An Often-Irreverent Look at Some of the Week's Other Stories

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Short Takes Blog

Short Takes - Critics: Microsoft's "Open" Office Format Not So Open
- Defining Success for Microsoft Xbox 360
- No Demand for Windows XP N Editions
- Sony Sued for Shipping CDs with Malware
- Google Gives the Gift of Reading
- TiVo Goes to iPod, PSP
- Apple iTunes Moves into Top 10
- Search Is Number 2
- South Korea Delays Microsoft Ruling
- Windows Leads Server Market

==== Short Takes Blog ==== by Paul Thurrott, thurrott@windowsitpro.com

If you're a bit confused by seeing Short Takes on Wednesday, you're not alone. (Well, I'm confused for a number of reasons besides that.) This week we're celebrating Thanksgiving in the United States, which means we won't be publishing newsletters on Thursday or Friday. So it's the end of the week here. Kind of.

However, if anything of note happens over the next few days, I'll post to the WinInfo Web site. And by the end of the week, I'll publish more content on Microsoft Xbox 360 and Windows Server 2003 R2 to the SuperSite for Windows.

Yes, it's been a busy, if short, workweek. Our quick trip to Paris over the weekend went swimmingly, so my wife and I consider that experiment a success. However, Monday, which is typically the busiest day of the week for me, was a disaster, as I had to write all my regular pieces and finish my epic Xbox 360 review (it clocked in at just under 11,000 words) in spite of my lack of sleep. The next time we do something like this, I'm going to try and write my Monday pieces early ... and then take most of that day off.

Speaking of being way behind, I've yet to make a decent effort at answering my email backlog, so if you're awaiting a response, I apologize. A weird Catch-22 occurs when I go away: I don't want to spend my vacation working on a computer, but if I don't at least check email regularly, it piles up at the rate of over 100 email messages a day. I didn't even see a computer the entire time I was away, so the result was predictable. I hope I can get caught up soon.

And speaking of getting caught up, November flew by quickly. We woke up to snow on the ground this morning, which is as accurate a sign that winter is coming as anything. To be truthful, this is the second snowfall we've had this season--the first occurred back in October, though we experienced several 60-degree days shortly thereafter--but winter's arrival is inevitable, as is the madness of the upcoming holiday shopping. I guess I'm looking forward to it.

Happy Thanksgiving.

==== Short Takes ==== An often-irreverent look at some of the week's other stories,
by Paul Thurrott, thurrott@windowsitpro.com

Critics: Microsoft's "Open" Office Format Not So Open Microsoft's decision to submit Microsoft Office 12 data formats to an international standards organization hasn't really done much to sway its critics. Sam Hiser, a Linux consultant whose opinion I trust, offers in his blog a line-by-line interpretation of Microsoft's agreement not to sue developers and others who choose to use these formats. His conclusion may be shocking to some: Microsoft's agreement applies only to the XML-based formats in Microsoft Office 2003 and not those in Office 12, and as Office 12 is a full year away from release, Sam says that the Microsoft announcement is pure public relations baloney aimed at freezing the market and diminishing chances that the competing OpenDocument format will gain traction. I'd be surprised at his conclusion if only Microsoft hadn't done that kind of thing many times in the past. Anyway, Sam's posts on this topic make good reading. http://www.plexnex.com/

Defining Success for Microsoft Xbox 360 So the launch of Microsoft Xbox 360 is off to a roaring start, with huge lines of people waiting outside retail stores hoping to purchase the few units for sale. But how does one define "success" for Microsoft and the Xbox 360 game system? Does it mean beating Sony's Play Station 3 and Nintendo's Revolution game systems in the market? Some suggest that success for the Xbox 360 means outselling its predecessor, which sold over 22 million units worldwide. But here's another bellwether of (early) success: If the Xbox 360 doesn't outsell the PlayStation 2 during the period before the release of PlayStation 3, I'm not sure how anyone could call Microsoft's Xbox 360 launch successful.

