It's an all-too-familiar marketing ploy: download a utility you really want, and get a toolbar for your browser free. This week, Microsoft joined the "download one, get one free" bandwagon, but with a twist: Redmond announced a deal with Sun Microsystems to offer the MSN Toolbar to US users of Internet Explorer whenever they download the Java Runtime Environment. MSN Toolbar offers one-click access to Live Search, direct access to Windows Live Hotmail and Windows Live Messenger, and stories from the MSN network. If you hate toolbars, or your browser's already running your favorite toolbar, you can opt out of the MSN toolbar.
This Microsoft plus Sun pairing represents a big "win" for Microsoft, as Google's toolbar was previously being offered as the freebie with Java. As El Reg points out, this sort of thing is nothing new for Sun and Java. Java's also been used to deliver offers of OpenOffice and the Yahoo! toobar (the latter to Mozilla Firefox browser users only).
So, how do you feel about these combo deals? Would you rather get a coupon for free french fries, or are you comfortable with getting "two for one" downloads"? Join us after the jump and sound off.
InfoWorld's Randall C. Kennedy has put Windows 7's Milestone 3 pre-beta build 6801, a freebie from last month's Microsoft Professional Developer's Conference, through a variety of benchmark tests, and isn't all that impressed:
As I reported on my Enterprise Desktop blog, the more I dug into Windows 7, the more I saw an OS that looked and felt like a slightly tweaked version of Windows Vista.
Just as slow as Vista...Just as consumer-focused as Vista...Just as confusing as Vista...
Kennedy cites these similarities:
The number of execution threads in key subsystems is almost the same in Windows 7 as in Vista
Benchmarks of Windows 7 and Vista Ultimate SP1 using the DMS Clarity Studio tools suite show almost identical results
Similar amounts of RAM are used by Windows 7 and Windows Vista
From these facts and visual similarities between Windows 7 and Vista, Kennedy concludes:
Bottom line: So far, Windows 7 looks and behaves almost exactly like Windows Vista. It performs almost exactly like Vista. And it breaks all sorts of things that used to work just fine under Vista. In other words, Microsoft's follow-up to its most unpopular OS release since Windows Me threatens to deliver zero measurable performance benefits while introducing new and potentially crippling compatibility issues.
Is Kennedy right, or is he missing a big difference between Windows 7 and its predecessor? For my take, join me after the break.
Nearly a quarter century ago, a young, pinup version Bill Gates released Microsoft’s first operating system, Windows. While the announcement was made in 1983, and the boxes wouldn’t see store shelves until 1985, Gates’ debut at New York’s Helmsley Palace Hotel was a notably ambitious one.
Gates stated that his fledgling operating system would be powering 90% of IBM’s computers by 1984. This didn’t come true initially (read: missed release date by a year), but it has managed to come to fruition as a number that’s near Windows’ market share today.
While Windows 1 was a short-lived ride, being made obsolete only two years later by Windows 2, it was a great start for Microsoft. Using a brand new graphical interface, it certainly made an impact on computing, as we know it today.
Google's open-source Android platform may not have revolutionized the mobile industry just yet, but it has spurred some interesting comments among top level execs. Two weeks ago, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said that the current iteration of Android isn't "good enough to put the Sprint brand name on it," and taking it a step further, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer says he sees the move as being finanically unsound for Google.
"They can hire smart guys, hire a lot of people, blah dee blah dee blah, but you know they start out way behind, in a certain sense," Ballmer said while speaking at Telstra's annual investment day.
Ballmer went on to say that he doesn't understand Google's strategy, criticizing a product launch launch "that has no revenue model." But the potshots didn't end there. Ballmer further indicated that "Google doesn't exactly bubble to the top of the list of competitors we've got going in mobile." Oh snap!
Is Ballmer underestimating the potential of Google's Android platform? Hit the jump and give us your thoughts.
This month's Patch Tuesday, unlike October's, is a quiet one, with just two security bulletins:
MS08-069 solves a remote code execution vulnerability in Microsoft's XML Core Service that is rated as Critical for version 3.0 and Important for later versions. All 32-bit and 64-bit desktop versions of Windows from Windows 2000 SP4 through Windows Vista SP1 are affected, as well as Microsoft Office 2003 and 2007. The Exploitability Index is 1 (Consistent Exploit Code Likely - the most serious ranking) or 2 (Inconsistent Exploit Code Likely), depending upon the version of XML Core Services installed. Windows Server 2003 and some installations of Windows Server 2008 are also affected.
MS08-068 patches a remote code execution vulnerability in the SMB protocol. MS08-068 is rated as Important for Windows 2000 SP4 and Windows XP, and Moderate for Windows Vista. Windows Server 2003 and all Windows Server 2008 installations are also affected. Despite Microsoft's rating this vulnerability as only Important rather than Critical, MS08-068's Exploitability Index is 1 because exploit code targeting Windows XP is already public.
That's it for Patch Tuesday security bulletins, both of which will be arriving soon via Windows Update (or can be downloaded manually if you prefer). What else has Microsoft served up?
