WinInfo Short Takes: Week of August 18, 2008

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including yet another Windows 7 non-revelation, a heated battle over video game console software sales, the pending arrival of the first Android phone, a BSOD in Beijing, Surface, and so much more...

WinInfo Blog

As usual and as expected, our trip back from Ireland Monday has resulted in a week-long funk that has rendered me almost completely useless. Or at least more so than usual. This always happens, of course. Hopefully I can get back up to speed over the next few days. You know, in time for my next trip. Which is to Washington D.C., one of my very favorite cities. Though at this moment I have to say I'm not all that excited about it. I will be.

Leo and I had to skip another week from the Windows Weekly podcast this week, sorry. He's in Vegas this time and while he had sent out an email request about perhaps recording a day early, I misunderstood (remember: post-Ireland funk) and went out on a few errands at the appointed time like an idiot. I guess I'm trying to say it was my fault, because it was. So sorry about that, but we should be back next week as usual.

But wait, there more. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter (, Friendfeed ( and the SuperSite Blog (

Short Takes

Once Again, Microsoft Announces Absolutely Nothing About Windows 7
Yesterday morning, I received an intriguing email from Steven Sinofsky, the Microsoft executive in charge of developing Windows 7, the eagerly-awaited successor to Windows Vista. (Yes, eagerly awaited. We never learn.) "I wanted to give you a heads up about a new blog that we are starting this week," he noted. "The blog will be hosted (and written) by myself and Jon DeVaan and will focus on the overall engineering aspects of building Windows 7. Think of it as a companion to the overall external communications about Windows 7." Sounded interesting. And then, hours later, the blog went live. And in the first post--allegedly written by Mr. Sinofsky though the whole thing has the smell of PR all over it--he proceeded to say absolutely nothing new about Windows 7. Again. The blog will be about "how" Microsoft is making Windows 7, not about Windows 7 per se. The company will announce new Windows 7 technologies and features at the PDC and WinHEC shows later this year, which we already knew. Words like "communication," "disclosure," and "discussion" are bandied about like they mean something, but nothing is actually communicated, disclosed, or discussed. "Our intent is to post 'regularly,'" the post notes. Great. Let me know when that starts.

Microsoft, Nintendo in Battle of Game Software Sales
With its Xbox 360 now expected to come in dead last in sales in the current generation of video game consoles, Microsoft is--sort of--fighting back. No, they're not shipping a smaller, cheaper, quieter, or more reliable console. And no, they're not dropping prices. Instead, what Microsoft is doing is arguing over semantics in a bid to make it seem like the 360 is doing better than it really is. Here's what's happening: Nintendo, makers of the market leading Wii console, came out to "set the record straight" a week ago and refuted reports that Wii software sales were below those of the competition. In fact, Nintendo says, Wii software sales lead the industry: More software titles have been sold for the Wii than have been sold for either Xbox 360 or Sony PlayStation 3 over the first 19 months of availability of each console. This fact was verified by market researchers at NPD, who said that 33 million Wii software titles were sold in the first 20 months of that console's life, compared to 29 million for the Xbox 360 (which owned the market for the first 12 months of that period) and 20 million for the PS3. Well, Microsoft wasn't amused. They argue that more Xbox 360 titles have been sold this year, in the US, on the 360 than on the Wii. And they're right: Software makers shipped 16.5 million units this year for the 360, compared to 13.4 million for the Wii. And total third party games sale for the Xbox 360 are now 68 million units, compared to 33 million for the Wii and 20 million for the PS3. Furthermore, Microsoft says, since the Wii (and PS3) launched, the Xbox 360 has continued to dominate, selling 54 million software titles, almost double the 33 million figure for the Wii. So who's right? From a numbers standpoint, they both are. But Nintendo's math is more meaningful, since the Wii and PS3 have been on the market for a year less than the 360. And 360 sales are trending down in a big way now that the competition has shown up. To truly get the big picture here, we're going to need to watch this market over a longer period of time. And my guess is that when the dust settles, Microsoft will be where it was when the previous generation of video game system sales "concluded" (remembering that the PS2 is still available): Last place.

