WinInfo Short Takes: Week of September 15, 2008

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including yet another Apple-related product disaster, a new Seinfeld/Gates advertisement, RIM and Live Search, Xbox 360 price cut successes, Microsoft OMG, Zune marketshare, and so much more...

WinInfo Blog

I spent the week in the Seattle area, visiting Microsoft, a trip that will result in a wide range of articles, some of which are already available on the SuperSite for Windows. There's a lot going on at Microsoft, as always, and it had been a while since I got out there. It was great catching up with friends I haven't seen for months.

Because of my travel schedule Leo and I weren't able to record a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on Thursday as usual, but we're recording on Saturday, so the next episode should be up over the weekend. We have a lot to talk about between my trip and Apple's lackluster 2008 iPod rollout, so stay tuned.

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

Short Takes

Apple Fixes the BSOD It Caused with iTunes 8
Although I do like many of Apple's products, this is a company that really doesn't get Windows, and the quality of its Windows software, especially, is abysmal. The latest example of this is the bloated iTunes 8 software the company released on Tuesday: It was causing Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) crashes in Windows Vista, which is actually quite a trick when you think about it. Apple's solution was to patch the software, quietly, on Thursday night without alerting anyone they'd done so. To get the fix, you have to literally uninstall the original version of iTunes 8 and then reinstall it using the Web download, which, again, has been updated with nary a heads-up. Way to go, guys.

Second Gates/Seinfeld Ad Debuts ... And this One Is Excellent
Although I enjoyed the first Windows Vista ad featuring comedian Jerry Seinfeld and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, I was clearly in the minority. But the second ad has now debuted, and this one is absolutely classic. It's so funny, in fact, that if you don't enjoy it, you may literally have something physically or emotionally wrong with you and will need to seek professional help. (Actually, that's true of many Apple fans.) Check it out at

RIM to Add Live Search to Blackberry
In another example of Microsoft's "coopetition" strategy (or what you might think of as tech Glastnost), Blackberry maker RIM this week agreed to add Microsoft's Live Search engine on its smart phones. The deal will take effect later this year and will include integration pieces with the Blackberry's Browser and Maps applications. (Microsoft currently provides Live Search as a standalone download for Blackberry users.)

Xbox 360 Sales Soar Since Price Cut
OK, it's a bit early to throw a parade, but in the week following its decision to dramatically drop the prices of each Xbox 360 unit in the United States, Microsoft saw some impressive (if possibly temporary) week-over-week sales increases. It's amazing what a $50 to $80 price cut can do: Sales surged 100 percent in the wake of the reduction, which Microsoft credits to getting its console under the magic $200 price barrier, which is widely seen as the upper limit of the "spousal acceptance factor." Not that gamer chicks can't play Xbox, of course. Anyway, it's interesting to note--and not ironic, as it turns out--that the Xbox 360 actually edged out the Sony PS3, sales-wise, in August, before the price cuts, for only the second time all year. The Xbox 360 price cuts were widely seen as a response to the PS3 outselling Microsoft's console for 6 of the 7 previous months.

OMG! Microsoft Joins ... OMG
Microsoft joined the Open Management Group (OMG) this week, an organization noted for its work driving software modeling standards. And its insanely bad acronym.

Microsoft Exec: Market Share Not the Sole Measure of Zune Success
And thank God for that, because Zune has only snagged about 3 percent of that market, compared to 73 percent for market leader Apple iPod. But I'm curious why Microsoft president Robbie Bach would say such a thing and then not follow it up with some sort of other benchmark by which you could accurately describe the Zune as successful. I actually really like the Zune platform and think it offers some interesting advantages over the iPod. But it also falls short in some areas as well. So how exactly is the Zune successful, Mr. Bach? I'm curious.

Apple Settles Backdating Shareholder Suits
So how much does it cost to screw over shareholders by backdating options for corporate executives so that they can take advantage of stock market ups and downs after the fact? For Apple, that price is $14 million, plus no admission of guilt. That's what it cost to settle long-standing claims that Steve Jobs and other high-placed executives backdated their own stock options, though in a bizarre bit of corporate flim-flammery, the money will come from Apple's liability insurer and be paid to, get this, Apple. Yep, that's right, after you discount the $9 million in legal fees and other expenses that Apple has to pay, the company actually made money on this event. Only in America.

Yahoo! to Open Up Its Web Sites
Hey, someone has to update them. Yahoo! this week unveiled its plans to open up its online services--including its popular Web portal and email service--to third party developers. The plan would provide a host of new content for users and allow third parties to get in front of one of the world's largest (if dwindling) Web audiences. As part of this initiative, Yahoo! is hosting a "Hack Day" today to help developers get started. "We are not just doing this open thing because it is the flavor of the month," says Yahoo's Scott Moore. "This open approach is really in our DNA." Hey, so was search, but it looks like you're ready to farm that out to Google.

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