WinInfo Daily Update, March 3, 2006: Short Takes

WinInfo Short Takes

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WinInfo Blog

Short Takes

- Microsoft Launches Hefty Accusation on EU
- Right Back at Ya: EU Threatens Microsoft with Non-Compliance Fine
- Microsoft Foes Open New Front in EU Antitrust Battle
- As Promised, Origami Is Just a Tablet PC
- DOJ Launches Investigation into "Anticompetitive" Online Music Practices
- Microsoft: Our Search Engine Is Better than Google
- Popular Xbox Titles Hit the Bargain Basement
- Microsoft Ships Exchange 12 CTP to MSDN
- Windows Live Mail Hits M5 Milestone
- Analyst: Xbox 360 Doing Better than You Think

==== WinInfo Blog ====

by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

So the Ireland trip was a success, if you're interested. The kids did great on both flights and we all had a great time.

Traveling with kids is interesting, especially when their personalities are different. My daughter, Kelly, is kind of a proto-hippie (90 percent chance she'll be a vegetarian by the age of 11, and 40 percent chance she'll be a Buddist by her teen years), happy to tag along with whatever adventure is planned. My son, Mark, by contrast, likes a schedule, the more rigorous the better, and he wants to know what's coming next and after next at all times. I was trying to help Mark understand the benefits of spontaneity when I was reminded of a humorous discussion I had with two friends from Seattle last fall. I told Mark about it, and now I'll tell you. It goes like this: If the robots break the bonds of their human masters and attack mankind, I have a plan. And if the dead come back to life and become insane killing machines, I can help. But if both of those things happen at the same time, we're going to have to wing it. The point here is that I can't plan for everything. I think this was Mark's first recognition of the fact that I'm not perfect. I only wonder what took him so long.

Speaking of Mark, he's a big sports fan. Really big sports fan. And it was interesting to see him trying to figure out such alien sports as rugby, Gaelic football, and hurling while we were in Ireland. Honestly, we think that football and hockey are so tough here in the States, but the people who play these European sports are insanely physical. It took a lot of explanation to convince Mark that getting a hurling stick (or whatever it's called) isn't a good idea.

==== Short Takes ====

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news

by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Microsoft Launches Hefty Accusation on EU

Sometimes Microsoft really surprises me. These surprises range from really good (the current Vista CTP) to really bad (the confusing range of Vista product editions). Then there are the humorous surprises, and here's one that falls into the humorous category (what you might think of as "funny as in funny" and not "funny as in weird"). Microsoft on Thursday actually accused the EU--that's the European Union if you haven't been paying attention--of colluding with the software giant's rivals in a bid to harm Microsoft. The company accused the EU, specifically, of being "in secret collaboration" with Microsoft's rivals. That's priceless. If I were the EU, I would simply explain to Microsoft that there is a "Chinese wall" between the EU's lawyers and the rivals that wish to see Microsoft get punished. Microsoft would understand that argument because that's what Microsoft claimed prevented its Windows and Office divisions from colluding with each other to harm the very competitors that Microsoft is now, ahem, accusing of colluding with a world governmental body. It's like claiming that the victim of a mugging is colluding with the police to harm the attacker.

Right Back at Ya: EU Threatens Microsoft with Non-Compliance Fine

And speaking of the EU, that group provided its own threats this week. After trying not to chuckle as they mused over Microsoft's latest accusations (see above), EU regulators warned the company that it had better clean up its act or it would face daily fines. "If we pursue the line we are following now, there will be fines and they won't be small fines," EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said this week. According to the EU, Microsoft could be fined upwards of $2 million a day, and those fines would be retroactive to December 2005. Of course, that kind of money is like the "take a penny" jar for Microsoft, but still, it would be interesting if things ever come to that. Certainly, Microsoft's petulant behavior toward the EU isn't helping.

