WinInfo Daily UPDATE, March 30, 2007: WinInfo Short Takes

WinInfo Daily UPDATE, March 30, 2007: WinInfo Short Takes

Next week is April, which means that we'll finally get some semblance of spring around here. I mentioned our false spring last week and my belief that winter had finally ended. Here's an update: Friday night we went out with some friends and snow was falling when we left the restaurant in Boston. As we were driving home, I hit a pothole that we couldn't see because of the snow, got a flat tire, couldn't get the wheel off the car despite having the car properly jacked up and had to call AAA. According to the guy from AAA; This happens all the time. We got home around 1:00 A.M. soaked to the bone and miserable. The next day we went to get the tire fixed but it turns out the tire was just fine although I had dented the rim. Cost of a replacement rim: $500. Ah, there's nothing like spring in New England, let me tell you.

This week, Leo and I recorded another episode of Windows Weekly, but given how things have been going recently I'm hesitant to promise that it will be up today, although that's the plan. Next week we're going to do some sort of live show, so listeners can call in as if it were a radio show. Later this week I'll have details on the SuperSite for Windows about how that show will work.

Vista: Hot or Not?

In the wake of Microsoft's announcement that it had sold 20 million Windows Vista licenses during Vista's first 30 days of general availability, several people have begun dissecting things to see whether Vista is truly as successful as Microsoft claims. With most analysts expecting there to be about 250 million PCs sold worldwide this year, one might expect Vista to be included on about 95 percent of the machines sold February through December. That means that Microsoft can logically expect to sell about 217 million copies of Vista through PC bundles alone in 2007, or an average of 19.79 million per month. In other words, Microsoft is selling about as many copies of Vista as one would expect and isn't the huge success Microsoft said it was. However, I'd also point out that February isn t typically the high point of PC sales for the year so Vista sales are' t awful either. But after five years in development, one might expect a new Microsoft OS to show some signs of life in the retail market during its first 30 days.

Vista Does Little to Lift PC Industry

Speaking of Vista, there are some non anecdotal signs that it hasn't exactly jump started the PC industry. Did the PC industry need help? Analysts expect about 250 million PCs to be sold this year. According to a Reuters report major PC makers, such as HP Dell and Lenovo, might have to resort to pushing low margin PCs in emerging markets to make up for lagging sales of the high end machines and other add-ons they had hoped to sell since Vista shipped.

"Vista has had no big help," Acer President Gianfranco Lanci said this week. "Part of the problem of course is that Vista shipped at an awkward time of year. The beginning of the year isn't typically a time for huge PC sales."

Also, new hardware designs from various companies won't ship until mid year. For example, many consumers are waiting on hybrid hard disk drives and Intel's Santa Rosa platform. Overall analysts expect PC sales to rise 11 percent in 2007 compared with 9.7 percent growth in 2006. That's OK, of course. But it's not fantastic.

Microsoft Previews New Mobile Browser 

This week Microsoft showed off a prototype of a future Windows Mobile Web browser called Deepfish that will supposedly solve some of the problems faced by mobile device users today, Specifically, Deepfish will get rid of the infamously slow Web page loading times present, Web sites as their creators intended and feature zooming capabilities. Microsoft had briefly offered an early version of Deepfish for download but the company's cut-off downloads for now. You need a Windows Mobile device of course to use Deepfish. However, you can go to the Deepfish Web site to sign up for a future release. It looks interesting. 

Microsoft Longhorn Virtualization on Schedule 

Microsoft said it's still on track to ship its so called "hypervisor based virtualization feature" for Longhorn Server within 180 days of that OS's release. Longhorn Server is currently due in late 2007. The feature, which is technically called Windows Server virtualization, will let Longhorn Server machines offer bare metal virtual machine installations that bypass the host OS as do products such as Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 Release 2 (R2) and offer better performance and reliability. Of course, Microsoft competitor and PC virtualization pioneer, VMware, has offered this kind of functionality for years. But with Microsoft essentially integrating virtualization into Longhorn Server, virtualization is expected to quickly become a mainstream solution for businesses of all sizes. And speaking of Longhorn Server, its long awaited Beta 3 release should be available soon. Stay tuned.

