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December 31, 2008

Zune’s New Year’s hangover comes a day too soon

Posted by David Hunter at 1:37 PM ET.

Microsoft’s original 30 GB Zune MP3 players apparently started New Year’s partying a day too soon and are now frozen in hungover immobility:

Right, so this is a weird one: we’re getting tons of reports—tons—about failing Zune 30s. Apparently, the players began freezing at about midnight last night, becoming totally unresponsive and practically useless.

The crisis has been dubbed by Zune users ‘Z2K9′, due to the apparently synchronized faceplantings across the country. According to tipster Michael, the Zune users experienced something like this:

Apparently, around 2:00 AM today, the Zune models either reset, or were already off. Upon when turning on, the thing loads up and… freezes with a full loading bar (as pictured above). I thought my brother was the only one with it, but then it happened to my Zune. Then I checked out the forums and it seems everyone with a 30GB HDD model has had this happen to them

This report is consistently corroborated by literally hundreds of others across the various Zune support and fan forums.

Theories abound as to the cause of the problem, but the only thing that is certain is that only the original 30GB Zunes are affected. Microsoft says they are on the case:

We were made aware of a widespread issue facing owners of Zune 30 devices this morning.  We have a technical team working hard to isolate the issue right now and will update everyone as much as possible.  Thanks for your patience while we get to the bottom of this.

No New Year’s partying for the technical team I guess. Updates from the team will be made at http://zune.net/support.

Update: Microsoft has a fix and luckily it doesn’t involve any more than letting the battery discharge and reconnecting only after noon GMT on January 1, 2009. It turns out that it was a leap year problem.



Filed under Argo, General Business, Microsoft, Public Relations, Zune

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December 22, 2008

January layoffs rumored at Microsoft

Posted by David Hunter at 11:02 AM ET.

The Microsoft water cooler at the Mini-Microsoft blog is rife with rumors of impending layoffs scheduled for January 15, 2009:

Rumors. Microsoft layoff and cut-backs and Reduction In Force rumors. That’s all I have for you. Rumors and second-hand speculation and the comments left by the fine, good-looking folks who participate in the conversation here. So pour yourself some holiday cheer and dive in.

What have those fine folks been sharing over the past couple of posts here? Bad news on the rise and with perhaps January 15th 2009 as an interesting day for Microsoft news. Bad news. 15 Jan is a week before FY09Q2 quarterly results and it’s better to share as much news, good and bad, before the results are released vs. surprising Wall Street (something I think we’ve learned).

It all starts with…

Just heard on the finance grapevine. MSFT layoffs are coming on January 15th.

They are substantial.

Hit the link for much more, but the possibility of layoffs during the current recession shouldn’t be a shocker even at Microsoft. That’s what companies do during recessions, albeit fairly ham handedly at large companies and that’s what Microsoft is these days.  As for Microsoft’s overall business, the outlook isn’t particularly grim although being characterized as a "utility stock" must gall Steve Ballmer:

THE MARKET FOR PERSONAL COMPUTERS IN 2009 WILL be much worse than anyone would have expected just a short while back. But that shouldn’t faze Microsoft (ticker: MSFT).

Shares of the world’s largest software company have fallen 46% this year, worse than the 40% drop in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, as investors worry about slipping PC sales.

The result: Microsoft has become a substantial value investment.

With a 2.7% dividend yield and a vast commitment to buying back shares, Microsoft stock is no longer a bet on the PC. More and more, it looks like the stable utility stock of the digital age.

Indeed, the Redmond, Wash.-based giant’s dividend has a better yield than the 10-year Treasury note’s 2.1%. And the company is not likely to disappear from the planet anytime soon.

As long as PCs are sold, in whatever volume, Microsoft continues to be a tax, so-to-speak, on those PCs purchases.

More specifically:

True, the global economic slump continues to humble estimates for how many machines will be sold. But even a worst-case scenario — one in which sales of Windows and other products, such as the Exchange e-mail server, were to decline 10% in 2009 — would probably still generate earnings of $1.90 per share in the 12 months ending in December of 2009, compared with perhaps $1.91 for this calendar year, estimates Cowen’s Pritchard.

That’s analyst Walter Pritchard with Cowen & Co. and whether or not you agree with his exact estimate, Microsoft is not going to be applying for a Washington "bailout" any time soon.



Filed under Employee Retention, Financial, General Business, Investor Relations, Layoffs, Microsoft

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December 21, 2008

Microsoft system builders get a reprieve on Windows XP sales

Posted by David Hunter at 12:34 PM ET.

Microsoft has announced an extension to the deadline for the small PC assemblers called system builders to be able to get Windows XP. Previously, system builder XP availability was scheduled to end on January 31, 2009, but now Microsoft has instituted "a flexible inventory program that will allow system builders to place their final orders for Windows XP licenses by Jan. 31 and take delivery through May 30:

Distributors say the best part of the new arrangement is that they won’t have to take title to the reserved XP licenses until they’re sold to an end user, which helps them avoid having to sit on inventory for several months, which is a major concern in a low-margin business.

"This is a good solution to support the customers that are standardized still on XP," said Michael Schwab, co-president of D&H Distributing, Harrisburg, Pa. "In this case, people contemplated buying in larger quantities [of XP licenses] and holding on to them. But that would have caused a bubble [from] people buying five months of supply in January."

D&H and other distributors are currently talking to their largest customers to come up with demand forecasts. This work is taking on added importance, since most Microsoft channel partners believe that Microsoft will stick to its Jan. 31, 2009, XP deadline.

"I think that deadline is fixed in stone," said Schwab.

It is all more of the continuing fallout from Windows Vista’s less than sterling reputation, a problem that Microsoft hopes to cure with the delivery of Windows 7. The new May 30th cutoff lends more credence to the rumors that Windows 7 may actually arrive in mid-2009.



Filed under Microsoft, Obsolescence, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP

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December 17, 2008

Microsoft rushes out emergency patch for zero day IE exploit

Posted by David Hunter at 6:11 PM ET.

Microsoft today released an emergency patch for Internet Explorer versions back to version 5.01 to fix a gaping security hole that was being exploited so massively that security experts were recommending that people stop using Internet Explorer entirely until it was fixed. Since the bad guys were exploiting it before Microsoft knew it existed, the exploit is termed "zero day" because that is how much notice Microsoft got of the problem. It is also termed an "drive-by" exploit since a user could pick up a malware infestation by merely using IE to browse any of thousands of compromised websites. In short, it was really nasty stuff.

Here are the emergency patch details from Microsoft:

This security update resolves a publicly disclosed vulnerability. The vulnerability could allow remote code execution if a user views a specially crafted Web page using Internet Explorer. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than users who operate with administrative user rights.

This security update is rated Critical for Internet Explorer 5.01, Internet Explorer 6, Internet Explorer 6 Service Pack 1, and Internet Explorer 7. For information about Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2, please see the section, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Related to This Security Update. For more information, see the subsection, Affected and Non-Affected Software, in this section.

Recommendation. Microsoft recommends that customers apply the update immediately.

Aside from the table of download locations listed at the above link, the emergency patch is also available through Windows Update and Microsoft Update.



Filed under IE7, IE8, Internet Explorer, Microsoft, Security

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