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More hints on Windows 7's launch

By Andy Patrizio   |    October 22, 2008

Microsoft is sticking to early 2010 as the launch date for Windows 7, even though we've been told otherwise. Now it seems Microsoft is hinting at an earlier release date as well. Or is it?

The WinHEC 2008 Web site states "there is not another WinHEC planned before Windows 7 is released." WinHEC has been an annual event for some time, although Microsoft has shifted it from a spring event (taking place in May) to fall (October/November).

WinHEC takes place from November 5-7 in Los Angeles, and yours truly will be InternetNews.com's correspondent at the show and the Professional Developer's Conference, which takes place the week before.

That statement in and of itself means nothing. After all, Microsoft might not have another WinHEC planned until 2010. But then there's this interview with ASUS chief Jerry Shen in the Laptop blog, where he states "I think in the future in the second half of next year we will put Windows 7 on Eee PCs."

Cue the collective facepalms in Redmond as another executive speaks out of turn.

For now, all eyes will be on L.A. next week, when Ray Ozzie and Steve Sinofsky deliver the opening keynote to PDC and Windows 7 makes its debut.

Sun's major shareholder is getting cranky

By Andy Patrizio   |    October 22, 2008

Looks like someone's ponytail, and the head it's attached to, may be heading for a chopping block. Jack Davis, a blogger for the San Jose Mercury News, has a report that Sun Microsystems' largest shareholder, Southeastern Asset Management, appears to be losing patience with with the company.

Sun announced preliminary numbers on Monday, stating that it would fall short of revenue projections and report another loss, possibly a sizable one. The next day, Sun's shares fell almost 20 percent.

Southeastern has converted its reporting of Sun holdings from a 13G filing to a 13D, "in order to be more active in corporate governance and management matters, and to have the ability to enter into discussions with third parties concerning proposed corporate transactions of a significant nature."

The difference between the two filing statuses is that 13G is for a company that owns a sizable percentage of a firm, more than 5 percent, but takes a passive role in the company's affairs. A 13D is for investors with sizable holdings who plan to get more involved in the affairs of the company.

Like kicking out c-level executives.

Southeastern has been buying up Sun shares even as they were dropping in value, spending $171.7 million to buy 21.2 million shares at prices ranging from $10.01 a share Aug. 22 to $5.67 a share as late as Monday.

There have been rumors that Schwartz is in trouble for some time, and we did look into them. The consensus was he inherited a mess and had a lot of work ahead of him. But Southeastern may not look at it that way.

Davis noted that in a letter to shareholders in June, Southeastern explained away some of Sun's quarterly problems and said, in part, "We have confidence in [CEO] Jonathan Schwartz and his team and applaud their substantial share buybacks as well as their strategy for creating competitive advantage through open systems." There was no reiteration of such sentiments was made in the most recent SEC filing.

The end of the Great Cell Phone Experiment

By Andy Patrizio   |    October 22, 2008

Last week marked the end of an experiment to live on just a cell phone. I had read how so many people have dispensed with their land lines and relied exclusively on a cell that I decided it was worth a try.

It sure seemed like a good idea. I got very few calls on either line, really, since I know so few folks here in S.F. (I'm a recent transplant). It looked like a way to save about $70 a month.

At the time, I was with Verizon Wireless. However, their phone was defective. It would routinely drop audio of the caller. Not the entire call, mind you, just audio of the other person. I would be talking and poof, they were gone. The other person could hear me fine, I just could not hear them. Eventually the audio would come back.

This was annoying when it happened while talking to a friend, but given that I work at home one day a week to save on gas, it was unacceptable to have my interviews interrupted like that, not to mention embarrassing. I took the phone in to the local store and demanded a new one. They replaced it with the same model three times despite repeated requests for a different model phone, and when they tried to replace it a fourth, I told them where to stick their phone and their service.

ifail.jpgWith my defection to AT&T, I moved to the iPhone. A nice little piece of engineering, but it became obvious after one day that the 3G service was NFG. This, of course, was well-documented. Since then, Apple has made a few fixes to the phone. With the 2.1 firmware, numerous sites like Gizmodo and MacRumors rejoiced, claiming the 3G service was finally usable.

But it wasn't. My experience did not change. I could run down the battery to 20% in two hours. Last week, I went to Golden Gate Park for a company picnic but got lost and couldn't find my co-workers. Standing outdoors, in an open field with nothing around me, every attempt to call Dave Needle failed. Wouldn't even dial out. I went into the iPhone settings, turned off 3G, the call went right through and I found the crew. Here's a picture of us, taken with the phone. You might recognize that bridge in the background.

Picture 046_resize.jpg

3G will remain off. Period. EDGE network is good enough.

The last straw was one evening last week, talking to both a good friend and then my parents. Both complained about the awful quality of audio from me, with my friend asking how I can conduct business on a phone sounding like that. My mother asked me if I had a cold, which I did not.

So, the writing was on the wall. I called AT&T and restored my land line. Even got my old number back. Everyone says I sound better and there's no need to plug the phone into the wall because the battery runs down after two hours.

I often edit Judy Mottl's stories, who covers our wireless phone beat. It's comical to see all the promises from RIM, Apple, Nokia, Ericsson, etc., all the things they say their phones will do, all the features they want to cram in them.

They still can't compete with a land line. It's not even close. It's 802.11a vs. Fibre Channel. And don't get me started on cell-to-cell calls. I'd rather use a pair of tin cans and a string.

As a completely aside note, something funny dawned on me the other day at Apple's HQ, when I was covering the launch of the new MacBooks. Of course every employee in the place had an iPhone, but I didn't see one phone that was protected. Mine is completely armored, with the Contour hard plastic case and a clear plastic cover over the screen, but everyone at Apple was operating bareback with unprotected iPhones.

So , are they not worried about scuffing up/breaking their phones, or was I fool for blowing $30 to protect this thing?

XBox 360's UI gets a facelift

By Andy Patrizio   |    October 09, 2008

The user interface in the XBox 360 was ahead of the game when the console shipped in 2005, and XBox Live did set the standard for the online experience on consoles. But since then, Sony has come out with a beautiful new interface for the PlayStation 3 and even Nintendo managed something nifty for the Wii.

So today, Microsoft announced it's getting with the program and plans to release "New Xbox Experience" or NXE on November 19th. The announcement came today at the Tokyo Game Show. NXE will be a free download for all XBox 360 customers, eventually launching in 26 countries.

NXE is a total overhaul of the UI, dumping that clunky, full screen tabbed interface for something sleeker and more accommodating to widescreen. Now you switch between menu items similar to Vista's Aero task switcher, since Vista was such a rousing success.

You can flip through menus like a rolodex and this will likely give Microsoft the flexibility to add as many top level menus as it wants. Currently, the XBox 360's dashboard is limited to five top level menus.

One of the new menu items will be for Netflix support. Microsoft is adding the ability to stream over 10,000 movies and TV shows from Netflix direct to your 360. It's a good thing the XBox 360 sports a bigger hard drive these days. When it launched, it had a 10GB drive. Today, 60, 80 and 120GB drives are available for the console.

Another feature taking advantage of the larger hard drives is the ability to copy whole games to the hard drive. The hard drive will be faster and quieter than the DVD drive in the console, which will be popular with a lot of gamers.

For chatting and other online social activities, Microsoft is replacing the flat, static pictures people use to represent themselves with avatars, allowing for humanoid figures instead of an icon.

As part of this, Microsoft will introduce Xbox Live Primetime, a gaming channel for Live members. Microsoft will launch with an adaptation of the TV game show "1 vs. 100," where one person competes against 100 others for prizes.

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