WinInfo Short Takes: Week of May 5, 2008

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including a Microsoft-Yahoo! deadline, XP support is not ending in June, the truth behind iTunes movie sales, Xbox 360 and Blu-Ray rumors, Grand Theft Auto IV, and much, much more...

WinInfo Blog

Leo and I recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on Thursday, with ZD's Mary Jo Foley as the special guest. Foley's new book "Microsoft 2.0" is now available and looks excellent, based on a few days of reading. The podcast should be up by the weekend.

As a heads-up, if you enjoy Short Takes, I've been blogging daily at the SuperSite for Windows for several months now. In fact, it's becoming hard to come up with stuff for Fridays as a result. In any event, please do check it out, as it's turning into an interesting daily interaction point for me. And in many ways is a direct continuation of the original version of this newsletter, which started in 1994 or so as a way to riff on what was going on in the tech world. We didn't call it blogging back then, but that's pretty obliviously what it was.

Short Takes

Is Today the Day? Microsoft Poised to Make Yahoo! Move
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will allegedly pull the trigger on his company's hostile takeover bid for Yahoo! as soon as today. Or he won't. Those, as we say in the business, are the two choices he could make. Excited? I know I am. But seriously, folks. How many days of non-news news can one take? This week has been a monotonous series of "will they or won't they" articles from press both mainstream and tech-oriented, with no apparent end in sight. So with my sanity hanging in the balance, Mr. Ballmer, I'm begging you: Just do something. My advice is to walk away. But if you just have to spend that $44.6 billion or whatever, do it. Just do it today. Please?

FYI: No XP After June 30 Doesn't Mean XP Support Ends
If I ever write a book about Microsoft, it will be called "Damned if You Do..." It seems like everything the software giant does is misconstrued and misunderstood, and nothing they do will ever make people happy. Windows Vista falls neatly in that second category. But focusing on the first for a second, let's turn our attention to the pending expiration of Windows XP sales, which will occur June 30, 2008. Despite what I see as a very clear bit of communication about this event, it seems that some customers still don't understand is happening on that day. So here goes: June 30, 2008 is the last day that users will be able to purchase XP at retail or via a new PC (aside from so-called Ultra-Low-Cost PCs, or ULCPCs, which will still offer XP Pro only for another year). But Microsoft is not ending support for XP on that day: It will continue to offer software updates, including security hot-fixes, for some time to come. In fact, XP's mainstream support period doesn't end until April 2009. But even after that, Microsoft will continue to support XP with free security updates, until April 2014. So rather than complain that Microsoft is killing XP "too soon," why not acknowledge that the company is actually doing the right thing? Which it is, by supporting Windows XP for an astonishing 12.5 years.

iTunes Gets Same-Day Rentals as DVD ... But ...
Apple convinced movie studios to allow it to release digital versions of new movies for sale to its iTunes Store on the same day that the DVD versions are released. And this sounds like a wonderful change. But there's a bunch of information that none of the Apple sycophantic press is telling you: At $14.99 for a new digital download, Apple's movies are still far too expensive, especially when you consider that they don't include any DVD-style special features or, usually, even basic features like closed captioning support. The deal doesn't affect rentals, only purchases. And Apple's deal isn't unique, and it certainly isn't first in any way: PC-oriented movie services like CinemaNow and Movielink have offered same-day movie sales as new DVDs for years. Finally, because the wholesale price of the movies being sold to Apple is about $16, Apple is losing money on every single movie it sells, continuing the iTunes Store's role as a loss-leader designed to pimp iPod sales. What this all adds up to, really, is Apple catching up with the rest of the market, while the movie industry continues to sell digital content to consumers at exorbitant prices. Granted, this is iTunes we're talking about, so Apple will likely see bigger success than other services. But even that "success" has been limited so far: Apple sold just 7 million digital movies last year, well below the company's expectations.

More Xbox 360/Blu-Ray Rumors Surface
Call it wishful thinking if you will, but rumors of a Blu-Ray-equipped Xbox 360 video game console refuse to die. Despite constant denials by Microsoft, a new report surfaced this week stating that the company has commissioned a hardware manufacturer to start making Xbox 360s with integrated Blu-Ray drives, and that the new models will go on sale in the third quarter. The report comes from China-based newspaper Economic Daily News, making corroboration difficult. I expectation is that yet another Microsoft denial is imminent.

Grand Theft Auto IV Hits: A Few Facts and Figures
I've got bad news for any Halo fan-boys who actually thought their favorite game series was a heavyweight: It's not even a contender. The first cracks appear late last year, when Call of Duty 4 quickly overtook Halo 3 as the most-frequently played game on Xbox Live. But the recently released Grand Theft Auto IV might be even more problematic. When Halo 3 shipped last year, Microsoft touted its $170 million in first day sales, comparing it to "Spider-Man 3" opening day receipts of just $151 million--a record for the movie industry. Well, GTA4 puts them both to shame: Preorders for GTA4 hit $400 million, or 6 million units, over two times Halo 3's opening day take. These sales help explain why gaming giant EA recently undertook a $2 billion takeover bid for GTA maker Take Two. And there's little doubt that GTA4 will be the best-selling game of the year. It all makes me wonder if the game is any good. I grabbed a copy and have to say my initial reaction tends toward negative, and this certainly isn't a game for kids. But I'll give it a shot, of course. You never know.

Celio RedFly Available for Preorder
I'm currently testing Celio's interesting RedFly mobile companion, a mini-laptop-like device that tethers to your Windows Mobile smartphone via USB or Bluetooth, allowing you to access the data and applications on the device with a larger screen and a real keyboard. I'll have a review soon, but in the meantime, you might be interested to discover that Celio is now taking pre-orders for the RedFly, which costs about $500 and works with a handful of Windows Mobile 5, 6, and 6.1 smart phones. My initial impressions are positive, if you're curious: The only performance issues I've seen are on the phone itself, and I could see this being an incredible tool for mobile professionals. More info on the Celio Web site.

What's 3 Times Zero? Safari for Windows Triples Market Share
Apple's nefarious scheme to fool PC-based users of its iTunes software into mistakenly downloading its Safari Web browser via an automated tool that's supposedly designed only for software updates has apparently paid off. Well, sort of. This week, Net Applications reported that Safari's market share on Windows has actually tripled in the past month. Which sounds impressive until you realize that it tripled from 0.07 percent of the market--that's seven percent of one percent--to 0.21 percent (two-tenths of one percent) of the market. At this rate, they'll be able to hit 1 percent of the market, perhaps by making iTunes install Safari silently anytime a user clicks "Play" in iTunes. Hey, no one will complain, this is Apple.

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