WinInfo Daily Update, April 28, 2006: Short Takes

We spent the last week or so in Phoenix. Which is to say, my wife and kids went swimming, hiking, and sightseeing every day, and I sat in a Borders bookstore café and worked. Actually, I got more done there than I do at home, which should trigger some sort of internal debate, but won't.

For me, Phoenix is a mixed bag. We lived there for about six and a half years. I absolutely love it there, and we have some good friends there. And it's where I started WinInfo and got involved with writing. But it's also where Mark got sick, and where my friend and writing partner Gary died, and it's hard to look at the old neighborhood and not think about that stuff. On the other hand, the weather is great this time of year, or at least it looked great from my perch in Borders overlooking 24th and Camelback. Part of me wishes we were still there.

But we're not. And while arriving home to freezing rain and colder than normal temperatures was a bit alarming, I kind of like Boston too. Kind of.

EU: Microsoft Tried to Illegally "Seal" Monopoly

This week's court drama in Luxembourg has reminded me of how much I miss Microsoft's US antitrust trial. Those were heady days, no? Anyway, this week, European Union (EU) lawyers told a panel of judges at the EU's Court of First Instance that Microsoft illegally leveraged its OS monopoly to capture market share in the workgroup server and media player markets. I suppose this is believable. But I suspect the judges will ask the EU some shrewd questions regarding the inability of Microsoft's competitors to come up with compelling solutions of their own. The judges seem just skeptical enough to grant Microsoft at least part of the relief it's requesting. At any rate, the EU judges probably won't issue a ruling until a few months from now.

Microsoft Quarterly Financials on Track, but Future Spending Raises Questions

On Thursday, Microsoft reported its financial results for the quarter ending March 31. The company reported a 16 percent rise in profits (to $2.98 billion) and a 13 percent increase in revenues (to $10.9 billion) when compared to the same quarter a year earlier. Microsoft missed analyst revenue estimates of $11.04 billion because of higher than expected component and shipping costs for the Xbox 360, which was in such short supply for the entire quarter that the company added another system manufacturer. However, Windows and Office did about as well as ever, as did the Server & Tools division. The big surprise this time around actually concerns the coming fiscal year: Microsoft says it will dramatically increase spending this year, which should sop up a lot of the previously expected gains from new products such as Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007. The company cryptically refused to explain what it would be spending the money on and brushed aside questions about a possible "war" with Google.

Microsoft Talks up Future Windows Mobile Releases

Microsoft said this week that it's moving toward a model where its Windows Mobile OS is refreshed each year. The next two releases, code-named Crossbow and Photon, will ship in late 2006 and late 2007, respectively, and will power next-generation cell phones and PDAs. What's silly is the way the releases are scheduled. Though Crossbow will be completed in late 2006, it won't be delivered to cell phone makers until second quarter 2007. And if I know cell phone makers, that means we won't actually see it in new phones until 2008. I can't stand the glacial pace at which these devices are released.

Microsoft Takes Genuine Program to the Office

You laughed with joy when Microsoft added Product Activation to Windows XP, and you clapped your hands like a schoolchild the first time you tried to download something from the Microsoft Web site and you had to go through the Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) authorization process. Well, get ready for another moment of child-like glee: Microsoft is now testing a version of WGA for its Office products, dubbed Office Genuine Advantage (OGA), of course, in seven languages: Brazilian Portuguese, Czech, Greek, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Russian, and Spanish. OGA will make sure that the copy of Microsoft Office on users' PCs is non-pirated. Eventually, OGA will be expanded worldwide (one might expect it to be part of Office 2007, due in January). And then, you lucky dogs, you can experience OGA for yourself. I can hardly wait.

Users of Pirated Windows Get Nagged

And speaking of software piracy, Microsoft this week announced an expansion of its WGA program that adds nagging messages to PCs running pirated copies of XP. Dubbed Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications, this tool displays the following message when you log on: "It appears that you could be a victim of software piracy. The copy of Windows installed on this computer is not considered to be genuine by Microsoft." The notification displays until the PC is running a genuine copy of Windows, Microsoft says. However, if you click a "Resolve me later" button, a permanent banner appears on the bottom of the screen, offering the same message. You know, I'm not a big fan of this kind of thing, but I have to say, this is pretty funny. And since this is Microsoft we're talking about, no legitimate users would ever be affected by this. Ahem.

Microsoft Works up Social Networking Solution

If there's one thing you learn following Microsoft as long as I have, it's that no idea is too good to steal. This week's example is Wallop, a Microsoft social networking portal being developed to compete with MySpace and Friendster. "We're at the beginning of what we think of as the social-networking revolution," Microsoft's Karl Jacob said. Of course it's a revolution, now that Microsoft has finally noticed it was happening.

TiVo Finally Debuts Dual-Tuner DVRs

It's unclear what took so long, but this week digital video recorder (DVR) pioneer TiVo finally unveiled a version of its popular TiVo Series 2 DVR that features dual tuners, which lets consumers record two shows at the same time. An 80-hour version of the box will retail for $99.99, not including the monthly (or lifetime) TiVo service charge. This is great news for all those people who have a hard time choosing between "Supernanny" and "The Apprentice." On the other hand, those people should really consider watching a lot less TV.

Microsoft's Email Plan: Get 'Em While They're Young

Microsoft has latched onto an excellent idea: It's offering universities the chance to outsource their entire email infrastructure to Microsoft. Students get a free university email address, with access to Windows Live Mail, a Hotmail-like service that also provides contacts, calendar, and task management, as well as access to IM. In return, students can keep their email addresses when they graduate, though at that time the service reverts to the usual Windows Live Mail interface with ads. Microsoft has already signed deals with 72 educational institutions around the world and is in discussions with about 200 more. Not too shabby.

Intel Plans a Business Overhaul

After a 90-day internal review, microprocessor giant Intel announced this week that it will dramatically restructure its business. The move comes amid a period of dramatic competition from upstart AMD, which has been making market share inroads against Intel for several months. Intel says it will "restructure, resize and repurpose" every part of the company, though it has released no details about the plan yet. So what's wrong with Intel, exactly? It has, for the most part, followed AMD's lead with the x64 platform, though I'm curious why its just-released Core processors are 32-bit only. AMD, meanwhile, is seeing steady gains in both the desktop and server markets. If AMD could just ship a decent mobile chipset, they'd have the perfect trifecta.

Microsoft Renames Monad to Windows Power Shell

Let the laughing begin. In the lame naming tradition of "Pentium" and "Windows Vista," Microsoft has branded its "Monad" shell as ... drum roll please ... Windows Power Shell. I guess that's technically a bit better than "Microsoft Command Shell" or whatever other lame names it was considering. But seriously, can anyone use this thing without cringing a little bit?

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