An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including a winter wonderland, WHS migrations, a new podcast, Microsoft ahead of schedule, VMWare vs. Hyper-V, AMD screw-ups, ads in Windows Mobile, Zune and Wii shortages, and much, much more...
Well, it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, a least here in New England: We had our first real snowstorm of the season last night, with almost a foot of the white stuff. This was met by cheers from the kids, of course, until they were shocked to discover the next morning that they actually had school. (Frankly, we were surprised as well.) Annoyingly, we still have an ample supply of leaves to rake, but it looks like it might be a while before we're able to make that happen.
I began finalizing my complete migration to Windows Home Server this week, which is kind of anxious, as I've been storing all of my personal and private data on a Windows Server-based server for several years now. Moving to WHS has required some rethinking about how things are done, and I've upgraded the HP MediaSmart Server I'm using to 2 TB of storage in order to handle its data duplication needs. So far, so good. The only thing I'm really losing is a server-based Web site, which I use for local testing of the SuperSite for Windows; I'll be moving that to my Vista-based desktop. But with WHS, I gain a lot more, including centralized and automated backups of all my PCs and free remote access. It's a good thing.
Leo and I recorded another episode of the Windows Weekly podcast this week, and I'm sure it will be up soon. Windows Weekly is turning into Non Sequitur Weekly thanks to my utter inability to stay on-topic, but hopefully that's a good thing.
The New Microsoft: Ahead of Schedule
Remember the "old" Microsoft, you know, the one that would promise products at a certain time and then deliver them months or even years later? The Microsoft of Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, and WinFS? You know those guys. Well, that Microsoft may be coming to an end, if I'm reading the tea leaves correctly. In the last week alone, everyone's favorite recalcitrant monopolist actually delivered two major product milestones well ahead of schedule, and I'm surprised this hasn't gotten more press. First, after a nearly silent beta program, the company released Office 2007 Service Pack 1 (SP1) over a month ahead of schedule. The, the company delivered a public Hyper-V Beta release, also a month ahead of schedule. Granted, Hyper-V has been delayed before, and the final release will now ship in mid-2008, about three months after Windows Server 2008. But I don't think anyone expected Microsoft to deliver this public beta on schedule, let alone ahead of schedule.
VMWare Scoffs at Hyper-V
As it should, really. This week's release of a public beta of Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization technology triggered an interesting public reaction from VMWare who, in case you're unaware, is the unequivocal leader in this particular market. VMWare's take on Hyper-V is sort of humorous, mostly because it's true: The company says that while Microsoft's delivery of a beta version of a hypervisor-based virtualization solution is admirable, their own similar solution, ESX Server, has been available for seven years in production form and is more mature, functional, and well-supported. The different approaches offered by the two companies are interesting. Microsoft is basically embedding Hyper-V in its Windows Server 2008 OS while VMWare, of course, is offering ESX as a standalone thin-server product as well as a server that runs on top of Windows, Linux, and Solaris servers. I think the big difference, frankly, is maturity: ESX is well-established and proven. But Microsoft's entry into the market will definitely mix things up. It should be an interesting fight.
AMD Botches Quad-Core Chip Production, Issues Apology
Chipmaker AMD took the rare step of publicly apologizing to Wall Street this week for its botched release of the quad-core Barcelona microprocessor, which arrived late, buggy, and slower than previously promised. To date, AMD has yet to ship Barcelona in volume thanks to a design flaw. And with the company's stock tanking a full 40 percent since October, AMD has to make some changes. The company says it has learned its lesson and will perform better in 2008, but I can't help thinking that the industry is just passing them by. As being first to market with 64-bit x86 chips (now called x64), AMD seems to have really mucked up dual-core and now quad-core computing. They may never recover.
Microsoft Places Ads in Windows Mobile Web Portal
It's only a matter of time before they sell ads in my dreams. Microsoft this week began placing advertisements in the US version MSN Mobile Web portal, which can be accessed from Windows Mobile-based portable devices. (The company already shows ads in the Japanese and European versions of the portal.) The good news is that more capable devices with larger screens actually get more sophisticated ads, so at least your investment there is being put to good use. What's next, you ask? Location-based ads, of course. Of course.
It's a Hit: Zune Shortages Confirmed
Market research firm iSuppli has confirmed that Microsoft's Zune 80 portable media player is indeed on back order, with supplies rare at any retailers around the US. The reason for the shortage is somewhat surprising, however: iSuppli says that Microsoft underestimated demand for the high-end Zune and ordered a conservative number of devices, largely because the previous generation version, the Zune 30, sold so poorly last year. But now users are clamoring for the device, and there just aren't enough being made. The situation probably won't sort itself out until next year, iSuppli says.
Nintendo Loses Over $1 Billion Thanks to Wii Shortages
And speaking of devices that aren't being manufactured quickly enough, the runaway success story of both this year and this holiday season, of course, is the Nintendo Wii, which has been in heavy demand for over a year now. This situation is unparalleled in the history of the toy industry, which has seen its share of one-hit wonders, but never anything that's been sold-out two holiday seasons in a row. Analysts point out that even hugely-hyped devices like the iPhone don't compare in any way to the Wii: Even though customers stood in line to get iPhones back in June, the devices were still readily available the next day. What's really amazing about the Wii, though, is the money that Nintendo is leaving on the table: Though the company now makes almost 2 million Wiis a month, up from 1 million in January, they could easy sell two or three times that number. And that means Nintendo will walk away from $1-1.3 billion in additional revenues this year, all because it can't make enough of the devices. Wow.
Microsoft Unconcerned About Michael Bay
Last week, I mentioned that director Michael Bay was offering up some X-Files-esque conspiracy theories about Microsoft's underhanded support of HD DVD. This week, Microsoft says it's unconcerned. Stephen McGill from Microsoft UK told GamesIndustry.biz that "Bay is "allowed his personal thoughts, but for us we're focused on HD-DVD movies working with great partners, and we wouldn't have that offer for five free movies if we didn't believe in that format." To be fair, the mercurial Bay, who is all over the map on this issue, later made a corrective blog post of sorts where he claimed to support both HD DVD and Blu-Ray and wasn't concerned about which format won in the marketplace. That said, if Microsoft would like to hand me a $100 million check, I'd be happy to support HD DVD. Just a thought.
Google Ships New IE Toolbar
Google this week shipped a beta version of its next generation IE toolbar, which wouldn't normally be an interesting topic per se, but for one crucial feature. It supports settings synchronization so that you can install the toolbar on multiple PCs and ensure that it's configured exactly the same way on each, automatically. I think this kind of functionality is crucial, and it follows an earlier feature that lets you store bookmarks up in the cloud in the same way, rather than trap them locally on a single PC. Google Toolbar 5 for IE is now available in beta form from the Google Web site (make sure you navigate there in IE).