It's No Dream: Here Comes the First Google Android Phone
T-Mobile is expected to announce the first smart phone based on Google's Android platform as soon as September, a device that will be made by HTC and will be made available for sale in time for the holidays. The first Android phone--called the HTC Dream--will feature an iPhone-like touch screen but also a sliding five-row hardware keyboard. Like the iPhone, Android phones will be widely supported by third party developers, though it's unclear if Google intends to offer a formal Apps Store as does Apple. While the HTC Dream is expected to be the only Android phone to make it to market this year, 2009 should see an explosion of Android-based devices from a variety of hardware makers and wireless carriers.

Blue Screen of Death in Beijing: What this Really Says
Open source fanatics and Mac noobs took great delight this week when a Windows "Blue Screen" adorned a massive video screen at the Olympics. We can debate the merits of this issue--after all, the Olympic Committee stupidly decided to go with Windows XP instead of Windows Vista, which no doubt led to the problem. But I'd just point out one thing to the snickering Linux nuts and Mac fan boys in the audience. Hey, at least they're using Windows. You know, like everyone else. Snicker, snicker indeed.

Microsoft Table Surfaces in Sheraton Hotels
Interactive tables based on Microsoft Surface technology have shown up in volume in the real world for the first time: Sheraton is using the tables at hotels in Boston, Chicago, New York, and San Francisco in a field test. (There were two previous, smaller, Surface tests by AT&T and the Rio casino in Las Vegas.) The tables are used as a virtual concierge, jukebox, and all-around marketing device for the hotel chain. Reaction to the tables has been largely positive, which Microsoft knows because they're carefully monitoring those reactions via video. Sounds like the install process is even more complicated than getting Verizon FIOS. If you have it, you know what I mean.

Google Widens Gap with Microsoft, Yahoo!
In the 18 months or so that have elapsed since the beginning of 2007, Google has only widened the gap between itself and Microsoft and Yahoo! in the Internet search market. During this time period, Google's market share has risen from about 47 percent to 61 percent, while Microsoft's has hovered around the 10 percent market but dropped. Yahoo!'s share has dropped considerably, from about 28 percent to about 20 percent. So what does this all mean? Two things, I guess. One, consumers are comfortable with Google. And two, let's face it: They still give the best search results.

iPhone 3G Suffering from Endemic Call Dropping Problem
Eager beaver buyers of Apple's innovative and trendy iPhone 3G are now suffering from buyer's regret, with many of them experience rampant call dropping. Apple declines to comment on the issue (go figure) but is allegedly working on a software fix. Which should be interesting, because the problem has allegedly been tied back to a "baseband processor" chip inside the device, which is made by a German company named Infineon. Why Apple went with this custom-designed chip rather than one of the many off-the-shelf parts it could have used is unknown, but I know enough about Apple to know this: If it is Infineon's fault, this will be the last time any of their silicon ever graces an Apple product again. In the meantime, all you iPhone 3G users take heart. At least the device's Stocks applet still works. And you can use it now to see how well Infineon stock is doing at the moment.

Netflix Suffers Days-Long Outage
Users of the DVD movie subscription service Netfix have been suffering from a days-long service outage this week, according to a note on the company's site. "We're sorry to report that since Tuesday we've been experiencing issues with our shipping system, so many of you have not received DVDs in a timely manner and many of you have not received emails letting you know we got a DVD back from you," the note reads. Netflix has no idea what the problem is, so far, but hopes to get back up and running soon. The company boasts 8.4 million subscribers, and is battling with Blockbuster and a growing cadre of digital movie distributors like Apple and MovieLink for a share of the movie subscription market. But what this really highlights is how dodgy physical media distribution can be. I mean, Internet-based delivery would never have suffered from such an outage. Or something.

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