WinInfo Short Takes: Week of March 9, 2009

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including a Denver trip, Windows 7 wireless bundles, a public release of Windows Vista/Server 2008 SP2 RC, Windows Mobile thoughts, IE usage share, a tough PC market, and a pending release of IE 8...

WinInfo Blog

I'm in the Denver, Colorado area this week for a series of meetings and a long-overdue visit with the corporate home office in Loveland. I was reminded why I can't stand United Airlines on Thursday and won't bother you with the details other than to note that Jet Blue now offers a Boston-Denver route and I will be availing myself of that service in the future. I will be back home tomorrow.

Rafael Rivera and I started working in earnest on Windows 7 Secrets about a week ago, but it's been slow going, and this week's trip isn't helping. I had originally approached this book as I did the revision to the Vista book, that it would be a relatively minor update. But that's not proving to be the case, and after 15 years of writing these things, you'd think I'd be better at it. This also suggests that Microsoft's claims about Windows 7 being a major revision could in fact be accurate. I'm prepared to eat crow at the feet of Steven Sinofsky if that's required.

Leo and I recorded the Windows Weekly podcast on Wednesday to accommodate my trip and it should be available by the end of the weekend as always.

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

Short Takes

Microsoft in talks to bundle Windows 7 netbooks with 3G wireless plans

If you think that 3G smart phone is frustrating and expensive, you should try it with a computer. A Microsoft executive visiting Europe this week said that the software giant was exploring bundling Windows 7-based netbooks running Windows Live Essentials with 3G wireless plans. It's unclear, however, is this effort is specific to Europe or will be pursued around the world. Certainly, the mobile networks there are vastly superior to what we have here in the US.

Windows Vista SP2 Release Candidate now available to the public
A week after shipping the Release Candidate (RC) version of Windows Vista (and Windows Server 2008) Service Pack 2 (SP2) to its MSDN and TechNet subscribers, Microsoft has made the release available to the public. Vista SP2 RC is a near-final version of the next Vista service pack, though unlike its predecessor, SP1, it does not include any major new functional changes. There are two ways to install SP2 RC: You can download a small patch that will trigger the update via Windows Update, or you can grab the full installer in either a five-language or all-languages versions. Details are available on the SuperSite Blog.

Ballmer: We're sorry about Windows Mobile, but we'll get the next one right. Or the one after that
I keep coming back to the notion that Microsoft is crazy to let CEO Steve Ballmer ever get in front of a microphone. The guy is refreshingly candid, often brutally so, but he's also the best example of the "ship leaking from the top" saying that I've ever seen. This week, he's been talking about Windows Mobile a lot. Maybe too much. First, he defended Windows Mobile after CIOs told him that their employees want consumer-centric devices like the iPhone or Google Android instead. But then he admitted that Windows Mobile 6.5, suddenly due later this year, was a stop-gap measure, and that the real excitement would come with Windows Mobile 7, due next year. So which is it Steve? And what about the junk your selling today?

IE slips again
Internet Explorer's share of Web browser usage fell from 68 percent in January to 63 percent in February, marking a new recent low. The big winner, again, was Mozilla Firefox 3, which saw its share rise to 24 percent in February. But the figures get more interesting when you break out IE by version: IE 7 is the number one browser overall, with 41 percent usage share. But Firefox 3 is now, for the first time, number two, thanks to IE 6's fall to third place with just 22 percent. Firefox 2 is in fourth place with 3 percent, while other browsers--such as Opera, Apple Safari, and Google Chrome--don't really amount to much. Most alarming for Microsoft, perhaps: IE 7 actually peaked in December with about 42 percent usage share. It's been declining somewhat each month since then. Looked at over the past year, we see IE 7 being flat, IE 6 and Firefox 2 nosediving, and Firefox 3 gaining.

PC market facing a tough 2009
So this should come as no surprise given the current economic conditions, but market analysts at IDC this week predicted that PC sales will fall 4.5 percent this year compared to 2008. But if you think that's bad, check out Gartner's prediction: They're expecting a whopping 12 percent drop-off, which would be the biggest year-over-year decline in the history of the PC industry. This of course follows a 2008 in which sales were flat compared to the previous year. Obviously, there have been a few exceptions over the decades, but for the most part we've come to expect some kind of PC sales growth each year. In fact, before 2008, we experienced double-digit growth for five years running. The only reason PC sales aren't worse, oddly, is those low-cost netbooks. People are just snapping them up in ever-increasing numbers. But the margin on these machines is so low, it's unclear how much they can really help.

Rumor: IE 8 to launch in mid-March
Which, when you think about it, isn't that much of a stretch when you consider that Microsoft is hosting its MIX'09 Web developer show in mid-March as well. According to TechARP, Microsoft will announce the finalization of Internet Explorer (IE) 8 the week of March 9 and will RTM (be "released to manufacturing," which has less relevance for a Web download) the week of March 16. Microsoft shipped a Release Candidate (RC) version of IE 8 back in January, noting that the browser was "effectively complete and done."

Microsoft's "big f#[email protected] table" being pushed to new markets
Hey, it's not just an iPhone the size of my Volkswagen. Microsoft's Surface table is the complete package, baby. The software giant is selling it to the healthcare industry and, get this, media smaltzmeister Oprah Winfrey. I guess the thinking is that if Oprah can just mention the Surface table on her show, they'll sell more than 7 copies of the thing. Microsoft is also looking at libraries, schools, and other institutions that are apparently loaded down with more cash than I would have imagined.

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