An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including Windows Vista, my trip to Vermont, IE 7 and Longhorn Beta 1, Microsoft earnings, Apple's music dominance, Mozilla murmurings, AOL's new browser, Intel earnings, and much, much more...
Microsoft has a habit of announcing things when I'm on vacation or a business trip--perhaps to keep me on my toes. So this week when I headed to Stowe, Vermont, with the family, I was smart enough to book a place with wireless Internet. Just one problem: The wireless connection has been down all week, and apparently the outage involved someone getting struck by lightning (yes, seriously). Anyway, it came as no surprise that Microsoft decided to pick this week, of all times, to announce Longhorn's official name--which is Windows Vista. I'll have a bigger write-up about this on Monday, but suffice it to say it's hard to download hundreds of email messages via dial-up.
Vermont, you say? I thought you were going to Quebec! Well, we were--and still are--but now it's happening in August. The culprit, again, is Microsoft: The company scheduled a Windows Vista (formerly code-named Longhorn) Beta 1 reviewers workshop right in the middle of the week that we had planned to go to Quebec, so I had to put off that trip and pick a shorter trip that could fit on either side of the workshop. So here we are. On dial-up. With all kinds of things happening. Sigh.
I had such grand plans, but as usual, nothing works as planned. I guess it could be worse. I could be moving. Or having a baby. Or both. On the good news front, Stowe is an old favorite of ours. My wife and I got engaged here almost 17 years ago--although this is the first time the kids have come along. So far so good.
Because of this unexpected bit of technological collapse, Short Takes might be a bit shorter than usual. I had expected things to clear up with the wireless connection by the end of the week, but that hasn't happened. So here we are. Stranded. In Vermont. Let's jump in, shall we?
Longhorn Becomes Windows Vista
I get the feeling Microsoft couldn't wait to shed the Longhorn code name, if only because the company was tired of all the "slow as cattle" jokes coming out of Apple Computer, but early this morning, Microsoft revealed that it was naming the next major Windows version Windows Vista. The theme, I've been told again and again, is clarity (which begs the question: Why not just call it Windows Clarity?).
"Windows Vista will bring clarity to your world by letting you focus on what matters most to you," Greg Sullivan, Windows Product Manager told me in an early morning briefing today (yes, I did this from Vermont). "We live in an age of more. We have more data, more music, more content than ever before. Windows Vista will help you get the clarity you need to get your work done quickly, so you can get off the computer and spend time with your family." It's a message that appeals to all 600+ million Windows customers, Sullivan noted, because we all have things we want to accomplish and goals we strive toward. I'm not completely sold on the name--I think the company should have gone with Windows 2007 or whatever--but it's not horrible I guess. Like the Pentium name, I'm sure I'll get used to it. In the meantime, it's still Longhorn to me.
IE 7.0 Beta: When?
I've received a lot of queries about the release of Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7.0 Beta 1, which will run on Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, and Windows XP Professional x64 Edition. Microsoft says that IE 7.0 Beta 1 will ship at the same time as Windows Vista (formerly code-named Longhorn) Beta 1. This morning, the company revealed that Windows Vista Beta 1 will become available to testers on August 3, about a week later than the internal ship date of July 27.
Windows Vista Beta 1: Who?
I also get a lot of questions from agitated people who are eager to test Longhorn, now, of course, called Windows Vista. Well, I reported this earlier, but it bears repeating: Windows Vista Beta 1 will be made available only to members of the private beta group and to Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) and TechNet subscribers. If you're not in one of those groups, you can look forward to beta 2, which Microsoft will make broadly available to the public. If you're still itching for Windows Vista Beta 1 information, however, you know where to look. I'll be updating the SuperSite for Windows on August 3 with a slew of beta 1 content. Stay tuned.
