WinInfo Short Takes: Week of February 26

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including recovering from a trip to Rome, Vista sales, Firefox market share, Vista logo'd applications, video game console sales, Virtual PC 2007, Windows Live for your TV, and much, much more...

WinInfo Blog

Steph and I took the kids to Rome, Italy last week. I'm still trying to remember why we did this in the first place--there must have been some killer Web deal on the plane tickets or whatever, because we weren't necessarily planning on going to Italy--but it was a good time. The kids are turning into great little travelers. They were fantastic on the plane ride both ways, and did well trucking around Rome despite some sore feet. Believe me, that makes all the difference in the world when you're traveling with kids. It made the whole thing more enjoyable.

I did, however, get pick-pocketed on a crowded Rome bus. I find this more than vaguely disconcerting because I was anticipating it and even looking out for it, but the bus was incredibly crowded, and I was a bit distracted by the sight of my tiny daughter's head disappearing under a pile of coats as people pushed us around. We hopped off the bus the second I knew it had happened and called the credit card company to cancel the card that got jacked. I think they only got about 30 Euros in cash and the one card: Thankfully, I knew the credit card number by heart and I was at least smart enough to have divided our cash between various front pockets and hidden stashes between my wife and me. (Yeah, they somehow got it out of my front jeans pocket.) We canceled the card quickly enough (within minutes, literally) that nothing happened there. Still, it was annoying.

I was hoping to get online at least a few times in Italy, if only to keep up with my email, but we were staying at a wonderful little bed and breakfast about 30 minutes outside the city, where high speed Internet access is but a quaint rumor. So I gave up any thoughts of actually working, which may have been for the best. That said, I now have hundreds of emails to triage, so if you're waiting on a reply, that might be why. It could take me a few days to sort it all out.

Leo and I recorded another episode of the Windows Weekly podcast yesterday, and that should be up soon. This week, we talked with Jensen Harris and Jacob Jaffe of the Microsoft Office team, mostly about the new Ribbon UI in Office 2007 and how that all came to be. I think it was a neat discussion and one many of you might enjoy. Look for it sometime today.

Finally, I'd like to thank Karen Forster again for covering for me this week. It was nice to take a few days off.

Short Takes

Tackling Some Stupidity About Vista's Success in the Market
There's been a weird set of stories making the rounds this week noting that Windows Vista retails sales are off considerably when compared to XP sales in the same time period after each products' launch. Does this mean Vista is off to a bad start? Of course not: Vista is that all-important gift to the entire PC industry, a feat of marketing we haven't witnessed since Windows 95. Put another way, Vista is causing people to buy new PCs, so most people aren't upgrading, they're simply getting new hardware. Bill Gates, responding to these ridiculous sales claims this week said, "I don't know what you mean. Vista's had an incredible reception." Sounds about right to me.

Microsoft Releases Vista Logo Apps List
Microsoft has released separate lists of applications that have been awarded the "Certified for Windows Vista" and "Works with Windows Vista" logos. The Certified list is the more interesting, since these applications have passed what Microsoft describes as a "rigorous" testing program ensuring Vista compatibility. They are, in short, the kinds of applications you really want to use if you're running Windows Vista. Sadly, there are barely 100 applications on this list, and 24 of them are Microsoft applications (mostly Office 2007 and related). Meanwhile, the longer "Works with" list includes applications that simply work normally on Vista. Microsoft says it will update the list weekly.

Firefox Stumbles as Safari Gains
Mozilla Firefox actually lost market share last month, according to Net Applications, while Microsoft's Internet Explorer held steady at about 80 percent market share. Firefox fell a bit to 13.7 percent of the market, down from 14 percent the previous month. But Firefox has had its ups and downs before. The big surprise in January was Apple's Safari browser, which runs only on Mac OS X. According to Net Applications, Safari usage jumped to 4.7 percent in January, up from 4.2 percent in December and 3.1 percent a year ago. This indicates, perhaps, that OS X usage is up a bit, though it's unclear if Net Application's numbers are US-only or worldwide: Net Application's OS share statistics show OS X holding about twice the worldwide market share that Apple actually commands, for example: 4.3 percent according to Net Applications, vs. about 2.5 percent in reality.

Video Game Consoles Soar in January
Microsoft sold 294,000 Xbox 360 consoles in the US in January, which is not too shabby when you consider that no major new game titles were launched that month. However, the Xbox 360 was still outsold by the Nintendo Wii, which had 436,000 sales in January, and the PlayStation 3, which sold 299,000 units. But don't feel too bad for Microsoft: The Xbox 360 did manage to outsell the four year old PlayStation 2, which sold just 244,000 consoles in the month. December was a much bigger month all around, given the holiday sales season: Microsoft sold 1.1 million Xbox 360s that month, compared to 604,000 Wiis and approximately 17 PlayStation 3s. (OK, Sony sold 490,000 PS3s in December. Supposedly.) Xbox 360-based games did pretty well in January, however: The number one selling game overall, the Xbox 360-specific title "Lost Planet," sold 329,000 copies. Meanwhile, two other Xbox 360-specific titles, "Gears of War" and "Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas" made the top ten as well.

Microsoft Ships Virtual PC 2007
Microsoft this week shipped the final version of Virtual PC 2007, its free desktop virtualization solution, which is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Virtual PC 2007 requires Windows XP, Vista, or 2003, and lets you run one or more virtualized PC environments under the host PC. It's a decent product, and given the price, it's certainly worth checking out. I use Virtual PC pretty routinely for testing purposes. Check out the Microsoft Web site for download details.

Microsoft Releases Beta Version of Windows Live for TV
And speaking of recent Microsoft releases, the company also shipped a beta version of its "Minority Report"-like Windows Live for TV application, which is a full-screen interface to Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Spaces designed for users with huge widescreen displays or TVs. I saw a demo of this thing back in October and it's pretty neat looking, though I'm curious to see whether it actually works as well in real life. I'll have to wait a bit to find out: You have to sign up to get on the beta and Microsoft will contact you at a later point if you're accepted.

MSN Soapbox Goes Public
But wait, there's more: Microsoft also pushed its YouTube-like MSN Soapbox service to the public this week, ending a month's long invite-only beta. I've used Soapbox for a few videos on the SuperSite for Windows, and actually prefer it to other Web-based video services, though your mileage may vary. MSN Soapbox features a unique UI that lets the playing video always stay visible as you navigate around the site, something the competition sorely lacks. Check it out.

Microsoft Hit with Patent Infringement Fine
A federal jury on Thursday ordered Microsoft to pay Alcatel-Lucent SA $1.5 billion in damages for violating two digital music file format conversion patents. The fine was calculated by multiplying Windows and PC units sales since May 2003. Microsoft says the verdict was "completely unsupported by the law or the facts" and vowed to appeal the ruling. But this ruling isn't the only pending patent case Microsoft is currently facing: Various companies are also suing the company for violating patents related to speech, Xbox video encoding, and the Windows user interface. No, I guess it never does end.

Multi-Core Chip Sales Surpass Single Core
It's unclear how this is surprising, but Intel this week noted that over half of the microprocessors it shipped in the final quarter of 2006 were multi-core chips. That's right, multi-core chips are officially outselling their single core predecessors, and just a year or so after the first true multi-core chips appeared. (The Pentium D doesn't count in my book.) While virtually all multi-core chips in 2006 were of the dual-core variety, we have a number of four-core chips to look forward to in 2007 and of course 8-core chips are on the way as well. Ah, progress.

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