An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including a return from Portugal, a Mac sales dive in January update on the Vista Capable suit, Outlook Live free to students, Microsoft Equipt canceled, time to kill IE 6, and so much more...
My family and I spent the past week in Lisbon, Portugal and I have to say we were all quite impressed. Lisbon was sort of an unknown, and compared to cities like London and Paris, it's obviously not on the A-list of tourist destinations. But now that we've seen it, we wonder why. Lisbon was absolutely beautiful, the weather was fantastic, the people were wonderful, and the food and drink were top notch. Lisbon was also notably inexpensive, and we discussed this again and again as bills would arrive at about one-half the cost of similar meals and sites in other cities around Europe. I realize this isn't necessarily the best time to be spending money on a trip, but if you are heading out, give Lisbon a look: I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
The only downside to the Lisbon trip was the last day: My daughter got sick to her stomach the night before our flights home, and then the day we flew was a 19-hour door-to-door death march in which we left the hotel at 4:00 am (11:00 pm at home) and arrived back at home in Dedham at 6:00 pm. This day included four hours of downtime in the Amsterdam airport, which is at least sufficiently stocked for such events, and a surprisingly long 8 hour flight from Amsterdam to Boston (it seems like that flight should be 6 hours long). But we finally made it back bleary-eyed and dizzy-tired, much to the delight of our cats, who proceeded to tear around the house in a welcome home celebration.
Because of the trip, Leo and I delayed the recording of the Windows Weekly podcast to late Friday afternoon. Regardless, it should be up by the end of the weekend as always.
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Mac sales fell in January while Windows PC sales jumped
There's a weird psychology with Mac fanatics, where they believe every positive bit of news about their favorite platform, and use it all as evidence that Macs will one day rule the world. Well, here's one fact you guys can simply ignore: While overall PC sales jumped a whopping 13 percent year-over-year in January, sales of Mac computers actually dropped 6 percent in the same time period. The reason? The average selling price of a Mac is about $1500, or double the average selling price of a PC. On the good news front for Mac fanatics (i.e., you guys can start paying attention again), revenues on the PC side were flat in January because more and more buyers are turning to low-cost netbook computers. Overall, these numbers won't mean a thing to Mac market share, which is still mired at 3.2 percent worldwide and under 5 percent in the US. Yeah, a couple of other inconvenient truths.
Major Microsoft victory in Vista Capable suit
Microsoft this week was handed a major victory in the Vista Capable lawsuit when a US federal court denied the case class action status. Instead, the case will go forward on behalf of the original plaintiffs only. Microsoft had been sued for its Vista Capable marketing campaign, which the plaintiffs described as misleading because branded PCs were not capable of running Windows Vista's highest-end features. Microsoft did lose out on one ruling: It had also asked the court to issue a summary judgment, but that request was denied. "We look forward to presenting our case to the jury, should the plaintiffs elect to pursue their individual claims," a Microsoft spokesperson said.
Microsoft brings Outlook to the cloud for students
Microsoft this week pretty quietly revealed a service called Outlook Live, which brings the Outlook Web Access (OWA) experience to students. Outlook Live is really just a new name for something that's been around a while (Exchange Labs), but with some new features (cross-browser support), and it's part of Microsoft's wider Live@edu campaign, which provides the full Microsoft online experience to students around the world. Outlook Live is an alternative to Hotmail and it includes 10 GB of email storage, a collaborative workspace, a UI that is customizable by the student's educational institution but includes no ads, and email address retention after the students graduate. Best of all, its free for K-12 and higher education. Now that Live@edu can offer Exchange mailboxes instead of Hotmail, I expect it to be even more successful. Learn more at the TechNet Edge blog.
Microsoft Equipped no longer equipped for the future
With Microsoft retiring its Windows Live OneCare security software late last year in lieu of a free solution codenamed Morro, many wondered what the software giant would do with its Equipt package, which combined OneCare with Office 2007 into a subscription offering. Turns out they're retiring that too. Microsoft this week announced that it will stop offering Equipt to customers after April 30, 2009, less than a year after the solution was originally revealed. Because it was a subscription offering, however, there are some questions about what Equipt users will do going forward. Microsoft says they will be offered a prorated refund for unused months of their subscriptions and a free copy of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007. Sounds like a good deal to me.
Finally, a Norwegian browser play I can support
FINN.no, Norway's answer to eBay, this week began a campaign to get users to drop the aging Internet Explorer (IE) 6 and move to a more modern alternative such as IE 7 or Mozilla Firefox. FINN says that IE 6, which is still included in Windows XP, is over 7 years old and is obsolete. But it's still in wide use inside corporations, and FINN has to constantly rework its site to adapt to the older browser. I support this movement, of course: IE 6 is indeed obsolete and you'd be crazy to use such an insecure and functionally deficient browser. I still use and recommend Firefox, but the upcoming IE 8 may give that a run for its money. Virtually any browser would be better than IE 6.
Microsoft delivers RC build of Windows Vista/Server 2008 SP2
Microsoft this week finalized the Release Candidate (RC) build of Service Pack 2 (SP2) for Windows Vista and Server 2008. According to testers, the build number is 6002.16670.090130, and it should become available over the next few days to anyone on the beta. Unlike Vista SP1 (Server 2008 shipped with the SP1 bits), SP2 is not a major functional update, but includes mostly bug fixes and other related updates. On the server side, however, SP2 does add the final version of Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization technology (Server 2008 shipped with a pre-release version.) Expect the final release of Vista/Server 2008 SP2 in April, probably alongside the Windows 7 RC.