WinInfo Short Takes: Week of March 20

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including Microsoft's marketing push for Vista and Office 2007, music videos on Xbox 360, eBay bootleggers, Google copyright suit dismissal, Blu-Ray, XP on Intel-based Macs, and much, much more...

After a two-month experiment, I've sold my recently acquired Intel-
based iMac. There were a number of reasons for this move, but I did it
mostly because of a general frustration with OS X. I've been using Mac
OS X since mid-2001, and I've had several Macs come and go, including
three iMacs. But for the past two months, I used the iMac as my
general-purpose PC, for email, Web browsing and research, and some
writing. Although I believe it's possible for many people to be quite
happy with a Mac, I'm not one of them, and moving back and forth
between XP and Vista-based PCs and the Mac throughout the day is
painful. There are just too many small differences.

For various reasons, I'll pick up another Intel-based Mac before mid-
year, one that will almost certainly be cheaper than the iMac and will
likely be a portable. I think the Mac market is vibrant and exciting,
and I certainly understand why the technology is so compelling to
technical people. Of course, I need an up-to-date Mac so I can keep up
with that market, but the two-month experiment has really brought
something home for me. Although it's pretty obvious that I could never
switch to a Mac given my day job, it's now clear that I could never
personally switch to the Mac even if I were in a completely different
line of work, such as mowing lawns, for example. This discovery
surprised me. Not as much as the thought of mowing lawns for a living,
but you get the idea.

Anyway, I'm not sure whether this qualifies as irony per se, but the
day I sold my iMac, someone figured out how to get Windows XP to boot
on that machine. (See Short Takes below for details.) I had originally
purchased the iMac to dual-boot between OS X and Windows. Maybe some
day.

And finally, when my four-year-old daughter was leaving for preschool
this morning, she offered me this bit of wisdom: "Have fun today ...
working all by yourself." This triggered a few uncomfortable moments of
introspection, as you might imagine. Kids are so cute.

Short Takes

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

   by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Microsoft to Spend $500 Million on Vista, Office 2007 Marketing Push

Microsoft has a problem. Many of its business customers are still using
old versions of Windows and Office, as though they're trying to eke out
every last bit of usage from the software they paid for. But Microsoft
has the cure for that, and it involves its customers upgrading in huge
numbers. At a special event in New York City on Thursday, Microsoft CEO
Steve Ballmer announced that his company would spend $500 million
marketing Windows Vista and Office 2007. The theme of the event was
"people ready," but maybe it should have been "upgrade, upgrade,
upgrade," since that's what Microsoft is really interested in. And
sooner rather than later. We're looking at you, corporate America.

Music Videos Pollute Xbox 360 Experience

I spend a lot of time on the Xbox 360, and this morning I was greeted
by an unwelcome site on the Xbox Dashboard: An advertisement for a
downloadable music video from British singer Natasha Bedingfield. Now
why the heck would I want this? Apparently, the video is just the
beginning of a new promotional deal between Microsoft and Epic Records,
but I have to wonder what subset of Xbox 360 owners even care about
this kind of garbage. Microsoft should have held off on non-game
advertisements until it had a way for its users to specify what kinds
of ads they want to see. Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, I
pay for Xbox Live Gold. Why am I getting ads at all?

Microsoft Sues eBay Bootleggers

Microsoft this week filed a series of lawsuits against eight eBay users
(seven individuals and one company) who have been selling counterfeit
copies of Microsoft software through the auction Web site. The suits
were filed in Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts,
Nebraska, New York, and Washington, which are the home states of the
defendants. Fans of Windows Genuine Advantage will be happy to hear
that seven of the offenders were found when the software they sold
failed online Windows Genuine Advantage tests, which are now used to
let users download software updates from Microsoft.com. Maybe I'll try
to sell my copy of Windows/286 on Amazon zShops instead of eBay.

Google Copyright Suit Dismissed

A federal judge recently cleared online search giant Google of wrongful
conduct, copyright infringement, and defamation as part of a suit
brought against the company by an Internet publisher. Snodgrass
Publishing Group argued that Google's archiving of copyrighted material
that Snodgrass owner Gordon Parker posted on Usenet bulletin boards
violated US copyright laws. Judge R. Barclay Surrick disagreed, noting
that Google's temporary caching of Internet data didn't constitute
copyright infringement. He dismissed the case. But here's the fun part.
Parker's post, like most of the information Snodgrass publishes online,
involved instructions for seducing women. Maybe Parker should have been
more concerned with embarrassment than copyright.

Lenovo to Slash 1000 Jobs

Chinese PC maker Lenovo, which recently purchased the ThinkPad brand
and products from IBM, will eliminate 1000 jobs over the next several
months in a bid to save money. Most of the jobs will come from its
sales organization and procurement operations, Lenovo said. It will
also move its US executive staff from Purchase, New York, to Raleigh,
North Carolina. All told, Lenovo hopes to save about $250 million
annually through the changes, although the company will take a one-time
$100 million charge to get the ball rolling. As far as I can tell, the
company's best assets are all in Raleigh. Let's hope Lenovo doesn't
screw with success.

Sony: First Blu-ray Player Will Cost $1000

This week Sony revealed that it will begin selling its Blu-ray Disc
(BD) players in July for the bargain price of $1000. For those keeping
score, that's exactly double the price of HD-DVD drives, which Toshiba
will begin selling soon. The Sony BDP-S1, as the player is
enthusiastically named, will deliver a 1080p, or 1920 x 1080
progressive scan, display through its High-Definition Multimedia
Interface (HDMI) connection, although it will also support analog
output for those who haven't purchased a high-end TV. I'm having a hard
time getting excited about Blu-ray. You might recall that this week
Sony also delayed its PlayStation 3 (PS3) video game console until
November, citing delays in Blu-ray's copy protection technologies. My
guess is that the cost of Blu-ray played a bigger role in this delay.
Maybe Sony is hoping that Blu-ray drives will be less expensive to
produce six months from now.


Hacker Gets XP Running on Intel Macs

A Mac enthusiast is more than $13,000 richer this week after he figured
out how to get Windows XP running on Intel-based Macs, thus winning a
Web contest that was set up to reward such a feat. The hacker, who goes
by the name "narf," posted videos and instructions for the process,
thus proving it was reproducible and winning the prize. The contest had
been running since January, when Apple announced the availability of
the first Intel-based Mac, the new iMac. The most exciting thing about
this is that others can examine narf's solution and improve on it. It's
only a matter of time before the Intel-based Macs are fully functioning
members of the Windows world. You know, if you're into that kind of
thing.

Microsoft Kills So-Called Photoshop Killer

This week Microsoft revealed that it was at least temporarily canceling
work on a tool called Expression Graphic Designer, a professional
graphics application that some had labeled a "Photoshop Killer." (I,
however, always thought of it as "unnecessary.") Anyway, Microsoft said
that there's no compelling reason to release the product-- a statement
I certainly agree with--although the software giant is continuing work
on two companion products, Expression Interactive Designer and
Expression Web Designer, both of which are aimed at Web development. 
Of course, as in any good horror movie, there's always the chance that
Expression Graphic Designer will rear its head for the sequel, when
those other two products are ready to ship.

Individual Claims to Have Hacked Xbox 360 Firmware

A hacker who goes by the name "The Specialist" claims to have installed
custom firmware into his Xbox 360, therefore becoming the first person
to bypass the system's security controls. According to the hacker, he
can create backups of Xbox 360 game titles with the new firmware, but
he pledges to not release the firmware publicly because of piracy
concerns. Although it's impossible to know whether this hack actually
works, it's only a matter of time before such a thing happens, which
I'm sure Microsoft knows and has planned for. Certainly, hackers have
had far less success hacking the Xbox 360 than the company experienced
with the original Xbox.

Microsoft Ships Office 2007 Beta Refresh to Testers

As expected, Microsoft this week shipped its Office 2007 Beta 1
Refresh, which adds the final UI that's generated so much debate
because of its bright colors and garish look. Interestingly, the Office
2007 Beta 1 Refresh lets you switch between a Luna-style color scheme
and something called Obsidian, which more than vaguely resembles the
old "Slate" UI from early Longhorn betas. I'm not sure whether the
Obsidian option is going to make it into the final Office 2007 UI,
which it should at least answer some of the complaints about the garish
colors.

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