WinInfo Daily UPDATE, November 17, 2006: WinInfo Short Takes

What a spaztastic week! It's so like Microsoft to finalize Windows Vista right before my long weekend away and I've been racing all week to catch up on the work I would have done had I not been sleeping in and eating out in Vermont last weekend. Anyway, my Vista review on the SuperSite has ballooned from 8 parts to 18 thanks largely to the sheer number of new features included in the release. I should have seen that coming. Fortunately, for me at least, Vista won't be available broadly until January, so I theoretically have plenty of time to get the review done. However, I'm planning on finishing it before Thanksgiving if possible. Longest article I've ever written. Almost certainly.

It's also been a big week for video game fans. I probably won't be able to review Sony's PlayStation 3 or Nintendo's Wii until after the holidays because I've got my hands full with some of the amazing new Xbox 360 games that recently shipped. If you're an Xbox 360 gamer and a first person shooter fan, Call of Duty 3, Gears of War (which is technically a third person shooter), and F.E.A.R. are excellent games, but I'd pick Call of Duty 3 if I could have only one. I'll be reviewing all three on the SuperSite soon.

Leo and I are taking the week off from Windows Weekly again this week because Leo is in Canada. That guy never stays home! We'll be back next week.

Vista Beta Testers to Get Vista for Free Well Some of Them 

This week, Microsoft finally revealed its plans for rewarding members of the Vista technical beta test program. Testers who submitted at least one bug report will receive a free copy of Vista Ultimate via download only. That's the right thing to do; frankly, I was afraid Microsoft was going to try and reward only the top testers or something along those lines.

Vista Office 2007 Now Available on MSDN 

Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) subscribers who are eager to begin testing the final versions of Vista and the Microsoft Office 2007 System can now download both from Microsoft's servers. However, the entire MSDN user base appears to be downloading the products simultaneously. Download speeds are horribly slow right now. If you can wait a few days please do. I expect things to lighten up after the weekend.

Today, PlayStation 3. Tomorrow, the World.

Sony's eagerly awaited PlayStation 3 hit stores this morning in the United States and I showed up at the local Best Buy to watch the carnage. As expected, the actual consoles sold out before the store even opened thanks to a line of people outside, some who had waited for days. That didn't surprise me. But I was curious about the game lineup and any associated peripherals of which there were none. Despite Sony's 1080p claims, I saw only one game that was rated at 1080p; the rest were 720p or occasionally 1080i, as with the Xbox 360. Frankly, video game fans would do better this holiday season to get an Xbox 360 and some of the killer new games that just came out such as Call of Duty 3 and Gears of War, both of which are excellent. And then there's always the Nintendo Wii which will hit stores on Sunday morning in the United States. The Wii is relatively inexpensive, $250, and shouldn't be in short supply.

With PlayStation 3 Sony Adopts the Xbox 360 Model 

Speaking of the PlayStation 3, it's astonishing to me how obviously Sony is copying Microsoft's Xbox model. The PlayStation 3 features a hard disk drive and will connect users online via a gaming service. But the most obvious place where the PlayStation 3 copies the Xbox is in its pricing model. Sony is losing hundreds of dollars per PlayStation 3 sold and might continue to do so throughout the life of the system. That means that financially iffy Sony is putting itself in the same precarious position that Microsoft is in with the Xbox, although Microsoft has plenty of other revenue streams that more than make up for the Xbox's losses. Sony might very well lose money on the PlayStation 3 even several years down the road. How bad are these losses? Today, Sony loses a whopping $307 on every 500 PlayStation 3 it sells and a comparatively less painful $241 on each 600 PlayStation 3 model. Although I'm sure PlayStation 3 components will get much less expensive over time, it could take three years for Sony to start recouping costs and by that time the company could be in serious trouble. By comparison, Microsoft currently loses about $75 per Xbox 360 console sold and expects to begin making money on the consoles for the first time as soon as next year.

Ballmer Novell Deal Came About Because Linux Infringes on Microsoft Patents 

This week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that his company's recent deal with Linux distribution maker Novell came about after Microsoft discovered that Linux infringed on various Microsoft patents. "Microsoft wanted to get the appropriate economic return for our shareholders from our innovation," Ballmer said, noting that part of the deal includes Novell paying Microsoft $40 million to cover those patents. "Novell pays us some money for the right to tell customers that anybody who uses SuSE Linux is appropriately covered," Ballmer said. "This is important to us because we believe every other Linux customer basically has an undisclosed balance sheet liability." Yikes! If that doesn't send a chill down the spine of every Red Hat and Ubuntu customer it should. Expect Microsoft to turn its attention to other Linux makers soon.

