An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news ...
And it's come to this: By Monday, I need to have turned in a completed first-draft manuscript for Windows 7 Secrets, or what I'm now broadly calling "my last book." This one has been painful, both because of the surprising number of feature changes since Windows Vista and because of the unnecessarily contracted schedule. Combine that with the lackluster pay, the lost sleep, and the fact that the rest of life seems to be continuing apace without my involvement, and you can see why this hasn't exactly been a positive experience. I'm going to be happy when this is over, but of course, Monday doesn't change too much in the end; I still need to edit the darned thing and hope Microsoft doesn't have any last-minute surprises that would torch all the work we've already done.
Leo and I recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast Thursday, so you can 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.
Windows 7 Launch Won't Be a Repeat of Windows Vista's, Says Microsoft
If you're wondering why Microsoft is waiting until mid-October to launch Windows 7, a product that quite clearly could ship in final form as soon as, say, this coming Monday, the software giant has an answer: It's committed to ensuring that Windows 7 doesn't suffer from the same launch-day compatibility blues that dogged its predecessor. Right now, Windows 7 is already compatible with virtually all the hardware and software currently on the market, and of course it benefits from being compatible with virtually all the devices and software applications that already work with Vista, which has been available for almost three years. But apparently Microsoft isn't shipping Windows 7 until it can get as close to 100 percent compatibility as possible, and it will use the next few months to make that happen. Frankly, I think this is all unnecessary. The world is ready, Microsoft. And you know what? So is Windows 7.
Economy Got You Down? Windows 7 Is the Answer (for Microsoft, Anyway)
Microsoft has an answer to the financial doldrums it's faced during the current economic collapse, and that answer is Windows 7. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says that Windows 7 and the other products his company will unleash as part of a concerted product wave will help trigger an "economic reset"—"We are in a once-in-a-lifetime economic change, and the economy is in the process of resetting," he said this week. Microsoft is spending over $9 billlion in R&D over the next year, and the company will unleash an "unprecedented wave of innovation" during this time.
New "Laptop Hunters" Ad Debuts
With a new ad in its Laptop Hunters series, Microsoft continues its attack on the high pricing and lack of choice one encounters when considering a switch to the Mac. This ad stars Lauren and her mom, Sue, who are looking for a laptop with "speed, portability, and good battery life ... for under $1,700." Guess which system doesn't meet those requirements? That's right, the Mac. "Why would you pay twice the price?" Sue asks. "I wouldn't," Lauren answers, and strolls back to the PC aisle. You know, like 97 percent of Americans do when they buy PCs. Oh, and by the way: That $1,700 budget? The Dell that Lauren and Sue bought cost only $971—compared with the $2,000 Macbook they considered.
Not News: Microsoft Admits It Rushed Half-Done Windows Mobile 6.5 to Market
The tech news industry and blogging community are trying to generate some excitement out of the "news" that Microsoft admitted this week that its just-completed Windows Mobile 6.5 OS for smart phones was rushed to market so that Microsoft could offer some sort of touchscreen-based competition to the iPhone sooner than would have been possible had it held off for Windows Mobile 7, now due in 2010. Well, duh. That's not exactly news. In fact, a year ago, there was no Windows Mobile 6.5. The comment that set off the faux surprise came courtesy of Microsoft employees at TechEd this week. "The reason why we couldn't complete the interface on Windows Mobile 6.5 is because of time," Microsoft Senior Product Manager Loke Uei Tan said. "We only spent what, eight months, nine months, to build 6.5 from ground up, and it's actually an amazing engineering feat. But, in order to do that, we had to do some prioritization, and we had to cut certain features." In other words, the surface stuff (the Home Screen, the lock screen, and so on) in Windows Mobile 6.5 has changed, but the underlying screens are all the same as in previous versions. Obviously. The bigger story here, of course, is that this is exactly what Microsoft previously did with Windows Media Center in Windows Vista, when it changed all the top-level screens but left the deeper ones the same as before. Sadly, the version of Windows Media Center in Windows 7 still doesn't fix this problem. But I'm sure Microsoft will get it right with Windows Mobile.
