WinInfo Short Takes: Week of June 1

WinInfo Blog

I was able to do something last weekend that I don't often do: I took a long weekend off and pretty much skipped out on work entirely. My wife and I spent the time in Stowe, Vermont, pretty much just relaxing the whole time, which was nice. Not as nice, of course, was Tuesday, when I returned to work. Ah well.

Leo and I recorded the Windows Weekly podcast Thursday on the normal schedule, and the new episode should be available by the end of the weekend, as always.

But wait, there's more. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter, Friendfeed, and the SuperSite Blog.

Short Takes

Microsoft: Sorry Pundits, Vista Is (Still) Doing Just Fine
Much has been made about how Windows 7 is so good that it will help Microsoft overcome the bad PR image it developed with Windows Vista. But while everyone is busy patting themselves on the back for "knowing" how poorly Vista is doing, the reality is somewhat less exciting. In fact, Vista is selling better in businesses than Windows XP was at the same point in its lifecycle. Lest we forget that inconvenient truth, Microsoft this week decided to remind everyone. Again. "Adoption and deployment of Windows Vista has been slightly ahead of where we had been with XP," Tami Reller, Microsoft corporate vice-president and Windows Business division CFO, said this week. "We also have a number of enterprises that are mid-cycle \[in Vista deployments\], that are doing a tremendous amount of testing, planning, and training, and getting ready for Vista." Much has been made about the declining fortunes of Windows lately, but let's not forget that the entire economy is tanking in nearly historic proportions. The Windows division generated $2.5 billion in income in the most recent quarter. That's not chump change, sorry, and it's double the amount of money that all of Apple—Mac, iPhone, and iPod combined—earned in the same time period. I'm pretty sure most of the tech press did nothing but celebrate that figure and Apple's various blockbuster products. Let's not let the angst get ahead of reality here.

Microsoft: Windows 7 Beta Expires July 1, Not June 1
Microsoft recently sent out email messages to customers who downloaded the January beta version of Windows 7, warning them that the release would expire on June 1, triggering automated shutdowns every two hours. But that expiration date is actually July 1, not June 1, so customers who are still using the Windows 7 beta have 30 more days to get migrated to the more recent Release Candidate (RC) build. The RC release, by the way, doesn't expire until March 2010. Not that you needed yet another excuse to upgrade.

Bing! You Have a New Search Engine
As expected, this week's announcement about Microsoft's new search engine, Bing, has garnered a lot of editorial real estate from various pundits, bloggers, and tech reporters. Everyone has an opinion, of course. But I think the only relevant issue here is this: Can Microsoft do anything to stem the popularity of Google Search? And I have to say, my gut reaction is: probably not. The thinking is simple (hey, it's me, after all): Regardless of how good Bing is—and is it quite good, by the way—the first giant leap people need to make is to even know that it exists. Then, they have to have a desire to try it. This is asking a lot, when you consider that most people are curiously incapable of even changing their browser, let alone their search engine. Apathy is hard to overcome.

Bing, Binging, Binged
So, what's in a name? I mean, what's up with "Bing"? Microsoft says it wanted something short, simple, and easy to remember. And the name had to be non-controversial all around the world (and not another Chevy Nova, which met to limited success in Spanish-speaking markets because "no va" means "no go" in that language). According to Microsoft, the name is supposed to evoke the sound that occurs when you find what you're looking for, as in, "Bing! There's the answer!" But what Microsoft is really looking for is the "verbization" of Bing, so that people will say, "Hey, you should Bing that" instead of "Hey, you should Google that." Hey, good luck with that. (By the way, my favorite Bing acronym is, "But It's Not Google." Admit it, that's pretty good.)

Xbox 360 Hits the 30 Million Mark
Microsoft this week revealed that it has shipped 30 million Xbox 360 video game consoles since the device became available in November 2005. That's a pretty big number, although it pales in comparison with the 50 million Nintendo Wiis that have been sold, especially when you remember that the Wii has been available for a year less and spent at least two holiday seasons with only limited availability. (Worse: Nintendo sold 26 million Wii consoles in the past year alone.) Uncomfortable truths aside, sales of the Xbox 360 are actually up year over year, and Microsoft says it's now selling 28 percent more of the device each month than it did in early 2008. And the company also points to the 20 million customers who have signed up for the Xbox Live online service, though Microsoft still refuses to disclose how many of those actually pay for the privilege.

Zero-Day DirectShow Flaw Under Attack, Microsoft Says
Microsoft this week warned of a limited new "zero-day" attack on a multimedia library in Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, and Windows 2000 that deals with Apple's QuickTime technology. Microsoft says the critical flaw was actually fixed during Windows Vista's development, but the fix was apparently never back-ported. So if you're running one of these older Windows versions, the company recommends a simple workaround: Visit Microsoft's article about the flaw, then click the giant FIX IT button. Nice!

Silverlight 3.0 to Launch in July
Microsoft this week said that its next-generation web platform, Silverlight 3.0, will launch July 10. Silverlight 3.0 has evolved from a web video delivery system into a powerful web application delivery system, and the 3.0 version adds support for 3D, hardware-based graphics acceleration, H.264 video, and more. Accompanying Silverlight 3.0 will be a new version of Microsoft's web designer tool, Expression Studio 3.

Dell: Revenues Down Sharply but Showing Signs of Recovery; HP: Not So Fast
Dell this week announced that net income dropped 63 percent in its first fiscal quarter to $290 million as revenues dropped 23 percent to $12.34 billion. All of Dell's major businesses felt the heat, with desktop PC sales dropping 34 percent and notebook sales down 20 percent. So this is bad, right? Right, but Dell says it sees the light at the end of the tunnel. "We are preparing for what we believe will be a powerful replacement cycle," Dell founder Michael Dell said during a conference call with financial analysts, noting that the release of Windows 7 should power a sales resurgence in 2010. Well, that's not what number-one player HP sees. Speaking at an investor conference this week, HP CEO Mark Hurd said that although he has seen some stabilizing of the market, he's not convinced that the end is in sight. "People are still trying to squeeze their budgets," he said. "I would like to see signs across more markets." So, there you go.

Server Market Down, Too, but Microsoft Still Leads
The market for servers is suffering just like the PC market, with revenues down over 24 percent in the market, year over year, and unit shipments down 26.5 percent. Microsoft still controls the market from a revenues standpoint. Windows Server accounted for $3.7 billion of the $9.9 billion generated in this market during the first quarter, compared with $3.1 billion for UNIX and $1.4 billion for Linux. You know, if you consider UNIX and Linux to be the same market—and there is some rationale for that—their combined revenues actually outpace that of Windows. Just saying.

Time Warner Will Finally Jettison AOL Like the Waste of Time and Money It Is
Time Warner this week said that it would spin off technology deadweight AOL by the end of 2009, putting an end to one of the most disastrous corporate mergers in US history. Time Warner infamously merged with AOL in 2001, when AOL was for some reason valued at over $150 billion, and changed its name (temporarily, as it turns out) to AOL Time Warner. But the second the deal was signed, seemingly, AOL started hemorrhaging value as the Internet bubble burst in resounding fashion. According to estimates, Time Warner has sucked up over $100 billion in losses due to AOL, and all of Time Warner is now worth less than $40 billion. (It, too, was worth north of $150 billion when the AOL merger was announced.) AOL had $4.2 billion in revenues last year, down from $9.1 billion in 2002, and its ad revenues outpaced dial-up subscriber revenues (yes, seriously) for the first time. It's not often you can look at a company and literally see it being pulled, slowly, down into the tar pit. AOL is such a company.

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