WinInfo Short Takes: Week of August 30, 2010

An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news...

What's $1 Billion Between Friends?

According to ill-defined analyst estimates, Microsoft will spend upwards of $1 billion launching Windows Phone this fall around the globe. Some people are making a big deal out of this news, as if $1 billion were in some way a huge sum of money launching a product line that, quite frankly, should be generating one-third of Microsoft's revenues if all goes well. My take is that Microsoft can't throw enough money at Windows Phone. The future of computing is indisputably mobile and connected, and if Microsoft doesn't make this work now, the company really will be a dinosaur. How much of your own money would you spend if you had to save your own life? That's what I thought.

Hotmail Users to Get Exchange ActiveSync Support for Mobile Devices Monday

On Monday, users of Windows Live Hotmail and Calendar will get push-based, over-the-air access to their email, contacts, calendars, and to-do/tasks via compatible mobile devices courtesy of the addition of Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) support. Compatible devices include iOS-based devices (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad), Palm WebOS, Nokia, Windows Mobile, and—in the near future—Windows Phone 7. If you're not familiar with EAS, it's currently used by Exchange Server, of course, but also an increasing number of licensees, including Google, which uses it for push-based access to Gmail and Google Calendar. You can find out more about Hotmail's support for EAS at the SuperSite for Windows.

Microsoft Prepping Cross-Platform Multiplayer Between Windows Phone and Xbox ... Supposedly

You can file this news under "I'll believe it when I see it," and I can tell you why very easily: If Microsoft couldn't get cross-platform multiplayer functionality to work between two largely similar platforms—the PC and the Xbox 360—how the heck is it going to get it going between two completely different platforms, Windows Phone and Xbox 360? There are two possibilities, both of which are lame. One, Microsoft could add Windows Phone's turn-based gaming capabilities to the console, enabling a new generation of (get this) Checkers, Backgammon, and Battleship-type games to the Xbox 360. Or two, the company could dumb down real-time games enough that they would actually work on both the console and the phone. Either of these possibilities is almost too dumb to even contemplate, so I can only conclude that this is complete baloney and part of the ongoing hype necessary to keep people interested in a new platform that isn't yet available.

Key to the New Xbox's Success: A Brand-New Integrated Chipset Called Vejle

When Microsoft unveiled its quiet, sleek, and presumably more reliable new Xbox 360 console this summer, onlookers were stunned. After all, the Xbox 360 hasn't exactly been the most reliable device on the market—actually, it's the most unreliable consumer electronics product in history, as it turns out—so how did Microsoft turn things around and come up with a new design that's 100 percent compatible with previous games and accessories while doing away with the console's historic hardware problems? The key is a new integrated chipset called Vejle that combines the Xbox 360's CPU and GPU into a single, more efficient package. This is particularly impressive when you remember that the Xbox 360 CPU is an IBM-designed PowerPC microprocessor, whereas the GPU is made by ATI, which is owned by Intel's chief competitor, AMD. And where the original Xbox 360 CPU was a 90nm design, the new integrated chip is a much smaller and denser (and more efficient) triple-core 45nm part. How much more efficient? It's 50 percent of the size of the original, physically, and draws 60 percent less power. And it's so powerful that it must be throttled, performance-wise, to work like the original Xbox 360's 3.2GHz CPU. It took a long time for Microsoft and IBM to co-design the new chipset, but apparently it was worth it: Five years into its lifecycle, the new Xbox 360 has given Microsoft's console a new lease on life.

H.264 Goes Royalty-Free ... but Only for Free Video

This news got a lot less press this week than I would have imagined, but the Star Chamber responsible for the H.264 video codec took the unprecedented and unforeseen step of actually making it available, royalty-free, to one and all. Why is this impressive? Because the H.264 video codec—created with lamb's blood by a cabal of money-sucking, patent-happy, evil-doers under the name MPEG LA—was created solely to collect licensing fees. It's literally the only reason H.264 exists. So what happened? As it turns out, the royalty-free licensing is available only to those companies and individuals that make H.264-based video available for free. So those that are selling H.264 video will, of course, have to continue paying. In other words, this is simply a power grab aimed at Google's free H.264 alternative, VP8, one that allows MPEG LA to continue doing its thing. Which is sucking ... the lifeblood out of the rest of the industry.

New iPods, iTunes on the Way?

Next week, Apple will hold its annual music event, at which it traditionally unveils its next-generation iPod devices and updates its loathsome iTunes software. Rumors abound about the event, as always, with the most prominent rumor suggesting that the company will unveil a new Apple TV version, renamed to iTV. Why not?

This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast

After three weeks in Germany, I'm home again, and Leo and I recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on the usual schedule this week. It should be available by the weekend on iTunes and the Zune Marketplace, in both audio and video formats, as always.

But Wait, There's More

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter, Friendfeed, and the SuperSite Blog. Also, follow along as I write my next book, Windows Phone Secrets!

TAGS: Windows 8
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