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Week in review: Messaging in the mix

Industry stalwarts announced upgrades to popular products--namely, instant messaging and the Office suite--while Yahoo surprised Wall Street with solid results.

Industry stalwarts announced upgrades to their most widely used products this week--instant messaging applications and the Office suite--while Yahoo surprised Wall Street with better-than-expected results.

Near Walt Disney World, no less, Microsoft's CEO and consummate salesman Steve Ballmer unveiled a new product designed to make it easier for companies to create and tabulate data via electronic forms.

XDocs, the product's code name, will serve as a data-collection tool for Office and is based on XML, or Extensible Markup Language.

But don't count on running out just yet to pick up a copy. XDocs isn't expected to ship until mid-2003 and will debut about the same time as Microsoft's next version of Office.

Meanwhile, Yahoo and America Online announced upgrades to their own "killer apps," which for them is instant messaging.

Yahoo unveiled a new version of Messaging designed to work with corporate portals and business applications. Yahoo plans to beef up its IM security by joining forces with VeriSign, and it expects to release a final version of its corporate IM in the first quarter of next year.

America Online was the leader in getting changes to its instant messaging out the door. AOL 8.0, which has been quietly released, features a translucent toolbar that informs people about incoming e-mails and instant messages when the AOL window is closed.

Microsoft touted its own plans for corporate instant messaging this week, a project code-named Greenwich. The project is designed to serve as a real-time communications and collaboration operating system that corporations can use to create enhanced messaging, videoconferencing and Internet-based communications.

Greenwich, which will be integrated into Windows.Net Server 2003, won't debut for at least another year, however.

Don't catch that virus
The Bugbear computer virus may have slowed its crawl across the world's networks, yet it's still on track to be the most prolific e-mail virus to date, antivirus experts said this week. After it infects a PC, the Bugbear virus searches the machine for e-mail addresses and sends a message out to each address, with a copy of itself attached.

Did you get fooled by the MSN worm? Known as Henpeck, the worm uses MSN's chat network to send messages containing a link to a malicious online file. People who click the link trigger a file download and inadvertently run the infectious program.

In other security news, some copies of a popular mail-server program are implanted with a back door that could allow access to Internet attackers, security experts said. Illicit code added to the Sendmail package creates a back door when the program is compiled from its source code. Such a compromised program--called a Trojan horse by security experts--can leave networks exposed to attack and administrators unaware of the vulnerabilities.

Yahoo's surprise
Internet companies got a welcome dose of good news when Yahoo announced better-than-expected third quarter results. Yahoo posted its second straight quarterly profit, boosted by a 50 percent increase in net revenue. Yahoo shares--and the Nasdaq--rallied on the news, raising hopes that brighter days were ahead.

Earnings season kicks into high gear next week. Be sure to check News.com's earnings alert for the latest in technology company news and financial results.

Gadget in hand
Handheld companies got a hand this week from a deep-pocketed electronics giant, as well as federal regulators.

Sony invested $20 million in PalmSource, a subsidiary of handheld maker Palm. The investment gives another boost to PalmSource, which is planning a spinoff later this year. Palm, meanwhile, saw its ultra cheap "Zire" handheld go on sale Monday. It marked the first time the company rolled out a handheld with a $100 price tag.

Hewlett-Packard got a hand from the government this week. The Federal Communications Commission issued its approval for Hewlett-Packard to begin selling its iPaq with two kinds of wireless connectivity. These iPaqs are part of the company's new 5400 series; one model is expected to hit store shelves in time for the holiday season.

Dell Computer will enter the handheld market this fall with two devices based on Microsoft's Pocket PC 2002 operating system. One handheld is expected to be priced at $199, and the other at $299, according to CNET News.com sources.

Also of note
Intel updated its chipsets, in a move to support faster memory and improve graphics performance...Sony touted its plans to begin selling its new all-in-one Vaio W in the United States later this month...The Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center issued an alert that a popular mail-server program, Sendmail, could create a back door and should not be used without verifying the integrity of the source code...The Linux Standard Base certified four new Linux versions--Red Hat 8, SuSE 8.1, SCO Group OpenLinux 3.1.1 and MandrakeSoft 9 ProSuite...In a sign of the times, LG Electronics unveiled a multi-media refrigerator that comes with a 15-inch liquid crystal display screen for watching TV, Internet surfing or viewing digital pictures--Sales price? "Only" $8,000 retail.