WinInfo Short Takes: Week of February 4, 2008

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including a blockbuster offer for Yahoo from Microsoft, a revision to Windows Vista Secrets, a Google pact, HDTV sales during what is clearly a recession, a mandatory Office service pack, and more...

WinInfo Blog

Standing on the cusp of five straight weeks of travel, I'm reminded of how little I enjoy the act of traveling, but how much I enjoy being away from home. It's a paradox, I guess, but I will say this: After a year in which all I read about is how much worse traveling is now, I never really had any over-the-top horrible travel experiences in 2007, so I'm kind of wondering how true the rumors are. Now, of course, I've completely cursed at least one of my upcoming flights, but so far so good.

I've also been struck by how often I've avoided illness this winter, and since I'm tempting fate already, what the heck, I'll mention that too: All around me, people have succumbed to various flus and colds and other sicknesses, and more than once some bleary-eyed friend or relative has made an almost identical comment: "You're usually the one that gets sick." I guess that may be true, though I've never really thought of it like that. Again, so far, so good.

This weekend, the New England Patriots will square off against an improbable foe, the New York Giants, in the Super Bowl. That means I'll be spending my Sunday glued to my TV, sweating out the unthinkable number of things that can go wrong in a single game. Frankly, it's hard to imagine a better team than this year's Patriots. But you know how these things go.

I mentioned last week that I had ordered a Dell (PRODUCT)RED notebook computer, which was true. But I should mention this week that I had to cancel that order, at least temporarily, and not because there's anything wrong with it. Coincidentally, I received word that I will most likely need to update "Windows Vista Secrets" over the next few months after several months of uncertainty, and that reminded me that I need a modern Tablet PC for a couple of the mobility chapters. So I ended up getting one locally, if just for the writing of the book. It's a fine machine, as these things go (it's an HP Pavilion TX1000-series something something that I've upgraded to 4 GB of RAM), but I'll almost certainly be selling it in a few months. Stay tuned.

Leo is off in Vancouver, so we had to take the week off from the Windows Weekly podcast this week. We'll try to record next week, though I have a few days on the road as well, and as mentioned previously, the rest of the month isn't exactly looking good. I'll work in as many as I can.

Short Takes

Blockbuster: Microsoft Offers $44.6 Billion for Yahoo
After years of rumors about a possible Microsoft/Yahoo buyout, merger, or partnership of some kind, the truth finally comes out: Microsoft this week offered an unsolicited $44.6 billion buyout of Yahoo, the ailing Internet search company. This is obviously a big, big deal, so I may be cutting Short Takes a bit short this week so I can spend time analyzing what's going on here. The nutshell version goes like this: As far back as 2006, Microsoft began approaching Yahoo to find out how the two companies could work together. In 2007, the Yahoo board rejected Microsoft merger and acquisition proposals, noting that Yahoo was trying to implement a comeback strategy. In an open letter to Yahoo this week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said, "a year has gone by, and the competitive situation has not improved ... Today, the market is increasingly dominated by one player who is consolidating its dominance through acquisition. Together, Microsoft and Yahoo! can offer a credible alternative for consumers, advertisers, and publishers." He then highlights the various ways in which the company's online properties could be combined. Yahoo announced that it has received the letter and will consider its terms. Wow. I mean, wow. More on this soon.

Google Co-Founders in 20-Year Pact
It's nice to read about an agreement between friends that doesn't include the phrase "murder/suicide." According to a report in the Fortune magazine, Google's co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as well as CEO Eric Schmidt, made an informal pact in 2004 agreeing that each would stay with the company for at least 20 years. That pact, which was made just before Google went public, is aimed at keeping some certainly about the company, as almost 1000 Google employees became millionaires after its initial public offering, a process that would naturally lead to an exodus of talent. (Go figure, but it's hard to inspire millionaires to work hard.) To date, nearly one-third of those Google millionaires have already left the company, many to create start-ups that in some way now compete with Google.

Office 2003 SP3 Becomes Mandatory in February
Beginning late next month, Microsoft will begin shipping the latest service pack for Office 2003 via Automatic Updates, essentially making it a mandatory upgrade for millions of users. Office 2003 SP3 has, to date, been an optional install. Customers not interested in installing the service pack are pretty much out of luck unless they're corporations that utilize blocking tools, as Microsoft is not creating an SP3-specific blocker. Microsoft highly recommends that Office 2003 users install SP3 as soon as possible as it includes important security updates as well as compatibility specific to Windows Vista and the Office 2007 document formats.

TV Sales Shine During Economic Slump
So we're careening into a recession from what I can tell, but that hasn't stopped consumers from purchasing big screen HDTVs in record numbers. (Obviously, people want to watch the New England Patriots embarrass the New York Giants on national TV this weekend on the biggest screen possible. This is completely understandable.) According to various retailers and electronics makers, this past holiday season was one of the worst ever, with weak sales across the board, but there's one product that just keeps selling: HDTVs. What's making this happen is dramatically falling prices. Regardless of screen size, most HDTV models have dropped in price by over 50 percent year over year, and it's now possible to buy 40+ inch sets for under $1000. This is good timing, too, because the US government is requiring broadcasters to transmit digital-only TV signals beginning in February 2009, just a year from now. Plus by that time, the Patriots should have won two more championships.

OK, enough New York baiting: I know miracles can happen. Anyway, I need to go look at this Microsoft/Yahoo stuff more closely. I'll write something up later today or tomorrow.

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