An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news...
WMP 9, Windows Movie Maker 2 Off to Fast Start
Microsoft announced this week that Windows Media Player (WMP) 9 and Windows Movie Maker 2 are off to record-breaking starts with 14 million and 3 million downloads, respectively, in their first 30 days of availability. With more than five downloads every second, WMP 9 nearly doubled the number of downloads that the previous digital-music jukebox software record holder, WMP 7, experienced. I've been working with both products for months and still find them to be the best overall solutions in their respective categories. If you're into digital media, take a look at these products; they just might surprise you. Besides, Microsoft isn't force-feeding the products with a new Windows version, which is a good sign.
Microsoft, NVIDIA Agree to Agree
After months of legal wrangling, Microsoft and NVIDIA announced yesterday that they've settled all outstanding concerns regarding the price Microsoft will pay NVIDIA for the graphics chipsets in the Xbox. The two companies will now work together to lower the cost of making the game system, which is struggling in the crucial video-game market. Maybe a better strategy would be to figure out how to sell more Xboxes: Unit sales will drive software sales, which is where the real money is.
Intel Centrino to Ship in Mid-March
Intel will release its next mobile CPU chipset family, the Centrino, on March 12. The chipset, formerly code-named Banias, also includes dedicated silicon for 802.11b wireless networking and features Pentium 4-level performance with better battery life and power-management functionality than the current-generation Pentium III-M chips offer. Intel says that numerous PC makers will be on board with new notebook and Tablet PC designs when Centrino hits the market next month. If you're a mobile warrior or are looking for a new portable computer, you might want to wait for the Centrino generation of machines.
AMD Delays Hammer Chips
Intel competitor AMD is having problems delivering its next-generation 64-bit Hammer chips. The company has repeatedly delayed several Hammer chips, including the AMD Athlon 64 and AMD Opteron chips, and now expects to ship these products in mid-2003 and late 2003, respectively. In the meantime, AMD will try to keep pressure on Intel's Pentium 4 by introducing an Athlon 3000+ CPU this month and a 3200+ chip a few months later. These 32-bit designs will ostensibly offer performance similar to Intel's 3GHz+ chips. But Intel isn't sitting still, and I think the company will have even faster 32-bit chips available in the same time frame. One soft spot, however, is the 64-bit arena, in which Intel is targeting only servers with its Itanium (formerly code-named Merced) line. If AMD ever releases the Hammer chips, the company might have a chance at gaining some market share. ... Nah.
Microsoft Updates Windows Datacenter Program
With the Windows Server 2003 development process winding down--Microsoft issued its so-called escrow build to external testers last night--the company is starting a blitzkrieg of press releases to convince customers that the product is a compelling upgrade. One such release concerns the new Windows Datacenter Program, which Microsoft renamed Windows Datacenter High Availability Program, reflecting a new emphasis on uptime. As with the earlier program, the new program is available only through select OEMs and comes with extensive service contracts. Interestingly, Microsoft will also offer the Windows 2003, Datacenter Edition product independently for the first time.
Microsoft Boosts Windows 2003 Uptime and Reliability
Microsoft is also touting a new reliability service for Windows 2003. Logically called the Microsoft Reliability Service, the service can monitor customers' event data and supply analytical reports. The service can also let customers monitor software and hardware components and identify the cause of downtime. Combined with the various reliability and availability improvements in Windows 2003, Microsoft says that this service helps contribute to an average of 40 percent better uptime than Windows 2000 Server provides.
Opera: Microsoft Has No Style
This week, niche browser maker Opera Software complained that Microsoft's MSN Web sites serve Opera users a broken style sheet that makes it appear that Opera can't correctly display pages on those sites. But when Web sites feed Opera the same style sheet that Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 6.0 uses, Opera works fine. Furthermore, when IE 6.0 uses the Opera style sheet, the MSN pages remain broken. Opera alleges that Microsoft was purposefully making Opera look bad; Microsoft claims that the broken style sheet was an honest mistake. Is Microsoft really beating up on a browser competitor? Sorry, but I don't see any precedence for that notion.
Linux on the Desktop, Part 27
The Desktop Linux Consortium (DLC), a group of Linux companies that includes CodeWeavers, MandrakeSoft, SuSE, Xandros, and Ximian, announced this week that it will work with other open-source companies and projects--such as Debian, KDE, OpenOffice.org, and Samba.org--to unseat Microsoft's dominance in the desktop OS market. Backed by Linux creator Linus Torvalds, the LDC is conspicuously missing a few key players--notably Red Hat and Lindows.com. But the consortium's goal--raise Linux's desktop market share above its current 2 percent level--should benefit anyone involved with Linux. Although the consortium's goal is ambitious--Windows controls more than 94 percent of the market--it won't take a lot of effort to surpass the Macintosh, and I suspect that milestone will be the consortium's first. Is Linux "inevitable" on the desktop, as Torvalds opined? Perhaps. But what's taking so long?