WinInfo Short Takes: Week of April 23

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including a killer whale of development suites, Dell's sort-of retreat on XP, an Iowan antitrust settlement, Google, AMD, and Intel quarterly moves, Thunderbird 2,PC market share, and so much more...

WinInfo Blog

So, Leo and I did record a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast this week, though it happened earlier in the week than usual because of Leo's travel schedule. Hopefully it will be available today.

I'll be in Denver on Tuesday to speak at a Longhorn Server road show event. This should be interesting: I'll be talking about Windows Server Virtualization, but since that technology has been delayed until later this year, I don't even have a pre-release version of the software to work from. So there will be a lot of hemming and hawing I'm sure. Maybe I can talk about VMWare instead. Probably not.

After that, the travel schedule will heat up again after a few months off. I'll be going to Los Angeles in May for WinHEC, Orlando in June for TechEd, and then Las Vegas for a "stupidity weekend," as I call it, with friends. Looking ahead, I might not actually get out to Seattle again until July, but we'll see what happens. I used to visit the Microsoft campus more often, but the reality is, now we do a lot of meetings electronically with LiveMeeting, and it's cut down on the travel somewhat. Ah, technology.

Short Takes

Visual Studio "Orcas" Finally Hits Beta
Microsoft this week released a beta version of the next version of Visual Studio, codenamed "Orcas," and the next version of the .NET Framework, version 3.5. Microsoft says that these Vista-compatible developer tools include over 200 new features, including a new graphical XAML designer (codenamed "Cider") a better performance. Visual Studio "Orcas" is now due in late 2007, though there are rumors that its release will slip. A future Visual Studio version, codenamed "Rosario," is also in the works: I'm sure that will ship in a timely matter, just like Orcas, which was originally due alongside Windows Vista.

Dell Brings Back Windows XP Option for Consumers on Certain Low-End PC Models
Responding to feedback on its Idea Storm Web site, Dell this week announced that it would again offer Windows XP on certain low-end, consumer-oriented PC models. Dell, like most PC makers, had essentially eliminated XP as an option after Windows Vista shipped in January. I wouldn't read too much into this decision: Dell is floundering in the market right now, undergoing a restructuring, and is currently doing everything it can to listen to customers and turn things around.. Remember, these guys are also going to begin offering Linux on select PCs in the coming months. And we all know that's going to work out swimmingly.

Microsoft Offers Generous Settlement to Iowans
Microsoft will pay up to $180 million to settle an antitrust case in Iowa that arose in the wake of the company's US antitrust battle. The settlement, like so many others of its kind, will be paid in cash and software vouchers. But what's different about this case is the size of the settlement: Though most of Microsoft's state-based antitrust cases were thrown out or settled, the company has never paid this much per customer at the local level. My guess is it has to do with the scope of the Iowa case: Consumers in the state claimed $329 million in damages, and under Iowa law, that amount could have been tripled had the case gone to trial and Microsoft lost.

Windows Live OneCare Goes into Perpetual Beta
Microsoft this week began contacting early beta testers for its next version of Windows Live OneCare, which is entering a new "Perpetual Beta" program. (Sounds like a Google thing to me.) Currently, the beta is invite-only and there are no details yet about what new features will appear in the next version. Microsoft shipped OneCare 1.5 alongside Windows Vista earlier this year.

Google Profits Soar on Ad Revenue Gains
And speaking of Google, everyone's favorite privacy-violating Internet goliath this week announced that profits and revenues in its most recent quarter jumped dramatically, year over year, thanks to huge increases in its online advertising business. Google earned $1 billion on revenues of $3.7 billion, with CEO Eric Schmidt announcing the company was "ecstatic" about the results. During the quarter, Google surpassed Yahoo as the number one online destination, with 108 million users in the US, compared to 107 million for Yahoo!, 95.3 million for Microsoft/MSN, and 94.9 million for AOL. But it's not just about the visitors: Currently, Google accounts for about 75 percent of all US search ad revenue, versus just 16 percent for number two Yahoo.