April Video Game Sales Down Yet Again: So Much for Easter
When March's video game sales were down, industry insiders blamed the deficit for the late arrival of Easter, which—for some bizarre reason—apparently brings a bump in video game sales. (Nothing celebrates the mystery of faith better than a shrink-wrapped copy of Call of Duty: World at War.) Well, that never happened. US sales of video games fell 17 percent year over year, despite the holiday, with software sales down a whopping 23 percent. April was the second consecutive month in which sales fell year over year, and it's beginning to look like this market isn't as resilient to the global economic recession as originally hoped—unless, of course, you're starry-eyed Microsoft, which once again made lemonade from bad news. According to the software giant, April was just fine, because four of the top 10 video game titles sold in the month were for the Xbox 360. (Conveniently, Microsoft leaves out portable video game sales, which would have blown away this theory had they been included.) And although Xbox 360 console sales were actually down year over year (again), Microsoft can claim that sales have risen month-over-month at a faster rate so far this year than they did in 2008. So ... sales are down, but they're falling less quickly? I give Microsoft credit for the whole "glass half full" thing, but come on.
Acer Now the World's Number-Two Notebook Maker, Number One in Netbooks
Acer was the number-one seller of netbooks worldwide in the first quarter of 2009, with sales jumping 20 percent in the quarter to 1.8 million units. The results were strong enough to catapult Acer to the number-two position in the overall market for mobile computers, ahead of Dell, which fell to third place. HP was still number one, selling 7.3 million total units, compared with 5.7 million for Acer, 4.3 million for Dell, 3 million for Toshiba, and 2.1 million for Lenovo. In sixth place was Asustek, another emerging netbook maker, with 1.7 million units. Not on the list? Apple. Why? Because these figures are for the entire planet, not just those wealthy markets where Apple tends to do well.
What Happened to Microsoft ResponsePoint?
Every once in a while, a small group working in isolation deep within the bowels of Microsoft comes up with something wonderful. ResponsePoint was such a product—a small-business-oriented, Voice over IP (VoIP)-based phone system that was simple, elegant, and excellent. It was also, sadly, not compatible with Microsoft's broader enterprise-oriented communications systems. And Kevin McLaughlin reports this week in ChannelWeb that its future is now in doubt: Apparently, Microsoft's recent second round of layoffs included a lot of people on the ResponsePoint team. There are rumors that almost all of the ResponsePoint team is gone now, but Microsoft told McLaughlin that's not the case. But Microsoft is also being pretty vague about the future of the product, although work on a 2.0 platform apparently continues. I'll try to find out more and will hope for the best: ResponsePoint is a product that deserves a future.
Some Google Services Went Down on Thursday, Triggering Prophesized Apocalypse
Actually, it was no big deal, and anyone desperately looking for evidence that the quickly increasing migration to cloud computing is just a fad can return to their copies of The Farmer's Almanac. Google says that human error led to a misrouting of traffic to some of its services, including Gmail and YouTube, on Thursday. "An error in one of our systems caused us to direct some of our web traffic through Asia, which created a traffic jam," Google Senior Vice President Urs Hoelzle wrote in a blog post. "As a result, about 14 percent of our users experienced slow services or even interruptions. All planes are back on schedule now." As a heavy user of Gmail and Google Calendar, I can say that I did see some slowness in Google's Calendar service yesterday. And yes, it was mildly annoying, since I had to find out immediately whether I had any major events scheduled for the day, and I had to resort to a cached copy of my calendar on my phone. Stupid free services that work only 99 percent of the time!
Here Come the 32-Core Microprocessors
You think your quad-core PC is a big deal? Think again: Intel is prepping a 32-core CPU, code-named Larrabee, that will debut in 2010. This CPU promises to make today's hot-rod PCs look like Timex Sinclairs by comparison. (Look it up.) I'm sure you'll be able to get a version of the chip in a Mac that will cost twice as much as a comparable PC, too. You know, unless Apple has moved completely to the iPhone platform by then.
Sony Posts First Yearly Loss in 14 Years
And you said the PlayStation 3 wasn't notable for anything! This week, Sony posted a $1 billion loss for the fiscal year ending in March, and I'm sure the company can't put this troubled time behind it quickly enough. The loss was the company's first year in the red in 14 years, but it won't be the last: Sony says it expects to lose $1.26 billion this coming year. (The company should contact the Xbox marketing guys for creative ways to turn that data into a positive.) Nothing the company makes is selling well, and Sony plans deep cuts across the board. Speaking of "the board," I have a few suggestions for CEO Howard Stringer involving cuts, as well.
WinInfo Short Takes: Week of May 18
An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news ...