An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including a trip to Phoenix, Halo 3 first week sales, Bungie wants to jump, XP SP3: The Final Service Pack, Zune VP changes, IE 7 vs. WGA, recording industry vs. Minnesota mother, and so much more...
We're in Phoenix, Arizona for the weekend visiting with friends and family. My wife and I lived here for several years in the mid-to-late 1990's, and our son Mark was born here, so he feels some sort of kindred spirit with the place despite having no actual memories of it. Meanwhile, our daughter Kelly, who was born years after we moved back to Boston, had a few interesting questions about Phoenix. The first was, "Do they speak a different language there?" no doubt due to her recent European adventures, and the second was, "Is that the place where it was so hot I had to drink water all the time?" The answer to both questions, of course, is yes.
Leo and I took the week off again because of travel, but we'll be back next week with a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast.
Halo 3 Hits $300 Million in First Week
Microsoft this week reported that first week sales of Halo 3, its latest blockbuster video game title for the Xbox 360, exceeded $300 million, or about 5 million units, making it the best-selling video of the year. (The company previously announced that Halo 3 had generated $170 million in its first 24 hours.) The success of the game also triggered a mini-revival for the struggling console, with weekly sales of the hardware doubling from the previous week. That actually isn't all that impressive: The Xbox 360 is selling at a rate of about 300,000 units a month right now, so a doubling in weekly sales means that Microsoft sold just 150,000 Xbox 360s in the wake of Halo 3's release. What is impressive, frankly, is that 5 million figure: If that's accurate, nearly 50 percent of all Xbox 360 owners have purchased Halo 3. I'm surprised that hasn't been discussed anywhere.
Does Bungie Want to Jump Ship from Microsoft?
The rumor of the week is that Halo developer Bungie, which is currently operated as a nearly autonomous business unit within Microsoft Game Studios, would like to jump ship from the software giant. Apparently, the pampered babies at Bungie are tired of Halo and would like to try something new. Boo hoo hoo. I mean, seriously. Microsoft allowed these guys all the time, money, and isolation from the mothership they required and then marketed the heck out of what has been a middling (if very successful) series of games that, frankly, have each taken far too long to develop. And don't get me started on the disappointing final moments of both Halo 2 and Halo 3. If this rumor is true, Microsoft should cut the cord immediately and let those guys flounder around out in the real world. They're not as cool as they think they are. Cut 'em loose.
XP SP3 to be Final XP Service Pack
Microsoft this week expanded the Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) beta test pool to include those who are already testing Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) and Windows Server 2008. The big news, however, is that XP SP3 will be the final service pack for Microsoft's thorn-in-the-side predecessor to Vista. "As is standard practice for operating systems nearing the end of their sales period, Microsoft will be releasing a final Service Pack for Windows XP in the first half of 2008," a note to new testers this week reads. Note that Microsoft hasn't actually revved the XP SP3 beta: This is the same code that originally shipped previously as the initial SP3 beta.
Zune Team Gets a New VP
In a bid to revive its struggling Zune portable media player business, Microsoft this week reassigned 20-year company veteran Rick Thompson to vice president of Zune business operations. Thompson previously rocketed to success with such projects as the company's initial PC mouse offerings and the original Xbox. And here's how you know he's going to be successful with the Zune too: He's going to leave the "vision and cool" stuff to J Allard, who, let's face it, is the epitome of vision and cool. Just ask him.
The Great IE 7 WGA Controvery
Just about a year after it unleashed the browser, Microsoft this week announced a change in the way it will distribute Internet Explorer (IE) 7. Now, the company will no longer require users to undergo the onerous Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) piracy-check to get the browser, in order "to make it available as broadly as possible to all Windows users." So here's a gut check question: Do you believe Microsoft is doing this to make users safer--IE 7 is, after all far more secure than previous IE versions--or do you think the company is baldfacedly going after market share? Normally, I enjoy the conspiracy thing as much as anyone, but I have to go with the former on this one: IE 7 is already responsible for almost 30 percent of all Web browsing traffic worldwide, and is running at over twice the usage rate of Mozilla Firefox, despite its short time on the market. But really, that's not the important point. I have a hard time believing that Microsoft would sacrifice its anti-piracy stance to gain a few Web browser users. IE 7 is simply a better and safer browser than IE 6.
Recording Industry Wins Piracy Case Against Individual
I'm not sure how I feel about this one: In the first actual courtroom challenge involving the recording industry and an individual accused of willfully pirating music, the recording industry has won big time. A Minnesota mother of two has been ordered to pay $220,000, or over $9200 for each of the 24 songs the recording industry says she illegally uploaded to file sharing sites online. What's astonishing about this, aside from the sheer size of the penalty, is that though this case was just one of over 26,000 that the recording industry began filing against alleged music pirates since 2003, it is the only one that actually made it to court so far. According to the recording industry, most of the people it sued try to ignore the lawsuits or settle to the tune of about $5000 per case.
Microsoft to Launch Unified Communications Products this Month
Microsoft will launch its unified communications products--Office Live Communications Server 2007, Office Communicator 2007, and Office Live Meeting 2007--later this month at a San Francisco event in mid-October, ushering in an era of PC-telephone convergence that, combined with cell phone penetration, can only end one way: With the utter extinction of the traditional landline telephone. Microsoft's unified communications products are impressive, even in 1.0 guise, and they will absolutely obsolete previous generation PBX systems in businesses around the world. I'll more to say about this in the future, but this is a product line to watch.
Microsoft HealthVault Goes Live
And speaking of impressive Microsoft products you've probably never heard of, you're going to want to take a look at Microsoft HealthVault, a new Web service that helps individuals manage their health care data online. The idea is that most people don't really have a good handle on their own health care, and that the current health care system in the US is utterly broken, leading to ignorance by consumers about their options. HealthVault, by necessity, bridges a complicated and controversial gap between what is likely to be many people's most private data and their need to understand what's really going on with their health. The service includes a search engine that is specially tailored for health-related searches while removing obvious search spam, a secure place to store, collect, and share health care information, and an online interface with products and services that will meet the needs of various health issues. This is serious stuff, and one of the rare instances where Microsoft's online business is truly innovating compared to the rest of the industry as well as working with the appropriate partners in this space. Check it out.