An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news ...
Spring has finally arrived in New England, and I'm not just talking about enduring fake spring while acknowledging the passing of March 21. I mean the real deal: The trees and bushes are blossoming, flowers are popping up through the earth, and temperatures are actually hitting the low 70s occasionally (and even 80 this coming weekend). Of course, this being New England, that means we're probably going to get a snowstorm next week. Mark my words: If that happens, we move this year.
Leo and I recorded the
Windows Weekly podcast Thursday but at a slightly different time than usual. Regardless, the new episode (#104) should be available by the end of the weekend, as always.
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Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC) Build Leaks to the Web
As has been the case with many of the numerous post-beta Windows 7 builds I've seen this year, the Windows 7 RC build—build 7100—has leaked to the web. Of course, this one will be a major public release in the weeks ahead, so anyone who wants it will be able to get it. I've been looking at the RC build since last night, and I don't see any changes since the last few interim builds, but that just means Microsoft is buckling down and getting ready for the final release, which I expect to happen by July or August at the latest. In the meantime, there are some surprises still to come from the Windows 7 team. More on that when we can spill the beans.
RealNetworks Heads to Trial
The digital media software makers at RealNetworks thought they had come up with a great idea: Sell software that lets users legally rip their DVD collections to disk so that they can watch them on their PCs and other digital devices. The movie industry, not thinking the idea was so great, has sued RealNetworks for its brazen attempt to bypass copy protection, and the trial is starting next week. But the big news is that RealNetworks has another product in the pipeline that it will bring to market if it wins this trial. That product, code-named Facet, is a set-top box that would automatically rip DVDs via a built-in DVD drive, saving them to onboard storage. The box could then be used to watch the movies on a TV or HDTV. RealNetworks has already lined up partners to sell the box, and it would sell for less than $300. Sounds like a good idea to me.
Recession? Not at Amazon
Online retailer—or, as I like to say, "e-tailer"—Amazon.com posted its quarterly results yesterday. Looking over them, you'd think we were in the middle of economic boom times. Amazon posted a profit of $177 million (up 24 percent year over year) on revenues of $4.89 billion (up 18 percent). When you think about it, Amazon's results aren't all that surprising. Obviously, people try to save money during a recession, and Amazon is pretty much the Crazy Eddie of the Internet. Plus, I'm sure that the company's success is coming at the expense of traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. Anyone still remember Circuit City and CompUSA? Amazon's electronics sales rose a whopping 38 percent in the quarter. That's amazing.
Apple Weathers Recession Just Fine, Too
Speaking of quarterly results that defy logic, high-priced gadget maker Apple also reported incredibly strong earnings, with a profit of $1.21 billion on revenues of $8.16 billion, the company's best non-holiday quarter ever. Sure, Mac sales were down, but just by 3 percent. (Mac revenues were down 16 percent, which is a bit more troubling, I guess.) The rest of Apple's businesses are going gangbusters: iPhone sales rocketed to 3.79 million units from just 1.7 million in the same quarter a year ago. And even iPod sales were up slightly, to 11.01 million units, despite the introduction of the unbelievably lackluster new iPod shuffle. Folks, this is a company that can do no wrong.
Apple Allows Baby-Shaking App on iPhone App Store
Actually, let's hold off on the celebration for a moment. It turns out Apple can screw up, and when it does, the screw-up is a doozey. Apple this week actually allowed a developer to sell an iPhone game through its App Store in which you shake the iPhone in order to shake an onscreen baby. This application is so offensive, there almost aren't words to describe it. Fortunately, Apple pulled the app after a too-long two-day period in which it was available, and it offered a rare apology and even rare admission that it made a mistake. (Note to self: Check Hell for snow.) "This application was deeply offensive and should not have been approved for distribution on the App Store," an Apple statement reads. "When we learned of this mistake, the app was removed immediately. We sincerely apologize for this mistake and thank our customers for bringing this to our attention." Apple then immediately reverted to form and issued a press release celebrating the 1 billionth iPhone app download. I wonder if the baby shaker apps were counted in there. Geesh.