WinInfo Short Takes: Week of November 16, 2009

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

WinInfo Blog

I've been home all week, and I should be relaxing, but of course this was the week that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 shipped, so I've been losing sleep since Monday night. I finished the surprisingly short (and sometimes controversial) single-player game last night and will continue to play multiplayer well into next year, so my review should be available today on the SuperSite for Windows. Without giving it all away, the only real question here is whether COD:MW2 is the game of the year or the single greatest video game of all time. It's certainly one or the other. The only concerns holding it back, I guess, are some unnecessarily violent and controversial scenes in the single-player game and some missing features that were present in the multiplayer experiences of the previous COD ( World at War). No game is perfect. This one is pretty darn close.

Next week, I'll be in Los Angeles for Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2009. It's unclear what the big deal will be this year, but my bet is that there won't be a big deal and that I'll have wasted over $1,000 of my travel budget traveling to Los Angeles for no good reason. More on that below, but unlike with past PDCs, I don't expect anything hugely exciting. Throwing us a Windows Mobile 7 bone would really make up for that, though. Just a thought.

Leo and I recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast this week on Thursday. The new episode should be available by the end of the weekend, as always.

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

Short Takes

Yes, Virginia, Microsoft Did Copy Ideas from OS X for Windows 7. Obviously!
There's a mini-furor brewing in the blogosphere this week, thanks to comments from a Microsoft employee—who has nothing to do with Windows 7 development—stating that Microsoft's latest OS was designed to emulate the "Mac look and feel." Microsoft immediately fired back at one of its own, stating that those comments were "inaccurate and uninformed" since the employee in question "was not involved in any aspect of designing Windows 7." Riiiight. Sadly for Microsoft, you don't have to be involved in the development of Windows 7 to see the obvious Mac influences, most notably in Windows 7's most heralded feature, the new taskbar, which is quite obviously a ripoff of the OS X Dock, which—by the way—debuted back in 2001. But here's the thing. Microsoft and Apple routinely crib ideas from each other. (OS X's late-to-the-party "Fast User Switching" feature, anyone?) So, this isn't anything new. Claiming otherwise is dishonest … something we can now accuse both Microsoft and Apple of.

Windows 8 News?
I get a lot of questions about Windows 8 for some reason, but there isn't really much to say. I can tell you this: Given the success of Windows 7—and more specifically of the mindset and development process that led to Windows 7—we can expect Windows 8 to follow the same course. That is, it will ship three years from now and the features it will include will be based on what Microsoft can deliver in that span of time. For Windows 7, this meant mostly refinements on what came before, but with that out of the way, I think we can reasonably expect more revolutionary improvements for the next release. Microsoft confirmed this week that it is already well into the planning and preparation stages for Windows 8, but that was a given. Another given: You can forget all about that 128-bit architecture baloney. That simply isn't true, despite the fact that I still see reports being written about it.

Next Week: PDC 2009
The past three Professional Developers Conference (PDC) shows—in 2003, 2005, and 2008—were pretty big deals, the first two because of Longhorn/Windows Vista and the last one because of Windows 7. So there's naturally some lingering excitement about this year's show, which is a rare example of back-to-back PDCs. (Usually, PDCs occur only once every three or four years.) But there's little evidence of any real excitement. Microsoft is expected to show off Windows Azure (snore) and various Azure-based cloud services (snoooorrrk!), as well as modeling langu ... sorry, I drifted off there. Sure, we'll almost certainly see an Office 2010 beta or two, and I expect Microsoft to push developer innovations in Windows 7. ("Ribbon, ribbon, ribbon." There, I said it thrice.) ASP.NET? Visual Studio 2010? Anyone? Yeah, I know. It's just not that exciting. Why Microsoft is having two of these shows back-to-back is anyone's guess.

Ad-Supported Office 2010 Beta on the Way
Speaking of Office 2010, Microsoft is apparently readying a beta test for the ad-supported Office 2010 Starter edition, which will eventually be bundled for free on new PCs, replacing Microsoft Works, and will feature in-product ads. The beta is being offered to users of Microsoft's Office Live Workspace service and includes stripped-down copies of Word 2010 and Excel 2010 only. "Office Starter 2010 is a reduced-functionality, advertising-supported version of Office 2010, available exclusively on new PCs," Microsoft's announcement about the product reads. "Office Starter 2010 will provide new PC owners with immediate exposure to the Office 2010 experience on new PCs right out of the box." What it's really designed to do, of course, is upsell users on better Office 2010 versions and help them wash the nasty taste of the now-discontinued Microsoft Works out of their mouths. My guess is it will do just fine in both cases.

Microsoft Patents UNIX 'Sudo' Command
And I think the first thing the company should do with it is require anyone elevating his or her credentials on any UNIX-based system (especially Linux) to pay Microsoft a per-use fee. So much for that "free" OS, eh? Eh?

Xbox Live Ban Could Be as Large as 1 Million Consoles
I reported earlier this week that Microsoft banned as many as 600,000 "modded" Xbox 360 video game consoles from Xbox Live this week, but more recent reports suggest that the number could be closer to 1 million. Either way, that's a lot of pirates. I think it's hilarious that Microsoft did this right before the launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, since that will likely be the biggest game release of the year, and maybe the company will get some additional console sales out of the pirates who had modded their original Xbox 360s. Humorously, there's been a big upswell in used Xbox 360 on Craigslist and eBay since the ban. You might want to pay full price this fall if you're in the market. Just a thought.

Xbox 360: Hot or Not?
I love the Xbox 360, despite its many flaws, but I'm more amused to see how Microsoft tries to position this thing as if it's a financial success despite the fact that the company will almost certainly never make back the billions of dollars of R&D it flushed down the toilet while developing the console. Take this little bit of good news, coming on the heels of the Xbox 360's last-place finish in October sales: Microsoft is now reporting that its console is the only one to consistently grow sales each month, year-over-year, this year. What it doesn't mention is that it's still being handily outsold by the Nintendo Wii and that Sony's once-lackluster PlayStation 3 is catching up, and that the PlayStation 3 has outsold the Xbox 360 after both console makers dropped prices. So which is it? I think the Xbox 360 is the console of choice for hardcore gamers. But I also think that this market is limited, and that this audience (like Apple users) is more accepting of problems, which helps mask perception issues. A year ago, the Xbox 360 was found to be so unreliable that it was responsible for the biggest-ever recall in consumer electronics history. Microsoft's biggest success, then, might be in getting people to forget that ever happened.

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