WinInfo Short Takes - 29 Sep 2006

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including Vista's RTM, Vista DVD plans, Zune features, Xbox 360 HD DVD pricing, Google vs. PCs, security vendors and Microsoft, Peter Jackson, DPM Server, Batterygate, HP and Dell, and so much more...

WinInfo Blog

Short Takes

- Microsoft Will Ship 1 Vista DVD
- The Zune Feature that Never Happened
- Details Emerge About Xbox 360 HD DVD Drive
- Google Wants More Energy-Efficient PCs
- Are European Security Vendors Also Wary of Vista?
- Peter Jackson Expands Relationship with Microsoft
- Microsoft Preps New Version of DPM Server
- Toshiba, Lenovo Join Battery Recalls
- HP Follows Dell into Gaming PC World
- Microsoft Sues FairUse4WM Hacker

WinInfo Blog

by Paul Thurrott, thu[email protected]

I must be getting old, because this year is just flying by. Like July and August, September has been a blur. And here we are on the cusp of October. Unreal.

October, of course, will be a big month. Microsoft intends to finalize Windows Vista on or before October 25, and all signs now point to the company meeting this internal deadline. Anything can change at any time, but for now at least, it looks as if we're finally reaching the end of the Vista prerelease slog. Looking back on the previous five years, I find it astonishing that Microsoft took so much time to develop Vista. I can't help but think how revolutionary Vista would have been ... in 2004. Today, the OS is no doubt top-notch, but it's lost the excitement factor that it might have had if not for the constant delays. Everyone is going to be running Vista eventually, but the magic seems to have been sucked out of it.

Don't tell Microsoft that, though. For the many good people working on Vista, this release will mark the end of an emotionally, physically, and intellectually challenging road, and they're ready to celebrate. I don't have details about the Vista launch event yet, but you can rest assured that it will be unprecedented in size, scope, and impact. Microsoft is going to party like it's 1999--which it was, back when the company first began planning Vista. If you think you've been waiting a long time for this release, imagine how the people working on Vista must feel. Those folks need to hang loose for a while. They certainly deserve it.

If you waited around last Friday for my first podcast, I apologize for the delays. It did go up this week, and you can find "Windows Weekly with Paul Thurrott" now on Leo Laporte's "This Week in Tech" (TWiT) Web site and even on the iTunes Store. We'll be recording new shows each week, but because Leo is traveling for the next two weeks, the second episode won't appear until October 13. I'll bone up on my microphone skills in the meantime.

Short Takes

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

by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Microsoft Will Ship 1 Vista DVD

According to plan, Microsoft has apparently confirmed that all Vista product versions will ship with the exact same DVD. The only difference will be the product key: A Windows Vista Ultimate product key will let you install Vista Ultimate, and a Vista Business product key will let you install Vista Business, and so on. Microsoft's shipping Vista this way so that it can support in-place upgrades from Vista Home Basic, Vista Home Premium, and Vista Business to various other versions through a Web-based upgrade. You'll have all the bits necessary for an upgrade right on your previously purchased DVD, so all you'll need to do is fork over a credit card number, insert the disc, and upgrade. It's a simple plan. It would have been even simpler had Microsoft shipped just a single version of its OS, as Apple does.

The Zune Feature that Never Happened

This summer, when public rumblings about Microsoft's Zune were just beginning, several interesting rumors about the device cropped up. Rumors are interesting because many are actually based in fact, and one of those rumors in particular would have made Zune a heck of a lot more compelling. Sadly, it's not happening. Microsoft was allegedly going to offer a way for iPod users to easily move to the Zune by giving them free Zune-compatible versions of all the songs they had previously purchased from the iTunes Store. Currently, Apple's iPod lock-in strategy works largely because the music that people buy from iTunes is incompatible with virtually all non-Apple devices and services. If Microsoft could work around that incompatibility, it would erase one of the biggest barriers people might face while moving from the iPod to Zune. Assuming this rumor was founded in truth and isn't simply the brainchild of an overeager imagination--I have no evidence either way--my guess is that Microsoft evaluated the iPod/iTunes market and discovered that iPod owners actually purchase very little iTunes-based music per iPod and that such a program would offer little real-world benefit--and prove to be quite costly for the software maker.

Details Emerge About Xbox 360 HD DVD Drive

This week, Microsoft revealed a few more details about its upcoming HD DVD drive for the Xbox 360. The device will be extremely inexpensive, at only $199 in the United States. And, it will come with an HD DVD version of Peter Jackson's "King Kong" (the movie, not the video game) for a limited time. That's not too shabby, considering that standalone HD DVD drives start at $500 and Blu-ray units start at a whopping $1000.

