An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including Microsoft's amazing quarterly earnings, some Windows 7 news, XP SP3 and Vista SP1 RC Refresh 2 releases, Vista security, a consumer-friendly Windows Mobile, Nintendo, and so much more...
In a weird coincidence the other day, I was configuring a Dell XPS M1330 notebook online when I got an email from Microsoft asking if I was interested in a briefing regarding the participation of both Dell and Microsoft in the (RED) project. As we now know, Dell is offering various (PRODUCT)RED versions of their products, including the M1330, so I ended up ordering one of those instead. We'll see how that goes, but I'm overdue for a new notebook. Hopefully I'll have it in time for the three trips I know I'm taking in February: Denver, London, and Los Angeles.
After my week off last week, Leo and I are back this week with a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast. As usual, it should be up in time for the weekend.
Microsoft Reports Strong Earnings, Big Expectations for Rest of Year
Like many technology companies, Microsoft reported its quarterly earnings this week, and while it surpassed analyst expectations by a wide margin, the software giant also managed to do something no other tech company seems capable of: It provided hugely positive guidance for the next six months as well. This is especially notable because Microsoft is generally pretty conservative about its financial guidance, plus companies like Apple and Intel just got whacked by investors because of their own negative guidance looking forward. For the record, Microsoft earned $4.71 billion in the quarter on revenues of $16.37 billion, huge gains over the same quarter a year ago. All of its major businesses--Windows, Office, Windows Server--were firing on all cylinders, as they say, and even the division responsible for the Xbox 360 posted a rare profit, thanks to sales of Halo 3 and other software. The only minor glitch in the works was Microsoft's online business, which continues to be slapped silly by the likes of Google. I've said it before and I'll say it again: This is a company that just mints money, and it's unclear why it's stock doesn't reflect that.
Windows 7 Shots Makes the Rounds
While Microsoft remains cagey about its plans for Windows 7, its successor to Windows Vista, a very early pre-release version, the M1 or milestone 1 build, has been making the rounds online this week, causing a flurry of excitement despite the fact that there's nothing truly exciting about the build at all. As one might expect of a very early version of the next Windows, Windows 7 build 6519 looks and acts almost exactly like Windows Vista, with only minor changes here and there, none of which are particularly notable. What can't be determined from this build, of course, is whether Windows 7 will be a big deal or what I think of as "Vista R2," a minor follow-on to Vista that adds some new features and lots of fit and finish work. I can say that Steven Sinofsky, the man in charge of Windows 7, has a history of shipping minor upgrades: His tenure in charge of Microsoft Office was, in fact, marked by a steady series of solid if largely uninspiring upgrades. The one exception, of course, was the most recent version, Office 2007, which largely consisted of a brand new UI but few other new features. Anyway, this first build doesn't change much with regards to Windows 7: We still have no idea in which direction the final product is heading.
Microsoft Ships Near-Final XP SP3, Vista SP1 Builds to Testers
And speaking of Windows versions that have yet to ship, Microsoft this week ship near-final versions of Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) and Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1), the latter of which should be completed in time for its expected February release. Both releases are referred to as Release Candidate (RC) Refresh 2, apparently because naming them Release Candidate 3 (RC3) would be too concise. Neither build is publicly available, though that could change: After releasing the initial Vista SP1 RC Refresh only to beta testers earlier this month, Microsoft made the build available to the general public as well. Either way, these products are barreling towards completion.
Microsoft: Vista is More Secure ... than XP
In what I assume wasn't an attempt at humor, Microsoft this week claimed that Windows Vista is the most secure operating system its ever created, handily beating out its own predecessor, Windows XP. This claim is backed up by the following: In its first year on the market, Vista has had far fewer security vulnerabilities (both fixed and unfixed) than XP. Vista suffered from 36 fixed and 30 unfixed vulnerabilities in its first year on the market, compared to 68 fixed vulnerabilities and 54 unfixed vulnerabilities for XP. Furthermore, Microsoft points to 9 instances of fixes being issued for Vista in its first year, compared to 26 for XP, though that's a bit skewed in my opinion as Microsoft now ships fixes on a regular monthly schedule, which wasn't the case when XP first shipped. Microsoft credits Vista's User Account Control (UAC) technologies as well as Internet Explorer (IE) 7 and various other Vista security features for the turnaround. But I have a few questions. Why are there 30 unpatched vulnerabilities in your new OS, Microsoft? And how does Vista compare, real world, to Linux and Mac OS X?
Microsoft (Sort Of) Goes After iPhone, Finally
Microsoft this week revealed that it was going to retool its Windows Mobile OS for smart phones to make it more intriguing for consumers. While Windows Mobile currently dominates the smart phone market, outselling RIM Blackberry and all other comers, it remains a choice mostly for business users not consumers. But this week, the company hired former Staples executive Todd Peters to develop consumer-oriented versions of Windows Mobile that Microsoft can sell to the audience now considering Apple's consumer-friendly iPhone. There's a lot of work to do: While Windows Mobile is quite capable at what it does, it's not exactly the touchy-feely experience you get on the iPhone. My guess is it never really will be either.
Nintendo Surges on Strong Wii, DS Sales
Video game maker Nintendo this week reported huge holiday sales as expected, with its Wii video game console and Nintendo DS handheld video game device racking up huge sales and outselling the competition in their respective categories. Nintendo now expects to sell 18.5 million Wii consoles by the end of March, up from its previous projection of 17.5 million, and expects to sell 29.5 million DS units by that time, up from 28 million. What's amazing about all this, of course, is that everyone expected Nintendo to be the also-ran in the video game market, but the company isn't just doing well, it's dominating the field.
Mozilla Marks 10th Anniversary
This week marks the 10th anniversary of the Mozilla project, Netscape's open source browser project that eventually spawned the Mozilla Corporation and the hugely successful Firefox Web browser. What's interesting about all this, to me anyway, is that the original Mozilla project concerned the release of the source code for the Communicator browser suite, which included Web browsing, email, HTML editing, and instant messaging components. That code was considered so horrible, however, that it was scrapped in lieu of a more modern design. But even that new version was considered too bloated by a small group of Mozilla developers who started a side project, then dubbed Phoenix, to create a browser-only version of the Mozilla code. Phoenix, of course, eventually became Firefox (after an ill-fated turn as "Firebird"), and it was that project, not the old Communicator mess, that rocketed Mozilla to stardom. Today, Firefox and Mozilla are almost synonymous in many users' minds. But the beginnings of this project were far more convoluted, and of course Mozilla has a number of other interesting projects. The origin of Mozilla is a fascinating story, and of course, it's nice to see that Netscape successfully weathered Microsoft's competitive threat from the mid-90's to remain a salient and relevant technology superpower today. Oh, wait.