Microsoft is in the process of testing Service Pack 3 for Windows XP, in preparation for a wide release, and all indications are that it is a significant performance improvement for XP. In fact, the performance of XP under SP3 is so good, that some are saying it makes Windows Vista look like a chump.
It’s already a fact that Windows XP, with a six-year old architecture and tons of patches to stabilize and protect it, is Windows Vista’s number one competitor. XP is relatively stable, carries lower requirements, is compatible with almost everything and is usually already installed on most computers (except brand new ones). The challenge for Microsoft isn’t so much to prove Vista is better than Apple’s Mac OS, but that it is better than XP.
Microsoft until now has been challenging the image of XP in the marketplace, but when SP3 releases, it’ll actually be competing with itself. XP SP3 is an improvement to an already popular operating system, one that puts a direct shot across Vista’s bow, and actually sets up the team that developed SP3 as competition for Windows Vista.
Microsoft’s not stupid. It knows that it is in some ways shooting its own Vista in the foot with SP3, making Vista’s adoption harder against an improved XP point release. It would have been dishonest to its customers to cripple XP SP3 just to help Vista, and you can see how much Microsoft has improved in that it isn’t doing so. An “evil” company certainly would have.
Microsoft is likely counting on two things. Most probably, it will not significantly market SP3 like it did for Service Pack 2 three years ago. Current users will get the improvement, but Microsoft won’t encourage people to buy XP now that it has been improved. Microsoft wants you to get a better XP, but if you don’t have it, they still want you picking up Vista, which is also getting an improved Service Pack 1 release.
Besides that, Microsoft is probably hoping the good will from SP3 will encourage you to keep using Windows. Microsoft is seriously improving an older product at a significant cost to itself, showing commitment to improving its users experience at any cost. Microsoft will remind you that Vista will receive the same commitment, and that Apple charges money for point releases every two years.
Will it work? SP3 is going to cost Microsoft and Vista in the short run, but in the long run it could be a huge help for the company. At the least, if you’re buying XP, you’re still not buying Apple, right?
Microsoft’s Mac Business Unit has announced that Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac OS will allow iPhone and iPod users to sync with PowerPoint. You will be able to run PowerPoint slideshows on your iPhone, iPod Touch, iPod Classic and fatty iPod Nano (any iPod with picture support) if you have a Mac with PowerPoint 2008 and iPhoto (2006 or better).
PowerPoint will connect with iPhoto and export your presentation as a series of high resolution photos. Those photos will be saved on your hard drive and synced to your iPhone as photos normally are. Then, you can whip out your iPhone at any time and show slides from your PowerPoint presentation, or you can even plug the iPhone/iPod into a TV or projector to run a version of the presentation, minus the usual animations and transitions.
Microsoft Windows turned 22 years old last week. Amazing, the idea of any series of software product lasting over two decades, but Windows 1.0 was released November 20, 1985, and after several lousy initial versions, hit respectability with Windows 3.0/3.1 and mass popularity with Windows 95.
I’d hardly argue that the Mac operating system has lasted as long, but rather that the original Mac OS lasted from 1984-2001, and that the current OS is a younger six years old. That’s not necessarilly a bad thing, but it’s important to seperate Mac OS 9 and X as two products that share a brand name and used to share a lot more compatibility than they do now. Windows started out as a GUI over DOS that could run its own executables, and while evolving over time never cut off the previous generation completely.
When Office 2008 is released shortly, get Office 2008 Special Media Edition for just $6.99.
Now, the Office 2004 Student and Teacher Edition is just $150 in most places, so with the rebate, you pay fifty freakin’ bucks. Office 2008 Special Media is $500, but you get it for seven dollars more. So, pay $57, and get a $500 ultimate edition of Mac Office 2008.
Unless you comparison shop, because Amazon.com has Office 2004 for just $125. So, you get the big 2008 edition for even less, just $32! What a deal! Oh, and it looks like they’ll send you Office and Student 2008, too, as part of the deal, so you’re getting four computers worth of Office 2008 here. Unbelievable.
Apple’s is running a pretty smart website ad, one that puts a banner atop the page and a video in the sidebar. It’s another in the series of “Get A Mac” ads (you know, “I’m a Mac” “and I’m a PC”), with the video interacting with the ad at the top, and it’s kind of funny. Here’s a video of the whole page in action:
While I kind of like the ad (even if it contains the same smugness and inaccuracy of the entire ad campaign), it isn’t working out so well for Engadget. The ad has been causing audio problems, browser crashes, and wasting system resources, which appears to have caused them to take down the ad today. Microsoft should run an ad about how Apple sits around claiming everything they make is perfect and flawless, but tends to come riddled with stupid little problems.
