Microsoft has apparently become the Rodney Dangerfield of the computing world: it can’t get no respect. No matter how hard it tries. According to Jason Notte of TheStreet.com, Microsoft last 18 months of advertising has amounted to zilch. Basically $470 million spent with little to nothing to show for it.
Microsoft’s various campaigns to reestablish it’s brand identity have included “I’m a PC,” “Laptop Hunter,” and “Kylie” (the cute four-year old girl who’s a photo-editing wizard). And we probably don’t need to bring up the Seinfeld debacle that seemed more about selling shoes than computers.
According to Microsoft’s vice president of consumer marketing, Brad Brooks, all this effort is about “going out and building brand loyalty and pride around the brand.” But it’s interesting that despite all its efforts, and all its money, Microsoft can’t seem to make any headway. Might it be the lack of a legitimate competitor for Microsoft? Coke has Pepsi, Ford has General Motors, even Apple has Microsoft. But when your product comes, pretty much by default, on 90% of the PCs in the market, brand loyalty is a tough sell. After all, what real choice is there?
It may only be a side note here in North America, but over in the U.K HP is shaking up its netbook lineup. Normally this isn’t something that would make headline news, but it underscores an interesting new trend. HP is dropping the Mini 2133, the only Linux netbook still in its fleet. Customers will still be able to purchase Microsoft versions of the Mini 1000’s and install Linux on their own, but will now be forced to pay the Microsoft tax.
Tech journalists and enthusiasts alike have been fascinated by Linux’s rise in popularity thanks to low cost PCs, but clearly the mainstream consumer still favors the familiar blue and green of Windows XP. Another unknown is what impact Windows 7 will have on Linux netbooks sales in the future. If the price of the starter edition is the same, or less than XP, we can’t help but wonder if the free OS will have what it takes to compete. Clearly Microsoft is taking the netbook threat seriously, but only time will tell who will win the war.
Will Linux survive in the netbook and low cost PC market? Hit the jump and let us know what you think.
The Registerreports that there's good news and bad news for the many Windows XP users who took a pass on Windows Vista and decided to wait for Windows 7.
The good news? Windows XP users will be eligible for Windows 7 upgrade pricing.
The bad news? Windows XP users will need to do a clean install of Windows 7.
El Reg quotes a Microsoft rep thus:
I can confirm that customers will be able to purchase upgrade media and an upgrade license to move from Windows XP to Windows 7 - however, they will need to do a clean installation of Windows 7.
This requires the user to back up their data, install Windows 7, re-install the programs and restore their data. For PCs running Windows Vista customers have the option of an in-place upgrade of Windows 7 keeping their data and programs intact or to perform a clean install of Windows 7.
For those of you in the XP to Windows 7 camp, does the need to do a clean install bother you, or were you planning a clean install anyway? Join us after the jump for your chance to be heard.
It seems like just yesterday that Microsoft reluctantly introduced us to the world of User Account Control (UAC). Many disgruntled reviewers claimed that the UAC present in Windows Vista was too intrusive. It caused a lot of frustration when trying to install programs that needed administrator credentials. Apple even made a commercial that illustrated how people felt about the constant nagging of UAC in Windows Vista.
Fast forward to Windows 7 Beta 1, Microsoft now gives full control over the number of prompts you receive. The problem is any malware can defeat UAC by sending a few Visual Basic scripts to activate the slider and turn off UAC. Once UAC is off, the computer can be restarted and the malware can be launched with full administrator credentials and expose the computer to more malware and exploits.
Redmond usually releases security patches once a month, on Patch Tuesday, but Microsoft's security experts are worried enough about a newly reported vulnerability in the Server service to post an "out-of-band" security update, MS08-067, yesterday for all versions of Windows from Windows 2000 SP4 through Windows Server 2008 and Windows 7 pre-beta. Microsoft hasn't issued a security update between Patch Tuesday releases since April 2007, so this is a significant security issue.
Although all supported versions of Windows are vulnerable, Windows 2000 SP4, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 versions are especially vulnerable to this flaw, which can permit remote code execution via a specially crafted RFC request.
To find out what makes this vulnerability so critical, and to learn how to get the update, join us after the jump.
Just as we nerds have overhyped some technologies, we've also overlooked some even better alternatives. PC World has put on its thinking cap and posted its picks for the ten most overrated technology products and services - and alternatives that deserve a closer look.
So, How Would You Rate These Contenders?
Ultra-portable laptops versus mini-laptops
Microsoft Zune versus Apple iPod Touch
Windows XP versus Windows Vista
To discover which ones get the overrated razz, and which ones deserve some unexpected love, join us after the break.
As we told you last week, Microsoft rolled out two new security programs, Microsoft Active Protections Program and Microsoft Exploitability Index, during the Black Hat USA 2008 Conference. Unfortunately for Microsoft, the same conference saw a presentation by security experts Mark Dowd and Alexander Sotirov that renders these and other protections for Windows Vista, including its much-touted Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) and Data Execution Protection (DEP) features, effectively null and void.
How did they do it? The full presentation (available here in PDF format) is quite technical, but here's the short version. according to SC Magazine:
In explaining the problem, the researchers said that most memory protection mechanisms are based on two things: detecting corruption and stopping common exploit patterns, and attempts to reinforce these are integral to Vista. But in many cases, some of the built-in protection mechanisms in Vista are not enabled by default for compatibility reasons.
“At the desktop level, compromises had to be made because of compatibility issues. Exploiters have a lot more control over browsers,” Sotirov said.
And in many cases, third-party applications are not compiled to use the Vista memory protections. For example, Java and Flash are not compiled using the critical protection called ASLR.
What can be done? My take: Microsoft needs to rethink the balance of compatibility versus protection, do a better job of informing users of what's protected and what's not, and get third-party application vendors to take advantage of the protection features in Vista. What about ordinary users like us? Watch out for compromised legitimate websites, and, as always, as our own Will Smith says, think before you click.
What's your take on Vista and other browser security issues? See us after the jump for your chance to sound off.
Windows Update will itself be updated, starting in late July, according to Windows Update product manager Michelle Haven, in a recent TechNet post. This update changes both the WU clients used by Windows XP and Vista-based machines as well as the back-end infrastructure, and as a result, scans for updates and update installations are faster. That's the good news. But, will the update cause problems for Windows XP users who need to perform a repair installation? And, what about users who don't want Microsoft making any changes to their system?
For more light on these questions, join me after the break.
The dreaded day has come and gone. June 30th 2008 marked the first milestone in Microsoft’s plan to euthanize our beloved OS. Windows XP leaves us with more of a bang than a whimper, and considerably more street credibility than it afforded at launch. Here at Maximum PC we want to take you down the nostalgic path of Windows XP one last time. A path lovingly paved for us over the years with hundreds of patches and countless upgrades.
Hit the jump and step inside for one last farewell to an old friend and to see why the future doesn’t look so bad.