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December 31, 2006

Microsoft Weekly Miscellany, December 31, 2006

Posted by David Hunter at 12:02 PM ET.

Mary Jo Foley interviews Jeremy Allison who is free to dish on the Microsoft Novell deal now that his tenure at Novell has ended. One of many good lines:

A nagging doubt is that if I had just spoken out louder against the deal I might have been able to change something, but I was too quiet until too late. It’s *hard* to be the one saying the emperor has no clothes, especially whilst listening to others praising the finery of the silk stitching :-) .

I’m sure plenty of folks at Novell have now noticed how chilly it is.

HD-DVD AACS hacked and Studios Take Claims of AACS Crack Seriously. It’s more of an exploit of some specific HD-DVD player software but it works and it means that all currently released titles are vulnerable.

MMS Exploit Released for Windows Mobile – No Patch Available:

And remember, just because it doesn’t look like a computer doesn’t mean it can’t be owned.

More discussion here.

Is this the HTC 2007 Windows Mobile lineup? HTC manufactures most Windows Mobile phones.

The PlayStation 2 Still Rocks:

“The PS2 will have legs well into 2008,” says Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities in Los Angeles. And while Nintendo Co.’s Wii console is getting most of the industry buzz, and the Xbox 360 from Microsoft Corp. has racked up big sales in its year on the market, some say the PS2 might even beat out each of those offerings in 2007. “The PS2 probably has the capacity to sell more than any other gaming” console, says Simon Jeffrey, chief operating officer at game maker Sega of America.

Interesting times ahead.  The first round results will be clear when we get some holiday sales numbers. Also, Microsoft Xbox 360’s updated 65nm CPU delayed to mid 2007.

Yahoo! Answers Captures 96% of Q and A Market Share according to Hitwise. Windows Live QnA got 1%. Not a surprise – Yahoo owns this niche.

Windows Live Mail Plus rumored to offer 4GB storage and some other assorted bling for the subscription price.

Read the Exchange 2007 fine print since Microsoft has tinkered with the Client Access Licenses (CALs).

And last but not least, Microsoft: Vista’s Secure, Not Perfect. Of course, but the question is whether it is secure enough to get Microsoft out of the emergency patch rut and live up to its advance billing to customers.



Filed under Blu-ray, Coopetition, DRM, Digital Media, Exchange, General Business, HD DVD, Hardware, Licensing, Linux, Microsoft, Nintendo, Novell, OS - Client, Open Source, Servers, Sony, Technologies, Windows Live, Windows Live Hotmail, Windows Live QnA, Windows Mobile, Windows Vista, Xbox, Yahoo

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December 29, 2006

What’s it all about, Quattro?

Posted by David Hunter at 10:50 AM ET.

Mary Jo Foley has the latest buzz on Microsoft’s rumored home server product:

Microsoft is definitely going to talk — at long last — about its plans for Windows Home Server (code-named “Quattro”) at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, according to my sources.

But what will this product be? That’s still murky. Will it be based on the Windows Server core? Or be some kind of Windows-Vista-based system? Or more of a package of Vista Ultimate plus some Media Center Extenders, plus a router? Will the Windows Home Server systems be AMD-based? Intel-based?

I’ve heard from a couple of folks that, contrary to initial belief, Windows Home Server will be a Vista-based system, not a Windows Server-based one.

Simplifying Windows server administration is probably a tougher nut than spiffing up Vista for a “light” server role, but it will be interesting to see what Microsoft can add that makes Quattro sufficiently better than ordinary workgroup (i.e. P2P) networking between client systems to justify whatever price point is chosen. It will also be interesting to see if the home server operating system can be purchased at retail or is only available via home server systems from hardware vendor partners.



Filed under CES07, Conferences, Microsoft, OS - Server, Windows Home Server

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Microsoft Windows Automotive deal with Ford?

Posted by David Hunter at 10:22 AM ET.

Rumors abound that Ford is going to announce a Windows Automotive based “operating system” for its vehicles:

Ford Motor Co. plans to unveil a deal with Microsoft Corp in January that will put the software company’s technology into some of the automaker’s cars, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The system, to be called “Sync,” includes a hands-free Bluetooth wireless system and an in-vehicle operating system that eventually will be an option for the entire Ford brand lineup, the WSJ said.

