WinInfo Short Takes: Week of July 21, 2008

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including an iPhone 3G defeat, 180 million copies of Windows Vista in the wild, Microsoft earnings some more Yahoo silliness, Wii vs. Xbox 360, EU vs. Intel, AMD ousts its CEO, and so much more...

WinInfo Blog

My efforts to obtain an iPhone 3G last week were, alas, unsuccessful, thanks to AT&T, a company that is accurately described as the iPhone's Achilles Heel. Long story short, I got up at 3:00 in the morning, was literally the fourth person in line at the Chestnut Hill Apple Store, and then proceeded to watch as Apple and AT&T accused each other of screwing up my account (it was AT&T of course) for about two hours, over the phone. AT&T eventually fixed the problem--and who knows what it really was--but by then it was a day later and too late. (They informed me via SMS: "Your problem is solved. Thanks for your business." Nice work, guys.

All that said, the iPhone 3G is in fact the least interesting of the Apple-related launch items from last week: The iPhone 2.0 software, which applies to older iPhones as well, is the big deal. And MobileMe is at least big news, even though it's an epic disaster that all Windows users should avoid. Hey, at least it will make for a good review.

Leo and I recorded an epic one and a half hour episode of the Windows Weekly podcast yesterday. As always, we can expect to see the new episode sometime this weekend.

But wait, there more. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter, Friendfeed and the SuperSite Blog. This week, it occurred to me that Twitter was my virtual water cooler, and that since I work from home, everyone on there is my virtual co-worker. (Sorry, the pay stinks.) So jump in, or we'll talk about you behind your back. :)

Short Takes

Failure? Microsoft Has Sold 180 Million Licenses to Windows Vista
Take that, iCabal: Microsoft is now selling Vista at a rate of 20 million units a month, a figure that is approximately equal to the total actual number of Mac OS X users worldwide. And they do it. Every. Single. Month. So I assume this will end all of the babbling about Vista being a failure: This thing is a mass market success of epic proportions. And it's just getting bigger.

Microsoft Quarterly, Yearly Earnings, Revenues Soar
Microsoft announced record quarterly and yearly earning and revenues this week, with the software giant exceeding $60 billion in annual revenues for the first time. Microsoft posted quarterly earnings 5.68 billion (up a whopping 42 percent year over year) on revenues of $15.84 billion (up 18 percent). For fiscal 2008, which ended June 30, Microsoft posted total earnings of $22.49 billion (up 21 percent) on revenues of $60.42 billion (up 18 percent). Put simply, this company is still printing money. Microsoft credited its growth on the broad popularity of virtually all of its products, but singled out Windows Vista, Office 2007, its various server solutions, and, curiously, the Xbox 360. (I say curiously because the Xbox 360 is a financial deadweight that will never make back the money Microsoft invested in it.)

Microsoft, Google Earnings Still Manage to Disappoint
Microsoft wasn't the only company to announce a blockbuster earnings report this week: Online giant Google also announced impressive financial results, taking in a profit of $1.25 billion (up 35 percent) on revenues of $5.37 billion (up 37 percent). So you just know investors were ecstatic, right? Ah, I see you've never followed the financial markets before. Despite the fact that both of these companies have more money than God, both also saw their share prices fall sharply in after-hours trading yesterday. The reason? In Google's case, some search queries types were soft, and clicks actually declined a bit quarter-over-quarter (though they were up sharply in the more relevant year-over-year measurement). For Microsoft, the company had spent more on advertising and research and development than analysts had expected. So when it comes to money, I guess we can just throw logic to the wind.

Yahoo Warns of "Stupefying" Microsoft Behavior
I mention this one only because I enjoy the word "stupefying." Yahoo's board of directors--who one might argue could more accurately be described as "Yahoo's current board of directors" or perhaps "Yahoo's temporary board of directors--this week sent a letter to shareholders. In this letter, they warned of "the odd couple" of Microsoft and billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who are serving "only their very narrow special interests" in their desire to oust the Yahoo board and get an acquisition deal done. (Using that logic, isn't the Yahoo board serving "only their very narrow special interests" in trying to thwart that effort?) Anyway, here's the best part: "Microsoft's flip flops and inconsistencies over the past five months are so stupefying that one can only conclude that Microsoft was never fully committed to acquiring Yahoo," the letter reads. Long story short, the Yahoo board would like to retain their positions. I think the time has come to trying something new, but I still believe Yahoo will be a financial albatross should Microsoft succeed in acquiring the entire business.

