Tag Archives | Microsoft. Windows

The Windows Cash Cow Takes a Beating

Windows LogoMicrosoft has announced its fourth quarter financial results, and for those of us who are Microsoft customers rather than shareholders, the most striking factoid may be this: The company’s revenue from Windows took a hit of more than a billion dollars compared to what it reaped a year ago. How come? Well, the crummy state of the worldwide economy didn’t help, but another factor was the ongoing popularity of netbooks. They typically sell for less than a $400, and usually ship with a copy of Windows XP that Microsoft can’t charge as much money for as it’s used to getting for Windows. No wonder we haven’t heard Microsoft (or much of anyone else in the PC industry, including netbook manufacturers) wax enthusiastic about netbooks.

The industry keeps predicting the imminent downfall of netbooks, which will supposedly be killed by more powerful thin-and-light notebooks which just happen to cost more. Starting in three months, those thin-and-lights will ship with versions of Windows 7 which Microsoft will be able to charge more for–and it seems like a safe bet that Windows 7 will help Microsoft’s financial statements look a little rosier in general once the OS ships. But I persist in believing that it’s also entirely possible that $400 (and $300) netbook-type computers are here to stay, and could make up a significant part of the laptop industry from here on out. If consumers buy ’em, there’s little or nothing that PC manufacturers and Microsoft can do to stop them. And if netbooks stick around, they’ll have a profound effect on Microsoft’s fortunes whose real impact is yet to be seen.


Microsoft Finishes Off Windows 7

Windows 7 LogoWindows 7 has been released to manufacturing, according to a report by Mary Jo Foley on her blog that’s been confirmed by a Microsoft post. Windows 7 is due for commercial availability on October 22nd, which means that PC manufacturers have three months to test the final version of the OS, manufacture the first Windows 7 systems, and get them onto store shelves.

News about the release was synchronized with CEO Steve Ballmer’s keynote address at a Microsoft sales conference, according to the report. For those are you who are keeping track, the build number is 7600.16385, and it was compiled last Monday, July 13. In other words: Microsoft has delivered Windows 7 on schedule.

Microsoft took preemptive action to avoid antitrust troubles with the European Commission last month, stripping its Internet explorer browser out of European editions of Windows 7. Microsoft had a contingency plan to ship Windows 7 in January in the event that antitrust actions delayed its release.

Yesterday, the company outlined when Windows 7 would become available for different categories of customers. Business customers, developers and IT professionals will receive first dibs, and be able to download Windows 7 early next month.

It will be interesting to see whether Windows 7 provides a stimulus to global PC sales, which have been slumping in the midst of the worldwide economic downturn. My prediction is that there will be a modest bump in sales– these things happen in cycles.

Windows 7 is a big improvement upon Windows Vista, but the hoopla of days when people lined up to buy OS’s is over. There are simply too many alternatives, and the Web is the great equalizer.

My trusty old Windows XP computer accesses the same Web services that someone on a Windows 7 PC uses, and my iPhone keeps me connected when I’m away from my desktop machines. If I buy a new PC I’ll opt for Windows 7, but the functionality that it delivers will not dramatically alter my daily experience with personal technology. Do you agree?


It’s Official: Microsoft to Offer Windows 7 “Family Pack”

Households that have multiple computers will be able to buy Windows 7 at a discount, Microsoft revealed in a blog posting yesterday–confirming recent rumors. “We have heard a lot of feedback from beta testers and enthusiasts over the last 3 years that we need a better solution for homes with multiple PCs,” according to the blog entry. The license is limited to installation on three PCs in select markets, it noted. In comparison, Mac OS X family packs permit end users to install the operating system on up to five Macintosh computers.

“I’ve been one of those people nagging on that. Glad to hear it. Anything you can do to make it easier to buy the product helps facilitate its acquisition. Apple has already done this for some time,” said Michael Cherry, a Directions on Microsoft analyst. “Multiple computer families is a factor– particularly with netbooks coming along.”

Likely customer demographics will be families that have children or teenagers, he added.

It makes sense for Microsoft to offer greater value to families. The message of its recent “I’m a PC” advertising campaign is value, and its licensing policies should be consistent with its marketing.


