WinInfo Short Takes: Week of October 22 - 19 Oct 2007

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including a DC trip, an all-Apple Windows Weekly (not an oxymoron), Ballmer takes on Google, Halo 3 and Xbox 360 sales, Microsoft PopFly, Wii vs. Xbox 360, Windows IT ecosystem, and so much more...

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I'm heading down to Washington D.C. for the weekend with a friend who's in town from Phoenix. Having spent two summers there as a child, I'm a huge fan of D.C. and try to get back as often as possible, which isn't as often as I'd like. As with a few previous trips, this time I plan to simply walk around as much of the city as possible and take in a number of museums, monuments, and other sights. Good stuff.

Because of the D.C. trip, Leo and I recorded an episode of the Windows Weekly podcast a day early this week, and this one is sure to be controversial: It's almost all-Apple-related, because of what's happening this week with Leopard, the iPhone, and iTunes Plus. I'm not sure why this is controversial: These are products used primarily by Windows users or, in the case of Leopard, the only viable competition that Windows has, so I think this is as on-topic as could be. And if you're as tired of the Apple baloney about "300 new features" and "secret features" as I am, then you'll appreciate my stance here: I've been using Leopard on a Macbook, and while it's absolutely a nice, solid, and mature release, it's quite clearly a minor, evolutionary updated, just like the past several OS X releases. This should be obvious to anyone who's actually used it.

Short Takes

Ballmer: We Will Take Down Google
This is what I'm talking about. Too often with Microsoft, people mistaken competitive zeal with anticompetitive behavior, but I think the company has been too tame for the last several years, given that it has a legal responsibility to its shareholders to compete as strenuously as possible. This week, however, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took the gloves off, at least verbally, in a discussion about Internet search giant. He said that Microsoft's own search product was like a little kid being forced to play basketball with older, more mature youngsters. "You're just three years old, and we've got you in there playing basketball with a 12-year-old," Ballmer said. "You're growing up quick and getting better every day, and you've got all the potential in the world, and it may take you until you're 7, 8, 9 or 10, but you're going to dunk and you're going dunk on the other guy some day, Johnny." I like it. I like it a lot. Microsoft needs to be this in-your-face more often.

Halo 3 Drives September Video Game Sales in the US
Obviously. But what will Halo 3 be selling like in October? Or January? According to market researchers at NPD, video game hardware and software sales in the US jumped 75 percent in September, thanks largely to the long-anticipated release of Halo 3 for the Xbox 360. Total video game sales in the month were $1.36 billion, up from $779 million in the same month a year ago. The big news from a Microsoft perspective, however, is that the Xbox 360 outsold the Wii for the first time in September, 528,000 units to 501,000. (The somnolent PS3 sold just 119,000 units.) It's unclear, of course, whether this means anything at all. It will be much more meaningful to Microsoft and then industry if Halo 3 has a longer lasting positive effect on Xbox 360 sales. And I'm going to guess that the Halo 3 excitement is already dying down at an alarming rate. In fact, I'll go so far as to predict that the Wii will be back on top by October.

Microsoft Pop Flies to Center
Microsoft this week shipped a beta version of a free Web mashup tool called Popfly, which allows users to easily create code-less applications that live within Windows Live Spaces blogs and MySpace sites. Popfly is based on Silverlight, Microsoft's new .NET-based Web presentation technologies and a sudden rival to Adobe Flash. Hey, I just give them credit for not naming the product Microsoft Visual Mashup Creator Professional 2008. You just gotta think that name was actually tossed around at internal meetings.

DPM 2007 Now Shipping
And speaking of products with unnecessarily long and unintentionally comical names, Microsoft this week shipped System Center Data Protection Manager 2007, its new corporate backup, recovery, and archiving solution. SCDPM07 builds on the previous DPM release, which was pretty much relegated to file servers, and adds native support for backing up Exchange, SQL Server, SharePoint, and Virtual Server-based servers, as well as Windows Server file shares and XP and Vista desktops. It's actually a pretty amazing product, as far as enterprise-oriented storage products go, despite its name. Seriously guys. You should call the next one something cool.

Microsoft Responds to Wii with Product Its been Selling for Two Years
It's always sort of rankled me that Nintendo gets all the credit for pursuing casual gamers with its lame little Wii console when the truth is that Microsoft has been going after this market for years with its Xbox Live Arcade downloads, which allow Xbox owners to download inexpensive and fun casual games. Now the company is driving home the point with a new Xbox 360 bundle, creatively called the Xbox 360 Arcade, which bundles the console with a number of casual game titles, including Luxor 2, Pac-Man, and UNO. The bundle will cost $279--about $30 more than the Wii--and could replace the Xbox 360 Core unit. It's about freaking time.

Windows Biggest Ecosystem in IT
According to a Microsoft-commissioned study by IDC, Microsoft and its ecosystem or partners is the single biggest force in the IT world, accounting for some 42 percent of the entire IT industry. Frankly, I'm surprised it's not more than that, but then Microsoft's biggest strength, frankly, is its ability to create platforms that attract partners of all kinds.

Google Roars to Record Profits
Google on Thursday announced a third quarter profit of $1.07 billion on revenues of $4.23 billion in what is traditionally a slow quarter. Overall, profits were up 46 percent year over year, while revenue was up 57 percent. Google makes virtually all of its money on Web advertising, of course, though I have to wonder if the company plans to push a second serious revenue stream at some point. Obviously, the search toolbar isn't it. But the alleged gPhone software could be the real deal: Google hired an astonishing 2130 employees during the quarter, an unprecedented number that suggests the company is secretly up to something. "They're continuing to hire like drunken sailors," analyst Gene Munster said. "They have a bigger plan in play."

Leopard Picks Up Yet Another Vista Feature
If you're struck by the sheer number of features in Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" that seem like they were taken directly from the Windows Vista play book, you're not alone. Well, here's another one: Leopard will utilize the ASLR (address space layout randomization) security technology, also found in Vista, that randomly arranges the positions of key components in memory at boot-up, helping to prevent security breaches. No, Vista wasn't the first OS to use this technology, but it's certainly the most famous, and as with other OS X features like instant search, it's pretty clear Apple didn't start thinking about this stuff until it was legitimatized by Microsoft.

Ubuntu Linux 7.10 Arrives
And speaking of would-be competitors to Windows Vista, Ubuntu this week shipped Ubuntu 7.10, the latest version of its Linux distribution. Ubuntu happens to be my favorite Linux version, and if you're looking for one to check out, this is the way to go. Ubuntu 7.10 is a big release with a number of interesting new features, many of which will look familiar to Windows users, including the GNOME 2.2 user interface, desktop 3D effects, desktop search, Fast Use Switching, hard disk encryption, and a lot more. Check it out on the Ubuntu Web site.

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