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April 29, 2006

A heretical view on video game consoles

Posted by David Hunter at 10:41 AM ET.

Leaving aside the the wacky new name of “Wii,” Mike Musgrove speculates at the Washington Post that Nintendo may be on to something with their upcoming video game console – it’s sole objective is actually playing games:

It’s almost a radical thought in the video game industry these days: What if a new game console were actually just about the games — and not about having a zillion other multimedia features?

That’s the question posed by Nintendo’s new console, scheduled for debut later this year. The Wii — pronounced “we” — does not feature scorchingly advanced technology, compared with its rivals, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 3. And, unlike the competition, the device does not push a DVD replacement technology or strive to be the living room’s all-purpose media center.

It’s almost as if Nintendo is sometimes in a different industry than Microsoft and Sony.

Maybe it’s the game industry?

Filed under Coopetition, Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony, Xbox

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Microsoft employee reaction to the 3Q earnings report

Posted by David Hunter at 10:18 AM ET.

Scot Hillis at Reuters observes that Microsoft’s disappointing 3Q earnings report is causing turmoil that extends beyond Wall Street in Microsoft profit miss may be latest blow to morale:

Microsoft Corp.’s share price may not be the only casualty of the software powerhouse’s surprise earnings miss.

It might also hit company morale, becoming the latest gripe of employees who are already disillusioned with product delays and a once high-flying stock that has stagnated for the past three years, analysts said.

“There are some folks who have been there for a long time and who will resent the way things are being run as a bureaucracy. And maybe they were there for the big stock run-up and they’re seeing the stock not move now,” said Matt Rosoff, analyst with Directions on Microsoft.

“If you think things are not being run well, then yesterday will lend credence to your arguments,” Rosoff said.

Minimsft, a popular blog run by a Microsoft employee who advocates a drastic slimming-down of the company, lamented the results, exclaiming: “Yee-ouch! Right in the kisser!”

Wryly remarking on the idea that Microsoft could eventually pull out of the doldrums, the anonymous author wrote: “It is always just a few quarters out. For what, the last five years?”

Head on over to MiniMicrosoft yourself to get the full flavor of the anonymous venting going on.

Filed under Employee Retention, General Business, Microsoft

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April 28, 2006

Odds and ends – mostly the former

Posted by David Hunter at 8:43 PM ET.

The folks at the NY Times have developed themselves a custom newspaper reader application for Windows Vista and got Bill Gates to tout it at the American Society of Newspaper Editors convention:

“The Times Reader is a great next step in melding the readability and portability of the newspaper with the interactivity and immediacy of the Web,” said Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman of The New York Times Company and publisher of The New York Times. “We continually look for new ways and the latest technology to deliver our distinctive brand journalism to satisfy our audience’s changing expectations for consuming media.”

Overall, the Times Reader enhances the onscreen reading experience through Windows Presentation Foundation, Microsoft’s advanced display technology in Windows Vista. The text in Times Reader is displayed in columns and formats to fit the size and layout of any computer screen and enables readers to customize the display according to personal preferences, such as font size and content relevance. The Times Reader also uses the same font styles as the printed newspaper, extending the strong brand identity of The New York Times.

An uncharitable view would be that the Times staff is unacquainted with Web browsers and Web programming. On the other hand, the Times seems to have obscure notions of customer lock-in for which a proprietary newspaper reader makes a perfect match.

“The Times Reader is a powerful example of how companies can use software to forge new types of customer connections that span beyond the browser to the desktop and mobile devices,” said Bill Gates, chairman and chief software architect of Microsoft.

Perhaps applications that exploit Vista’s new user interface are in short supply?

All of which puts me in mind of Paul Thurrott’s comment on Nintendo’s decision to brand their next generation videogame console as “Wii” (pronounced “we” or perhaps “whee”):

I’m pretty sure this is actually pronounced “why?”

Finally, for really obscure notions, check out Robert X. Cringely’s latest, For Apple’s Windows Strategy to Work, It Must Replace Microsoft Office and Buy Adobe Systems:

Over the past three weeks, we’ve laid out in this column a sequence of clues and events that suggest Apple is planning to next year take on not only Microsoft’s hardware OEMs, but also possibly Microsoft, itself, by leveraging a vestigial legal right to some portion of the Windows API — in this case, literally the Windows XP API. This bold strategy is based on the high probability that — if something called Windows Vista ships at all next January — it will really be Windows XP SP4 with a new name. Microsoft is so bloated and paralyzed that this could happen, but what’s missing is an Apple application strategy to go with this operating system strategy, because Microsoft’s true power lies not in Windows, but in Microsoft Office. Fortunately for Apple, I believe there is an application plan in the works, and I will describe it here.

I wouldn’t want to spoil the ending, because despite some howlers (“Office is how Microsoft makes most of its revenue.”), it’s quite a page turner. Previous episodes here and here.

Filed under Adobe, Apple, Bill Gates, Coopetition, Executives, Microsoft, Nintendo, OS - Client, Office, Technologies, WPF, Windows Vista

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Microsoft launches Windows Live Shopping

Posted by David Hunter at 7:26 PM ET.

Exemplifing all that online services investment that has Wall Street upset, Microsoft today launched a beta of Windows Live Shopping at

Today we launch the brand new Windows Live Shopping site!

What is it? It is the beta launch of Microsofts Web 2.0 shopping experience, featuring one of the worlds largest product catalogs, user-created content and an easier-to-use interface built on 100% AJAX technology. It uses a unified shopping engine to search or browse almost 40 million products from 7,000 stores ranging from many of the countrys leading retailers to eBay. Results are displayed in an order that is not affected by advertising; merchants cannot pay to have their items show up closer to the top. Users will be able to drag-and-drop items to a shopping list and share lists with friends; see user reviews of products and sellers; and read and create public shopping guides on any subject.

As we have mentioned previously, Windows Live Shopping is MSN shopping with a spiffy new Web 2.0 user interface and features. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support Firefox.

If you consider shopping a team sport, apparently more Web 2.0 social networking is on the way:

What is our vision? In the future, Windows Live Shopping will continue to offer the great comparison shopping services you see today, while also integrating more social and community features that will enable users to better research, share, and have fun with their shopping experiences.

Since online shopping is not exactly a new category, the test will be to see if the new features draw a crowd.

Filed under Beta and CTP, Firefox, MSN, MSN Shopping, Microsoft, Open Source, Technologies, Web 2.0, Windows Live, Windows Live Shopping

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