Back when Friends was just getting started and becoming a hit, Microsoft apparently hired Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston to do a introductory video for Windows 95. It’s cheesy, the jokes are so bad they’re funny, the music is stolen from Seinfeld, and the camera is always sideways for no particular reason. In other words, you absolutely must watch it.
The recent update to Windows Live Spaces contained a new interface for mobile devices, designed to make it easy to see what is going on among your friends while on the go. The Space Craft blog has these screenshots:
Navigating a Space:
View info on your friends:
More friend stuff:
Microsoft is determined to make Spaces a really good blogging service for mainstream users, as well as a serious competitor to MySpace and Facebook, and thus far it is succeeding (based on how many people are using it). It may not be as good as those service sare within their respective spheres, but for more mainstream users, Spaces might be the best service available.
Oh, and Spaces blogs still won’t render right in Opera. Anyone fixing this?
A 22-page treatment (story to be turned into a screenplay) for the Gears of War movie has leaked to the internet. If you don’t care about spoilers, you can read a look at it at LatinoReview.com. I’m printing a paragraph of it here, and don’t worry, it doesn’t contain any real spoilers, except the shocker that things blow up and people die.
Several choppers go down in flames. Marcus keeps his eyes and his squad on the target. The Ravens touch down and the gears pile out into an insane hail of rocket and gunfire. Most Ravens never even back it back up. This is madness. Bodies are ripped apart. Wounded soldiers scream for their mothers. A grenade annihilates an embedded media crew. Nobody knows where he or she’s supposed to be.
Robert McLaws has done a great post looking at donations made by employees at major tech companies to the campaigns of 2008 presidential candidates. Not surprisingly, donations to Democrats outnumbered those given to Republicans by about six to one. Microsoftites gave the most, and gave more to Republicans than any other company ($10,950 for the GOP, vs. $30,088 for Dems), but Apple and Adobe were the only companies to give equally to both parties (albeit considerably less money).
I’ve done a post the last two major elections looking at how Google employees donate to campaigns, and the results have always been left leaning. Check out the numbers for the recent midterms, as well as the 2004 Presidential race. I really hope Robert updates his numbers for the 2008 election, because contributions are going to increase drastically as we get closer, and a lot of money is going to be thrown around. If he doesn’t, I probably will.
I’ll be watching. I won’t be liveblogging, but I will write down some notes here, so you’ll know if there are any bombshells.
By the way, if you need some simple, pretty cool music to listen to, tune in now. The waiting music is really exciting. Maybe Ozzie really is bringing the cool to Microsoft?
UPDATE 12:41: Ozzie basically just called AJAX yesterday’s news. He said that any company that has tried to hard to go all the way to a new platform has failed, referring to Sun before, and Google now. Damn, he’s fighting. Good for him!
UPDATE 1:01: Ozzie talked about how Microsoft is a platform company, creating great platforms for developers to create great applications. He showed off some cool examples, especially Silverlight (which Scott Guthrie is talking now). Silverlight now includes a cross-platform version of the .Net Framework (which is amazing, if you think about it. Microsoft is going to let you run Silverlight stuff on their backend in your sites, and showed it running on Wikipedia. That’s enormously cool.
He showed a lot of Photosynth, showing how it is being built into Silverlight and lets you zoom right into images, like a Google Map, getting amazing quality at amazing speeds, with little downloading initially. He showed it being used in an advertisement on MSN.com, giving you an idea of how they plan on attacking Google with amazing visual advertising. Scott showed off some of the amazing things Silverlight will be able to do with web video, streaming HD video.
Oh, and Expression Studio launched today.
This is one of the better keynotes I’ve ever seen from Microsoft. Ozzie is clearly a developer guy, and he’s reaching the audience better than Gates ever did. If this is the future of Microsoft, then the future is amazingly bright.
They’ve got Netflix guys onstage now.
UPDATE 1:12: Killer keynote moment: They showed off this amazing, Silverlight-based Netflix player, and then, when asked how long it took to build, the answer was three weeks. That’s amazing. And it runs in Firefox, and on a Mac, and uses Ajax, and has instant messaging, and DVD-like chapter features, and copy protection, and Netflix website features, and collaborative viewing (watch a movie with a friend, over the internet) and DVD info. Un-freakin-believable.
UPDATE 1:19: They’re talking Expression now, how it lets designers and programmers work at the same time, effectively.