Red Hat Rejects Potential Microsoft Deal 

Actually, Red Hat is already worried about Microsoft's new Linux deal. This week a lawyer for Red Hat called Ballmer's implicit legal threat an innovation tax aimed at destroying the Linux market. "We do not believe there is a need for or basis for the type of relationship defined in the Microsoft Novell announcement," he noted, rejecting any potential deal between Red Hat and Microsoft. "Red Hat would like Microsoft to detail which parts of Linux infringe on Microsoft's patents." Such a revelation would of course drive the Linux community to simply rewrite those portions of Linux, bypassing the problem all together. Why does this remind me of the SCO shenanigans of a few years ago?

CompUSA to Sell Volume License Versions of Office 2007 Beginning November 30 

Although Microsoft is providing volume license versions of Vista to large companies and enterprises on November 30, 2006 and won't provide the system to others until January 30, 2007 CompUSA has found a Microsoft sanctioned way around these restrictions. Beginning November 30, 2006 CompUSA will let small business customers purchase Vista and Office 2007 through the Microsoft Open Value and Microsoft Open Business licensing programs. Customers must purchase at least five copies of either system to qualify. Previously, small businesses wishing to participate in these programs had to hook up with local resellers or Value Added Resellers (VARs). But the addition of CompUSA should make such purchases easier, and in this case, more timely. CompUSA won't be the only retail chain offering volume license versions of Vista and Office 2007. More stores are coming onboard in 2007, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft Planning Low End Longhorn Server Appliance 

"Microsoft's upcoming Windows Server release, code named Longhorn Server, will be made available in a low end server appliance that will cost less than $1000 and service small businesses," the company said this week. What's unique about this low end option is that it will require no end user Client Access Licenses (CALs) which is a first for any Windows Server version, although the product will of course support only a limited number of users. Code named Fresno, the upcoming server appliance will target low end Linux servers and give Microsoft a price competitive product that delivers what most people would agree is Windows Server's inherent superiority over Linux solutions. I'm eager to learn more Longhorn Server is currently due in late 2007.

Albuquerque Gives Microsoft a Plaque 

Almost everyone knows that Microsoft is located in Redmond, Washington near Seattle but few seem to remember that the company started in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which coincidentally is one of my old haunts as well. Well, this week Albuquerque unveiled a plaque commemorating the birthplace of Microsoft which operated out of offices in the city at 6332 Linn NE from 1975 to 1979. That address, incidentally, is right on old historic Route 66. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen purchased the building in 2000 and wanted to erect a computing museum there. But when the property was found to be unsuitable for that purpose he sold it and created a computing exhibit called STARTUP at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History. Yet another coincidence, I helped build an exhibit at that museum in 1985 when I was doing concrete construction work the summer after I graduated from high school. Anyway, the next time I go to Albuquerque, I'll definitely check out both the exhibit and the plaque.

About Zune and Vista 

Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill. Various reports this week chortled over news that Microsoft's doomed Zune digital media player won't work with Vista, which I also noticed, but didn't care to report on when I tried to install the Zune software early this week. Here's the thing Vista isn't even available to consumers yet, so obviously this is a bogus problem. Microsoft tells me that it has a patch that will enable Vista support but that it's still testing the software and will have it available in time for Vista's consumer launch in January 2007. In other words, these reports are about a complete non-event. If I have a pet peeve at all about the way things are reported in the tech world, this nicely encapsulates it. With Zune, as with Microsoft itself, there's plenty to complain about so there's no reason to fabricate problems.

Microsoft Spends $100 Million Marketing Zune 

And speaking of the Zune, I was watching The Office with my wife last night recorded via a Media Center PC and an ad for Zune flashed by as I was skipping through the commercials. I rewound to watch it and asked my wife what she thought. She said, "This is what happens when a company has an infinite supply of money." And she's exactly right! Any sane company that was actually beholden to the monetary norms of the corporate world would have evaluated the MP3 player market and determined that it would be suicide to try and unseat Apple. However, Microsoft has so much money it can just release a me too product and then create ads showing everyone how cool the company thinks it is. The problem is cool ads are almost never cool and the products such ads tout are also almost always uncool. And although Microsoft might think that everyone is laughing and cheering with the company, Zune is a perfect example of corporate and executive hubris that will come back to haunt Microsoft in the future. And those ads Microsoft spent a paltry $100 million on them which by my reckoning is how much its mouse business makes every five minutes. In other words, yes, this is exactly what happens when a company has an infinite supply of money. And here's a reality check: Apple sold $39.1 million iPods in the previous year alone. My prediction is that Microsoft will never sell even a small fraction of that many Zunes.

Office Live Goes Live 

This week, Microsoft ended its beta for the Office Live services and opened up the subscription offerings, some of which are free to customers. According to the company, more than 160,000 people participated in the beta of Office Live which is aimed at small businesses with 10 or fewer employees that can't afford dedicated IT staff or outside contractors. Office Live offers email Web site construction, Web traffic monitoring, contacts management accounting, and other tools all via Web based consoles. However, despite the name, the services have little to do with Microsoft's mainstream Office suites and applications. For more information check out the Office Live Web site.

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