WinInfo Short Takes: Week of March 1, 2010

WinInfo Blog

I arrived home from Florida on Monday, and—as is so often the case—I spent much of the week in a travel-induced coma. I'm home for a few more weeks, and then I'm off to Seattle for some Microsoft meetings. From there, I go to Las Vegas to attend MIX'10 and to speak about Windows 7 at the Windows 7 Deployment Workshop. My talk—a sideshow of sorts called "Windows 7 Annoyances"—is on March 18, but I'll be around the next day as well, if you're in town. All in all, I'll be gone for 11 days. Find more information about the Windows 7 show here.

Leo and I recorded the Windows Weekly podcast on Thursday, as usual, so you can expect the new episode to be posted by the weekend.

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

Short Takes

Intel Puts Off Windows 7 Migration
After shunning Windows Vista, Intel made news when it announced it would migrate its entire desktop PC base to Windows 7 last year. But now it's having second thoughts. It has more than 80,000 users, many of whom are still running with admin privileges. And because Intel wants to go all 64-bit, it's going to have compatibility concerns with some legacy applications, including (seriously) some 16-bit apps that must date back to the early Cretaceous era. Finally, there's Internet Explorer (IE). Like so many large enterprises, Intel has (foolishly, in retrospect) built a number of web applications and intranets that require IE 6. Put simply, Intel is facing exactly the same migration problems as any enterprise, and I have to say I'm amazed the company isn't handling this better. But there's at least some good news. "Intel expects to reduce operating costs by $11 million over the next three years using Windows 7, and 97 percent of our employee early adopters said they'd recommend Windows 7 to their colleagues," Intel engineer Roy Ubry wrote in a blog post describing the company's migration. "So far, so good!" Yeah, it sounds like it's going great. Welcome to 2010, by the way.

Microsoft Wins XP Downgrade Lawsuit
A federal judge has dismissed what can only be described as a spurious lawsuit against Microsoft this week, ruling that the software giant didn't break antitrust laws in offering a so-called "downgrade" option for Windows XP. The ruling was in response to a suit brought a year earlier in which Emma Alvarado charged that Microsoft was forcing consumers to purchase Windows Vista with computers when what they really wanted was Windows XP. But Microsoft and its PC maker partners have always offered a way for Vista PC buyers to downgrade to XP, which the judge said contradicted the charge. "She chose to downgrade to XP \[and did so\] without extra cost," US District Court Judge Marsha Pechman ruled. "If anything, it appears that Plaintiff obtained two versions of Microsoft's operating software for the price of one." Unbelievable.

Windows Server Dominant in Server Market
According to researchers at IDC, Windows Server is the dominant server software platform, with 74 percent market share in Q4 2009, compared with 21.2 percent for Linux and 4.4 percent for UNIX. Looking at revenues, the figures are a bit closer, since UNIX tends to be so expensive, but Windows Server stills wins out by a wide margin with $5.4 billion in revenues compared with $3.9 billion for UNIX and $1.9 billion for Linux. On the hardware front, there were few surprises either: Unit shipments were up 1.9 percent year over year, and revenue growth is up for the first time in over a year, which could point to an end to the industry doldrums. The top five server makers by revenue are IBM ($4.6 billion), HP ($3.9 billion), Dell ($1.5 billion), Sun ($1 billion), and Fujitsu ($595 million).

