WinInfo Short Takes: Week of March 10

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

Longhorn Quick Install: How Microsoft Does It
One of my questions about Longhorn build 4008 has been answered. Several readers pointed out that Longhorn's quick-installation process is possible because of a technology called the Windows Preinstallation Environment (WinPE), which PC makers use to load a minimal Windows-based operating environment from CD-ROM. This environment can create file partitions, access network shares, and install Windows from an image file rather than from the old i386 directory structure that earlier Windows versions use. The installation is faster, for the most part, because one image file can copy much more quickly than the thousands of small files in the i386 directory. Thanks to everyone who wrote me about this topic.

Sony Considers Buying Palm, Apple
Sony Chairman and CEO Nobuyuki Idei has said twice recently that he might purchase Palm's software division, Palmsource, to save money licensing the Palm OS for his company's CLIE devices. But Idei also recently proposed the idea of purchasing Apple Computer, leading to speculation that Sony is ready to make a credible play for computing greatness. "Even Bill Gates asked me if I was crazy," Idei joked recently when asked about his public comments. But he isn't crazy; Palmsource, especially, would be an inexpensive purchase, thanks to its recent split from parent company Palm and low stock prices. As for Apple--well, who can say? But Sony is one of the few juggernaut media companies that's kicking butt and doing well in the electronics convergence space. You never know.

Intel: Sales Will Fall Short
Chipmaker giant Intel warned this week that sales for the current quarter will fall short of forecasts because of competition from AMD, falling prospects because of a possible war with Iraq, and continued economic uncertainty. Sales of PC microprocessors are slightly above previous expectations, but the company predicted quarterly revenues in the $6.6 billion to $6.8 billion range, down from its January prediction of $6.5 billion to $7 billion. "I don't look at what we have here and see signs of an economic recovery," said Intel Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Andy Bryant. Yeah, neither do I.

Here Comes Centrino
Speaking of Intel, one bright spot for the company and, frankly, the industry is next week's release of the Centrino chipset, which will power a new generation of mobile computers. The Centrino includes the powerful new Pentium-M microprocessor, integrated 802.11b wireless networking, and excellent power-management capabilities, and offers notebooks users a combination of the power of Pentium 4 computing and much better battery life than earlier solutions. I've been evaluating a prototype IBM Thinkpad notebook computer that's based on the Centrino, and the results are interesting. The 1.6GHz Pentium-M has ratcheted down as far as 222MHz to save battery life, but the processor can jump to virtually any speed (I've seen it move between 222MHz and 999MHz) to accommodate the task at hand. I don't think Centrino will jumpstart PC sales per se, but it's the most important mobile chipset ever developed. If you're in the market for a mobile computer, wait until next week and check out the new systems that PC makers will unveil.

Microsoft Issues First Dividend
Yes, that sound you hear is hell freezing over. This week, Microsoft issued its first quarterly dividend, handing over $850 million to shareholders large and small. Microsoft's first dividend is predictably small at just 8 cents per share but is better than the $0 per share that shareholders received in the past. Ironically, although Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates was personally responsible for preventing the company from issuing dividends for years, as the company's biggest shareholder he'll get the biggest payout--almost $100 million. Maybe he could spread the wealth a bit and give that cash to the other shareholders he stonewalled during the past few years. Yeah, that might happen.

Gateway Still Looking for Winning Formula
Struggling PC maker Gateway is still trying to institute a financial turnaround, and the company's most recent plan involves reducing costs. Like many PC makers, slowing PC sales and a poor economy have hit Gateway hard, but the company has fared worse than most and has suffered through eight straight quarterly losses. Now the company hopes to be profitable by the end of this calendar year. Frankly, I hope it happens: Gateway makes cool stuff and has always had a fun, quirky personality.

Dell Rolls Out New Tanks, Er, Notebooks
Dell rolled out three new notebook designs this week, including a model with a 15.4" widescreen, but--whoa--what's up with the weight? The new Inspiron 1100, 5100, and 8100 all weigh a hefty 7 pounds or so, making me wonder why the world's leading PC maker can't make a portable that isn't backbreaking. And portable is the key word: Who would want to lug around such a beast? More than 2 years after Apple introduced its 15.5" widescreen PowerBook G4, most PC companies still haven't duplicated that machine's elegant design and have foisted heavy, ugly beasts like these Dell notebooks on consumers. Come on, guys. Wake up.

Apple Patent Craze Isn't That Crazy
Apple has been on a patent-application binge of late, but most of the online stories about the company's patent applications, predictably, are wrong. Various reports say that Apple has patented the trash can, window buttons, dialog boxes, and other aspects of its UI that environments such as Linux and Windows also use, leading to speculation that Apple will start suing other companies to prevent them from using common UI parts. But that isn't what happened. Apple has patented specific items, not the generic items specified in these reports. For example, Apple didn't patent the trash can; the company patented the exact graphical design it uses to represent the trash can in Mac OS X. So Microsoft and various Linux makers can continue to use their own trashcan variants, making speculation about Apple's patent moves purely bogus. Complaining about various Apple actions is easy, but as with Microsoft, we don't need to make stuff up. This story falls into the fantasy category.

Lindows.com vs. Microsoft Looks at Apple vs. Microsoft
As reported in WinInfo Daily UPDATE, the Lindows.com and Microsoft trademark battle will be delayed 8 months so that Lindows.com can evaluate evidence from a previous trademark battle between Apple and Microsoft. What kind of evidence will Lindows.com find in this treasure trove? "The newly produced documents include documentation from the 1992 Apple vs. Microsoft case," a Lindows.com release reads. "The documents reveal that \[UI\] elements such as windows, icons, and menus were not the property of any one company because they were widely used in the computer business. This is contrary to Microsoft's current argument that they should maintain exclusive use of the word 'windows.'" Good stuff.

Xbox Heads to the Arcade
The Xbox video game console might not have what it takes to turn back the Sony PlayStation 2 tidal wave, but Microsoft hopes the Xbox can make a solid run in video arcades. According to leaked reports, Microsoft is porting its Xbox hardware to arcade machines under a project code-named Chihiro, the name of the heroine in the anime film "Spirited Away." But the project isn't that big of a secret: Microsoft and Sega said last year that they were working on an arcade variant of the Xbox. Regardless, the development is exciting for Xbox fans because it means that in the future they'll be able to get home versions of games that are 100 percent identical to arcade titles--assuming, of course, that the Xbox is still around a year from now.

Microsoft Temporarily Shuts Down Windows Enthusiast Site
Apparently, Windows enthusiast Web site Neowin.net crossed the line one too many times, causing Microsoft's legal team to contact Neowin.net's Web hosting company and temporarily take the site down. At issue were download links to prerelease software that Neowin.net posted on its site. Neowin.net will likely be back up soon, minus the controversial links, but you have to wonder what it's going to be like for the site, treading the line between serving the enthusiast community and worrying about another Microsoft scare tactic. Maybe Microsoft could look a little closer to home when it comes to stopping software leaks, eh?

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