An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including a surplus of Microsoft releases, Zune 80 scarcity, Vista SP1 and Windows 2008 pre-release builds, OneCare 2 and WinHEC 2008 delays, Xbox 360, Office Accounting 2008, and so much more...
I'm starting to run into a weird issue with Microsoft in that they're suddenly releasing so many products I can't actually keep up with it all. Different people handle this kind of overwhelming workload in different ways, obviously. But since my usual reaction--curling up in a fetal position on the floor and mumbling about black helicopters--isn't very productive, I'm going to have to figure something else out. I'm working on it. In the meantime, I've got a slew of Windows Live, Windows, and Office-related reviews to write, you know, as soon as that Zune review is done. It's unclear how I'm going to find the time.
And speaking of the Zune, Leo and I are back this week with a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast. After being off for two weeks, we had a surplus of topics, but it turned into a Zune-fest, thanks to this week's release. We might actually record two episodes next week since Leo will be gone the week after that. There's just so much going on now.
Don't Believe It. Zune 80 Scarce Because They Didn't Make Many, Not Because it's So Popular
While there's no denying that consumer interest in the Zune has rocketed since Microsoft unleashed the second generation devices, software, and services earlier this week, let's settle down a bit. Microsoft is currently claiming that "high demand" is the reason no one can seem to find the hard drive-based Zune 80 model in stores. That has nothing to do with it: The truth is that the Zune 80 was shipped only in very limited quantities to stores and it will be mid-December, at the earliest, before the device ships in volume. That's a shame, as I, like many others, would like to get my hands on one. In the suburban Boston area where I live, there isn't a retailer that got a single Zune 80, and it's not like I didn't try. Long story, short: Good luck finding one of these locally or online. They just didn't ship out to stores in volume at all, and won't for weeks.
Microsoft Ships Vista SP1 Pre-Release Build to Testers
Microsoft this week shipped an updated pre-release version of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) to a slightly larger group of testers, but a public release is still missing in action. The new build, 17042, went out to 15,000 beta testers, a bit more than the 12,000 who gained access to the previous test version. The build is billed as a "release candidate preview," which means it's not technically a release candidate but is more likely an early look at what will become that long-awaited public test version. Stay tuned.
Microsoft Also Ships Windows 2008 CTP to Testers
In related news, Microsoft also shipped a new interim build of Windows Server 2008, which is being labeled a "November Community Test Preview," or CTP. This build falls between the previously-shipped Release Candidate 0 (RC0) public release and what should soon be a RC1 release, which is also expected to ship publicly. The CTP appears to be aimed only at private beta testers, and obviously doesn't include any major new features. Anyone who's looked at a build of Windows 2008 newer than Beta 3 pretty much has a handle on the final version: This one is being lovingly guided to completion at a very orderly pace, thank you very much.
Whither OneCare 2? And What Does Whither Really Mean?
Microsoft told me it would post Windows Live OneCare 2 to the Web sometime Thursday afternoon, but as I write this early Friday morning, I'm still refreshing the site and waiting to see the final version appear. Nothing yet. I assume it will happen soon.
WinHEC 2008 Delayed Six Months
Microsoft this week delayed the next Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) by six months, citing "industry feedback." The company usually holds the show in April or May, but will now host the 2008 edition sometime in Q3 2008 instead. That's kind of a shame: Despite its boring title, WinHEC is almost always very interesting, and I look forward to it. Maybe they're actually going to show off some Windows 7 details at the show, which would explain the wait.
Xbox 360 Game Banned in Singapore ... For Gay Alien Sex Scene
I just can't make this stuff up. And if I did, I'd be writing for an entirely different kind of publication. That said, this blurb may still be responsible for this newsletter getting jettisoned into your Junk Mail folder, sorry: Singapore has banned a Microsoft game for the Xbox 360 called Mass Effect which features, yes, a woman and a female alien kissing and caressing each other. The mass effect of this ban, so to speak, will be to raise sales for the game, which I have to admit I'm suddenly curious about in a purely journalistic sense. Singapore infamously declined to offer special rights for homosexuals this year, in keeping with the country-state's conservative bent, banning same-sex, um, sex. Moving along...
Microsoft Wins Patent Case, Turns Tables on Hapless Jerks
Microsoft this week won a years-old patent infringement case involving technology it used to speed the boot time of Windows XP. Acceleration Software International Corp sued Microsoft for infringing on its 1999 patent in XP, and a loss could have cost the software giant up to $900 million. However, an east Texas jury found that Microsoft did not infringe on the patent. In fact, it also found that the patent was invalid because "it was obvious" (yes, seriously) and was pre-existing technology at the time of the patent grant in 1999. Now, a US District Court is actually considering a Microsoft allegation that Acceleration Software International illegally withheld information about the pre-existing technology when it filed its patent application. Nice little twist, that.
Office Accounting Updates, Hablan Español
The latest version of Microsoft's small business accounting package, Office Accounting 2008, arrives with a nice nod to the 2 million Hispanic small businesses in the US who need to switch between English and Spanish on a regular basis: You can get a special Spanish version that lets you easily move back and forth between the two languages. Of course, Office Accounting 2008 includes a lot more functionality than that: You can easily manage eBay transactions with the software, handle payments through PayPal, track budgets, send bulk marketing emails, and import and export data to familiar applications like Excel. Office Accounting 2008 is $199, but there's an Express version available for free as well. It's pretty slick.