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An Often-Irreverent Look at Some of the Week's Other Stories - 01 Nov 2005

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Short Takes Blog

Short Takes - SQL Server and Visual Studio 2005 RTM
- Windows, Server Shipments Lift Microsoft Profits ... Again
- PC Shipments Still Going Strong in 2005
- Not Humor: Microsoft Threatens to Remove Windows from South Korea
- Google Suit Against Microsoft Is Stayed
- Microsoft Shuffles the Executive Deck ... Again
- Microsoft Ships Works 2006
- AMD Turns Up the Heat on Intel
- VMware Player Released
- New Browser Threatens IE, Maybe Firefox Too
- Happy Halloween ... And Let's Not Forget Episode III

==== Short Takes Blog ==== by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

If you're interested in the speed of my new Verizon FiOS Internet Service, I finally have some results. Using the speed test on, I'm averaging about 12.8Mbps for downloads and just a hair under 2Mbps for uploads. That's pretty sweet. To be fair, in usage, I don't really see a big difference from my previous cable connection. As with all things Internet-related, you're at the mercy of the host to which you're connected. I would imagine that this connection could be handy for massive file transfers and online gaming. But with half the planet apparently trying to download Microsoft SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 from MSDN Subscriber Downloads (see Short Takes) this week, I didn't fare very well in that department either.

Switching Internet providers is painful. Switching over my entire home network to the new connection proved even more difficult, and I wasn't expecting that. I used the FiOS installation to switch completely to Gigabit Ethernet networking and 108Mbps wireless, using a nice D-Link gaming router that I've had sitting around for a while. The switchover was somewhat straightforward, but I had a heck of a time getting my network-attached Dell laser printer to work properly. Through a bizarre series of driver uninstalls and reinstalls--on every one of my systems, no less--I can once again print, for the most part. But a weird thing happened on my main desktop PC: After a few days of printing fine over the new network, the PC now refuses to print to the Dell printer and crashes any application that tries to print (Microsoft Word, Outlook, Sun Microsystems StarOffice, whatever). Then, Word started crashing all the time. I use Word all day, every day, and it never, ever crashes. So I switched the default printer to the Microsoft Office Document Image Writer, and ... voila. No more crashes. That's just unbelievable. Days later, I still haven't solved the problem. What a mess.

I've been playing with a new iPod with video, the Apple Universal Dock, and the new Apple Remote device for the past week, and I have two observations. First, despite years of experience with portable video, I'm super impressed with both the iPod video and the video formats (MPEG-4 and H.264) that it uses; even at 320 x 240 (or 480 x 270, as I've encoded my widescreen videos in), these movies look great blasted out to a large TV set, albeit with sub-DVD-style artifacts here and there. Second, I'm suddenly hooked on the TV show "Lost." I purchased the show's premiere episode via iTunes to test the iPod, and now my wife and I are several episodes in and there's no turning back. My TV-watching habits tend toward horror movies, history, and travel shows and comedies such as "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy," and I find most network TV to be reprehensible and unintelligent. But "Lost" is just good stuff. I guess TV is like anything else: There's good buried with the bad. The trick is to find it.

Saturday is my birthday--I'll be 39--so excuse a bit of introspection. I've been writing this newsletter for more than 10 years now, and the SuperSite for more than 7 years. That's not too shabby, I guess. On a related note, I've received a bunch of emails lately from journalism students wondering how they can get to do what I'm doing. I don't have much advice, sadly: To completely emulate me, you'd need a wife that doesn't mind supporting you for several years while you write about technology for free, and then you have to get really lucky after that. In other words, I don't have a business how-to book in the works. But there are definitely holes in tech coverage these days. Most current tech enthusiast sites are simply blogs that cull the Web and post links to content written by other people, and there's a real lack of insight, depth, and experience out there. So my advice is simple: Do the work, create a body of unique content, and don't take the easy way out. And if a nuclear war does break out, duck and cover. Or something.

