Well, a hearty good morning to you from an almost stereotypical crisp fall day in New England. The sun is shining, my feet are freezing, and I had to burrow through the closet to find a fleece so that I could chase the chill away. In short, autumn has arrived, and none too soon.
For the first time in a while, I feel somewhat rested. The book is in the can for the most part, although I still have to finish up a few screenshots, and there'll be a second editing cycle. Now, I can just wait with a sense of inevitability for Microsoft to make a major change to Windows Vista between now and release to manufacturing (RTM), just to mess with my head. Anyway, here's to the first weekend in several weeks that I won't spend tethered to a PC. And speaking of Vista, testers should expect a final interim build this week, probably today, unless plans have changed and no one has told me.
Also today, I suspect you'll see (or, rather, hear) the release of my first podcast. Well, it's not my podcast, actually. I'm working with the wonderfully funny and talented Leo Laporte, of TV and radio fame. Leo is an amazing guy, as you might expect, and I'm hoping this podcast thing will take off. As of now, my understanding is that we're calling it "This Week in Windows" in keeping with his "This Week in..." theme. (His podcast network is called "This Week in Tech," or TWiT.) My goal for the 30-minute podcast is to discuss what's going on in the world of Windows each week and have a fun time doing it. I'll be linking to the podcast from the SuperSite for Windows as soon as it starts up, but you can also stay tuned to the TWiT Web site and check out Leo's other podcasts and endeavors while you're there.
Microsoft, Yahoo! Look into Purchasing Facebook
Microsoft and Yahoo! are both apparently interested in the social-networking site Facebook, which, like similar sites, caters to all those 13-year-olds who are prowling the Web like packs of rabid dogs. Maybe I'm just old, but I don't understand these sites at all and I don't get the attraction of social networking. Of course, I don't understand hip-hop either, so there you go. Anyway, it would be just like an established company such as Microsoft or Yahoo! to buy Facebook to look cool with the kids. In fact, it's probably inevitable.
Sony Scoffs at Xbox 360 1080p Announcement
Microsoft's announcement this week that--surprise, surprise--the Xbox 360 really does support high-end 1080p HD output must have come as something of a shock to Sony, which, let's face it, has had enough bad news to deal with lately. Publicly, Sony was all bluster in the face of yet another PlayStation 3 "advantage" being casually wiped away. "Microsoft's announced HD games patch is really just a compatibility feature--upscaling lower-resolution content does not make it full HD (1080p), something that PlayStation 3 can do out of the box," said Dave Karraker, the senior director of corporate communications at Sony Computer Entertainment America. Too bad he's incorrect: Although the Xbox patch will indeed upscale 720p content, it will also let the Xbox 360 output games developed in 1080p at their native resolution. (Side note: Some people have said that 1080p requires an HDMI connection; Microsoft says that's not true and that the Xbox 360 will support 1080p over both component and VGA connections.)
Sony Adds HDMI Capability to Low-End PlayStation 3, Lowers Prices ... in Japan
So, Sony might be putting a brave face toward the whole 1080p thing, but let's get right down to it: Sony's screwed. The company is merely scrambling to come up with a response that will help it compete with the less expensive Xbox 360. The first step, apparently, is to add an HDMI port to the low-end PlayStation 3 (the one with a 20GB hard disk). Previously, this version of the PlayStation 3 would have shipped with just component and composite connections. Sony also says it will drop the price of its PlayStation 3 in Japan by 20 percent in a bid to avoid alienating gamers who are suddenly swayed by the Xbox 360. Now, the basic PlayStation 3 will cost about $410 in Japan, and the high-end version will cost about $515. (In the United States, these systems will cost $500 and $600, respectively, and Sony has no plans to reduce prices outside of Japan.) I'm still interested in checking out the PlayStation 3, but Sony sounds desperate to me.
Microsoft and Employees in Massive Donation Push
Microsoft and its employees have donated a whopping $2.5 billion to charity since 1983, the company announced today, $450 million of which has gone to the Puget Sound area near the company's main corporate campus. In 2005, Microsoft employees donated $68.2 million to charity, an amount that Microsoft matched (in addition to its donations to other charities). Say what you will about Microsoft, but that's pretty impressive.
Yahoo! Ad Sales Plummet
Online giant Yahoo! has recently been stumbling financially because of lower-than-expected online ad sales. Apparently, the auto and finance ad sectors aren't growing as quickly as predicted, and now there are fears that the online ad boom is coming to an end. I think it's a bit early to write the ad boom's obituary, especially when it seems as if ad revenue should continue to shift from print to online sources. Plus, a slowing down in the online ad market is still an increase, not a decrease. It's not like we're talking about Apple's OS market share.
Vista vs. the Security Firms
Did I mention the whole Symantec wanting Microsoft to make Vista less secure thing? I did? Good.
Disney's iTunes Sales in First Week Net $1 Million
Apple's Showtime announcement last week might have been a bit underwhelming, with only one movie company signing up with iTunes and no true video iPod, but at least Disney is happy. This week, Disney announced that it has already sold more than $1 million worth of movies through the iTunes Store, and it expects to earn more than $50 million through the service by the end of the year, at "no marketing expense." If that sounds vaguely like an advertisement aimed at the other major movie companies that haven't signed up with iTunes yet, you're in the right frame of mind. With Apple CEO Steve Jobs on Disney's board after selling Pixar to Disney, one might expect some corporate backslapping. Methinks this is the first example.
HP Investigation Widens, Includes Fiorina
I haven't spent a lot of time discussing HP's recent pretexting scandal, but maybe I should. Only a month ago, HP was basking in the glow of its market upturn and was hoping to surpass Dell. Now, HP is embroiled in one of the most embarrassing corporate investigations ever launched, its chairperson has stepped down, and the investigation is starting to touch the current and former CEOs (Mark Hurd and Carly Fiorina, respectively). What's sad is that HP used to be the ultimate example of positive corporate culture. In the wake of Hurricane Fiorina, the company is a shadow of its former self.
For Sale: One Barely Used Online Music Store
Speaking of companies that never really recovered, this week online music service Napster indicated it would consider buyout offers. The company has $97 million in cash and approximately 17 customers to its name, so it should be a good deal for any company that's hoping to compete with Apple and then lose in an embarrassing manner. Here's the thing: Napster offers excellent-quality music and has a subscription service, which I've always felt was important for an online music service to have. But Napster's software is among the worst ever created for this kind of service. Regardless of whether the company is sold, Napster needs to overhaul its software completely.