WinInfo Short Takes: Week of August 31, 2009

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

WinInfo Blog

This coming week marks the start of three straight months of travel for me, with little let-up, which I'm looking forward to with both anticipation and dread. First up is San Francisco, where I'll be attending VMworld, VMware's annual virtualization trade show. After that, well, I'll be all over the place. It's going to be a busy time.

Despite my annoying late summer cold, Leo and I recorded this week's episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on schedule, so you can expect it up on the web by the end of the weekend, as usual.

But wait, there's more. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter, Friendfeed, and the SuperSite Blog.

Short Takes

Windows 7 Launch Event in NYC? Maybe
I haven't yet received a formal invitation to a Windows 7 launch event in New York on October 22, but I'm hearing now that it's indeed happening. I've been leaving my schedule open for the day or two before and after that date—the day that Windows 7 becomes generally available—and I'm confused why Microsoft can't just make it official. Believe me, I've asked. Anyway, I hope the company does something: I don't expect the Windows 7 launch to come close to the mania that accompanied Windows 95, but it should at least blow away the Windows Vista and Windows XP launches, which were lackluster by comparison.

Microsoft Misses Another Office Web Applications Milestone
Assuming it ever arrives, Office Web Applications—Microsoft's free, web-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote—is going to leave Google Docs in the dust. There's just one problem: So far, there's no indication that Microsoft will ever be able to deliver the technology. Last October, the company announced Office Web Applications and said it would offer a public beta by the end of 2008. That date came and went, and then several more months passed. In mid-2009, the company finally announced a tech preview for Office 2010, the next version of its PC-based productivity suite. At the time, Microsoft said that an Office Web Applications preview would appear by the end of August. Well, in case you haven't checked the calendar recently, August ends on Monday, and there's no sign of an Office Web Applications tech preview anywhere. No worries, though: Microsoft now says that the release is still on track to happen in the days ahead. When will that be now? Soon.

Microsoft (Sorta) Works to Put Bing on the iPhone and Mac
Microsoft this week released an open-source (!) software development kit (SDK) for its Bing search engine (excuse me, decision engine) aimed at Apple iPhone and Mac developers, sort of a passive-aggressive way for the company to get its technology infiltrated onto Apple's less-than-open platforms. The SDK includes code for querying Bing for web, image, video, news, and phonebook results from the iPhone or Mac, according to Microsoft. I wouldn't be surprised to see Bing front-ends appear on the iPhone within days—you know, assuming Apple ever gets around to approving them.

Another Microsoft Photoshopgate? Grow Up, People
Microsoft found itself in yet another one of those bizarre controversies in which it was found to have Photoshopped an image to make it more palatable to the locale in which the ad would appear. In this case, a black man was changed into a goofy-looking white guy. And a Mac laptop was altered so that the Apple logo no longer appeared. The outrage was immediate: How dare Microsoft remove the Apple logo from that laptop! At least, I assume that's what the outrage was about. If you're going to pretend to be outraged about something, at least make it something ridiculous. Or at least more ridiculous.

Microsoft Targets VMware (Duh) in Latest Virtualization Push
In case you haven't been paying attention, virtualization is all the rage these days. And while Microsoft originally bought its way into this market with Connectix and then fielded a number of lackluster products on both the desktop and the server (I'm looking at you, Virtual PC and Virtual Server), the company is really pushing the envelope with its latest releases, especially Hyper-V 2.0, which is part of Windows Server 2008 R2. On the eve of market leader VMware's annual virtualization tradeshow, VMworld, Microsoft is hitting VMware right where it hurts: cost. You see, the problem with VMware's solutions is that they're relatively expensive compared with Microsoft's—which are, get this, free with the OS. "Some business customers are saving on average $170,000 when they switch to Microsoft virtualization software from VMware software," a Microsoft funded report reads. The extra you pay for VMware is known as the VMware Virtualization Tax in Redmond, which is a pretty effective way to communicate the concept, I think. I'm curious to see how VMware responds to this development next week. Because if it doesn't start responding soon, things are going to turn around in a negative way for this company.

IE 8 Heads Out to Businesses
If you thought consumers hated Internet Explorer 8 (IE 8), just wait until IT pros get their hands on it! Microsoft this week began pushing IE 8 to its corporate customers via Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), the company's software distribution and update service. Available now for Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003, IE 8 won't appear automatically on individual desktops. Instead, IT admins will need to approve the update first, then choose to deploy the release only where and when they want. Microsoft admits it faces some resistance to new releases such as IE 8 in the corporate market. "With our business customers, deploying a browser is very much like deploying an operating system across multiple desktops," Microsoft General Manager Amy Bazdukas says. And when you consider that a huge percentage of corporate customers are still stuck on the out-of-date IE 6, you can imagine that very few are going to be thrilled about moving to IE 8.

Dell Profits and Revenues Decline Markedly, Wall Street Cheers
You know you're in the middle of an economic crisis when Dell, one of the heavyweights of the PC industry, reports quarterly results that mark huge declines from the same period a year earlier and Wall Street responds by sending its stock price rocketing almost 7 percent up. Why such a positive response? Although Dell did indeed post net income and revenue declines of about 22 percent, the company insists that the bad times are over: With Windows 7 on the horizon, Dell says its consumer and corporate customers are both poised for a massive surge of new PC buying and that the turnaround will occur first in the United States. Dell says it's "convinced" that its biggest customer base—corporate users—will stop delaying upgrading as they did during Windows Vista's life cycle and warmly embrace the more impressive Windows 7. What's further interesting, however, is that even the current quarter wasn't all bad news: Dell's results were better than expected (the company posted a profit of $472 million on revenues of $12.6 billion), and the company appears to have really reined in expenses. "We expect revenue for the second half of the year to be stronger than the first half," Dell CEO Michael Dell said.

The iPhone Is Heading to China
Apple will likely maintain the torrid growth of its blockbuster iPhone smart phone in the coming year with a deal to bring the device to China, the world's largest mobile market. China's second-largest wireless carrier, China Unicom, said this week that it would begin selling Apple's iPhone in October. The company currently boasts more than 140 million subscribers, although that falls well short of number-one player China Mobile, which has nearly 500 million subscribers—the most of any wireless carrier worldwide. As with AT&T in the United States, however, just getting the iPhone could result in a big turnaround for China Mobile.

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