An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news...
Despite Legal Settlements, Microsoft Profit Train Rolls On
This news shouldn't come as a surprise: Microsoft again beat earnings expectations for its most recent quarter, despite the effect that legal settlements and the European Union (EU) antitrust fine have had on the company's financials. Microsoft earned $1.32 billion on revenues of $9.18 billion for the quarter that ended on March 31, which were up from $7.84 billion in the same quarter last year. These results include expenses related to stock-based compensation, which amounted to 5 cents per share, as well as legal charges of 17 cents a share. Without those charges, the company would have posted a profit of 34 cents per share, which is ahead of Microsoft's and Wall Street's estimates.
European Commission Issues Some Light Reading ...
As a follow-up to last month's record Microsoft fine, the European Commission released a 300-page report yesterday on the Commission's investigation into the software giant. The document goes into detail about the decision to fine Microsoft 497 million Euros for antitrust violations and includes historical insight into Microsoft's business practices and how the company and its executives viewed its market position. The report also provides an in-depth explanation of the Commission's request that Microsoft release a modified version of Windows XP that doesn't include Windows Media Player (WMP). The modified version (which the computer trade press often deridingly calls Windows XP Lite) would be available to all end users, regardless of whether they bought Windows from a PC maker. According to the report, Microsoft would be prohibited from offering PC makers and users a discount for obtaining the version of XP that contains WMP, and the modified release would have to perform as well as the unmodified version. Paul Thurrott plans to analyze the document on his return, so stay tuned for more information.
... and Microsoft Responds
Microsoft was able to review the European Commission's report before its release and issued a response which, boiled down, simply says "Did not!" Seriously, the seven-page response attempts to paint the software giant as the victim of overreaching regulators, claiming that the European ruling creates a "new law" and is filled with legal shortcomings. Microsoft is in the process of appealing the decision.
Just Call It Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005
Microsoft plans to release an update of the Tablet PC platform with this summer's release of XP Service Pack 2 (SP2). The update, code-named Lonestar, was supposed to have been called XP Tablet PC Edition 2004, but Microsoft had a change of heart and decided to call it XP Tablet PC Edition 2005. "We had been referring to it as 2004, but with a mid-year availability date, we determined a 2005 name would suit it better and for a longer period of time," a Microsoft representative said. How about dropping altogether the practice of using a year as the version number, which is silly, confusing, and dated? Are version numbers really that complicated?
Microsoft Updates Xbox Live
Microsoft updated the Xbox Live online video game service this week. The update includes a slew of new features, such as the ability for players to leave voice messages for other players and services for game publishers that let players easily share content and build teams. The company also announced a new 3-month subscription plan that will cost $39.99 and will include a headset communicator and demos of the games MechAssault and MotoGP. A full 12-month subscription to Xbox Live costs $69.99. The service has more than 750,000 subscribers worldwide.
Has the high-definition format arrived for Windows XP Media Center Edition (XP MCE) 2004 a bit earlier than expected? According to a press release issued this week, hardware provider VBox Communications' high-definition Digital TV Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) cards will support PCs running XP MCE 2004. The cards let customers use the PC to watch and record digital High Definition Television (HDTV). HDTV is becoming popular with cable and satellite providers, but few solutions are able to record in the format. Whether Vbox's cards enable XP MCE 2004 to record HDTV or use a software application to do so is unclear. However, due to HDTV's increasing popularity, we can safely assume that a future version of XP MCE will support the format.
Microsoft Releases MSN Messenger 6.2
Attention, Instant Messaging (IM) fans: Microsoft has released MSN Messenger 6.2. The release includes an MSN browser toolbar add-on, shared browsing for MSN subscribers, an updated look, and some minor tweaks. The update is fairly minor, but those who want the latest and greatest version of MSN Messenger can get it at the MSN Messenger Web site.
Microsoft Hires Former Linux Salesman
Microsoft has hired a former SUSE LINUX salesman whose efforts led to the city of Munich, Germany, switching from Microsoft products to Linux and other open-source software (OSS). That's right, the company has hired the one and only Frank Stallone to oversee sales of Microsoft data-center products to midsize German companies. Actually, the salesman is Karl Aigner, who was formerly a SUSE account representative in Munich. Aigner, who left SUSE late last year, started his new position with Microsoft earlier this month.
Microsoft: Make Linux Better
Microsoft is continuing its odd habit of setting up shop at Linux conferences. The company sent National System Engineer Bradley Tipp to the LinuxUser and Developer Expo in London, where he delivered an interesting message to the audience: Continue to make Linux better. "The thing I like is that Microsoft does its best work and is most innovative when it has competition, so bring it on," Tipp said. He makes an excellent point: Microsoft can be lazy when it doesn't have to compete. (Windows Me comes to mind.) When Netscape dominated the Web, Microsoft threw a lot of resources and talent at developing a better browser product. But since Microsoft came to overwhelming dominate the browser market, the company has done little in terms of browser innovation. A better Linux desktop product would be good for everyone, and I certainly hope the open-source community continues to evolve. Bring it on, indeed.
Jobs: No Thanks
At Apple Computer's annual shareholders meeting this week, CEO Steve Jobs publicly dismissed RealNetworks' attempts to make its product interoperate with Apple's products. Jobs said that such interoperability doesn't make business sense for Apple because it would require an initial and ongoing cost. He also noted that RealNetworks' music service has been "less than successful"--a phrase you might use to describe, say, the Macintosh market. Some observers think Jobs is a smart businessman, but his obviously shortsighted view of working with other companies is apt to catch up with Apple. Watching how the company deals with market dominance is fascinating. Apple should enjoy it while it lasts; the company's Macintosh-like strategy with iPod and iTunes has only failed in the past.
VMware to Support 64-Bit Platforms
Software-virtualization company VMware announced this week that it plans to support 64-bit extended x86 platforms, including those that use AMD64 and Intel Extended Memory 64 technology. Over the next 18 months, VMware plans to update its applications to let users run both 32-bit and 64-bit OSs on 64-bit host platforms (and, eventually, 64-bit environments on 32-bit hosts). The 64-bit revolution is coming.
TCP Threat Looms
Fear spread through the Internet security community this week when a researcher disclosed a critical flaw in a protocol that's a major part of the Internet's backbone. The flaw, which affects the TCP protocol, lets attackers prematurely end data sessions, which can cause problems for network appliances and software programs. Many vendors, including Check Point Software Technologies, Cisco Systems, and Juniper Networks, have posted warnings and software-update information on their Web sites.
Internet Speed Record Set
Tired of slow Internet connections? Researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the Geneva-based European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced a new speed record this week. The Internet2 Land Speed Record achieved an average speed of 6.25Gbps. Although typical desktop users probably won't see this type of bandwidth anytime soon, the possibilities are still pretty amazing. Researchers expect to use the increased bandwidth to share large volumes of data--you know, like Kazaa does now on the Internet.
We Now Return To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming
A rested and tanned Paul Thurrott will return next week to resume writing WinInfo Daily UPDATE. Thanks for sharing a great week with me.