WinInfo Short Takes: Week of November 18

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

Preview the Longhorn Alpha
Although it's far too early to draw any serious conclusions about the next desktop version of Windows, Microsoft is clearly testing a lot of Longhorn technology, such as a new shell, a new file system, and integrated DVD burning. My preview of the Longhorn alpha build (which probably bears only a passing resemblance to the final release) is available now on the SuperSite for Windows.

Microsoft Earnings By Operational Segment
For the first time, Microsoft is disclosing its revenues in seven operational segments, so we can see which parts of the company are making money and which aren't. The big winner this quarter is the Client segment, which includes the Windows division, which earned $2.48 billion on revenues of $2.89 billion. Think about that for a second: Almost 86 percent of that organization's income was profit. The Information Worker segment, which includes Microsoft Office, did OK, too: The segment made $1.88 billion on $2.39 billion in revenues. But all other segments lost money. Big losers include the Home and Entertainment segment (Xbox), which lost $177 million on revenues of $505 million; MSN, which lost $97 million; and \[Windows\] CE/Mobility, which lost $33 million. These figures confirmed my suspicion that Windows and Office are floating the rest of the company.

Judge Jackson Writes Author of Ballmer Book
Everyone's favorite federal judge--Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson of the original Microsoft antitrust case--apparently wrote author Fredric Alan Maxwell regarding his recent book, "Bad Boy Ballmer," which is about Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. As you might recall, Judge Jackson's public comments about Microsoft and its executives led to a federal appeals court throwing out his penalty against the company. Now Jackson has complimented Maxwell for his accurate portrayal of Microsoft's CEO. "Ballmer never favored us with his company during the trial, but he was a presence in the courtroom nevertheless," Jackson wrote in a note to the author. "I sense that you have characterized him quite accurately." For the record, Maxwell's book is quite good and contains a few tantalizing tidbits about Ballmer and Microsoft that I hadn't heard previously.

New iPAQs Now Available
This week, Hewlett-Packard (HP) unveiled two new Pocket PC devices, one of which features a dramatically different look from the previous iPAQ designs. The iPAQ 5450 is a $700 model that features a new case, 20MB of built-in storage, integrated 802.11b and Bluetooth wireless capabilities, and a fingerprint reader for corporate security. And a new low-end model, the iPAQ 1910, costs just $300 and features a slightly modified case that's reminiscent of past iPAQ models. I'm pleased that competition in the Pocket PC market is resulting in lower prices across the board, but what gives with a $700 PDA? I've bought cars that cost less than that.

Apple vs. PC: Is the Debate Over Yet?
The release of PCs based on the 3.06GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor has ignited another round of Macintosh versus PC comparisons, and this time the debate is getting ugly. Sorry, Apple fans, but a Dell PC now significantly outperforms a significantly more expensive Power Mac for image and digital-video editing, long considered the Mac's last bastions. According to the Digital Video Editing Web site, the PC has "slaughtered" the Mac again, with the PC running all the Adobe PhotoShop and Adobe After Effects benchmarks nearly twice as fast as the Mac. So how does the PC do it? Well, the humongous megahertz gap helps (3.06GHz versus the fastest Mac, a 1.25GHz dual-processor machine), as does Intel's Hyper-Threading Technology, which lets a single-processor machine behave like a dual-processor box. But the PC also offers PC1066 RDRAM and a 512MHz front-end bus, making the Mac look old-school. In conclusion, the site says, time is money. "If you have an After Effects composite that needs, say, 2 hours to render on the Mac, it'll take you about an hour and 10 minutes on this PC," the review reads.

Xbox Loses Money, But 100,000 Sign Up for Xbox Live
Microsoft might be losing money on the Xbox, but the company is racing ahead to embrace what's widely believed to be the Next Big Thing in the video-game industry: online gaming. More than 100,000 people have already signed up for the service, which goes live today. But when, if ever, the Xbox will be profitable is unclear: The company says it will spend $2 billion during the next 5 years to build the Xbox Live service and improve its console. Are good games enough? This holiday season could be crucial for the company.

Dell Meets Expectations, Continues to Dominate
And speaking of dominant companies and their finances, Dell announced its quarterly results last night, and they were record numbers. The company posted $561 million in profits on sales of $9.1 billion, a 31 percent gain over the same quarter a year ago. Dell has consistently outperformed its PC-maker competition by a wide margin or, in the words of Dell President Kevin Rollins, "It's a pretty stark contrast to the rest of the industry." Dell has even managed to gain market share and is once again the largest PC maker in the world, having finally edged past HP, which became number one briefly after it merged with Compaq. But the best analysis of Dell comes from Charles R. Wolf, an analyst for Needham & Company: "It's becoming boring," he noted. "Dell is just killing the competition."

Microsoft's Wireless Competitors Complain to EU
Just when you thought Microsoft's antitrust problems were receding, a new series of complaints from wireless competitors in Europe has the company facing another potential investigation. As-yet-unnamed companies have asked the European Union (EU) to investigate Microsoft for "leveraging its Windows platform into mobile phones." Apparently, the complaint arose out of features in the next Microsoft Exchange version, code-named Titanium, which makes working with Windows-based wireless devices easier than working with the competition. The EU, of course, is already investigating Microsoft for other antitrust problems and will issue a ruling by the end of the year. The EU says it will review the new complaints and, if required, launch a separate investigation. Here we go again.

Capellas Leaves HP for ... WorldCom?
When ex-Compaq CEO Michael Capellas told his coworkers at HP he was leaving his president position, no one was too surprised. But when he said he was leaving to become CEO of WorldCom, I have to think people laughed nervously and said, "No, seriously, why are you really leaving?" But he wasn't kidding, and now Capellas is getting ready to take charge of one of the biggest financial disasters since Enron, a company in bankruptcy court because of a $9 billion accounting scandal. Isn't that like becoming CEO of Napster? Maybe he can hire Martha Stewart to be the company's chief software architect.

Office 2000 SP3 Now Available
This week, Microsoft quietly released its third service pack for Office 2000, a set of bug fixes and improvements that the company recommends for all users. Office 2000 Update: Service Pack 3 (SP3) addresses problems described in several previous Microsoft security bulletins and downloads, and includes Outlook 2000 SR-1 Update: Extended E-mail Security, which changes the way Microsoft Outlook handles certain types of email attachments. For more information and the download, see the Microsoft Web site.

Fall COMDEX 2002
Although next week's COMDEX Fall 2002 trade show in Las Vegas might attract less than half the reported attendees of the largest COMDEX shows of the past, the 125,000 people streaming into the Las Vegas Convention Center probably won't be too disappointed. This year's show will feature the requisite Gates keynote address, 1100 exhibitors, and a slew of new products, including Tablet PCs, wireless gadgets, security products, and much, much more. As usual, I'll be on hand (this is my seventh straight show) with reports from the show floor. See you next week in Vegas.


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