An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news ...
Microsoft Has Apparently Finalized SP1 for Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2
According to Tom Warren at winrumors.com, Microsoft has finalized SP1 for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. Tom notes that the final build number is 7601.17514.win7sp1_rtm.101119-1850 and that it will be made available to the public as soon as today. I had previously heard that SP1 wouldn't ship until later in the quarter—perhaps even as late as April—so if this is true, that's an amazing ramp-up. Microsoft originally intended to deliver SP1 by November, in time for TechEd Europe, but a bug on the server side of the service pack delayed the release into 2011. Regardless of the timing, it's worth noting that SP1 isn't a major release for Windows 7 and consists largely of aggregated hot-fixes that were previously released separately. SP1 is, however, a major update for Server 2008, adding two new features: RemoteFX and Dynamic Memory for Hyper-V.
Record-Setting December for Xbox 360 ... but Good Enough Only for Second Place
Microsoft experienced its best-ever month for Xbox 360 console sales in December, selling 1.9 million units before effectively running out of stock (the message being that it could have sold more if there were more to sell). The console also finished strong for the final quarter of 2010, selling 3.27 million units for that time period. By comparison, Sony sold 1.2 million PlayStation 3 consoles for third place in December, but when you consider that the Xbox 360 had a record quarter largely because of excitement around the Kinect motion sensor, that's not too shabby either. And let's not forget the Nintendo Wii. Nintendo's largely forgotten console managed to sell 2.36 million units in December, enough for the number-one spot and enough to put a halt to any realistic celebrating in Redmond over that little record. Wah wah waaaaah. Want to rub it in even more? Nintendo also sold 2.5 million DS units. Even Nintendo's aging mobile platform is killing the Xbox 360 in unit sales. Another problem for Microsoft is the current quarter: To meet demand for December, Microsoft had to take from its January and February console stockpiles. That means it's going to come up short for those two months, as well, leading to further lackluster sales for the beginning of 2011.
Video Game Sales: Up in December, but Down for 2010
According to NPD, December was the best-ever month for video game sales, but 2010, as a year, was down from the previous year. And that's the second year in a row in which the numbers have fallen. What is this, 1983?! NPD reports that total video game sales for 2010 came in at $18.6 billion, down 6 percent from 2009's $19.7 billion, which was down 8 percent from 2008's $21.4 billion. And PC-based gaming continued its decline, dropping 5 percent to $2.53 billion. That's right: PC gaming accounts for only 13.4 percent of total video game revenues. It's like the Mac of the video game world.
Microsoft Provides Workaround for IE Vulnerability
This week's regularly scheduled set of monthly security patches from Microsoft didn't include one fix that many people were expecting. But Microsoft has semi-addressed that problem—a critical vulnerability in all supported versions of its Internet Explorer (IE) browser—with a separate workaround. And despite the technical nature of the flaw (and of the fix), Microsoft was kind enough to package the fix in a friendly "FixIt" installable that makes a small change to a shared Windows library every time it's invoked by IE. The bad news: It slightly slows IE startup time, which, if you're using IE 8 or older, you won't notice anyway. It's worth looking into until the official fix becomes available.
RIM to Sell 1 Million PlayBooks in Q1 2011
BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) expects to ship 1 million units of its forthcoming PlayBook tablet in the current quarter, based on industry sources with access to the company's supplier data. That's not too shabby when you consider that the PlayBook isn't even shipping until March, which is, of course, the final month of Q1 2011. Furthermore, the initial PlayBook version will be Wi-Fi only, with a 3G version coming a month later. On a related note, these same sources expect Motorola in Q1 2011 to ship as many as 800,000 units of its Xoom tablet, which is based on Android 3 and should ship in the same timeframe.
Intel Surges Again, This Time on Server Chip Sales
Chip giant Intel reported record quarterly and yearly results this week, posting a net income of $3.4 billion on revenues of $11.5 billion for the most recent quarter and a net income of $11.7 billion on $43.6 billion for the year. That last figure is up a whopping 24 percent year-over-year, and Intel credits the boom times on expanding PC sales (up dramatically to 350 million units in 2010), especially with its corporate customers, and to server sales. In many ways, Intel's experience is a barometer for the tech industry and a sign that the PC industry—especially the corporate world—has finally crawled out of the near-Depression of 2008-2009.
Microsoft Mocks Google's Decision to Can H.264 in Chrome Browser
Google quietly revealed this week that it would remove support for the industry standard H.264 video format from its popular Chrome web browser, replacing it with the widely derided (but open) Google format WebM. Tim Sneath, a Windows and web evangelist at Microsoft, took this move as an opportunity to mock Google, noting in a blog post that doing so would be like replacing English with Esperanto or (LOL) Klingon. "Though English plays an important role in speech today," he writes, imitating Google's announcement, "as our goal is to enable open innovation, its further use as a form of communication in this country will be prohibited and our resources directed toward languages that are untainted by real-world usage." You know, Microsoft has already released an H.264 plug-in for Firefox, since Mozilla was silly enough to ignore the standard as well. Maybe the company could do so for Chrome.
Firefox 4 ... Finally Coming in February. Maybe.
Speaking of Firefox, Mozilla now says that the final release of its next web browser will happen in February, after it delivers an unprecedented eleventh beta version of the product. Firefox 4 has been in development for so long, and has been delayed so many times, I can't even keep it straight. And it makes the two-year development time of IE 9 look reasonable by comparison. Well, not really. I think the next thing these companies need to work on is time to market. But at least both IE 9 and Firefox 4 are solid releases.
This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast
Leo and I recorded the latest episode of the Windows Weekly on the usual day (Thursday) this week, so it should become available, as always, by the weekend on the Zune Marketplace, in iTunes, and wherever else quality podcasts are found, in both audio and video formats. Whew!
But Wait, There's More
We are closed Monday because of the Martin Luther King holiday. See you Tuesday!