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WinInfo Short Takes: Week of November 28

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including Thanksgiving, Microsoft's not-so-open formats, Xbox 360, XP N Editions, Sony rootkit suits, Google gifts, TiVo and iPod, Apple iTunes, Google search, Windows Server, and so much more...

WinInfo Blog

If you're a bit confused by seeing Short Takes on Wednesday, you're not alone. Well, I'm confused for a number of reasons, but this week we are celebrating Thanksgiving in the United States, which means we won't be publishing newsletters on Thursday or Friday. So it's the end of the week here. Kind of.


The truth is, if anything of note happens over the next few days, I'll still post something about it to the WinInfo Web site. And I'll be publishing more Xbox 360 and Windows Server 2003 R2 content to the SuperSite for Windows by the end of the weekend as well.


Yes, it's been a busy if short week. Our quick trip to Paris over the weekend went swimmingly, so my wife and I consider that experiment a success. However, Monday, which is traditionally the busiest day of the week for me, was a disaster between all the regular stuff I had to do, the epic Xbox 360 review I had to finish (it clocked in at just under 11,000 words), and my lack of sleep. The next time we do something like this, I'm going to try and get my Monday stuff done early ... and then take most of that day off.


Speaking of being way behind, I've yet to make a decent effort at getting to my email backlog, so if you're waiting on a response, I apologize. There's a weird Catch-22 that occurs when I go away. I don't want to spend the trip on a computer, but if I don't at least check email regularly, it piles up to the tune of over 100 emails a day. I didn't even see a computer the entire time I was away, so the end result was predictable. Hopefully, I can get caught up soon.


And speaking of getting caught up, November went by quickly. Plus, we woke up to snow on the ground this morning, which is as accurate a hint that winter is coming as anything. To be fair, this is the second snowfall we've had this season--the first actually occurred back in October, though we experience several 60 degree days shortly thereafter--but this time its clear there's no turning back. I'm not sure when the first significant snowfall will occur, but it's inevitable, like the madness of holiday shopping. I guess I'm looking forward to it.


Happy Thanksgiving.

Short Takes

Critics: Microsoft's "Open" Office Format Not So Open

So Microsoft's bid to open up its Office 12 data formats as international standards hasn't really done much to sway critics. Sam Hiser, a Linux consultant whose opinion I trust, writes in his blog about a line-by-line interpretation of Microsoft's agreement to not sue developers and others who choose to utilize these formats. The conclusion is somewhat shocking: The agreement applies only to the XML-based formats in Office 2003 and not Office 12, and since Office 12 is a full year away from release, he says that the Microsoft announcement is pure PR baloney aimed at freezing the market and dimming chances that the competing OpenDocument format will gain traction. I'd be startled to discover that was the case if, you know, Microsoft hadn't done that kind of thing so many times in the past. In any event, Sam's posts on this topic are good reading.


Defining Success for Xbox 360

So the Xbox 360 is off to a roaring start, with huge lines of people waiting outside of retail stores so they could purchase the few units being offered for sale. But how does one define "success" for Microsoft and Xbox 360? Does it have to beat the PlayStation 3 in the market? Some are suggesting that Xbox 360 needs to outsell its predecessor to be termed successful. I guess that makes sense. The original Xbox has sold over 22 million units worldwide, so that's the goal. That, I guess, and outselling at least the Nintendo Revolution. But here's another bellweather of its (early) success: If Xbox 360 doesn't outsell the PlayStation 2 during the time period before the PlayStation 3 is released, I'm not sure how anyone could call this thing successful.


No Demand for XP N Editions

Here's a shocker: The stripped down version of Windows XP that the European Union (EU) forced Microsoft to sell isn't exactly a best seller. In fact, the Windows XP N Editions, as those products are called, aren't even being sold by some major retailers and PC makers in Europe at all. Turns out there's no demand for a version of Windows in which features have been stripped away with no likewise reduction in cost. I think we can take away two things from this situation. One, governments shouldn't be designing software. And two, you can't sell a product with less ... for the same amount of money.