There Are Investigations of Google That Make Sense. And Then There's This.
I think it's great that the European Union (EU) is finally investigating Google, and I think the United States should throw its hat in the ring, too. But some of the legal challenges Google faces are simply ridiculous, and one such case, in Italy, is making my personal Top 10 List for "dumbest tech-related legal decisions of all time." The background of this case is serious, however: A YouTube video posted in Italy showed three teenagers bullying an autistic child. An Italian law-enforcement agency asked Google (which owns YouTube) to remove the video, for obvious reasons, and Google complied. Case closed, right? Nope. Prosecutors in Italy charged that the video violated that country's strict privacy laws and argued, successfully it seems, that Google didn't take the video down quickly enough. And thanks to Italy's weird laws, executives of the company can be found guilty of anything that the company itself is responsible for. So an Italian court handed down a six-month suspended jail sentence to three Google executives in Italy. Google called the verdict "astonishing" (not the good kind) and promised to appeal. "None of the four Googlers charged had anything to do with this video," a Google spokesperson said. "They did not appear in it, film it, upload it, or review it. None of them know the people involved or were even aware of the video's existence until after it was removed. It is outrageous that they have been subjected to a trial at all." The real concern, of course, is whether Google is responsible for the content that it provides on its websites—content that, by the way, is rarely made by Google itself, even though Google is the only entity to benefit financially from its availability, thanks to advertising. This issue isn't black and white, and although the Italian verdict is ludicrous, the wider concerns behind it aren't. As we face a future in which Google is increasingly dominant and omnipresent, we're going to have to also determine how we deal with this behemoth and its worldwide influence. This battle will be just one of many.

Microsoft "Spy Guide" Leaks Out. Big Deal.
An industry watchdog site called Cryptome recently published a secretive Microsoft document called the Microsoft Online Services Global Criminal Compliance Handbook, which describes what data Microsoft retains about the users of its sites and services. Now erroneously referred to as the "spy guide," the document's existence has freaked out privacy advocates and the generally paranoid. Microsoft originally asked that the document be taken down under a DMCA violation excuse but then later pulled the request, fueling even more speculation. But what's the concern here, really? The guide is actually a common-sense approach to documenting the data that Microsoft retains on online usage so that the company can assist law enforcement in the event of emergency situations. You know, things like "kidnapping, murder threats, bomb threats, terrorism threats" and the like, according to the document itself. In other words, this is the type of thing we should be happy about, not freaked out about, and many other companies have similar documentation. Microsoft says that the document explains how the company will "respond to lawful requests from law enforcement agencies to provide information related to criminal investigations ... \[and we\] take our responsibility to protect our customers' privacy very seriously." Listen, I'm as incredulous as the next guy. But give me a break. This is nothing.

Android App Usage Neck-and-Neck with the iPhone
In yet another sign that Google's Android smartphone platform has already caught up with Apple's iPhone, an AdMob survey of smartphone usage in January 2010 shows that Android users are already downloading as many apps as are iPhone users: 8.7 apps per month for Android users versus 8.8 for iPhone users. (iPod touch users, meanwhile, download even more—12.1—and since the iPod touch runs on the same OS as the iPhone, that puts the overall iPhone platform over the top here.) Some other interesting statistics: 91 percent of iPhone users would recommend their device to others versus 84 percent for Android users. Also, 56 percent of iPhone users are male versus 73 percent of Android users, giving credence to some of the "feminine" claims surrounding the iPhone. And perhaps most interesting, whereas the iPhone represented 47 percent of all US-based mobile website and app usage in January 2010, Android was a close second with 39 percent. (Everyone else was an also-ran: Research in Motion—RIM—accounted for 7 percent, and Palm's webOS was just 3 percent.)

Palm's WebOS Falls Off a Cliff. Too Little Too Late?
Speaking of smartphones and how people use them, you might have noticed that the above blurb barely mentions Palm at all, and when it does, it's not exactly good news. That's because no one is buying or using smartphones based on the company's new webOS. In fact, it's so bad that Palm just cut its sales expectations for the current quarter despite having just made new and improved versions of its Pre and Pixi phones available on the nation's larger wireless carrier, Verizon Wireless. The news sent Palm's stock price spiraling in the wrong direction, and although I don't normally like to quote analysts, I do find CL King analyst Lawrence Harris' comments about this situation to be right on the money: "The \[Palm\] devices have small keyboards and small screens while the world is moving toward larger displays." Yep. Put another way, what happens to Palm if it builds a product no one wants? My guess is it's all over for those guys. That's a shame. But you had to see it coming.

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