Apple Sells 500 Million Songs on iTunes
So what do you do when you've sold 500 million songs? I guess you pop the champagne and raise your middle finger toward Redmond. Remember when we thought it was only a matter of time before some Windows Media Audio (WMA)-based music service surpassed Apple's iTunes, and Creative Labs, Rio Audio, or some other company released a portable audio player that was just as good as the iPod? Yeah, well those days are over. In the new worldview, there's Apple and then there's everyone else, and it isn't entirely clear what Microsoft--or anyone else for that matter--can do about it. Sure, 128Kbps Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) songs might be low rent, and sure, the iPod is still expensive, but ... yeah, whatever.
Microsoft Earnings Come On Strong
When you've been covering Microsoft as long as I have, you come to expect certain things. Products will ship late--always. Security will never be as good as it could be. And the company's earnings just keep kicking fiscal butt. Yesterday, Microsoft announced that it had earned $2.99 billion on revenues of $10.6 billion in the most recent quarter. Net income was actually $3.7 billion, but the company had $756 million in charges stemming from that little European Union (EU) antitrust fracas you might have heard about. In related news, Microsoft's yearly revenues set a record: The company earned $12.12 billion in fiscal 2005 on revenues of $39.79 billion. Still not enough? Microsoft doled out $44 billion to its investors during the year as well, through share repurchases and dividends. In other words, when you want to describe "rolling in dough," you could do worse than to start with Microsoft.
Mozilla Abandons Firefox 1.1, Heads to 1.5
The Mozilla Foundation is discovering what Microsoft learned long ago: Software takes much longer to develop than you originally plan, and things don't often go the way you'd like them to. Case in point: Faced with ever-lengthening development times for major milestones to the Firefox Web browser, the Mozilla Foundation this week decided to scrap the name Firefox 1.1 and rename it Firefox 1.5. The Mozilla folks say that the version number change is because of the large number of bug and security fixes, but I think it's significant that the company is also pushing out the expected release date by several months. It's OK, guys. This change suggests maturity, which is just fine in a product that links individuals with the Web.
Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird 1.06 Released
And speaking of Firefox, the Mozilla Foundation this week released Firefox 1.06 and Thunderbird 1.06, two minor updates that fix problems introduced by last week's Firefox 1.05 milestones. You can grab the new versions at the Mozilla Foundation Web site.
AOL Releases IE-Based Web Browser
AOL released a Web browser? That's shocking, right? Well check this out: Unlike, say, the newer Netscape browsers, AOL's browser isn't horrible. And get this: The browser is based on IE. Called AOL Explorer (what else?), the new browser features a sleek look, well-designed tabbed browsing, Web page thumbnails, and Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed aggregation. All in all, it's pretty swell, and I don't say that lightly, having suffered for years under the horrible yoke of the company's online service. AOL Explorer is available for free, and I have to say, you might just want to give it a shot.
Intel Profits Rise on Better-than-Expected Laptop Chip Demand
Intel's profits surged in the most recent quarter thanks to increasing demand for microprocessors for both desktop and notebook computers. The microprocessor giant reported a profit of $2.04 billion for the quarter ending June 30, a 16 percent jump year over year. Revenues were up 15 percent to $9.2 billion. Intel credits better-than-expected sales in emerging markets such as Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, established markets such as the United States and Europe are moving to portable computers, raising sales of notebook-based microprocessors.
500 Million Mobile Phone Sales in 2005
OK, I mentioned earlier that there was nothing in sight that was going to knock Apple out of its seemingly unassailable position in the music market. Maybe I spoke (or, ahem, wrote) too soon. One market has the chance to usurp Apple's dominance. And what's amazing is that it's already happening, right under our noses. The devices are called cell phones, and increasingly, they're being designed to work with digital music. Just how popular are these devices? Well, global sales of cell phones will surpass 800 million units this year and will hit 1 billion by 2009. By that time, an estimated 2.6 billion cell phones will be in use around the globe. As with microprocessors, emerging markets and constant upgrades in established markets are credited for this growth. When compared with these figures, Apple's iPod sales look a little more down to earth, I guess. But what's going to stop Apple from offering iTunes over-the-air services to cell phone users?