Sorry, just clearing my throat. What was I saying? Oh, yeah, saying everything your company does is perfect is just stupid, since no one can create perfection. Microsoft screws up, Apple screws up, but only one of them claims to be just perfect. It’s becoming a bad joke at this point.
Microsoft didn’t realize that the Zune 80 gigabyte would be as popular as it is, and as a result it is sold out all over the place. Amazon.com doesn’t have it in stock, and shipments were delayed by 10 days. I’ve said it for a while: With the price being equal, there’s no reason to choose the iPod over the Zune, given the Zune’s improved features and much better looks. Apple screwed up this generation of iPods, and Microsoft is going to have significantly improved market share over the next year.
Microsoft has confirmed that a new version of its Messenger instant messaging software will ship with and when Mac Office 2008 hits stores. While we don’t know anything about features, or even if it’ll be named Windows Live Messenger or MSN Messenger (presumably the new name, though), at least Mac fans are getting a new version. Not only that, but work is already going on for Messenger 7, which will be the first Mac version with audio/video capabilities.
Jeez, the Zune is getting pretty freakin cheap. The 30-gigabyte first generation Zune, set to be replaced by the new 80-gigger, is selling for pennies on the dollar (or something like that). Woot has a refurbished brown Zune for just $80, the cheapest price I’ve EVER seen a 30-gig MP3 player sell at. It’s a stunning price, so please, for your own sake, just buy the damn thing.
Meanwhile, the cheapest price on an Apple iPod 30 gigabyte, also a discontinued model, is around $200. Yeah, that’s value.
If you want the black or white Zune, it’s still available for $100. If you bought the brown last week, you get $20 off your next Woot purchase.
I was helping a friend set up his new brown Zune last night, transferring music from his iPod to the Zune, and I have to say that I’d never buy the iPod over the Zune. While the Zune didn’t have any smooth controls (though the new Zunes do), the iPod click wheel has always annoyed the hell out of me, so I don’t consider that a problem. The Zune software was a pleasure after suffering through iTunes (and the new Zune software is supposed to be even better).
I know the iPod is a hugely popular product, and there are a lot of cool things you can do with it and get for it, but it’s never appealed to me. The click wheel is annoying, the new metal look is fugly, iTunes is trash and Apple’s lock-in culture just doesn’t do it for me. I’m not saying the Zune is a revelation or the second coming, but sitting next to an iPod, I don’t get why anyone would go with Apple. I guess its a matter of personal taste, but I’m not an iPod guy.
For the record, I didn’t and probably won’t buy a Zune. My Windows Mobile phone is still the best music device I’ve owned, and I don’t need anything else.
On the fence about the Zune? Well, two places are selling it for such a low price, you may not be able to resist. Right now, woot! has the original 30 gigabyte Zune for merely $100, $150 off the original price, plus five dollars shipping. With the large screen on this thing, its a great deal (price-wise, it compares to an iPod Shuffle, so its really a no-brainer)
woot!’s Zune is refurbished, so if you don’t go with woot!, go with good ol’ Buy.com, which also has it for just $100, and a new unit at that. Not only that, but it’s free shipping, so you really get it at a steal, and new Google Checkout customers walk away with the video/audio player for a miniscule $90. The savings! I can’t take it!
Microsoft tapped Rick Thompson, head of Microsoft’s hardware operations (computer peripherals like mice and keyboards) to be the new second-in-command of the Zune division. Thompson will report to Zune chief J Allard.
The new Zune store, coming with the Zune 2 in weeks, will have 1 million music tracks that will be sold without any copy protection. While there will still be plenty of tracks with DRM, the 1 million tracks is a sizable investment in an open music infrastructure, which is just super.
The new Zunes have been tested for battery life, and they turn out pretty much even to the iPod. Both the hard drive and flash Zunes have the same music battery life as comparable iPod Classics and iPod Nanos (30 hours and 24 hours, repectively), while their video performance is four hours, compared to five hours on the iPod’s smaller screens.