Microsoft Promotes Top Windows Exec

Steven SinofskySteven Sinofsky, the no-nonsense head of Windows and Windows Live Engineering, has been promoted to president at Microsoft. With Sinosky’s hands further up the reins, I expect that the company will not soon repeat mistakes that delayed Windows Vista, and ship future versions of Windows on a more predictable schedule.

Sinofsky has been the company’ s public face of Windows 7, which is rumored to be nearing its release to manufacturing, giving PC manufacturers time to prep for the OS’s official debut on October 22nd.

He will be the fifth Microsoft president, joining Robbie Bach from the company’s Entertainment Division; Business Division head Steven Elop; Bob Muglia, from the company’s Server and Tools business unit; and Online Service chief Qi Lu.

That executive line up represents a shift to a second generation of leadership at the company, and includes some new blood. Elop joined Microsoft from Juniper Networks, and Lu comes from Yahoo. Only Bach and Muglia are veteran executives; Sinofsky worked his way up from engineer, and was the former head of Microsoft Office development. He headed up Office 2007–which, like Windows 7, was a rare high-profile Microsoft software release that hit its major milestones without any high-profile delays or glitches.


Windows 7 Family Pack? I Hope So!

The Brady BunchZDNet’s Ed Bott is reporting that the license for Windows 7 Home Premium appears to make provisions for a family-pack version that would permit three installations of the OS, presumably at a discounted price. (Apple sells a five-user Family Pack edition of OS X Leopard for $199.)

Folks have been asking for a Windows family license for a looooong time, so if it’s good news if such a deal is indeed in the works. It would also be consistent with Microsoft’s strategy of making Windows 7 a little eaiser on the pocketbook than Vista was.

At first, I wondered why Microsoft would hold back on announcing a family pack–especially since other versions of the OS are already available for pre-order. You’d think the company wouldn’t want anyone to order multiple copies of Windows 7, then discover that he or she qualified for a cheaper family license. But at the moment, Microsoft is offering copies of the Windows 7 Home Premium upgrade for only $49.99, a discount of more than half off. If Ed’s right in his guess that a three-user Home Premium Family Pack would go for $189, the current discounted price of just under $150 for three licenses would be cheaper still, and nobody who ordered now would be out any money.

Maybe Microsoft’s holding off announcing the Family Pack until the big preorder discount ends on July 11th. Any guesses?


Windows 7 on a Thumb Drive?

Windows 7 Thumb DriveNetbooks, pretty much by definition, don’t have optical drives. Microsoft is talking up Windows 7 as a great OS for netbooks. Retail versions of Windows, like almost all software, come on optical discs. Problem!

Over at Cnet, Ina Fried is reporting that Microsoft is contemplating the possibility of shipping a version of Windows 7 on a thumb drive. It makes perfect sense if the company hopes to sell upgrades for a meaningful percentage of all those netbooks out there running Windows XP. (Windows 7 will presumably be available as a download–that’s the primary means of distribution for the Release Candidate–but not everyone is going to want to download an entire operating system. And if you spend $100 or more on a piece of software, it’s comforting to have it in physical form.)

USB drives may have gotten remarkably cheap, but they’re still costlier than a DVD disc–even bought in the volume that Microsoft would need them. But Corel sells its new Home Office–a $70 office suite aimed at netbook users–on a thumb drive, so it appears to be economically feasible. (Years ago, Corel was also one of the first companies to distribute software on CD-ROM rather than ludicrously tall stacks of floppy disks–maybe it’s once again figured out the future of software distribution before most of the rest of the world.)

I’m convinced that within two or three years, optical drives of any sort will be the exception, not the rule–even on the nicest notebooks. We’ll do our watching of movies and backing up of data using wireless connectivity and the Internet. We’ll also get our software the same way. (Prediction: At some point stores like Best Buy and Staples will simply do away with their software sections, and it’ll probably happen sooner than you might think.)

For now, though, people still buy plenty of software in stores. I’m betting that there will indeed be a version of Windows 7 delivered on a thumb drive, and that there’s a good chance most software that’s available in physical form at all will be sold on flash devices before too long.