Sales of Nintendo Wii Surpasses the Xbox 360
You knew this day was coming: Total sales of the Nintendo Wii video game console surpassed those of Microsoft's Xbox 360 in the US this month, despite the fact that the 360 has been on the market over a year longer. As of last month, US consumers have purchased 10.9 million Wii consoles, compared to about 10.8 million Xbox 360s. There are two more relevant statistics I'd like to see. Of those 10.8 million Wiis, how many are still used regularly? (My guess is less than 50 percent of them.) And of the 360s sold in the US, how many have had to be or will have to be repaired? (My guess is about 80 percent of them.) Also troubling for the 360 is the suddenly resurgent Sony PlayStation 3: With the exception of one month, the PS3 has outsold the 360 every month this year, and in June, the PS3 outsold Microsoft entry 406,000 consoles to 220,000 consoles. (The Wii sold 666,000 units in that month.)

EU Expands Antitrust Case Against Intel
EU antitrust regulators are expanding their investigation into Intel, accusing the microprocessor giant of deliberately and illegally harming the business of its chief competitor, AMD. The EU has added three new charges against Intel, and warned that it could soon impose an order against the company similar to that it placed against Microsoft in 2004. It also warned that it could find Intel up to 10 percent of its global revenues for the transgressions, which would seem like a lot of hot air if it weren't for that whole Microsoft thing. Intel insists its behavior is legal. AMD, I suspect, begs to disagree.

And speaking of AMD, Intel's erstwhile main competitor this week unceremoniously ousted its CEO, Hector Ruiz, and replaced him with someone who hasn't (yet) botched the company's attempted comeback. (Ruiz will stay on as chairman.) The new CEO, Dirk Meyer, can now oversee the corporate equivalent of a death watch, from what I can tell. Aside from a short but fun ride with its pioneering x64 platform and Opteron series of server chips, AMD has never really amounted to much in the face of the superior resources, marketing, and, frankly, products that Intel offers. I know, I know, everyone loves to root for the little guy. But in this case, I just don't see this one having a happy ending. I'd love to be wrong about that.

Amazon Expands Online TV/Movie Efforts
Amazon this week announced a major rejiggering of its online TV show and movie download service, renaming it to Amazon on Demand and restructuring it as a service that works not just on PCs, but also on a growing generation of connected devices. Customers of the service will be able to watch a collection of 40,000 TV shows and movies immediately after ordering, thanks to streaming technologies, and similar to the On Demand functionality offered by many cable systems. This is a big change from the previous Amazon service (Unbox) and rival services like Apple iTunes on the Apple TV, which require users to at least partially download movies before watching them. Amazon's first partner for the service is Sony, which will build compatibility into all of its Bravia HD televisions. But Amazon is working to secure deals with a wide range of other partners, so I wouldn't be surprised to see the service show up on a host of other set-top boxes as well.

Sony, Nintendo Underwelm at E3
While Microsoft made a big splash with its so-called Xbox 360 "relaunch" this week at the E3 trade show, the company's rivals, Sony and Nintendo, didn't exactly provide much excitement. Sony is aggressively courting the hard core gamers that Microsoft seems hell bent on leaving behind, and it continues to push Blu-Ray compatibility as a primary benefit of its PS3 console. Nintendo, meanwhile, will continue largely on children and so-called casual gamers (i.e. "non-gamers"), though it is allowing a port of the controversial "Grand Theft Auto" series to its DS handheld. Neither of these play-it-safe initiatives, such as they are, garnered much attention or excitement. Which makes me wonder why Microsoft isn't seizing this opportunity to really relaunch its Xbox 360 with newer (quieter) hardware and truly lower prices. Come on guys, this isn't the time to be meek.

Gmail, Google Calendar Heading Offline This Year
Google will soon add offline capabilities to its Gmail Web-based email and Google Calendar Web-based calendaring services, significantly enhancing their value and making them usable in completely new scenarios. Google is using its vaunted Gears technology to make this happen, of course, and the company says the services should be available for offline use within 6 weeks. Google is also adding SyncML support to its Gmail-based Google Contacts service, which will make it easier to synchronize contacts between the Web, PC-based applications, and mobile devices like the iPhone. Say what you will about this stuff, but we live in interesting times.

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