WinInfo Short Takes: Week of October 5, 2009

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

WinInfo Blog

I'm going to be in Europe all of next week. I fly out Monday night and will be in Amsterdam on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then, I'm appearing at the Microsoft launch event for Windows 7 in The Hague on Thursday, October 8. Friday, I head to Paris for a long weekend, and then I fly home on Monday. I don't think the travel will disrupt my work schedule, per se, but I won't be available via email as frequently as usual.

Leo and I recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast Thursday, as usual, and it should be available by the weekend. We have to take next week off: Between my trip and Leo's trip to Dubai, there just isn't time.

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

Short Takes

Seriously, Microsoft, Learn How to Communicate
Microsoft yesterday revealed via a corporate blog that it had released something called Windows XP Mode to manufacturing and would ship the solution to Windows 7 users on October 22. Sounds pretty simple, right? There's just one problem: XP Mode can't do a thing unless you first install a separate software package called Windows Virtual PC. And Microsoft's "announcement" about XP Mode didn't mention Virtual PC even once. So is Virtual PC done too? You'd have to guess that it is. And the reason you'd have to guess is that Microsoft never mentioned it. Good job, guys. Keep that clarity coming.

Bing Loses Share in September
After four months of steady if minor gains, Microsoft's Bing search service stumbled in September. Last month, Bing accounted for 8.47 percent of searches in the United States, down from 9.64 percent in August. Month-over-month changes of this magnitude aren't normally very interesting, but I've been following Bing's progress closely because it marks the most serious effort on Microsoft's part to stem the flood of users to Google. And most alarming for Microsoft is the fact that its lost searches in September all seem to have turned up at Google: In September, Google's share of the US search market rose to 80 percent, up from 77.83 percent in August. So, all we're left with are questions. One month is one month, but if Bing continues a slow downward spiral and ends up at pre-Bing levels (about 7.8 percent), it's unclear what the point of all this was. Stay tuned.

Google Rejiggers Its Search Engine
Speaking of Google and search, the online search giant has been quietly but steadily trying to counter the innovations in Microsoft's Bing service by introducing and enhancing features in its own service. This is Google we're talking about, so these changes come slowly and aren't obvious, but just the fact that they're happening is all the evidence we need to know the company is taking Microsoft seriously. First, Google dramatically (for them) increased the size of the search box on, matching the size of the more obvious Bing search box. Now, the company is adding search options that let users filter results for videos, discussion forums, reviews, books, and other topics ... just like Bing. Bing-like shopping-specific results are even starting to turn up. So don't believe the Google PR baloney that the company isn't worried about Bing and that it's just performing the normal evolutionary updates it would have done anyway. Bing may come and go, but it has materially affected the way Google presents its search service to the world. And those changes will affect millions if not billions of people. Think about it.

Microsoft to Launch Windows 7 Compatibility Site
And if Microsoft is smart, it will just be a big, empty page with the text, "It just works" in the middle. But since it's Microsoft, which overthinks everything, it will instead—before October 22, the date of the Windows 7 launch—offer a so-called Windows 7 Compatibility Center website where people can stress and fret over whether their many devices and software applications work with the new system. Of course, most of them will work just fine, which makes me wonder about the point of all this. By creating a Compatibility Center (cue ominous music), you're making it seem as if there's some kind of compatibility problem. And there isn't. But thanks for highlighting the possibility and undercutting one of the core tenets—and marketing messages—of this release. You guys are amazing, really.

Wall Street Warms to Microhoo
OK, it's not the blockbuster merger everyone was hoping for (or at least anticipating) about a year ago. But Microsoft's advertising pact with Yahoo! is starting to gain the support of financial analysts who, after investigating details of the plan, now seem to agree that it should be a "net positive" for both companies. Unfortunately, however, these aren't the people who matter. Antitrust regulators in both the United States and Europe are scrutinizing the deal, and I think we all know that the European Union (EU) regulators will be the toughest to convince. Maybe a couple of fruit baskets are in order.

Oh Good, I Was Just Hoping for Another Webmail Solution
IBM continued its long slide into irrelevancy this week by releasing yet another corporate email solution that no one was asking for. Actually, it's more of a competitor for Google Apps, I guess, since it includes web-based contacts and calendar management in addition to email. Dubbed LotusLive iNotes (yes, really), the IBM solution will set businesses back $3 per user per month, which nicely undercuts both Google Apps Premier Edition (which is $50 per user per year) and Microsoft's various hosted solutions. However, it doesn't undercut Google Apps Standard Edition, which is free—and is also, of course, the one everyone uses. But if the IBM solution has a real downside, it's that it's made by IBM ... and based on Lotus Notes. I mean, seriously, people. That is just so 1990s.

Apple vs. Google, Round 27
They used to be so close! They'd often take long walks in the park, gazing longingly into each other's eyes, making silent promises that they would never, ever fight! But today, Apple and Google are increasingly at odds. And it's pretty clear that the two companies, which once offered largely complementary products, are now direct competitors. And let's face it: Neither one of these companies is exactly a great partner, so watching them go at it should be a lot of fun. After the muss-up over Apple rejecting Google Voice on the iPhone—Apple essentially lies to the FCC and Google calls them on it (pardon the pun)—the gloves are off. This week, Apple purchased a mapping company called Placebase, presumably to use the company's software on its popular iPhone. Which makes plenty of sense until you realize that the iPhone already has a Maps application, and it's made by Google. Oh, man. I just can't wait to see how this turns out. Grab me some popcorn, honey. I know what I'm watching tonight.

Yeah, Windows Mobile Stinks and It's Losing Share. But Just Wait Until Next Year
Device analysts at iSuppi say that rumors of Windows Mobile's death have been greatly exaggerated. Sure, the pathetic little Microsoft devices have been outmaneuvered by Research in Motion (RIM) and its BlackBerry devices in the corporate market and by Apple and its iPhone in the consumer market, but iSuppli now expects a "Rocky"-like comeback in 2010. "Windows Mobile holds some major cards that will allow it to remain a competitive player in the market," an iSuppli research note says. "While Windows Mobile is losing some share to competitors in 2009, most of the alternatives cannot match Microsoft's complete suite of offerings. To win in today's environment, a company needs not only an operating system but also device support, an application store, a broad portfolio of applications and support from the developer community." Windows Mobile, presumably, has all of that. What it's missing, of course, is a theme song. Paging Frank Stallone: A desperate Windows Mobile community needs a montage, and it needs it right now.

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