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

IE 9 Will Require Windows 7 SP1

Microsoft confirmed this week that Windows 7 users who want to install the final version of its upcoming Internet Explorer (IE) 9 web browser will need to have Windows 7 SP1 installed first. (Windows Vista users will need SP2, which is still the current service pack for that OS.) Which is interesting because my sources at Microsoft previously told me that Windows 7 SP1 won't ship until the first half of 2011—possibly as late as April. Honestly, given the quality of the IE 9 Beta, I was starting to think that a late-2010 release was possible. (And, indeed, Windows 7 SP1 was originally scheduled for a November release.)  I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens.

Oops! IE 9 Is Good ... Maybe Too Good

One weird and unexpected little backlash from the IE 9 Beta is that the browser is so good that some enterprise customers are considering holding off on their Windows 7 deployments until the new browser is ready. Doy! This happens just as Microsoft had convinced customers not to wait for Windows 7 SP1 before deploying the new OS. So, the software giant has begun some not-so-subtle backtracking on its IE 9 messaging. "Until the final code of Internet Explorer 9 is released to the web, we recommend businesses first move to Windows 7 Enterprise with Internet Explorer 8 \\[Editor's note: Microsoft's emphasis\\] so they can immediately benefit from the enhanced security, manageability, web standardization, and lifecycle support that Internet Explorer 8 brings to enterprise browsing," Microsoft General Manager Rich Reynolds wrote in a blog post this week. "Any investments today in deploying Internet Explorer 8 will put you on the best path to transitioning to Internet Explorer 9 in the future." That will teach Microsoft to actually deliver a high-quality product. Shame on you!

Visual Basic Is Coming to Windows Phone

Microsoft has made no secret of the fact that it will continually improve Windows Phone over time, and one of the things that was discussed right up front is that Microsoft would improve the development environment to include languages other than C#. Well, that improvement is coming much more quickly than expected: This week, developers can download a Community Technology Preview (CTP) of the Visual Basic for Windows Phone Developer Tools. Visual Basic is infamous for its simplicity, though I would note that this is a bit overblown in the days of managed code and .NET. But it's still a bit simpler than C#, and certainly more popular. So this could dramatically increase the already-swelling ranks of Windows Phone developers. And that is good stuff no matter how you look at it.

Microsoft Updates Hotmail

Microsoft on Thursday started rolling out some interesting new features for its web-based Hotmail email service. New features include USPS, FedEx, UPS, and DHL package tracking via ActiveViews, chatting with Facebook friends over Messenger Companion, easy photo sharing for users outside the United States (where this feature was previously made available), the addition of Dailymotion and Justin.tv video playback from within email messages (joining Hulu and YouTube), and embedded folders for you micromanaging maniacs.

Microsoft (Also) Updates OWA

Speaking of Microsoft updating its consumer-oriented online services, the software giant also updated Office Web Apps (OWA), the second time it's done so since the service launched mid-year. This week's update includes quicker access to the individual web apps, the ability to embed Excel and PowerPoint documents in a blog or website, and the ability to view Excel workbooks from a mobile phone (joining Word and PowerPoint document viewing). OWA is also rolling out in new locales, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Russia, and Switzerland.

Halo: Reach Continues Its Also-Ran Status

It should have been the biggest game of the year, and as I note in my own review, it is a fine, fine game. But Halo: Reach just can't shake an inconvenient truth: It's not as big a deal as the most recent games in the Call of Duty series. Previously, I reported that Halo: Reach had the second-biggest video game opening in history, behind last year's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Well, this week, Halo: Reach continued its streak: It was the number-two most popular game on Xbox Live. Number one, you ask? Why, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, of course, which—despite being almost a year old—is still kicking butt and taking names online. The reason for this is simple, I think: Modern Warfare 2 offers the superior multiplayer experience, and that's where the longevity really comes into play. The Halo: Reach single-player campaign is great, but you pretty much play it once and then never look back.

Dell: Look, Another Stupid Tablet!

One-time PC great Dell is busy foisting Android-based tablets on the public these days, and this week the company announced another one. It will offer a 7" version of its Dell Streak tablet—which is currently available in a too-big-to-be-a-phone/too-small-to-be-a-tablet 5" version—later in the year. Companies (mostly Apple) are expected to sell about 15 million touchscreen tablet computers this year, so you can see why Dell wants in. After all, PC makers are going to sell only about 375 million PCs this year.

For 2.5 Wonderful Hours, No Privacy Violations on Facebook

Facebook did the unthinkable for two and a half wonderful hours this week: For the first time in its history, it didn't violate any of its subscribers' privacy. And how did Facebook achieve this technological and moral apex? Why, by turning itself off. The service underwent its longest-ever outage on Thursday, preventing stalkers, ex-boyfriends, and creepy 40-somethings from checking up on their, um, loved ones. To fix the underlying problem, Facebook had to perform an action that's familiar to almost any PC user: It pulled the plug and rebooted. Next time, I recommend just the first half of that solution. Or at least start taking privacy more seriously. Either way.

This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast

Leo and I recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on Thursday. It should be available by the weekend on iTunes and the Zune Marketplace, in both audio and video formats, as always.

But Wait, There's More

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