An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including a Windows 7 antitrust review, a Microsoft/Yahoo! meeting, Intel vs. the EU, Xbox 360 spinning in the sales toilet, Google Android vs. iPhone, Windows 2008 vs. Vista performance, and more...
Ah, home. After five straight weeks on the road, I'm happy to be home, happy to never consider traveling ever again. I've been a pretty frequent traveler for a long time now, but I find it odd I've never gotten any good at it. I'm exhausted after this kind of thing, and getting back into my normal routine--which involves going to the gym at least three times a week and playing basketball twice a week--wipes me out even more. It will literally take weeks before I'm up and running normally again. I wish this was easier, I really do.
Not helping matters is that we're remodeling the kitchen, a years-long dream for my wife but something I'm strangely ambivalent about aside from the constant banging and sawing. So my wife is running this show, and my only pleasure in the whole process has involved observing the dawning realization on the part of the carpenter, plumber, and electrician who have been living out of my bombed out kitchen for the past several days that I am absolutely useless to them. So they've stopped asking me questions, even the easy ones, in an apparent bid to be more efficient and just cut to the chase. This is wise on their part, but curiously emasculating for me. I'm too tired to care.
On the good news front, Leo and I recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on the normal day and time for the first time in a while, and we should be on schedule for the foreseeable future. I have no trips planned on the horizon.
Windows 7 Given First Antitrust Review
In an otherwise uneventful court filing related to its antitrust oversight in the United States, Microsoft says that it has given a first test build of Windows 7 to regulators so that they can ensure nothing in the upcoming OS violates the company's consent decree. More specifically, a technical committee created by US antitrust regulators will review the so-called middleware components in Windows 7--Web browser, email, and so on--to make sure they don't violate the terms of Microsoft's US antitrust settlement. And... that's about it. This little bit of miscellanea was greeted by big headlines in the Windows enthusiast community, such as it is, given how little we know about the next version of Windows. Unfortunately, that's all we know: Microsoft is working on it, internally. Moving on...
Finally, Microsoft and Yahoo! Have a Face-to-Face Chat
After a month and a half of dancing around each other, representatives from Microsoft and Yahoo! actually sat down in the same room for the first time this week in a secretive meeting during which Microsoft explained how it would merge the two companies. Microsoft, of course, has made a $44.6 billion hostile takeover bid for Yahoo!. And Yahoo!, of course, has done everything in its power to ignore that bid in the hopes, apparently, that Microsoft will simply forget about it and move on to other things. It's unclear how the meeting went, but we know that it was purely about "vision"--i.e. how the online components of Microsoft and Yahoo! would be melded together if the proposed purchase occurred--and not about legal and financial issues. If there's one thing I've learned over the years it's that communication goes a long way towards understanding: My guess is that Microsoft made more progress with Yahoo! during this one meeting than they did during the entire month and a half that proceeded it.
Intel Defends Itself in Europe
Executives and lawyers representing microprocessor giant Intel appeared before EU regulators this week in a last-ditch effort to fend off antitrust action against the company similar to that which has plagued Microsoft recently. The hearings will continue today with representatives from Intel rival AMD explaining why, in fact, Intel needs to be curbed. "We're trying to convince the \[European Commission\] that this is a competitive market and that it behaves as one would expect a competitive market to behave, to the benefit of consumers," an Intel spokesperson explained. That's so cute, and I'm sure the EC will see things exactly that way, given that Intel sells over 80 percent of the microprocessors sold each year.
EU Worried that Microsoft Actions Might Harm Investments
And speaking of the EU, it turns out some there have concerns that its aggressive pursuit of Microsoft will have a negative effect on corporate investments in Europe. In a speech this week, former EU president of the Court of First Instance Bo "Duke" Vesterdorf said that slowing investment in the EU could result in slowing innovation and consumer suffering, the exact opposite of the effect the EU was shooting for when it went after Microsoft. Amazingly, Versterdorf said he regretted that Microsoft never appealed his court's decision against the company, though such an appeal had little chance of success.
Microsoft Hints at Another Down Month or Two for Xbox 360
It looks like the Xbox 360's sales dip in January wasn't an exception after all: Now, Microsoft is warning that sales in February and March will much lower than anticipated as well, and again the company is blaming supply shortages for the problem. Since Microsoft can no longer claim a unit sales lead over the competition, the company has been forced to look for other silver linings in its Xbox 360 success story. For example, Microsoft says that, thanks to a high attach rate, third party game publishers now make 60 percent of their revenues off of sales of 360 game titles. And with over 10 million Xbox Live users, Microsoft's online network is over three times as popular as Sony's lackluster PlayStation Network. And sure enough, the top 2 selling game titles in February--Call of Duty 4 and Devil May Cry 4--are the Xbox 360 versions, and Xbox 360 games four of the top ten spots. So is the Xbox 360 doing fine or does Microsoft have a crisis on its hands? Let's put it this way: If the 360 can't jump out of 3rd place in a three player market, this is an absolute disaster, sorry.
