WinInfo Short Takes: Week of March 6

WinInfo Blog


Short Takes


   - Microsoft Launches Hefty Accusation on EU

   - Right Back at Ya: EU Threatens Microsoft with
       Non-Compliance Fine

   - Microsoft Foes Open New Front in EU Antitrust Battle

   - As Promised, Origami Is Just a Tablet PC

   - DOJ Launches Investigation into "Anticompetitive"
       Online Music Practices  

   - Microsoft: Our Search Engine Is Better than Google  

   - Popular Xbox Titles Hit the Bargain Basement

   - Microsoft Ships Exchange 12 CTP to MSDN

   - Windows Live Mail Hits M5 Milestone

   - Analyst: Xbox 360 Doing Better than You Think


WinInfo Blog


   by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]


So the Ireland trip was a success, if you're interested. The kids did

great on both flights and we all had a great time.


Traveling with kids is interesting, especially when their personalities

are different. My daughter, Kelly, is kind of a proto-hippie (90

percent chance she'll be a vegetarian by the age of 11, and 40 percent

chance she'll be a Buddist by her teen years), happy to tag along with

whatever adventure is planned. My son, Mark, by contrast, likes a

schedule, the more rigorous the better, and he wants to know what's

coming next and after next at all times. I was trying to help Mark

understand the benefits of spontaneity when I was reminded of a

humorous discussion I had with two friends from Seattle last fall. I

told Mark about it, and now I'll tell you. It goes like this: If the

robots break the bonds of their human masters and attack mankind,

I have a plan. And if the dead come back to life and become insane

killing machines, I can help. But if both of those things happen at the

same time, we're going to have to wing it. The point here is that I

can't plan for everything. I think this was Mark's first recognition of

the fact that I'm not perfect. I only wonder what took him so long.


Speaking of Mark, he's a big sports fan. Really big sports fan. And it

was interesting to see him trying to figure out such alien sports as

rugby, Gaelic football, and hurling while we were in Ireland. Honestly,

we think that football and hockey are so tough here in the States, but

the people who play these European sports are insanely physical. It

took a lot of explanation to convince Mark that getting a hurling stick

(or whatever it's called) isn't a good idea.



Short Takes


An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news


   by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]


Microsoft Launches Hefty Accusation on EU


Sometimes Microsoft really surprises me. These surprises range from

really good (the current Vista CTP) to really bad (the confusing range

of Vista product editions). Then there are the humorous surprises, and

here's one that falls into the humorous category (what you might think

of as "funny as in funny" and not "funny as in weird"). Microsoft on

Thursday actually accused the EU--that's the European Union if you

haven't been paying attention--of colluding with the software giant's

rivals in a bid to harm Microsoft. The company accused the EU,

specifically, of being "in secret collaboration" with Microsoft's

rivals. That's priceless. If I were the EU, I would simply explain to

Microsoft that there is a "Chinese wall" between the EU's lawyers and

the rivals that wish to see Microsoft get punished. Microsoft would

understand that argument because that's what Microsoft claimed

prevented its Windows and Office divisions from colluding with each

other to harm the very competitors that Microsoft is now, ahem,

accusing of colluding with a world governmental body. It's like

claiming that the victim of a mugging is colluding with the police to

harm the attacker.



Right Back at Ya: EU Threatens Microsoft with Non-Compliance Fine


And speaking of the EU, that group provided its own threats this week.

After trying not to chuckle as they mused over Microsoft's latest

accusations (see above), EU regulators warned the company that it had

better clean up its act or it would face daily fines. "If we pursue the

line we are following now, there will be fines and they won't be small

fines," EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said this week.

According to the EU, Microsoft could be fined upwards of $2 million a

day, and those fines would be retroactive to December 2005. Of course,

that kind of money is like the "take a penny" jar for Microsoft, but

still, it would be interesting if things ever come to that. Certainly,

Microsoft's petulant behavior toward the EU isn't helping.



As Promised, Origami Is Just a Tablet PC


However, it might be based on XP Embedded, not the normal version of XP

Tablet PC Edition. But give Microsoft credit for finally creating a

little hype. The "Origami" small form factor Tablet PC is the talk of

cyberspace, especially after Apple came up woefully short with its

horribly unexciting product announcement on Tuesday. But really,

Origami is nothing new. Think an OQO device with Tablet PC capabilities

and you're probably right on the money. The cost will be less than

$1000 if Microsoft is smart. Battery life won't be as good as it should

be, I'm told. And so on. It's unclear why this is so interesting.