As Promised, Origami Is Just a Tablet PC

However, it might be based on XP Embedded, not the normal version of XP Tablet PC Edition. But give Microsoft credit for finally creating a little hype. The "Origami" small form factor Tablet PC is the talk of cyberspace, especially after Apple came up woefully short with its horribly unexciting product announcement on Tuesday. But really, Origami is nothing new. Think an OQO device with Tablet PC capabilities and you're probably right on the money. The cost will be less than $1000 if Microsoft is smart. Battery life won't be as good as it should be, I'm told. And so on. It's unclear why this is so interesting.

DOJ Launches Investigation into "Anticompetitive" Online Music Practices

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) is now investigating whether the world's largest record companies have colluded to set prices for digital songs purchased from online music services. The investigation mirrors a similar inquiry by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and involves Vivendi Universal, Sony BMG, Bertelsmann, EMI, and Warner. Interestingly, the investigation is happening just as these companies are beginning to revolt against the fixed-pricing scheme used by Apple Computer in its iTunes Music Store. The record companies, it turns out, actually want tiered pricing, where new songs cost more than old.

Microsoft: Our Search Engine Is Better than Google

This week, Microsoft announced that it was just six months away from shipping a search engine that is technologically superior to that offered by Google. And although Microsoft won't be bundling its Internet search engine with Windows (which doesn't make much sense anyway), it will be tying the engine to Internet-enabled products such as Windows Live Messenger and Hotmail. Meanwhile, Google blew off any notion that Microsoft was catching up. "The gap with the competition is as large as it has been," a Google representative said, adding that Google still has a "two-, three-, five-year lead" on the competition. I don't have an opinion about which search engine is "better"; they both seem to work pretty well. But I'd caution Google against complacency. Because users don't have to install anything to use a search engine, there's no barrier to moving to a better service should one become available.

Popular Xbox Titles Hit the Bargain Basement

In a bid to eke out the last possible bit of money from its first generation Xbox, Microsoft has created a new program to offer various hit Xbox titles for just $9.99, giving consumers a low-cost way to collect their favorite games. The first wave of titles to appear in this price range includes such classics as Counterstrike, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Project Gotham Racing 2, Soul Calibur II, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon, and Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell, among others. (There are 16 titles in the first wave.) Previously, Microsoft had offered more than 100 titles for $19.99 each as part of its Platinum Hits series. It's unclear whether these 16 games will be rebranded or simply reduced in price. Either way, the program's a bargain.

Microsoft Ships Exchange 12 CTP to MSDN

This week, Microsoft announced that it had released a Community Technology Preview (CTP) build of Exchange 12 (in Beta 1) to its Microsoft Developers Network (MSDN) and TechNet programs, providing much wider access to prerelease versions of its next messaging server. The original release of Beta 1, which first shipped last December, went out to only1400 testers. If you're waiting to test Exchange 12 but aren't part of MSDN or TechNet, fear not: Exchange 12 Beta 2, due later this year, will be offered as a public beta.

Windows Live Mail Hits M5 Milestone

Microsoft shipped a new version of its Hotmail-killer, Windows Live Mail, this week. Windows Live Mail M5 adds a number of exciting new features, including an interesting Hotmail-like Classic mode for legacy browsers that brings back some of users' favorite Hotmail features (including the ubiquitous Hotmail checkboxes), and a new set of color schemes that let you customize the look and feel of the service. Microsoft tells me that it will also be shipping a Windows client version of Windows Live Mail (currently unnamed but based on Outlook Express technology), which will provide customers with a free way to work with Web mail offline. There are also a bunch of other new features, which I'll try to highlight soon in a preview on the SuperSite for Windows.

Analyst: Xbox 360 Doing Better than You Think

And finally, despite all the doom and gloom about Xbox 360 supply problems, an American Technology Research analyst says that Microsoft's next-generation video game system is actually doing quite well, thank you very much. In addition to being the only next-generation game system currently available, the Xbox 360 will be assisted by Sony's inability to ship the PlayStation 3 on schedule or at a consumer price point. Therefore, Microsoft will sell at least 6 million Xbox 360s by June, says analyst P.J. McNealy, and 10 million or more units by the end of 2006. I guess it's good news that Microsoft's prime competition is late to the party, but it would be really good news if Microsoft could simply start producing Xbox 360s in volume. But hey, maybe that's just me.

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