Microsoft Chops Some Windows 7 Prices

Windows 7 LogoMicrosoft has dropped one of the lat  remaining veils relating to Windows 7 by announcing the OS upgrade’s pricing.  It’s not exactly stunning that the company chose not to follow Gizmodo’s advice that Win 7 should be free for all Vista owners. But there are a number of price breaks associated with the rollout.

The largest and most interesting price cut is for folks who preorder Windows 7 right away: In the U.S,  you’ll be able to reserve a copy from Best Buy, Amazon, or the Microsoft Store at a discount of more than 50 percent. This preorder price for the upgrade version of Windows 7 Home Premium, for instance, will be $49.99, versus a list price of $119.99.

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Russia Mounts Antitrust Charges Against Microsoft

Russia’s state anti-monopoly service today launched an investigation of Microsoft for phasing out its Windows XP operating system. The agency’s complaint centers on Microsoft’s decision to discontinue selling Windows XP after this month while demand for the operating system continues from retailers and the Russian government. It will consider charges against Microsoft on July 24.

Microsoft told Reuters that it would cooperate with the Russian government. Meanwhile, the company is appealing the European Commission’s (EC) preliminary findings concerning its middleware bundling practices for Windows. The charges were levied by browser maker Opera Software.

The EC initially fined Microsoft €497 million ($613 million) in 2004 for abusing its dominant market position, followed by an additional €280.5 million ($357 million) in July 2006 for charging “unreasonable prices” to software developers for access to information about Windows client and server protocols. The cumulative fines amount to nearly $2.3 billion.

Microsoft has made strides towards interoperability and openness since the EC penalized it. The company is now sharing information about the inner-workings of its products that it it once fought tooth and nail to hold as trade secrets. A specific problem was remedied.

I’m not an expert in the Russian customs code; it could have a legitimate bone to pick with Microsoft. It just seems silly to base an antitrust investigation on normal business behavior. Windows XP is not the first operating system that Microsoft has phased out, and it will continued to support compatibility for Windows XP applications in Windows 7.

Windows XP’s product life cycle and support policies are also public. Microsoft’s Moscow office would certainly have informed its customers about its transition to Windows Vista and beyond. I’m not certain what the Russian government is harping about–it has had ample time to plan for XP’s obsolescence.

I recently spoke with someone that was commissioned by the Canadian government to assess the viability of mainframes over the next decade. The Canadian government estimated that it would take nearly a decade for it to replace critical mainframe applications, and was performing due diligence to determine whether it needed to get started. It’s keeping its mainframe systems.

In the same vein, Russia should have known that there was risk when it purchased Windows XP in the first place, or negotiated terms to receive extended product support from Microsoft. When taken at face value, these antitrust charges are bogus.


The T-Poll: Windows XP Lives!

Looks like it’s official: Microsoft will let PC manufacturers offer a Windows XP downgrade option through July 31st 2009, extending XP’s original death sentence by six months. As I wrote yesterday night when this was still just a rumor, it seemed pretty much inevitable: If Microsoft had denied computer vendors the ability to provide their customers with the operating system which a huge percentage of their business buyers will want, the planet’s major PC companies would have descended on Redmond with pitchforks and torches.

(System builders who were still selling PCs with XP preloaded may still be irate, though–Micorosft is saying that the January 31st deadline will remain for them.)

What does this mean for Windows Vista? Well, the whole point of the downgrade option is that every downgradable PC that’s sold includes a copy of Vista, so this isn’t hurting Vista sales a bit. It is, however, surely depressing Vista usage. But with Windows 7 supposedly arriving in late 2009 or 2010 depending on which Microsoft comments you believe–hey, this is a new version of Windows we’re talking about, it’s obviously going to be 2010–Vista’s tenure as the current version of Windows may already be more than half over.

Maybe Microsoft is resigned to the fact that XP refuses to die and is focused on preparing for a Windows 7 rollout that’s way less bumpy than Vista’s has been. If so, that might permit it stop plotting XP’s demise and permit it to survive for the time being…grudgingly, at least. That would make for a Microsoft whose interests weren’t so much at odds with those of a signficant percentage of the people who use its operating system. Which would be good.

Which raises the question: Once Windows 7 is available, what are the chances that Microsoft will still be dealing with PC users who simply won’t give up Windows XP, which will be close to nine years old by then?

And here’s another question for you, in the form of a T-Poll: