WinInfo Short Takes: Week of November 2, 2009

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

WinInfo Blog

After a week in New York, I spent this week at home, which was nice. Or, it would have been if I didn't have to deal with the Windows 7 upgrade problems that I discuss below. The whole situation cast a pall over everything. But I'm away again next week—this time to Seattle/Redmond for the SQL PASS conference and some Microsoft meetings.

This past Thursday, Leo and I recorded what might possibly be the longest episode of the Windows Weekly podcast yet. Let's just say I'm not amused by Microsoft's behavior surrounding a certain topic. (Again, see below.)

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

Short Takes

Microsoft: If You Use Windows 7 Upgrade Media to Do a Clean Install, You Could Be Breaking the Law
As we careened toward the Windows 7 launch last week, the final remaining question about Microsoft's new OS was how the upgrade media would work. Microsoft wasn't saying and wouldn't provide the press with advance copies, so we had to buy it ourselves on launch day and figure it out. What we found wasn't so positive: Microsoft makes it very hard, in many cases, to legitimately use this media to clean install Windows 7 on a PC that previously ran Windows Vista or Windows XP. And when I posted about ways in which you can make this work, Microsoft reacted in a bizarre fashion, noting that a "hack" I wrote about was "not always legal." The problem with that kind of statement is that it implies guilt. And in this case, that quote should actually be rewritten to read that the method I describe is, in fact, "almost always legal" for legitimate Windows users. The concern here is that virtually every single PC user owns a previous version of Windows (Vista or XP) and thus qualifies for any upgrade version of Windows 7 and can install it any way they want, as long as they do so on the PC on which the previous version of Windows was installed and activated. And that is precisely what I documented. You can read about the ensuing mess on the SuperSite Blog. And you can read about how to really install Windows 7 on the SuperSite for Windows. You know, assuming you're legit. Which you almost certainly are. Unlike a certain software giant, I don't presume guilt.

Microsoft: OK, Maybe You're Not a Pirate. Maybe.
After Microsoft's bizarre freakout, IDG News' Gregg Keizer wrote that the company had "backed down" from its previous claims about the upgrade "trick" that I published, saying that "users can apply a workaround trick to do a clean install of Windows 7 on a blank hard drive as long as they toe the licensing line." And although I appreciate Microsoft's implicit mea culpa—"\[If\] you have the previous version Full Windows license and qualify for the Windows 7 Upgrade, you have the rights to do a 'clean' install," Microsoft's Eric Ligman finally admitted in a contorted way—I have yet to hear directly from the software giant. But I don't need Microsoft's approval, because the details are spelled out quite nicely in the Windows 7 end user license agreement (EULA). "To use upgrade software, you must first be licensed for the software that is eligible for the upgrade." Exactly. And, again, I'd point out that that's exactly what I've been documenting. It's not a "hack" or a "trick." It's called supporting legitimate Microsoft customers. And if you read what I wrote, that's how I describe it: clean-installing Windows 7 over a legitimate, activated version of Vista or XP. It's legal, and it's OK. And Microsoft can't claim otherwise.

If Microsoft Allows OEM Sales to Individuals, Is It Being Hypocritical or Ironic? Or Both?
Of course, there will always be people who pirate Windows. And you could make the argument that some people will use the workarounds I've published to illegally clean-install Windows 7 using less expensive upgrade media rather than paying for more expensive full media. Yes, that possibility exists. Some people will do that. But if someone wants to really save money and bypass Microsoft's licensing issues, he or she can just buy OEM versions of Windows 7 instead. These versions offer the same installation capabilities as the full versions but—get this—they cost less than the upgrade versions. And I'd point out that Microsoft has never once tried to prevent online stores such as NewEgg from selling these OEM Windows versions to individuals. Hypocritical? Ironic? It's probably both. This whole thing is hilarious when you think about it. So let's move on. Because the more I think about it, the less funny it gets.

Apple Ships Apple TV and iTunes Updates, Kills Palm Pre Sync. Again.
Apple shipped very minor revisions to its iTunes (PC, Mac) and Apple TV software this week. But the most notable change comes in iTunes, which has once again been reengineered to prevent Palm Pre users from syncing their devices with their iTunes-based media collections. This is, I think, the third time Apple has updated iTunes to hurt Pre users, which is sort of petty because those people are clearly Apple customers too, what with the iTunes usage and all. At least Microsoft isn't the only company treating its own customers like dirt this week.

Nintendo Wii Sales Fall Off a Cliff. Finally.
I never understand why some products sell well. Case in the point: The Nintendo Wii has been a blockbuster bestseller ever since its release two years ago despite the fact that there's no evidence at all that anyone actually uses these consoles in any meaningful way after buying them. But it seems that reality is finally, if belatedly, catching up with Nintendo. Wii sales nose-dived 43 percent in the first half of the company's fiscal year. It was like the world collectively realized they were just buying a $200 door stop and decided to finally say no to their spoiled inner child. The thing about the Wii is that it was well behind the Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3 when it debuted, and aside from a very small handful of decent games, it's even further behind now. So Nintendo is scaling back its sales projections, which makes sense, and I assume the company is looking at ways to bolster the platform. In the meantime, I still feel that the Xbox 360, especially, is the vastly superior choice, both for video gaming and for general living room entertainment.

With Verizon Droid Comes Android 2.0
Tech bloggers are drooling all over Verizon's upcoming Android-based smart phone, the Droid, and that alone gives me pause: These guys are all about the flavor of the minute, and I suspect they'll forget all about the Droid a day later, just like they did with the Zune HD and every other hi-tech gizmo that shipped this year. But there is one thing that's interesting about the Droid: It will be the first smart phone to ship with Google's second-generation phone software, Android 2.0. This major update includes many new features, the most notable of which might just be free turn-by-turn navigation GPS functionality in Google Maps. This capability can (and does) scare the bejeezus out of dedicated GPS companies such as Garmin and Tom-Tom, not to mention makers of other smart phones, because that kind of functionality comes with a monthly charge everywhere else. I might just have to get a Droid: With Android 2.0, it seems as if Google finally has a credible iPhone competitor. You know, maybe.

Google Limits Call Blocking on Google Voice
This week, Google said that it would limit the number of phone numbers it blocks via Google Voice, answering a key complaint from AT&T, which said Google wasn't adhering to the same rules it must follow. You might recall that Google was blocking certain expensive phone calls to rural areas because the Google Voice service was free and it didn't want to incur massive bills from freeloading customers. AT&T told the FCC, however, that if it had to connect those calls (which, by the way, it passes along the cost of), then so should Google. According to Google, the only calls it's now blocking are those set up for "schemes" to increase phone carrier costs. Google is also calling on the FCC to reform the current phone system.

Back to the Grind ...
OK, I guess that's enough of that. I have a few more Windows 7 upgrade scenarios to work through today. Have a great weekend ...

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