DOJ Launches Investigation into "Anticompetitive" Online Music



The US Department of Justice (DOJ) is now investigating whether the

world's largest record companies have colluded to set prices for

digital songs purchased from online music services. The investigation

mirrors a similar inquiry by New York State Attorney General Eliot

Spitzer and involves Vivendi Universal, Sony BMG, Bertelsmann, EMI, and

Warner. Interestingly, the investigation is happening just as these

companies are beginning to revolt against the fixed-pricing scheme used

by Apple Computer in its iTunes Music Store. The record companies, it

turns out, actually want tiered pricing, where new songs cost more than




Microsoft: Our Search Engine Is Better than Google


This week, Microsoft announced that it was just six months away from

shipping a search engine that is technologically superior to that

offered by Google. And although Microsoft won't be bundling its

Internet search engine with Windows (which doesn't make much sense

anyway), it will be tying the engine to Internet-enabled products such

as Windows Live Messenger and Hotmail. Meanwhile, Google blew off any

notion that Microsoft was catching up. "The gap with the competition is

as large as it has been," a Google representative said, adding that

Google still has a "two-, three-, five-year lead" on the competition. I

don't have an opinion about which search engine is "better"; they both

seem to work pretty well. But I'd caution Google against complacency.

Because users don't have to install anything to use a search engine,

there's no barrier to moving to a better service should one become




Popular Xbox Titles Hit the Bargain Basement


In a bid to eke out the last possible bit of money from its first

generation Xbox, Microsoft has created a new program to offer various

hit Xbox titles for just $9.99, giving consumers a low-cost way to

collect their favorite games. The first wave of titles to appear in

this price range includes such classics as Counterstrike, The Elder

Scrolls III: Morrowind, Project Gotham Racing 2, Soul Calibur II, Tom

Clancy's Ghost Recon, and Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell, among others.

(There are 16 titles in the first wave.) Previously, Microsoft had

offered more than 100 titles for $19.99 each as part of its Platinum

Hits series. It's unclear whether these 16 games will be rebranded or

simply reduced in price. Either way, the program's a bargain.



Microsoft Ships Exchange 12 CTP to MSDN


This week, Microsoft announced that it had released a Community

Technology Preview (CTP) build of Exchange 12 (in Beta 1) to its

Microsoft Developers Network (MSDN) and TechNet programs, providing

much wider access to prerelease versions of its next messaging server.

The original release of Beta 1, which first shipped last December, went

out to only1400 testers. If you're waiting to test Exchange 12 but

aren't part of MSDN or TechNet, fear not: Exchange 12 Beta 2, due later

this year, will be offered as a public beta.



Windows Live Mail Hits M5 Milestone


Microsoft shipped a new version of its Hotmail-killer, Windows Live

Mail, this week. Windows Live Mail M5 adds a number of exciting new

features, including an interesting Hotmail-like Classic mode for legacy

browsers that brings back some of users' favorite Hotmail features

(including the ubiquitous Hotmail checkboxes), and a new set of color

schemes that let you customize the look and feel of the service.

Microsoft tells me that it will also be shipping a Windows client

version of Windows Live Mail (currently unnamed but based on Outlook

Express technology), which will provide customers with a free way to

work with Web mail offline. There are also a bunch of other new

features, which I'll try to highlight soon in a preview on the

SuperSite for Windows.



Analyst: Xbox 360 Doing Better than You Think


And finally, despite all the doom and gloom about Xbox 360 supply

problems, an American Technology Research analyst says that Microsoft's

next-generation video game system is actually doing quite well, thank

you very much. In addition to being the only next-generation game

system currently available, the Xbox 360 will be assisted by Sony's

inability to ship the PlayStation 3 on schedule or at a consumer price

point. Therefore, Microsoft will sell at least 6 million Xbox 360s by

June, says analyst P.J. McNealy, and 10 million or more units by the

end of 2006. I guess it's good news that Microsoft's prime competition

is late to the party, but it would be really good news if Microsoft

could simply start producing Xbox 360s in volume. But hey, maybe that's

just me.


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