Sony Sued for Shipping CDs with Malware

If you thought that Sony's rootkit CD fiasco couldn't get any worse, you apparently forgot about the lawyers. This week, two major lawsuits were filed against Sony for its decision to include malware on audio CDs sold to consumers. The suits, filed separately by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) digital rights advocacy group and the Texas attorney general, accuse Sony of violating consumer rights and trading in malicious software. I can't stress my opinion here strongly enough: Sony should be strung up by its corporate petoot for this, and if we're lucky--really lucky--this event will convince this silly, stupid company to stop screwing over consumers in a lame bid to over-protect its ailing music business. Sony is an embarrassment.


Google Gives the Gift of Reading

So we've all questioned Google's motives for wanting to scan in the contents of books, but give the company a little credit. It's giving back, too. This week, the online giant provided a $3 million gift to the US Library of Congress to help the Library begin building a World Digital Library that will collect digital versions of the most significant documents from around the world. The project is modeled after the American Memory Project, which has been digitizing notable US documents for the past decade. "We're trying to recreate the memory of cultures that have much longer memories than we do," librarian of Congress James H. Billington said. "The whole point is to get a world digital library that will bring, free of charge to anyone with Internet access, a series of Web sites that will seamlessly integrate materials of different cultures as much as possible." See, technology isn't always evil, like Skynet and Microsoft Bob. Sometimes it's wonderful, like my son's cochlear implant. And this.


TiVo Goes to iPod, PSP

Earlier this year, TiVo unveiled the TiVo To Go service, which allowed TiVo subscribers to copy TiVo recorded TV content to PCs, notebook computers, and, for the six bozos actually using these devices, Portable Media Centers. This week, TiVo announced a valuable addition to the TiVo To Go service, where it will provide software (for a nominal fee) that will let iPod with video and PlayStation Portable (PSP) owners copy TiVo content to their devices as well. The fee is required because of the expense of the MPEG-4 video format used by the iPod and PSP, TiVo says. But it's nice to see this kind of thing being offered to a much wider range of customers. The service should be widely available by December.


Apple iTunes Moves into Top 10

StepasideTower Records and Borders: Apple's download-only iTunes Music Store is now selling more music than some traditional brick and mortar outlets. According to market researchers at NPD Group, Apple iTunes is now the number 8 music retailer in the US, ahead of Tower Records and Borders Books. However, iTunes isn't the most popular place to get music online: scored much higher than iTunes, and traditional retailers like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target, FYE, and CircuitCity, all of which offer online options, outsell iTunes as well. Still, this is the first time iTunes made it into the top 10, which is certainly an accomplishment.


Search is Number 2

And presumably, porn holds onto its tenuous lead. This week, the Pew Internet and American Life Project announced that using a search engine is the second most popular online activity, just ahead of the news. Today, about 41 percent of users online utilize search engines, compared with 30 percent a year ago. And if you're wondering, email is actually the number one activity. Sure it is.


South Korea Delays Microsoft Ruling

Today, the South Korea Fair Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it will delay a long-overdue ruling on Microsoft's business practices to next week. The FTC has been investigating Microsoft since 2001, so what's another week, right? The investigation stemmed from complaints from Daum, South Korea's top ISP, which complained that Microsoft was violating antitrust laws by bundling Windows Messenger instant messaging (IM) features with Windows XP. Microsoft settled a lawsuit with Daum last year for $30 million, but the FTC said it would still issue a ruling. And we're still waiting.


Windows Leads Server Market

And finally, Microsoft for the first time saw Windows Server lead the new server market, thanks to strong server growth and healthy sales of Windows Server 2003. The worldwide server market grew 8.1 percent in the third quarter of 2005, according to IDC, while server revenues grew 5.6 percent. Sales of servers based on Windows Server accounted for 36.9 percent of all server revenue in the quarter, compared to 31.7 percent for UNIX and 11.5 percent for Linux. According to IDC, Windows Server growth was fueled in part by NT migrations, which are finally starting to happen in volume.

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