Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Microsoft Vista for dummies

Everything you need to know about the new operating system, including whether you should buy it now

NEW YORK ( -- Six years and $6 billion later, Microsoft's Vista finally hit store shelves Tuesday - the software company's first upgrade to its dominant computer operating system since Windows XP in 2001.
Also new from Microsoft (Charts): overhauled versions of its popular Office software that includes Word, e-mail and other applications used by hundreds of millions of people around the world every day.
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates spent time this week promoting Vista, the company's first update to its Windows operating system in six years.
View on Vista
Windows on the Mac changes everything
The kind of software sold by the formidable Parallels is transforming computing and challenging Steve Jobs, says Fortune's David Kirkpatrick. (more)
Vista flaw could haunt Microsoft
Microsoft wants a bigger piece of Oracle and IBM's database business, but an oversight in its new operating system could cost the company plenty. (more)
More video
CNN's Miles O'Brien sits down with Microsoft's Bill Gates for a one on one about Vista, the newest operating system from the multibillion dollar software company. (January 30)
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The software giant has a lot riding on the new products as it battles a resurgent Apple in the entertainment software business and Google (Charts) and Yahoo (Charts), which are dominant on the Internet.
Microsoft Vista: Should you buy now?
Here's a look at how Microsoft's new products will affect the computer industry, and you.
Microsoft (Charts) released the new products through retailers in 70 countries Tuesday, backed by a $500 million marketing campaign with the corporate catch phrase "Wow." It's the first update to Windows since the 2001 release of Windows XP. (Full story.)
What will it set you back? Microsoft is offering four versions of Vista for consumers, starting at $199 ($100 if you're upgrading) to $399 for what it calls Windows Vista Ultimate (which is $259 for the upgrade). The cost for the business version of Vista made available in November varies.
After waiting this long, is it worth it?
In an interview with CNN, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates said Vista would make the personal computer the "place where it all comes together" for multimedia applications like photos, music and videos. (Full story.)
And some experts say that Vista, which boasts a 3-D look and the ability to edit digital photos and videos, has the potential to take over consumers' living rooms.(Full story.)
But while Vista's gotten some good reviews, some independent experts wonder whether consumers should rush out and buy a copy now. (Full story.)
Tech's 2006 winners and losers
Others in the technology industry have gone even further, saying that for all the time and money, Microsoft's come up with a ho-hum product - and a big marketing splash that's essentially throwing good money after bad. (Full story.)
The Vista update also includes a dramatic facelift to its most popular software programs such as Microsoft Word. (Full story.)
So far sales of the new operating system, which Microsoft spent $6 billion developing, are going "very well," said company CEO Steve Ballmer. (Full story.)
And computer makers such as Dell (Charts), are hoping to benefit from the launch of Vista, announcing last Friday it would begin taking orders for its computers loaded with the new operating system. (Full story.)
But Vista has faced plenty of criticism leading up to its release.
Computer security researchers and hackers charged that they found a number of flaws in the new operating system (Full story).
Meanwhile Bill Gates himself has rejected claims that Vista has some similarities with Apple's (Charts) OS operating system for Macs.
And in Europe, a coalition of tech firms including IBM (Charts), Nokia (Charts) and Oracle (Charts) all spoke out last week, contending that Microsoft is attempting to thwart its competition through Vista. (Full story.)
And in case you were wondering, Wiley Publishing Inc., known for its "For Dummies" series of publications, released "Windows Vista For Dummies" in December of last year.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Female GPS :)

That's what happens when technology is really good.

Female GPS - video powered by Metacafe

Nokia and Siemens to reveal product line-up

Nokia Corp and Siemens AG are pressing ahead with the merger of their networking business despite the 420m euro ($555m) bribery scandal at Siemens that led them to announce last month the merger would close in the first quarter, rather than January as originally anticipated.
The two companies said they would start sharing the proposed product portfolio plan for the future Nokia Siemens Networks with employees and customers starting in early February. It is ready to begin talks on the proposed future product portfolio with employee representatives.

The issue is a sensitive one because the two companies have already said they plan a "headcount adjustment" over the next four years of 10% to 15% from the initial combined workforce of 60,000.Planning was still underway to assess the personnel, site, and country-level impact of the proposed product portfolio plan as well as expected transition times and requirements for ongoing support for existing products. However, the two companies said the business and personnel implications will be available only after the closing of Nokia Siemens Networks.The creation of Nokia Siemens Networks has been given antitrust approval by the European Union and the US.In December, the two companies said that in the light of the investigations of Siemens, the scope of which included the carrier-related business to be transferred to the new company, they intended to adjust their agreements in order to have Siemens conduct an appropriate compliance review prior to closing the transaction.

It's silicon, Jim, but not as we know it

IBM and Intel Corp separately claimed late last week to have developed new types of microchip transistor materials to stem energy leakage, a problem that has plagued the semiconductor industry as chip geometries have continued to shrink. While both companies' technologies are being touted as revolutionary, they won't necessarily mean a competitive advantage for either chipmaker.
Both have come up with new microchip materials that promise to keep electric current flowing in order to boost performance and reduce heat. The goal, of course, is to keep pace with Moore's Law, the observation by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore that the complexity of chips doubles about every 18 months.

While the world's biggest chipmakers had expected to continue to adhere to Moore's Law for the short-term, their longer-term progress was threatened by limitations of existing an microchip material, silicon dioxide.Silicon dioxide has long been used as an insulator within transistors. But as chip geometries get smaller, the width of silicon dioxide has become thinner so much so that electronic current seeps out, which causes excess heat and energy loss.IBM and Intel have for years been working on a replacement material that is both thin and able to contain current. They have come up with different types of metal that can be used in a transistor's gate, which acts like the on and off switch for the device, as well as the gate dielectric, an insulating layer that helps contain the current.Intel will replace silicon dioxide with a new hafnium-based material with a property called high-k for gates and gate dialectrics, which would reduce leakage by more than 10 times compared to silicon dioxide, according to the company.The high-k gate dielectric is not compatible with existing silicon gate electrode, so Intel has developed a new mix of metals for gate materials. The company said the specifics of this metal mix would remain secret for competitor reasons.The upshot would be more than a 20% increase in performance, with improved energy efficiency."The implementation of high-k and metal materials marks the biggest change in transistor technology since the introduction of polysilicon gate MOS transistors in the late 1960s," said Moore, in a statement.IBM too said it would use high-k metal gate technology as a gate substitute, but did not provide the same level of granularity as Intel.

IBM said that introducing high-k into current manufacturing techniques was as important as the new material itself. After all, chip-manufacturing equipment costs many millions, and a single chip-fabrication facility sets chipmakers back at least $1bn.Big Blue claimed that the creation of its new high-k component was done without requiring major manufacturing tooling or process changes "an essential element if the technology is to be economically viable," said a company statement.IBM has inserted high-k into manufacturing line at its East Fishkill, New York fab, and will begin using it in 45-nanometer chips in 2008.Intel said it would also use high-k later this year in its 45-nanometer chips, which will enable to build faster, more energy efficient multi-core Intel Core 2 chips, used in desktops and notebooks, and Xeon chips, for servers.While Intel's arch microprocessor rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc may seem to be at a disadvantage by not developing its own high-k edge, AMD developed the technology in partnership with IBM, as well as Sony Corp and Toshiba Corp.AMD, IBM and Intel all previously announced plans to begin making 45-nm chips during the next year or so, which means high-k has had little effect on existing roadmaps. However, as Intel said, high-k will enable them to continue Moore's Law well into the next decade.

Borland re-branded open ALM company

Borland Software Corp has outlined a revamped product strategy it calls Open Application Lifecycle Management, or Open ALM, and launched Gauntlet, a build and test automation product that it acquired when it was still under development last February.
"Customers are very wary of being tied into a particular approach or tool," Borland's CEO Tod Nielsen said in a Computer Business Review interview. "With our Open ALM launch we are saying that everything is open to customers: process, tools, platforms, and measurement and metrics."

AdvertisementHowever, anyone expecting a suite of ALM products that integrate seamlessly with their chosen third-party tools today will be disappointed. Although some of its products can already hook into third-party tools, Borland acknowledged that it has far more work to do on its openness and this is going to be a two-year project.Neither did it announce any commitment to the Eclipse-based Application Lifecycle Framework, ALF, project that seeks a standard for interoperability between heterogeneous vendors' application development tools. Instead, Borland said it will take a two-pronged approach to the thorny issue of integrating with rival ALM tools. It said it will evolve each of its products to a more open architecture based on standards that it said will enable customers to plug in third-party tools. It said it will also work on providing dashboards and web-based views offering ALM metrics based on data from its own as well as third-party ALM tools.It said its new build and test automation product, Gauntlet, is the first product it is launching that was architected to meet its Open ALM vision. Gauntlet comes via a four-person start-up consisting of ex-BEA engineers that Borland snapped up early last year.Borland described Gauntlet as a "continuous build and test automation product", which "supports effective lifecycle quality management by enabling organizations to continuously track, measure, and improve software quality."Customers can use the Gauntlet dashboard to see and report on software quality metrics from a range of third-party and open source testing tools. In the open source space, these include Ant, CheckStyle, Emma, Findbugs, JUnit, NUnit, and PMD; in the commercial space there is support for Cenzic Hailstorm, Fortify SCA, Klocwork K7, Lint4J, and Palamida IP Amplifier.Borland said Gauntlet's dashboards include real-time snapshots and time series analysis of metrics like build performance, unit, or functional test results, code coverage, and project activity. The dashboard could enable management to identify at-risk projects early enough in the lifecycle for changes in scope or resources to make a difference, Borland said.Borland also announced what it calls its Open ALM Manifesto, a "bill of rights" for customers that includes lines like: "You have the right to remain independent of a vendor's agenda" and "You have the right to freely choose your software development process." The Manifesto can be found on the company's web site.

Symantec in $800m takeover of Altiris

Symantec Corp is to drive the convergence of endpoint systems security and device operations management with the acquisition of Altiris Inc in a deal calculated to be worth around $830m, net of the target company's $200m cash balance.

Symantec said it plans to merge technology and features from Altiris into its own endpoint security products that deal with threat prevention, system back-up, and compliance issues.

AdvertisementAltiris provides various systems management tools that automate the control of server, desktop, and mobile client devices. Its software assets range from systems for configuration management, service desk automation, and software image deployment to patch control and vulnerability management. It has also moved into application virtualization, an approach that decouples the application from the operating systems, and which it is applying to remote desktop management.

In a conference call, executives of both companies made the case that a combination of the two product sets would make for a comprehensive end-point management control platform that would automate client and security management across desktop or handheld devices of any type and across the full range of operating system options.

"We believe we can offer customers a more comprehensive solution to protect and manage the millions of connected devices that make up the fabric of today's IT infrastructure," said John Thompson, CEO of Symantec. The aim is for systems that better manage and enforce security policies at the endpoint, and identify and protect against threats.

Over the past six years the Altiris portfolio of systems tools has been extended so it can be used to handle most aspects of the lifecycle management of desktop, server, and mobile assets, through product development and acquisition most recently of Pedestal Software Inc, which saw it add security and vulnerability audit products. Before that it bought Wise Solutions Inc, an application deployment management and Windows installer specialist, as well as FSLogic Inc, Bridgewater Technologies Inc, and Tonic Software Inc.

"The deal would be an all-cash transaction, paid from existing liquidity," said James Beer, CFO of Symantec of the transaction announced yesterday. Under the terms of the agreement, Altiris stockholders will receive $33 per share in cash, which represents a 22% premium on closing prices before the deal was announced. Back-office cost savings would make the deal accretive to the company's 2008 fiscals, according to Beer, thanks to prospective savings that he said would be made in G&A costs, facilities consolidation, and various "royalty opportunities".

Once the deal closes by the end of June 2007, Altiris will be run as a separate business division of Symantec headed by existing Altiris president and CEO Greg Butterfield. He will need to manage some necessary product rationalization, as the companies do have some overlapping product lines in areas such as imaging and client management. Commercially, Symantec has a better hold in the large enterprise segment with a product like OnTechnology, whereas Altiris is stronger in the SME markets.

The Lindon, Utah-based vendor also has deals with various PC makers that will see its client management software used as part of Dell Inc's Open Manage Client Administrator suite and the DeskView package of Fujitsu Siemens Computers. Symantec believes the existing channel strategies are complementary.

Altiris claims 20,000 customers currently use its systems. The business is consistenty ranked as one the industry's fastest growing software companies, having produced annualized growth rates over the past five years in excess of 110%. Fiscal year 2006 guidance offered on the company's third-quarter earnings call was for revenue in the range of $226m to $230m.

Symantec had earlier acquired the operations management vendors of Veritas, Bindview, and Relicore.