Ozzie mentioned earlier API stuff they’re doing. CNet said last week that there would be a lot of API stuff announced at Mix, and that seems to be happening. They said we’d see:
The company will allow outside developers–which can be at commercial enterprises–to build mash-up applications that generate up to one million unique user visits at their sites per month for free. Beyond that, Microsoft will charge 25 cents per user per year or look to establish a business relationship where it can deliver online ads to those sites, company executives said.
In addition, Microsoft will provide APIs to photos or contact information for its Windows Live Spaces users if they give permission. Windows Live Spaces is Microsoft’s social networking site where people can post blogs, share photos and other information.
A criticism of other companies (like Google) and their APIs is that those APIs are not meant to be used for commercial uses, and are usually limited to a number of uses. They keep talking commercial APIs, with paying for more uses, but nobody ever gets it done. If Microsoft does, as they say they are now, developers will be very happy.
Peter Lau is liveblogging. Turns out they were showing Twitter messages from the audience in real-time on a screen before the keynote.
UPDATE 1:44: They had a guy from CBS, showing off how they can use Silverlight to integrate user generated content and rich streaming video advertising their website, and eventually the newscast. They show a fake version of the local CBS newscast featuring user-generated content in a news story. It’s speculative, which I don’t like, but high quality, with the real news anchors on the real set, so I’ll semi-forgive it.
Didn’t notice this in my wife’s account, but Windows Live Hotmail apparently has this cool unsubscribe feature. Legitimate email marketers (not spammers, but mailing list guys) can add code to their emails that reveals an Unsubscribe button in Hotmail, ensuring that users who don’t want their emails don’t add them to a spam blacklist instead of unsubscribing.
That’s a very cool feature, designed to seperate the good stuff you aren’t interested from the crap you never asked for. They’ve even improved the feature, sending the user to a page on the email marketers website where you can unsubscribe from specific mailing lists, not just all of them.
(Found on Findory)
Jeremy Wagstaff has an article about usage of the Office 2007 Ribbon by software developers in their user interfaces, something they can do without worry because Microsoft allows it to be licensed royalty-free (with some restrictions). The Ribbon (officially the Office Fluent Ribbon, part of the Office Fluent UI system) is being used by a number of software products Jeremy mentions, a number of which are doing it a disservice by using it in programs it isn’t really useful for, poorly designing it to waste screen real estate, poor function grouping, and other bad decisions.
I feel like even if developers are going to misuse the Ribbon, let them. Plenty of software developers screw up the most simple things, like checkboxes and drop-downs, and no one is going to declare those UI elements bad as a result. As long as Office 2007 exists, the Ribbon is doing something right, and that validates even the worst third-party implementations.
By the way, if you are using the Ribbon well, contact Clint Covington, who will feature your app and send you a free book.
Nick Carr has a really cool perspective on Microsoft and Google’s recent earnings reports: Microsoft’s growth, in just the last three months, is a billion dollars higher than Google’s entire sales for the quarter. Kinda makes you wonder what kind of idiots keep calling Microsoft “dead”.
Of course, even Microsoft’s growth pales in comparison to Google’s, which posted a 66% rise in sales in the quarter, from $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion. But Google is still, of course, a much smaller business, and it’s worth noting that the $1 billion that it added to its sales is a fraction of the $3.5 billion that Microsoft added. To put it another way, the increase in Microsoft’s sales during the quarter is greater than Google’s total sales - by far ($3.5 billion vs. $2.5 billion).
Two more good-selling Xbox 360 games have reached Platinum Hits status (new box, new low $29.99 price): the Grand Theft Auto-style Saints Row (which was far better received than expected), and Lego Star Wars II, the humorous game that features the original star Wars trilogy, Lego-style.
Microsoft seems to have announced a good quarter, and certainly the market liked it (the stock is up 4.63% this morning), but given that it reflected $1.1 billion in deferred revenue, was it really that good? Todd Bishop ran a chart yesterday showing the Client Division over the last few years, before the new results. I’ve updated it (with a bit of poor Photoshopping:
The last figure in each line is the new one, added by me. Also, I’ve added two red lines, showing an estimated idea of revenue (top line) and profits (bottom line) if you removed the $1.1 billion in deferred revenue. Microsoft still turns out better revenue, but considerably less dramatic. Joe Wilcox has some more stats on the deferrals (more specific than my chart alterations), showing that Microsoft’s growth without it is 17%, not 32%, more typical for the company.
Yes, as you can see in this past Saturday’s Bremerton Patriot newspaper, the star of Microsoft’s Halo franchise, Master Chief, has pled guilty to charges of trying to have sex with a woman (actually an undercover cop) and her 12 year old twins (a boy and a girl). Prosecutors say they will recommend a sentence of 7 1/2 years.
