Yahoo! Shoots Down Microsoft Offer
This week, Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel said he turned down an offer from Microsoft to buy a financial stake in Yahoo!. However, he denied rumors that Microsoft had discussed the possibility of buying Yahoo! outright. "Microsoft taking over Yahoo!: That conversation has never come up," Semel said during a recent talk at Syracuse University. "\[We discussed\] search, and Microsoft co-owning some of our search. I won't sell a piece of search. It's like selling your right arm while keeping your left; it doesn't make any sense." It's probably somewhat distressing to the people working on MSN Search and Windows Live Search to discover that Microsoft was willing to throw away years of internal work to simply buy Yahoo!'s search technology. The news should also give MSN Search and Windows Live Search users food for thought.
Ballmer Claims He Isn't Going After Google
Right. And I'm sure Microsoft is also moving Windows to an open-source model. This week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that Microsoft wasn't focused on all-out war with Google but was seeking ways to maximize online advertising revenue through new (presumably non-search-based) services. "Let's not focus on Google," he said, apparently in a bid to get the press (and not necessarily his company) to forget about Google. "The key is, what about the advertising business model? Have we done everything we need to do to drive advertising as a business model?" Despite having reservations about the press discussing Microsoft's competition with Google, Ballmer was quick to allude to how Microsoft could possibly beat Google in the search market. "People said we wouldn't get the browser right, and we did," he said. (Microsoft got the browser "right"? What about the weekly Internet Explorer--IE--security vulnerabilities?) "People said we wouldn't take care of Novell, and we did. We'll show our usual innovation but also our patience. It distinguishes us from technology companies that aren't so patient." Speaking of patience, Ballmer predicted that Google would disappear within five years.
Google Exec Claims Microsoft Battle is Overblown
At his company's annual press-day event, Google CEO Eric Schmidt tried to allay concerns that Microsoft and Google were preparing for World War 3.0. Schmidt maintained that there would never be a single search engine and that competition is good for everyone. And with that, Schmidt introduced three new services--Google Trends, Google Desktop 4, and Google Co-Op--all of which are designed, in one way or another, to challenge similar Microsoft products or services. Schmidt is right about one thing: Competition is great--but for consumers. It's not so great for the companies that get killed in the process.
First Open Document Converter Appears for Microsoft Office
This week, the OpenDocument Foundation announced a plug-in for Microsoft Office that will let users open and save documents in the newly standardized open-source OpenDocument format. The plug-in, which has been in development for about a year, makes OpenDocument documents seem as if they're native to Office. This plug-in will be important to governments, such as that of Massachusetts, that have pledged to move to open formats but still have reams of legacy Office documents to deal with. Presumably, the foundation is also working on a batch converter, which should prove necessary to institutions and individuals making the switch to OpenDocument.
Intel Moves to New Core 2 Duo Chips
This week, Intel announced that it will continue its boring naming strategy and call the second-generation Core Duo microprocessors--which had been code-named Merom and Conroe--Core 2 Duo. Intel will even offer a Core 2 Extreme version, in case you were afraid that name was going away. Intel says the desktop version of the microprocessor (the Conroe chip) and the notebook version (the Merom chip) will be available later this year. Expect to see them by third quarter 2006 at the latest. Intel is also working on quad-core CPUs, which could arrive as early as 2007.
Microsoft Ships Windows Live Messenger Beta
If you've been holding out for a public beta version of Windows Live Messenger, Microsoft's successor to MSN Messenger, your wait is finally over. This week, Microsoft shipped Windows Live Messenger Beta to the public via a free download on its Live.com Web site. Windows Live Messenger features a completely revamped UI, PC-to-phone calling, and free video-chat functionality. I've been using the Windows Live Messenger Beta for a while, and it's quite nice. Definitely check it out if you're using MSN Messenger.
Microsoft Exec Claims Office Business Will Double by 2010
And no doubt, that exec is hoping to find a new market of alien life forms in the Alpha Centauri system to satisfy that growth rate. This week, Jeff Raikes, the president of Microsoft's Business Division, said that Office revenues could reach $20 billion by 2010, despite the fact that Office revenues have actually been moving along rather limply, growing only 12 percent in the past five years, to $10.3 billion. To get to $20 billion by 2010, Office revenues would have to grow 72 percent. And although Office 2007 looks interesting--even innovative--I find it hard to believe its sales are going to grow that much.
Dell Warns of Financial Shortfall
This week, PC market leader Dell surprised analysts--and damaged its stock price--when it announced that it will miss its next quarterly earnings and sales forecasts because of softer-than-expected sales growth. To spur sales, Dell has had to cut prices, and, thus lower its earnings possibilities. Curiously, Dell's troubles come amid an upturn in overall PC sales. Both Gartner and IDC report that computer sales have risen 13 percent so far this year--higher than either had predicted. Dell will report its quarterly earnings next week.
Warner Bros. to Pirate Its Own Movies
Well, sort of. What Warner Bros. is really doing is using a peer-to-peer (P2P) technology called BitTorrent (typically used to pirate content such as digital movies, music, and software) to distribute legally acquired digital movies. Warner Bros. will soon let consumers subscribe to and purchase digital copies of its movies and TV shows online. The content will be distributed by BitTorrent, which breaks up files into tiny, easily transferable chunks, thus easing the Internet transfer. BitTorrent will also utilize "heavy duty" software protection to prevent piracy. Maybe BitTorrent should use the term "reduce" instead of "prevent" because my guess is that malicious users will be able to bypass these protections pretty easily. The thieves will then be able to use BitTorrent to redistribute the content to non-customers.
Symantec Takes Pot Shots at Microsoft Security Prowess
Imagine you're in charge of a security software company. You've been milking consumers for years by selling them annual updates to a bloated and slow security solution. Sure, your product isn't the greatest solution on the market, but it manages to generate lots of sales. Then, a company such as Microsoft comes along and decides that it's no longer going to let other companies feed off of Windows' many security vulnerabilities without offering its own "solution" in the form of a security suite that's smaller, faster, and less intrusive than the suite you're offering. What's your reaction? In the case of Symantec CEO John Thompson, the answer is somewhat comforting. He pledged that Symantec will "out-innovate" Microsoft in the security market, and he says it was inevitable that Symantec would eventually compete with the software giant. No matter which company wins, this news is positive for consumers. At the very least, Microsoft's entry into the security market will force Symantec to rethink its current product lines.
Apple Sends Lawyers After MacBook Pro User
There isn't a company that's more beloved by its users than Apple Computer. Ironically, there isn't a company that sues users as often as Apple does. For the past few months, users of Apple's new MacBook Pro notebook computers have been complaining that the computer runs extraordinarily hot (even for an Apple notebook) and often makes an annoying whining sound. Finally, one user had enough and decided to take his MacBook Pro apart. He discovered that Apple wasn't applying enough thermal glue to the device's Intel Core Duo processor. So, he documented the process by which users could fix the problem. Unfortunately, the process happens to violate Apple's warranty. The result, however, is a computer that runs cooler and without the whining sound. So what did Apple do to reward this person? Send him a nice thank-you note? Highlight his innovation on Apple's Web site? Send him a free computer or a coupon for the Apple Store? Nope. The company threatened to sue him for including a link in his instructions to an online version of the MacBook Pro service manual, which apparently contains a copyrighted image. You know what amazes me most about this story? Somewhere, an Apple fanatic is crafting a blog posting in which he defends Apple's actions. It's just sad.
Microsoft: You Break It, We ... Fix It
As if it didn't have enough to worry about while fixing security problems caused by its own software, Microsoft revealed this week that it will also be fixing some security problems caused by third-party software. Last week, the company issued a patch for Adobe's Macromedia Flash Player, which Microsoft distributes with some Windows versions. This is the first time Microsoft has patched a non-Microsoft security flaw, and the company says it won't be the last. This trend is interesting, although it's unclear whether Microsoft will start patching third-party applications that aren't bundled with Windows.
PlayStation 3 Too Expensive? Just Get an Xbox 360 and a Wii!
Taking advantage of the negative press Sony got this week when it announced its exorbitant pricing for the PlayStation 3, Microsoft Vice President Peter Moore had a suggestion for gamers. "People are going to buy an Xbox \[360\] and they're going to buy a \[Nintendo\] Wii ... for the price of one PlayStation 3," he said. "Why would you buy a $600 PlayStation 3?" It's an interesting question. People who finally got a chance to see the PlayStation 3 in action this week at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) show say it doesn't offer anything better graphically than the Xbox 360. If you want to play games, get an Xbox 360 now, and by the holiday season, you'll be enjoying second-generation Xbox 360 games and Nintendo's unique Wii game titles. It's kind of a win-win situation. Unless, of course, you're Sony.
France Moves Closer to Controversial Copyright Law
This week, the French Senate made key changes to a controversial copyright bill that was threatening Apple Computer's control of the online music services market. The original version of the bill would have required Apple and other online music services to produce software that consumers could use to bypass the digital rights restrictions in the music files they purchased. However, this week's amendments keep the interoperability requirements but guarantee that music companies and distributors (e.g., Apple) will receive a licensing fee when a song is moved from one format to another. It's unclear whether these changes will be enough to keep Apple happy; many believe that Apple will pull out of the French market rather than agree to the conditions of the impending law. Apple CEO Steve Jobs previously decried the bill as state-sponsored piracy, which, when you think about it, isn't far from the truth.