Some blogs have been discussing the recenly announced packaging for Microsoft Office 2008, the upcoming Mac edition of Office, which doesn’t seem as cool as the packaging for Office 2004. Compare the two, with 2004 on the left, 2008 on the right:
Office 2004 photo by jidnet under CC license, 2008 image courtesy Long Zheng
Office 2004 came in this cool plastic tube-like thing, utterly unique and perfect. The new packaging is kinda boring by comparison… or is it?
Sheridan Jones of group marketing explained at Long Zheng’s blog that Microsoft is going for something forward-thinking again, but in a different way. The new packaging is designed with the environment in mind, made from recycled paper instead of the environmentally unfriendly thermoformed plastic of Office 2004. The new boxes reduce the carbon footprint of the product, something that should please a good percentage of Mac users.
Besides that, the photo doesn’t show the shiny metallic silver on the box or the embossed logos. Plus, it actually fits on a bookshelf, unlike Office 2004. So, it’s all good, but get us a cooler photo!
If you’re a Mac user and regular reader of this blog, send me a message via the contact form. If you live in New York, even better. I’m looking for someone interested in helping me review the product (and not pay for it). Let me know.
Also, read at the Mac Mojo blog where they explain the new Publishing Layout View, a new workspace for creating professional layout-rich documents. The Publishing Layout View presents you with a different user interface designed to expose the publishing features of Word, and it looks really useful and really cool.
Microsoft detailed the editions and pricing for the upcoming Office 2008, the new version of Microsoft Office coming soon for the Mac. They are:
Mac Office 2008: Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Entourage (email and scheduling). $399.95/$239.95 upgrade
Mac Office 2008 Home and Student Edition: Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Entourage, but without the ability to connect to an Exchange email server and Automator support, but with 3 non-commercial licenses. $149.95
Mac Office 2008 Special Media Edition: Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Entourage, plus Expression Media. $499.95/$299.95 upgrade
Frankly, the cost of the regular edition is obscene, completely not worth a 166% premium over the Home and Student Edition, but only adding Exchange support. Microsoft is penalizing businesses that have invested in Exchange Servers to the tune of $250 per employee, an insult to those customers, and it should reduce the price at least $100, probably $200.
If you could outfit three computers with Office 2008 for $150 without Exchange, or $1200 with Exchange, would you buy it? Of course not, and its ridiculous that Microsoft would think this pricing works. Frankly, the difference between the three licenses and the Exchange support is a fair trade-off, and the Home and Student and standard editions should just cost the same. Unless the standard edition contains another advantage, it’s highway robbery, plain and simple.
Han-yi Shaw from Microsoft’s Mac Business Unit has a detailed post introducing the UI and user experience that Mac users will be getting soon in Office 2008. He explains the interface improvements, including the new Elements Gallery, and explains how Office 2008 adheres to Apple’s Humain Interface Guidelines and doesn’t copy the Office 2007 UI.
In Office 2008, Toolbars are now nicely docked within the application window (per Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines) and sport the new unified toolbar appearance. The Formatting Palette, which broke new ground with the idea of contextual sensitive formatting, has now been merged with the Toolbox to form one single unified palette. And drop-down menus — they’re still there. Our goal is to allow users feel the sense of new possibilities while feeling at home with the new and improved tools.
Presentation Zen takes another look at Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and how they use presentation slideshows. As they explain, while Jobs obviously does it right, if you were to do what Gates does for work, you’d be fired. I’m amazed that there’s no effort at Microsoft to stop using the nested bullet point/flowchart diagram model.
As the article says, “Bill’s slides aren’t really necessary”. Sadly, the things Bill says, especially at trade shows, are often unnecessary as well, talking about “possible” products that someone else might create in the future. I’ll miss Bill and the leadership he brings to Microsoft, but I doubt anyone will miss his presentations and ill-fitting shirts.
The stories of people hit with giant phone bills because their iPhone misuses roaming data networks continues to mount, and today’s victim is Anthony from the Opie & Anthony radio show. This morning, the host of the number six national radio show was cursing out Apple and AT&T on 25 stations plus satellite radio, and he gave this eloquent explanation of how no one could have know this was coming:
If one person read their entire phone contract, I will fucking blow you.
Google had a tech talk recently where Ron Avitzur explained how he and Greg Robbins built Graphing Calculator 1.0 at Apple in the early 90s, after they no longer worked for Apple. It’s a fascinating and funny story, you just need some patience to sit through all 54 minutes of it. It’s worth it.
