WinInfo Short Takes: Week of June 9, 2008

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including a Celtics-Lakers rivalry renewed, microblogging, Windows Mobile vs iPhone, Vista and businesses, Intel vs. AMD, Xbox 360 struggles, Firefox 3 RC2, Tech Ed and WWDC, and so much more...

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My father got season tickets to the Boston Celtics back in 1980 and held onto them through three years ago or so when he handed them off to my brother and I. Since then, we've had a tough time even giving away tickets ... until this year, of course, when the Celtics posted the best record in the NBA in one of the best single-season turnarounds in league history. The NBA Finals kicked off last night with a beautiful Celtics victory over the LA Lakers, and while I'm not going to make any predictions about the series given the New England Patriots debacle of earlier this year, I would at least like to point out how amazing it is to have three of our city's professional sports teams play in their respective championships in a single year. Unbelievably, it's happened before: In 1986, the Celtics, Bruins (hockey), Red Sox, and Patriots all played in for their respective championships, though only the Celtics took home the prize. This past year, of course, the Red Sox won the World Series again, so I'm nervous for the Celtics. But they looked great last night. I'm just happy they're there.

Leo and I recorded a marathon episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on Thursday that almost hit the two hour mark, and might have continued forever if my voice hadn't simply given out. It should be available before the end of the weekend as usual.

I'm not sure about microblogging, but I do like the idea of aggregating links to everything I write in a single place. All too often, someone who reads only the SuperSite will write me wondering why I don't cover a particular topic, only to discover I had actually written a blog post, WinInfo news story, or possibly an UPDATE editorial about it (or vice versa). I'll eventually be able to pull this all together in a single place, I think, so I'm investigating things like Twitter ( and FriendFeed ( for slightly different reasons. If you have any thoughts on this kind of thing, please do let me know.
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Short Takes

Making a Mountain Out of a Molehill
Todd Bishop is a great guy, but I think an unfortunate choice of headline is going to endear him to the iCabal crowd this week: In an article called "Microsoft tries to steal iPhone 2.0 thunder," Todd describes a Microsoft letter to its hardware partners in which the company claims it "will sell nearly 20 million Windows Mobile smartphone licenses" in its fiscal year ending June 30. There are some interesting aspects to this story--most notably that Microsoft had previously claimed it would sell "more than" 20 million units by that time. But how is this "stealing the iPhone's thunder?" It's a letter to its partners, not a TV advertisement or press release. In fact, if it weren't for the "nearly/more than" thing, this wouldn't even warrant a mention, as companies regularly try to shore up their partners whenever a competitor is set to release a big product. (Apple will allegedly introduce a new iPhone next week.) This sort of thing seems designed to pander to the iCabal crowd. Come on, Todd. They've already got Walter Mossberg for that.

Windows Mobile: The Real Story
Despite the unfortunate headline, Todd does get to the real story in his look at the Windows Mobile letter. In this letter, Microsoft also accurately portrays how Windows Mobile is doing in the market place: It outsold the Blackberry in each of the previous four quarters, and Windows Mobile's year-to-year growth in the last quarter was larger than the total number of iPhone units sold in that quarter. And in contrast to Apple's "stuck in 2.5G" iPhone, Microsoft's partners currently offer over 40 Windows Mobile devices, in a variety of price points and form factors, which work with superior 3G wireless networks. "That's something not all smartphones can claim," the letter reads. Exactly.

Microsoft Makes its Case for Vista in Businesses
Microsoft this week issued a white paper that outlines its reasons that businesses should deploy Windows Vista now and not wait for Windows 7, which is due by 2010. Key among these reasons is that upgrading from XP to Windows 7 won't be any less difficult than upgrading to Vista, because Windows 7 and Vista offer the same application and device compatibility profiles. To be fair to Microsoft, however, Vista actually does present a number of advances over XP, including far better security, especially for mobile workers and executives. And Microsoft can of course point to various cost savings related to energy usage (power management) and total cost of ownership (TCO). Will this be enough to turn the tide on Vista's undeserved negative press? No, of course not. Maybe it's time for Microsoft to make a few "Switcher" ads of their own.

