WinInfo Short Takes: Week of January 29 - 26 Jan 2007

Yikes. In sharp contrast with last week, suddenly, there's a lot going on. Windows Vista and Office 2007 will be launched next Monday at a semi-gala event in New York, so I'll be heading to the Big Apple for the event. But before I go, there's a lot to catch up on. Too much, I think.

First, a few clarifications on Windows Vista. I've been trying to nail down some upgrade/32-bit vs. 64-bit issues and have any gotten a few answers from Microsoft. For example, I can now report that no Upgrade versions of Windows Vista, except the Upgrade version of Vista Ultimate, will include 64-bit media in the box. Instead, customers can order 64-bit media through Microsoft's fulfillment center for a nominal cost. Microsoft will not support in-place upgrades from any version of XP (including XP x64) to 64-bit versions of Vista. You'll have to do a clean install if you want to use an x64 version of Vista. I'm still waiting to hear on some other related issues, but I've been getting a lot of questions about this stuff, so there you go.

Regarding podcasts, this week I'm appearing in two: There will be another installment of Windows Weekly, of course, with Leo Laporte, and I expect that to be online sometime today. Also available is a podcast interview I did with UK blogger James Woodcock, during which we discuss a number of things about Windows Vista. You can find the blog interview at James' Web site.

Windows Vista Secrets, my latest (and, ahem, last) book seems to be getting off to a great start. Thanks to everyone for all the interest in this: It was briefly the number one selling computer book title on last week and it's nice to see that the months of my life that I toiled on that weren't completely in vain. Book publishing, of course, has changed a lot over the past decade, and it's now rare for any computer books to really take off. Certainly, none of my books have been huge money makers, and given my past decade or so of Internet usage, I've grown more accustomed to the phenomena of instant publishing online.

In a weird coincidence, a couple of people have email me recently about my son Mark, who will be turning 9 in April. When Mark as 1, he came down with a near-fatal case of bacterial meningitis, almost died, and completely lost his hearing. He got a cochlear implant at 18 months, however, and after several years of pretty intense training and speech therapy, Mark matriculated into the local public school system and has been doing fantastically well. (The word "miracle" doesn't even begin to explain this.) For reasons that are a bit too complex to go into, however, we've decided to go ahead and get Mark a second implant, in his other ear, which will provide certain benefits if all goes well. Deciding to do this was very stressful, and involved a number of meetings with specialists and so forth, but it looks like this might happen in March. The nice thing about all this is that now that the decision has been made, it's like a weight has been lifted.

Not News: Vista SP1 Has Been Known for Some Time Now, Sorry

CNET got a lot of attention this week for reporting that Microsoft "now" plans to ship Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) by the end of 2007. I'm curious why that's considered news, however, since I've been reporting that same fact for over a year. Microsoft told me on the record, some time ago, that it would ship Windows Vista SP1 concurrently with Longhorn Server, since SP1 will include a kernel update that brings Vista up to speed with the technologies in Longhorn. I've been writing about this for so long, in fact, I don't even recall when it all started. I just know that this isn't a new development.

Microsoft Earnings Point to Encouraging Vista Sales

Microsoft announced their quarterly earnings yesterday, posting profits of $2.63 billion on sales of $12.5 billion, the latter of which is a 6 percent increase from the same quarter a year ago. Microsoft's earnings were considerably lower than they would have been, however, because the company is deferring $1.64 billion in revenues until Windows Vista and Office 2007 ship during the current quarter. That means that Microsoft's current quarter is going to be a blockbuster, and the company now expects to earn more in the current quarter than it did in the previous quarter. Put simply, all signs are pointing toward a great start for Windows Vista.

Uh-Oh: Microsoft Cuts Xbox 360 Shipment Estimates

Next, they can cut the Zune shipment estimates from 1 million units to somewhere in the 17-18 range. The one bit of bad news in Microsoft's otherwise stellar quarterly earnings is that the company cut its shipment forecast for the Xbox 360. Microsoft had previously said that it would ship 13-15 million Xbox 360 consoles by the end of its fiscal year on June 30, 2007. Now, the company says it expects to ship just 12 million units by that time. Though Microsoft's entertainment division lost money in the quarter, revenues hit almost $3 billion on the strength of Xbox 360 console and "Gears of War" game sales. That's a whopping 76 percent jump year-over-year.