==== Short Takes ==== An often-irreverent look at some of the week's other stories,
by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

SQL Server and Visual Studio 2005 RTM
Almost 2 weeks before the official launch, Microsoft has released SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2005, and Windows .NET Framework 2.0 to manufacturing. The first two products are available for download via MSDN (for subscribers), and the new .NET Framework is publicly available from the Microsoft Web site.

Windows, Server Shipments Lift Microsoft Profits … Again
Microsoft has once again exceeded analysts' expectations, posting quarterly profits that are higher than estimates. In the quarter ending September 30, 2005, Microsoft earned $3.14 billion (up from $2.53 billion in the same quarter last year) on revenues of $9.74 billion (compared to $9.19 billion last year). The earnings include a one-time charge of $359 million, which the company paid in an antitrust settlement to RealNetworks. Amazingly, Microsoft credited the strong quarter on strong sales of Windows and Windows Server; the company's Windows XP product is 4 years old and desperately in need of replacement, and Windows Server 2003 is about to be replaced by a new version called Windows 2003 R2. Looking forward, Microsoft noted that the coming quarter will see a huge spike in video game sales thanks to the launch of the Xbox 360. The company says it plans to ship between 4.5 million and 5.5 million Xbox 360 consoles worldwide by June 2006, but that it likely won't come close to meeting demand for the holidays. Microsoft, incidentally, still has $40 billion in cash or liquid assets. Not too shabby.

PC Shipments Still Going Strong in 2005
If you're wondering how an aging version of Windows could possibly still be selling at record levels, look no further: PC sales are on a tear this year, and although most PC makers won't see the sales increases that Apple Computer enjoys (because, let's face it, it's easy to raise sales year over year when last year's stunk), this year is quickly turning into one of the best in recent PC history. According to Gartner, PC sales in the third quarter were up a whopping 17 percent year over year, with PC makers shipping a combined 55 million computers. (IDC, which uses different numbers to calculate total PC sales, says that 53 million PCs were shipped in the quarter.) Dell was the number one PC maker yet again, both in the United States and globally, followed by HP, Lenovo, and Acer.

Not Humor: Microsoft Threatens to Remove Windows from South Korea
What do you do when you don't agree with the laws of a country that, frankly, isn't populated enough to warrant your attention? You simply threaten to remove your best selling product from that country until it grows up and bends to your monopolistic demands. Yes, folks, this is the sad story of Microsoft and South Korea this week, in which our favorite monopolist is literally threatening to remove Windows from the South Korean market if the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in that country requires the company to unbundle Windows Messenger and Windows Media Player (WMP) from Windows. Oh, South Korea, when will you learn that you don't have the political or market clout of the European Union (EU) or the United States? And Microsoft, the shame of it all. When will you stop complaining that it's so hard to remove artificially bundled products from Windows when, in fact, the XP N Editions pretty much prove that it isn't all that hard after all? If Windows were truly elegant (i.e., created in a componentized fashion) the unbundling would be even less painful. And if Microsoft would stop trying to jam unrelated products down consumers' throats to artificially and, ahem, illegally extend its Windows monopoly to other markets, this never would have happened. Brad Silverberg, where are you when we need you?

Google Suit Against Microsoft Is Stayed
Judge Ronald Whyte, representing the US District Court in San Jose, California, yesterday ordered a stay in a case in which Microsoft is attempting to block Google's hiring of an ex-Microsoft researcher, Kai-Fu Lee. Basically, Microsoft sued Google to prevent the hire, then Google countersued Microsoft to have the case tried in California, a state in which Microsoft is, ahem, not exactly popular. The stay, which is potentially a major setback to Google, means that the case will be tried in Washington state. "Google and Lee fail to explain why they cannot ask the Washington state court to apply California law," Whyte noted in his ruling. A trial is scheduled in Seattle for January 2006.

