WinInfo Short Takes: Week of September 6

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


In Moment of Irony, Apple Criticizes MSN Music

Let's say you're an executive at Apple Computer. Microsoft comes to you and says, "Look, we're coming out with this new music store called MSN Music, and we'd really like to make it work with the iPod. We know that you're disabling support for Windows Media Audio in the iPod before you ship it to customers, but we'll give you a good deal on WMA licensing--maybe even make it free--if you just let iPod users listen to WMA music on their devices and optionally purchase music from MSN Music." But you deny the request for perfectly valid competitive reasons. OK, fine. When a reporter later asks you about MSN Music, what's your response? How do you frame this answer after you just refused to work with Microsoft? Naturally, you blast the company for not being compatible with the iPod. In an interview with ZDNet this week, Apple Vice President of Applications Eddie Cue said--and yes, I'm serious--that MSN Music's "biggest problem may be that its downloaded songs can not play on the iPod." Nice, eh? But wait, there's more. In an official statement, Apple actually wrote, "The iTunes Music Store is currently selling over 16 million songs per month ... How many songs will Microsoft's new online music store sell during its first month?" You know, we can complain until we're blue in the face about how a dominant Microsoft acts, but isn't it interesting to see how petty things get when the shoe is on the other foot? This company is the one supposedly standing up for the 'people,' folks. Ugly, isn't it?


Gates Slams Apple's Inability to Deliver Digital Video Player

In an interview with "Business Week Magazine," Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates was asked about Apple CEO Steve Jobs's insistence that consumers aren't going to want to watch video on tiny screens like those offered on Portable Media Centers (PMCs), which start shipping this week. Gates's response is classic and unusually pointed for a man who's been bland for so long I'd forgotten he actually has a personality. "Yes, \[he's wrong\]," Gates said. "Ask kids in the back of a car on a 2-hour trip, 'Hey, would you like to have your videos there?' My kids would. I guess Steve's kids just listen to Bach and Mozart. But mine, they want to watch 'Finding Nemo' \[which Jobs's other company, Pixar, made\]. I don't know who made that, but it's really a neat movie. So, yeah, we're early on the video thing. But there's no problem with the screen. The experience for the kids sitting there watching that color LCD screen is fantastic. Getting the content providers to open up their broad libraries and making those things really easy to get at, we've put a lot into that. I'm very proud of what we're doing there, but the explosion of video will be based on the work we do this year." Yes, PMCs are expensive, but so were iPods when they first came out.


Report: 10 Percent of Users Will Have Problems with XP SP2

At least it's better than Windows Me. According to asset-monitoring firm AssetMatrix, 10 percent of PCs that are upgraded to Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) will have "problems" of some sort, even though most of those problems will be fairly minor. The firm arrived at this conclusion after monitoring the installation of SP2 on more than 44,000 PCs in 350 corporations over the past few weeks. "On average, 10.3 percent of the Windows XP-based machines will have an issue of some degree with SP2," said Steve O'Halloran, the managing director of AssetMetrix. "Or better put, they have the 'opportunity' for an issue to arise." Ah, an opportunity. That's like saying you have an opportunity to get struck by a car when you cross the street, I suppose. For the record, AssetMatrix says it expected the 10 percent figure to be much higher.


Microsoft Warns of Spyware Problems for XP SP2 Installations

Microsoft is advising users this week that anyone who installs XP SP2 should first remove spyware from his or her system. The problem, as I've noted previously, is that Microsoft doesn't actually offer any spyware-removal tools, so the company is recommending products such as Lavasoft's Ad-Aware and Webroot Software's SpySweeper. Microsoft is also recommending that users back up important data before making the SP2 plunge. To date, somewhere between 15 million and 20 million XP users have installed SP2, Microsoft says.


Microsoft: Revenues to Slow in 2005; Longhorn Delay to Blame?

Microsoft revealed this week that its fiscal 2005 sales will grow even more slowly than previously expected. "While we expect general economic conditions to remain stable with the improvements seen in the second half of fiscal 2004, we expect PC and server unit shipment growth rates to decline in fiscal 2005 from the high growth rates in fiscal 2004," Microsoft wrote in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The company believes that sales will rise 7 to 9 percent in fiscal 2005 (July 2004 to June 2005), compared with growth of more than 14 percent for 2004 and 13.5 percent for 2005.


Intel Lowers Quarterly Forecast: Tech Downturn Continuing?

And in another sobering development, microprocessor giant Intel this week lowered its profits and revenue outlook for the current quarter, citing unexpectedly weak demand. "Pretty uniformly around the world, demand is less than we expected," said Intel CFO Andy Bryant. "It appears that demand is less than we expected, it appears to be worldwide, and it appears to be mainly in the consumer division." Intel now believes that revenues will come in around $8.3 billion to $8.6 billion, well below the $8.6 billion to $9.2 billion the company previously forecast.


Intel Preps Dual-Core Future

And speaking of Intel, next week the microprocessor giant will unveil a new line of dual-core chips that essentially provide the power of two microprocessors in one chip. The processors will ship in Pentium 4 and Xeon variants in 2005, Intel says, although the company has yet to reveal the code names for those products. AMD demonstrated a next-generation dual-core microprocessor early this week; that product will also ship in 2005.


Windows Media Player 10 Users: Get the Energy Bliss Visualization

I don't usually push individual downloads, but this one is kind of fun: If you've downloaded Windows Media Player (WMP) 10, you simply must grab the new Energy Bliss visualization, which provides a beautiful animated sky and pulsating equalizer, along with album art, song title and artist name, and song rating. The visualization looks especially nice when you select the full-screen display. You can obtain the free Energy Bliss download from the Microsoft Web site.


See You Tuesday

Because of the Labor Day holiday here in the United States, we'll be taking off Monday. WinInfo Daily UPDATE will return on Tuesday, but if anything major happens over the long weekend, I'll provide the usual updates on the Web site. Thanks for reading!




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