WinInfo Short Takes: Week of January 21, 2008

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including a weekend in Paris, Mickey Mouse jokes, the untimely death of XP, a Plus Pack that isn't, a red Zune, a Microsoft resignation, an AMD problem, 2007 PC sales, and so much more...

WinInfo Blog

I can't remember: Did I mention that CES is a joke? Oh, wait that was last week.

This week, I'm in Paris with Steph celebrating her 40th birthday. We kind of messed around with going somewhere crazy for a little while but ended up doing the safe thing, as we love Paris. On the other hand, we'll be home-swapping in Ireland this summer instead of Paris, so we figured we'd try to get back to France at least once this year.

Because of my trip Leo and I were unable to schedule a time to record the Windows Weekly podcast this week, but we'll be back with a new episode next week.

Short Takes

And You Thought Microsoft's Software was already Mickey Mouse

When somebody uses duct tape to repair their car engine, we say that it's been "Mickey Moused," an homage of sorts to Disney's rodent mascot. This week, Microsoft pulled its own Mickey Mouse (if I can further abuse the term), hiring a former Disney executive as its CIO. Tony Scott, previously Disney's CIO, will take the same job at Microsoft beginning next month. He replaced another Mr. Scott, Stuart Scott, who departed in November. Great Scott.

No, Windows XP Does Not Need to be "Saved"
Arguably, we need to be saved from XP. Or at least from the hermitic Luddites that don't want computing to advance past 2001: In a bald PR move, InfoWorld has launched a "Save XP" campaign, aimed ostensibly at convincing Microsoft not to retire its aging previous Windows version this year as planned. So far 30,000 people (read: Gleeful Mac and Linux users) have signed the petition, and while I'm sure at least some of them mean well, the rest need to get a life. Vista is vastly superior to XP and most of its so-called problems are really the fault of lazy third part developers who didn't get their applications and hardware compatible in a timely manner. Keeping XP rolling long would just make this problem even worse.

When is a Plus Pack Really a Minus?
And speaking of Vista, Microsoft promised that it was doing away with its Plus Pack add-ons beginning with Vista to focus instead on Ultimate Extras, the additional features available only to users of the high-end Vista Ultimate edition. Well, they've sort of reversed course. First, Ultimate Extras didn't turn out to be much of an incentive for users to buy the high-end Ultimate edition of Vista, and Microsoft has since scaled back the program dramatically. Second, this week an advertisement for what appears to be a Vista Plus Pack appeared in an online ad for a Canadian reseller, with an expected release date of mid-February. Excited news reports appeared, heralding the improved UI and Tablet PC features it would bring. Well, sorry to deflate your bubble: The "Vista Plus Pack" is really just a low-end package with four casual games for Windows users and nothing more. And it's probably not shipping in February either. Ah well.

Microsoft Debuts Red Zune 80 for Valentine's Day
With an eye on Valentine's Day, Microsoft this week began offering its Zune 80 portable digital media player in a new red color with 20 new Zune Originals etching options that feature designs inspired by themes of love and sharing. Microsoft says the new color is a response to "consumer excitement" for the Zune 80, though it's unclear exactly how excited consumers are about the device as Microsoft has never released any sales figures. After an initial bout of excitement over the gen-2 Zune devices, I've come to the conclusion that while they're very, very good, they just don't offer the same range of content and features found on Apple's iPods and are thus still inherently less interesting. The red Zune looks nice though.

Rob Short Resigns from Microsoft
Microsoft corporate vice president Rob Short has resigned from Microsoft, the second senior executive to announce his departure from the software giant in as many weeks. (The other was Jeff Raikes.) Short was a member of the Core Operating System team, which works on the kernel and other low-level features in Microsoft's Windows systems. Short has never made much news for some reason, but he was with the company for over 20 years and was part of the original NT team from Digital. He took a long-term leave of absence from Microsoft in 2007 and then declined to return when his time away was set to expire. I know the feeling, Rob.

AMD Posts Massive Loss, All Related to ATI Purchase
Microprocessor maker AMD posted a massive net loss in the fourth quarter of 2007, virtually all of which were related to $1.86 billion in charges related to its purchase of video card maker ATI. Factor out that purchase, and AMD almost broke even from an operation standpoint, so the company was able to at least claim some progress. (Well, it lost $9 million in the quarter, compared to a $576 million loss in the same quarter a year ago. I guess that's progress.) AMD has other issues to deal with, of course. Aside from being a perennial also-ran in the CPU wars, the company has had difficulties shipping its quad-core microprocessors, which provide four processor cores on a single chip package. In December, AMD had to admit to a design flaw in the chips which will delay their wide scale release until sometime in the first half of 2008.

PC Makers Ship About 270 Million PCs in 2007
And finally, PC makers sold approximately 270 million PCs in 2007, growing sales about 13.5 percent year over year, according to figures from IDC and Gartner. Thanks to a weakening US economy however, sales there were only up 9 percent. Dell was the world's number one PC maker, followed by HP, Acer, Lenovo, and Toshiba, but Dell's shipments actually fell, year over year, in the US. Meanwhile, while Apple didn't place in the top five worldwide, a 30 percent year over year increase in sales in the US vaulted the company to the number three position there for the fourth quarter, behind HP and Dell. I'd again like to highlight that Microsoft only selling 100 Vista licenses through the end of a year in which 270 million PCs were sold is a big and obvious problem.

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