An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including a Microsoft and Google Christmas miracle, Microsoft vs. EU, Xbox 360 in Japan, video game & PC sales, a Microsoftie who's still crazy after all these years heads to prison, and much more...

WinInfo Blog 
    by Paul Thurrott, thurrott@windowsitpro.com

I appreciate the sarcasm of Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert, who recently noted that "the Christmas tree is so Christian, it actually predates Christ." Good stuff.

It's hard to buy presents for people who have everything they need. I'm referring, of course, to my kids. Their idea of hardship is when my wife takes a few seconds too long to deliver the chocolate milk. We're going to work on that.

My favorite present to give this year? Photo books from Apple iPhoto; I made several books for friends and family. We still enjoy most of our family photos on the Microsoft Media Center PC in the living room, but photo books are fun for special events such as vacations. Plus, it's as close as I'll ever get to giving a handmade present.

I've spent a good portion of this week working on a lengthy four-part review of Microsoft Windows Vista build 5270, the December Community Technology Preview (CTP) version. The fourth installment will be published today, and then I'll probably publish a review of "Peter Jackson's King Kong" for Xbox 360 right before Christmas (probably on Saturday). That should wrap things up on the SuperSite until after Christmas. Stay tuned.
   http://www.winsupersite.com

Don't believe everything you read in the newsgroups. Actually, strike that. Don't believe anything you read in the newsgroups.

Happy Holidays, everyone. You can view a virtual version of my family's 2005 Christmas card here:
   http://www.winsupersite.com/images/christmas-2005.jpg


Short Takes

Microsoft, Google Settle Over Kai-Fu Lee
   It's a Christmas miracle. Late Thursday, Microsoft announced that it had reached a settlement with Google regarding erstwhile Microsoft employee Kai-Fu Lee. He defected earlier this year from Microsoft to Google, touching off mutual lawsuits between the companies. According to the software giant, Google and Microsoft have reached a "private agreement that resolves all issues to their mutual satisfaction." No word yet on when Mr. Lee delivers his pound of flesh to Bill Gates.

Microsoft Gets Snippy with the EU
   After Microsoft received word from the European Union (EU) that it would face daily fines of $2 million if it didn't conform to the 2004 antitrust ruling against it, Microsoft responded with some incredible statements of its own. Check this out. "We believe today's Statement of Objections is unjustified," a statement issued by Microsoft reads. "The \[European\] Commission has issued this Statement regarding technical documentation we submitted last week, even though by its own admission neither it nor the Trustee have even read or reviewed these new documents ... In the interest of due process, we think it would have been reasonable for the Commission and the Trustee at least to read and review these new documents before criticizing them as being insufficient." Microsoft says it's committed to complying with the EU ruling, though it also is working on an appeal that should keep this case in court long enough for Microsoft to replace Windows with an organically grown OS that's based on carbon extracts.

Xbox 360 Flops in Japan
   We need to tiptoe around this issue--the Xbox 360 has completely flopped in Japan. I don't normally mince words, of course, but I feel this topic needs to be treated with kid gloves because there are thousands of upset consumers in the US who would sell one of their kids to get an Xbox 360 right now. Here's the problem. Japan is the third largest video game market in the world, but the Japanese seem to be interested only in Japanese consoles and games. That means Sony and Nintendo, not Microsoft so much. Just in case you weren't sure the Xbox 360 was a disaster, consider this: Even the original Xbox sold better than Xbox 360, and the original Xbox is considered an unmitigated disaster. I'm pretty sure this lackluster start means that Microsoft, at best, will only retain its worldwide number two position in the video game market for the next several years.

Xbox 360 Responsible for Huge Decline in Video Game Sales
   Don't be jealous, American consumers, because Xbox 360 is causing a disaster right here at home, albeit a disaster of a different kind. It turns out that so many people are waiting to buy Xbox 360 that they're actually holding off on buying games for their current consoles, too. As a result, the video game market will post one of its worst holiday sales seasons in recent memory. Game-making giant Electronic Arts reported this week that its revenues and earnings per share will be "well below" its previous prediction because holiday sales aren't meeting expectations. Of course, WinInfo readers know who to blame for these problems. I'm referring, of course, to Frank Stallone.

Ex-Microsoft Employee Heads to Prison
   Kai-Fu Lee is heading to Google and another ex-Microsoft employee is heading to a place without a celebrity chef or complimentary Segways. Yep, we're talking about the Big House here. Finn Contini, the last of four Microsoft employees who were caught stealing Microsoft software and reselling it on the street, was sentenced to 4 years in prison and fined $7.1 million. The court found Contini guilty of mail fraud and money laundering. Although the crime itself may seem bizarre, hold on, because Contini takes it up a notch. After agreeing to forfeit millions of dollars worth of real estate and property to pay his fine, Contini drove back to a Redmond condo he had just given up and destroyed the interior with a baseball bat. Then, in a startling moment of clarity, he blamed the episode on a psychological disability. The judge, I've read, was not amused or convinced.

The Gateses and Bono are Time Magazine's Persons-of-the-Year
   So the Gateses I get, but Bono? Seriously? This week's Time Magazine has an unlikely threesome on the cover: Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono, the lead singer of dinosaur rock-band U2. The magazine picked the three as Time's 2005 "People of the Year" for their charitable work. The Gates's charitable donations are quickly becoming legion, and it's possible that Bill's billions will some day make him more famous for helping the needy than for becoming the most successful software tycoon of all time. As for Bono, sure he's talented, but his concern over the ravages of malaria combined with the chart-topping success of "Vertigo" was apparently too much for the Time judges to overlook. Or something.

Microsoft Drops IE for Mac ... 2 1/2 Years Ago
   I've read a lot of stories this week about Microsoft's plans to discontinue Internet Explorer (IE) for the Macintosh. This is an interesting story, but it's even more interesting when you realize that this actually happened 2 1/2 years ago. The real story: Microsoft is finally halting support for Mac IE, a product it stopped developing in early 2003. I'm not sure why the arrival of the no-support date (December 31, 2005) triggered any interest. There isn't a Mac user in the world who'd be caught dead using IE.

PC Sales Expected to Slow in 2006
   According to market analysts at IDC, PC sales will slow down in 2006 to about 10.5 percent (IDC will probably adjust this figure about 17 times over the next year). This year, PC sales grew at about 15.8 percent, a decent increase, considering that things bottomed out about 5 years ago. If the 2006 growth estimates stand true, it will be the fourth straight year of double-digit growth for the PC market--meaning annual PC sales should rise to about 300 million units annually by 2009. By 2009, Windows Vista will seem just about as quaint as Windows Millennium Edition (Me) does today, we'll be looking forward to that carbon extract doohickey I was referring to earlier, and everyone will be arguing about how the final version didn't look as nice as the one Microsoft showed at the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2008.