Intel/AMD Case Pushed Back
The long-awaited antitrust case between microprocessor giant and Intel and AMD has been pushed back again, this time from April 2009 until February 2010, apparently in a bid to give AMD time to go bankrupt. A special master overseeing the case cited the mountains of evidentiary data that the companies must go through for the delay: This case is expected to generate more documentation than any other civil court case in US history. For the record, Intel has already been found guilty of violating antitrust laws in South Korea and the US case closely follows that one, with AMD charging Intel with improperly offering rebates to hardware customers that didn't order AMD microprocessors. Intel argues that it simply offers discounts to customers that order in volume. However you measure it, this case is going to be a mess. That is, if it ever actually makes it to court.

Microsoft Gets Mixed Verdict in Alcatel Case
And speaking of never-ending court cases, Microsoft this week received a mixed ruling in its 2003 Alcatel-Lucent patent case, in which both companies cross-sued each other for various patent violations. A jury in the US District Court for the Southern District of California found this week that Microsoft did not infringe on an Alcatel-Lucent video encoding patent, eliminating Alcatel's $419 million damages claim in the process. And while the jury also upheld four Microsoft patents, it said that Alcatel did not infringe on them, eliminating a potential assessment of $9.5 million in damages. Furthermore, it found one Microsoft patent to be invalid. Both sides immediately declared victory, of course. But there's more to come: After having a $1.5 billion patent infringement verdict against it overthrown last year, Microsoft was found liable for $367 million earlier this year. The software giant is hoping to have that verdict overturned as well. On and on it goes.

And Then There Were 117 ... Windows Live Gets Smaller Bit by Bit
ZD blogger Mary Jo Foley reported this week that Microsoft is continuing to pare back its once-burgeoning family of Windows Live products and services. The latest to get the axe is Windows Live Expo, Microsoft's attempt at a Craigslist-like online classified ads service. Microsoft recently killed off its Windows Live Search Books and Live Search Academic services, as well as Windows Live for TV. Frankly, this reversal is overdue: While I appreciate the speed at which the Windows Live guys can produce new versions of their products and services, the sheer number of these products was overwhelming and confusing. And I think its previously overly-spastic approach to its online business was emblematic of the internal uncertainties Microsoft has faced as it tries to move into a cloud computing business model. They'll get there.

Xbox 360 Expected to Continue Struggling
According to industry analysts, Microsoft's inability to gain traction with an ever-expanding audience of casual gamers will continue to cause its Xbox 360 video game console to struggle in the months ahead. Looking at the next 12-18 months, analysts are finally coming around to what I've been saying for a while now: That the Xbox 360 will almost certainly come in third place behind the Nintendo Wii and Sony PlayStation 3 when all is said and done. Further problematic, the 360 is failing in key markets like Japan and Europe. While the Xbox 360 is strong in one key area--first person shooters, like Halo and Call of Duty--and it does well in the US, which is responsible for over half its sales. But the numbers don't lie: Despite being on the market a year less, the Wii has outsold the 360, 24 million units to 19 million units so far, and the PS3, with almost 13 million units sold, is catching up. Indeed, in some key markets like Europe, the PS3 has already surpassed the installed base of the 360. To be fair, there are some dark days ahead for the other consoles as well. There's a growing consensus that the Wii's strong sales aren't turning people into avid gamers, for example, and that many Wiis simply end up unused and "in the wardrobe." The PS3, meanwhile, suffers from the same high-end focus issues that plague the 360, and that console hasn't exactly generated any exclusive hit game titles of its own.

Mozilla Nears Firefox 3 Release
The Mozilla Corporation this week shipped a release candidate 2 (RC2) version of its upcoming Firefox 3 browser, signaling that it is almost ready to issue a final version to the public. Firefox 3 RC2 doesn't add any new features, but does include some bug fixes. If you're a Firefox user, this one appears to be stable enough for daily use. If you're not a Firefox user--and really, shame on you for that--this is a great time to check it out. My review of Firefox 3 should be available by the time Mozilla issues the final version.

Next Week: TechEd IT/WWDC
A couple of major trade shows are happening simultaneously next week, but guess which one will get all the buzz? On the one hand we have Microsoft's IT-oriented Tech Ed show, in Orlando. On the other, we have Apple's developer-oriented Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), in San Francisco. Yep, you guessed it: The developer show, which targets a much smaller smaller audience, will get all the press. That's because Apple is expected to launch a new iPhone and, possibly, other products at the show, and the press just can't help themselves. Honestly, I'm curious what Apple's going to announce, and I'm guessing we can expect some big news next week. Stay tuned.

But Wait, There's More
If you enjoy Short Takes, I'm also blogging every day at the SuperSite Blog. There's even an RSS feed (tres moderne!) for you email types and a commenting system if you want to get involved.

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