An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including the 4th of July long weekend, Windows 7, Microsoft + Yahoo + AOL + MySpace, Microsoft gets Equipt for the future, Blockbuster dodges a bullet, XP support improves for Toy PCs, and more...
Last week's trip to Sonoma, California was fantastic, though I'm clearly still suffering from the effects of that perfect combination of overindulgence and not working out. Worse still, the trip home was just exhausting: Driving home from the airport in Boston that evening I calculated that we had literally left the hotel in Sonoma exactly 12 hours earlier. You gotta love the airlines and they're regular takeoff delays right now.
This week, of course, is the 4th of July. I write "of course" as if the arrival of an American holiday is a given for those of you outside the US, but what this means here is a short work week this week (the holiday is Friday, providing that most wonderful of events, the long weekend). So this is a weird day to be doing Short Takes, but I'm OK with it if you are.
Given the timing, Leo and I haven't yet recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast this week, yet, but I expect that to happen on schedule later today (knock on wood), so you can reasonably expect it to be available 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.
A Bit of Windows 7 News
I'm hoping to have more information very soon, but I'm getting reports of some interesting changes in recent builds of Windows 7, including such things as the removal of Windows Sidebar and new Aero-based UI themes. I'll write something up as soon as I can verify it, but it looks like we're on the cusp of another explosion of Windows 7 info.
Microsoft, Yahoo, Others Mulling New Merger Options
Microsoft and Yahoo have separately been holding talks with other companies to see whether they can orchestrate something around various combinations of assets. Microsoft is talking about a deal with News Corp., where that company would sell its MySpace properties to Yahoo to create a social networking powerhouse and spin off the Yahoo Search stuff to Microsoft. Yahoo, meanwhile, is talking to Time Warner about buying its AOL properties and creating a Web powerhouse. And in related news, Microsoft finally met with billionaire investor Carl Icahn recently to discuss his bid to overthrow the Yahoo board at next month's annual shareholder meeting. The result? They've allegedly pressed him to continue that work.
Is Anyone Else Tired of all this Microsoft/Yahoo BS?
Yeah, me too. If I wanted to watch a soap opera, I'd curl up on the couch in the morning and turn on one of the major TV networks.
DOJ Expands Google-Yahoo Investigation
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) issued civil subpoenas this week in its investigation of the Google-Yahoo search outsourcing deal, which many feel is anti-competitive and would give market leader Google too much control over the industry. Subpoenas have been sent to both Google and Yahoo, of course, but also to competitors like Microsoft. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that this was the first time DOJ subpoenas were met, literally, by cheers at Microsoft.
Microsoft Equipt is a Step in the Right Direction for Microsoft
Microsoft's announcement this week that its Equipt suite--combining Office 2007 Home and Student, Windows Live OneCare, and the Windows Live suite--will be a $70 a year subscription service is a step in the right direction for Microsoft. As customers move more and more towards so-called cloud computing solutions, changing traditional software like Office, especially, to a subscription service is the way to go. I'd like to see the price come down a bit, but this eliminates worries about future upgrades. What would be better of course is if the thing was just online, and the upgrades could happen behind the scenes with no user interaction. I suspect we'll get there.
Did I Mention How Silly the Name Equipt is?
Because it is. :)
Microsoft Makes It Easier to Put XP on Toy PCs
As most of you probably know, Microsoft ended the mainstream availability of Windows XP at retail earlier this week, though of course the OS will still be available while supplies last, as they say. But Microsoft will continue to offer Windows XP Home Edition only on new classes of netbooks and other "toy" PCs (as I think of them), and this week the software giant made a few changes along those lines as well. Now, PC makers can sell XP Home on toy PCs with screens up to 14 inches and with hard drives up to 160 GB. Touch screens? Yes, they're OK too. (Previously, Microsoft limited these machines to 10.2 inch screens and 80 GB hard drives, and did not allow touch screens.) Processors are limited to 1 GHz and a single core, and the system memory of such systems can't exceed 1 GB. Now you know why I call these things toy PCs: We'll have smart phones this powerful within a year.
Blockbuster Bids Adieu to Circuit City
In the theme of "dodging a bullet," DVD seller/renter Blockbuster this week withdrew its $1 billion offer to purchase ailing electronics retailer Circuit City. My guess is that someone woke up to the fact that Circuit City is on the fast track to becoming the next CompUSA and would only take Blockbuster down with it. And let's face it, Blockbuster has its own issues to deal with. If that company really has $1 billion to spend--and I doubt that--my advice is to squirrel that away. Trust me, you're going to need it.
Report: Firefox Users are More Secure
According to a recent study by researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, fewer than 60 percent of people use fully patched and up-to-date Web browsers, increasing their risk of being exploited by hackers and malicious Web sites. Not surprisingly, Firefox users are most likely to be completely up-to-date: The study says that 83.3 percent of the users of Mozilla's Web browser are up-to-date, compared to just 47.6 percent of IE users (and 65.3 percent of Apple Safari users, and 56 percent of Opera users). The reason for this discrepancy, no doubt, is that Firefox users, of course, have to go and manually find, download, and install that browser, and anyone that diligent is probably the sort of person who would ensure that they're up-to-date. Frankly, we need more people like that.
Firefox 3 Sets World Download Record
And speaking of Firefox, Mozilla announced this week that it successfully beat the Guinness World Record for software downloads in a single day: The company logged over 8 million downloads of Firefox 3 in its first 24 hours of availability last month, at a peak rate of 9000 downloads per minute. Firefox market share not coincidentally improved to 19 percent worldwide during this period, second to Microsoft's IE. Mozilla expects to break the 20 percent market sometime this month.