Okay, will this shut people up? I keep hearing the same typical internet dopes saying that Vista is failing, based entirely on the fact that they haven’t bought it yet, with no numbers to back themselves up. Tonight, Microsoft delivered its quarterly earnings report, and it’s a good one. Expectations were that Microsoft would report earnings per share of 46 cents, but it beat that with 50 cents EPS on $14.4 billion in revenue and net operating income of $6.59 billion (net income of $4.93 billion).
The revenue includes $1.67 billion of deferred revenue from free upgrade given to Windows Vista from the previous quarter. Profits were up 65%, revenue up 32%, earnings per share up 72%.
Microsoft also gave guidance for the next quarter of revenue of $13.1-13.4 billion, operating income of $5-5.2 billions and earnings per share of 37-39 cents. They also gave earnings guidance for the next fiscal year (July 2007-June 2008) of revenue of $56.5-57.5 billion, operating income of $22-22.5 billion and earnings per share of $1.68-1.72.
The Client division (Windows) had revenue of $5.2 billion, up $2.1 billion from the same quarter last year. That division turned a profit of $4.2 billion, compared with a profit of $2.5 billion last year.
The Server and Tools division had revenue of 2.7 billion, up $353 million from the same quarter last year. That division turned a profit of $979 million, compared with a profit of $744 million last year.
The Online Service Business division had revenue of $623 million, up $61 million from the same quarter last year. That division had an operating loss of $200 million, compared with a loss of $24 million last year.
The Business division (Office) had revenue of $4.8 billion, up $1.2 billion from the same quarter last year. That division turned a profit of $3.4 billion, compared with a profit of $2.4 billion last year.
The Entertainment and Devices division (includes Xbox, Zune, other hardware) had revenue of $929 million, down $253 million from the same quarter last year. That division suffered a loss of $315 million, better than a loss of $402 million last year.
Other operations had revenue of $4 million, up from, well, nothing, the same quarter last year. Corporate expenses cost the company $1.5 billion, compared with a cost of $1.3 billion last year.
During the earnings call, Microsoft said sales of Premium versions of Vista jumped 71% in the quarter (presumably compared to sales of XP Media Center and Tablet), which is great for earnings. If more people buy a more expensive version, Microsoft can make more money even without growing the market (however, PC sales grew a phenomenal 10%!).
After selling as much as 1.8 million consoles per quarter last summer, the company sold only 500,000 consoles in the previous quarter to retailers.
Revenue for the Entertainment Division in the fiscal third quarter was down a staggering 21.5% annually, to $929 million; and the division posted a $315 million loss, though that’s less of a loss than the $402 million posted during the same quarter last year. Microsoft CFO Chris Liddell told analysts to expect revenue for the Entertainment and Devices division for the fiscal fourth quarter to fall as much as 11%.
Yesterday, Microsoft released beta 3 of Windows Server codename “Longhorn” (which may eventually be released as Windows Server 2007/2008), and with it came this great video explaining how they plan to distribute the operating system:
That’s really amazing. How much you think it cost?
(via Download Squad)
Word is that some Sam’s Club stores are selling the Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive, which normally retails for $200, at the miniscule price of $72.54. The nearly two-thirds markdown is incredible, and supposedly the store in Latham, NY has one, so if you have a Sam’s in your area, check it out. One poster in the Fat Wallet forums says you need to be buying one of the last two drives in the store to get the low low price, since it is a closeout deal.
At this price, you aren’t taking much of a risk if HD-DVD loses the format war. At this point, it looks like HD-DVD drives are outselling Blu-Ray (anybody surprised?), but Blu-Ray disks are outselling Hd-DVD.
Dane Glasgow, General Manager of Windows Live Search, left the company this week for more philanthropic/personal pursuits, marking another major Windows Live executive to leave recently. The note sent out by Live Search chief Satya Nadella might give a clue as to the timing:
With the Search team’s exit from planning complete, Dane Glasgow has decided to leave Microsoft
Apparently, the Windows Live Search team completed a major phase in their development of the search engine recently. With that work done, I guess it made sense for Dane to leave and bring in someone new more suited to the next stage of Live Search’s growth. Live Search has gotten a lot better in the last six months - year, and I guess it was good enough for them to move in with something else.
As LiveSide notes, Satya also referenced a Fall release, meaning it is possible this next stage runs through then, and that Live Search may see a major update this fall.