An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including the long-awaited back to school season, Microsoft's first Seinfeld/Gates ad, some EU insights, another Netbook improvement, Opera silliness, and much, much more...
The kids went back to school this week, or as I call it, "the most ... wonderful time ... of the year." They don't share my enthusiasm. Nor my love for the "na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, hey-hey, goodbye" song. Oh well.
I'm heading to the Seattle area Saturday morning for about a week, and will be visiting the Microsoft campus for a day or two and attending a Microsoft virtualization event. I'm most excited about catching up with friends, however. I haven't been there in a while, which is unusual.
Leo and I recorded another episode of the Windows Weekly podcast this week. It should be available sometime soon if it isn't already.
But wait, there's more. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/thurrott), Friendfeed (http://www.friendfeed.com) and the SuperSite Blog (http://community.winsupersite.com/blogs/paul/default.aspx).
Microsoft's First Seinfeld Ad Debuts
Microsoft's first TV ad with comedian Jerry Seinfeld and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates debuted last night to mixed reviews. But to be fair, I think it's kind of cute, plus it's only the first in a series of ads, so relax if you were expecting something more in-your-face. Remember, this is Seinfeld and Gates we're talking about here. It's like they're going to take the "I'm a Mac" guy out back and give him a long-overdue beating. (Debates about violence aside, at least admit that you've considered it.) If you missed the ad on TV--and let's face it, you did as it was attached to a Giants football game--you can see it now on YouTube:
A Few Other Thoughts About Microsoft's Ads
I've already gotten a crazy number of emails from people asking, "You mean they spent $300 million on *this*?", referring to the Seinfeld/Gates ad. Come on people, you're better than that. This is just the opening salvo in a $300 million ad campaign, not the sole commercial. And yeah, TV time is expensive. I suspect we're going to be seeing a lot of the pair on TV in the weeks ahead. And honestly, anything to cut through the Apple noise is welcome at this point. Microsoft executive Bill Veghte described the ad as an "icebreaker" in an email to Microsoft employees yesterday. "Telling our story means making significant investments to improve the way consumers experience Windows," he wrote. "To that end, we are focused on making improvements at practically every consumer touch point, from the moment they hear about the Windows brand in our advertising to how they learn more about Windows products online; from how they view Windows and try it at retail to how they use the entire range of Windows offerings across their whole life." Exactly.
EU Ruling Against Microsoft Was a 7/6 Split
It turns out that the EU's antitrust decision against Microsoft in 2007 was a close call. Judges from the EU Court of First Instance narrowly voted to charge the software giant with antitrust abuses in a vote that was 7 for and 6 against. Since then, of course, Microsoft has settled the case, but this week's revelation about the closeness of the vote has caused some to opine that Microsoft would have been successful had it tried to appeal the decision. (Microsoft did appeal a previous 2004 ruling that included, among other things, a $720 million fine.) And the EU has clearly been emboldened by its success against Microsoft, which I find to be the more important issue here. EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes, a prominent and over-the-top Microsoft critic, has since announced several spurious investigations against the software giant. Microsoft, however, remains circumspect about the 2007 decision, and says simply that the court's decision was "clear."
Microsoft Increases NetBook Allowances Yet Again
And eventually, these things will simply be able to run Windows Vista and we can be done with this silliness. You may recall that Microsoft has continued the sale of Windows XP Home for another year, but only on low-performance PCs like Netbooks. In order to ensure that XP isn't being used for other types of devices, Microsoft has attached a number of caveats for the XP license to PC makers, setting restrictions on various hardware capabilities. But as PC makers have started actually building these things, they've run into various technical roadblocks and Microsoft has been very accommodating, increasing their limits on various components again and again. The latest example is hard drive size: Previously restricted to 80 GB or smaller, PC makers are now able to use a 160 GB hard drive in a so-called Netbook PC if they'd like. Other limits, of course, like the 1 GB of RAM or being restricted to low-performance CPUs, are more serious, and more limiting.
Microsoft's Xbox Moves Aimed at Preserving its Number Two Status
When Microsoft cut the price of its Xbox 360 console, and dramatically, this week, I was ecstatic: The device has been far too expensive for far too long, and by keeping the price at the previous levels for so long, Microsoft has allowed Sony's PlayStation 3 (PS3) to catch up from a sales perspective. But let's be serious here. Microsoft is never going to catch market leader Nintendo. So rather than see the price cuts in that light, I think we should all admit what this is really about: Microsoft would like to finish off this generation of video game consoles with a second place finish. This would improve on its third place finish from the previous generation, of course. But it would also humiliate Sony, which was previously the dominant player. Can they do it? I have to be honest here: I don't think so. If anything, I expect Sony to follow with its own price cuts, and if it has to lose money on the PS3, so be it. Meanwhile, Nintendo doesn't have to do a thing: At its current price point, the Wii will simply continue to dramatically outsell the competition.
You Know It's Time to Give It Up When...
So Google unveiled its new Chrome Web browser on Tuesday. And as of Thursday, there were already more people using Chrome than are using the Opera browser. I've often opined that I don't understand the point of Opera, and that was true back when they charged for it, it was true back when they went free, and it's true now. I guess the mobile version is decent, but seriously. That ship has sailed. It's time to move on. Opera has less than 1 percent market share. It's been around forever. It's just not going to happen.
Dell Looking to Dump PC Factories
Back when Dell was running roughshod over the PC industry, it built factories all around the world, seeking to minimize the time between a customer's order and its arrival at their front door, regardless of where they lived. Today, the market dynamics have changed, and while Dell's factories are mostly geared towards making desktops, most customers are now buying portable computers. So Dell has a plan, and yes, if you know the company at all, you know it's all based around the notion of saving money. It hopes to sell most of the factories to contract PC makers who will then make PCs for Dell. And, knowing Dell, I'm sure they'll play these contract PC makers against each other, always looking for the best possible deal. They're fun like that.
Microsoft revamps Windows.com
As was the case with the relaunch of WindowsLive.com, Microsoft has taken the designer's pen to Windows.com and come up with something really attractive. Check it out, it looks great.