The only non-security content this time is the usual monthly update for the Malicious Software Removal Tool (KB890830; not yet updated as this article was posted now updated) and the usual monthly update for the Windows Mail junk mail filter (KB905866), available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions.
Microsoft has released its DirectX November 2008 update as part of the company's loosely followed bi-annual update schedule. The last DirectX update was served up in August.
A number of enhancements mostly of interest to developers come packaged in the November DirectX SDK, as well as a Direct3D 11 technical preview with associated components and tools. As far as gamers are concerned, we found little information as to what possible bugs and performance enhancements the new update addresses.
If you're experiencing unexplained wonkiness while gaming and have been unable to troubleshoot the problem, you may want to give the November update a spin. Otherwise, you'll likely receive the update as a pre-packaged install on a new game at some point.
Long Zheng's I Started Something blog reports a welcome improvement in Windows 7's Complete PC Backup: in addition to backing up to local hard disks and DVDs, you can now back up to a network share. Complete PC Backup is the image (aka "bare metal restore") backup feature originally found in Vista's Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions (see our 2007 article to learn how it compares to other popular image backup/restore programs). This new feature brings Complete PC Backup's backup target options basically in line with those in the file/folder backup portion of the Backup and Restore Center, and makes it possible to use an NAS appliance as well as a folder share on another PC as a backup target.
It's important to realize that Complete PC Backup is a complementary technology to file and folder backup. Use it to back up your entire PC, and then use file and folder backup to backup data files that change after you create an image backup. Note that the NTBackup program (included in Windows XP and earlier versions) is not an image backup program, but a file and folder backup program only; it does not have a true 'bare metal' restore option.
I've used Complete PC Backup on a number of occasions to backup and restore Windows Vista systems, and I'm looking forward to this additional improvement in Windows 7's version (and I hope it will be available in all Windows 7 SKUs, by the way). What do you think? Join us after the jump and tell us.
Microsoft last week released the fifth volume of its Security Intelligence Report (SIR) covering the period between January through June of 2008. The report, which purports to offer an "in-depth perspective on software vulnerabilities and exploits, malicious code threats, and potentially unwanted software," uses data derived from what Microsoft claims are hundreds of millions of Windows users, all of which is analyzed and laid out in a tidy 13MB PDF download.
According to the 150-page report, hackers are increasingly honing in on third party applications rather than attempting to attack Microsoft directly. Vulnerabilities in programs like RealPlayer, QuickTime, WinZip, and other non-operating system software provide hackers with a greater number of exploits requiring a low degree of complexity, the report claims.
"It is alarming to see that more than 90 percent of vulnerabilities disclosed in 1H08 affected applications, and nearly half of all industry vulnerabilities are rated as High Severity," Microsoft says in its report. "Additionally, 1H08 showed how threats are increasingly affecting a variety of vendors beyond Microsoft."
The report also notes several geographical trends in security threats. Among them, password stealers such are Win32/Bancos are most prominent in Brazil where the overall infection rate has risen an alarming 81.8 percent from 2H07 to 1H08. In the U.S., trojan downloaders, like Win32/Zlob, account for the largest single category of threat.
Election Day wasn't the only event to make history on November 4th - the FCC made its own kind of history on Tuesday in approving the development of wireless devices that can use "white space" (the unused broadcast TV spectrum between broadcast TV channels, which ranges from 512MHz to 698 MHz). Unlike the close race between fellow senators for the US Presidency, the FCC decision to open up unused TV spectrum was unanimous, ZDNet's Sean Portnoy reports, despite lobbying against the rule by 50 members of Congress and a variety of recording artists worried about the effects of the decision on their live performances.
The decision (available here in PDF format) balances the hopes of companies like Microsoft and Google to make wireless Internet-enabled devices even more ubiquitous than now with the fears of the theater industry that exploiting white space will interfere with wireless microphones that use the same spectrum, and the concerns of the National Association of Broadcasters that using "white space" will interfere with TV viewing.
To find out how the FCC plans to make everybody happy in wirelessland, join us after the jump.
This year's edition of WinHEC, which has already demonstrated Windows 7's digital goodness with Device Stage, has more good news about Microsoft's next desktop operating system:
Longer battery life
Faster boot times
As Maximum PC.com readers know, better hardware support has been a major goal of Windows 7 right from the start, and it looks as if Windows 7, even in its pre-beta stage, is making impressive strides.
Engadget has posted a video from WinHEC that shows a Windows 7 machine providing energy savings equivalent to an extra hour of DVD playback: you won't have to worry about running out of power before the movie ends, and you'll even have enough juice for a special feature or two.
WinHEC also featured Microsoft exec Jon DeVaan, the Senior Vice President in charge of Core Operating System Division, performing a "boot drag race" pitting identical machines running Windows 7 and Windows Vista: Windows 7 won by several seconds. It's part of DeVaan and Steven Sinofsky's keynote address, which you can see at the WinHEC virtual pressroom.
To find out who else is seeing the improvements in Windows 7, join us after the jump.