Dell Finds Misconduct 

After an internal investigation that lasted several months, Dell said it found evidence of misconduct related to its accounting practices over the past few years. The company found several accounting errors and other deficiencies and said that its investigation isn't complete yet. Dell faces a federal probe of its finances and my guess is that the company's disclosure will make the chance of a federal probe more likely, although I'd imagine that wasn't the intended result. The Securities and Exchange Commission has been looking into Dell's accounting practices since August 2006, but has yet to formally investigate the company.

Microsoft Confirms Zero Day Windows Exploit 

This week Microsoft confirmed that a new zero day exploit for a flaw in the animated mouse cursor rendering technology in Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7.0 and 6.0 could let malicious hackers perform drive by attacks against PCs running Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2_. Curiously, XP SP1 and the original version of XP aren't vulnerable to this exploit. Microsoft said that the flaw will require a security patch that will likely be issued outside of the normal monthly security release cycle. Users running IE 7.0 on Vista aren't affected.

Apple Stifles Apple TV Modders 

Within hours of the release of Apple TV this week eager hackers broke open the device both physically and electronically and began looking for ways to hack it to make it more versatile, which shouldn't be hard given how limited Apple TV is out of the box. Because Apple TV is based on a stripped down version of Mac OS X, which itself is a version of UNIX, hackers were able to quickly come up with a variety of modifications to the product making it far more interesting to potential adopters. However, the initial glee over these hacks turned to dismay on day two when several hacks were apparently automatically disabled which suggests that Apple included some built in controls in the system's software to prevent hacking. At this time it's still unclear exactly what's happening, but I think we can expect hackers to bypass whatever controls Apple put in the devices. I'm curious to see how this situation turns out. One of the best hacks I've seen is pretty much a simple hardware modification. You can replace the paltry 40GB hard disk in the device with a much larger hard disk, which is something I'll likely do in the days ahead.

Has Firefox Growth Stalled Since Microsoft Shipped IE 7.0?

This week Web analysts at Janco Associates said that Mozilla Firefox's growth has stalled since Microsoft shipped IE 7.0, suggesting that the software giant has finally found a solution to its previously dropping share of the browser market. Since December 2006, when Microsoft made IE 7 . a semiautomatic download through Windows Update, Firefox use has increased less than one percentage point, from 12.5 percent to 13.4 percent. In contrast, IE's market share has surged from 67.5 percent in December 2006 to 70.5 percent in March 2007. IE 7.0 now accounts for about 31 percent of the entire Web browser market, according to Web analytics company WebSideStory.

Sony to Bump PlayStation 3 Hard Disk to 80GB 

According to a regulatory filing, Sony will bump the hard disk capacity of the high end PlayStation 3 video game console from its current 60GB to 80GB in an upcoming version. Sony currently also sells a 20GB model that, contrary to rumors, hasn't been discontinued. Meanwhile, Microsoft this week announced a new high end Xbox 360 model, the Xbox 360 Elite, which features a 120GB hard disk. The Xbox 360 Elite sells for $479, still cheaper than the low end PlayStation 3, which sells for $499. A high end PlayStation 3 will set you back a whopping $599.

Intel Talks Up Next Generation Processors

And finally, Intel this week promoted its upcoming microprocessor designs which will ship over the next year and a half. The company is moving all of its mainstream microprocessors to a more efficient 45nm design, which will provide better performance and cooling, a win-win situation in the hardware world. Intel will ship six new microprocessors over the next year and a half and will move to models with more processor cores than today's dual core models. A new processor family code named Penryn will ship this year offering the 45nm design more efficient power management and quad core functionality. A future processor family, Nehalem will ship in 2008 and integrate system interconnects memory controllers and a graphics engine right in the CPU. This chip will come in versions with as many as eight processor cores. Intel describes this chip design as the first major architecture shift in its mainstream processors since the Pentium Pro, which shipped more than a decade ago.

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