An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news ...
Kinect Off to a Strong Start
Microsoft's Kinect motion-sensing add-on got off to a strong start this week, with the software giant expecting to sell more than 5 million units this holiday season alone. But I don't need Microsoft's projections to tell me that the software giant is onto something. All I need to do is watch my kids, who were as eager for the Kinect to arrive this week as I've ever seen them for anything. (My 8-year-old daughter actually watched Microsoft's Kinect promotional videos because she was so excited. That's dedication.) Yesterday, they played with Kinect—until I made them stop well past their bedtime—complained about having to stop, and no doubt went to bed with Kinect-filled dreams in their heads. This isn't an indication of long-term success, of course, and one of the things I'll be watching for is whether the Kinect and its games are relegated to the same dusty corner of the entertainment center as the Nintendo Wii a month or two from now. But I can say this already: If you were wondering whether the Kinect could equal or surpass the Wii, wonder no more. The Kinect is superior in every way imaginable. It's not even close.
Consumer Reports Quickly Debunks Claim of Kinect "Racism"
Video gaming website GameSpot got a lot of attention this week when it claimed that two dark-skinned employees couldn't get the facial recognition feature in Microsoft's Kinect add-on to work. (Note that this feature is a nicety and that users can still log on to use the device anyway.) The charge prompted knee-jerk reactions of "racism" around the controversy-happy Interwebs, as you might expect. There's just one problem: It's untrue. The trusted consumer watchdogs at Consumer Reports replicated the GameSpot test and found that lighting, not skin color, was to blame. "The Kinect camera needs enough light and contrast to determine features in a person's face before it can perform software recognition and log someone into the game console automatically," the publication noted, adding that light-skinned people also had trouble with auto-logon if the lighting was too low. Note that Consumer Reports previously debunked similar claims about a supposedly "racist" HP webcam last year; that camera, too, was found to be innocent of all charges.
Another Clue to the Demise of Silverlight on the Web
Microsoft this week said that it would drop the 3D Maps experience—a feature that requires the Silverlight browser plug-in—from Bing. Additionally, the company is bringing the "Bird's Eye" map viewing style—which previously required Silverlight—to the normal, HTML-based web version of Bing. Microsoft now claims that these changes have "nothing to do with \\[its\\] commitment to Silverlight." But let's be clear: Microsoft is removing a feature that only came with the Silverlight experience and adding a feature that was previously exclusive to Silverlight to the normal web version of the service. So, I'm sure the company is committed. But it's also taking steps to embrace web standards over its own proprietary technology. And that's a good thing.
Office 2010 Sales Rising Sharply
You might recall that in the months after Microsoft launched its latest office productivity suite, Office 2010, market researchers at NPD claimed things weren't all that rosy from a retail sales perspective: Office 2010 was selling at a clip just 10 percent faster than its predecessor during the same time frame three years earlier, and NPD blamed a soft retail market and the strength of the previous product version—and not cloud-based alternatives such as Google Docs. Three months later, things have changed, and Office 2010 sales are accelerating. NPD now says that Office 2010 is selling at a clip 20 percent faster than its predecessor, and that Office 2010 is now the fastest-selling consumer version of Office in history. Microsoft has sold more than 6 million copies of the suite at retail, or about 30 copies every minute. And that's great, though I'd remind people that there are about 750 million copies of Office in use around the world. And 6 million units is still just a tiny percentage of that total usage figure.
Microsoft Announces SBS vNext Brands, Pricing
In its typical understated way, Microsoft's Server and Tools Business (STB) unit announced the branding and pricing for its next generation Small Business Server (SBS) products. Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials (formerly codenamed Aurora) will retail for $545 but won't ship until "the first half of 2011." That product is a radical departure from previous SBS versions and targets businesses with 25 or fewer employees. SBS 7, meanwhile, is now branded as Windows Small Business Server 2011 Standard and more closely resembles its predecessors. This version will retail for $1,096 when it goes on sale in December and targets businesses with 75 or fewer employees, and like previous SBS versions, it includes on-premise versions of Exchange Server and SharePoint. Both products can be expanded with a second server running the Windows Small Business Server 2011 Premium Add-On. This $1,600 package includes full licenses for Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard and SQL Server 2008 R2 for Small Business and must be run on a second server. Like SBS 2011 Standard, it ships in December. The big question is why the wait on SBS 2011 Essentials? It seems like the simpler product should be done more quickly.
With iPad, Apple Somehow Doesn't Own Its Own Market
I was amused to see the headline "Apple Takes 95% of Tablet Market," since another way to say that is, "Apple Takes 95% of iPad Market," as there are no other products actually competing in the tablet market. Or so I thought. According to Strategy Analytics, 2 percent of tablet devices are made by generic device manufacturers and run the Android OS from Google. And of course some pretty high-profile players are entering the market. But I have to wonder. When Apple has a market all to itself and somehow instantly cedes 5 percent of that market, why is that less newsworthy than Apple being unable to crack 5 percent of the worldwide PC market after over 12 years of steady gains? As you might recall, as of the very latest data, Apple's Mac accounts for just 4.22 percent of all computers sold worldwide.
This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast
Leo and I recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on Thursday, as usual. It should be available by the weekend on the Zune Marketplace, in iTunes, and wherever else quality podcasts are found, in both audio and video formats.
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