WinInfo Short Takes: Week of January 8

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

Sega tells the New York Times to apologize
This one is sweet. When the New York Times (wrongly) reported last week that Nintendo would be buying Sega for $2 billion, Sega's stock went through the floor, causing sale of the stock to be suspended temporarily. After both Nintendo and Sega denied the claim, the NYT then printed a second article that largely backed up its first erroneous report. Now Sega is asking the NYT to apologize for its actions and run a notification that the story was false, using "the same scale and manner as the initial article." Nice job, Sega.

Xbox photos leaked to the Web
Photos of Microsoft's secretive Xbox gaming console were leaked to the Web this week, a full week before its official coming out party all the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Microsoft was hopping mad at the leak, which came from Electronic Gaming Monthly, who had been given early and exclusive access to the device. On an even lamer note, Microsoft confirmed this week that the Xbox will not offer DVD playback out of the box; instead you'll have to purchase a separate plug-in and remote control to watch DVD movies on the device. Shame!

Apple hardest hit of PC makers this Christmas
As expected, Apple Computer was the PC maker hardest hit this holiday season, with sales plummeting 40 percent. This compares pretty unfavorably to the industry average of 20 percent. But the bad news doesn't stop there: Apple's inventory backlog has also increased somewhat since December, from 11 weeks to 11.5 weeks. I warned Apple in August that boasting of "less than one day of inventory" was a mistake, as that kind of figure is simply impossible. The company also cut prices dramatically on its high end systems this week.

Microsoft rocked by racial lawsuit
Microsoft was stung with a $5 billion discrimination lawsuit this week when seven African American employees alleged that the company systematically denied them promotions, paid them less than white employees, and subjected them to harassment when they complained. Only 2.6 percent of Microsoft's total employees, and only 1.6 percent of their managers are black. Nationwide, 6.3 percent of computer-related employees are black. Microsoft says that it has a zero-tolerance policy about discrimination. But the bleakest news of all: Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson will hear the case and determine whether it merits class action status. Stay tuned.

Starbucks signs with MS to offer wireless Web connections
Microsoft signed a deal with coffee maker Starbucks to provide mobile wireless Internet connections at the chain's North American outlets. Hey, when is Apple going to strike up a similar deal with Dunkin' Donuts?

Intel releases 800 MHz Celeron
Intel continued to improve its low-end Celeron microprocessor this week when it released an 800 MHz version of the chip. Selling for less than $170, the chip runs on the 100 MHz bus used by the Pentium III. Intel also introduced a lower-end 1.3 GHz version of the Pentium 4. No one noticed.

Gates fortune continues to shrink
Once pushing the $100 billion mark, Bill Gates' fortune has sunk to new lows of about $33 billion these days. But don't feel bad for Bill, who is still richer than God: Even though most of the loss was due to stock market issues this year, the man has given a lot away to charity as well, and you have to give him credit for that.

CompuServe 2000 version 6 released
The last 12 CompuServe subscribers might be interested in the latest version of CompuServe 2000, the cunningly named CompuServe 2000 Version 6, which includes improved email and Instant Messaging features. CompuServe noted, and I quote, that it's "target market is growing." Start selling, boys, or the next version of CompuServe 2000 will be called AOL 7.

Linux 2.4 still not ready
Fifteen months after it was originally scheduled to be released, Linux kernel 2.4 is still not ready. Just thought I'd throw that out there, given the hard time we got during the development of Windows 2000.

Feds cut interest rates; tech market rebounds
The Federal Reserve slashed interest rates this week, hoping to forestall the worsening economy. And it had an immediate effect: The tech stock market, which had been in the dumpster for a few months, jumped up and landed in the gutter. But at least they can see the sun now: Nasdaq, which is somewhat tied to tech stocks, surged 14 percent.

Intel to introduce consumer electronics devices
Intel will release a slew of consumer electronics devices at CES next week, including a cool MP3 player that features 128 MB of RAM. Intel joins other high tech companies, such as Compaq Computer, in branching out into gray areas outside the PC maker norm. And Microsoft will unveil the Ultimate TV, a satellite-based interactive TV service that will be offered through DirecTV.

See you at Winter CES!
If you're heading to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this weekend, I'll see you there. I've been to Vegas dozens of times, but this will be my first CES experience, due to the rapid and sudden convergence of PCs with consumer electronics. While I'm sure the CES faithful are less than ecstatic about the likes of Bill Gates and Intel's Craig Barrett giving keynote addresses at the show, it's only a matter of time before the distinction between CES and COMDEX is blurred irretrievably. Besides, January is such a wonderful time to get out of Boston

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