WinInfo Daily UPDATE, April 29, 2004

Windows XP SP2 Delayed One Month 

Microsoft has delayed the release of Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), originally expected in late June to at least July, according to a company spokesperson, XP SP2 has been on a roller coaster schedule since last summer when it was originally expected in late 2003. But a rash of security related attacks caused Microsoft to regroup and recast XP SP2 as a security focused release.

"Windows XP SP2 will ship when it meets the quality standards customers demand," a Microsoft spokesperson said suggesting that even the July date might be optimistic. "This release is important for Microsoft, a buggy SP2 release could irreparably harm the company's reputation with enterprise customers."

The shipping delay hasn't affected SP2's beta schedule, however, XP SP2 Release Candidate 2 (RC2) will still ship in May, for example. For more information about XP SP2, read my review on the SuperSite for Windows, which is updated regularly.

Apple Misses Music Sales Goals as Pepsi Promo Fizzles 

On the first anniversary of the Apple iTunes Music Store launch Apple Computer announced that it has sold 70 million songs online, a tremendous achievement for such a nascent market but far below the 100 million songs that Apple CEO Steve Jobs promised. Furthermore, Apple's high profile Pepsi iTunes Music Giveaway has been a complete flop. Customers have redeemed only 5 million songs, far fewer than the 100 million that were circulated.

"iTunes has exceeded our wildest expectations during its first year," Jobs said in a bit of hyperbole given the 30 million song shortfall and the Music Giveaway debacle. Apple also began to quietly retreat from its anti-Microsoft technology bent by adding support for Windows Media Audio (WMA) to iTunes 4.5 a new version that the company released yesterday. iTunes 4.5 doesn't let users play WMA songs directly, but they can morph WMA songs into Apple's Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) format and the resulting songs will play on Apple's hugely successful iPod and iPod Mini if you re one of the lucky few who got one dd Apple has made other changes in its music strategy some changes appear to be designed to head off competition from the Microsoft camp which will soon mount a multipronged digital media attack iTunes 4.5 users can share music with as many as five computers up from three and a new mixing feature will automatically set up playlists for parties and other events. Apple notes that the iTunes Music Store now sports 700,000 songs up from 200,000 when the service first launched.

Some of the changes aren't so positive, however. With earlier iTunes versions users could burn as many as 10 mix CDs from the same playlist that number has dropped to 7 in iTunes 4.5. And although customers can purchase more music than ever from the iTunes Music Store many albums now cost significantly more than $9.99 because of record company price increases.

Apple also refuses to budge from its buy only music only strategy. Despite rumors that the company would introduce an iPod with a color screen or a video iPod. Jobs says that iPods are about music only and the company has no plans to venture from that niche. Furthermore, Jobs says that the subscription music services that are gaining traction on the PC side are unsuccessful. "People want to own their music," he noted in a conference call yesterday.

That statement is shortsighted. Late this summer, Microsoft and its many hardware partners will unveil a collection of portable Media Center devices and portable audio players that will be able to play back subscribed not just purchased music. So for a low monthly price, expected to be 10 to 20 a month, depending on the service customers will be able to stock their devices with a revolving inventory of 20GB to 60GB of content. Purchasing that content would be prohibitively expensive backers of the scheme correctly note.

Despite these missed goals, iTunes has had an important and far reaching effect on the music and consumer electronics industries. In a way, it's a shame that Jobs had to brag about the success he expected to achieve because the iTunes Music Store has been hugely successful selling an amazing number of songs. That misplaced bravado, the Music Giveaway fiasco and Apple's downplaying of markets for which it has no solutions suggest that the company isn't prepared to innovate the next big consumer electronics push. And that's a shame. A video iPod with subscription services capabilities surely would have kept the Microsoft camp on the sidelines yet again.

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