Google: iPhone Still Full of Restrictions
While admitting that the iPhone is an innovative mobile device, Google this week said that Apple's smartphone was still too restrictive, especially when compared to Google's upcoming Android mobile phone platform: Apple won't let you build certain kinds of applications for the iPhone, says Google's Rich Miner, a group manager for Google mobile platforms, and the iPhone doesn't support true multitasking (i.e. custom applications can't run in the background when the user is doing something else). He's right of course, but I don't think that's going to limit the iPhone's success. In fact, I'd say that Google's got a lot of work to do if it wants to create a platform that's anywhere as close to success as is the iPhone.
Two Also-Rans Combine: AOL Buys Bebo
What to you get when you add zero to zero? Something very close to AOL's purchase of Bebo, a social networking site that's apparently quite popular in the UK. (Hey, that was true of Commodore's Amiga once too, and that didn't exactly pan out.) AOL purchased the company for $850 million this week, a purchase that I fully expect to have absolutely no ramifications at all for the industry, for AOL, or for users. In fact, if everything goes the way I expect it to, this will be the last time we'll ever discuss this topic until it becomes a green question in a future version of Tech Trivia Pursuit.
Year of Desktop Linux? Not Quite: 2/3 Asus EeePCs to Ship with XP
You know you're in trouble when a seven year old Microsoft OS is set to outship your favorite system by a 2-to-1 margin. But that's the prospect facing Linux fans this week as Asus announced plans to ship versions of its popular EeePC with Windows XP instead of Linux. To date, all EeePC devices have shipped with Linux, but in 2008 the company expects over 60 percent of them to include XP instead. Well, maybe 2009 will be the year of desktop Linux. They've only been promising it for a decade now.
Anatomy of a Falsehood: Windows 2008 20 Percent "Faster" than Vista?
There's a bit of baloney floating around the Internet ether right now, stating that Windows Server 2008 is somehow magically "20 percent faster" than Windows Vista and is, thus, the ultimate workstation OS. A story making this claim, from Blorge, was quoted everywhere online so I decided to see how this event unfurled. Sure enough, the title of the Blorge article, "Windows Server 2008 is 20% faster than Vista," seems unequivocal. But jump into this so-called story and you'll see the waffling begin. After configuring Windows 2008 properly (a process that "isn't easy" according to Blorge), the new OS "can be 20 percent faster than Vista." But it doesn't say how this claim was arrived at, linking instead to an Information Week article declaring that Windows 2008 is the "speediest and most secure version of Windows to come along in a decade." But how does InformationWeek determine this? Instead of actually testing the performance of the system itself, this site links to a blog whose tests show that Windows 2008 is "almost 20 percent faster ... in some tests" than Vista. Ah. "Almost." "In some tests." It turns out that the "almost 20 percent" gain occurred in only one performance benchmark, and that test was performed on just a single machine. How much testing was done overall? They ran three benchmarks. Three. And the average performance delta between Windows 2008 and Vista was actually 14 percent, not "almost 20 percent." As for that one test that was "almost 20 percent," the actual performance delta was 16 percent, not 20. But hey, what the heck: There's no reason you can't turn one test, by one blog, performed once on one machine, info definitive proof that Windows 2008 is 20 percent "faster" than Windows Vista. I mean, after all, I'm sure the test was done fairly and correctly the only time it was performed. By whoever did it. But we do know why they did it: A Microsoft blogger, they say, shows us how to turn Windows 2008 into a Vista knockoff, "one that's faster and more scalable than the original." Except that that's not what this blogger wrote at all: Instead, he wrote only that you could make Windows Server 2008 "look and feel" like Vista and made absolutely no performance claims at all. In fact, implementing some of his dubious advice (enabling Hyper-V) will actually turn off power management completely. I wonder if that accounts for that 20 percent performance boost? Sorry, I don't mean to over-think this. Unlike some other people.
Follow the progression, my friends, and discover how myth becomes reality on the Internet:
Culprit #1: Activewin and dozens of other sites where no juicy headline need be scrutinized
Culprit #2: Blorg, where "almost 20%" becomes a definitive 20 percent
Culprit #3: InformationWeek, where it must be true if someone else says they tested it
Culprit #4: xpnet blog, where misquoting a blog leads to 3 tests on a single machine
Misquoted originator of this mess: Vijayshinva Karnure, who may very well have valid reasons for running Windows 2008 as a workstation OS
Read 'em and weep, both for the future of journalism and for the continued right-wing conspiracy (for lack of a better term) against Windows Vista.