Microsoft Shuffles the Executive Deck ... Again
Microsoft announced yesterday that Bob Muglia would assume the title of senior vice president of the company's Server and Tools Business, succeeding Eric Rudder, who recently took on a new role working directly with chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates. Muglia was previously the senior vice president of the Windows Server Division and is a member of the company's Technical Senior Leadership and Business Leadership teams. Additionally, Sanjay Parthasarathy, the corporate vice president of Microsoft's Developer & Platform Evangelism Group, will now report directly to Kevin Johnson, who is copresident of the Platform, Products & Services division. Microsoft reorganized last month, reducing the number of internal product divisions from seven to three, in a bid to move more quickly in the market. In case you hadn't noticed, Microsoft isn't exactly the most sure-footed of high tech companies these days.

Microsoft Ships Works 2006
This week, Microsoft shipped the latest version of Microsoft Works, its productivity product suite aimed at consumers. Works 2006 includes several applications, including Word, Digital Image Standard, Money, Streets & Trips Essentials, and Encarta Standard and is priced to sell at just $99. But what the heck is up with the inclusion of Word 2002 (from Microsoft Office XP) in the package? Rather than bundle the latest version of Word--Word 2003--in the package, Microsoft has opted to saddle consumers with the previous version of the product, which shipped in 2001. That's like a little slap in the face, from what I can tell. Did Microsoft think that too many people were slumming it with Works just to get Word?

AMD Turns Up the Heat on Intel
Microprocessor maker AMD, which created the innovative x64 platform, is finally starting to make some market gains on chip-making juggernaut Intel. In third quarter 2005, Intel saw its market share dip 1.4 percent to 80.8 percent of the market, while AMD's market share rose to 17.8 percent (from 16.2 percent). That means that AMD gained on Intel, but it also snagged some market share from Transmeta, which is apparently doing what it can to exit the market. A 1.6 percent market share gain might not seem like a lot, but remember that this is the hardware market, which has been steady for years; AMD's gain is the largest it's made against Intel in years. When you combine this information with AMD's better-than-expected quarterly results, and Intel's less-stellar-than-expected quarterly results, the news is good. When you realize that AMD might have actually outsold Intel in desktop PC sales at retail locations for the quarter, it's clear that something wonderful is happening.

VMware Player Released
This week, VMware made its machine virtualization technology more accessible by releasing a free VMware Player product that lets users run single instances of virtual machines (VMs) on their PCs. VMware Player can't create VMs, however, so you'll still need to use VMware Workstation or one of the company's server products for that task. But with VMware Player, corporations now have a lightweight client they can deploy to workers, and we might just see Linux distributions offer their products in VMware formats, so that individuals can evaluate these Linux versions on their Windows desktops. The possibilities, frankly, are endless.

New Browser Threatens IE, Maybe Firefox Too
There's a new browser in town, and frankly, I don't know what to make of it. Based on Mozilla Foundation's excellent Firefox browser, Flock adds several interesting and even controversial new features. Some people are describing it as the rebirth of Web browsing. But others think that Flock is a huge mistake, one that will eventually be a catastrophe for users. So what's the big deal? Flock brings all the goodness from Mozilla and adds better pop-up blocking, dramatically improved Favorites functionality, History searching, Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed integration, blog posting integration (compatible with WordPress, Movable Type, Typepad, Live Journal, and Blogger), and other new features. And Flock has some great credentials: It's designed by the mastermind behind the doomed Eazel product, which sought to create one true UI for Linux. Flock critics, however, are legion. They say that Flock does nothing that isn't possible with Firefox extensions, and it ignores existing Web services. They note that Flock's marketing message is full of Web 2.0 baloney such as social engineering. They even hate its icon. I don't know. Flock is just a superset of Firefox, from what I can tell, and if you happen to need or want any of its additional features, it seems to work fine in my tests. Frankly, I'm not sure what the hubbub is.

Happy Halloween ... And Let's Not Forget Episode III
Monday is Halloween in the United States, and my kids will be dressed up as Batman and a cat, terrorizing the neighborhood that night. This is big stuff when you're younger than 12, but bigger still, from my perspective (and, perhaps, that of my 7-year-old son) is Tuesday's release of "STAR WARS Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith" on DVD. Good times.

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