Microsoft Planned New York XP Launch All Along
Although Microsoft planned to hold the Windows XP launch in New York City even before the September 11 attacks, some confusion surrounds Microsoft's choice of the embattled city for the Windows XP launch, specifically among XP enthusiasts who thought the company would hold the launch at its Redmond campus. Although the Windows 95 launch is an obvious exception, the company rarely holds major product launches on its campus because most people who would attend would need to travel a great distance; and in this case, the company never seriously considered holding the XP launch there. In fact, New York was the number-one spot all along, and when I discussed this site with someone from Microsoft a few months ago, we both agreed that the company could hold the event in Madison Square Garden if it wanted to. So the only weird thing about the XP launch is that Microsoft is holding it in such a small venue (the Marriott Marquis Theatre). Now Microsoft tells me that many satellite launch sites will make up the difference and let the launch reach a far wider audience . . . all without forcing most people to travel. Microsoft chose New York some time ago; the only question was whether the city still wanted the company to come so soon after the recent tragedy.

Still the Richest, But Not as Rich
If you're worried about Bill Gates' declining fortunes, fear not. He's still the richest man in the world, according to Forbes. But Gates saw his fortune fall, year-over-year, from $63 billion in 2000 to a paltry $54 billion this year. Investor Warren Buffett inched past last year's number two, Larry Ellison, as Ellison fell into fourth place. Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen is third. Since Forbes compiled the list, each of these people has lost a significant amount of money, however. According to a CNN report, Gates' net worth is now less than $45 billion, which means he can now buy and sell each one of us only twice.

Gates, Ballmer Get Raises
In related news, Gates and coconspirator Steve Ballmer received rather healthy pay raises this year, despite the general market downturn. Gates got a 13 percent raise to $495,000, and Ballmer is up 15 percent to $495,000. Both Gates and Ballmer saw their cash bonuses fall, year-over-year, from about $200,000 each to about $171,000 this year. But both executives made it big on options, and it doesn't look as though any nonexecutives at Microsoft will make a killing this year, thanks to Microsoft's tanking stock.

Apple to Release Mac OS X 10.1; Still Lags Windows
This weekend, Apple will release Mac OS X 10.1, a major update to the prerelease version of OS X that shipped publicly in March. OS X is Apple's stab at a world-class, secure, and stable OS, and on that note, it's successful. But then, Microsoft has had such an OS for some time, and the Windows 2000/NT family recently saw its third major release when Windows XP shipped on new PCs last Monday. XP users will see a lot of familiar things in OS X, including digital-media integration, DVD/CD playing and burning, a much-improved UI, and several other changes that seem to be pulled straight from the XP playbook. There's a big difference between XP and OS X, however, and that's the customer base. As good as it is, I don't expect OS X 10.1 to make a dent in the number of people using Windows.

Microsoft Offers Free Preview of Mac Word X
That said, Mac OS X is still quite compelling. As proof, note the number of cool OS X-specific applications that developers will release, most in the near future. One such application is Microsoft Word X for Mac, which will be part of the Office v. X for Mac suite that ships this November. OS X 10.1 users can download a free preview of the new application from the Microsoft Web site and check out its new look and feel and other new features. This application is one cool-looking word processor.

XP Embedded on Tap
Microsoft will launch the embedded version of its Windows XP OS, coyly dubbed Windows XP Embedded, this November at the Windows Embedded Developers Conference in Las Vegas. XP Embedded is a component-based version of XP, designed for smart and connected embedded devices, which contrasts sharply with devices such as Audrey, eVilla, the MSN Companion, and every other dumb and connected device manufacturers have created thus far. Let's hope XP Embedded ushers in a new era of devices we can actually care about.

Microsoft Releases Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer
Microsoft's new wireless IntelliMouse Explorer hit store shelves earlier this week, giving users a new wireless design and more accurate optical technology than the wired IntelliMouse that shipped a few years ago. The new mouse offers a new ergonomic shape and five customizable buttons, but it requires . . . batteries. Boo.

Stardock Releases XP-Compatible WindowBlinds 3
This week at Microsoft, Stardock announced WindowBlinds 3, a new version of its award-winning WindowBlinds product that integrates with Windows XP--but also works with previous Windows versions. WindowBlinds 3 lets you modify the Windows UI in ways that were previously impossible, and it's a seriously cool tool. Check it out at the Stardock Web site.

Yet Another Alternative Office Suite on the Way . . .
I'm not sure who asked for yet another Office suite that fails to live up to the standards Microsoft Office set, but here it is. Gobe, which previously delivered software solutions for the dead Be platform (get it? Go Be), announced recently that the company will deliver its next all-in-one productivity suite, Gobe Productive, for Windows and Linux. Gobe Productive has one advantage over Microsoft Office: The company is offering a "Gobe Family License" that lets users install the suite on every computer in a home, plus one take-to-work laptop. For more information, visit the http://www.gobe.com.

Sun Offers Passport Alternative
Sun Microsystems and several other companies presumably in league with the devil announced this week that they will create an alternative Internet-authentication system that will compete with Microsoft's beleaguered Passport. Dubbed Liberty Alliance (and, frankly, this name is where the devil tie-in comes--give me a break), the new system will offer single sign-on convenience similar to Passport but will store user information with various competing companies, giving control of the information to the user. A consortium of companies, including Bank of America, eBay, General Motors, Nokia, and others, are backing the system.

Intel, Rambus
I love you, I love you not . . . You know, when Intel introduced that Pentium 4 chipset that supported standard (and inexpensive) SDRAM, I thought that was the end of RAMBUS and its expensive RAM solution. Well, I was wrong. Intel announced recently that the company signed a 5-year pact with RAMBUS to continue sharing patents, an agreement that immediately resuscitated RAMBUS' waning stock price. "This is a great deal for RAMBUS," said Avo Kanadjian, a company vice president, in a moment of supreme understatement. Whether this is a great deal for anyone else remains to be seen.

Sony Cuts PS2 Price in Europe, No Price Cut for US
Sony announced that it will cut the price of its PlayStation 2 game system in Europe and Australia by 26 percent to $293. But the United States won't see a price cut, the company says, despite the impending release of rivals Microsoft Xbox and Nintendo Gamecube. Then again, Sony originally fleeced users in Europe and Australia. When the Sony released the PlayStation 2, it cost a lofty $440, well above the $299 US price. Yikes.