Sync is designed to allow hands-free mobile phone communication and other wireless information transfers in the car, including email and music downloads, the sources told the WSJ.

An announcement may come as soon as the Consumer Electronics Show scheduled for Jan. 8-11.



Filed under CES07, Conferences, Coopetition, Embedded, Ford, Microsoft, Windows Automotive

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December 27, 2006

Grumbling towards Vista

Posted by David Hunter at 9:18 PM ET.

While Microsoft is counting down to the big Vista consumer launchfest on January 29 there’s a certain amount of background grumbling going on:

Most alarming is Peter Gutmann’s takedown of Vista’s content protection overhead which has some truly amazing properties:

Vista requires that any interface that provides high-quality output degrade the signal quality that passes through it if premium content is present. This is done through a “constrictor” that downgrades the signal to a much lower-quality one, then up- scales it again back to the original spec, but with a significant loss in quality. So if you’re using an expensive new LCD display fed from a high- quality DVI signal on your video card and there’s protected content present, the picture you’re going to see will be, as the spec puts it, “slightly fuzzy”, a bit like a 10-year-old CRT monitor that you picked up for $2 at a yard sale [Note E].

The same deliberate degrading of playback quality applies to audio, with the audio being downgraded to sound (from the spec) “fuzzy with less detail” [Note F].

Amusingly, the Vista content protection docs say that it’ll be left to graphics chip manufacturers to differentiate their product based on (deliberately degraded) video quality. This seems a bit like breaking the legs of Olympic athletes and then rating them based on how fast they can hobble on crutches.

That’s just a start – there’s much more on the various hardware and software content protection taxes built into Vista PCs by following the link. It truly makes one wonder what one has to do to get a PC that hasn’t been designed to appease the paranoia of the movie studios and record companies.

While we’re talking hardware, over at WindowsITPro (subscription required), Mark Minasi has a complaint about Vista’s fancy Aero Glass user interface:

But after I’d run Aero Glass for a few days, it dawned on me that the interface was more than just silly; it was bad for my PC. My Ferrari is equipped with a 2GHz Turion processor, which AMD rates to run at–believe it or not–up to 95 degrees Celsius. But most of the time, it ticks along in the high 50s or mid-60s. (I use the free utility Speedfan to monitor its temperature.) When running Vista with Aero Glass, however, my system immediately cranked itself up to 91 degrees C … and stayed there. My response? Simple: I shifted Vista over to its excellent and flexible vanilla SVGA driver. The Ferrari idled back into the 50s and my blood pressure abated.

As hinted at above, Minasi also has some conceptual complaints about Aero as well.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning again that while Vista may be available to volume purchase customers, there’s still a delay for software vendors (including Microsoft) to support it and hardware vendors to provide suitable drivers and that is necessarily slowing down uptake by businesses. Robert McMillan and Elizabeth Montalbano at InfoWorld summarize the state of play and point out that Microsoft isn’t even pushing out to Vista one of the IE7 patches they released last Patch Tuesday:

Microsoft won’t say why it is holding off on some Vista patches even though the product is commercially available for business customers, but Russ Cooper, a senior information security analyst at Cybertrust, has a theory.

“I say Microsoft never intended anybody to run Vista prior to January,” he said. “What works on Vista, beyond Office 2007?” he asked. “I’m going to Vista … when my VPN supplier tells me that they have drivers that work, and when my anti-virus vendor tells me that they have non-beta versions that work.”

Without completely disinterring the dead horse of Vista upgrades for another flogging, my view is still that the upgrades will be few and far between except for enthusiasts and the press. Vista adoption will be driven by sales of new systems which in developed nations are determined by PC retirement and replacement. Larger businesses (who have a choice as to whether XP or Vista goes on their new systems) will lag consumers until all their compatibility ducks are in line. Why wouldn’t they?



Filed under DRM, Digital Media, Microsoft, OS - Client, Technologies, Windows Vista

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