WinInfo Short Takes: Week of September 7, 2009

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

WinInfo Blog

I spent much of the week in San Francisco, where I attended VMware's VMworld trade show and attended some Microsoft meetings. VMworld is an old-school trade show, and I realized that it had been a while since I'd actually attended one; it felt like the 1990s all over again. Anyway, San Francisco is one of this planet's special places, and although I spent a lot of time there about 15 years ago, I've been there only sporadically since. I'll try to fix that. I miss the place already.

Next week, I'll be in Loveland, Colorado for a week of meetings with my coworkers at Windows IT Pro. Loveland doesn't have the touristic benefits of, say, San Francisco, but it's another place I've been a bunch of times and I'm actually looking forward to spending some time with the editors I usually have to torture virtually.

Speaking of next week, Monday is Labor Day here in the United States, and we'll be closed to celebrate ... something. What's the point of this holiday again?

Leo and I recorded this week's episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on Thursday as usual, so you can expect it up on the web by the end of the weekend, as usual.

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

Short Takes

Microsoft Hoping People Throw Their Own Windows 7 Parties
The days of convincing people to stand in line at midnight to buy a new OS are clearly over, but Microsoft is hoping to generate Windows 95-like buzz for its upcoming Windows 7 OS in a different way: by sponsoring in-home Windows 7 launch parties around the United States in which the host of the party will receive a free copy of Windows 7 Ultimate "Signature Edition". Microsoft has sent invitations to select potential hosts (I got one for some reason), but you can sign up for the opportunity to host your own party at the Windows 7 Launch Party web site. The party can be as lame as it sounds, with Microsoft offering four themes ("PhotoPalooza" and "Media Mania" being two of the more painful ones). I'm not sure if I really want to be part of this, but rest assured that if I do get sucked into it, I'll be giving away the Windows 7 Ultimate box to someone who attends.

As Expected, Microsoft Granted Stay in Word Case
As was widely expected, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has granted Microsoft's motion to stay an injunction that would have required it to take its Word application (and related Office software) off the market starting in October. Microsoft, you might recall, was found to have infringed on a patent owned by a company you've never heard of (because it doesn't actually sell or do anything) and was required to pay $240 million in damages and remove the offending product—that is, Word—from the market starting October 10. Microsoft had argued that it would need more time to remove the infringing technology from Word, and the appellate court apparently agrees. The ruling is surprisingly terse. In fact, it consists almost solely of the following: "The court determines based upon the motion papers that Microsoft has met its burden to obtain a stay of injunction. The motion is granted."

VMware Accuses Microsoft of "Shenanigans"
And man, do I just love that word. A new clause in VMware's contracts for its VMworld trade show prevents companies with competing products from sponsoring the show—a clause Microsoft tried to make into a PR stunt by complaining that it was being shut out of the show. (Microsoft instead maintained a tiny 10'-by-10' booth at the show.) Not so fast, VMware says. That clause was put in there because of what it calls Microsoft "shenanigans" at the show a year earlier, when the software giant—previously a "gold sponsor"—distributed casino chips with the label, "VMware costs way too much." (Microsoft gives away its competing virtualization solutions for free by bundling them with Windows.) "We've had to \[change our policies\] because of some of the shenanigans that our partners pulled last year, which we considered to be in pretty poor taste," VMware Senior Director Ben Matheson said at this year's VMworld. So, this year, only companies that were VMware technology alliance partners could sponsor the show. That left Microsoft in the cold. And, frankly, looking stupid.

Ex-Microsoft Executive Leaves Google After Less than 4 Years

Microsoft Drops BS HD Requirement for Xbox 360
When the Xbox 360 debuted in 2005 it was to usher in an era of "HD gaming," and Microsoft drove home that point by requiring that all games designed for the system run at HD resolutions (i.e., 1280 x 720, or 720p, and up)—all games except its own, of course. In the most infamous example, the blockbuster Halo 3 title from 2007 was found to be running at "640p" (apparently 1152 x 640), a less-than-HD resolution, while some other titles—like Project Gotham Racing 3—ran at even lower resolutions. (600p? Come on.) At the time, Microsoft said that the lower resolutions in its own games increased the overall quality and responded to the outrage by condemning "the Internet's propensity for drama where none exists." Uh-huh. Well, drama no more: Microsoft has dropped the requirement. "For some games, it might be more sensible to present it with a better anti-aliased but lower-resolution image in the first place," third-party developer David Jefferies of Black Rock Studios said. "Now we are free to make the trade-off between resolution and image quality as we see fit." Just like Microsoft.

More Layoffs at Microsoft
But at least this time it's a relatively small number, and they're most likely part of the originally planned 5,000 employee layoffs. The software giant will cut 27 employees, mostly in Redmond and Bellevue, Washington. "I can confirm that part of our effort to reduce costs and increase efficiencies involved 27 job eliminations here and in other regions across the country," a Microsoft spokesperson said. "While job eliminations are always difficult, we are taking these necessary actions to realign our resources against our top priorities."

Gmail Outage Raises Cloud Computing Fears. You Know, Cuz Exchange Never Stops Working
I enjoyed the fake indignation that arose this week when Google's popular Gmail service stopped working for 100 minutes on Tuesday. Being a long-time Gmail user, I can tell you this: Gmail is very rarely ever offline, and Tuesday's event was the exception, not the rule. (On the flipside, I've had a lot less success with Microsoft's Exchange Server. I'm just saying.) But the Chicken Littles of the world had a chance to run around screaming about the downsides of cloud computing, as if they were really making a point. Heads up, Luddites: Gmail supports working offline as well as any other email client, and that's even true of the web version, something that is decidedly not the case with any web-based Microsoft email solution, including Hotmail and Outlook Web Access (OWA). So, rather than highlight a supposed deficiency in cloud computing generally, or in Gmail specifically, all this event did was highlight why Gmail is better than any competing solution. I've had years of trouble-free access to Gmail, and I can count the number of outages on a single hand and the number of serious outages with a single finger—a finger that, incidentally, I extend in the general direction of anyone trying to make an issue out of this. Seriously, find something real to be outraged about. You know, assuming your email stays up long enough to tell someone about it.

Labor Day Weekend Reminder
Again, we're closed on Monday, so have a great long weekend! See you on Tuesday ...

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