An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news ...

WinInfo Blog

I returned home from Europe on Monday with a cold, then spent the week in a near-coma. The cold is finally starting to clear up today, so I feel like I should be back up to speed just in time to head to New York next Wednesday for the Windows 7 launch and another unrelated Microsoft event early the following week. In fact, because of the staggered nature of the two events, my family is going to join me in New York City a week from today so that we can spend a long weekend there, which should be fun.

If you live in or around New York City, or will be there during the launch, please do come by my Windows 7 launch party, which I'm co-hosting with Neowin's Tom Warren and ZDNet's Ed Bott and Mary Jo Foley. There will be giveaways, including free copies of Windows 7. It's all happening at Antarctica, a bar on the Hudson, starting around 5:30pm on Thursday, October 22. (It's 21 and over only, sorry.) See you in New York!

Leo and I recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast this week on Thursday, following a one-week hiatus. It should be available by the weekend, as usual.

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

Short Takes

Sidekick Incident Has a Happy Ending. Just Not for Microsoft
After informing its Sidekick smart phone users that last week's data loss would be permanent and unrecoverable, Microsoft backtracked over the past several days and began issuing more positive news. Finally, by midweek, Microsoft announced that it would be able to recover virtually all the lost user data—a best-case ending that should have pleased everyone. Well, it didn't: Many Sidekick owners have pledged to ditch their smart phones, and at least two class-action lawsuits (in California and Washington state) are in the making. At least the lawyers will be happy.

First Microsoft Retail Store Could Open Next Week in Arizona
I'm crossing my fingers that it's just like those Gateway stores from a decade ago. OK, not really. But apparently, the first Microsoft retail store could open just in time for the Windows 7 launch on October 22. It's happening at my old stomping grounds in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the Fashion Square mall. Clearly modeled after Apple's successful retail stores, the new Microsoft retail locations will be used to showcase Microsoft products such as Windows, Office, Zune, and Xbox 360. I like the idea, I guess—even more so when I think of the mangled Microsoft displays in Best Buy and other high-trafficked but little-cared-for retail locations.

Second Version of MSE Coming
I've heard from a few people contacted by Microsoft about a new beta version of Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) coming down the pike. It's a private beta, appears to target Windows 7 testers, and will occur on an ongoing basis. It's unclear what the point is, but I wouldn't expect much in terms of radical changes or a new UI. From what I can see, the stay-out-of-the-way behavior in the current MSE is exactly the way it should work.

Hackers Now Targeting OWA
As if we needed another reason to despise Microsoft Outlook Web Access (OWA), security researchers this week announced that an electronic attack is underway against Microsoft's web-based email portal. The attack comes in the form of a malicious email message that poses as an invitation to download a security update. But when users visit the linked site, they download malware instead. (This behavior suggests to me that the attack is actually one that targets stupid people, not OWA, but whatever.) "We are informing you that, because of the security upgrade of the mailing service, your mailbox settings were changed," the email reads. "In order to apply the new set of settings, click on the following link." As always, your number-one defense against online chicanery is common sense.

Google Chrome OS Preview? Um. Not So Much
The blogosphere was agog this week with news that Google had inadvertently leaked a very early version of its mysterious Chrome OS and would hold a special event, at which the code would be formally introduced. Unfortunately, that's not what happened. The leaked code was just for the Chrome web browser, not the Chrome OS. And that event? It was just the latest in a regularly scheduled series of talks that Google provides, and the Chrome part of it focused on browser UI issues only. So much for that.

Microsoft Takes Online Help to Twitter
Microsoft this week unveiled a new Twitter feed aimed specifically at providing help with Windows 7 and other Microsoft products. "We're the official Twitter account for Microsoft Customer Service and we're here to help you find answers and to help escalate your issues!" Ah, I do love the word escalate, but I'm curious how that works with Twitter. Does it escalate important problems to Facebook? And does this take Windows 7's simplicity mantra to a totally new place? Maybe Windows 7 is so simple, it doesn't need to include any help at all. Just open Internet Explorer (IE) and visit Twitter! Which works fine, unless the problem is that you can't get online, I guess.

Google Enters the eBook Market ... Sorta
Google this week announced yet another money-losing service that's subsidized by its advertising business, and this one is focused on electronic books. Dubbed Google Editions, the service will launch in the first half of 2010 and will provide access to eBooks that users can read from any web browser, including those on smart phones. This scheme neatly bypasses dedicated eBook readers like my beloved Kindle (although it does have its own web browser … hmmm), as well as software-based solutions such as Microsoft Reader. Unlike with most of its services, Google will actually sell something via Google Editions (i.e., eBooks), so there will be a revenue potential here. I'm sure it will do just great. After all, Google's non-advertising ventures always make the big bucks. Cough.

Amazon Introduces Same-Day Delivery
Because when you order the latest in a never-ending series of unnecessary gadgets, getting it tomorrow just isn't fast enough. Online retailing giant Amazon.com this week announced that it will offer same-day delivery in certain situations. There are numerous caveats, of course. You must order the product before 10am (or 1pm, depending on the city). You must live in Baltimore, Boston, Las Vegas, New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, or Washington D.C. (coming soon: Chicago, Indianapolis, and Phoenix). And you must, of course, pay extra for the privilege. I'd had a fourth caveat—you must be a tool—but of course this service will appeal to some people and could be a boon for those last-minute gifts. But seriously, I think more restraint is in order. Maybe Amazon.com could adopt an "order it now, then make sure you still want it two days from now" system as well. It could save a lot of grief.