choice, and the reason there 
hasn't been a lot of innovation from the dominant provider is because of 
their monopoly position. So if they are forced to innovate and respond 
to the success of Firefox, we are achieving our mission."

Some analysts say Microsoft's reluctance to issue SP2's browser security 
features to non-XP users has as much to do with being shorthanded as 
wanting to drive XP adoption.

"Their main focus now is on Longhorn IE," said Matt Rosoff, another 
analyst with Directions on Microsoft. "It's a staffing and a cost issue."

Rosoff agreed that Firefox and other second-tier browsers might benefit 
from Microsoft's IE distribution policies, but he noted that the vast 
majority of consumers are far less likely to download a browser than the 
typical Firefox early adopter.

"From a consumer standpoint, I think evaluating other browsers makes 
sense," Rosoff said. "And Microsoft is going to face more and more users 
who are on dual platforms, who won't see any reason to upgrade once they 
see that Firefox offers the pop-up blocker and other features they'd 
have to pay for in IE? But most consumers don't download anything if 
they can avoid it."







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