Week in review: Intel's 'revolutionary leap'

Chipmaker celebates the launch of Core 2 Duo, and Microsoft look to the music market. Plus: MySpace takes the heat.

Intel celebrated a major milestone this week, officially closing the books on the Pentium era with its launch of the Core 2 Duo, the company's most important product to come out in 13 years.

"This is not just an incremental change; this is a revolutionary leap," Intel CEO Paul Otellini said at a launch event in Santa Clara, Calif., on Thursday. The last time the company held such an event at its headquarters was when it introduced the Pentium processor in 1993.

The Pentium went on to become one of the computer industry's most recognized brands, albeit during a time when the PC market was a fraction of its current size.

The Core 2 Duo launch comes as rival Advanced Micro Devices narrows the gap between the two companies with better-performing products for desktops and servers. At the same time, the PC industry is searching for a boost after a bad financial quarter and yet another delay in the launch of Microsoft's Windows Vista update.

With Microsoft's Windows Vista to make an appearance until 2007, the PC industry needs an Intel pick-me-up.

And while Redmond continues to look toward Vista's launch, it's also expending considerable effort on its Zune-branded MP3 player. On Thursday, the company said it plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to catch up to Apple Computer in the music business, but expects the effort to take several years.

The software giant plans to have one music player in the U.S. this year, expanding into other devices and regions next year, Robbie Bach, president of the Entertainment and Devices Division at Microsoft, said at the company's financial analysts meeting in Redmond, Wash.

"We think of this in the hundreds of millions of dollars of investment" over several years, Bach said. "It is something that is going to take time. This is not a six-month initiative."

Microsoft confirmed plans for its Zune-branded player and service last week, but has offered scant details beyond the fact that it will have a hard drive-based music player with a built-in Wi-Fi connection on the market this year.

IE 7 tagged 'high priority'
Also at the analyst meeting, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that his company is moving rapidly to create products that can be funded by ads and served up over the Internet.

"Software is becoming a service," Ballmer said. "Embracing advertising and subscription-based models and Internet-based delivery across Microsoft's product line is an important part of what we will do."

Ballmer likened Microsoft to a multicore processor, saying the company is trying to add two new cores, entertainment and Internet services, to its existing cores, desktop and server software.

Meanwhile, the company plans to automatically push Internet Explorer 7 to Windows XP users when the browser update is ready later this year.

IE 7 will be delivered in the fourth quarter as a "high priority" update via Automatic Updates in Windows XP, Gary Schare, Microsoft's director of IE product management, said in an interview Tuesday. Automatic Updates is a Windows feature typically used for security updates, but Microsoft has also used it to push its antipiracy tool WGA Notifications.

"The justification, of course, is the significant security enhancements in IE 7," Schare said. Microsoft recommends that all Windows users install the new browser when it ships, he added. In more browser news, Mozilla on Wednesday released an update to its popular Firefox Web browser that fixes a dozen vulnerabilities, seven of which it deems "critical."

The most serious of the flaws could be exploited by cyberattackers to commandeer a vulnerable PC, according to Mozilla. The company, which oversees Firefox development, has published security advisories for each of the flaws repaired by the Firefox update.

The heat is on
MySpace.com felt the heat this week, as the record-breaking temperatures that knocked out power infrastructures throughout California shut down the popular social-networking site for nearly 12 hours, starting Sunday night.

The outage at West Hollywood, Calif.-based MySpace was just one consequence of the power failures that swept through the state after a week of soaring temperatures. As of about 6 a.m. PDT on Monday, the site was back up. While outages occur, even on major corporate sites, the MySpace outage raised eyebrows, with some finding it hard to believe that MySpace, famously purchased by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. a year ago, could fall victim to a localized power outage.

On the gadget front, Microsoft showed a prototype of a cell phone-based computer that could one day find a use as a cheap PC for emerging markets.

The FonePlus device stems from discussions that began at the World Economic Forum in January. To create the computer, Microsoft combined its Windows CE operating system with a phone that could then be connected to a television display and a keyboard.

Motorola, for its part, unveiled several new handsets, including the Krzr and the Rizr, which are narrower than the company's flagship Razr. The new models are part of a family of cell phones Motorola is building around the Razr, which has helped the company revitalize its brand in the last few years.

Return of the V-Chip
Remember the V-Chip? The Ad Council is embarking on a $300 million campaign to inject the controversial technology back into public consciousness.

The council on Wednesday rolled out a series of public-service announcements meant to create awareness of the software, which lets parents block violent or sexual content on television. The V-Chip is required in all televisions 13 inches or larger per the 1996 Telecommunications Act, though critics have long decried the program as being ineffective.

At least one group, in fact, came out against the newly announced ad campaign. The family programming advocacy group Parents Television Council slammed the ads, calling the cable- and satellite-industry rating system on which V-Chip blocking is based "inaccurate," and offering its support instead for legislation that would require cable and satellite providers to apply broadcast indecency standards or offer a la carte or new "family tier" programming.

And on the subject of television, Reuters reported this week that Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, now famous for his just might consider appearing on Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" to defend himself against the comedian's barbs.

Stewart parodied the senator's remarks about the Internet on three episodes, which have spread over the Internet and were widely viewed on YouTube.com. He questioned Stevens' knowledge of the Internet and quipped, "You're just the guy in charge of regulation."

"I have a letter from a big scientist who said I was absolutely right in using the word 'tubes,'" Stevens told reporters, adding that a stint on the Comedy Central show is not out of the question.

A Jon Stewart/Ted Stevens interview...now that would make our week.

Also of note
Tech heavyweights team up on 3G...New GPL draft takes second crack at DRM...Online storage service adding a terabyte a week...Google rides the radio waves...New UV gun takes aim at meth users...Open-source firm polishes interface with AJAX...High-definition video add-on coming to iPod...U.S. voices openness to private Net control...Google launches open-source repository...Symantec, Yahoo team on security.
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