Week in review: Vista furor

Microsoft's Vista is still months away from formal release, but the next version of Windows is already raising the hackles of many consumers.

Microsoft's Vista is still months away from formal release, but the next version of Windows is already raising the hackles of many consumers.

Under changes to Microsoft's licensing terms, buyers of retail copies of Vista will be able to transfer their software to a new machine only once. If they want to move their software a second time, they will have to buy a new copy of the operating system. In the past, those who bought a retail copy of Windows needed to uninstall it before moving it to another machine, but there was no limit to how many times this could be done.

"How much longer will consumers allow Microsoft to bully them?" one CNET News.com reader wrote in the TalkBack forum. "It is precisely because of actions like these that Microsoft products will be hacked more than ever."

Security companies also have been crying foul over the new operating system--and they might have been heard if only they had gotten into a meeting scheduled to field their complaints. Microsoft had set up such a meeting with security companies to discuss some of the changes it has promised to make to Windows Vista in response to competitive concerns. But the conference, which used Microsoft's Live Meeting technology, crashed about 15 minutes after it started, and both Symantec and McAfee were unable to log back in.

In another Vista feature, Microsoft plans to put machines to sleep after an hour of inactivity. While businesses and consumers can change that setting, the software maker said that they would be smart to let their computers nod off. Microsoft estimates that allowing a PC to go to sleep during off hours saves anywhere from $55 to $70 annually, depending on the type of monitor.

Many businesses leave their computers on at night, in many cases to make sure that they can install security patches. By adding the new sleep option, businesses still would be able to wake machines to install security updates, while letting them remain in the power-saving mode the rest of the time.

Browser battle
Some 18 months after Bill Gates pledged to revamp Internet Explorer, Microsoft has released the production version of IE 7. The new Web browser, which has been in testing for months, is now available for download.

On the feature side, Microsoft is playing catch-up in many areas. It has added support for Web standards, RSS Web feeds and tabbed browsing. The new browser also offers protection against phishing sites--malicious Web sites designed to trick users into handing over their personal information.

After months of ceding market share to Firefox, Microsoft has gained back a bit, although the Mozilla Foundation is getting closer to the launch of its own revamp, Firefox 2, which has hit the "release candidate" stage.

Some minor issues with IE 7 have materialized, but overall the new Microsoft browser appears to be well received. Microsoft has defused what would be the most serious issue: a first security hole in the browser since its official release. There is a vulnerability, but in Outlook Express, not IE, according to a corporate Microsoft blog. Security firms, including Secunia, had reported a flaw in IE 7.

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