Saturday, May 31, 2008

WinInfo Short Takes: Week of June 2, 2008

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including a short week with absolutely no Windows 7 news, Dell gains, Media Center vs. NBC, the iCabal, Google's Android demos, Norway will be Microsoft's Viet-Nam, Sysinternals Live, and more...

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Last weekend was awesome in ways that aren't usually possible in New England, with three straight days of perfect temperatures in the mid-70s and not a cloud in the sky. I kept waiting for the inevitable and Biblical comeuppance (this is New England, after all), but it just continued all week, and I had the surreal experience of spending yesterday afternoon on a near-empty beach, relaxing while the kids fished and played. May is usually a pretty month, but this is crazy. It's about time Global Warming finally paid off. Thank you, Exxon.

Just kidding. Naturally, I appreciated the long weekend a bit more than usual thanks to the completion of the writing phase of the second edition of "Windows Vista Secrets," which took dramatically longer than expected. As a revision to an existing book, I had scheduled 7 weeks for the project, but ended up taking 12 weeks, just a wee bit longer than hoped. Ahem. It ended in typically spastic fashion as well: I was convinced I'd finish the book Friday night, but after killing myself over this until about 12:30 that evening, I gave up and spend a fitful five and a half hours of sleep. Rising at the crack of 6 am that day (and believe me, I am no morning person) I proceeded to amaze and frighten my children (Mark: "Is something wrong? Why are you up?") and just plugged away until it was done in the early afternoon. Then I took a three hour nap.

Leo and I recorded another episode of the Windows Weekly podcast with Mary Jo Foley this week, focused almost exclusively on the recent Windows 7 news. It should be available before the end of the weekend as usual.

Short Takes

Microsoft Says Nothing New About Windows 7 and the Crowd Goes Wild

If you actually believed that excitement about Windows has somehow ebbed in the wake of Windows Vista, think again. This week, Microsoft showed off a single new Windows 7 feature--multi-touch--and the tech world acted like it had received the Word of God. The thing is, aside from a few cute demos--which, by the way, don't even represent actual Windows 7 applications--this week's news wasn't really news. This multi-touch feature was actually first revealed back in December, so while the demo was somewhat interesting, the feature was previously known. And that was literally all that Microsoft revealed this week, unless you consider repeating information about the ship date new information. So the next time someone tells you that Apple gets all the press, remember this: Two years before it ships the next version of Windows, Microsoft can show you absolutely nothing and the world just goes nuts. I think this suggests that the age of Windows isn't over quite yet.

Dell Posts Massive Notebook Gains as Sales Surge

I can't help but think that if this were Apple, the headlines would be seen 'round the world. But in reality, Dell's gains this quarter are all the more impressive than anything Apple can accomplish with the Mac because Dell sells dramatically more computers than does Apple, making such huge quarterly gains all the more difficult. This week, Dell posted income of $7894 million on revenues of $16.1 billion for the quarter ending May 2, better than analyst expectations. But the big news was that Dell's notebook sales surged 43 percent year-over-year; overall, product shipments were up 22 percent for the company (much higher than the industry average). Though the world's second largest PC maker--first when measured by revenues--Dell has had its share of troubles lately. These results suggest that things, finally, are starting to turn around.

Microsoft, NBC Point Fingers (at Each Other) as Media Center Refuses to Record TV Show

This is a mini-controversy at best given the fact that maybe 17 people actually use Windows Vista's Media Center software to record TV and watch shows, but what the heck. Earlier this month, people attempting to record "American Gladiators" (latest sign yet of the fall of America) with Vista's Media Center were met with an error messaging stating that the copyright holder--in this case, NBC--had blocked recording. NBC and other networks can do this via broadcast flag and related protection technology, though it's rarely outside of paid networks, like HBO. However, NBC says it never blocked the show, so Media Center should have had no issues recording it. The iCabal crowd--you know, the anything-but-Microsoft jokers who try to make a federal case out of anything Microsoft does, good or bad--were quick to spastically hop up and down over Microsoft's support of digital restrictions. But it's still unclear what really happened. Maybe Peter Guttman can write another overly-long and completely fantastical paper describing what when wrong. Or Apple could make a "Switcher" ad in which they gloss over the fact that they don't actually offer a DVR solution of their own. You know, anything to make Vista look bad. Pull out all the stops.

