In This Issue: 1. Editor's Note: Has E-Mail Hit A Wall? 2. Today's Top Story - Google Debuts Four New Search Products And Promises Openness Related Story: - Google CEO Sees Blue Skies Of 'Limitless Growth' 3. Breaking News - Homeland Security ID Effort Stalls: Analyst - Emergency Responders Can't Communicate, DHS Warns - Rootkit-Spreading Spyware Shop Shuts Down - Microsoft To Provide More Patches For Third-Party Apps - ICANN Turns Down .XXX, But Debate Continues - ITC To Investigate Toshiba In Lexar Patent Tiff - Exploit Out For Exchange Bug - AOL Connects VoIP Service To AIM - System Builders Explore Ways To Boost Opteron Horsepower In Blades - Major Push Coming Against Software Pirates On Auction Sites 4. Grab Bag - At Expo, Games Are Played And Opinions Aired (Washington Post) - Putting The Wire Back Into Networking (New York Times - reg. required) - The Stamp-Sized Story Of Computers (BusinessWeek) 5. In Depth - Beyond Outlook: Five Alternative E-Mail Apps - Which PDA To Buy? - Review: YX200 Dual-Band Car Cell Extender - Microsoft Powers Gas Pump Of The Future - For Nintendo, MEMS The Word - Poll: Men Make Gaming Friends, Women Stay Solo 6. Voice Of Authority - Qwest To The NSA: Put Up Or Shut Up 7. White Papers - 20 Critical Questions To Ask A Microsoft Exchange Service Provider 8. Get More Out Of InformationWeek 9. Manage Your Newsletter Subscription
Quote of the day: "A mind once stretched by a new idea never regains its original dimension." -- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
1. Editor's Note: Has E-Mail Hit A Wall?
Back in the day, there was a popular fantasy television series called Buffy the Vampire Slayer that garnered something of a following. One of the main characters on that series had an evil twin who, when things got a bit slow, would say in a sulky voice, "Bored now." That's sort of how I feel when I look at some of the E-mail packages that are trying to compete with that 50-ton gorilla that lives out in Redmond, Seattle.
Now let me first say I love communicating via E-mail. I find it fantastic that you can send somebody a message nearly instantaneously, get an answer nearly as quickly (as quickly as the party in question feels like answering), and have a record of the entire correspondence for as long as you need it. (Assuming, of course, that your hard drive was backed up when your system crashed. But that's the subject of another blog post.) For someone who grew up in a time when written communications demanded a postage stamp and several days of waiting, E-mail is up there next to sliced bread and shoelaces.
However, it must be admitted that, as far as E-mail is concerned, we're in something of a rut. Every package out there has basically the same setup: a list of folders, a list of the messages in each folder, and a preview pane so that you can view a message without actually opening it. And then there are those useful features such as the ability to receive E-mail from several accounts, the ability to search your messages, the ability to organize your folders, etc., etc. Good stuff. Very useful. But with the onslaught of spam and the overwhelming amount of E-mail that most of us now get with our morning latte, new ideas are badly needed.
This is reflected in the reaction of those of us who use the apps. Back in February 2006, we published a review roundup of the most popular Web browsers, in which four writers defended their favorites against all comers. And boy, did they ever--the reviews were filled with statements like: "The techno-elite may prefer to browse the Web in a package that doesn't include the Microsoft brand name, but they're the exception." And, "Let's cut to the chase: Firefox lets you 'stick it to the Man.' And you know who that is, right?"
On the other hand, the writers in our latest review roundup, "Beyond Outlook: Five Alternative E-Mail Apps," offer cogent, reasoned, and detailed motives for why they chose their particular E-mail packages. And there are very good reasons, including extensions and themes (Thunderbird), scripting languages (PocoMail), personalities (Eudora), advanced sorting (Pegasus Mail), and automation (The Bat!). But there's nothing there that would cause the sort of loyalty that a favorite browser generates.
And there won't be, until the next generation of really groundbreaking communications products hits the market. One reason Firefox succeeded was because it took a great existing idea like tabs and incorporated it into an innovative design—along with a philosophy that told its users, "We'll give you the basics. You build it the way you want." Google is trying to do the same with products like Google Calendar and Google Gadgets, both of which take new (but existing) technologies and use them in new and highly inventive ways.
Somewhere there's an individual or a company that can look at the process of sending and receiving E-mail and come up with a new way of dealing with written communications that will blow us all away. Meanwhile, if we want to deal with somebody other than Microsoft, there are some solid and, yes, interesting products out there. And who knows—the next version of one of these could introduce a feature that will make all the difference.
What do you think? Are you happy with your current E-mail app, or are you looking for something more? Let me know by commenting at my blog post.
Homeland Security ID Effort Stalls: Analyst A working group to help figure out a common ID standard for federal employees has been disbanded. Among the reasons, an Input analyst says, are lack of executive-level support and no guidance from key agencies.
Emergency Responders Can't Communicate, DHS Warns Despite a lot of money being thrown at the problem, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said this week that the goal of emergency-system interoperability across the nation is still a goal, not a reality.
Rootkit-Spreading Spyware Shop Shuts Down ContextPlus, which spread spyware and adware, including software that hijacked searches and programs that leveled systems with pop-up ads, has posted a message on its Web site saying it's out of the business.
Exploit Out For Exchange Bug Symantec isn't sure if the Immunity exploit against the Exchange calendar targets the same vulnerability that Microsoft already patched, or if it's an attack against a new zero-day bug.
AOL Connects VoIP Service To AIM One version of AIM Phoneline, due this month, is an ad-supported free service for making PC-to-PC calls. For-fee options will also be available for calls to landlines.
John Soat With 'Technology: Confidential' Closing in on the virus writers' Hall of Fame, a Hollywood video game store owner pleads guilty to modifying and selling Xbox game consoles loaded with pirated video games, and a German computer technician is sentenced for cannibalism.
----- The latest research, polls, and tools ----- China-U.S. Security—FREE REPORT DOWNLOAD Compare the security practices and investment plans of 700 Chinese sites against the strategies and experiences of 2,540 U.S. companies in InformationWeek's research report, "China-U.S. Information Security 2005."
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Qwest To The NSA: Put Up Or Shut Up When the NSA asked all the telcos to participate in its apparently illegal campaign to create a database of every call ever made in the United States, only Quest refused. Preston Gralla applauds.
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5 Top Federal Initiatives For 2015As InformationWeek Government readers were busy firming up their fiscal year 2015 budgets, we asked them to rate more than 30 IT initiatives in terms of importance and current leadership focus. No surprise, among more than 30 options, security is No. 1. After that, things get less predictable.