Back in August I was speculating that the desultory enterprise adoption of Vista would force Microsoft to extend the availability of Windows XP and today that was realized as Microsoft added 5 months to the XP OEM and retail availability.
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates used a speech in Beijing to introduce a number of new Microsoft philanthropic initiatives directed at developing nations. Attracting the most buzz was a bargain software package for students:
Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft said it plans to offer a software package called Microsoft Student Innovation Suite for $3 to governments purchasing and giving Windows-based computer to primary and secondary students.
The software bundle, which will be available in the second half of 2007, includes Windows XP Starter Edition, Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007, Windows Live Mail desktop and other programs.
It’s not clear how many relevant governments have the wherewithal for extensive rollouts of PCs to students, but the thought is nice even if there is more to it than sheer altruism.
“This is not a philanthropic effort, this is a business,” Orlando Ayala, senior vice president at Microsoft’s emerging segments market development group in an interview before the official announcement.
In many emerging markets, Microsoft has seen its software pirated and sold at a fraction of the price of a genuine product. Microsoft said the technology industry must also adapt business models to developing nations.
Case in point: the report at Newlaunches.com in which they quote the “Windows Vista chief distributor in Beijing” to the effect that:
However after 2 weeks (Jan 19 to Feb 2) from launch Microsoft managed to sell a mere 244 copies of Windows Vista. Software piracy is rampant in the middle kingdom and a pirated version of Vista sells for a mere $1 on the streets.
They have some nice box shots of pirated copies of Vista too and not unexpectedly, humorous comments abound at slashdot like “244 copies ought to be enough ….”
A variety of Microsoft news items that didn’t find a post of their own this week:
Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet reports that newly appointed Microsoft SVP Jon DeVaan is wasting no time reorganizing the Windows Core Operating System Division for building the successor to Vista (codenamed “Fiji”). The changes don’t take effect until Vista gets out the door though.
In other personnel news, Rick Devenuti, senior vice president of Microsoft Services and IT, is retiring. Devenuti oversaw Microsoft’s managed services effort. Also WSO2 hires mash-up master from Microsoft. The master is Jonathan Marsh and WSO2 is a startup founded by ex-IBMer Sanjiva Weerawarana that sells support and products for the Apache Axis Web services tools.
Steve Ballmer’s Business Week interview also produced the revelation that Microsoft is not losing money on each Zune sold although he would have liked it better if Apple had kept the price of the comparable iPod at $299. This is directly contrary to previous Microsoft statements.
Microsoft’s Internet Protocol television (IPTV) efforts received a big boost from hardware vendors Tuesday, after Cisco, Motorola, Philips and Tatung all announced new set-top boxes that support Microsoft IPTV Edition software.
Some Belgian newspapers not only don’t want to be indexed by Google, they’re complaining to MSN too. I’m being facetious, of course. What they really want is a cut off the top. In other legal news, Microsoft is trying to get the lead opposition lawyer in the Iowa antitrust cased removed.
The Microsoft OpenDocument Format plugin for Microsoft Word will be released October 23. You’ll recall that this saves Microsoft’s bacon with some customers demanding open document formatting standards.
Microsoft continues to offer more assistance for businesses willing to build infrastructure with Microsoft Office as a front end:
With the release of Office Business Applications (OBA) Reference Application Pack (RAP) this week, Microsoft in essence is acknowledging that they are on to something big in the enterprise market.
Microsoft is calling this the second generation of OBA and is in response to wide acceptance of the first generation.
Like Duet, a product partnership with SAP that offers up the Office suite of products as a standard interface for SAP backend applications, OBA RAP will do the same, but this time not tied to any vendor’s backend system.
Josh Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting, said that OBA is significant because Office is certainly one of the better interfaces around for knowledge workers.
The release of the OBA reference for building the front end to a supply chain management system will demonstrate that a company can build a procurement process with a combination of Outlook, Word, and Excel and do everything they want, said Greenbaum.
Windows CE is wide open to attack compared to desktop Windows according to a security researcher at Kaspersky Labs. Bound to happen.
Not that Software as a Service (SaaS) kind of utility computing that was all the rage during the dotcom boom, though. Instead, it’s a scheme where consumers “pay as you go” to use a personal computer and Microsoft’s OS:
Microsoft Corp. today announced the industry’s first pay-as-you-go personal computing offerings powered by Microsoft® FlexGo™ technology, enabling more-flexible Microsoft Windows®-based PC purchasing options for customers in emerging markets. Customers can get a full featured Windows-enabled PC with low entry costs that they can access using prepaid cards or through a monthly subscription.
The pay-as-you-go business model makes PCs more accessible by dramatically reducing the entry cost and enabling customers to pay for their computer as they use it, through the purchase of prepaid cards.
All of which brings to mind a different kind of utility:
Chip firms AMD and Intel obviously believe that Microsoft has the answer to markets so far they’ve failed to help because of the cost of materials. Flex Go lets people buy scratch cards for their cheap PCs which will let them use PCs for a certain period of time. A bit like the old electricity meters used in the UK. But it was incredibly frustrating when the lights went out and you couldn’t find a shilling to finish what you wanted to do.
Microsoft has lined up a number of partners for this play and while it gets points for innovation in the battle against software piracy in 3rd world countries, I tend to regard it like the Windows XP Starter Editions as mostly a political and public relations play with not much hope for widespread adoption. Like the Starter editions it presupposes a certain lack of sophistication in the targeted consumers which I doubt exists.
Remember Transmeta Corp.’s secretive deal to develop a version of its Efficeon chip for Microsoft? The mystery of that project has now been solved — and it’s not a portable Xbox, or anything else along those lines. The specialized chip was designed for Microsoft’s new “FlexGo” pay-as-you-go initiative for PCs in developing nations.
We previously mentioned the Transmeta mystery project here.