WinInfo Short Takes: Week of July 16

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including E3, Bastille Day, next-gen Windows wish list, Game for Windows LIVE on XP, launch semantics, Xbox 360 news, Googling a nuclear sub, Dell vs. trialware, security fixes, and so much more...

WinInfo Blog

Short Takes

- Don't Take Any Stock in that Next-Gen Windows Features List

- Games for Windows LIVE to Support XP

- When is a Launch Not a Launch?

- Radical New Xbox 360 Due this Year

- Google Captures Chinese Sub

- Dell Rolls Out Trialware-Less Business PCs

- Eleven Bugs Fixed this Week, 5 Critical

- Disney Content Goes HD on Xbox Live, Not iTunes

- Sony and Microsoft: Expect More of the Same

- Microsoft Touts New Xbox 360 Controllers

WinInfo Blog

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) video gaming conference was this week, and I have to say that I wasn't that excited by any of the announcements. Coming as it did a year after Nintendo and Sony launched their major new consoles, there just wasn't the big bang effect you got from previous shows, despite attempts by game fan sites to hype the event regardless. Plus, E3 was scaled back after previous shows got too big and loud. Makes sense: That strategy worked out just great for COMDEX too.

Leo was away this week, so we did not record a new episode of the Windows Weekly ( podcast. We'll be back next week.

To our readers from France, Happy Bastille Day. I wish I was there now, but looking at the calendar, there are just over two weeks to go. This summer is flying by.

Short Takes

by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Don't Take Any Stock in that Next-Gen Windows Features List

Like many people on the Windows Early Feedback list, I saw Microsoft's list of features that customers would like to see fixed or added to the next version of Windows. However, unlike some rumor sites, I didn't see a point in publishing this list: After all, Microsoft is very upfront that this list doesn't constitute a "to do" list for the next release of Windows, but is simply a collection of requests, or a wish list from beta testers. As such, it's completely uninteresting and painfully obvious: You see things like integrated antivirus, vector-based GUI, and IE download manager on there. Yawn. I mean, seriously. We already know what the people want. What we need to know is what Microsoft intends to do about it. And that, friends, has not happened yet. I'll let you know when it does.

Games for Windows LIVE to Support XP Now

One major change with Windows did get revealed this week, but it concerns the previous Windows version, XP, and not current or future versions: Microsoft is opening up its Games for Windows LIVE service (which brings some of the functionality of Xbox Live to Windows) to XP users. One of the first Games for Windows LIVE titles to support both XP and Vista will be "Gears of War," the hit Xbox 360 title with a painful and little-discussed skeleton in the closet: Its multiplayer component is a joke. (That said, it's one of the best single player games ever made, behind, perhaps, just "Half-Life 2.") The PC version of Gears will include 5 new single player levels, a new multiplayer mode (hopefully one that isn't pathetic), and new LIVE Achievements. Woo!

When is a Launch Not a Launch?

So Microsoft made headlines this week when it announced that it would usher in its next major product wave in February 2008 with a launch event for Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008, and Visual Studio 2008. Sounds exciting, right? There's just one problem: Microsoft won't promise that all three products will even be completed by then, and in fact is pretty clear about the fact that at least two of them won't be even close. So the February 2008 thing is more of a "soft launch," or what a realist might call a "fake" or "pretend" launch. So what gives? Why pretend these solutions are part of a concentrated product wave when in fact the only thing these products have in common is that they're shipping in the same year? (Remember, for example, that this Visual Studio version was originally going to ship alongside Windows Vista.) Weird.

