Security, open source and better disclosures top the list of Microsoft's concerns for 2005, according to the Directions on Microsoft research team. The firm, which is independent...

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Security, open source and better disclosures top the list of Microsoft‘s concerns for 2005, according to the Directions on Microsoft research team. The firm, which is independent of Microsoft, releases an annual Top 10 of Microsoft’s upcoming challenges.

This year, analysts said Microsoft should provide more information about product releases, better protect corporate computers, keep a lead over open-source software projects and match or beat Apple Computer in ease of use and style. The company should also ship a solid version of Windows for 64-bit processors, keep manufacturing costs down on the next Xbox video-game system and win over developers with its upcoming Longhorn operating system.

Several of those were on the same list from a year ago. Maybe the Directions team should set out easier goals. “Don’t be evil” is a popular one.

Unfamiliar term

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Despite all the media coverage this year of blogs, 62 percent of online Americans don’t know what a blog is, according to a survey released today by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. And only 7 percent of the 120 million adults online say they have created a blog.

Newsreader technology is gaining an impressive foothold, researchers said, with 5 percent of Internet users saying they use the technology. Newsreaders allow a user to get news in a more immediate fashion, collecting postings from Web sites into a personalized site or inbox.

Bloggers and blog readers tend to be young, male, educated and familiar with the Internet.

Cars online

More than nine of 10 — 94 percent — of new-car dealerships have Web sites, compared with 74 percent five years ago.

Source: National Automobile Dealers Association

Wireless data soars

Wireless data had a great 2004, according to The Yankee Group. Analyst Linda Barrabee wrote recently that wireless-data users totaled nearly 47 million by last July, a 58 percent increase from mid-2003.

Wireless-data revenue for the second quarter of 2004 approached $1 billion, up 160 percent from the second quarter of 2003, the report said. By the end of 2004, Barrabee wrote, nearly a third of wireless users will be using wireless data and annual revenue will reach $4 billion — still a tiny fraction of total service revenue.

While Verizon Wireless had the most wireless-data subscribers, with 12.7 million in the quarter, Sprint had the highest percentage of data subscribers (41 percent) compared with its total base. AT&T Wireless’ percentage was only 29 percent.

Most wireless-data revenue these days comes from text messaging, ringtones and games. But by 2008, the report said, usage will include e-mail, television and film broadcasts and “adult” entertainment.

No more Viagra

“Oprah,” “Viagra” and “teens” are so 12 months ago when it comes to words in spam messages, according to America Online. Sending pornographic images in spam has also become passé.

Spammers changed tactics in the past year, becoming more sophisticated, devious and sneaky, the company said. Now, spam is more likely to appear as a message from eBay or a bank, asking to verify your login and password information — a scam known as phishing. Also popular are the messages from distant relatives of a Nigerian leader offering millions of dollars.

AOL’s Top 10 spam e-mail subject lines of last year include the following: “We carry the most popular medications,” “You’ve been sent an Insta-Kiss!,” “You have 17 new pictures,” “Sale prices are best online” and “Hurry hurry hot stock on the rise.”

Download, a column of news bits, observations and miscellany, is gathered by The Seattle Times technology staff. We can be reached at 206-464-2265 or