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Microsoft is expecting, but its bug bites itch

At the end of October, as the cool breath of autumn begins jacking up my heating bill, all I can think of is my annual pilgrimage to the desert that is Comdex.

At the end of October, as the cool breath of autumn begins jacking up my heating bill, all I can think of is my annual pilgrimage to the desert that is Comdex. Already, emails about chili cook-offs and product demos in smoky casinos are trickling into my in box. Like most Comdex-goers, my feelings about the mother-of-all-trade-shows are an odd mixture of dread and sick fascination.

Trade shows and conferences, it seems, have become a year-round ritual, and Microsoft is doing its part. The Redmondians are blitzing developers and media with two back-to-back conferences next week and the first week of November. Usually, they try to lure developers to the shows with conventional freebies like software. Now, I hear Microsoft is promising attendees to its SiteBuilder conference free massages and lattes. Is trade show competition really that fierce or is this just a desperate attempt to coax people into attending just a couple more trade shows?

We all know that competition in the browser battles is fierce. Microsoft currently has parallel, full fledged development teams working on Internet Explorer 4.0, 5.0, and 6.0. In the old days, that many iterations of a product would carry us well into the next millennium. Now that we're on Internet time though, we'll be downloading Explorer 7.0 sometime in 1998. According to my agents, Bill and Co. have told their manual makers at Microsoft Press to expect a new version of IE every 6 months.

Speaking of new versions of browsers, earlier this month I challenged the authenticity of a Navigator 4.0 screen shot that appeared on BrowserWatch. Well, the screen shot turned out to be legit. What can I say? I'm not perfect. However, my spies tell me that more substantial changes in the Navigator 4.0 GUI than appear in the screen shot are afoot. Netscape may even preview something at Comdex.

Browsers get all the glory. Is Microsoft paying enough attention to its Web servers though? Earlier this month, the company had to yank its Personal Web Server for Windows 95 from the Net because the thing was too buggy. The product, which is a port of the Windows NT Internet Information Server, currently sits in limbo while MS straightens out the kinks. I may go for that free massage at the Microsoft conference to straighten out the kinks in my back. Your gossip would help relieve the pain too.