AMD Stumbles
Microprocessor maker AMD this week released quarterly results this week as well, but this time the news wasn't so positive: The company posted a larger-than-expected loss due to a bruising price war with market leader Intel. AMD lost $611 million on revenues of $1.23 billion in the quarter, a sharp drop from the $185 million it earned in the same quarter a year earlier. More problematic for the company, AMD is losing share to Intel again after seizing an additional four percent of the market in 2006. Intel now controls 80.2 percent of the market for microprocessors, up from 75.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2006. AMD, meanwhile, controls just 11.1 percent, down from 15.7 percent in the previous quarter. AMD says it will cut jobs in order to make up some lost financial ground and remain competitive.

Mozilla Releases New Email Solution
Mozilla Corporation this week released Thunderbird 2, the latest version of its email application. Though less well-known than its Firefox sibling, Thunderbird is a first-class email solution, one whose heritage stretches all the way back to the first version of Netscape Communicator from the late 1990's. Like Firefox, Thunderbird is completely free. The new version includes message tagging, enhancing email searching, and a multitude of customization options. I'll be reviewing Thunderbird 2 on the SuperSite for Windows shortly, but you can snag the new download today from the Mozilla Web site.

New Ubuntu Linux Arrives
And speaking of free new alternatives to Microsoft products, this week Canonical announced the release of Ubuntu 7.04, the latest version of its Linux distribution. Ubuntu 7.04 is described as the most user-friendly version of Ubuntu yet, and it features some simple Windows migration tools aimed at end users. In addition to the main Ubuntu release, which uses the GNOME desktop environment, Canonical also offers other variants, including Ubuntu Server (for servers), Kubuntu (with the KDE desktop environment), Xubuntu (with the Xfce desktop environment), and Edubuntu (for educational users). You can find out more and snag the free downloads from the Ubuntu Web site.

HP Continues Dominance of Dell in Recent Quarter in US
Gartner has released its PC market share figures for the first calendar quarter of 2007, and the results are unsurprising. PC makers sold 62.7 million PCs worldwide, according to the firm, a jump of 8.9 percent when compared with the same quarter a year earlier. The number one PC maker, again, was HP, which sold over 11 million machines to grab 17.6 percent of the market. Dell came in at number two, with 8.7 million units, or less than 14 percent of the market, a drop of 7.8 percent. (However, Dell was number one in the US, curiously.) Worldwide, Dell continues to falter in the face of withering competition from HP and a variety of internal problems. Rounding out the top five are Acer, with 6.8 percent of the market, Lenovo with 6.3 percent, and Toshiba with 4.1 percent. Gartner says that HP's dominance was aided by the release of Windows Vista, though Microsoft's latest operating system, overall, did little to rejuvenate the wider PC industry, according to analysts.

HD DVD vs. Blu-Ray
While partisans on either side of the HD DVD/Blu-Ray next-generation DVD debate are eager to claim an early victory, the truth is, neither side is doing all that well. However, some early--if small--numbers are starting to emerge suggesting that HD DVD might be pulling away from Blu-Ray. To date, over 100,000 dedicated HD DVD players have been sold in just the US, the North American HD DVD Promotional Group announced, a figure that does not include sales of Microsoft's HD DVD add-on for the Xbox 360. That's nice, but here's a curiously contradictory bit of data: Movies in Blu-Ray format are outselling movies in HD DVD format by a 7-to-3 margin. According to Sony, almost 550,000 Blu-Ray movies have sold to date, compared to just 250,000 for HD DVD.

Circuit City Teams with Napster
What do you get when you add zero and zero? Circuit City and Napster decided to find out this week, with the companies announcing a new online music service, called Circuit City + Napster, that combines the best features of Napster's own service with Circuit City's award-winning customer service. See, I almost laugh out loud just writing that. It's unclear what the point of this collaboration is, beyond a desire on the part of both companies to continue embarrassing themselves. Circuit City, of course, recently fired its top salespeople in a bid to save money and hire less expensive help. Meanwhile, Napster hasn't legitimately been in the news since it was an illegal file sharing service. Yep, it's just like peanut butter and chocolate. Sort of.

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