No Demand for Windows XP N Editions Here's a shocker: The stripped-down version of Windows XP that the European Union (EU) forced Microsoft to offer in Europe isn't exactly a best seller. In fact, the Windows XP N Edition, as the version is called, isn't even carried by some major retailers and PC makers in Europe. It turns out there's no demand for a version of XP that's missing key features yet offers no savings over the original. I think we can conclude two things from this: One, governments shouldn't be "designing" software. And two, you can't sell a stripped-down product for the same price as the original. Sony Sued for Shipping CDs with Malware If you thought that Sony's rootkit CD fiasco couldn't get any worse, you apparently forgot about lawyers. This week, two major lawsuits were filed against Sony BMG Music Entertainment for its decision to include hidden malware on some of its consumer music CDs. Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF--an advocacy group) and the Texas Attorney General filed separate lawsuits accusing Sony of violating state consumer laws and trading in malicious software. I can't stress my opinion here strongly enough: Sony should be held accountable for its actions, and if it's lucky--really lucky--this event will convince the company to stop screwing over consumers in a lame attempt to over-protect its ailing music business. Sony is an embarrassment.

Google Gives the Gift of Reading We've all questioned Google's motives for wanting to scan the contents of books, but give the company some credit. Google is giving back, too. This week, the online giant gave a $3 million gift to The Library of Congress to help it begin building a world digital library that will collect digital versions of the most significant documents from around the world. The project is modeled after the American Memory project, which has been digitizing notable American documents for the past decade. "We're trying to recreate the memory of cultures that have much longer memories than we do," Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said. "The whole point is to get a world digital library that will bring, free of charge to anyone with Internet access, a series of Web sites that will seamlessly integrate materials of different cultures as much as possible," See, technology isn't always evil, like Skynet and "Microsoft Bob." Sometimes it's wonderful, like my son's cochlear implant. And this.

TiVo Goes to iPod, PSP Earlier this year, TiVo unveiled the TiVoToGo service that lets subscribers copy TiVo-recorded TV content to a PC, a laptop, or (for the six bozos actually using this device) Microsoft's Portable Media Center. This week, TiVo announced a new feature that will be available for the TiVoToGo service early next year. TiVo will provide software (for a nominal fee) that lets subscribers transfer TV content from their PCs to their Apple iPods or PlayStation Portable (PSP) devices. The software fee is required to offset the expense of the MPEG-4 video format required by the iPod and PSP, TiVo says. But it's nice to see this kind of thing being offered to a wider range of customers.

Apple iTunes Moves into Top 10 Step aside Tower Records and Borders: Apple's download-only iTunes Music Store is now selling more music than some traditional brick-and-mortar outlets. According to NPD Group's market research results, Apple iTunes is now the seventh-largest music retailer in the US, ahead of Tower Records and Borders. However, iTunes isn't the most popular online retailer selling music: Amazon.com scored a much higher position than iTunes. NPD Group's study reports that traditional retailers that also sell music online--Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target, FYE, and Circuit City-- outsell iTunes as well. However, this is the first time iTunes made it into the top 10, which is certainly an accomplishment.

Search Is Number 2 And presumably, porn holds onto its tenuous lead. This week, the Pew Internet & American Life Project announced that using a search engine is the second most popular online activity, just ahead of reading the news. Today, about 41 percent of online users use search engines, compared with 30 percent a year ago. And in case you're wondering, email is actually the number 1 activity. Sure it is.

South Korea Delays Microsoft Ruling Today, South Korea's Fair Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it would delay until next week a long-overdue ruling on Microsoft's business practices. The FTC has been investigating Microsoft since 2001, so what's another week, right? The investigation began when Daum Communications, South Korea's leading ISP, complained that Microsoft was violating antitrust laws when it bundled Windows Messenger IM features with Windows XP. Microsoft settled a lawsuit with Daum last year for $30 million, but the FTC said it would still issue a ruling on the alleged violation of antitrust laws. And we're still waiting.

Windows Leads Server Market And finally, Microsoft for the first time saw Windows Server 2003 take the lead in the server market, thanks to growth in the market and healthy sales of Windows 2003. According to IDC, a leading research company, the worldwide server market grew 8.1 percent in the third quarter of 2005, although server revenues increased by only 5.6 percent. Windows Server sales accounted for 36.9 percent of all server revenue in the quarter, compared to 31.7 percent for UNIX and 11.5 percent for Linux. According to IDC, Windows Server growth was fueled in part by Windows NT migrations, which are finally starting to happen in volume.

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