Now, like any smart company, they’ve probably massaged the numbers to make them look as positive as possible, but I’m a bit shocked at how different the U.S. market is from the rest of the world. Two things to take away from it:
Now I understand why I know nothing about the Symbian operating system: Nobody has it!
I wouldn’t be surprised if other markets have very different definitions of what a smart phone is. In other countries, like Japan, it might mean a phone that can do a million different things, more of a consumer smart phone than a business one. I wonder, if we divided the smart phone market into business and consumer segments we’d see a very different chart.
Either way, we’d probably have to assume that Microsoft has a real long way to go outside the U.S. before Windows Mobile can be considered an international success. At least its doing real well here. I’m surprised a bit by the big purple block for Apple after just three months.
Apple made a number of big announcements today, including lowerng the price of the iPhone and releasing a new iPod. How’d they do?
Scores on a scale from 1-10:
Ringtones: Apple announced that it will cost you 99 cents extra to get music ringtones on your iPhone, on top of what you paid for the song (only songs from iTunes, not your own music, will work). Besides the $2 total, and the limited inventory, users can just hack their iPhone with little effort to do the same thing. Underwhelming, not effortless (you have to edit the ringtone yourself, and pay for each edit), and buyers will avoid this one like the plague.
iPod Shuffle: New colors, looks nice, same low price. It’s a good product for what you get, though other companies have stronger cheapo players these days. Nothing terrible here.
iPod Nano: New Nano is short, fat, plays video and games, has CoverFlow (with poor performance). The pricing is great, but the player is too damn small. The screen, while improved, is too tiny for video, making the video feature a waste. The old iPod screen was tough for video; this is going to be impossible. The price is great, though, and the shape is kind of stupid. Gets good points for being cheap, lots of storage, and colorful, but if you want video, the grade is a 4.
iPod Classic: The old iPod is now “Classic”. It’s also thinner and with a lot more storage. The 80-gig is a mere $250 and the new 160-gig is $350. The Zune can’t compete with those numbers and these features, not with Microsoft’s failure to deliver on wifi promises. Barring an 80-gig Zune at $250 with better wifi features, Microsoft could be toast.
Apple does not have a huge hole in its lineup. As you’ll see there are no iPods between 16 gigs and 80 gigs, and certainly no 30-gig cheaper than $250. Apple should have kept making the 30-gig for $200. That’s a mistake. The Classic is clearly unpopular (Nano is the top seller), and Apple is overloading it with space. Don’t be surprised if they find a way to retire the model entirely in a year. Nothing really new, but holy crap the storage space!
iPod Touch: New iPod, basically a thinner iPhone with no call phone features. It has wifi, internet, YouTube, giant touch screen. For $300 (8 gigs) and $400 (16 gigs), this is the new top iPod (forget the Classic, k?), It’s a wonderful thing, though not cheap enough to not just pay a little extra for an iPhone. As usual, the iPod is full of great features, but the price begs questions. Still, if you wanted an iPhone, here’s a cheaper way to do it.
Compared to a real PDA, it’s not perfect. Still, it is the slickest touchscreen device on the market, full of fun stuff, and it works better as an iPod than an iPhone. It’s a great product, not perfect, but really, really good. So tempting, I might buy it (and I’ve never bought an iPod).
iPhone: Apple dropped the price by $200 and killed off the 4-gigger. An 8-gig iPhone is now $400, $100 more than a similar iPod Touch, but (for the most part ) still stuck with an awful AT&T contract. It’s cheap enough to not be absurd, and while the price drop should annoy the biggest Apple fans, it makes the hottest phone of the year more available.
Wireless iTunes Store: This is useful, and would be nothing special, but Microsoft has been dragging their feet on this for a year. Microsoft’s failure to ship this makes Apple look amazing, so this gets a high grade.
Starbucks: Seriously, they didn’t know that a ten-minute commercial for Starbucks would bore the hell out of everyone? And now the iPhone will annoy you and say, “Hey, a Starbucks!” every time you pass one? If you can’t turn this “feature” off, it’s a reason not to buy.
Overall? Apple did great, not spectacular. Sales should be flat, which is great, considering the high expectations from previous years, but it takes really good products to merely stay flat at this point. The main thing is that Apple proved today that it exists in a seperate universe from its competitors, and that their products really don’t measure up.
Zune 2 better be better than we’re hearing, or it shouldn’t be released at all.