WinInfo Short Takes: Week of September 17 - 14 Sep 2007

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including silent and unexpected Windows Updates for XP and Vista, Vista and Office 2007 retail sales, the ultimate Office 2007 offer for students, interoperability, video games, and so much more...

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I'm getting ready to launch some forums and a blog on the SuperSite for Windows, which many of you will realize is quite overdue. I've actually been blogging for over 6 years on my Internet Nexus site, but most of the commentary there is about non-Microsoft technologies. What I've witnessed over the intervening years is a decided lack of interesting, entertaining, and accurate blogging on the Windows side, so what the heck, here it comes. That said, I'll probably spend most of my time in the blog just riffing on whatever is going on at the time in the world of Windows, since I currently expend most of my comic energy here on Fridays. Hopefully, this will be live in the next week or so.

Also, Leo and I recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast this week, and that should be made available by the weekend as usual.

Short Takes

Microsoft is Silently Updating XP, Vista Systems ... Even When AU is Off
Scott Dunn of "Windows Secrets" reported this week that Windows Update is silently downloading and installing some software updates in Windows XP and Vista, even when the user has explicitly disabled automatic updating. This allegation, which has been independently confirmed by a number of people, has shocking ramifications for Microsoft, which has often come under fire for its privacy violations. So far, all of the updates people have seen so far are related to Windows Update itself, but there are of course fears that Microsoft would one day see fit to cause other update types to bypass the normal Windows Update channels. And Microsoft's response, thus far, has been rather obtuse. In an online forum, the company has said only that if the updates were not installed, Windows Update would no longer work. Clearly something is wrong. But at the time of this writing, it's unclear what that is. Stay tuned.

Is Vista Really Selling Well? Yes, Virginia, It Is's Ina Fried tackles familiar turf this week, suggesting that Vista is not selling as well as its predecessor by citing US retail sales figures. There's just one problem: These figures are meaningless, as they represent such a tiny portion of the overall sales of any Windows version. With that bit of reality check in mind, here's what the report says: According to retail sales tracking firm NPD, sales of Vista at US retail outlets are down 59.7 percent when compared with sales of XP during a similar time after its launch. Give Fried a little credit however: She does report that over "80 percent of Windows revenue comes from computer makers, with boxed copies accounting for only a fraction of total sales." Thus, Vista sales--60 million units and counting as of this past summer--are actually "tied closely to the rate of PC sales," and are thus are doing quite well, thanks to a better than expected year for PC sales. In short, Vista is selling just fine, thank you very much, unless you choose to look only at the one way in which the smallest percentage of customers actually acquire the OS. There's nothing like lying with statistics.

Office 2007 Selling Like Proverbial Hotcakes, NPD Says
While Vista's sales are apparently always open to debate, sales of Office 2007 are not: According to the aforementioned sales tracking firm NPD, Office 2007 is selling at about twice the rate its predecessor, Office 2003 during the first six months of release or so. Part of the reason for Office's success at retail, compared to Windows, is that Microsoft offers a low-cost, multi-PC, and retail-only version of Office 2007, called Home and Student 2007, that is specifically geared towards consumers and costs just $150. NPD says that 80 percent of all Office 2007 units sold at retail are the Home and Student 2007 version.

Microsoft Offers Students an Office 2007 "Steal"
And if Office 2007's retail success wasn't enough for you, this week Microsoft unveiled its "The Ultimate Steal" promotion, which allows eligible college students to purchase Office Ultimate 2007 at a very special student rate of just $59.95. Available in the US, Canada, and the UK today (and in Spain, Italy and France starting September 20), "The Ultimate Steal" promotion is an attempt by Microsoft to jump-start sales of one of its most expensive retail Office versions. Office Ultimate 2007 typically costs $679 and includes Word, Excel, Power Point, Outlook, Access, Publisher, OneNote, Groove and InfoPath. In order to take advantage of the promotion, you must download the trial version of Office 2007 Ultimate from the Microsoft Web site and then purchase a code that turns it into the full version. The offer runs through April 2008. Sounds like a steal to me.

Microsoft, Novell Open Interop Lab
Microsoft's been sleeping with the enemy so much lately (witness this week's alliance with Sun Microsystems another example) that I'm starting to get curious what the kids are going to look like. In any event, this week Microsoft and Novell opened an interoperability lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts where technologists from both companies will collaborate on getting Novell SuSE Linux and Windows Server to work better together. I know, I know, it seems crazy, and I have to say, a weird party of me really misses the belligerent Microsoft of old.

Microsoft Makes Yet Another Video Game Push in Japan
Microsoft has failed to gain an audience for its Xbox video game systems in Japan so many times its almost pointless trying to add them all up. It started, of course, with the original Xbox, which was so Western-centric with its sports and shoot-'em-up titles that Japanese gamers stayed away in droves. But even the original Xbox was a huge success in Japan compared to the Xbox 360: Microsoft has sold only 450,000 consoles there in the past two years, compared to 3.45 million units for the Wii and 1.16 million Sony PlayStation 3s, the latter two of which haven't even been available for a year. In its latest attempt to bolster sales in Japan, Microsoft is getting ready to issue a slew of games geared directly at the Japanese gaming market. So you're going to see lots of role playing games as well as a few Japanese-oriented action titles. Will this latest surge work? My guess is no, but it's always fun watching them flounder.

Lenovo Goes Green
Lenovo this week launched a new line of small form factor ThinkCentre PCs that really go for the Green Computing jugular, with EPA Energy Star 4.0 compatibility, Green Electronics Council EPEAT Gold status, 90 percent reusable and/or recycled materials, and 90 percent recyclable packaging: It can even be powered by an optional solar panel. (No, that's not a joke.) According to Lenovo, the ThinkCentre A61e small form factor PC can save up to 50 percent in annual energy costs compared to its predecessor: A large enterprise deployment of 50,000 desktops could save more than $1 million in annual energy costs and cut more than 20 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. They're freaking cute too, which has to be a big selling point, I'd imagine. I'll be looking more closely at these desktops in the weeks ahead.

For Once, Microsoft's Monthly Security Update Releases Don't Sting
And finally, this week Microsoft issued its regularly scheduled monthly security bulletins and for the first time in a while, I didn't need to ring the cow bell and try and convince people to download the updates immediately. Instead of the usual batch of critical security fixes, Microsoft issued just four fixes overall, and only one fix--for Windows 2000-was rated critical. Being from New England, I'm inclined to believe that this unexpected bout of good news will result in a worse-than-usual October, but let's just enjoy this for what it is before turning our attention to next month, shall we?

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