An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including Microsoft's not-so-first online store, a PC industry recession, Microsoft's 0 percent financing deal, Sun layoffs and restructuring, Google voice search, Vista Capable, and so much more...

WinInfo Blog

It's been a busy crazy week, but it's coming to a close and not a moment too soon. So I'll keep this one short.

Leo and I actually recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast this week on the right day, if not exactly at the right time, but close enough for horseshoes. Expect the new episode to post at the usual time, which is to say anytime between now and Sunday night.
http://www.winsupersite.com/article/Paul/windows-weekly-podcast.aspx

But wait, there more. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter, Friendfeed and the SuperSite Blog.

Short Takes

Microsoft Launches (a Second) Online Store
Don't be fooled into thinking that this week's launch of The Microsoft Store is Microsoft's first foray into selling its products via an online storefront. And please, dear God, don't try to tell me that they're somehow copying Apple, because they aren't. Microsoft has, in fact, been selling its products via the Windows Marketplace for several years now. And the only big difference I can see between that site and the new Microsoft Store is that the latter only sells Microsoft software and hardware, while the former also offers third party products. So why all the hoo-hah over Microsoft's new store? Because most of the people who write blogs and news articles in this industry have no understanding of the topic they're covering. Yeah, I said it. Even Microsoft got it wrong: In a posting to the Windows Experience Blog announcing the store, a Microsoft employee described the new storefront as "the first online store where you can purchase Microsoft products straight from the source." Which is curious, because I purchased Microsoft AutoCollage from the Windows Marketplace about two weeks earlier. And for the record, the Terms of Use page on that site notes that Windows Marketplace is a "service that Microsoft provides." It's right above a handy copyright notice. Seriously, wake up everyone.

It's Official: The PC Industry is in a Recession
If you're in the market for a new PC and can actually afford such a thing, now is the time to buy. PC makers are offering discounts of about 25 percent on new PCs right now in a bid to jumpstart what is suddenly a very moribund pre-holiday market. How bad is it? PC sales have risen about 12 percent year-over-year in each of the past three quarters, but analysts now expect a 1 percent drop in the coming holiday quarter, compared to previous estimates of a 6 percent jump. And let's not forget the bankruptcy of PC retailer Circuit City and the dire economic warnings that Best Buy just issued. Even microprocessor giant Intel is getting into the game, warning that sales will be "sharply lower" than it previously projected. If I had to place the blame on a single thing, I guess I'd point my finger squarely at Windows 7. That new OS looks so good that people simply don't want to buy a new PC until it ships next year. I hear you, people. I really do.

Microsoft Offers 0 Percent Financing
And speaking of tough economic times, Microsoft this week announced that it will offer 0 percent financing to "qualified" small and medium-sized businesses that wish to purchase $20,000 to $1 million of its business software offerings. Apparently hoping to make up the difference in volume, Microsoft says that the plan is similar to one it piloted in July in Canada. My guess is that few businesses will actually qualify and that those that do don't really need the loan.

Sun Lays Off 5000 Employees, Announces Restructuring
And speaking of tough economic times--oh wait, did I already use that one?--Sun Microsystems this week proved it was still in business by announcing that it still has at least 5,000 employees left to lay off. So it did. The company also announced a massive restructuring, one that I hope will address the fact that it sells products and services that are so out of date with what the market wants that I'm surprised the company is still around. That is, what Sun primarily sells are the types of high-end, expensive servers, based on a proprietary version of UNIX, that are getting destroyed in the market by Windows Server- and Linux-based solutions. Sun warned of a "new reality," but I think the company is a bit behind the curve. We've been racing to this new reality for several years now, guys. But feel free to use the current economic climate as an excuse.

Google Adds Voice Search to the iPhone
Which is curious because they make their own phone now. Anyway, Google has shipped a free iPhone application that lets users speak queries like "Where is the nearest Starbucks?" and "why am I so tragically hip?" into the device and then receive normal textual responses. (What? You thought someone was going to talk back to these people? What is this, Star Trek?) For the record, Microsoft has offered voice services for its own smart phones for a while now. Just a thought.

Court Filing Suggests Intel Really Was Responsible for the "Vista Capable" Debacle
A court filing that was unsealed this week as part of an ongoing class-action lawsuit over Microsoft's purportedly deceptive "Vista Capable" logo program suggests that Microsoft changed the program to appease Intel. Apparently, Intel CEO Paul Otellini complained to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer that Microsoft's original plans for the program would mean that millions of Intel chipsets--and thus PCs--wouldn't qualify for the sticker that compatible machines get. Microsoft changed the requirements to shut up Otellini, but angered many of its own executives as a result. "We are going to be misleading customers," then-Windows chief Jim Allchin complained at the time. "We must avoid confusion. It is wrong for customers." Well, it looks like Allchin hit the nail on the head with that one.

Microsoft Announces, But Does Not Release, a New Games for Windows LIVE Client
When Games for Windows LIVE debuted a few years ago, it was a sad joke and a tired copy of the Xbox Live user interface of the day. This year, Microsoft is updating the service, finally, and dropping the requirement that people pay for the privilege of deathmatching together online. (You know, since PC users can do this for free already anyway.) But they announced that months ago. What's weird about all this is that, this week, Microsoft announced (or "unveiled," as they say) "significant updates to the Games for Windows LIVE online gaming service." Which might fool you into thinking that you could actually download the new Games for Windows LIVE client to your PC and then enjoy those changes, including the online store. Except that you can't. It will ship in early December. I guess they were just reestablishing their intention to ship something. Later this year. Again.

Microsoft's Search Rebate Program Apparently Working
Microsoft this week touted the success of its cashback program for Windows Live Search, noting that if you pay people to use your product, they actually will use it. At least temporarily. Microsoft says that it has snagged almost 13 percent of product searches as a result of the program, compared to its overall search share of 9 percent. Maybe if they doubled the value of the cashback program, they could raise their share to 17 percent. Which would be great, since Google commands about 60 percent of that market, while number two Yahoo! still controls 24 percent. I wonder what those guys are paying people with.