Google Wants More Energy-Efficient PCs

This week, Internet search giant Google called on PC makers to produce more energy-efficient PC power supplies, which it says will save billions of kilowatt hours of energy each year. Interestingly, Google actually has a prototype power supply design that appears to be the electronic equivalent of a '72 Volkswagen Bug engine: simple yet efficient. Instead of using the multiple-output-voltage power supplies that debuted with the first IBM PC, Google says PC makers should switch to a simpler 12-volt standard and leave voltage conversion to the PC's motherboard. Also interesting is that Google isn't the first company to come up with such a plan: An industry-wide effort called 80 PLUS has been advocating essentially the same thing for some time now, and it claims that the PC industry has already shipped 70 compliant designs. Google claims it was unaware of these efforts. Maybe Google should've Googled the idea first.

Are European Security Vendors Also Wary of Vista?

It seems that Symantec isn't the only security company freaked out by Microsoft's security improvements in Vista. Smaller European security firms such as F-Secure, Panda Software, and Sophos all perceive Microsoft's security improvements as a threat to their business, although none has been as vocal as Symantec. However, although this story has been widely reported in the context of Vista, it seems to me that these companies are more concerned about Microsoft's other security products--especially Windows Live OneCare--because those products actually compete with the products these companies sell. For example, a Panda Software executive specifically complained about Microsoft's antivirus improvements, but Microsoft doesn't include antivirus features in Vista. Antivirus protection, however, is a primary feature in Windows Live OneCare. The press is latching onto this security angle because it's an easy story, but I think it's a bit more nuanced than the reports suggest.

Peter Jackson Expands Relationship with Microsoft

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson is working on more than just a "Halo" movie with Microsoft. This week, Jackson revealed that he's partnering with Microsoft Game Studios to create a New Zealand-based company that will produce video games for Microsoft's Xbox 360 game console. "My vision, together with Microsoft Game Studios, is to push the boundaries of game development and the future of interactive entertainment," Jackson said. "From a moviemaker's point of view, it's clear to me that the Xbox 360 platform is the stage where storytellers can work their craft in the same way they do today with movies and books, but taking it further with interactivity."

Microsoft Preps New Version of DPM Server

This week, Microsoft began beta-testing its System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) version 2. This version will support Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server, and Microsoft SQL Server, as well as standard file servers, and should open the product to a much wider range of users than the first version, which shipped late last year. DPM version 2 is currently targeted at backing up only Microsoft products, but it will also include an API so that developers can extend the product to third-party solutions. The final version of DPM version 2 isn't due until mid-2007.

Toshiba, Lenovo Join Battery Recalls

"Batterygate" is getting uglier. Now, Fujitsu, Lenovo, and Toshiba are recalling notebook batteries, Dell has extended its battery recall by an additional 100,000 batteries, and battery maker Sony is calling for a worldwide battery recall. Yep, Sony is really firing on all cylinders this year. Worldwide, Sony's partners have had to recall about seven million batteries, and it looks as if the situation is only going to get worse. But hey, I'm sure the Sony PlayStation 3 will be fine.

HP Follows Dell into Gaming PC World

Following in the footsteps of Dell--its biggest competitor--HP announced this week that it will be purchasing Voodoo Computers, a creator of high-end boutique PCs that target gamers. Earlier this year, Dell purchased Alienware, another boutique maker of gaming PCs. Terms of the HP deal weren't disclosed, but HP said it will be starting a gaming division within its PC organization so that it can better compete in the lucrative gaming PC market. These devices don't sell in huge numbers, but the typical gaming PC now sells for about $5000, compared with the typical PC that sells for about $800.

Microsoft Sues FairUse4WM Hacker

This week, Microsoft filed a federal lawsuit against a hacker who broke through its Windows Media Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology. The company has spent the past month battling this hacker, who goes by the moniker "Viodentia." Viodentia created a program called FairUse4WM that lets users who purchased online Windows Media-based content bypass Microsoft's DRM protections and create unprotected versions of the content that they can freely share. Microsoft has patched DRM twice since FairUse4WM first appeared, but Viodentia has thwarted Microsoft's attempts. Now, according to Microsoft, it's clear that Viodentia has access to the source code. "Our own intellectual property was stolen from us and used to create this tool," a Microsoft attorney said. "They obviously had a leg up on any of the other hackers that might be creating circumvention tools from scratch." However, Viodentia said that's not the case at all. In any event, we'll see where the stalemate leads. This week, Microsoft shipped another patch, and we're now waiting to see whether Viodentia will crack it once again.

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