WinInfo Short Takes: Week of August 21 - 18 Aug 2006

WinInfo Blog

Short Takes

- Microsoft: Xbox 360 Attach Rate High
- Dell Rocked by Profit Decline
- Windows Live OneCare Off to Strong Start
- Microsoft: No Vista Reparations
- Microsoft to Ship FPS Controller for Xbox 360
- HP Cost-Cutting Starting to Pay Off
- Analysts: No Long-Term Impact from Dell Recall
- Microsoft Ships New Beta Build of Windows Live Mail Desktop
- EMI Will Ship Music Videos with Microsoft Zune Player
- Dell Will Put AMD Processors in Desktop PCs
- Apple Completes Investigation of iPod Factory; Kathy Lee Consulted

WinInfo Blog

by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Our second week away was as busy as the first, but it's going well. Our friends Jeff and Kerry joined us here in Paris, then we all went on a five-day side trip to Belgium (Bruges, Brussels) and The Netherlands (Amsterdam). Steven Bink from was nice enough to show us around Amsterdam, which was excellent. Thanks again, Steve. Something tells me we'll be back.

One thing that's been difficult during this trip is getting work done. As I noted in a SuperSite article I posted yesterday, I hope it's understandable that I've developed a sudden lack of interest in work since the trip began. The days are long, the Internet connectivity isn't great--especially during the Benelux trip--and it's hard to get into work mode. I'm going to have to really step things up when I get back. Joy.

With the reasons for my excuse perfectly established, I'll now apologize if this Short Takes is a bit, well, shorter than usual. I've got escargot and foie gras on the mind, and I'll be darned if the rosé here isn't actually excellent and not the bottle of swill you get in the United States. It's the weekend, right?

Short Takes

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news

by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Microsoft: Xbox 360 Attach Rate High

Microsoft this week revealed that its Xbox 360 video game console is scoring big in one important category--attach rate. This statistic measures the number of game titles a typical Xbox 360 owner purchases, so the higher the attach rate, the better. In the case of the Xbox 360, the attach rate is 4.6 games per console, and 2.9 hardware accessories per console, the latter of which is the highest in the industry. Over 80 percent of Xbox 360 owners have also downloaded content online via Xbox Live Marketplace, which is an astonishing figure when you remember that Microsoft's competitors don't even have an online strategy, let alone an online service of any kind. Over 46 million downloads have occurred on Xbox Live Marketplace since the Xbox 360 first shipped late last year, 8 million of them Xbox Live Arcade games.

Dell Rocked by Profit Decline

This week, PC giant Dell announced a 51 percent decline in profits, year over year, for the quarter ending July 31, causing the company's stock to nose-dive. But the profit shortfall, which Dell blamed on a PC industry price war, wasn't the PC maker's only problem. The company also revealed that the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was investigating Dell's revenue recognition practices. On the good news front, sort of, Dell's earnings problems were in line with what the company had projected and many analysts feel that Dell's low-ball pricing strategy will continue to pay off in the future.

Windows Live OneCare Off to Strong Start

Thanks to low pricing and, yes, the Microsoft name, Windows Live OneCare is off to a better-than-expected start. Microsoft's fledgling desktop security suite, which was available last quarter for as little as $11 from wholesalers such as Costco, jumped out of nowhere to seize the number-two spot in security-product sales. The product accounted for over 15 percent of all retail security-software sales in the United States last month. Not surprisingly, established security-product vendors took a hit. Symantec sales were down 10.1 percent from the previous month, while McAfee sales were off 3.3 percent. That said, Symantec is still sitting pretty: The company's products accounted for 59.8 percent of all security software sold at retail in the United States last month.

Microsoft: No Vista Reparations

Microsoft is denying reports that it will offer "reparations" to customers who signed up for its Software Assurance (SA) volume-licensing program but only to have the program lapse before Microsoft could ship Windows Vista or Microsoft Office 2007. "There is no reparations strategy," a Microsoft spokesperson said. "The \[eWeek\] story \[that first revealed reparation plans\] took a lot of liberties. There is nothing exceptional being planned for those who signed up for Software Assurance more than three years ago. When you have any new product come out, there are tools and offers to support the adoption of it. It's really business as usual." In short, I think we can call the reparations story bogus.

