Intel, Microsoft Back HD-DVD as Next-Generation Standard

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In the News
- Intel, Microsoft Back HD-DVD as Next-Generation Standard
- Sun Positions StarOffice 8 as Major Office Competitor
- Palm to Ship Windows-Based Treo PDA

==== In the News ====
by Paul Thurrott, thurrott@windowsitpro.com

Intel, Microsoft Back HD-DVD as Next-Generation Standard
Intel and Microsoft have agreed to back Toshiba's HD-DVD format as the next-generation DVD standard. The companies had waited to extend this backing while Toshiba wrangled with Sony in an attempt to combine HD-DVD with Sony's Blu-ray, a competing next-generation DVD contender. But after those talks fell apart, Intel and Microsoft elected to support HD-DVD, which they feel has a better chance of replacing DVD in the market.

Backing HD-DVD doesn't mean that Intel and Microsoft won't incorporate Blu-ray into future products. But the companies are sending a strong message to Sony and other Blu-ray backers that they feel that HD-DVD is the superior and more viable technology. The reason is that HD-DVD discs can be produced more cheaply and quickly, leading to lower prices for consumers. HD-DVD also supports a hybrid disc format that includes High Definition (HD) video on one side and standard definition on the other, which is perfect for backward-compatibility.

"We were neutral for a long time," said Jordi Ribas, the director of technical strategy for the Windows Digital Media Division at Microsoft. "But we're approaching the time when this has to come to market, and from our standpoint, the earlier the better."

The HD-DVD and Blu-ray battle is reminiscent of earlier format skirmishes in the consumer electronics market--the most famous, of course, being the VHS versus Betamax battles of the early 1980s. But this particular fight is coming at a tough time: In the wake of dwindling movie theater revenues, movie companies have been making most of their money in DVD movie sales. If consumers can't settle on a single next-generation DVD format, sales will suffer until a clear winner emerges.

Already, confusion reigns. Some movie studios support HD-DVD, whereas others support Blu-ray. PC makers and consumer electronics giants, likewise, are split in their support of the formats.

Sun Positions StarOffice 8 as Major Office Competitor
Today, Sun Microsystems will announce a new version of its StarOffice office productivity suite that provides more features and a look and feel that closely resembles market-leader Microsoft Office 2003. StarOffice 8, which is built from the OpenOffice.org open-source project, will also cost significantly less than Office, while providing the most-often-used functionality from Microsoft's product.

StarOffice 8 includes word-processing, spreadsheet, database, and presentation software but lacks an email and personal information manager (PIM) solution equivalent to Microsoft Outlook. StarOffice 8 works seamlessly with most Office document formats and can be easily mixed into organizations that already use Office. StarOffice 8 is also the first office productivity product to support the OpenDocument format, which is increasingly required by local and federal governments.

StarOffice 8 will sell for $99, but customers can download an electronic version for $69. Sun says that corporate customers can get the suite for $35 per desktop. These prices are significantly lower than what Microsoft charges for Office 2003. However, it's uncertain how many enterprises and other customers would be willing to switch from the comfort of Office. Also, most of StarOffice's features will be available in OpenOffice.org 2.0, which will be available for free.

Palm to Ship Windows-Based Treo PDA
It's shocking, but one might wonder what took the company so long: Palm, which rose to fame creating PDAs based on the simple Palm OS platform, this week announced that it's licensing a competing system from Microsoft to power its next Treo device. The next-generation Treo 700 will ship in early 2006 and will run Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0, providing a solution that Palm says its enterprise customers have been longing for.

"Microsoft and Palm in the past obviously competed, but things have changed," said Ed Colligan, president and CEO of Palm. What's changed is that both Microsoft and Palm have been unable to defeat Research In Motion (RIM), whose keyboard-based handheld devices control the mobile email market. The Treo 700, which also sports a keyboard, is designed to offer the best of both Palm and Microsoft in one unit, giving both companies the ammo they need to take RIM down a notch.

What's most intriguing about this partnership, perhaps, is that Microsoft let Palm tinker with Windows Mobile 5.0, which is a first. The version of Windows Mobile that Palm will ship in the Treo 700 will include several unique features not found in the typical version of Windows Mobile 5.0, the companies say. For example, users will be able to dial a phone number by pressing a picture of a contact on the screen.

One feature the Treo 700 won't have--at first--is the ability to automatically receive email as it arrives, which has been available on RIM BlackBerry devices for quite some time. However, Microsoft and Palm say this "push" feature will be added later, after a Microsoft Exchange Service Pack 2 (SP2) upgrade that adds that functionality on the server side.

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