Week in review: Big boys get busy

Microsoft showed us more of its vision of Vista, while Google, Dell, Yahoo and eBay continued jockeying for advantage.

Microsoft showed us more of its vision of Vista, while Google, Dell, Yahoo and eBay continued jockeying for advantage.

At its Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in Seattle, Microsoft announced that it is ready with broader test versions of both Windows Vista and Office 2007. The company also has an updated test version of Longhorn Server, the next version of its server operating system.

Both Vista and Office had been expected to hit retail shelves in time for this year's holiday season. In March, however, Microsoft said that although it still planned to finish up development of both products by year's end, the broad launch of the products would not come until January.

Vista versions

Microsoft also tested the waters for a new image format to challenge the ubiquitous JPEG format. Windows Media Photo will be supported in Windows Vista and also be made available for Windows XP.

In a presentation, Microsoft showed an image with 24:1 compression that visibly contained more detail in the Windows Media Photo format than in the JPEG and JPEG 2000 formats compressed at the same level. Still, the image in the Microsoft format was somewhat distorted because of the high compression level.

Many CNET News.com readers came out roundly against the notion of Microsoft moving in on this standard, while a few supported the higher compression ratio. One reader, however, offered a bit of sage advice.

"The idea may be good, but let's see what strings are attached before we embrace anything," the reader wrote in the CNET News.com TalkBack forum. "If you embrace a seemingly good thing without looking into it, you may find yourself in a really bad place." Meanwhile, the major search players were making moves in their quest for search market domination. Google and Dell agreed to a first in a series of deals to preinstall Web and desktop search software on the PC maker's computers. Under the deal, millions of Dell PCs will be loaded with the Google toolbar for Web and PC search, along with a co-branded home page, before they're shipped to consumers. Financial details were not disclosed, but the companies will share revenue from search-advertising fees.

Google is certainly on the minds of executives at Yahoo and eBay. The two companies unveiled a partnership that could bring more advertising revenue to Yahoo, whose market-share losses to Google brought angry words from shareholders at the portal giant's annual stockholder meeting later in the day.

The multiyear partnership, centered on advertising, e-commerce and search, could benefit both companies. The companies plan to begin releasing the new products this year, starting with a several-month-long trial phase, and they hope to complete the launch next year.

Data theft
An unprecedented string of electronic intrusions has prompted Ohio University to place at least one technician on paid administrative leave and begin a sweeping reorganization of the university's computer services department. The university is reacting to recent discoveries that data thieves compromised at least three campus computer servers.

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