Microsoft to Ship FPS Controller for Xbox 360

Microsoft is looking at shipping a separate controller for the Xbox 360 that will make it easier to control first-person shooter (FPS) games. FPS games are difficult to control on most video game consoles because players use controllers with analog sticks, unlike the super-precise aiming available to PC game players, who use a mouse. The new controller will allegedly replace the Xbox 360's analog stick with a more precise pointing device. But I have to wonder: Given how easy it would be to make a PC mouse and keyboard work just fine on the Xbox 360, why not let people use those devices instead? They already work perfectly on PC-based FPS games.

HP Cost-Cutting Starting to Pay Off

Dell might be struggling, but HP is coming on strong. The company's third quarter income was $1.38 billion, compared to just $73 million in the same quarter a year earlier. Even its PC business is excellent now. HP credits the growth to CEO Mark Hurd's cost-cutting plans. The most interesting statistic I saw was that HP is now expected to surpass IBM as the world's largest technology company sometime this year: HP expects revenues to top $92.1 billion for the year, ahead of IBM's expected $89.9 billion. Pretty soon, we'll all be talking about how no one ever got fired for backing HP. Well, aside from Carly Fiorina of course.

Analysts: No Long-Term Impact from Dell Recall

Dell's recent battery recall sounds like bad news, but remember that Dell doesn't actually make the batteries--Sony does. So it's likely that Sony will suffer the most from this debacle. On the other hand, the back-to-school PC selling season is about to begin, and it's possible that Dell could suffer a few defections thanks to all the news stories about flaming batteries. I guess I don't see that happening, to be honest, but Dell has other problems now: Although its online-only sales formula has let the company offer lower prices than other PC companies, potential customers can actually visit retailers and see and touch PCs from HP, Sony, and other companies. And sometimes that's a big deal when you're making an expensive purchase.

Microsoft Ships New Beta Build of Windows Live Mail Desktop

Microsoft has shipped a new public beta build of its Windows Live Mail Desktop product, and this beta's looking good: The new version features a vastly improved UI, support for a wide variety of third-party email services, better performance, huge contacts and RSS improvements, and many other features. Yeah, it's just a new version of Outlook Express, really, but I have to say it looks good. You can find out more about the new release on the Windows Live Mail Desktop team blog below.

EMI Will Ship Music Videos with Microsoft Zune Player

Entertainment giant EMI announced this week that it would provide video content shipped preloaded on Microsoft's upcoming handheld media player, Zune. EMI recording groups such as "30 Seconds to Mars" and "Hot Chip" will be among those offering music videos for the device, EMI says. Zune is still expected to ship later this year, in time for the holiday selling season. (Which, in the case of Windows Vista, occurs in January 2007.)

Dell Will Put AMD Processors in Desktop PCs

Hell hath frozen over, PC fans. I'm not sure why Dell is in the news so much this week--oh, right: exploding batteries and declining profits--but this is good news. Dell revealed this week that it would finally begin offering AMD microprocessors in its desktop computers later this year. The news comes just months after Dell began offering AMD Opteron processors in select server configurations, and follows literally years of speculation. All I can say is, congratulations. And it's about time.

Apple Completes Investigation of iPod Factory; Kathy Lee Consulted

Apple Computer this week revealed that its investigation into the work conditions of a Chinese factory that manufactures Apple iPod MP3 players found no forced labor as had been alleged. However, Apple did find that workers were exceeding the company's limits on work hours and days worked per week, and it took steps to resolve the problems. A recent report by UK newspaper "The Mail" said that the factory workers were paid as little as $50 a month and were forced to work 15-hour shifts to keep up with iPod demand. Where are Willy Wonka's Oompa Loompas when you need them?

Editors' Note
Roadshow Targets Oracle/SQL Server Interoperability
Cross-platform experts from Scalability Experts and Solid Quality Learning will present interoperability tips to IT professionals and DBAs who work with Oracle or SQL Server in a one-day roadshow that kicks off September 7 in Washington, D.C.

Sponsored by Oracle Magazine, Windows IT Pro, HP, Intel, and Microsoft, the show will feature information about the Windows 64-bit platform for database computing, an under-the-hood tour of Oracle and SQL Server, an overview of deploying highly available Oracle and SQL Server databases, guidelines for using SQL Server business intelligence on the Oracle platform, and a research-based session about how IT professionals can prepare for the changing database job market.

The roadshow will visit 12 cities between September 7 and October 24: Washington, D.C.; Boston; Columbus, Ohio; Chicago; St. Louis; Houston; Irvine, Calif.; San Francisco; Phoenix; New York; Atlanta; and Seattle. Attendees who register before August 25 will enter a drawing for a free iPod nano sponsored by Windows IT Pro. For complete agenda and speaker information, go to the URL below.

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