Rivals Claim Vista Violates EU Antitrust Rules

No, it never ends. An industry group representing various Microsoft competitors said this week that some Windows Vista features violate European Union (EU) antitrust laws. The group, called Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, er ah, the European Committee for Interoperable Standards (ECIS), says that Microsoft is being anticompetitive by bundling applications in Windows Vista and they've filed a formal complaint with the EU. In case you're wondering, the ECIS is comprised of Adobe, IBM, RealNetworks, Red Hat, and Sun Microsystems, or as I like to think of them, the League of Insane Microsoft Haters.

Microsoft Community Bribes Continue

And speaking of insane, you might have thought that Microsoft would have learned its lesson after it was caught bribing bloggers with expensive Windows Vista-based notebook computers. No such luck. This week, Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia where anyone and everyone is a contributor, accused Microsoft of paying a blogger to change information about Microsoft technologies on the site. Microsoft, for its part, admitted that it had done so, but said that it was forced to take this route because Wikipedia would have blocked the changes if they had come from within Microsoft's IP range. You know, the more I think about this, the more I side with Microsoft: Wikipedia is ridiculous and shouldn't be trusted as a source of information at all. Who the heck knows when and if information on that site is changed? The whole thing is a farce.

LeBron James to Star in Microsoft Ads

And, yeah, I stopped watching the NBA as well, but at least I know who this guy is: Microsoft this week said that NBA basketball star LeBron James will promote Windows Vista in a series of US-based television commercials starting next week. After mulling this one over a bit, I actually believe this was a decent choice. Microsoft has historically used a bizarre cadre of second-rate celebrities like "Queen Latifa" and "Bill Nye the Science Guy" to push its products, which is embarrassing when you consider how easy it is for rival Apple to line up true stars like Madonna and U2. LeBron is an actual superstar, at least in the talent-challenged NBA, and he's made some effective basketball-oriented commercials. It will be interesting to see how he fares when tied to Microsoft's typically bland advertising style.

Windows Live OneCare Goes Global, But Not for x64 Users

Microsoft this week shipped Windows Live OneCare 1.5, the Vista-compatible version of its inexpensive but effective PC safety and security suite. I've got two bits of news about this product, one good and one bad. Good: Unlike it predecessor, OneCare 1.5 will be made available outside the US for the first time and will ship in numerous other countries, including Australia, Japan, Mexico and Singapore, among others. Bad: OneCare is 32-bit only and won't work with x64 versions of Windows Vista. No offense to Microsoft, but if you want the industry to move to x64, you're going to have to support it in your own products first.

Games to Ship Simultaneously on Vista and Xbox 360

One interesting development we're going to see with the launch of Windows Vista is a new situation in which the same games are launched simultaneously for both Vista and the Xbox 360. Big deal, you say? Here's the kicker: Users will be able to play against each other online in these games regardless of which platform they're using, so we're going to start seeing online matches where some people are using Vista-based PCs while others are on the console. The first of these games will likely be Halo 2, though of course the Xbox version shipped years ago. But a second title, Shadowrun, will ship simultaneously for both platforms, allowing online co-mingling. Should be interesting.

PlayStation 3 to Launch in Europe in March

Sony confirmed this week that it will launch it's the 60 GB version of PlayStation 3 video game console in Europe on March 22 for 599 Euros. (The 20 GB version will come to Europe later in the year.) Presumably, Sony will have satisfied the demand for the PS3 in other parts of the world by that time. Heavens knows I'm still waiting on mine.

Linux Desktop Costs 10 Percent of Vista, Novell Says

Sadly, they've forgotten the corollary to that argument: Linux also does about 10 percent of what Vista does. Anyway, if you were worried that Novell's recent capitulation to Microsoft was going to permanently affect the company, fear not: This week, the SUSE Linux maker came out swinging against Windows Vista, claiming that Linux provides 90 percent of the benefit of Vista at just 10 percent the cost. I guess we can argue about the math at a later date, but I'll just throw out this one point: Novell's figures also include savings around the inclusion of the free office productivity suite in Linux, which makes them a bit suspect. "SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop satisfies the needs of most desktop users," Novell says. Well, that explains its huge success in the marketplace, I guess.

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