An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news...
When information about Windows XP Reloaded first surfaced earlier this year, I reported that Microsoft was working on a Web installer for what was then considered to be an interim version of Windows. Today, we know that XP Reloaded is just an ongoing marketing campaign to promote Windows XP and that Microsoft won't ship an interim Windows version between XP and Longhorn. And the expected Web installer never showed up. This week, however, Microsoft released an intriguing if badly named add-on pack for Windows called the Windows Partner Pack, which includes the very Web installer I mentioned earlier this year. The Web installer installs third-party applications that add value to Windows, however, not Microsoft applications. The pack includes applications, games, and utilities--some worthwhile, some not. But it's worth checking out. Some of the add-ons, such as the free year of Computer Associates' eTrust EZ Antivirus, are definitely interesting.
Microsoft Beats Expectations Yet Again
Once again, Microsoft beat earnings estimates and brought in a record amount of money. And once again, the company is warning that that success won't continue. For the quarter ending September 30, Microsoft earned a profit of $2.9 billion (up 11 percent year over year) on sales of $9.19 billion (up 12 percent). Microsoft Chief Financial Officer (CFO) John Connors said all the company's business units have been firing on all cylinders, but he singled out a "frenzy" of Xbox game sales, if you can believe that. Connors noted that 1.5 million people have already preordered the eagerly awaited Halo 2 Xbox title, which goes on sale next month. And Xbox should help drive growth for the long term, he said. These results are a dramatic turnaround for a system that has always been considered something of an also-ran. But Microsoft's other oft-maligned business units are suddenly doing well. MSN is up 10 percent, and mobile and embedded device sales jumped 30 percent.
Microsoft Trims Passport Goals
Once seen as the ubiquitous single sign-on (SSO) standard that would bridge every conceivable Internet-based service, Microsoft .NET Passport is now being scaled back. The company has dramatically downsized its Passport plans and will now concentrate on internal offerings only, with perhaps the occasional service from a close partner thrown in for good measure. That situation is a far cry from the days of .NET My Services, which was supposed to have come in consumer and business varieties. But maybe a more clearheaded view of the future makes sense. If Microsoft can't secure our desktops, what makes us think the company can secure our credit card numbers out in the ether of the Internet? More to the point, Microsoft is, at its heart, a software company, not a services company. If Passport had succeeded as Microsoft originally envisioned, the company would now be the world's largest Internet services host.
Ballmer Contradicts Gates on Future of Microsoft Security
During his appearance at this week's Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2004 conference in Orlando, Florida, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that hackers are getting smarter and more versatile and that it's "naive" to think that Microsoft--or any other company--will ever be able to relax and consider security a done deal. Thinking that way might be naive, but it's apparently what Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates thinks. Recently, Gates said that Microsoft will stop spam and other electronic attacks within 2 years.
Ballmer Wants a $100 PC
And speaking of Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO also noted this week that the computer industry needs a $100 PC to beat back piracy in developing countries. Head's up to Ballmer: We have that now. It's called a cell phone.
Swatch Enters the SPOT Watch Arena
You mean someone still makes those things? Watchmaker Swatch announced this week that it has entered the Smart Personal Object Technology (SPOT) Watch market with a line of watches based on Microsoft's hardware platform. The Swatch Paparazzi--so named because it's annoying, I'm guessing--comes in four models, each featuring a different colored band and case. Like other SPOT watches, the Swatch Paparazzi uses the MSN Direct online service and is too large for most people to wear comfortably.
Microsoft Disses Liberty Alliance as IBM Signs Up
Despite the fact that Web services partner IBM just recently joined Sun Microsystems' Liberty Alliance, software giant Microsoft says that it has no plans to jump on board. On Wednesday, IBM revealed that it is joining the Liberty Alliance, a significant step because IBM has been partnering with Microsoft on Web services, and Sun set up the Liberty Alliance specifically to counter Microsoft's Web services move. However, given the recent thawing of relations between Microsoft and Sun, anything is possible. At the very least, Microsoft is going to be under a lot of pressure to ensure that its services interoperate with those of the Liberty Alliance partners.
Intel Cancels TV Chip Plans
Although Intel's high-profile cancellation of the 4GHz Pentium 4 processor project earlier this month was big news, the more recent announcement that the company is canceling its plans for TV display chips will, perhaps, have deeper ramifications. Intel revealed earlier this year that it was working on a set of chips for Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCOS)-based rear-projection TV sets in a bid to lower the cost of High-Definition Television (HDTV) technology. But now Intel says that the project didn't meet its strict ROI requirements and has scrapped its plans. Is it just me or is the once rock-solid Intel suddenly teetering on the edge of irrelevancy? Sure, the company's processors are great, but rival AMD is setting the pace with the upcoming 64-bit generation of chips, and Intel is now following AMD. Is this the beginning of the end?
Red Sox Nation Swamps MLB.com
And speaking of the End Of Times (tm), when the Boston Red Sox embarrassed the New York Yankees by coming back from a 0-3 deficit in the American League Championship Series (ALCS) to win the series 4-3, the Red Sox team wasn't just making baseball history. Thanks to the dramatic comeback, the Red Sox helped power Major League Baseball's Web site, MLB.com, to record traffic levels as frenzied fans from around the nation logged on to watch history unfold. During the Game 7 festivities, MLB.com experienced a record number of page views--a 200 percent increase over last year's ALCS Game 7. Go, Sox!