EU to 'Consider' Microsoft's Adoption of Open Formats

And speaking of the iCabal, EU regulators said this week that they would "consider" Microsoft's decision to open up Microsoft Office to competing and open document formats. "In its ongoing antitrust investigation concerning interoperability with Microsoft Office, the commission will investigate whether the announced support of ODF in Office leads to better interoperability," an EU spokesperson said Tuesday. Whew. I bet that's a huge relief in the Redmond, because it should be obvious to anyone who can read a press release that Microsoft's announced support of ODF (and other document standards) very obviously will lead to better interoperability. Seriously, can't we just complain about the things Microsoft does wrong instead of misrepresenting what they do right as well?

Google Shows Off Android at Developer Show

Google this week provided a slew of demonstrations of its upcoming Android smart phone platform on what appeared to be near-final hardware. The demos came during the company's Google I/O conference for developers and garnered more than a few hearty ovations. The coolest demo, possibly, involved Google Maps and the new "street view": The demonstrator moved in a circle, causing the on-screen street view to rotate with him, always keeping the on-phone display aligned with the direction he was really facing. Google also showed off an innovative swipe-based logon screen, some nice UI bits and, what the heck, a Pac-man game. The first Android devices are expected late this year.

Microsoft's Norwegian Acquisition Not as Clean as Hoped

In January, Microsoft announced its intention to purchase Norwegian search technology firm Fast Search & Transfer for $1.23 billion, but it now appears that the software giant may have made a terrible error: It turns out that Fast Search & Transfer has violated Norway's accounting laws, and various accounting irregularities have handed it an investigation by Norway's financial supervisory authority, Kredittilsynet. (Go ahead, say that one three times fast, I dare you.) Once hailed as the "Google of Norway," Fast Search & Transfer may in fact just be the latest in a long line of overly-expensive Microsoft purchases that amount to nothing fast.

Microsoft Ensures Republican Victory in '08

Microsoft will be the official "software and high-definition Web content" provider of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this year. Cue the blue screen jokes.

Microsoft Launches Web-Based Versions of Sysinternals Diagnostic Tools

Just in case you thought Microsoft's Sysinternals tools were already too hard to use, the company has found a way to make them even more inscrutable: Put them on the Web, organized by file name. Seriously, you have to see this one to believe it. It's called Sysinternals Live and you can see the site here: Now, to be fair to the technically-minded, the tools are designed to be run via the Start Menu's Run or Start Menu Search items: Just enter the name of a tool using syntax like\tools\tool-name, where tool-name is of course the name of the tool. (To run Process Explorer, use\tools\procexp.exe .). Um, right. If you have access to the Web anyway, how is this easier than just going to the normal Sysinternals Web site? And is there a Sysinternals user on earth that doesn't have at least a second PC nearby?

Dell to Enter UMPC Market This Year

PC giant Dell announced this week that it would enter the ultra-mobile PC (UMPC) market with a new "Mini Inspiron" (not its real name) that will compete with such products as the Asus Eee PC and the HP Mini-Note. A Dell spokesperson describes the upcoming device as "the perfect device for the next billion users," but didn't provide any details about the cute-looking mini-notebook computer. According to Dell's customer feedback site, IdeaStorm, customers have asked for a UMPC with 1 GB of RAM, a 60 GB hard drive, and Windows Vista. But we won't know what's really in there until Dell spills the beans. My guess is that the company will announce availability before the end of the summer.

Even TiVo is Doing Well

Say what you will about the economy, but when a perpetual underperformer like TiVo is able to post a profit, conventional wisdom doesn't amount to much. The DVR pioneer this week announced earnings of $3.6 million on revenues of $54.9 million for the quarter ending April 30, dramatically better than the $835,000 it earned in the same quarter a year ago. TiVo attributed the gains to cost cutting and, to be fair, the company actually saw its subscriber base shrink from 4.3 million users in 2007 to 3.8 million. You know, maybe the economy really is in the toilet.

Mozilla Shoots for World Record with Firefox 3

Mozilla Corporation announced this week that it will seek to break the Guinness Book of World Records, uh, record for most software downloads in 24 hours. They're going to go for it on the day that Mozilla Firefox 3 is released. Which could happen sometime in June, maybe. Or maybe July. They're not sure yet, but whenever it happens, they may set a record. Or not.

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