Radical New Xbox 360 Due this Year

Forget the Xbox 360 Elite: Microsoft is preparing a radically new Xbox 360 model for release later this year. What I mean by radical, of course, is an Xbox that will run without sounding like a jet engine or overheating and dying within weeks. This is progress, people, and we need to support Microsoft in these trying times. But seriously, folks, this is good news: The new console, codenamed "Falcon," will be phased in over time and will likely be identical to the current version from the outside. The reason Microsoft can do this is that the Falcon generation of the Xbox 360 includes several newly revised microprocessors that are built on a more efficient 65-nanometer (nm) manufacturing process (compared to 90-nm for today's consoles). As each of these chips is completed, they'll go out in new consoles. By the end of the year, all 360s in the channel should be outfitted with the new components. If enough space is saved inside the console, Microsoft might even be able to move that brick of a power supply inside the box, too, which should please some people. (But not, of course, early adopters.) This can't happen fast enough, in my opinion.

Google Captures Chinese Sub

Here's a fun one: This week, a scientist revealed that commercial satellite imagery that Google uses for its Google Earth tool revealed what appears to be China's new ballistic missile submarine, the Jin-class (Type 094). China, of course, is pretty secretive when it comes to military secrets, so this revelation is no doubt embarrassing. On the other hand, this is a country that is going to try to change the weather during the next Olympics, which is pretty hilarious outside of a James Bond movie. If you're interested in more info about the sub, check out the Strategic Security blog, which dissects the imagery.

Dell Rolls Out Trialware-Less Business PCs

Dell is on a roll. This week, the company took yet another step toward addressing customer requests by rolling out a business-oriented line of computers that can be configured with absolutely no trialware (bloatware). The notebooks and desktop PCs are being sold under the new Vostro brand and are marketed largely to small businesses. The systems can be configured with XP or Vista and feature Dell's swoopy new hardware designs. But the best bit, of course, is the no trialware option: At no cost, you can opt out of productivity, security, and Acrobat Reader. Please join me in virtually standing up and just applauding the company for this move. Nice job.

Eleven Bugs Fixed this Week, 5 Critical

Microsoft this week shipped 11 security fixes as part of its regularly scheduled monthly security patch release cycle, with five of them rated as critical. The critical flaws were found in Windows, Office, and the .NET Framework, Microsoft says. The most serious of the flaws involves Active Directory (AD), Microsoft's directory services infrastructure. According to security researchers, the flaw could be exploited to take control of the underlying server. It's called Automatic Updates, people. Use it.

Disney Content Goes HD on Xbox Live, Not iTunes

Microsoft this week tried to catch up with the family-oriented fare that is apparently at the heart of the Nintendo Wii's success by announcing an exclusive deal with Disney to offer HD versions of Disney, Miramax, and Touchstone movies via the Xbox Live service on the Xbox 360. Disney, of course, is one of the few moviemakers to provide their films on Apple's iTunes Store, but those offerings are lower-than-DVD quality, or standard definition, only. Interesting that Microsoft would be able to snag a deal like this ahead of Apple.

Sony and Microsoft: Expect More of the Same

And speaking of increased competition from the Wii, you'd think that both Microsoft and Sony would be scrambling to figure out a way to compete with their low-cost competitor, given that the Wii is handily outselling both Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PS3 around the globe. Nope. Both companies said this week at the E3 gaming conference that they will instead continue to court die-hard gamers with photo-realistic gaming experiences. Hey, it's working great so far, so why change your strategy now? Sony unveiled a new version of the portable PSP game machine that is lighter and thinner and finally sports TV out capabilities so you can attach the device to the big screen. And Microsoft? Well, Microsoft really didn't have that many exciting announcements at E3 at all, to be honest.

Microsoft Touts New Xbox 360 Controllers

What Microsoft did announce was a handful (heh) of new controllers for the Xbox 360. Both are insane, but in different ways. First up is the "big button" controller, which is clearly and embarrassingly modeled after the Nintendo Wii's overly simplistic controller. It features a single humongous button, four other standard Xbox 360 controller buttons, and will be bundled with simple kids games like the upcoming "Scene It?" Microsoft also revealed a Chatpad Messenger Kit, which is basically a QWERTY keyboard that you can clip onto the existing Xbox 360 controller so that you can text message other gamers while playing online. Why anyone would want such a thing is beyond me.

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